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Joe, welcome to the show. Tim, thank you so much, buddy. And I'm so excited to finally have you here. So thanks for flying out. Of course. My pleasure. Here we are in teahouse and where to begin?
I mean, we've had the opportunity to get to know each other over the last while, which has been super fun, fed some unique peek experiences which I'll leave nebulas just so everyone's really uncomfortable with that statement.
And where to begin. We were talking about this. I was having excessive numbers of macchiatos earlier when I was watching you eat your French toast. And I think the question to start with is what is your first memory of causing trouble or getting into trouble?
Well, let's see to go back. I think it would probably be around second grade. His second grade? Well, after stand. When I was young, I was doing Artan the drawin. And around the second grade, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles came out and. Right. Big deal. Big deal. I was totally hooked on telling Mike Lanza, Rafaelle, everybody awake. I was I was in it. And so I started drawing them. And I just had such a good time drawing them.
I would show them to my classmates. Remember the second grade and my classmates started to want to buy them for me. And so I would mount them on this, like, really special poster board. And I'd come in a class and like I would be selling these for a total of $1. If you want to get a big one, I would sell you the bigger ones for two dollars. And so I was having a ball doing it. I love making drawings.
Classmates. I'm like, make an extra allowance every week. Dollars, a lot of money, even your second grade. Big deal. It's a big deal. And so at one point, my teacher pulls me aside and says, I need to talk to you. And she begins to explain to me that students were so interested in these drawings that they were asking their parents for actual once money. And their parents are like, what extra lunch money for?
And they traced it back to me and they the teacher shut me down. You can't be doing this. All right.
So already. Signs of looming misbehavior, yeah, and and the signs of of, you know, spotting an opportunity and doing something about entrepreneurship. Yeah, yeah. It was also you you can say my first brush with regulation.
First crush that that that may or may not come in handy later maybe. And where were you at the time?
Just places geographically. Where did you grow?
My parents are from New York. What? My grandfather's heritage back in Italy and Ireland. Grandfathers and Brooklyn parents grew up in Long Island. Moved here to Georgia right before they had me. So I grew up in the Deep South. I was in, you know, the town of Lawrenceville, which is next to Snellville, which is near Lilburn, which is not far from Norcross, which is kind of close to Atlanta.
So if you went, you know, an hour in one direction, you'd be in, know, farm fields and, you know, horse ranches and maybe, you know, it was it was the south. And every kind of way.
So you're selling these drawings now. Where did that impulse come from? And I ask because I've had the chance to spend some time with your dad.
Awesome guy. It's true.
We were together at a date with Destiny event, and you had the very good idea of basically creating Animal House by renting a house together on jobi andbe otherwise known as Air BMB and your dad's awesome.
A also seems to be very entrepreneurial. So that's why I'm asking. I'm not implying it came straight from your dad, but could you maybe talk about that? And then also, what what were some defining characteristics of your childhood?
Well, certainly both my parents, including my dad, were very entrepreneurial. They both worked for themselves growing up. So I had this, you know, environment where I saw my parents forging their own path, sort of. Their success was fully dependent on how hard they worked and how ambitious they were in their careers of what they were doing. And my dad certainly was entrepreneurial. You know, he was always coming home with something on a weekend saying, I've got this new product idea.
I've got this new service I found. And, you know, our basement was full of these different attempts at different things. And so there was this this spirit of trying things out, by all means, in our household.
What were some of the things that you're done? Try some early Internet things in the mid 90s as the Internet started to come out, you know.
What were some of the things that caught? What did he. What did he end up doing? Well, he ended up working with my mom, and they both were in the health food industry. So when you go into Whole Foods and you see, you know, vitamins and supplements and the vitamin aisle, they were the representative between the manufacturer of those products and get into the shelf of those stores. What was interesting was to tag along with with them on business trips where they'd drive around the south from South Carolina to Tennessee to Alabama.
And getting to see how they interacted with these store owners, because it wasn't just Whole Foods. It was also the mom and pop vitamin stores, as well as independents, independents. And so it was really fastenings watching them interact with the store owners and just seeing how far they would go to serve people, you know. I mean, one time specifically were in Tennessee and it was really late at night. All the other store employees had gone home.
It's my dad, myself and the store manager. And we sit there stocking shelves. We're like, so this is Tennessee? Yeah, we're doing somebody else's job. But for my dad, it was just about creating a connection with the store owner and really, I guess going above and beyond what was required of you. And so I really took away from that. Those observations of watching how your parents treat people. You know, it was just it was really nice to see a definite planted a seed in me, like going out of your way for those that you're serving your customers.
Was it your was it your dad's idea to bring you along? Did you ask to be brought along or something else? I don't know. Yeah, yeah. I remember the very first morning in the house that we rented. Yeah. Florida, we had heard of Date with Destiny being nicknamed by some people, date with death because the schedule's so intense. Yeah. 12:16 God knows how many hours it's up to up to the powers that be.
The big man and so on. And it can be very hard to get food to be very hard to get a break in. Even if you do get a break, maybe there's a line of. 300 people from 60 countries waiting to get a chicken wraps. You're not going to eat your chicken, wrap it. So we had stocked up with bars and mixed nuts and yogurt and jerky and everything imaginable. And it was scattered all over the place and got up in the morning and the entire collection of food had been rearranged like a point of sale display.
It was in perfect order. It was ready for a store front.
And it was just like, did you do that to my two of my friend Navy? And he's like, no, I definitely can't do that. And then I knew Amelia hadn't done it.
I could do unless I go. Then Joe Senior took some eggs.
I'm happy I'm making some eggs. Would you like some sites like. Wow. Yes, it makes sense. Makes sense. That attention to detail.
You get a little taste of those. Great. That morning I was thrilled.
What else did you. What else did you experience in childhood that stuck with you and all of a lead with one thing that I originally asked you all about.
And when we initially spent time together, also related to Dhoni's, the glue that holds us together, which I didn't expect to really be verbalizing that it seems at least up to this point, that he's been a a a a s a consistent character in the background or in the foreground is a big dude.
Hard to miss. But we began talking about tennis because I'd just taken my first ever. Tennis lessons with Jim Leor and Lorenzo Beltrami, an incredible coach down in Florida. But you were wearing a Nick Bull or poultry Academi shirt, and I knew just enough having read the open autobiography by Andre Agassi to recognize the name.
So I asked you about it. So it seems like tennis was certainly certainly something that was also. Oh, my God.
Part of the family. So maybe you could talk to them. We had a tennis family, you could say. I think that's what they call that, a time where every member of the family plays tennis. We did coaching together. We played in Altar and U.S.D.A. together. We did competitions together. And it was a truly a family sport growing up. And so tennis was a huge part of my life as a kid amongst a lot of other sports.
I think that's things that stood out to me. Of childhood and things that were things I'm really grateful for. Is that whatever my interests were, my my parents would support it. And I think they learned this lesson the hard way. How so? They they got me into violin when I was really young, when I was about four or five years old, which you're interested or not interested in.
I mean, now. And so is taking violin lessons. And there's a recital that I don't remember how old I was, maybe six. And at this recital, it's in Savannah, Georgia. I'm sorry, Augusta, Georgia. And I'm definitely out of my depth here. Like, all the kids are bigger than me. I'm not being keep up with everyone else is playing. And apparently, I sat down on the front of the stage and just put my violin down.
And there isn't my parents in the back, probably the terrified look on their face. And after that experience, they switch their perspective and said, we're going to support whatever his intrinsic interests are. Right. And so I was really grateful for that. You know, throughout my my childhood, sports, music and art were the three things that any time I threw my weight behind something, they were right there to support me, whether it was a practice, sports practice or sports equipment or music lessons or art supplies, whatever the thing was, they were there to support me in it.
What if not violin? Where did you gravitate towards any in music is in the violin lessons.
I do remember this this part. I was so eager to finish the violence. Violin lessons that I could go bang on the piano that was in the same music room. And sure enough, I started taking piano lessons and I've played ever since. Cool. So you still play? I do, yeah. I've got a piano at home and it's like one of those things that, you know, it's the first thing I do when I get home at the end of the day is I just go jam on the piano.
I either play some of my favorite music from Thelonious Monk or Dave Brubeck, or I just mix it up and kind of riff what other.
Entrepreneurial experiences, do you recall from elementary school or high school after you got the kibosh thrown on the teenage madness journals?
That's sort of it wasn't the end. You know, I. I distinctly remember a whole bunch of things from part of the comment stuff. Right. Like start a long line business in my neighborhood. So I put out fires and people's doors in my neighborhood and offered 1 million car washing. And so, you know, I'd go on and go on for 20 bucks. That was quick money. My pocket. As a kid. Kind of getting into high school.
There was one moment where senior year came around and the senior year T-shirt that did my high school was. It was pretty uninspiring. Let's just call it that. And I thought, you know, I bet I could do something better than that at this point. I just got my first Mac, my first Apple computer and had Photoshop on it, illustrator and the graphics software that you needed to to make, you know, visuals. And so that's when it was actually my introduction to Photoshop was just redesigned, the T-shirt.
And I don't have any money really, other than the long my money that was coming in and I figured out how to get these T-shirts made. I went to a local printer to figure out how to do all the transfer the files to them. And suddenly I'm I'm sitting on about three hundred T-shirts and I realize I got to go sell these things.
Okay. Got it. So you took it upon yourself to redesign the. Was it the high school T-shirt?
Yeah. Like this. The senior. The senior. Like the senior teacher. The senior T-shirt. And then went out and now you have a bunch of inventory. I got to my gym in Turin, I got a selling which would come up again later. Another story. But yeah, it was it was it was fun. And actually I never did better than break even on those people. Really happy to have a really memorable with the shirt on.
You know, it was a riff on the tie, the logo, the tie detergent. Sure. And so instead of saying titles and seniors class of two thousand Brookwood High School. And it did really well, see.
So you didn't. You didn't bet the farm and lose the farm, you at least broke even. Yeah, yeah. It was it was fun to to learn. You know, how to use some of the graphics programs like Photoshop and then also figure out like, how do you turn that into something, right? Has it leave your screen, become something physical? So it's a great lesson, if anything.
Where did you think now this is senior year in high school. What did you think you were going to do when you grew up? Persay at that point. Well, what did you want to do?
So every year from elementary, middle and high school, the art teacher would tell me you need take more art classes, because it was a talent that I had that stood out and they recognized it, were telling me about it. And so you're have a year. I would invest more in two art classes. And at one point I was driving downtown to the Lana College of Art and weekends to take figgered drawing classes. Sometimes on weeknights I drive down for painting classes.
And then something really incredible happened. I applied for this program called the Governor's Honors Program in high school, where they take students from around the state of Georgia across all disciplines, math and science and languages and art. And they took about 30 students for the state for each discipline. And then if you get in, you go to a college campus for the summer and you actually city college of the coursework in whatever the discipline is. So I went for art and had an incredible time here.
I was surrounded by some of the best artists in the state of Georgia and other high school students and had teachers who were cut collegiate level challenging us the same way they would a college student. And I freaking loved it. And there was one woman in particular name is Donna, and she is like one of those people in life that you have along your journey who helped you helps helps you see something else about yourself that maybe you don't quite realize yet.
And so she sat me down one day during this program and really kind of laid out what it might look like if I pursued art after after high school. And she was one of the first persons, I mean, really excited about. She made it realistic for me. Didn't think about that. Even a practical idea. Right. And she's like, there's one school you have to go to. It's the Rhode Island school design. I'm like, the what?
Where's that? And so in the Bahamas. Yeah, I'll see.
She put Riady on the map for me and I was tearing up that program during that that summer. I really dove into painting this painting that was about eight feet by four feet wide stretch man on canvas and really like threw myself and understand materials and paint better than ever before. And we had the show at the end of the program. So, you know, everyone in art, the discipline got to have like a gallery show. And there it was, my painting on the main wall when you walked in.
It was really like it was a moment for me to realize that a people were appreciating the images that I made and in my art in seconds, I loved it. Like, I really felt challenged. I felt creative. It was it was allowing me to fulfill all these desires that I had to to create things.
How much of that was the environment versus the medium? Do you think? I think the probably the environmental that more because the medium could've been anything. Right. I mean, we did record back to pottery and finally we did figure drawing and painting. We were exposed to all kinds of different mediums and materials. I think the environment is what I fell in love with. Being challenged, being challenged, being surrounded by other creatives. And and really, that's what triggered me to say this this renowned school design thing.
So the next summer, I did their high school program and got to spend six weeks on campus, basically is like a really act like a freshman. They gave me, again, college level courses, an average. I really I fell in love with campus, some of the people. And, you know, as a junior high school, Mike, I got to go here. This is this is where I feel challenged.
So then what happens? Well, so before I leave high school, there's a there's another story about an entrepreneurial Joe. So I haven't told the story in a while. But so when I got to high school as a freshman, the senior class right before me had pulled off this amazing senior prank. So after high school, the mascot was a Bronco horse. So the Brookwood Broncos and they went down the street to this like a country western store, Riegert cowboy boots and cowboy hats.
It's called Horse Town East. And on the top of their sign, which is pretty tall, is a couple of stories. Couples were as tall, was this giant full sized plastic horse and some. The senior class figured out how to get the horse down from the sign. And then they put it on top of our school. And so the last day of class came in, there's giant full sized plastic horse on top of Brooklyn. And so when I showed up as a freshman, everybody was talking about it.
Everyone's like, how do you do with this? Your class did last year for the graduated. Yeah. And I just started to think to myself, I could I don't to do that. I've got four years to think of something like. But surely I can come up with something better than the horse on top of the school. So I set myself a challenge. Frank by senior year.
So the years go by. It's now senior year and we have about four months to go. And I still haven't thought of anything. And the clock's ticking. It's now three months to go. I still thought of anything. It's now two months to go and I get on a Google search, you know, high school senior pranks just to see, like what else is out there. So I'm still committed to figure something out. And so I keep coming across the same stuff.
