Lloyed Lobo – Co-Founder of Boast.AI – Building Communities, Connection and Purpose in Business
Quote of the Show
Community is not a marketing strategy. Community is a business strategy.
- Marketing is becoming less effective due to increased costs and consumer fatigue with traditional tactics.
- Building a community is a long-term, sustainable strategy for building an iconic brand.
- Successful communities are built on connection, autonomy, mastery, purpose, energy, and recognition.
- The purpose of a community is to serve its members and create impact beyond the product or service.
- The best communities give members autonomy and recognize their unique strengths.
In this episode of Revenue Today, Jared Robin interviews Lloyed Lobo, founder of Boast.AI, who shares his insights on the power of community in building iconic brands. He debunks the myth that traditional marketing tactics are still effective and emphasizes the importance of building a community around a shared purpose. Lloyed highlights the key traits of successful communities, such as connection, autonomy, mastery, purpose, energy, and recognition. He emphasizes that community is not just a marketing strategy, but a business strategy that serves its members and creates impact beyond the product or service.
[00:00:40] Hey, dear friends, I have a really special guest today. I’m joined by Lloyd Lobo. Lloyd Lobo is an entrepreneur, podcast host and community builder. He actually experienced the Gulf war as a young refugee in Kuwait and witnessed the strength of community and evacuating the population to safety. Founder of Boast AI, he leveraged community to eight figures in revenue and a hundred million in funding.
[00:01:15] He’s been featured in many major publications like Fox, TechCrunch, SF Business Journals, and more. Today, I’m excited to have him on this podcast. This is Revenue Today. Welcome Lloyd.
[00:01:30] Lloyed Lobo: Excited to be here. Thank you for having me.
[00:01:35] Jared Robin: This is, this is an exciting, uh, episode for me, um, to have another community builder on, especially somebody that knows the true power of community.
[00:01:47] So I want to jump right into it. Debunk a myth about GTM today.
[00:01:59] Lloyed Lobo: So there’s one myth that, you know, not a lot of people talk about and it’s the big elephant in the room. Marketing is taking a blood bath in 2023. Right. If you look at it, it costs twice as much to generate the same results from the same marketing tactics. CPMs are up, Facebook, TikTok, you name it, the CPMs are up.
[00:02:26] Right. And businesses, especially as we are in the midst of this recession, are spending less and less on marketing. And I don’t know if you realize. But most marketers and as a founder that I’ve interviewed most, I say not all, they’re very good at interviewing. They’re not so good at doing the job, which is drive brand and drive demand, right?
[00:02:51] But I like this. I like this because, you know, consumers, users, people, we’re tired, right? We’re tired of clickbait. We’re tired of the spam. We’re tired of pop ups. We’re tired of ads. We’re tired of sharing our personal data to get access to your crappy white papers. We’re tired of seeing the same thing over and over and over, right?
[00:03:13] Once a channel or a piece of message Is successful, your friends hear about it, and all of a sudden now the sameness is just proliferating, right? And, and so the best brands know this, right? They know that customers, consumers are saying no to the old marketing. It’s the same crap over and over again. So the best brands know this.
[00:03:41] So the building,
[00:03:42] Jared Robin: the myth is that. Marketing is just as effective, but it’s not right.
[00:03:48] Lloyed Lobo: It’s not exactly. And, and so, you know, when I, when I say this, the best brands know this and, and what are the best, some of the best brands do, if you look at Harley Davidson or HubSpot or Nike, right. Harley Davidson almost went bankrupt in the eighties, right.
[00:04:02] And, and with, with all these foreign manufacturers coming in, selling bikes for cheaper, they were on the brink of bankruptcy and what happened with Harley. Was they rebuilt the company around the ethos of community. They deliberately engineered these writing clubs that exploded. And that community ended up organizing things like save Harley rallies.
[00:04:26] And now today they do charities and whatnot. So the theory here is. You know, marketing on its own is interruption messaging, right? Like, even now with content and all of that, you’re seeing the sameness. The theory here is brands of yesterday were built on what they told the world about themselves. Brands of the future will be built on what the community says about them.
[00:04:50] Yesterday’s innovation is always tomorrow’s commodity. Look at it, right? Like you had the GPS and then you couldn’t get it. And then one day it became an option. So yesterday’s innovation becomes today’s option. And tomorrow’s commodity. Now you got Apple CarPlay. Or you look at with Apple, they may not have the best.
[00:05:09] Phone, right? Look at, look at the Apple’s competitors. They’re always bashing on Apple’s features, but they have a big community. They’d have a big fan base. If you build a community, you won’t become a commodity. So the myth here is, Hey, let’s build a commodity product. Let’s build something and then just do interruption marketing.
