Sell your 8 figure brand with Eric Vardon

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Guest

Eric Vardon

Co-Founder & CEO
Morphio

Eric Vardon is the Co-Founder of Morphio, the world’s first advanced marketing security software.

Sean has founded multiple companies and done multiple 8 figures worth of business.

He’s currently advising, consulting, and investing in business just like yours.

He knows where you’ve been, and he knows where you’re going.

Book a call with him today to see how he can help you get there smarter, faster, and in a way that aligns with your life goals.

Timestamps

00:00 – Guest Introduction
02:16 – Eric’s Story
06:13 – How Eric started his businesses
07:54 – How transparency affects businesses
10:17 – Bootstrapping the company
15:08 – How Eric grew his company amidst crisis
17:48 – Selling the company and starting a new one
29:45 – Automations & Generational Differences
36:29 – Bitcoin & Blockchain
39:10 – Important life lessons

Transcript

Read the transcript
Sean Weisbrot:
Welcome back to another episode of the We Live to Build Podcast. Our guest today is Eric Vardon, a Canadian serial entrepreneur and currently the co-founder of Morphio, the world’s first advanced marketing security software. He’s also an investor in and advisor of EventConnect, a tournament software solution platform that lets event organizers coordinate teams, hotels and revenue. He’s also an investor and advisor of Republix, which connects businesses to marketing agencies with guaranteed results. He is also the co-founder and former CEO and president of Arcane, a digital goals first marketing agency. Please note that this business was acquired for eight figures in early 2020.

In this great talk, Eric and I discussed who inspired him to become an entrepreneur, how client’s mindset shifting forced our businesses to move to showing value and transparency, why he never raised outside funding for his companies, how he decided to step back as CEO and hire someone to run day to day for Arcane, what the process for selling the business was like, was he satisfied with the amount he earned from the exit?

I talk about why blockchain and Bitcoin are so hot at the end of 2020 and much more. So, let’s give Eric a warm.

Welcome to We Live to Build. My name is Sean Weisbrot and I’m an entrepreneur, investor and advisor based in Asia for over twelve years. Join us every week to fast track your personal growth so you can meet the ever-increasing demands of the company or companies you are passionately building. Time waits for no one. So, let’s get started now.

Sean Weisbrot:
Thank you for taking the time to talk with us and I’m really excited to hear more about your story. So, let’s tell everyone real fast just what you’re doing right now.

Eric Vardon:
Yeah, right now leading a software team on a product called Morphio. It’s an AI software for digital marketing teams to help them save time, be awesome and enjoy their hours every day.

Sean Weisbrot:
Thanks for the quick introduction and we’ll bit more about that company as we go through your journey. So, let’s go a bit further back, and tell me when you knew that entrepreneurship was your path in life and who inspired you to go along that path?

Eric Vardon:
Yeah, I get asked this question a lot and funny that it wasn’t something that I knew until much later in my life. I had a grandpa, unfortunately, he passed a number of years back, but he was an entrepreneur and I didn’t really know what that meant, but he was always out, big family, eight kids, so on my mum’s side, always out some kind of new business and some kind of new opportunity, and so, I think I maybe overheard a lot of that going on as my mother was the oldest of the family, I was then the oldest grandson or grandkid at the time. So, I think there’s a lot that came from that. But I had always been really good at one thing, which was not listening well.

So, when I was playing sports or when I got into school and then ultimately got into the world of marketing, advertising, technology, had a job out of school at a college and once again, I was just not really good at listening to my boss at the time and so decided to start a business and figured, why not? This was at the late nineties, early 2000s, if you can remember back that far. The whole dot com bubble was going on, but it was a great time to be in the business of building websites, etc. And so, from there I never really stopped. Jumped into many different types of businesses, into banking machines and building random technology to clothing and retail, and it always had a central theme of marketing technology with it, which is of course what I’m still into today.

But it wasn’t until a few years ago when I was speaking to somebody actually on a random sort of LinkedIn reach out phone call and she talked about her entrepreneurial journey and gleaned it to her sports background and her leadership style. And she felt that that’s where she drew a lot of her entrepreneurial feelings and wants was from sports and wanting to lead and be a part of a team, building team and living in that environment, but as the leader, really taking it to a different level. So, I think there’s a combination of answers there, Sean. That’s kind of how I usually get into it, but it was a number of different things. But I really didn’t set out to be an entrepreneur. But like I said, terrible at listening. Whether it was right or wrong, it worked out for me, I think so.