You've got super glue, the locks, the doors. You've got Philip cups with water in the gym. Put them all next to each other. They like knock over and then you've got put three pigs outside school and label them one, two, four. So everyone thinks there's the third Pigman runs. You know, it was like the repetition of how many sites were covering these. Franks's like, these are not original. And that was one of my criteria.
Like this needs to be something original. I'm not going to just like copy another prank. And so we're now like three weeks until graduation. Don't have any prank. I haven't figured it out yet. And my sister was a cheerleader. And so she'd have this cheerleading practice after school. And normally I'd have to hang around and take her home. And so outside after school one day and she's nowhere to be found before cell phones. And the way that you track somebody down that time was to make some announcement over the intercom system and they called their name.
So I go into the front office and by the way, I went to high school in Georgia. That was one of the largest we of 4000 people in a high school. Right. It's one of the biggest high schools in the state. And I thought that to access the intercom would be some go in some room, there'd be some big system. It'd be super complicated, some in the front office. And I'm looking at the secretary and I go, hey, just heard from my sister, Kim, can you keep Pager over the intercom?
And the secretary goes, oh, sure, just a minute. She picked she picks up the phone and she hits pounds 0 0 on the dial pad and then she talks in the phone. Hey, Kim. Kim Gebbia. Your brother's here. Please come to the front of the building. And everything she said to the phone came out over the intercom system. And I'm watching this and I'm going. It's that easy to get into the intercom system of the largest high school in the state of Georgia.
All you have to do is have access to the phone line and hit pound 0 0. It was this big aha moment. As I'm watching this unfold in front of me and I go, all I have to do is get one of those splitter jacks, plug it into the same phone line. And then I can run a cord of another phone somewhere else in the closet or something. And then I could call in and have access to the whole intercom system.
So for a week I'm toiling on this. I'm like, how am I going to root a phone cord without anybody noticing it? And then finally, it dawns on me, just get a cordless phone.
You could be anywhere in the school and have access to the intercom. So this point I recruit when my buddies, Mark Eisenhower, who looking back probably wasn't the best accomplished for this mission because he played on the basketball team is about six foot 4 with bright blonde hair. Right. Not inconspicuous, not conspicuous at all. And so we go we go to the school that weekend and we had this grand plan that will well, maybe trick one of the janitors into letting us into the main office.
And when he leaves, somehow we'll like plug in this cordless phone into the school. It definitely was not a well thought out plan at this point, but we'll have a lot of time. So we went for it. And so we went to the schools on a Sunday afternoon. I think the janitor saw right through us, did not let us in the office. And so we left a bit empty handed. But we aren't giving up. This is too good.
So I employed another friend and he was Chelsea Hughes. And so the three of us came up with a better plan that we'd go up on a week on a weekend. And there was a. Community school office that we knew would be open on weekends. And that office connected like these inner chambers to the main office. And if we could just get into that one we thought was. You could go through the sequence of other doors to get to the main office.
And so Chelsea went up and tried to figure out where that principal was, that that communi school director. And so she she identified him on the far side of campus. She signaled to Mark. Mark signaled to me. And I'm outside in like a black hoodie with my backpack full of the phone. Flashlight. And Mark gave me the signal on Mr. Hope.
I go running in through the lobby of the school right into this community director's office. And then it's pitch black. And I'm I'm like going going through all the doors. That's like chamber by chamber until you get to the main office. The front desk. Get them there. And I move the desk to the side. And there's just a giant jumble of cords underneath it. I'm trying to figure out which one of the hell's the phone line. And I trace it back to the wall.
I pull up the splitter piece. I put it in, and then I plug in the cordless phone and the phone from the desk into the same one. And I'm trying to bury the cord base underneath the pile, cause at this point I'm sweating. My heart is racing. It's all mine. In the darkness of this office, deathly not supposed to be there. And all of a sudden there's a tap on my shoulder.
My heart jumps. I turn around. It's it's more hovering over me because, Joey, we got to go. Mr. Choke is on his way. And I'm all right. I'm done. So we push the desk back. We go out the back entrance into the parking lot. We meet up with Chelsea. I pull the cordless phone out of my bag. I turn it on and we get a dial tone. We have access to the intercom. So the next question is, what do you do with that access?
Right. So the next day, I decided that I was going to make a tape mix of different songs to play over the intercom system. And I put it put together a mix of Pink Floyd. We don't need education. And Alice Cooper, school's out for summer. And I got so detailed about this that I had my mom help out at home. She didn't know she was helping me. But we had two phone lines in the house, one for the business, one for personal use.
And I would call one phone line to the other and have the tape player next to it to figure out the right volume on it, the right distance from the phone, and have my mom on the other end telling me if I was wild enough or not.
So she helped me calibrate the right the right volume for the tape player. So. The phone is embedded. The tape makes tape mixes is made. It's now the last day of school and I woke up that morning. I was nervous like, I'm gonna do this today. Harat prank is happening. So I go to school a little bit late on purpose. So as it works, I park I park my car in the parking lot and in one pocket, I've got the phone, the other pocket.
I've got this tape player like a good Sony Walkman and I'm walking through the parking lot. It's just. Just me. There's nobody else. And then all of a sudden. Hours school police officer shows up on his golf cart and he turns a corner and he's coming straight towards me and there's nobody else around. It's just him and me. And he's coming at me and I'm staring at him and I'm like, just be cool, just be cool.
He doesn't know. And like, he's getting closer. My heart's racing faster. And I'm like, oh, my God, I've got this bulges in my pocket of the phone tape player. And he makes eye contact. I mean, the golf cart goes by.
So I walk to the front of the school and there's like this overhang area where the bus is pulled up and there's the benches and then the glass doors before you go into the main lobby. And so everything's cleared out except for this one kid. He must've been like a freshman or a sophomore or something. And he's sitting there and I'm like, waiting for him to leave because I don't want anybody to see what I was about to do. And he's not going anywhere and thinking myself.
I have to do this now. I can't wait any longer. So I just run up to him. I get right in his face and I go, look, you can't say anything about what you're about to see. And he was just totally freaked out. He goes, OK.
And so I go behind one of these these brick columns that was holding up the overhang. And around the column, you could see into the glass doors and and where the offices but the phone bases. So I pulled the phone out. I pulled the tape player. My hands are shaking. Oh, my gosh. Things are all right. It's go time. I turned the phone on. Get the dial tone. Head pounds 0 0. My hands are shaking even more.
I think this deep breath. And actually this beep comes over the whole school to signal there's an announcement. And I can actually hear myself breathing through the intercom.
I'm like, OK, all right. Let's just do this right now. So he'd play in the tape player. I set the two down next each other. And as I'm doing it, I flicked the volume all the way just to be safe because I'm thinking myself, I don't want to come across as too soft in the volume. Some like I got to throw the volume all the way up. So I set the two down next to each other and I walk into the building and that's when all hell broke loose.
I opened the lobby. I go into the lobby doors and the music is blasting out of the intercom system. School's out for.
So it's like the speakers are about to explode.
It's like so freaking loud. And when you get to school, it you had to go to like a check-in line to sign in. And so I'm in the checking on is like two people in front of me. And this is this is the scene. I mean, this like, you know, kind of high school lobby to my left or all the offices, including the one where the phone is to my right is the gymnasium. The gymnasium. Two of my buddies come busting out while this music blasting.
They're laughing so hard because they realize that it was me. The coach comes out of the gym, starts yelling and you get back in here. We don't know what's going on, but you got to get back in here.
I'm just sitting there with a straight face, not cracking a smile. I sign in and then I get to my class. I have to walk past all these offices. Right. And so while I'm doing that, I hear what's going on. They're yelling at each other. People are sticking their head out office. It's coming from in there. No, don't know where it's coming from there. I got the phone in their hands.
You can hear of an intercom then hitting like numbers on the phone, trying to shut it off.
They had no idea where the heck it was coming from. And so as I'm walking past these sequence of officers, I catch a glimpse into the principal's secretary office and then into the principal's office, which is even a deeper layer. And I see a catch your face and it's bright red. And she's yelling at somebody while this music still playing. Right. Right. Now, Rhonda, Pink Floyd, at this point, we don't need no education. Right.
And so I'm been going on. Like three, four minutes. And at this point, I'm walking through my classes in the very back of the campus. I'm walking through the halls. I'm told by myself, while the music's plain and every time I walk past a classroom, there's a little skinny like glass window and you can kind of get a glimpse into it. And as I walk Patsey classes, I take these double looks and people are like on top of their chairs and on top of their desks and people are dancing.
And I get to my classroom right as the tape ends. And like, I thought for sure they're gonna shut this off in like 20 seconds. Right. So I did make a tape very long, a couple minutes between minute tape private to play for 20 minutes. Right. So I get there right as the tape ends. I open the door. People are staying on top of their desk. People are dancing. The teachers at her desk with her, her head in her hands, like totally lost control of her class.
And it's like the record stops. I walk in. Everybody turns and looks me and goes. Joey, was that you? I'm like, no, I don't know what that was. And so finally, the teacher gets control of the class again. We sit down and he's looking at me like, oh, well, that was awesome.
What was that? I don't know.
And so not two minutes later, there's a knock on the door. An administrator walks in. She walks over the teacher. The class goes dead silent. They whisper something to each other. And then they both turn and look at me. The minister comes by my desk, she goes. Joey, get your stuff. You're coming with me. And I'm like, singing, I'm destined. Oh, no. She gets outside, she slams the door in the hallway and she goes, You want to tell me what's happened back there?
I go. I don't know. We're talking about. She's like, we've got Mark in the office. We know what happened. I'm like, I I don't I don't know what you're talking about. She goes, you can make this hard. You can make this easy on yourself.
When I was like, so we walk all the way back to the front of the campus. And the whole way she's berating me, chewing my head off of all the damages that I cause and all the issues that were created with the phone system. And we go to the secretary's office and we walk through and I see Mark there.
He's got his head in his hands. And Mark is your very tall, very tall, very blond, very blond, very obvious accomplice. Yes. Yes, he was.
He's a good buddy and a good friend. And I appreciate his help in this endeavor. And so he's got he's down like this. He's like, totally crushed. And he sees me and he looks at me and he goes. And I couldn't tell what he was saying. It's just dry mouth or now be to me. And so what do you say? He goes, it was the janitor.
So we get through the secretary's office into the principal's office. Connie Coralee, never forget her name. They slam the door and I'm staying there with my backpack wearing a green IZOD shirt. I'll never forget this. I mean, my brown khaki pants, green IZOD shirt with my backpack. And there's Connie queerly at her desk with her arms like this. Huffing and puffing faces bright red. She's got the phone and the tape player and the phone cord and phone base on her desk.
And around her are the 20 administrators, including the school police officers, the big school in, say, Georgia. We had a police officer. And so they're all like this, like arms crossed, huffing and puffing.
Right. And I'm like, oh, fuck.
My heart's racing. I'm like, what is going on here? Every one of them took a turn at me just to yell at me about something. Connie Kois, Nazi army. How did you get in the office? You broke and entering. And she's like, like, really angry.
I'm like like like I'm sort of feel a little bit bad about this. Like like, I'm not sure where this is going to go. Like Woodrow is going to get off on this or like there's some consequences here. I have no idea. And so from that, they lead us into this other like negotiation room, which I've never seen, this long wooden table with these like leather chairs and the whole side of Principal Corley's at the head of the table.
Mark and I are now sitting across each other. We get administrator standing over us with their arms crossed like we're gonna make a run for it or something. And she like starts like negotiating with us. And this is the part that actually pissed me off the most, is that she started to threaten our scholarships. And she looked at Mark. She is Mark, you know, I know you've got a basketball scholarship to this school in Georgia that you're going to I hate to have to call the coach and tell him about this this incident.
Just me, Joey. And I know you're going to that art school in Rhode Island. I hate to have to call the admissions office and tell them about this incident. And that was like, there's no way you're getting in the way of either of our dreams. Right, because we tapped into the high school intercom system. Right. So she's made an offer. She goes, we could press charges for breaking the entering and tampering school property and some other things.
Or you can do this list of things which included wiping down computer screens in the library during the summer time, ironically, setting up and taking down the sound equipment for graduation like a few of the chores and like manual labor, basically. Yeah.
And so Mark and I obviously we say it will we'll do the chores and the manual labor so that we can graduate pressing charges somehow equated to not being a law graduate, get your diploma. And so from there we go into the the school police officers office. His name is Officer Harrelson and it's a good cop name. This guy. Yeah, right. This guy had the deepest kind of grizzly voice that you could imagine. Office Officer Harrelson here. Brookwood High School.
So written off as he calls her parents. And this is this is like probably where the worst part of the whole story. He did not know the update that we opted in to do the women manual labor. He thinks that we're not graduating high school now.
So he calls my mom, goes miscarry. This is Officer Harrelson here. Brookwood High School. Yes, ma'am. I've got your son in custody here. Yeah. Yes, right, ma'am. It doesn't look like he's graduating this year. Oh, no. Yes, ma'am. He's right here. He hands me the phone and I heard his tone of voice to my from my mom I've never heard since and everyone here again she goes, you get right home after school.
I can't believe you click like mom, but we we're going to graduate.
She thinks your son's in high school.
I'm like, thanks. After house. That was really kind of you. And does the same thing to Mark. And we're walking out of his office. This is the best part. He pulls us to the side because. Mark. Joey. I've been at the school for over 20 years. You need to know that was the best damn prank I've ever seen.
Yes, sir. Harrelson.
So we would go through graduation. One little funny stunt liberties that, you know, you had your honors chords and different club chords. You were on your neck. Mark and I wore phone cords to honor the senior prank. People were raving about it. And we came back, you know, two weeks later to the white computer screens in the library. And I'll never forget we're outside underneath the same overhang, like dusting off our rags and all these buses pull up and all these bus drivers start pouring into the school.