[00:05:28] Let’s run a bunch of ads. Let’s, let’s spam people. But that’s not how it works to build a long term, sustainable, iconic brand.
[00:05:37] Jared Robin: Damn. A lot of good things in there. Now, what makes Harley so sticky with community, right? Cause a lot of SaaS companies today are building community because they want the output of business growth.
[00:05:57] What, what do you think
[00:05:58] Lloyed Lobo: about that? You know, a few things with Harley, right? And, and I get asked this a lot, like, Hey. You know, what am I going to see the ROI on community? If you ask yourself, what am I going to see the ROI on community, then you may as well not do it because it takes a long time and you can do a lot of other things to drive immediate quarter over quarter instant gratification.
[00:06:20] But if you ask Nick Meta, whom we both know from Gainside CEO, right? He’s like, I don’t even know how to do attribution and community, but I know it’s the thing that works. And if you look at it, Gainsight or HubSpot, right? They created categories by building communities before they had a product. They built like Gainsight.
[00:06:38] Customer success actually, in reality, is nothing new. All it is is proactive customer service. They knew customer service was turning into this frustrating reactive profession. So they came up with the word customer success, which is all about being proactive. They had no product and they started hosting events and building community.
[00:06:58] around customer success. Today is one of the fastest growing professions in SaaS. So coming back to Harley, right? So there’s a few things and, and I was trying to draw the line between how some of the best SaaS companies like HubSpot and Gainsight have utilized this. Number one, community is not a marketing strategy.
[00:07:16] Community is a business strategy, right? So Harley overhauled the entire company from culture operations. The community, they replaced hired hands with employees at community events. Employees became writers, writers joined the company. Everyone had to spend time in the community, joining these writer clubs, being a part of them and bringing back valuable insights.
[00:07:40] So they leverage this whole camaraderie amongst writers. And position themselves as the only motorcycle maker that truly understood its ICP, right? So starting with the ICP made community the business strategy, right? The second thing was, you know, you, you mentioned this ROI, right? With community led businesses, it’s all about serve your customer first, fall in love with your customer.
[00:08:10] Make them successful beyond the product or service, the money will follow. That’s exactly what HubSpot did. So I’m an, I’m an engineer. I knew nothing about marketing. Okay. So this is, this is 2005. I graduate, uh, engineering. I asked an entrepreneur, Hey, what’s the best skill I could learn if I wanted to be a founder someday?
[00:08:30] They’re like sales. I kid you not, man. My first job was cold calling. I, my background, my undergrad thesis was in collision avoidance on real time vehicles, self driving car algorithm. I gave up a career in engineering to make cold calls for a tech company. My parents are from India. They lost it. They’re like, why is our son making 30, 000 hammering, pounding the phone, phone dialing for dollars?
[00:08:55] Fast forward today. It’s the best skill ever, right? Like one of the key skills. But when I was, when I joined this startup, you know, you always join a startup. thinking that you’ll do the one thing and my first experience quickly realized that I’m doing a hundred things. The company doesn’t have product market fit.
[00:09:10] Now, not only am I cold calling, I got to drive leads and all of that. So I started researching about marketing and back then everything was offline marketing, right? Brand marketing, offline marketing. And the only content I could find was HubSpot. Inbound marketing certificate. So I did that. I learned about SEO.
[00:09:26] I learned about content. I learned about video. How cool is
[00:09:29] Jared Robin: that? You probably Googled it and they came up
[00:09:31] Lloyed Lobo: first. Because nobody else existed. And they didn’t, I didn’t even know if they had a product. They had this website grader, I think in 2005 or something. So I put the website and I knew what to build.
[00:09:41] But then like every time there was an issue, like, you know, Oh, your SEO is not good or your content is not good. Then they had a resource go through this certification. So I learned them all about it and they didn’t even have a product. So, so I learned one very important thing is, man, if you don’t have product market fit, especially help people become better versions of themselves, just through content, just be the curator, right?
[00:10:05] Help them in ways you’re doing that,
[00:10:08] Jared Robin: dude. Um, one of the cool things you said about the Harley community was the social impact part of it. You said Harley redeveloped their brand. It was a brand strategy. Then he talked about some of the philanthropy and I’ve noticed other brands. Nike does this, Salesforce does this, um, Patagonia does this.
[00:10:34] What’s the connection between community and society?
[00:10:39] Lloyed Lobo: Here’s the thing, right? People want to be a part of a bigger purpose. They want like great communities, great companies, 2023.
[00:10:55] Where, you know, you can go and ride an Uber and you can do a couple gigs on whatever, Instacart or Upwork. If you have like, let’s say a living expense of 100, 000 a year, you don’t have to hit a nine to five job. You can do whatever, three, four gigs and make that money and live the life you want. So then what ties you to a brand is purpose.