Sean Weisbrot:
Thanks for sharing that. I know my grandfather was always enterprising. I remember he was always thinking of the next thing, trying to get my parents involved. I’m pretty sure some of them were multi-level marketing schemes, I don’t know. So, maybe he wasn’t the cleanest kind of entrepreneur, but he made money in his own right. He is a classic hustler.

He actually did door to door chemical sales for a company called Zep for, I think, 35 years. And he’s he was doing in the 50s, 60s, 70s he was clearing $100,000 a year, which most people were doing like six, seven, eight, $9,000 a year at that point, especially towards the 50s. Earlier on in his life, he was definitely hustling, as we would say, balls to the wall, and doing quite well with it. I guess I never had a problem listening, but I also always had too much energy, and my boss has never understood how to utilize it properly. And I felt like only I could do that.

As you were working in the dot com era and all of that, how did you decide to make this marketing agency that you then had this fabulous exit from?

Eric Vardon:
Yes, it was actually before, that’s my first, the first agency that I ran was with some friends out of school. So, we were all taking web development in 3D and video. And at the time, Flash was still a big thing, and we jumped in right away, the three of us, basically with a bunch of friends and contractors, and really grew that business. So, at the time, agencies, there was a lot of really big agencies. That was the theme. It always kind of ebbs and flows. And so, our job basically as contractors was to work with the big agencies. So, we were kind of in the background and it was a great time to go through that ride. But with my partners and I, we had different opinions on where we felt the market was going. We’re building a lot of custom content management at the time, and then this thing called WordPress came out. It was quite a disrupter for a lot of us in terms of open source and where all that went.

And so, we just ultimately went our separate ways. And that’s when I founded Arcane with my business partner John. And ultimately our goal was this was just after the 2008/2009 recession, 2010, things started to come back on, but clients all over were asking for transparency on where their marketing dollars were going, and that was a big change. And so, before building websites and doing all that thing, it was, here’s a budget, go do it, launch it. Great. Then with analytics and with SEO, and with the ability to track and launch campaigns and really measure everything, we were one of the first to really put that emphasis out there and say, we’re going to guarantee results, we’re going to put a dollar in and get a minimum of $15 back in terms of your marketing investment. And that was in 2011. And we grew that, like I said, for about eight years, and just recently sold to Focus and Runmorfil.

Sean Weisbrot:
I’m curious to know how that transparency affected your profit margins, because the last business I did was in consulting and blockchain. And when I was upfront with the companies about how much I was taking for my commission, they didn’t like it because it was a very large number. But when I stopped telling them the breakdown and I started saying, if you want this thing to happen, this is how much it costs. Because I was also doing introductions and using some of that money with other people. So, I would give a commission to this person because they referred them and I would pay for whatever thing that I was doing.

When I stopped being transparent with them, they were okay with that number. And they didn’t know how much commission I was taking because they were paying for the value I was bringing. And therefore, whatever the commission I wanted it to be was what it was. Obviously, in your regard, it would be slightly different. So, I’m curious to know how that transparency affected your profits.

Eric Vardon:
Yes, and it’s not too dissimilar to that where it became value based. And of course, it’s a service. It’s people that are driving the back end of whatever it is that we were building or launching or creating. And so often, we wouldn’t get into margin conversations with clients. We knew we would be profitable. We knew that we had to actually monitor our cash flow and expenses and all those fun things that lead to it. But no, it was mainly around results. We focused on results, we sold results. And as long as our clients knew that that return and that level of service and quality was there and that they were happy with it, that’s really where the most of the majority of our conversations led on.

So, I think as we grew up and got a bit wiser to your point, Sean, we became more transparent and clearer on how we’ve made money in how service agencies work and all those kinds of things, but it was only to a select few amount of partners. Ultimately, it was solely around let’s take your dollars that currently aren’t doing anything or little or they might be doing something, but you’re not tracking. And let’s start to create visibility and transparency not only on our relationship, but what it is that your dollars are doing. And that became very addictive. Again, at a time where it was it wasn’t as easy to be able to create and establish and track and monitor everything that was going on through digital marketing or campaigns. So, that really was the focus. More on the outcome, the results, as opposed to how we made money as an agency, they were more than comfortable with that. As long as you get results, everybody usually is happy.