Pass this. I like some bus driver, you know, end of year celebrations. And one of the bus drivers actually walks over to us and she goes, I need the two boys that pulled that prank with the intercom system. Martin and look at each other like, yeah, she goes, you know, y'all are you two or are ladies in this county. MARTIN Like what? Like, how did they hear about it? Like all the bus drivers in the county that we were in.
So it was this just incredible moment of, you know, having an idea, have his ambition to do something that was original. In this case, there was no property damage. Nobody got hurt. To me, the essence of a great prank and that was part one of the story.
Part one of the story. Well, all right. I'll bite. I'll bite. What's part two of the story?
It's part to the story. I'm in college. This is about two years later. And one of my roommates comes home one day. And he says, have you heard that show, it's on MTV. It's called High School Stories, Pranks and controversies. And it was about his like, yes. I was just watching. It's like they showed this this some high school. They had this high school prank as like I setup mature. I go, really?
Tell me about that. And he goes, yeah. They filmed these guys who get this. They superglued the locks on the doors of this high school. And I'm like, you have to be kidding me. The oldest trick in the book, MTV, is making a show about high school pranks and are doing a super glue in the lock. Prank. I'm like, I have to get in touch with the producer.
Oh, I get online. And I tracked down the producer of the show.
And I sent them an email. That was a teaser of the story, but not the full one. And basically said, if you wanna hear the rest of it, here's my phone number. About 30 minutes later, my phone rings for the 2 1 2 area code. And I see NYC and I get on the phone with this producer. And he's like, I'm really intrigued by your email. Always looking for good stories was what he got. And I told them the abbreviated version, what you just heard.
And he's like, Oh, I love this. I'm going to put this to my executive producer. We're gonna get back to you. It's about three or four days later. Get another phone call from a two and two. Hey, this is Leslie from MTV. I'm the executive producer here. Really love your story. I want to hear more about it from you. So by the end of the call, she's in love with the story. She's like, you know what we're gonna do?
We're gonna send a crew down to Georgia. We want you to come back this summer. We're going to reenact the whole thing and include it in the next season of our TV show. So that summer, we got to go back to Georgia and reenact the whole thing. Now, however, this is only two years later. The same administration and principal is still there. And they did not have a lot of forgiveness.
I was going to say the wounds haven't quite yet. Definitely not healed. They'd have had a grudge because if anything, we just embarrass them. Right. They had no idea how to turn it off. Like, yeah, there's no damage or anything that was really done that's permanent. And so they declined re-enacting a school. So ironically, went to one of my rival high schools and refilled the whole thing there. And even more ironic is that the principal, the new principal there was a former administrator when I pulled the prank at my other school.
So he was intimately familiar with what had happened at that point. He was he could laugh about it. That summer, we reenacted the whole thing, Chelsea and Marc, and got a couple of the friends to be extras in the background. And it aired later that year on MTV. Amazing.
So it seems like your brushes with mischief just seem to reinforce your appetite. For mischief of sorts in a way, perhaps. Perhaps now when we were. Hanging out earlier today. Ask a question that that I often ask of friends. I'm going to sit down with and it was in effect.
Can you give me any cues? I don't want to hear the story. Can you give me any cues that might lead to a fun discussion?
And then one of them, I said, I don't want another story. I want to hear it fresh. And when we're recording and one of them was. NBA time worked with or in NBA. And I've no idea what this refers to. But that's a cue. Tim, I think this story starts by telling you a fun fact. I see Michael Jordan naked in person. OK. This is a good start. Now we're talking about locker room, hotel room, barbecue.
My dog had a high school job where I worked as a ball boy in the NBA for the Orlando Hawks. That was my job in high school. I love basketball, I played my whole life and I was reading that. I used to read the newspaper every morning when I was growing up over breakfast, whatever. I would just consume a newspaper. And so one day I'm in the sports section and there's an article about a bat being Bat Boys for the Lanta Braves and being ball boys for the Winter Hawks.
At the very end of the article, it said, If you're interested in becoming one. Send a letter about yourself to this address. And I'm like, Oh, my God, yes. Like, that would be so cool, right? So I send a letter, but actually I sent it on the day of the deadline. And once it passed, I sent them there, the deadline. And I kind of forgot about it until next summer.
I get a phone call. And this guy introduced himself as Chris Tucker. The strength, the head strength coach of the Lanta Hawks. And he goes, Yeah, we got your letter. We really liked it. We want you to come down and interview for one of a ball, a ball boy positions. This is awesome. I'll be there. So I get down to you. At the time, it was the Omni before they had Philips Arena and interview with them.
Tell him about my life and my love for basketball. And these things. And I get a call back a few days later that I got the job. So there's I'm like a freshman in high school, right? I'm like barely a sixteen, maybe fifteen, fifteen years old. And I start working, you know, in the locker rooms of the Anna Hawks. Actually, my very first game I'll never forget this was the Hawks versus the Toronto Raptors.
And they threw me onto the visitors because their ball boys for the home team in the business.
Can you explain what a ball boy does in basketball? Because I'm an idiot when it comes to group sports or team sports. I know the ball boy or ball girl does in tennis, but in basketball, I've no idea.
It's about the different tiers, right? The entry level tier is your wiping the sweat on the floor. When a player falls down in the middle of the game. All right. Right. You see this like people go out with a mop and the towel and you're just wiping the sweat of the players that slip on the court. It's like the entry level position. And they did plenty of that as you work your way up the tier. Then you work on the side of the court and you'd actually running grab the players, a warmup pants and jacket.
When they went to check into the game, you'd at half like sitting on half court with them and hand the towel when they came in. You know, sit back down on the bench and then the next year was he'd worked behind the bench and actually assist the trainer. And so you behind in the Gatorade over their shoulder. Come on, sit down. Give me the towel. Get them to warm up the jacket and the hoodie. And then the highest level was doing it for the visiting team.
Right. And so and whatever they needed to set the locker room before the game, you'd run any errands that need to get done. Break the lock him down the end of the game and the whole thing. Get through a game like three hours early. You know, running errands for the players sometimes give you like a nice tip, a horse grant one time in a hundred dollar bill. It's a big deal. He goes back to the bus.
It's pretty cool. And so they threw me my very first game. They threw me to the visitors side. Toronto Raptors Star After's. And it was my first experience of like being around some emigrates. Marcie's can be I remember was on the team. The Times guy watched play at UMass in college and like really admired and. It was my first exposure to professional sports locker room do. Everybody comes in and they just take the clothes off to get changed and nobody gets a shit.
Yeah, it doesn't matter at the end of the day. But for me, I was like, whoa, whoa, where am I?
Today is my first experience. Of course, you get used to that is no big deal. A certain point. So I'm in the NBA and I did it for three seasons. I got to work alongside Lenny Wilkens, the head coach to be Mutumbo, Steve Smith. So these NBA greats and there were some really incredible moments that happen. One of them one of them was when the Hawks played the Chicago Bulls. Jordan's still playing. This is nineteen ninety nine.
One of his last seasons and. I'll never forget this. So you have to imagine the scene here in Philips Arena and the Hawks are actually winning, which is amazing, and the place is going nuts. You can't even hear yourself think it's so loud. People are screaming. They're they're playing music over the loudspeakers. And I'm working the bulls bench. Right. Which is like you've got Scottie Pippen and Steve cur-, Dennis Rodman, Michael Jackson, Phil Jackson, Michael Jordan, like the whole Harvard roster, roster and some work in the Bulls bench.
Third down, Phil Jackson calls a time out and the place goes nuts because the hawks are up and in front of me. Jordan plops down. Rodman's on the left, pippin's on the right. Phil Jackson is like, right here. And he's furious like this. Guys, he's an expert is like, you never believe he's yelling things. I feel like I can feel his soul, like his spit, like hitting my face. He's just like.
And I'm like, right behind Jordan. He's right here. And the places against so loud people scream at the top of their lungs. And I'm doing my job right. I give the guys a towel and then I'm getting a gator aid. So I'm like, I'm gonna start with Jordan, obviously, right in front of me. So I reach around. I reach on the side. So left left hand, like over the shoulder at the end of the shoulder.
Jordan is facing this way, talking to Pippin, who's right next to him. I reached around and Rodman, who's to my left. Turns quickly, bumps my elbow. The gator aid quickly goes upside down and straight into Jordan's lap. There are only a few times in my life I've been as terrified as that moment. Phil Jackson's yelling at me. Michael Jordan spins around. He goes, Hey, man, watch it. And I'm like, Oh, my God.
Like my heart through my Jesus Christ. So I did what anybody would do in that moment. If you spill something, you tend to wipe it up. Right. So I grab a towel and I'm patting down Jordan's thigh like now I'm like in the huddle. Right. Right.
Rodman's laughing at me because he realized what he had done. Phil Jackson's like right here, like spitting. He's yelling so hard. And I'm like, I'm sorry. Jordan, I'm like, trying to, like, dry his leg up with his Gatorade spill that went right to his lap.
And, oh, man, I'm like sweating profusely. Because you're going to get like the TV crews are like in the huddle to you think the camera's in your face. It's like a stress moment as a ball boy. You had one job.
Don't pour the Gatorade on Jordan's balls. Well, obviously, unforunately Robin made that quick spin, dog.
Not me. Not your fault. So, like, the buzzer goes off and it's like time to get back on the court. And I'm still like patting down, like Jordan's leg.
And he's like, oh, come on, man up. And. I think right after that, he actually had like a whole bunch of points, he threw down the slam dunk or something. I think the the moral of the story there is, you know, when you still get hit on Jordan, make sure you clean it up.
What it seems like there's another pattern here, which is.
Getting comfortable with uncomfortable situations, right, or exposing yourself to discomfort so that you're comfortable sphere of action expands, right? What what was your next brush?
Once you get to residues, you're in reality. Were there any formative entrepreneurial experiences that that come to mind? Absolutely were.
And I should explain also, if I may interject just for a second that. One of the reasons I want to explore a lot of these stories is that it's easy and I think typical for people to take a single chapter in someone's life and isolate it and view it.
As the whole story. Right. There's so much backstory and so much development and so many experiences that lead up to the small piece of the puzzle that people tend to think is the whole puzzle.
Right. Right. So just for people listening and watching, that's that's. And I just enjoy your storytelling. So that's another piece of it.
But the reality is this is this is a level up. I mean, Rudy, you have a lot of talent.
People are listening. Any entrepreneurial memories or experiments that come to mind from reality? Yes.
So I decide to go to Rasi to study fine arts, to be a painter and really know what that meant. I had this vision of maybe one day, you know, being able to exhibit in New York or something like the gallery scene. I couldn't actually picture it, but I really want to go study art and painting. So when I got to campus, they have this week of orientation and you get your class schedule and you get to meet upperclassmen.
And I'm talking to this guy and fellow student, fellow fellow student upperclassmen, and he say, no. Who do you have for your courses? And freshman year, they give you the foundation stuff like drawing two dimensional design, three dimensional design, Laborites art history. And so I'm going to the list of teachers and I say this one teacher's name that makes his eyebrows go up. I go, I've got Gareth Jones for 3D. Niko's effectors, Jones Jones Oh, man.
I go, What is it? Who's the who's this guy? And he goes. Just wait for the chess set project. And I go, what's what suggests that project? And he goes, You'll see. So my very first class is with this guy, Gareth Jones, teaching three dimensional design. And picture this. We're in this art studio with these concrete floors. He's like rickety metal stools, plaster covered kind of work surfaces. It's a little bit cold.
It's September in New England. And, you know, it's a very first class. I'm sitting around with, you know, 18 other freshmen are all trying to make sense of where we are in the world and what this really thing's all about. And this is about to be our first impression of what is it like to be a student rizzotti. And so we're sitting there and all of a sudden this guy wearing all black with this big poofy head of hair comes out and he stands in front of us and he's got this Welsh accent and he goes.
I just want you all to know that half of you are going to fail my course. Because he won't finish the chess set projects. I don't think as of, oh, my God, that's what it's going to be like here. Like half the people left, I looked to my right, one of them is gonna be gone. I'm going to fail out. I'm like, Oh, my God. And we're all looking each other like he.
Is he serious? And he goes on to explain the chestnut project. So in addition to your weekly assignments, the Chesser Project is the semester long project that takes place outside of the classroom on your own time where you have to choose a three dimensional artist, like a sculptor, like Henry Moore, an architect, like Frank Lloyd Wright, furniture designer, fashion designer, and you had to find a book about them. And from that you had to select pieces of their work to recreate.
And you did it in the format of a chess set, which means you didn't have to look like actual chess set pieces, but you take one of their creations and replicated eight times for your pawn and had to look exactly like the picture in the book. You took another one of their creations and hit her rape kit twice for the rooks in 3-D in 3-D and had to do it at 12 inch scale God. And just looking at a picture, you'd figure out what is made of what's the backside look like, what's the underside of look like?
And at this time I had a growing interest in furniture, furniture design. And I came across this furniture designer from the 1920s and 30s named Garret Reed felt he was Dutch architect and designer. And he did these really beautiful chairs that are actually in the Museum of Modern Art. They're classics. And I thought a couple of things. One is, as I got to know, Gareth Jones, a professor, it became very clear that this guy was super opinionated.
He would argue to the death to make sure that he was always right. I would watch him like just ah, you see. It's like like relentlessly to make his point and out of that. I just had this growing thinking of like, wow, like I'd love to prove this guy wrong at some point. And so I also thought I'm going to throw myself into this project. There's no way I'm failing. In fact, I want to I want to.
I want to complete this project. And if I'm going to commit so much my time to this and I'm going to make chairs from this designer Garrett refilled at the end of it, I want to come out with something I can use. I want 12-inch chairs. I actually want full size functional chairs. And so I'm like, this is a really great idea. I'ma share this with Gareth. So I comb-over and I'm like, Gareth, I want to make full size functional chairs.