[00:11:18] It’s deeper purpose, right? And so that purpose is what drives people to invest their time, especially with community led businesses, people are volunteering their time, man. Like, you know, this right? Like, when you host events and your community, you get people to volunteer their time. People don’t volunteer their time.
[00:11:39] Throwing a couple nickels in somebody’s bank account, they want to volunteer their time when a business has a purpose that creates impact because they may not be able to afford to create impact on their own, but by attaching themselves to a bigger impact, they are breathing that living that and it’s, it’s their purpose now.
[00:12:01] And if you look at every iconic brand, it starts this way or religion, right? People listen to you, you have an audience. It’s so
[00:12:09] Jared Robin: funny. Whenever I go into detail about community at the deepest level, religion comes up.
[00:12:18] Lloyed Lobo: Look, look, look at, look at this, right? So there’s a theme here. When people listen to you, you have an audience.
[00:12:27] When you bring that audience together, you have a community. Now the community comes together to create impact. You have a movement when it turns into a cult or a religion is when that movement has unwavering faith in its purpose. A few examples here, CrossFit. Do you need, do you
[00:12:47] Jared Robin: need to start with an audience though?
[00:12:50] Can you start with society? Creates a culture, um, you know, around certain products.
[00:12:58] Lloyed Lobo: You know, the best communities that I’ve talked to and researched, it starts with an audience. So audience is nothing more than a small group of people that have the same beliefs. Like I was a refugee of the Gulf War. Okay.
[00:13:10] The whole, is that an
[00:13:11] Jared Robin: audience? So is, is that what an audience is? Or is that just a small community?
[00:13:16] Lloyed Lobo: It could be a small community. So the difference between audience and community is this audience is one way of communication. You talk, I listen. A community is two way, right? Both of them talk, both of them interact.
[00:13:30] So it could be a small community, right? Or it could be an audience. Now some of these brands, they started with one way communication. I have a product, I’m selling you, I’m dumping ads at you. You love my product, or you love my content, you’re listening. Then they started bringing them together, then it became a community.
[00:13:47] Then with Harley, if you look at what Harley did, Is they left the community in the wild, right? They facilitated and nurtured, they took away control. So Harley created these community scripts to give members autonomy. So they have things like tribe. Where, you know, people come together through shared experiences.
[00:14:07] They have a fort, they have a summer camp, they have a patio, they have a bar concept. So this kind of autonomy and, and, you know, the thing with non community led businesses, we always talk about control, like, like, how do I, how do I control things? But if you optimize for control, you destroy communities.
[00:14:23] And so some of the best communities, they give. Members, the control, right? Like you, you run it, you be in charge of source communities
[00:14:32] Jared Robin: are some
[00:14:32] Lloyed Lobo: of the most powerful, right? Exactly. Like GitLab. So, you know, GitLab almost shut down in 2017. They had like this outage that took down a lot of their customers.
[00:14:42] And in, in a, in a, I would like to say in like 24 hours or so, the community came together and, and like started supporting and building together. Another thing is Ruby on Rails, right? Like created by Jason Fried and David, and they were building Basecamp, but they built this Ruby on Rails and put it out to the community.
[00:15:03] Now, some of. The biggest brands use this and this is a perfect example of movement, right? Right. Wikipedia and, and, and they’re using the product now to create more products. And that’s, that’s how it became, becomes a movement. But when, when people feel deeply attached to the purpose and they have the autonomy, what do they do?
[00:15:23] They do things like saving the company, right? Like today. Harley folks not only single handedly organized the Save Harley Davidson campaign, they had rallies to spread the word, they did fundraisers to pump cash in a company. Advocacy and support, but they also came together to organize and raise funds for like cancer and so many other causes.
[00:15:49] Right? And that’s what a community does when you give it autonomy and purpose.
[00:15:54] Jared Robin: Hi, this quote, um, we just wrote for a paper. I’m curious to hear your thoughts on it. Um,
[00:16:08] what’s good for society is good for you. And what’s not good for society. We’ll never be good for you.
[00:16:18] Lloyed Lobo: I, I truly agree. You know, I have this, this thing that I learned, um, at a very young age, um, the war had hit in Kuwait. I was maybe 10, nine, unpack
[00:16:30] Jared Robin: that. Tell us a little about that. Let’s, let’s, let’s dive in.
[00:16:35] Lloyed Lobo: And, and the funny thing was, I think I was a fifth grader. I can’t remember going in a fifth grade. I used to study last minute. I’m like a serial procrastinator. So I studied last minute for a math exam. I show up, it’s geography. I’m like, I’m fucked. I’m like trying to cheat. Imagine a fourth grader trying to cheat.