Sean Weisbrot:
Before we started recording, I think you mentioned something about starting this company out of the basement of your house.

Eric Vardon:
Yes, that’s right. Second time. Second time doing it.

Sean Weisbrot:
So, you bootstrapped this company to profit, never got outside funding.

Eric Vardon:
That’s right, always. And I think that’s up until what we are doing with more fill and more product related businesses. On a service side, when you are a founder, most often you can get a computer, you have expertise, you need a little bit of expenses, but you should be able to turn revenue and or cash flow around pretty quickly. And that’s what we had done before. And again, being a little bit older and wiser, we knew how important it was to go out there and prove that we had something to sell. And that’s really how we started. I think we just got lucky enough through it where we had something really important and timely to sell. And yeah, we really never needed outside funding whatsoever.

Sean Weisbrot:
So, it’s interesting you say that. I recently interviewed a guy who his name is Stephen Halasnik and he started and grew six companies from scratch, bootstrapped them all to profit, never got outside funding. And we were talking about how my generation, I guess in particular more Millennials, really have felt that the only route to success in entrepreneurship is VC funding. And so, he was saying how it’s basically not how your generation really did it. And I think it’s great. I think there’s a huge reliance on outside funding now that is detrimental for the development of businesses in a sustainable way, because VCs, if they haven’t been entrepreneurs themselves, may not understand how stressful it can be to grow that fast for long periods of time.

Eric Vardon:
I’ll say it’s a generational thing. I’ll take that because I do have more gray hair than you, Sean. I’ve been down the journey of both. A great book is Rand Fishkin’s Lost and Founder. He tells a great story of founding Mars and some of the things that he went through and what he did do and what he didn’t do. So, I’d recommend everybody take a listen through his journey. It was very similar to mine in many cases and I resonated with a lot that he said.
So being through both and understanding both sides of the world, there is a need depending on the type of product and the type of business that you’re in, any good investor is going to want to make sure that you have proven your business first and you’ve grinded and you’ve sweated out and that you know the product, you know there’s a fit, the market timing is right, there’s a lot of factors that go into it. And I’m not talking about friends and family money. They’re going to give it to you because they trust who you are. I’m talking about real dollars as you need to scale and you need to throw the gas on the fire to really get to the next level. That’s where funding is meant to be.

There’s definitely with social media, I’ll say, just in the access to stories and success that are seemingly sorry, overnight billionaires. Well, usually behind the scenes, there’s a lot more of a story there that needs to be told. Raising money is very hard. There’s a lot of noise around it. It can take a lot of time, a lot of energy and a lot of distraction away from the business that you should be growing. So, like I said, depending on the business service versus product, timing versus technology and all those kinds of things factor into it. You really got to understand what it is, the outcome that you’re looking for, for the business. But when you get partners, when you get investors, you’re truly accountable to somebody else and you have to answer to somebody else.

I wasn’t or never really wanted to do that. As I said before, not great at listening. And I had great partners, so I didn’t have to worry about that. And it was never a part of the decision-making process in my mind. When you get into answering to somebody else, everything that you do have to boil up to your board or your investor group. That is a very different way of living. So, it may seem, again, glamorous in some respect, or that there’s a whole bunch of money floating around. But again, if you look at Rand’s examples in his book, it doesn’t always work out. And there’s a lot of information there around exactly what VCs or private equity or family offices, they’re all different. They’re all different criteria, what it is that they’re looking for. So, if you are going down the raise money route, just be careful what you’re getting into and be focused and understand all of your options, because the best way definitely is to never need money if you can.

Absolutely. And let me clarify that there are amazing humans and unbelievable investors and you can get lucky. You know, we have in a couple of businesses that were involved in, we have unbelievable investor groups and they do exist. And so, the last part is, and I kind of forgot to mention is, and not to poopoo anything in the world of investment, but make sure you’re trusting your instinct and just don’t take the first people that throw money at you. You really are going to spend a lot of time with them. You’re going to be accountable to them and you need to really like each other. And that’s a big trust factor when it comes into not only the dollars, but the long-term relationship that it is that you’re going to have with them, because you’re going to need it. So just one other point I wanted to touch on.

Sean Weisbrot:
How did you grow the marketing agency, especially during this time? You said when it was in the middle of the crisis and the Great Recession and all of that, people probably weren’t spending that much. How did you find these clients? How did you grow the company through all that?