And my expectation this time is that he's going to, you know, give me high five and. Joe, you can do it. You got this. I believe in you. Instead, Tim, he goes, Joe, I really don't think you can do it. Really focus on the small scale. And he walks away and I'm like, no fucking way.
All right, buddy. Now you really have to do it. All right, pal. You just lit every fire that you light. You forgot how to do this. The thing is, I don't know how to help make a chair. I never worked with wood before. An Earth.
Tools like like actual machine shop tools. And I was really stepping an unknown on this. And I had a semester to figured out. So I just committed every all of my time to making this project happen on on weekend Saturday nights, my friends, we got to know parties on campus. And I was in the studio trying to figure out how to make chairs. And so I started by going to the furniture department and talking upperclassman and actually sat down with the head of the furniture department.
Name is Roseanne Summerton. And I told her about my ambitions. She looked me kind of crazy face. It's like you're never going to figure this out. But she was encouraging and she pointed me some upperclassmen who then start to help me understand wood and machines and the tools, table saws, band saws and lathes and the things you need to make furniture. And so piece by piece, I start to figure out how to make these chairs sourcing wood.
I had access to the shop that they were giving me. And the thing is, I never told Gareth where it was in the projects.
So every check in the house calling them like, it's all right. All right. Now, I would downplay my progress. Meanwhile, in my dorm room, starting to fill up with these chairs everywhere. And so I like I worked my butt off. And I just I the whole semester, I was like hacking my way through it. And I get to the. The porn. So I have to pick pick one of his chairs and make it eight times.
He made this beautiful bench out of just four pieces of wood. And I'm thinner myself while these benches are really big. That's a lot of wood. I can't afford this. And I'm just a freshman in college and so I'm out.
You had to cover all your material cost. Oh, yeah. Okay. No, no. That's an important detail, right?
So like study job. At the time I was trying like fun as hard as I could. And so. I'm in the quad one day outside the freshman dorms and I make an observation. Everyone standing around smoking here in the quad and there's actually nowhere to sit, huh? I've got this bench design that I'm going to make. What if I approach the school? Get them to pay for the wood. I'll make the benches for my project, then they can have them afterwards to put in the quad for people to sit on.
So I go to the head of residents life. I pitching the idea. He loves it. They fund a few thousand dollars worth of this inch thick plywood. And in doing so, I get access to the school's wood shops and the school's craftsmen who work on campus. And so now I've got their help to help fabricate these these benches. Amazing. And they paid for all the wood, which I definitely never afforded it. So by the end of semester, I have amassed sixteen full sized functional chairs.
And Gareth had no clue. And I actually finished the last chair at about 2:00 in the morning. The night before the final curtain. The day before the final Krit. Chris Crane is critique, right, teak deck, a critique in art school. You have these critiques where you put your your work out and then the professor and the class critique you and that's how you learn how to improve as an artist or designer. And so it's like now December, it's freezing cold outside.
It's Providence. And I specifically chose the slot right after lunch to present because I figure when everyone's out getting lunch, I'll get my roommates, a couple buddies to help me carry all these chairs and assemble them in the space. When people come back, they'll be this great reveal moment because nobody has any clue except a couple of friends exactly what I've pulled off here. And him. My only regret from this project is that I did not have a camera in my hand to take a picture of Gareth's face when he entered the studio.
I swear I'm standing there and he comes marching in and he picks his head up and he looks at the room suddenly and you can see him counting in his head 15/16. And he looks at me and he goes, Joe. You've done it. You've proved me wrong. And I'm like you for the rest, that could take real sad my tears.
And we talked about the project and I got very high marks, obviously. And it was one of those breakthrough moments where you have somebody that you look up to tell you you can't do something and you are literally tasked with something you've never done before. And somehow you persevere through it. You asked for help. You you figure it out. And on the other side of that. I was sitting there in this chair thinking, wow, like if I could figure this out, what else could I figure out?
Yeah, like this seems like an impossible feat. Before this whole thing started and here I am, I'm sitting in these chairs, the professors like beaming at me like. And it was just like one of these these moments. That one has in life where you sort of cross the threshold of of understanding your limits. And at that point, I had a new a new bar or new set of limits. How do you feel for. From the point that he said that for the rest of the day, what would what did the rest of the day look like?
I mean, well, first of all, I was so tired I'd been up for actually I hadn't slept for about three days before that. So over 48 hours, I was without sleep. So I was delirious. Hey, B, I was just so relieved. And then third, I was like. There's this excess excitement inside of me, like, I just I just proved myself wrong. What else can I prove myself wrong on? And suddenly it's like there was so much possibility of anything at this point forward that I come across that feels impossible.
I probably take a second look at that and rethink that based on this experience, because again, like how do you make a chair and then how do you make 16 full sized functional chairs at the end of the. Over the course of a semester. And so what's cool is that the bench has gotten stalled. Students are sitting on them for they lasted for a couple years after that. And so the legacy of it not only went to the benches, but the the story of what had happened became his story that he told every class after that.
That's that's really powerful on a bunch of levels. Right. Because not only and I have to I don't know the guy, of course, at all, but I have to give the professor credit for being willing to say, like, you prove me wrong, because also just in that moment, the power of that reinforcement for you is it is a big deal.
I mean, that's a really big deal, potentially life defining inflection point of sorts. Secondly, few things occurred to me. You created eight. You also created a a product, an outcome that people could use. Right.
Versus a scale model. And you create a story that would then set the bar infinitely higher, not necessarily the pass fail mark, but the. You can fucking do this. Mark, for students for generations to come. Many, many classes to come. That's a big deal. I've said big-deal a lot. I think you're a big Joe. It's true. And one question that occurred to me while I was listening to this was related to the moment when he said that.
You couldn't do it. You thought you couldn't do it. And how you responded to that, it made me think of a story that I heard from Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of Reddit. When they went in early, some relatively early in the development of Reddit to meet with Yahoo! And they were showing traffic numbers and analytics to this Yahoo! Exac and the Yahoo! Exac made this comment, which probably to him or her at the time didn't seem like a big deal.
But they said, oh, well, this is a rounding error for us. And to my recollection, Alexis and his team went back to the office and they put you are a rounding error up on the wall to motivate the team.
Not everybody responds to what you could view as a death blow that way. So where did you get that from? I mean, is that for sports? Is it from your parents? Is it from somewhere else? Is it just your programming? Where do you think that comes from?
There's just one source. I think sports is definitely a way to to. If I had to point to something, you know, put some way sports going from tennis to baseball to basketball, the track and field across country, like some of those are team sports. Some of those are individual sports. And in all of those, I mean, in any sport that's competitive, you're trying to. Ultimate compete with yourself to do a better performance than you did the last time.
Right. And so I looked at sports as this constant. I was I was in a game with myself. And like Cross Country is a great example. That sport, like for me was I feel like where I honed my goal setting and was able to practice pushing my limits. So every race I would if I cross the finish line and I could still really like walk and had energy to me that was energy I could use on the course or in a fast race.
And so I eventually got to this point where I literally would collapse after the finish line. And it became so well known that like the medics would be waiting for me to have the ice bags and like they'd have like the ivy just in case. And like the parents would be there to like pick me up. And in the last, you know, eight hundred meters to the finish line, I'd always try to find somebody who was running a little bit faster than me.
And I just would try to accelerate to catch up with them, draft them a little bit, and then sometimes I'd be neck and neck with them like finish lines with insight so close. And I would just sail out to them and say, you're not beating me, you're not beating me. And I'd I'd use that to motivate myself just to try to run faster, to get a better time. It's amazing. Is there? I'm glad you brought up the sports because part of the reason I asked is that.
It and it's a slightly different lesson maybe or but one lesson that I took from sports, I went to two different high schools. The second high school I went to had mandatory sports, which I felt was really in retrospect important for a lot of kids.
And by being forced to do various sports, primarily wrestling, in my case, if you want to get better, you're going to train with people who are better than you. Yes. By definition, you are going to be beaten by other people. And at least to my experts, I started to view. Any type of failure in that capacity being beaten as feedback, right? I mean, you're it's like a crit. Right. It's a it's a it's a it's a sports based crit.
And that's why oftentimes, you know, when. And if you have a good coach, they're also gonna be pushing you beyond what you're perceived limits are set and so you get into the habit. Perhaps subconscious or otherwise of asking, is this impossible? Really impossible? Because I never thought I would break whatever six-minute Mile and I just did that. And then I never thought of going back five thirty mile and my coach just help me to do that.
Or I figured that this hack which is chasing the fastest person around me and then saying you're lucky that you're not gonna beat me and then I collapse in a big mess of a heap at the end. But nonetheless, hey, I just beat 5:30.
Or whatever it is, you feel like you've you've expanded like you've you've push the limits of what you thought was possible with. Right. And that for me was like when the greatest feelings that I had that.
And what strikes me is that for me, I didn't have many vehicles for expanding that. Capability. That was that was as tangible as sports, but design is super tangible. Right. I mean, you're building these chairs and these benches totally. And I should also just mention as a side note that I want to I want to come back to Rudy that I don't think it's ever too late. People might be listening, saying, well, hey, I didn't have a great cross-country team or wrestling coach in high school.
So kind of options creaks like, no, actually, you can still develop that right with physical training and and other outlets to expand your capabilities and your perception of what's possible. Sure.
And it's so funny because that was a piece of advice I got in seventh grade when I start playing basketball. The basketball coach said, Joey, Joey, if you want to get better at basketball, you need to play with people who are better than you. Yeah. And so when he's to go to the Y and shoot hoops in the weekend, I wouldn't play with people my age or younger, actually play with the high schoolers who are much bigger, much stronger, much more talented than I was.
And of course, I got, you know, push around and I like you know, you get bumped around by guys who are, you know, playing on the varsity team. But, man, my skills, the learning curve that year, I feel like that was that was like another kind of special moment of like, I'm not very good at basketball, too, actually. Okay. I've got some skills now. Mm hmm. And so I think since that point, since that moment, I've always sought to try to find people to play with who had better than me.
Mm hmm. And that'll certainly come back up when we talk about your baby.
So the so the Welshmen. Yes. Concedes defeat, so to speak.
Gath Jones, by the way, I am. I caught up for him with him. I caught up with him for a coffee about 12 years later. And I had to ask him. I'm like, here's my experience of that conversation. Like, what the hell were you thinking? Why didn't you get behind me? Because, Joe. Come on.
I knew that if I told you you can do it, you would owe you. Oh, you. Good man.
We have a great relationship. And I see. And I go back to campus. That's very cool. So so phase shifts. You have that experience?
I have that experience and is a great segway of sports into my rizza experience. I love basketball as we've been talking about. And I. I walk into the office of student life one day and I go to the guy at the front desk and say, I want to play in the basketball team. He gives me this funny face and he goes, we don't have a basketball team. And all of a sudden there's this like this awkward silence. It was just staring at each other.
And he breaks his silence by saying, you can start one if you want to go. Really? What's involved in that? He goes, well, if you collect a list of twelve other students I want to play, bring it back to me. I'm like, that's it. I'm like, okay. So I run off and I spend a week putting poster posters up around the dorms and I gather names of, you know, eleven other people play basketball.
Wasn't actually that hard. And I come back. And like, okay, cool. Now it goes, okay. Fill out this form. Take this to the student government meeting on Wednesday to get recognized as a student organization. Okay. So I go to the meeting. I present the concepts. I have a basketball team. Here's the paperwork. Here's the names. Here's like what we think we might need for a budget. It gets approved. It's from the student government.
So then I'm like I go back to like, what's the next step? He's like, okay, well, you need to find a gym and. And so when is one thing led to the other? And that year we we started Rosies first basketball team in 40 years. And we started this this team, it was like a hodgepodge group of other students, and we would rent gym space at a private high school in Providence to go practice in.
And at this point was practicing like we were to have. There's no season, there's two games, there's no other competition. It's just us through scrimmaging each other. And we made some really basic uniforms. And just got things off the ground the next year when I came back to campus was was different. I'm like, OK. This year we're gonna make a season. We're gonna play the teams like, let's turn this into something. And so I get on the phone, I start calling colleges in New England.
I'm calling community colleges and universities, schools. And I get on the phone with some of these coaches and interest myself. Hey, this is Joe Gabbie calling from the round school basketball team. And I'd like to. Hello. Hello. Pretty much everybody hung up on the first couple of phone calls.
But then there was one college that took my call on Never Forget It as I had to sneak out of my graphic design class to take the call. It was Clark University in Massachusetts. Now I'm on the phone with their head coach. He's like, yeah, okay. Oil. We're not gonna stand on our varsity team. But I'll say my J.V. team. I'm like, perfect. We'll take it.
So on December 4th, 2001, we had the first Rosny basketball game Reserve vs. Clark University. At this point, like it's so informal for us, we've got these basic meshed jerseys that are reversible, basically a practice uniform for anybody else and a player coach within the team at this point and in not even our own gym, because I don't have one. Some private high school gym around the corner. And the khaki university bus pulls up and their players start to get off the bus.
And I'm going, oh my God, their shortest guy is taller than our tallest guy. And they get the head coach and three assistant coaches and a trainer comes off.
It's just like twelve scrappy art school students on the court with like basic mesh practice jerseys. And I think it's the coach came down the court. He kind of recognized what he got and solvents into any deck of boy.
And so we had a few, I think about a hundred fifty fans.
Yeah. Really? Students show up that their first game I say we got blown out was ninety four to forty nine. But in my mind that was a huge win because we establish something like we got a team established and off the ground to a milestone at risk. Yeah. And it was an incredible experience. Next couple of years. Because it was like running a startup. You know, you had to put a team together. You had to raise funding to create a brand in a market that brand you to get people in the games.
And one of things I was most proud of is up at rizzotti, the work. The work loads are incredibly difficult. And once you get to your majors, you know, they say like sometimes you never see anybody again because they're just so focused on on the workload. And other than graduation, the basketball games became the only other time really during the year where you'd have the full cross-section of campus under the same roof at the same time. Students, faculty, administration, professors, alumni, people from Brown who were just curious and want to come over and see what this crazy RUSI basketball team is doing.