[00:16:54] And I used to write my
[00:16:55] Jared Robin: answers on the book covers. You remember you had like books.
[00:17:01] Lloyed Lobo: It was too late, right? Because I go in with a math and it’s like geography. So I’m like, it’s game over. My parents are going to freaking, when I can’t make the next grade at four. And I’m like, I’m like, Oh, something should happen.
[00:17:13] One morning, my mom wakes me up. She’s like, Hey, no more school. I don’t know what we’re going to do. The war has hit. My first reaction was, yes, you’re never going to find out. Then it sank in what had happened. Security had lapsed. There were no phones, no email, nothing at the time, and everyone was left to fend for themselves.
[00:17:33] So every building became a sub community. What’s a community? Somebody goes down, raises their hand, there’s a problem. Others are like, yeah, we have the same problem. So they congregated and… They’re like, okay, you’re going to watch the building from this time to this time. So you can see there was a lot of looting, people breaking in and whatnot.
[00:17:51] And somebody is like, you know, my dad worked in the hotel. So he’s like, I’ll secure food and water for the building. So every building became a sub community like that. It was insane. And they coordinated efforts to contact their respective countries and schedule probably the biggest evacuation effort ever.
[00:18:10] And, and, uh, you know, I went on this bus from eventually when the buses were organized from Kuwait to Baghdad to Jordan, uh, lived in the, uh, in the camps, refugee camps, as I looked on this bus, man. I don’t know if people were going to live or die, neither did they, right? Adults, they should have been sad and depressed.
[00:18:29] Instead, they’re singing, they’re playing the guitar and they’re laughing along the way. And, and I realized that there is, it’s neither the destination nor the journey. A lot of people say it’s the journey. It’s not the destination is the destination, not the journey, but it’s neither, man, it’s, it’s the companions that matter.
[00:18:43] Great companions. Make all the difference in the world. And so that what’s good for society is good for you. And what’s not good for society will never be good for you because you are the sum of everyone around you. If the society crashes and crumbles, what are you going to do? Right? And, and another thing that I realized then is a lot of us chase money.
[00:19:08] And if you noticed this infinite chase for money will make you do very short term decisions, like, you know, the banking sec, two banks just fell with this, with this craziness. And a bunch of people, they focus on control, heavy control. When you choke control, especially as we look into the future, as businesses are getting more and more community led, you destroy relationships.
[00:19:32] The only thing that matters if you want to build something lasting is impact. Impact attracts. Your relationships impact attracts other people to do good along with you and it brings good karma to your life, which I, which I truly believe in, but what good is all the money in the world? You got jet money.
[00:19:51] You’re going to hop on a plane. You own it, but nobody else is going to hang with you.
[00:19:55] Jared Robin: I couldn’t agree more. Um, you know, what did you learn about community from being a refugee and what impact did that learning have on
[00:20:08] Lloyed Lobo: you? I think one of the biggest things I learned as a refugee. Is, you know, it takes a village to build anything.
[00:20:22] I mean, imagine this, right? Like you’re bombed and you don’t know if people are going to live or die in a matter of a couple of months, two, three months, most people evacuated out of there. So we are the sum of everyone around you, right? So that’s, that’s the one thing. The other thing I learned is, and this, you know, learning was reinforced as I talked to more and more companies.
[00:20:47] And communities and people, there are like six common traits of every community, every successful culture, and I call it the camper framework. So you saw
[00:21:02] Jared Robin: this, you saw this both in the refugee camp, as well as boast,
[00:21:08] Lloyed Lobo: as well as boast, as well as traction. Now on my podcast, I’ve interviewed hundreds of people.
[00:21:12] Yeah. Let’s hear it. And, and so, so I, I look at that as like, the step one is, is connection, right? What connection does is the, the, they foster genuine bonds that build bridges, they nurture relationships. When people feel connected, it empowers them to support one another and grow. It empowers them to collaborate.
[00:21:33] Nobody’s going to collaborate if they don’t feel connection, right? Like if you’re like, ah, you know what? We’re in it to make money. Let’s, let’s do this. Let’s do this together. Like how, if you don’t feel connected, you’re not going to. Come together, right? The second thing, and if you look this as a, as a very autonomous and I can’t describe it like I till today, I am yet to find a replication for what happened in the Gulf War where the community evacuate the country.
[00:22:02] There’s millions of people there, and every building became a sub community, there was, the security had completely lapsed, and all of a sudden, a couple months later, buses are organized, and we’re leaving, and we’re all getting on planes to our respective country. That takes a coordinated effort.
[00:22:18] Collaborative effort, but at a time when there were no phones and there was no email, there was no internet. Isn’t that crazy? So, so the step one was… Notes passing? People talking to one another. Word of mouth. the whisper, right?