Eric Vardon:
Yeah, I think with any good business, it’s looking for opportunities to not have to add budget. And so, we are cognizant exactly as you said, 2010, things started to pick up. There’s a little bit of dollars floating after 2008, 2009, but people really were holding onto their cash or to their budgets.

So first and foremost, we didn’t want to add to the budget. We wanted to prove and show results, which at the time was very different. It was a unique sales conversation that traditionally that they would never have had. Generally, it was before, “Just spend a bunch of money and let’s see what happens next year from a historical report perspective.” And we walk in and say, “We’re going to show you results every single week that we meet with you.” And we’re going to meet in person and we’re going to sit down and we’re going to teach you and coach you just as much as you are on your business. We’re going to do the same about what’s going on with your data and what it is that your analytics and performance are telling us. So that was a big point.

The second one in terms of budget was we wanted to take dollars from existing budget from something else that we would be able to show wasn’t working. So, in a lot of cases, it was a traditional media focus. So, we’d actually go out and find clients that are spending on radio or billboards or newsletters or newspapers or flyers or something kind of old school and say, “Okay, if you’re spending a million dollars on all these things, let’s just take $100,000 of that and put it into our project.” So, it’s not new money, but we’re going to start to slowly show them return. And so, we did that and we had a couple of big clients sign up with us right away and they had massive budgets and all we did was show results. And so more and more that percentage of the million-dollar budget came over to our business. So, when you do that, and you compound new business at the same time. And so, we have the split focus of growing our amazing accounts as well as finding and establishing new relationships. That’s really where the scale came in. And that’s how we would be able to become one of the fastest growing businesses in North America for a couple of years running was results focused and ultimately doing what we said we were going to do in a world where most often you have no idea what’s going on, at least traditionally. So that’s how we did it.

Sean Weisbrot:
That’s a fantastic strategy. I’ve never heard of anyone sitting you down and explaining your data. Like, as you said, I’ve talked to so many different companies and I still don’t think people are doing that kind of stuff.

Sean Weisbrot:
So, let’s move a little bit further to more about the sale of the agency. So, did you decide you were ready to sell or did someone come to you and say, “I like this, I want to buy it from you?”

Eric Vardon:
So, we’ve had lots of people interested in the business or co-investing and growing and all those kinds of things. And again, we had a seven-year business plan that we sat down and looked at together. In around 2017, my co-founder and I and our partners, we realized that we loved building the business and selling and being a part of the grind of the strategy and the product and all those kinds of things. What we weren’t great at was, let’s say running the actual operations, the day to day, the HR, the process, the executive team meetings, etc., etc. That’s not what got us excited in the morning.

So, we actually stepped aside. I was CEO for the majority of the time. I moved over to basically a chairman and president role, and we appointed a new CEO and a COO to come in and run the business. It was our sort of first inkling that how long are we going to be involved in this business? But we loved it. We love the culture, we love the team, we love the clients. And so, we didn’t want to go anywhere. We just didn’t know what our next evolution was. But we did have a realization that we weren’t the long-term managers of the business day to day. And so, we were very happy about that change and that movement. And the team is still intact today. Both Dave and Lindsay are unbelievable leaders and they’ve went through with the acquisition and are still leading and running the business.

Partly to do with that was we also were smart to know in a relationship-based business, if all of the clients are attached to the owners, that it’s hard to ever get out of the business. And we also felt that it would add more value if those relationships were tied to the business, not to ourselves. And so that was part of the reasoning as well. We felt that if we ever did sell the business one day, whether it was on a year, ten years or 15 years, that would add to our valuation and also make it easier to separate ourselves from.

The best decision we ever made. The business was never more profitable until we actually got out of the way. And it was a really kind of interesting moment in time as we reflected back to say, “holy crap, that we should have done this a lot longer ago.” Fast forward a couple of years later and the business is profitable and we’re making good money and we are serial entrepreneurs. We have other businesses on the go, always.

There’s always something else that we’re involved in or that we had going on. And Morphio was part of that as well as a couple other businesses, one is called Event Connect as well in the sports and travel space. And what was cool about that as we sat down as owners and said, “okay, what do we really want to do now?” And we’ve set our goals and criteria. But we also said we’re going to go out and see what’s going on in the market. Because still this was obviously pre COVID. It was the market was crazy, it was going well, business was profitable, but let’s see what’s going on in the market for our business.