And so is this really cool moment where you just bring people together. And that was, I think, really the the the undertones, the undercurrents with the team is really about. Sure. Was about sport and competition and staying in shape and the camaraderie of being on the team. Second, that was awesome.
Bringing people together thematically makes sense for time-traveling looking forward.
So it was a great experience. I think what people ask what the name of the team is and because we're an art school. We didn't have to have traditional names, you know, Brizzi and any art school is all about self-expression and not holding back. And so there was a legacy of names on campus that all had a particular theme to them. And so the hockey team on campus is called the nads.
So when you cheer, it's go gonad. Yes. And so when we started the basketball team, we had sort of fallen into the theme. So the teams called the balls and both the nans and the balls are supported by the jockstraps, which is the cheerleading team.
And there's a whole theme. Maybe we'll go into it here, but there's like a whole theme of sports at rizzotti that adds to the I think that the levity and the humor of it. Are they all testicle related? There was a. There was a I think it was a rowing team at one point called the chefs in the lacrosse team. I think was called a chef.
It's a side note. Side note, a more caffeinated.
Do you know where the word avocado comes from?
I'll tell you, it comes from I believe it's I want to say an older Mayan language, but someone can correct me on the Internet. I'm sure they will. Comes from a word a ha kotl t ellerton o cuttle and avocado grow on trees hanging one lower than the other. And pears.
And that means testicles. So do you want to make a Rozdeba current or is these students who might want to start another team?
You could go at the avocados, but it requires a bit of explanation.
Oh, that's 4P the most boring juggling team and intramural juggling remedial juggling team juggling to the first and only juggling team and college.
So I have to ask because I've been wanting to debut this question for a while. We talked about Krit, talked about balls, which I think is a it's a bit of a reach, but we can segway to bundes. When does KRIT bundes enter the picture here? All right. So it's freshman year at rizzotti. I'm in a drawing class. And the way it works again is like he'd come in and it'd be an eight hour class in the morning.
You'd pin your work up on the wall. You're drawing assignment from the week before and he'd would we spend all day critiquing it or having a Kryten. And, you know, people ask afterwards, how'd your crit go, mama? It was so hard. My teacher was so rough on me or like didn't go well or it was great. And. About four hours in your picture that the environment you're in art studio. Hardwood floors, metal stools, wooden benches for hours in sitting on these hard, uncomfortable surfaces.
Your butt starts to feel it. And everyone's wiggling around trying to get comfortable. So by the end of the day, you're incredibly sore. And I watched as my classmates exited the art studio with this bun print on the seat of their pants because all the charcoal does paint and ink that's on these studio surfaces rubbed off under our pants. And sure enough, I look, I'm on my pants. Arune, too.
So walking back to my dorm room, I'm thinking there's gotta be a better way if we're gonna endure these crits for the next four years. What if you had a seat cushion that you could sit on to make you comfortable and to keep you clean? And so I got back to my dorm room. I pull up my sketchbook and I drew that same bun print shape on the seat of our pants and gave it some dimension. And I called it Krit buns.
And, you know, at this point, I had no idea how to make a product. It's just your first year design school. So I took the sketch away. Now, fast forward to five years later. I've now done a dual degree in graphic design and industrial design. And at this point, I know how to make a prototype. I know how to translate something from a sketchbook into, you know, a real working prototype. And so I make Crippen's out of hard foam.
You can actually sculpt that other special foam. And I have this full size, hard, you know, representation of the shape, which is like, you know, two buns come together and there's a handle sous for portability. I take that hard model. I cast it in rubber and then I pour into the cast a expanding polyurethane foam. So when I took the lid off, there was looking back at me the first softs Crippen's CE cushion. And it was great because now I could walk out of my classmates.
I could say, hey, what do you guys think? How much did you pay for this? What kind of colors would you want? And people, of course, had a cracked a smile on the side and they had a good laugh. But I really hit a wall because I had a one off prototype, but I didn't know how to get it to the next stage. And I certainly didn't have the money or the funds to do that on my own.
It was around this time, my senior year, where I notice a poster on campus that says competition for the design diploma. Submit your ideas here. And everybody, they give you your degree and paper to a degree, and they also give the graduating class a different object every year. So I submit Crippen's for the competition and it wins. It gets selected to be given out to every graduate from the RUSI classes. He hasn't five, which is like frickin incredible.
However, they tell me this on May 1st, graduation is on June 1st. That's not only 'tween that I have to deliver to thesis projects for graphic design and industrial zone. I definitely don't have time to take on anything else.
How many students are in the graduating class?
It's about 600, 600. So I'm I'm like, I'm so exuberant and excited that like, oh my God, they'll pay for the the manufacturing of a couple hundred cushions at the same time. I'm like, how the hell am I gonna get this done? Like, there is absolutely no time. And so I start I get onto Google and I research. I search for manufacturers to my called every single search result for the first 15 pages. I was calling people in India.
I was comfortable in England. I was called people in Texas.
I was calm people in California. And everybody said the same thing. Well, son, you know, it's going to take you about six weeks just to make the mental mold and about another four weeks for production. Sorry. Quick. And I just went through. Everybody is getting. No, no, no, no, no. So then I went to my professors in industrial design and they also said that's never gonna happen in time. Now, at this point, the school's getting a bit nervous because the clock is ticking here.
And they call me and they say, how's the project coming? And like, it's cool. Don't worry and go. So is it going to happen? I'm like, probably. And they go, well, you have until Friday at five o'clock to tell us if it's a go or none. So I'm like, okay.
And what is this on a Monday? On a Tuesday. Some places like Monday. All right. So fast forward. It's 4:00 on Friday afternoon. I have no options. Everybody told me, no, it's never going to happen. It's impossible to manufacturing and take many, many weeks, if not months. And like, I don't have them many. We've got three now. And so I go outside the industrial as I'm building. It's like a sunny afternoon and I'm laying on the grass right on on the river in Providence.
And I feel the breeze on my face. The sound of the birds. And I'm looking up at the sky and I'm thinking myself, I have to figure this out. I can't I'm not going to give up on this. What haven't I thought of yet? And I realized that the guy that runs the metal shop in the industrial design building, this guy, Steve. I haven't talked to him yet. So I run back in the industrials, I'm building.
I go, Steve. Here's what's going on. And he goes, I've got this friend Sam up in Cumberland, Rhode Island. He's got a tool shop. Once you get McCall, maybe he'll help you up. So I get on the phone with this guy, Sam, and I just pour it out to him. I'm like, Sam, this is what I want to do. I give him every ounce of enthusiasm that I have. At the end, he goes, Oh, you really want this, don't you?
Really? Yes, whatever you can do.
And he goes, All right, here's what I'll do. I'll move a couple of projects around. If you send me the 3D CAD file today, I can make the tool this weekend and send it wherever you mean. You send it on Monday. And I'm like, oh, my God, I'm going to call you right back because I remembered there is a pool float company. They spoke to the week before in Connecticut who pool float.
So it's like they make money, water wings or whatever you would land and you've got noodles and the things that food and water made out of foam.
And the guy told me, he said, well, I remembered something. He goes, you know, we can't make the mold in time, but you find somebody else, we can produce the cushion. And the other thing is, it had to have a silk screen on the top. It said Rizzi 2005 on it. And so I call back this guy Krystof at like 4:50 p.m. right. On a Friday. He should have been gone. Like, I don't know how I caught in Sony office and Chris off its show.
Everybody like I found somebody to make the mold. He'll have it to you by Monday. Can we make it work? And he goes, You really want this, don't you? Whatever you can do. And he goes, All right. Here's the I just send it to you. So let me call the school back. Woman 05:00. I'm like, We got it. Here's where to send the purchase order. Two weeks later, the day before graduation.
Six hundred kripp on showed up on campus with a silkscreen on top that said rizzotti class a 2005. It was the day before the impossible of how do you make 600 Crippen's 300 red, 300 blue with a sealskin on top. In such a short amount of time and everybody saw, you know. Like everybody just stared at me is like, this is never gonna happen. I was exhausted. It's happened. However, it was so fun to see my classmates running around with Crippen's.
Everybody had a pair and like it was really fulfilling and it was worth all the effort and all the energy. And I finished my thesis successfully on time and I got to graduate and everything. And while a lot of my classmates went off to great jobs at some at NASA doing industrial design summit, some the big design firms like IDEO and others. I made a decision. I said, you know, Rizzi just design school in general to such an exceptional job of helping you come up with a creative process to think of really original creative ideas.
They're usually hit a wall, though, which is that you stop it at the prototype and they move on to the next project. And for me, it built up this incredible desire to figure out how did how did how do you get to the shelf of a store? Like how does your idea transition from that one off prototype all the way to the shelf of the store? And so I thought, well, I want to I want to decode this black box.
I have to figure this out. So I made a decision that I was gonna use Crippen's to help figure out how you get a product from an idea in your head to a sketchbook. The shelf of the store. So the day after graduation, I started my first company to make and sell KRIT buns. And the beauty of it is that I don't get paid for the graduation project, but they gave me the metal mold afterword, which is a few thousand dollars.
So with the biggest expense out of the way, I was often off the run. So what happened?
What happened? Groupons, why are you making Crippen's today?
So that summer? I sort of developed a brand a father patent, which is design has a design patent on it, filed the trademark and everything. And I went back to the school that summer and said, you know, that was so fun for the graduating class. What if we do this for the incoming class as a welcome touristy gift and they love the idea. And they placed their first order. And so on top of that order, I I tacked on my own inventory.
So I did this production run of, I think, a thousand cushions. Right. And two things happen. The first is that. There were now 400 students running around campus with Crippen's actually using them in the studios. I had to talk to them. I could take photos of them. I could actually start to build stories and narratives around how they use the product. And the second thing that happens, I'll never forget. In my apartment in Providence, in the basement of like this really old kind of the early nineteen hundreds apartment, I had about 10 boxes of hundreds of Crippen's like filled up this entire room.
And I'm sitting there staring at that. I'm thinking, oh boy, nobody's coming in my basement to buy these things.
I have to go out into the world. I got into all all. How do I sell these things.
So I put together a sales sheet and I put on my best shirt, my best shoes. And like just the best kind of like professional look they can have. And the first sorry walked into them was the Brown University bookstore, and I asked for the store manager and we sit down this little conference room and I start to go through my spiel and I put the sales sheet in front of earn a sample cushion and go into the whole thing. And I'm like, you know, given all my enthusiasm and about 30 or so seconds in, she looks at me, she goes, no thanks and gets up and leaves the room.
And I'm just sitting there. This tiny little forceand lit conference room by myself with my cushion mishael sheet and no sale. Actually, pretty horrible rejections. So I walk back to my apartment very slow, walk like a Charlie Brown Snoopy kind of walk and and I'm seen myself.
That's OK. Mike, how the hell am I going to sell these cushions if that's the reaction? I mean, we get. And I was in that moment where I remembered this sales equation that I had heard at this entreprenuer weekend at Brown University that I snuck into one time and the guys talking gave this equation for it. Whenever you introduce a new idea into the world, it was an equation for receiving rejection and how to move past rejection. And the equation was S.W.
squared. Plus W.S. equals M. Oh, wow.
Hell of a memory. I give myself zero seconds. Conservative forgot it. All right. So more time. S.W. Square has to be square.
Plus wca SWC equals M-O. All right. So S.W. squared is some will love your idea. Some won't, huh?
Plus, who cares equals move on the block equation.
So I'm telling myself, OK, if you screw. Who cares? I just got to move on. And so I did. I'm like, all right. I'm gonna find another story. Some people gonna love it. Some people aren't. It doesn't matter. I just gotta keep going. I can't get hung up in one person. Say no. I need to go. Keep going to. I can find some me that says yes. So what's the next door?
They said. And the third story. They've said no. I went to the fourth store, which is this little tiny gift boutique store on Thayer Street in Providence.
An. Yes. Had a Halloween on there to help Halloween when it is.
That's a crazy street to go on for Halloween. So I go into the store. I give him the pitch, the sales shooting. At this point, I'm tweaking everything. I'm iterating as I go. And the woman goes, I love the bike. I love to buy some cushions from you. And I'm like, oh, my God. She goes, I'd love to buy for.
I don't like themas I get about one and I would have an RV. So she starts to go.
The thing we'll hear is you can ship them to and use the outdoors.
And I go, oh, no, no, no. I'll go pack them up at my house and bring them back to you today. Plastic. Really? I'm like, yeah, I ran home. I packed up my cause. I was so excited. I gave them.
I went back later that night after they close. It's like it's dark on their street. I go to the furniture store and I press my face against the cold glass and I can kind of see my my breath in the glass. And there's a dim light on in the back of the particular. They're closed. And I'm scanning the store and squinting. And there it is. I can see Crippen's on the shelf. The store. I'm like, yes, like I did it.
And like everything. After that point was downhill. Like, I was like I knew how to walk into a store and, you know, to talk to downhill and downhill in a good sense.
I get push and the book goes downhill. Right. Right.
Before I was like trying to climb uphill against all these obstacles. Now it was just like coasting downhill.
So was that because you had the skills or because you did proven to yourself that you could do it to myself?
I could do it. Is that like one Proofpoint for cushions? For cushions on the shelf of the storm, like Hollier? Somehow it happened. Now I have like even more confidence to walk into a store, meet with a buyer and ask the question no. What's the process to get a new product into your store? And like it's down with them. Talk about the products. How original was. So I make trips to Boston and talk to stores there.
I go down in New York, I talk to Pratt, talk to school, visual arts, talk to Parsons. I talk to more stores in Providence.
Who was the furthest away you traveled to soccer? I go home to Atlanta for the holidays. It's all at stores in Atlanta. I mean, everywhere I went, I was always carrying a cushion with me. I talked to anybody about it. Right. It was like everybody I talked to, I just practicing the sales pitch. And just to get comfortable with it. So that products in that concept just, you know, it was never meant to be anything huge.