[00:22:35] Jared Robin: Word of mouth. Word of mouth is the most potent form of communication.
[00:22:40] Lloyed Lobo: Word of mouth.
[00:22:41] Word of mouth. So buildings next to each other, talking, talking, word spreads, word of mouth and then meetings and events started, gatherings started, people would go and do town halls and all of this, a very uncoordinated grassroots movement. To evacuate the country, I have never seen anything like that in my lifetime anyway.
[00:23:04] So the 1st was connection, right? When people feel connected, it empowers them to collaborate, support 1 another. The other is autonomy. The best communities. Grant freedom and independence while encouraging responsibility. When people have the space to make their own decisions, they take ownership and drive things forward, right?
[00:23:24] Um, if you look at Basecamp, it’s another example. Basecamp, they champion a culture of remote work and self management. The company does like tens of millions in profit, man. They only got 80 people. And they’re some of their biggest competitors. Have like thousands of people and hundreds of millions of funding.
[00:23:43] So that just tells you, right? The other thing was mastery. When you help individuals become experts in their field. They inspire others to reach their full potential, right? They enable people to hone their skills, expand knowledge, pursue excellence. Four is purpose. There is a shared purpose that fuels this motivation and it’s beyond money.
[00:24:07] It provides meaning and it guides. Positive actions and when people feel they’re making a difference, they find fulfillment in anything they do. You talked about Patagonia, right? Patagonia actively promotes environmental stewardship. They encourage employees to volunteer for sustainable initiatives. But not only is that their lip service, like, I mean, anyone can say, okay, you know what?
[00:24:32] Go sign up and volunteer. It’s fine. We’ll count it towards work. But they also actively donate a percent of their sales to preserve the nature. Right. They lived by their actions.
[00:24:43] Jared Robin: I don’t know if they’re for a fact, but it was the first, I’ve never heard of that. Like. The donated 1% or percentage of the income.
[00:24:55] Lloyed Lobo: My kids are screaming. Can I, can I just tell them to stop? Hold on
[00:25:21] three kids. All right. Okay. So we’ll pick it up. Right. Do you have the place to edit at least? Awesome. Then. It’s energy, right? They create this atmosphere of enthusiasm, passion, positive vibe. If everyone’s dull and like de energized around you, it sucks your energy too, right? Have you been around like these energy vampires?
[00:25:42] They say stuff and you’re like, man, I’m checked out. But like the best communities. The culture is full of lively energy. It sparks inspiration and cultivates an environment for endless possibilities. Looking back at Kuwait, man, people should have been miserable. But whenever we came together, I was a kid, but I’d go down with my dad down the building and they’re coordinating, they’re doing stuff.
[00:26:05] You feel like this energy. Yes, I’m going to save the world. For me, that was my world. We’re going to save this. We’re in it together. Or if you look at NASA, right? I think there’s this urban legend. I don’t know if it’s true, but the president walked into NASA’s office one late night and he saw this janitor.
[00:26:20] He was cleaning and he’s like, what are you doing here so late? And he said, sir, I’m putting a man on the moon. How powerful is that when the purpose flows to the lowest common denominator? That is, that is community, right? That’s, that’s how you create that. But how do you, how do you distill that? It’s, it’s connection, it’s autonomy, it’s mastery, it’s purpose, it’s energy.
[00:26:46] And then the last one. Is recognition, man, you proactively acknowledging and appreciating the efforts when you celebrate achievements, big or small and value the unique strengths of each individual. People keep coming back for more. So looking at get lab as an example, right? This guy’s would have gone bankrupt in 2017.
[00:27:09] Their whole servers, everything got taken down. Let’s, let’s,
[00:27:12] Jared Robin: let’s talk about boast as an example. Tell me about how you researched all of this to build community at boast and, and, and, and make it so powerful. You, you raised over a hundred million dollars in different types of funding, right? Um,
[00:27:30] Lloyed Lobo: so we bootstrapped up until then, right?
[00:27:32] We bootstrapped to 10 million in revenue. So it’s funny. Boast is a very unsexy business. It’s not your traditional, you know, I’m building this community around an
[00:27:41] Jared Robin: unsexy business. I want to help.
[00:27:43] Lloyed Lobo: I want to feel
[00:27:44] Jared Robin: it.
[00:27:45] Lloyed Lobo: You know what? Globally, hundreds of billions of dollars are given in funding to companies that build new products or improve existing products for innovators for entrepreneurs.
[00:27:55] The problem is. It’s a government program like the US government, Canadian government, UK, Australia, France, New Zealand, it’s a, it’s a cumbersome application process. Nobody wants to deal with the tax man because it calls an audit and receiving the money takes a long time before accounting firms do this and charge a lot of money and chew up all your time.