And it just so happens happened that I have a friend in the M&A space. We had a call, set up a call a couple of weeks after that meeting with our ownership group and said, “here’s our want: protect our team, protect our clients, our leadership, our culture, our brand, we’d really love for all these things to stay intact.” And it was an hour after that meeting with our M&A firm to say, okay, go out there and see what’s going on in the market, that I got a random LinkedIn message from now our partners that acquired our business, saying, “here’s this idea that we have. Here’s what we’re doing in the space. We’d love for you to be a part of it. We’d love to buy your business, but we’d also love for you to be around as advisors in the new parent company.”

They met all of our criteria. It was just a random timing kind of coincidence that it happened without us actually going around and needing to shop the business. That was about a year and a bit ago last year. Sorry. So, like I said, it was timing. And timing is a big thing in my world, in my brain, and a lot of us share that at the ownership level. But yes, we’re interested in seeing what was out there. And it just ironically, or coincidentally, somebody knocked on our door with most of the criteria that we’re looking at almost momentarily after that decision.

Sean Weisbrot:
How long was it from when they messaged you to when you actually closed? And what was the process like of I guess you had to go through due diligence. They probably asked for tons of documents. What is that like? Because I think a lot of people love to know, “oh, you made $100 million,” but nobody talks about the process of the sale, the close.

Eric Vardon:
The money part is interesting because you can get stuck on that very quickly and it can drive negative decisions. So, we’re lucky where we hired the M&A firm to actually guide us through the process. We have been on the buying side before, but not on the selling side, especially with a business of that size. And I can show you a clip of the paperwork on the day we signed, it was littered our second floor of our entire office.

And funny, one of our, this was actually during Covid. One of our team members walked in to water the plants, and they’re, like, looking around because they had no idea what was going on. There’s, you know, 20 people running around and lawyers and papers being signed and it was insanity. But yeah, it was so, from November of 2019 moved very quickly, closing at the end of March is not a lot of time, so it was weekends, nights, mornings, days, ridiculous amount of due diligence. The process is not simple, but I’ll simplify it.

In most cases, there’s the process to a letter of intent, which is generally non-binding, but the letter of intent speaks to multiples, valuations, the requirements to get to a specific deal structure. So, we spend a lot of time within the LOI stage with the potential buyers, getting to know them, et cetera, again, trying to make sure that you’re not disclosing too much to the wider team, because you never know if it’s really going to happen. And you don’t want to disrupt the business because ultimately everybody needs to make sure that the business is still running and managing.

But behind the scenes, it was a ton of paperwork, a ton of back and forth, go through that LOI stage and then you really get into the due diligence, which leads to your definitive agreement. And the definitive agreement then is ultimately where there’s no point of return backwards. But leading from the LOI to the definitive agreement was insane. You’ve got a business that it’s only ten or nine years old, I guess, but you have contract renewals, you have bank statements, you have I mean, I’m completely generalizing it, but it’s a long, long list of things that our group needed to do.

That part is easy. It’s the emotional roller coaster that goes with, is this going to happen? Is this not going to happen? And the deal structure needed to change, and then the people and all this kind of like it is very emotionally taxing. It took a lot out of me and I led a lot of this with John and a few other key people. We narrowed the team, focused on it, because with too many kinds of cooks in the kitchen, it can be that much more of a distraction. So, we went on the guidance of our M&A partners and they kind of let us through it. This may be another conversation.

But then there’s the, the reality that you have sold the business. Even though we were lucky where we’re still involved, a lot of things that we wanted were still intact. There’s, like the six steps of emotional roller coaster that happened after you let your baby go. And even though I thought I was mentally prepared for that; I’d already stepped away as the CEO. I wasn’t leading the business; I wasn’t as attached to every single person in the business and was busy doing some other stuff. It still hit me pretty hard, and it took a good six months for me to kind of get through it all inside of the Covid madness that was happening at the same time.

So anyway, a lot of great things that happened to it. But yeah, I’m happy to show you that recording of the paperwork, because it was, I look at it all the time. I’m Like, “My God, what were we doing?”

Sean Weisbrot:
At the end of the day, through all of it, through all the huge roller coaster you experienced, would you say that you are satisfied with the sale and with the amount of money that you made?
Eric Vardon:
Yeah, absolutely, it was. Not to get into too many details of our criteria, but a lot of it was we have these fantastic initiatives and other businesses going on that ultimately have a very large upside to them, in many cases, more than what the service-based business did. And it was our time to kind of move on, and so, we’re very happy with the deal structure. We love our new partners, we’re so happy with the success of that business, and being able to be involved in it and meeting all of our criteria just means that much more that we made the right decision.