It was just meant to be grad school, in essence, to help teach me like the whole stack of product development because I was doing everything out of my apartment from the distribution, the packaging, the fulfillment, the Web site, the press, like everything was run from my desktop computer next to my bed in my bedroom. And so I got like in a very mike, like, you know, very small scale. I get the full, you know, ecosystem of what it means to run something obviously to very small, manageable scale, which is perfect.
And so one of the one of the defining moments was I set a goal for myself. I said, what's this store shelf? That would be the pinnacle for me. Like, quote, I'd just be the most proud of. And one of the most heralded shells for any designer to get on the shelf at the design store at the Museum of Modern Art. Oh, yeah. New York City. Huge, huge. I mean, there's legends.
Are there like you can get in stuff you can get. George Nelson stuff you can get like the greats, the great Satan. Along with modern things, of course. And so I set my goal in like I'm going to figure out how to get her buns in at the moment during and after two years of. Just not giving up. I finally got my first order from MoMA. I'll never forget that phone call. OK. Now you are clearly.
Gifted or you've developed and cultivated gifts with art and design. You've also had a lot of practice pitching right through good and bad, experiencing rejection and acceptance. So what what got you the acceptance? Mean, what was that?
What was the like what was the what was the pitch? What was the process? At a certain point, I think they realized I wasn't gonna go away. I like. It's just just easier to like this guy. He knows I never I never asked them.
But the product that I'm selling out of their store. Did you sell it? Did you send people there to buy them?
I didn't have to. I remember going. I def. made a trip down in New York after a shipped him the order and I walked in and there it was on the shelf for the moment. I took a picture and I just thought like, wow. Like this seemed if you if you if I had told myself three years earlier that I would've made a product that would be on the shelf at the MoMA store, I would've said, you're crazy. That's impossible.
So what gave you the Hood's bar to pursue it for two years? Was it the fact that you. I think it was. There are so many impossibles that you'd proven possible yourself. Was it something else?
It was just wanting to experience it. That feeling like what I imagined it might feel like if I were to ever accomplish something. It was so, such a stretch goal for me. I don't know. Like. Just the Dilworth relationship with the buyer at the time, and I think that just evolved into an order eventually and at that point, like what was next. Right.
So was that. Now I'm going to prompt one thing because it just popped into my head. Was MoMA before or after. I want to say trade show in Japan.
It was before. It's before. Yes. We can't.
I only remember bits and pieces of this. But can you describe.
Yes. Japan. So the product ended up taking me around the world. And this was still for colleges? Well, no, I mean, this is for any kind of, you know, gift fair or any kind of event where there's other designers selling their things. So I got connected with this Web site called Design Boom. One of the biggest design blogs in the world. And they had this thing called the gift the Gift Mart. And they basically would invite designers from around the world to come sell their things at these big design week events where it would be really hard to afford access to it as an independent young designer.
They would kind of create that opportunity for you, pay for the booth or they actually have the entire speed, a small fee to pay, but nothing like the actual cost.
And so they subsidized it to make it possible. And so I got involved in that and it took me all over the place. I traveled to Sydney, Australia, where I sold the cushion. I travelled to New York and I travelled to Tokyo for design week one year and. This was fascinating because I got to experience what it was like to sell the cushion in person to directly to consumers. It's one thing to sell to a store manager than it is to sell to the actual customer.
Very different. The other thing was rizzotti has these events where the alumni can come together and sell their creations with ceramics or furniture products. And so at this point, I had figured out after hundreds of interactions with people face to face, you know, I design my stand with the cushions and a big signs at Krit bundes, you know, supporting creativity where others can't.
And I actually have seen it so many times at this point. I was able to break the sales process down into five steps. There were five stages to the Crippen's sales process. The first stage is what I call the what the hell is that stage where people are walking by and they do this double-take and they look at it and they're like, what is that? But the shape and the color is interesting enough to draw them in. And so then they get the stage, too, which is called the touchin fuel phase.
They grab the product off the stand. They squeeze it. They realize it's soft. The first smile is also my dating process.
But please continue. They kind of go smile on their face and they flip it over, right. And they enter Stage 3, which is the story phase. So in the back of the package, I tell them the story, you know, in a couple of lines, you know, how the product was concept that was created, who made it. And so you see then reading the story. And then they smile and they make the connection of why the thing is the way it is.
Then there stage four, step number four is tried and true. I've seen this everywhere. They immediately start going like this with caution. They're looking around because they want to try it out. Does it deliver what it says it's going to do? Does it make any hard surface more comfortable? So I always have a demo chair nearby for people to try it out. And so people sit down on it and as they're sitting on it, I had a chair next to them and I'd never do them.
And I figured out the question to ask, ask somebody, how do you see this fitting into your life?
And what's amazing is that people told me all kinds of different uses that I never even imagined for the cushion. It was actually thirty five different uses for it. People use it for camping trips. You will take it to baseball games. Soccer moms love it for their kids. Pregnant women love it cause it takes the pressure off your tailbone. You sit down because get a dip in the middle. People sciatica love it because again, the dip in the middle takes pressure for tailbone.
I went so many uses for the thing just by asking people that question. And the minute that people could connect it to something that's important in their life, there's a very high percentage that they bought it in 1999. And like it wasn't a huge commitment backbreaker. So that was stage 4. Stage 5. I never could have predicted and this was really the magic of learning what it's not only about a product, but it's about a story as well.
I would literally watch people buy my product. They'd stand up. They turned to the next person in line. Say, what the hell is that? And the person who just bought it would literally tell them verbatim the story about the back of the package. They would sell the product for me. I would just sit back and watch this happen. And I'm like, this is amazing. And I realize the power of story in that moment. That design is more than just products.
It's more than just, you know, digital experience. It's that cushion is 50 percent foam and 50 percent story. It was a really valuable lesson. And so I used I learned from that every time that I went to these different events. So here we are in Japan, here in Tokyo. And it's really exciting. My first time, Japan, I'm like, thrilled. I'm like my senses are just like overwhelmed with everything about Tokyo. And I'm at this five day design event for design week.
This is back in like 2008 doesn't 7th. And so I go out there with 40 cushions, which are these two giant boxes like these that take a lot of volume. Right. And I'm like I take those things on the plane and then I take them to the Tokyo subway system.
And like, it's really awkward 'cause you can't carry. You have to, like, drag them. And it's like I'm like this.
You know, for those people who haven't been to Tokyo, every once in a while you will encounter a subway car that has lots of space. That is not the default, particularly if you're going during any busy period.
There are in fact, certain stations where they have attendants wearing white gloves will push people into the cars so that the doors can close and it's sardines in a can. So I'm just imagine you dragging these things.
Imagine I get my big backpacker's backpack. I've got these two giant cardboard boxes of 20 Crippen's each that are like heavy and awkward and try to navigate in the narrow subway system of of Tokyo. And I get to my setup at the at the design fair and I've got this little tiny folding table to my left and Ryan all around me or other designers as part of design boom and. I'm so excited. As people come walking up on day one, I start talking to them, they try to tell the story.
And nobody speaks English. And by the end of day one, I've sold a total of zero Crippen's anything herself. Oh, my God, this is this is not good. I'm definitely not going home with 40 cushions. I need to change my strategy here because this is not gonna work. The story is not translating. The power of the story that works so well has no impact here whatsoever.
That's a thankfully, too, the young designer next to me is Japanese and we struck up a friendship BDA, the FedEx couple days. And I'm like, I have a problem here. I need to translate these things. She's like, well, I can help you translate if you want to make any written material. So I designed this poster overnight. It's giant poster that is all in Japanese with pictures of kripp. I had a picture of a stadium seat with an arrow pointing to it and stadium seats eating in Japanese and then had somebody kneeling in a garden and somebody meditating on it.
And she's so kind's it to translate for me. I ran to Kinko's that night, got it printed in downtown Tokyo, and the next day I had this beautiful poster that had all the explanation and had demo chair printed out in Japanese on the dimitar and. One by one, somebody actually made a sale and was like, oh, my God, okay, this is going to work. And then I had another guy who actually happen to be a busy grad who was there just visiting.
He spoke Japanese. It's like, if you'll help translate, I'm happy to do this for you. So bless his heart. He was amazing. He actually would like draw people over to my little folding table with my stacks of kripp buns everywhere. And he would tell the story in Japanese. And I'll never forget the last day. It was like towards the end of the day, I mean, sort of kind of closing down. And we sold the last paratroop buns.
And there's this picture of him and I sitting there at this empty table being like, oh, my God, I can't believe we did it. So I was able to pay for my trip basically to the these croplands. It was just a great lesson in like having to figure out how to translate your story beyond just, you know, English speakers in my case. Now, that was a a role and an experience. So, man, that project took me all over the place.
I got to meet the guy who invented the foam finger guy, Gerald Fosse's. Here in Texas to see if you want to do manufacturing one point. You go into his lobby. He's got like the original foam finger from 1970s and the glass case straight. Totally random. I got to meet the late Billy Mays. Oh, yeah. Commercials OXICLEAN.
So I applied it when? Many, many more. Yeah.
Hey, I'm Billy Mays. We'll show you this right now. And there is this reality show on point for inventors and people that made products and. For some reason, this is Baabda SMIC Crippen's. And so I flew to L.A. when one weekend and I'm in this lake lobby for the casting. With all these other inventors and I really like really weird stuff, like have stuff for cats.
I feel like cats like running around and like it's like a lot at pet stuff. There's me like in one of the best shirts holding the Crip buttons like really proud.
And the priest comes over and they make me up and they're like, okay. We want you to walk down the hallway and go through those double doors. And that's all they said.
And so I'm like, okay, so I'm a product proud entrepreneur here. I walk down the hallways to stick dark. The lights are off this dark hallway. All I can see is like these two limited doors at the end. And I open the doors and they're this huge conference table is Billy Mays and one other co-star. And then there's like all these cameras and all these lights pointing at you.
He goes, Hey, I'm Billy Mays. Come on in. And I sit down in the chair and suddenly I'm on this like pitch session. It was like shark tank before a shark tank. Right. Right. Like I'm having a pitch him on why my product so great. And it wasn't going so well until he tried it out. And, you know, I guess she got up and he sat down and Forde's goes, oh, yeah, this is pretty good.
Yeah. And and then they said, OK. Thanks. And like I walked in. It's like it's like blitz of like five minutes of just pitch mode. And it was like getting peppered of all these questions and all these lights on in these cameras. I did not get on the show, but it was just one of these crazy moments of like these unexpected things that these products, these experiences, this product brought me.
CS. Why are you not why are you not the the titan of the Crippen's empire? Why did you stop?
So Crippen's this goes back to is the. I switched from being in painting to being into industrial design, largely in part because I learned about Charles and Ray Eames, two designers from the mid 20th century. That were a couple raves, the wife, Charles, is the husband and they produce design that it's legendary. It's still referenced today. It's in it's in the MoMA and the permanent collection. It's iconic. And they dedicated their lives to producing the best designed to the most people for the worst price.
And they were really celebrated for democratizing good design and making an accessible. I'd also add that the chair project with Gareth Jones and fell in love with making things and realize that I wanted to switch from this more creative pursuit of painting, which was more about, you know, expression of of ideas through that medium, into the expression of ideas through national design, which was cool to me because you can make something objects and it can be replicated thousands, hundreds, thousands, millions of times.
You could actually touch millions of people with your designs just like the OEM's had. And so this is my motivation to switch in industrial design. You could use designed to improve people's lives and it could be done at scale. You could touch a lot of people all at once. And so Redeem in the industrial design department did something brilliant our first year in the program. They put us all in in the school vans. And they drove us out to the Rhode Island state landfill.
And here we are driving through these canyons of trash like you have your faces pressed up against the bus window and you can't even see to the top. Wow. Of the landfill for for the state. And you get out to the top and you get out the vans and you're looking back over this. Just you a landscape of garbage. And for me, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I'm like, wow. Like, I do not want to spend my life making things that contribute to making the landfill better, bigger.
That is not interesting to me. It was like a really impactful moment where I just I started to feel a slight sense of guilt that I was now studying a discipline that's about making more stuff. And so it really kicked off this. enthusiasm. or consiousness around? How do you make stuff that's environmentally considered cradle to cradle, cradle to cradle? Yeah, but MacDonald's book, which was also came out around this time, was hugely in-fill influential natural capitalism kind of came out in this time.
These they're starting to be this this other way of thinking about how we consume things in the planet. And certainly I you feel a responsibility as a designer because you're pretty close. The origins of those things. Sometimes you don't decide the strategy of, hey, when you make this product, but you're definitely in it in the field, the view of being able to decide what kind of materials to use. What's the whole lifecycle of a product. And so with Crippen's I actually delayed the launch of that for six months because I was trying to find a phone that was environmentally considered.
And I called everybody i_d_s. I was talking to people in the Midwest making foam out of soybeans at one point. I found a woman in England who sought to make plastic at a bubblegum that you scrape off the sidewalk. But I couldn't find anybody that made a phone that was perfect for the product. So I started guffawed the products. And that sparked this other idea, which was OK. I've learned two things from this. A, the foam doesn't exist and B, there's wasn't even a good source to try to find the foam in the first place.
Right. Like Amazon was starting to really emerge at this time. And it was so easy to find a book on Amazon or like content. I was like, why isn't there a site where you can find sustainable materials? I talked to some my classmates that we graduate at this point and became very clear that whether you're an architecture or fashion designer or package designer industrial design, there was a growing consciousness around. We want to feel good about the things that we're making.
And so I realized I'm not a material scientist. Maybe I'm not going to invent the foam. However, I need to make a website. So what if I started a site that would allow any designer to connect with the sources of Seno materials with his bioplastics or reclaimed glass or, you know, organic cotton? And so a classmate and I'm partnered up together, but in a mat. And we created this Web site to help solve our own problem of having access to sustainable materials.