[00:28:14] My co founder, Alex, used to work there and he calls me one day and he’s like, man, let’s do this. I’m like, if I have the opportunity to work with you, I’m in. We were best friends since college, partners in every project. Day one, Nailer ICP. Pick up the phone, call them to validate. Obviously everyone has a problem, but nobody wants to talk to us.
[00:28:34] I’m like, why would we give you our R& D data to guys in a spare bedroom? I haven’t even heard of you guys, right? When I could work with big four accounting firms. I mean, you say, yeah, we’ll automate it. We’ll do it better, faster, cheaper. Still, nobody’s going to give you their IP. So, you know, we paused and we realized, you know, we’ve not been successful entrepreneurs and we have a lot to learn.
[00:29:00] So let’s. You know, the one thing we do have is connections to solid, successful entrepreneurs, Silicon Valley, and route to our learning, let’s unlock learning for others. There’s others in our boat, right? Our ICP, why do they want this government money for R& D to accelerate R& D and innovation? Why do they want to accelerate R& D innovation to grow faster?
[00:29:25] That’s what we want to, but at the time when, when we started, there wasn’t SASTR or any of these communities sharing very practical, tactical advice. So we said, let’s bring a founder we know on a specific topic, and they’ll talk and we’ll invite a few people first meet up. We did 10 people showed up because they’re just pizza nights.
[00:29:46] Next 1, more people will come. More people come. 1 day we had 200 people show up in the co working space and the corking space guys. They’re like, listen, this is not a meet up. This is like you’ve hijacked the whole co working space to do like this mini conference of course, which it wasn’t. And that evolved into Traction Conference.
[00:30:07] And I realized, you know, when you don’t have, there’s three kinds of communities you can build. A community of product, a community of practice and a community of play, a community of practice is just bringing people together for learning, right? That’s, that’s effectively, um, you, you help members develop skills, accelerate their careers and explore interests like HubSpot, right?
[00:30:35] They brought people together around. Let’s make you better marketers. The community of product is when you turn customers into evangelists. Your customers are basically coming together to learn about your product. And the last one is community of play. People are here to have a good time like Nike or Red Bull.
[00:30:53] Now we didn’t have a product. The last thing you want to do if you don’t have product market fit, let alone a whole bunch of customers is bring together people to learn about that industry. Because they’re going to be like, you’re going to sell to me. So we said, let’s build a community of practice around innovation, teaching innovators how to accelerate their innovation, giving them the resources to become successful.
[00:31:14] And every time more and more people will come because of tactical advice, we would never sell and they inadvertently end up becoming customers. Over time that evolved into the Traction Conference, we’ve had like Uber CEO, Twilio CEO, all these folks come speak at our conference. And as we did more and more events, there was a year where we did about a hundred events between online and meetups, two webinars a week, live.
[00:31:37] The more events we did. Our revenue also grew, but I never had a way to attribute, right? This is the, this is a big problem with community and community led businesses. And even like Nick Meta at Gainside would tell you is most companies don’t have multi touch attribution. What happens is you go to an event, you like it, you forward the organization to somebody in your company, your CFO maybe goes and downloads a white paper, passes it around to somebody else.
[00:32:03] And then finally. You got a call from the SDR and somebody else signs up and the SDR and outbound gets the attribution, right? Community doesn’t. So that was, that was a thing we were never, never able to attribute. But one day when we were doing the DD for, for our around, they’re like, man, you have this like curve.
[00:32:26] And why is this curve, like all of a sudden going this way, like just you hit this inflection point and curve and then I mapped the events, the number of events we did when it started increasing from like, you know, every month to every week and twice a week and it mapped directly to that. It’s like literally direct correlation, right?
[00:32:47] And the funny thing is it enabled us to bootstrap. We, we got to 10 million with maybe 35 people. No marketing community was marketing. So I was marketing. Uh, my job, I was like co founder and head of community and I kid you not, man, our investors came to that community. They, they hit me up one day, these guys, they, they, they were on a panel and it was a growth equity fund out of New York and they’re like, we want to talk to the guy who runs this community.
[00:33:15] So you get on the phone, they’re like, Hey, you know what, would you be open to joining our venture partner network? We’ll give you some carry if you pass this deal flow. And I’m like, guys, this is something I do on the side. Right. I don’t have the time to do this. I have a business to run. And they’re like, what is your business?
[00:33:31] So I started explaining the business and how the community ties and they’re like, wow, you basically sell 100 bills for 20. Because think about it boast automates the process of getting this government money. And we started with automating that process. And then we realized that. Oh, the government still takes a long time to disperse the money, even if you automate it.