Obviously, some bumps and bruises along the way itself, but ultimately, what has happened with Covid in the world of digital and marketing and commerce, ecommerce, formally, whatever you want to call it, has just supercharged our entire business and in the business of being all things online, so that means a lot to us. It means the business is secure and we’ve got a great model, and the team there is doing awesome. And it all boils up until we made the right decision. And so very happy with how everything went down outside of the stress, etc. And we’ve got great partners, we’ve got a great business, and to be a part of something that is really going to grow and change the landscape of marketing and being a part of that is super exciting. So, yeah, very happy.

Sean Weisbrot:
I’m glad to hear, I heard of a lot of negatives, so it’s nice to hear someone who has something good to say about the experience. You decided to start Morphio after you stepped away as CEO, but before you sold the agency, is that right? Did you decide to step away as CEO in order to start Morphio or did you just come up with the idea after, like, talk about that process?

Eric Vardon:
Yeah. Mentally, as I said before, we in gut instinct always knew building stuff was what gets us up in the morning, gets me up in the morning. And the chaos of trying to figure out the strategy and answer the problem is what I love to do. So, I think mentally or internally, it was two-fold. Like I said before, it was the right thing to do for the business because the business needed the team to focus on the individuals, ultimately, service-based company, a lot of young, amazing individuals that are the ones creating all of the assets that come out of our business every single day. And that’s why Lindsay was appointed CEO, is because she comes from that world of human capital. She knows how to coach and educate and take a team and really amplify their successes, show their career path, et cetera.

And the same with from an operations perspective, taking the finance and taking the leadership through our processes and creating processes that can scale. Not something that I’m good at or want to do. So, it was really a concurrent kind of decision. And like I said, attaching the value to the company versus the people.

I think I needed something to us to focus on at the same time. And so, as a marketer and sort of a tech nerd, et cetera, we looked at our own data, as we did with our clients, and said, “okay, why aren’t we scaling as well as we want to?” Why are there efficiencies or why are they mistakes that are happening? Why is our team so busy running around tired, burnt out? They’re not doing the things that we’ve hired them to do. And that’s ultimately where Morphio came from.

And it was the mistakes that led up to all of those factors that created an unhappy workforce in many cases. So, the interesting part, it wasn’t one thing that was impacting affecting our margins. It was a whole bunch of things in a minute percentage. So, it was too much analysis through analytics and spending too much time on the data, pulling reports and then making decisions.

So, we’re like, “why can’t we have data that goes to help them just make the decision and prioritize to reporting.” You know, we’re spending all this time across hundreds of clients developing PDFs to send over that nobody’s going to read, why can’t we automate that? And so on and so forth. We looked at the parts of the business internally that any marketing team faces and says, “how can we make their lives way more awesome?” Free them up from the stuff that they don’t want to do and put automation where it needs to be on, the repetitive and the mundane parts of a digital marketer’s workflow. And that’s where Morphio kind of came into play.

Sean Weisbrot:
I love that. I was actually talking to a guy named Frank Oelschlager. He has a business that helps large companies digitize and automate. We were talking about what is automation and what kinds of automation can you apply very simply to your business in order to move yourself in this direction? I’m a very firm believer of automation. I believe that automation should eat your company. That was actually the name of the title of the episode. I love that you found problems in your original company that led to a potential solution in the new company. And I think that it’s a really interesting idea and I’m sure it’ll be very successful.

Being able to automate parts of what we do will be an ever-increasing theme over the next two decades for sure. Where I am a firm believer that artificial intelligence will end up processing a lot of the ideas and data and making it that the human just says, “okay, let’s do this.” The human will probably be the one making the decision but be heavily guided by I information from artificial intelligence. So, you’re definitely headed in the right direction with that idea.

Eric Vardon:
There are definitely people that are skeptical, and rightfully so, in many cases, in terms what automation is going to replace my job, etc. You know, our mission statement is to make marketers more happy and awesome and freedom from the stuff that they don’t want to do. It just makes sense. I mean, none of us want to sit there and do the same task over, over and over if we don’t have to. I mean, it sounds oversimplified, I guess. But you’re right. There is a place for automation. I always reference Burger King sort of fake AI commercials that they did that if you haven’t seen them, just google them and take a look. But you’re right. We need to free ourselves up to do what we do best, which is creative problem solving, decision making, et cetera. And we’ve got stuck in this busy. “Being busy is okay and being busy is fine and being busy is good.” It’s not.