And, you know, the site started and it was this combination of ecology and intellect. So we called it equal acts and was basically Google for sustainable materials. And we find manufacturers around the world and we plug it into the system. And I was basically I could really high end search engine and community for people who cared about this topic. So slow-down Crippen's to work on this Web site. You know that the thing is that the product remained I had figured out manufacturing abroad.
The Crippen's Web site was up. Is getting press at this point from around the world is getting blogged about shipping orders out of my garage. At this point, I moved to San Francisco. My garage became Crippen's headquarters, and it got to some of the big catalogs in the U.S. when it was called Solutions Catalog. So what's it like? I don't know. Hundreds, thousands of homes. And I had these orders flowing in like my garage. I had employed some friends to come help pack up Crippen's these orders of hundreds at a time.
It was insane. Great learning experience and you know, in fact, him. So they never bother you today? Are you kidding? I have the original pair. Oh, my God. Crippen's for you, my friend.
Amazing. This is incredible. Thank you so much.
Oh, my God. Look at this.
Very open krit bundes seat cushion for artists and designers for the love of the Krit. Then on the back, we've got bundes, T.M.. These bundes approved for use on hard surfaces. Bundes not a lifesaver flotation device. Good. Good note.
They are intended solely for cheek to cheek comfort. Amazing. Thank you.
You get the story on the back. Oh, yeah. Here we go. The kripp on story. Hours of critiquing from the cold, hard, dirty floor. Give a young design student more than a sore bum. Provided the inspiration for a better way. Colan a seat cushion offering day-long comfort and cleaner pants to art students worldwide. The name and shape they originated from the charcoal bun prints students left behind a metal stools and hardwood floors dub dub dub kripp bundes dot com.
The term KRIT slang for critique is the presentation of students artwork before professors and peers and is a staple of every art and design school experience.
Wait a minute. My favorite parts you got past spending treatment. Copyright 2005 06 Juice Studios LLC critiqued in USA. All rights reserved. Drop us a line high-brow at kripp Bundes dot com. Printed with soy ink approved by the CBO d. I don't know what that is. And then you have a bun shaped. Barcode on the back for scanning. This is a great man. I can see how that is already pretty soft. It is already pretty soft.
I think I'll I will save this for my travelling hard surface experiences. Thank you.
You're very welcome.
So Crippen's sort is is slowing down. But, um, it's funny. Every so often I still get an order. I still go down the garage.
Still still. And it's still pack it up and ship it out. And, you know, life's changed quite a bit since then. But it's a great reminder for me of like those early days and I've just hustlin tried to get stuff done. Like the enthusiasm and the exuberance of bringing an idea to life, like it was a rush.
And then you go from physical to digital. What did you learn from the E Collette experience? Well, you collect launched at a time.
And this might be hard to understand now. But if you go back 10 plus years around 2007, Web 2.0, it's happened on the Internet and revenue is not cool. Right. It's crazy to think about the new economy. Web 2.0 revenue was a cool eyeballs and cool. Traffic was great, but revenue didn't matter. And so unfortunately, we subscribed to that as well. Eagle Act and our service is free and we didn't make any money on it.
We bootstrapped the whole thing and never took investment on it. And one thing we did innovate on that actually did make money for us as. We called the green box in the green box was basically a good physical magazine that we shipped out on a quarterly basis that allowed people to build in actual materials library for themselves. So it's slip ship actual samples. But these beautifully designed placards that gave you all the information about it with a special integrated hook, you can imagine a whole wall of materials that you'd have in your design studio or design team in house or consultancy, whatever the thing was, or even a design school for materials library.
And that did all right. Except it was so Borias I'd be down in the garage like zip tying things together and design all these cards and then get the stickers and then like it just took way too long versus on how much we made. And so around this time I have a day job was didja a day job was I got a fellowship from a book publisher called Chronicle Books.
And they had a fellowship, which is a six month program for recent graduates. Typically, for graphic designers, they introduce one for industrial designers. I'm thinking, oh, my God, this is perfect. I've got a graphic design background as well. Chronicle makes beautiful, beautiful books. Their books are like objects, right? They really what I learned there was about the importance of detail and craft.
Now, by fellowship, I mean, that sounds like you're given a stipend to pursue your art. But are you also. It was like a glorified intern.
Glorified intern. Much more attractive in you call a fellowship.
It is more desirable. And it works. And I got that role for six months and had a great time there. Really got to work. Ellingsen Some world class graphic design.
So that's how you're paying the bills while you're offering this free service.
And I eventually, you know, a full time offer and I take it. And so they're June initial design work working on on packaging for for high-End Books. So they did the book for George Lucas on Star Wars. And I had to design the, you know, the really high end case. This book was huge. We'd like, you know, like 20 pounds, like one is really thick. coffee-table Books did package for Hugh Hefner. He did a book on the centerfolds, every centerfold since 1954, I believe, starting with Marilyn Monroe.
And so I could design this custom leather briefcase that this book came in with the blind embossed of the Playboy bunny in the front. Anyway, there's a lot of cool projects there, but a certain point you collect was growing and I realized it needed my full time efforts. And so I made a decision. I said, you know, I need to either stick with this job, which is getting very comfortable that time or I need to take this plunge answered to really doing the start up full time.
And so. I quit my job. 2007-2008 I love having my job collecting Crippen's full time and around this time the rent goes up on her apartment and it's around this time that my former classmate Brian Chesky moves in with me to be my roommate. And this is foreshadowing another major event in my life, but we won't get there just yet. All right. So make this plunge of stepping into Eagle Act and kripp bundes. Now, all this while I'm now living in San Francisco and.
The thing is. Since high school, since the first dot com when I was living in Atlanta, I would come home every day and I would be enthralled at the stories that I was reading about of all these Internet companies that were starting. You had, you know, eBay and Amazon and Yahoo! And Excite dot com and Lycos and like there was so much entrepreneurial spirit and I had this had the sense that one day I wanted to run my own thing.
I didn't know what it's gonna be. Maybe as a gallery or something, who knows? It was like a business would be. It's a chronicle was my path out to San Francisco, which is where I was wanted because the first dot com all paths led back to that to the Bay Area. Oh, for sure. Right. And I'm like, well, that seems to be the place to go if you want to get an idea off the ground.
And so I finally move out there. I bring Crippen's with me, bring the egalite concept with me. And I'm living in San Francisco. During Rozdeba, I had this this radar on the back of my mind that people that I met with, friends that I made, I sort of like trying to find somebody else who had similar aspirations that I did, somebody else who may want to co-found somebody with me in the future. One day I'd be a partner in a business of some kind.
And so at the end of rizzotti, there were very short list of people that I felt I would just absolutely love to start something with. The guy at the top of the list was this guy named Brian Chesky. We got to know each other through sports on campus because I ran the basketball team. He ran the hockey team. So we got to know each other, these sports. And there was one project that we had together in industrial design where it was for a client in the haircare space and we got to reinvent haircare products like blow dryers and curling irons.
And for the final presentation, Brian and I went in with this team and our concepts were so wildly different than everybody else's that I remember looking at being like, wow, like this guy, when we're in a room together, we can do really creative things. And as the year went on and before we graduated, I just had this growing feeling that like there's something special about this guy. He knew how to rally people together. He knew how to get them excited.
He had his own projects around fitness, that he got people to volunteer their time to help to do design on and marketing on edge. Remember being inspired by him. And it's the night before graduation. He's about to move to Los Angeles. I'm about to get you know, he's gonna stay in Providence working Crippen's. And I decide to invite him out to dinner to tell him how I feel about this.
And so over a slice of pizza on Thayer Street, I tell him, bright go. I just want you to know I think we're going to start a company one day. I think they're gonna write a book about it. And he kind of laughed it off. Yeah. And he ends up going to Los Angeles. I end up finding my way to San Francisco via Chronicle Books. And very quickly, once I'm in San Francisco, recognize that it is, in fact, an epicenter for entrepreneurship.
There's so much activity going on around me. Web, 2.0's, like the web is back and I'll start calling them like Brian. I know what's going on in L.A., but you can get up here like there's so much activity, so much action happening here. As a guy, I got some stuff going and like this went on for at least a year of trying to recruit and get up to San Francisco. And so at a certain point, the roommates that I was living with move out.
And I went to this three bedroom apartment. And I call like Bryant. I've got a room available. It's now or never. If you're going to move. This is the perfect window to come up here. I've got a room waiting for you. Your name on it. And hafnium. You want a credit? He made a courageous move. He quit his job. He packed his life into his Honda Civic. And he drove from Los Angeles to San Francisco, became a roommate, and had told him there was this incredible excitement in there.
Like, it's like the band is back together. All right. What are we gonna do?
Like, what can we possibly create together? And this is the same week that I quit my job at Chronicle. I've got Crippen's neglect in the background where I come up with something big together. Brian and I. And that's when I opened the mail one day that same week he arrives. As a letter from my landward and it says Dear Joe Urahn is now 25 percent higher. And I run them online bank account and I see that I shouldn't have enough money in the bank because I have no paychecks coming in to make rent.
Brian has the same problem. And suddenly our backs are against the wall. This is like this dark, stormy cloud that forms over apartment. He hasn't gone now. It's just terror and fear. How are we not going to get evicted next month to make the rent check? And that's what I'm sitting in my living room one day. That week I've got my laptop open and I'm looking at the Web site for a design conference for industrial designers coming to San Francisco, you know, two weeks later.
And it says in big red letters, hotels are sold out in San Francisco. I'm thinking, oh, man, what a bummer for somebody wants to come last minute. They've got nowhere to stay. And I glance over the top of the laptop screen into the vast space of the living room. And starts to think, what if I pull my air bit out of the closet and implode up on the floor? We could host designer for less than the cost of hotel and maybe make some money to make our rent check.
So I e-mail Brian. And he loves the idea. We actually get two more earbuds and we start to think this experience. What if we offered airport pickup? What if we gave them a map to San Francisco and a BART pass at Subway and we cook them breakfast in the morning? And so we created this concept called the air bed and breakfast.
We made a website arebetter breakfast dot com. It was four pages, pictures of us, pictures of their beds. We talked about the neighborhood and we were so proud of our website. Except who the hell on earth knew to go to arebetter breakfast? No, not exactly.
A high volume search term. Right. So one night we realized that we have a marketing problem.
The conference has come out pretty quick. When you get the word out. So we email the design blogs, the top design blogs that were covering the conference.
And neither of us had really been on design blogs before. Other than Equal Acts and Crippen's and it was kind of a Hail Mary. We just sent these e-mails out to like press tips at Inc.com. The next morning we came down, we opened our computers intimate feel like Christmas. There we were at the top of the design blogs with headlines like Need a Place for the Conference Six this weekend crash with Joe and Brian. And there's some aloft. Amazing was like never can your Jim jams on air better breakfasts.
And this idea that we had, you know, a week or two earlier was now being blogged about. To the world in the design community. And so they responded with e-mails from all over the world, from Brazil, from England, from Japan, of people dying to have one of these bear beds in our living room.
People started sending us their brewington profiles in the design portfolios. And the resumés been like trying to convince us to pick them to be one of the lucky three guests. Amazing. At one point, my phone rings with an Eriko those unfamiliar. I didn't answer it. So I have a voicemail. I'm listening to the voicemail and it's this guide named More who's telling me he's going, My name's Mole. And I just saw the airborne breakfast concept. And I have to stay with you guys.
Call me back. I have to stay at the airborne breakfast. Here's my phone number. And then in my inbox, I've got like two emails from this guy. I'm like, how did you find information? So I call him back and he sends his design portfolio, checks out. He's a grad student at Arizona State University. Study Industrial Design. And he becomes our first guest. And then we accept two other people, one woman name Cat in Germany, Michael, all over the age of 30 cows as a single solo traveler from Boston.
Michael is a 45 year old husband and father, five from Utah. And there's all this excitement in the guests arrive. It's like, you know, we made the bed, the air beds were properly inflated. There's a mint on the pillow. We cleaned the place up in advance. We stocked the fridge with OJ and bagels and, you know, fresh eggs. And we had everything ready to go.
@tell, it's him. The next couple of nights were just some of the most exciting because this thing unfolded that we didn't expect, which is that, yeah, we made some money on it. But more than that, we became friends with them and we really got to show them San Francisco through the lens of of us, through our favorite things to do, our favorite places to eat. Imagine the difference of this year at conference and at the end of the day, you can retire.
Buy yourself to a hotel room. That maybe is so much Narok or waxen general personality or you. They came back to our apartment, which was lively, were cooking dinner together. They were sharing stories from our days at the conference. It was like night and day for them and they had such a good experience. We took it to a friend's house parties after the conference. Some nights we took him to the best Britos in the Mission District, to the farmer's market, the ferry building one morning and at one point we gave during great plans to take visitors.
It is very bolding. There was a pitchfork. It should talk during the conference. Who's a Waha chocolate? Chait's that it said that format where you have 20 sides in like four minutes. Right. And so I just move and you got to give a quick recitation.
And so we gave a presentation about Arebetter Breakfast's in the moment that we're hosting people in arebetter breakfast. And we had our guests up there with us and talked about this concept that came together, you know, two weeks ago is now actually unfolding in front of us right now. And it was just like really met a moment where the guests are now part of the presentation about themselves. And it was totally insane.
Let's step five of the Crip Bundes, a.k.a. Air BMB sales process.
Share the story so I'll never forget when saying goodbye to them. The door quick closed. And I look at Brian and I'm like, do you just get paid to make friends? And that's him as when the gears began to turn. Maybe there were other people like us who would also enjoy sharing their extra space with people coming to their town and want we want a local experience, and so we told. My previous roommate, Nate. Who I found on Craigslist.