[00:33:52] So then we raised a hundred million dollar fund, a credit facility to lend people that money faster. Now we have insights from their technical data. Like nobody collects technical data and marries it with financial and banking data. So now that we have this data. Now, we can not only get them funding for R and D, like SAS funding, like, uh, MRR financing.
[00:34:13] This is R and D financing and R and D funding, but we can also give them analytics on what projects they should invest in, who they should hire. So, already analytics and so that excited them and then. They invested, so I feel I’m everything I am because the community, um, and community to me is just that it’s that connection, collaboration, autonomy, mastery, purpose, energy and recognition, bringing people together.
[00:34:42] around a common purpose. So a lot of people would tell me like, oh, you get people R& D money. I’m like, that’s not my purpose. My purpose is to help innovators change the world. Every dollar spent in innovation, and I did a Bloomberg article on this, every dollar spent in innovation returns 20 to the economy.
[00:34:58] Vaccines, robots, clean drinking water is a function of innovation, but most innovations die on the vine. In the last 15 years, more than 50% of the fortune 500 companies have also evaporated because they don’t innovate. And so we’re here to help people get the funding and the resources so they can innovate faster.
[00:35:17] And that was the purpose, helping innovators change the world.
[00:35:27] Your audio is not coming through. I’m
[00:35:31] Jared Robin: curious. You have your North Star metrics for your business, and now you have a tag along community.
[00:35:41] What are the KPIs that are unique to that community? The you set to show health and moving in the right direction for the overall entity,
[00:35:53] Lloyed Lobo: you know, there’s a lot of stuff that said around the community, right? Like, which is everything from bringing people together to making sure they have a good experience to making sure they stay.
[00:36:07] And there’s a lot of tooling and knowledge around metrics, which I found like. It’s really hard for me to distill, especially with the community. So I’m like, how do I make this simple? Because traction is a very volunteer run community. And the other thing is we didn’t call it the boast community. Again, going back to the theme of community of product, community of practice, community of play, it was a community of practice.
[00:36:27] So traction, every entrepreneur, every innovator wants traction. And, and so it’s a, our last conference. had 60 volunteers. We have a team of like two and a half people, one and a half people, right? And, and so how do you proliferate that? Like, you know, your purpose is easy, right? Your, your purpose, your value, your vision, your values, right?
[00:36:49] Purpose is like, why do we come exist? The vision is what will be the, what will the world be as a function of our work? And the values is how do we behave? That’s important. But then also you need set of metrics. That, you know, when, when, when people are doing free work for you, they don’t think in terms of acquisition, activation, retention, you can’t like, get through to them.
[00:37:14] Right? So the metrics were, do they show up? Do they stay? Do they pay? Do they bring their friends? Are we making money? Very simple, right? Do they do they show up? Can we get somebody to show up for the first time? Can we deliver a good enough experience that they stay and keep coming back? Do they love it enough that they bring their friends every time they come?
[00:37:38] Right? So it’s growing. Do they pay? Like, are there versions of it that do they get enough value that If we have a premium offering, they’ll want to pay for it. And can we make money? So those things were easier to distill because think about it. This is not a, the volunteers coming were from various walks of life.
[00:37:56] It’s just not SaaS people. It’s just saying, Oh, acquisition, activation, retention, revenue. Like there are all these SaaS metrics that go above people’s head. And so breaking it down in the most simple, stupidest English was like, Yeah, we’re getting more people to come. We’re getting more people to stay.
[00:38:12] Like John brought like three friends or Mary came with like 17 of her colleagues, like that kind of conversation gets distilled because it’s humanized. Right? So I think with community, it’s not about having metrics. But it’s communication. Communication is a thread that stitches all of that, right?
[00:38:31] Connection, autonomy, mastery, purpose, energy recognition connection is communication and what brings it together and the best way to communicate is to communicate in a. Language that is easily understood by a two year old. So even my daughter can say, yeah, more people came dad, you know, yeah, you know, they had a great time.
[00:38:51] I brought some of my friends and they had a great time and she’s nine. Yeah.
[00:38:56] Jared Robin: I’m curious
[00:39:02] what keeps you up at night as a community and company runner?
[00:39:11] Lloyed Lobo: You know, um, what used to keep me up at night probably doesn’t keep me up anymore. Right. There was a time where I chased a different definition of success. It was all money, right? When I say money, meaning companies doing well, employees are happy.
[00:39:28] Right. Employees are happy. Shareholders are happy. Customers are happy now. As a function of doing that for 10 years across a couple of failed startups and both doing well, I realized I neglected my family and my, which is my first community. I didn’t spend any time with the kids growing up, not with life.
[00:39:46] And I ended up very sick. I almost died of COVID. I was hospitalized. And that was the realization that I gave so much to everyone around me. I neglected the people, my first community, my parents, my wife, my kids. And so for me, what keeps me up at night is losing somebody I really love. That keeps me up a lot.