And I can see now that the outcome of what our software does for marketing teams, which is what allows them to think creatively and be free in terms of their imagination. That’s the power of what in our space from a marketing perspective, what we can do as humans, we need more time to do it. So, we’ve got to employ automation and have more fun.

Sean Weisbrot:
So, I think what people should be worried about is not that automation will take over their job, but that if they can’t learn to work with artificial intelligence to make better decisions quickly that they’ll be replaced by younger people who can.

Eric Vardon:
Yeah, because their mindset isn’t a decision of one or the other. It’s already, “Well, of course, I’m not going to do it that way.” In talking to a lot of digital marketing teams, the younger ones are fascinating because they are so technically smart. They understand everything, and they are so fast at how they make decisions. There isn’t, it’s not about even the price or am I going to change, I’m so used to this, or my clients doing that way. It is they want to know how it works, they want to understand why our algorithm is proven, they want to know that we understand and are going to be around a long time to be able to invest their time and their dollars and their team into the business. Very different conversations that we even had even a year ago around more of the pain points of changing my team and all that kind of stuff. They are, the younger audience is fast forwarding to proof of algorithm. “I’m going to try this, I’m going to use it, and then we’ll put your money where their mouth is and get going.” So, it is a different world for sure.

Sean Weisbrot:
Yeah. I absolutely love working with other millennials. No offense to people of the older persuasion. Talking to people that are older than you give you a tremendous amount of insight from their experience. And I think that it’s very important to have relationships with people who are older than you. But also, people that are younger than you are scary sometimes because you don’t understand them. But millennials and Gen Z are driving a massive shift in the way business gets done. And I’ve been more vocal about this recently because working with millennials and Gen Z is really forcing businesses to change, and I think that that will also accelerate as artificial intelligence becomes stronger over time.

Eric Vardon:
Let me just make sure people don’t think I’m too old, okay, Sean, because you can’t. I was born in 77, which means I’m at three or four years off of the tip of the millennial side. I’m not saying I’m a millennial. But I represent actually an interesting small group of people born in a time frame where I also had computers pretty much. And again, they’re very old computers, very different than maybe ones you have. But I also was able to play around with computers years at a very young age. Again, there was 64-bit processors and stuff, so very slow.

I have worked with an entire young workforce most of my life, especially through Arcane, the business, and I completely respect and understand the power and the passion and the transparency and the trust that I will say your generation, I keep feeling really old with the way we’re chatting about this, Sean, but it does represent to me a fantastic positive shift in conversations that have not been able to have been added for many generations previous. So, I will say thank you to that and making us older folk, I’ll say transparent and have the conversations that we need to have, whether it’s business or not. So, take that for what it is. But hopefully you guys can fix all of the stuff that’s going on right now, too. So not to put that on you, but I’m going to.

Sean Weisbrot:
I know you’re not that old. I mean, I was born in 1986. If it means anything, I sometimes feel like I’m not a millennial, and sometimes I feel like I am. And it’s funny because I was having this conversation with someone years ago where they’re like, “well, millennials are like this”, and I was like, “Damn it, I get it. It makes sense.” I’m a very minimalistic person. I’m very open with my lifestyle, my experiences. I’m humble about the things I’ve been through. I’m very willing to talk about these things. And I have a very strong emphasis with my team on making sure they take care of themselves. And I talked to them about stress and anxiety and mental health, and I talked to them about my stress and issues that I go through as well, so that we have a very blunt relationship with each other and they really appreciate that.

And so, I definitely think that it’s important to have those kinds of things. And I know my dad’s generation definitely doesn’t talk about those. I mean, my dad talks about them with me, but he’s not going to go to his boss and talk to him about those things.

Anyways, what’s a question I didn’t ask you that you wish I would ask.

Eric Vardon:
I mean you’re a blockchain guy. I love to know your thoughts on the recent growth of Bitcoin, but maybe that’s a whole other conversation and your views on where custodian technology plays. But we can save that for another time.