He was a computer science graduate from Harvard. Who when he moved out, Bryan moved into his room. Now, Nate, the story with him is. We lived together for a couple of months and at night we come home from our day jobs and we work on our own projects in the living room. I was working on kripp buns. It was working on his own startups and it was remarkable. I'm looking over my shoulder thinking, wow, this guy loves to work.
We have similar work ethics and I'm like, if I ever need a computer programmer, I'm going to call on it. Little did I know that Nate was saying the same thing about me. Designer McCole.
Anjo, huh? So Nate moves out. Brian moves in and. After this one weekend, a couple of months actually passed and we didn't move on the concepts, we went home for New Year's. That year is 2007. So it happened in October. We go home for New Year's and in 2007 and inner invariably people ask you, hey, how's it going? What are you working on? What's going on here for? Like Rush producers and they go, great.
What are you entrepreneuring? And I don't really have a lot going on.
Crippen's is kind of their glick's kind of, you know, struggling along. There's no funding at this point. But I do tell people about this crazy. We can rate these three guests sleep on their beds in our apartment. And it was remarkable what happened next. People either leaned in England. Oh, my God, that's amazing. I would love to travel and stay with a local and the other half the people went, Oh my God, you're crazy.
You get a stranger in your home. What are you thinking? And this like visceral reaction that caused people in these conversations was like, wow, like this really gets people fired up in either direction. Maybe there's something here. So, Brian and we come back in January, Brian comes back. He's from New York upstate. He comes back in. And we had similar experiences. He's like, yeah, I told people about any they loved it or hated it.
And we're like, yeah, like maybe we should maybe this is that, you know, we should expand on. So like, OK, we know we need a real programmer. So Mike and Colin needed to get a drink with Nate. I tell him about this crazy weekend with these three guests. Nate loves the idea. He's like, wait, we can use the Internet to get people off line back to the real world with each other. It's like I would love to spend my time on this.
So. At this point, we think the big opportunity is a Web site. For conferences, for people to sleep on earbuds and living rooms. This turns out is a very narrow market. You do not know this at the time. So our logical next step is what's the next big conference coming up where hotels will sell out? Well, turns out that right here in Austin, every March, it's quite a large conference called South by Southwest. It also happens to be the place where some preeminent tech companies went to launch and took off like a rocket.
Ships including Foursquare and Twitter and some others were Years's 2008. We're like, we're gonna build the next version for South by Southwest and it's going to take off just like the others. So Nate hunkers down with us. We start to code out the next more robust version of the site becomes more than just four pages. And we pull all nighters for like two weeks. And we want to just in time for South by Southwest and all this excitement, all this energy.
Tim, we got a total of five hosts to reservations. I'm no mathematician, but that ratio does sound favorable.
Well, one of their reservations was us, actually. Brian and Brian stayed with this guy here in Austin intending and he had everything laid out. He had the pillow and the towels and the men's needs and make some soup. Cooking in the background is a great host. Right. It's taken really seriously. You know, at this time we like. It was just a classified service, right. You came in. You paid somebody on arrival. And Brian, Brian tells the story that he forgot to go the A.T.M.
machine. And so he gets there and he goes the whole night and wakes up the next day and the host has to awkwardly ask him. By the way, where's my money?
RANCIC Oh no, she forgot. Go the A-Team today. Brancusi at A.T.M.. Another night goes by this point the host is like, what kind of joke is this? These guys make a website to freeload accommodations and they travel.
And so. Brian eventually got the A-Team and paid him, but he said that experience was incredibly awkward, paying some cash in person inside their home as like just not a great experience. So afterwards, you know, it was not a successful launch whatsoever. I think we got one mentioned unmatchable like it was dismal. And we debrief on the whole thing and we we realized two things because we're getting e-mails from people who are like, hey, I want to stay in a home.
But there's no conference in the city. How do I use your service? And so we realize something, well, maybe this is more than a conference Web site. This is a travel Web site. And what if we got rid of the awkwardness of payments in person and allow people to pay off the credit card in advance online?
And we just removed that whole awkwardness from the customer experience. And in doing so, wait way, if we did the trant the transaction online, we could take a small transaction fee and a business model was born. And so at this point. Nate, need a little bit more enthusiasm to get back involved in the concept of the three of us. We all balance each other out really well. Nate's the pragmatist of all three of us, so he helps ground us in reality and in progress and shipping things.
Well, sometimes Brian and I can be head in the clouds and really dream. It's a perfect balance. And Nate needs some convincing that this. Can actually work. So in the summer of 2008, we realized that we could use some kind of event to give this thing a spark. For this thing to take off, and if you remember back in 2008, what everybody was talking about. Especially in the summertime, the year of a presidential election.
John McCain versus Barack Obama. And Obama was attracting these historic record breaking crowds. He spoke in Portland to 75000 people. And it was identified in June. That the DNC, the Democratic National Convention later that August. There is going to be a bit of a problem because they move the venue from the basketball arena of 20000 seats to Invesco Stadium, which had 100000 seats. To attract more people to come to Denver to see Obama speak. There lies a problem with the amount of housing that exist in Denver.
They have 20000 hotel rooms. Most of them were already taken up by delegates and the headlines started to read. Housing crisis impending pending on Denver. The mayor started to hold pressure press conferences to say he might open the city parks for people to pitch tents because there was nowhere to sleep. So we recognize and say, wait, what if we relaunched in time for the DNC so we can ride the coattails of all this press to gain awareness for our next iteration of of arebetter breakfast?
So Nate loved the idea. We hunker down. We spend the summer rebuilding the site with online payments and the ability to travel anywhere at anytime.
So this was the carrot for Nate. Was this Nate needed to know that there was some reliable, you know, mechanism to create awareness on the horizon? Because to build a marketplace without any awareness is like, you know, the difficult setlist, difficult to say those.
So we hit the ground in Denver, we I mean, we built the website. The shiny new version of Arebetter Breakfast and began on the phone with press trying to pitch him like we had no idea we were doing. I'm on the phone to see it like CNN and they basically hang up on me. But I have experience with that from some other projects in the past. Some like I'm just gonna keep going. And S.W. squared plus equals Kozmo. Beautiful memory.
So. We learned when we started do is actually contact local bloggers in Denver like CNN, I can answer call. But a local blogger loved the story because it was of their neighborhoods and was very human oriented. Denver residents opening their homes to support other fellow Obama supporters. And so these blogs write about it. And it turns out that's where like the newspapers look for story ideas. Some the newspapers heard about it and turns out that's where the local TV broadcasts looks for story ideas.
So then we get a call from NBC local affiliate. And when NBC does a story, CBS and ABC short, we follow. So then we've got the Denver press covered. It turns out that's what the Boulder press looks to for story ideas and be started to become a regional story and turn that when have original story. That's what CNN looks to for Syria. It is so within a matter of about two to three weeks, we went from zero listings in Denver to eight hundred people sharing their homes.
Wow. Just did this awareness to press again. We had no money like there was. Can hire like a PR firm. We can like go buy online ads. Like this is all just word of mouth. Like the press talking about us. And then we get a call from CNN. And there's this funny moment where Brian and I are doing a live interview in our living room on a laptop through like Skype or something. And we have we're sharing like earbuds and we're like, look like we're conjoined to each other cause we're sitting so close.
There's a live interview with this guy, Errol Barnett on CNN and talking about this Web site and what it means to people to be able to stay in a home for anybody going to the DNC. And it was. And then when he'd have a CNN story, that's what international press looked to, to create stories than Lamond picks us up in The Guardian and press out in Europe. It's just amazing to see what happens when an idea or a story starts at the smallest nugget and works its way up this chain right to becoming an international story in a matter of three or so weeks.
Amazing. You know, I have to give credit to Seth Godin because I remember during Crippen's I read his book, All Marketers are Liars. And I remember something that he says in there, which I never forgot, which is. To make some people want wanna talk about rights like purple cow, it's like mace, I mean, that's distinct enough that people want to talk about it. It's differentiated enough. And I feel like that concept was imbued into like the early days of the company, certainly into Crippen's and Eagle Act and indefiniteness to arebetter breakfast at the time.
And Shirley, if I watched it happen in front of me making something people want to talk about, go from a local Denver blogger story to international press as it is safe to say.
Would you consider that the first or one of the first major successful milestones for urban breakfast?
Yes, because we had a few hundred people staying on the site that weekend, including us. We had to go to Denver. So it was busy and it was really busy. So we had divide responsibilities. It's just three of us. Nate's doing all the coding. Brian's handling all the press. I'm handling all the design and the customer service.
So let me hit pause and let me ask you. Would it make sense? And we can. We can certainly decide on the fly here, but we've got about close to three hours. Would it make sense to have this be part 1 and then follow up with a part to 0? What do you think of that? We don't have to. We don't have to. But we could. What are your thoughts? I'm open to it and then record another time.
Yes. I'm just thinking like this is we could totally l was we put you in a cliffhanger. This is I think this is a good cliffhanger. Okay. So then I'll say. Yeah. Okay. Go. No, no, no, no, no.
Go for it. Yeah. I mean because this like this deserves a round too.
So. So we had a suite, a few hundred people actually using the service. Brian and I split up responsibilities, Nate doing's coding. Brian's doing all the press. I'm doing all the customer service from my cell phone. And we have this incredible weekend where our marketplace is working. But you won't imagine what happens next. Woo, dot dot dot com. Okay. Amazing. No, this is perfect. This is absolute perfect. So to be continued.
In the meantime, as sort of a a a temporary tie up of of part one, is there anything that you would like people to take from.
This this first chronology that we've walked people through. Any ask of the audience recommendation, suggestion that you'd like parting words of any type? I think anytime that you introduce a new idea into the world, there's there's bound to be somebody or many people who reject it. So I think rejection is inevitable anytime you're trying something new. In fact, I'd say if you're not getting rejected, you're probably not trying anything new like your pride, not even pushing hard enough on something new.
My advice would be look at rejection in a different way. That equation for me was just a way to reframe rejection as an opportunity to keep going. Move on. And so my advice for everybody watching right now is that, you know, give them an entreprenuers, reframe things in a time is rejection that you face. Turn it into an invitation. Turned into an invitation to keep going. And you can say yes or no. You don't have to be at least create this opportunity to to persevere, to get to continue going forward.
For me, every all the stories I've shared so far from the senior prank that the intercom system through to Crippen's through to the beginnings of air BMB are reframing every know into a cool. That person didn't like it. I'm going to keep going until I find somebody that does.
And also something at least that I see from the outside looking in when you're sharing all of these stories and experiences is that you're also over time by exposing yourself to rejection and reframing, learning to in some way seek out discomfort as opposed to avoid discomfort. And that's that's one thing that also. Comes up for me and. On top of that, the fact that and why I I'm so excited that we were able to get together to talk about some of these many of these stories was, of course, just a portion of your many life experiences is that people are already familiar at this point with Arab Air BMB and all caps, right.
Magazine covers one of the most successful startups in the world. One of the fastest growing stars of all time, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
And I think it's it's easy because as humans, we want to take shortcuts and create stories that are easily graspable. To think of that as idea execute success. It just came out of the balloon was his overnight success. But there's so much contributing to that and so many diverse experiences that, yes, you had. But in some ways you also helped to engineer and. I think that's inspiring to know that it wasn't it wasn't the byproduct of this immaculate master plan that required you to be ill and most times 10 that you executed over a two week period and then you of an empire.
No, that's not that's not how it unfolds at all.
If people think we woke up and every media was just created out of thin air, that couldn't be further from the truth. And I hope of any there's any takeaway from the stories that we've talked about today is that there's just a long lineage of trying things, bumping into walls, getting rejected like failing, reframing that failure into learning and trying to continue forward. And so by the time you're BMB came around, it was like I'd been in the gym of entrepreneurship for many years.
So it's like you don't wake up and just run a marathon all of a sudden. No, it doesn't. You train for it. And so by the time it's ready for race day, your body's conditioned for it. And your muscles and your system like everything's ready. It's for you to go run 26 plus miles. And I think entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurship is the exact same way. And I think it's a misconception when people look at the magazine covers and they read about the stories of a successful company.
They think, wow, like the people started that. It just they built it and everybody came. That couldn't be further from the truth. And like I think Field of Dreams is probably the worst move to ever happen.
Entrepreneurship, because it created this idea like, oh, if you build it, they will come.
I can tell you, if you build it, they don't come in it. It it takes this incredible perseverance and sometimes irrational belief in yourself to bring something to life in the face of a lot of diversity and a lot of people saying it can't happen. And so I hope if there's any takeaway from the stories that I share today, it's that the simple act of spotting an opportunity coming up with the original solution and then taking that third hardest step of putting something in the world of trying something, putting your idea into practice.
Doesn't have to be the big idea. It's just about being in the gym and doing a rep. The gym of entrepreneurship, you're doing like curls or something like it's just getting in the habit. Of those three things, you spon opportunity come up the regional solution and you put your idea into the world. And the more you can do that. The better you are at spotting the next opportunity and you're BMB just happened to be a part of the lineage of all of the things I've told you that happened before it.
Can you lay out the equation one more time? And what each letter stands for? Absolutely.
S.W. squared plus W C equals M-O. And what the stands for is that when you introduce a new idea to the world, some will love it. Some moult. Plus, who cares? Equals. Move on. Keep going until you find the people that you love your idea. All right, Joe. Amazing. Where can people say hi to you online? Find you work and learn more about the company and anything else you might want to mention? I'd say go to Araby MyDD.com and if you want to connect with me, can follow along on Instagram at Joe Gibbs to get on Twitter at J.
Gebbia And certainly Crippen's is out there, too, and.
For everybody who's watching, listening, we will have links to KRIT buns. Joe Gibbs and all affiliated links, resources and so on. Everything we talked about in the show notes as per usual at Timbo Blog for Tache Podcast. Thank you, everybody, for listening. And Joe. Thanks for hanging. So much fun, super fun, Tim. Thanks for having me. Dot, dot, dot. To be continued, if you continue.