Sean Weisbrot:
I’m happy to share. It’s no big deal. So, I’ve been involved in the blockchain industry since the end of 2015, so we’re coming on five years now. What I saw in 2015, 2016, 2017 was a crazy, almost disgusting greed in the initial coin offering market. So, this is less of blockchain and more in the cryptocurrency side. And people’s greed destroyed them for a lot of them. And a lot of people who are innocent and just wanted to get involved in something interesting got taken very hard by those people who were whales, as they say.

And so, the market crashed pretty hard. We had a crypto winter that lasted until about, I would say a year ago.

And the reason why we’re seeing such a surge in Bitcoin in particular is several of reasons. One, you’re seeing on the blockchain side a lot of governments talking about utilizing blockchain in their own systems, like, for example, birth certificates or health records or these kinds of things. You’re also hearing governments and federal reserves around the world talking about central bank digital currencies, which is basically like a Bitcoin that is created by the government and will replace paper currencies, which we call fiat currencies. So, this talk about the use of blockchain and the central bank digital currencies to make one point is getting more people around the world to know that cryptocurrencies exist, and this is driving interest.

Another factor in the growth of Bitcoin and Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies recently is that a lot of institutional investors like Grayscale, I think they’re called, as well as Jack Dorsey, who owns Square and PayPal, for example, they have become very vocal about including Bitcoin in their services, as well as purchasing bitcoin on behalf of potential users who would buy and sell it.

So, we’re seeing a massive demand in the purchasing of bitcoin for these professional services, as well as business to business services, as well as the purchasing of bitcoin for hedge funds and other investors. And so, this surge in popularity due to the surge in buying and discussion is really what’s driving the growth of Bitcoin.

Sean Weisbrot:
So, what is the most important thing you’ve learned in your life that you can impart on us?

Eric Vardon:
Well, I think it has to be with how we treat each other. There’s no better time to speak about this, but I have a personal belief to never judge anybody and to be empathetic with who they are, what they’ve been through, get to know and understand them and then formulate a decision on what I believe, who they are. I also trust my instinct and will often measure up what I believe a person has to offer, but also give them the benefit of the doubt in time and try to get to know them before that. You also never know who you’re going to run into. I’ve had many relationships for many years. Friends that turn into coworkers and friends that turn into clients, and vice versa, partners and all sorts of stuff.

The world is very small, and I think if we treat each other with respect and empathy, then we’ll have a better place to live. And like I said, there’s no better time for us to understand each other’s views, whether we believe it’s right or wrong, actually listen to people, have conversations, take it off of Facebook or whatever social media that you want to position your point of power on. Not saying you shouldn’t deliver it, but if people want to have a conversation or talk about their views, I think everybody needs to be a little bit more empathetic these days. Got to try to bring it all closer together. I’ve learned the hard way that sometimes things will come back and bite you. So just remember the world is very small and treat each other with kindness and hopefully we’ll get through all this madness.

Sean Weisbrot:
I can definitely appreciate that sentiment, and it’s actually really sad that you have to even say it.

Eric Vardon:
Well, it’s tough to be empathetic when you have glass and a mask in front of you. As I was listening to as old people do old music, I was listening to a Kiss song called We’re Not Going to Take It this morning that popped onto my stereo satellite. So, I think if there’s any theme right now for your generation that hopefully can save us all, just play that Kiss track. We’re not going to take it over and over and please, yeah, don’t take anything. Let’s change all this stuff and get things back to where they need to be.

Sean Weisbrot:
What’s something really important that’s close to your heart that you think people should know about? Whether it’s a book or a podcast or a blog or whatever, anything for you personally or about somebody else, this is your moment to share that.

Eric Vardon:
Well, I mean, I think the biggest issues with young kids that I face is it comes into food and our ability to be, we’re lucky now to have an amazing amount of wonderful, nutritious, organic food. So going through this in my own life is I didn’t treat myself as well as I needed to. And now I eat a lot healthier. I focus on not only my health, my fitness and my mind. Especially in business, you have to keep it sharp. I believe your generation is more aware than any, but there’s a limited time frame with the amount of nutritious soil that we have to actually grow these wonderful things we call fruit and vegetables and food. So, let’s take care of our planet. It’s something that with our water and our soil and the move to all things non plastic, if we could do anything, it’s centered around those three things.

Sean Weisbrot:
I think those are all very important things. Thank you for that. Entrepreneurship is a marathon, not a sprint, so take care of yourself every day. Thank you for your time, Eric.