[00:40:07] Like, have I done the justice and spent enough time with them? I lost a dear friend and a community builder, Vasil, his name was he was founder of the Growth Marketing Conference and OG Growth Hackers community in the Bay Area. And he was newly married. And this is, you know, this, the, the last year was a crazy year of realizations for me.
[00:40:32] I had, I had, I had the deal go through, right? Hold on a sec.
[00:40:47] Yeah. So I had, I had the deal go through, right? And all my life I was relying on my, uh, my, my wife paying the bills at home. And I was like, one startup failed, two startups failed. And I could never catch a break, did an events company. The co founder ran away with a quarter million in profits, had to sue him, walked away with nothing from it.
[00:41:12] And then, and then finally this deal happened and my wife would say, you know, stop and spend, smell the roses and roses. And I’d be like, you know what, when the deal goes through, we’ll take everyone to Bora Bora. She’s like, you’re kids. We don’t care. We just care about spending a little time on with you every day with your phones down, right?
[00:41:28] The compound interest in that is huge. But anyway, I didn’t listen. The deal went through, booked everyone to Bora Bora a day before the Bora Bora trip. I got bilateral COVID pneumonia. My lungs were shot. I was in the hospital, almost died, came back from that experience and the company had gone from after you sold your company.
[00:41:46] That was, we, we sold a good majority. We sold a good percentage. We sold like 50, 55 ish percent. To a growth equity firm, and the goal was for me and my co founder to continue running it. We had two board seats and that was the plan, right? Like, see the thing that nobody talks about is growth equity. Growth equity is like, let’s let’s
[00:42:08] Jared Robin: pause there because you just had a big exit.
[00:42:12] You finally accomplished what you wanted to accomplish. Or at least you thought you did
[00:42:19] Lloyed Lobo: finally, and, and I thought
[00:42:21] Jared Robin: I did, you were giving your family what you thought they wanted. Um, and what they really wanted was you and you came face to face with a chance of them not having you, what they truly wanted, not Bora Bora or seven or eight figures in growth equity, uh, or nine that you’re able to cash out on.
[00:42:49] How, how crazy is that? Did that, did that moment change your life?
[00:42:56] Lloyed Lobo: That, you know, there’s a deeper story here. So all my life I chased success, looking for happiness and success was society’s definition needed to financial independence, money, whatever it was never. I have the time and energy, just, you know, I have fulfillment from spending time with my kids.
[00:43:15] Right. It was, it was a lot of build a big company. Of course, innately I was all about community, but does that come
[00:43:25] Jared Robin: to heads with like wanting to build a
[00:43:28] Lloyed Lobo: big company? You know, ultimately your values take over, right? I’m a community first impact first, not money. And it’s funny, I don’t read agreements.
[00:43:38] Everything is word of mouth. I don’t see like, I never discussed money until like, you know, that’s, that’s how I operate. But in any case, it served me well. Um, apart from the couple of times where I’ve been cheated and whatnot, but it served me well, but I thought I’d caught a break because 10 years did one startup, two startups failed prior to that only worked at startups and they all didn’t do well and then we did an events company, made money.
[00:44:09] The co founder ran away with the money and then both started doing well. And this, this day came and I’m like, man, all our worries are over. And I’m like, let’s just stretch it a little longer. And we can celebrate Christmas with, with great happiness. And, and, and we book everyone to Bora Bora, my parents and so on, you know, my sister and the kids, whole family trip.
[00:44:33] And the Bora Bora trip doesn’t happen. I wake up one morning, unable to breathe. I get pushed to the hospital. Now, this is Omicron times and you have got people in spacesuits coming to the hospital. Now, mind you, my wife’s a doctor in the same hospital at Stanford and she’s not allowed in. They set up this 24 7 zoom and all I’m hearing is people crying on the zoom.
[00:44:53] So I’m freaking out. My oxygen levels are low. So I’m delirious. My chest hurts. I, I, you get the suicidal thoughts, so the doctors keep like paging you. How do you feel? Do you feel suicidal? Apparently, it’s a common thing. And it’s probably one of the first few, one of the rare times I’ve seen my wife cry.
[00:45:12] And she’s, you know, she’s an ER physician, very strong. And that shook me, man. I thought to myself, if I died today, what have I done? My kids barely know me by first name. I haven’t spent any time with them. Anyway, I came, I came back and around the same time, right after I came back, uh, we did this a hundred million announcement for the, for the fund, for the R and D fund and press could hear me cough.
[00:45:38] So SF business journal did an article on On my COVID story, and in that I said, my biggest regret was I, if I died, I hadn’t spent enough time with the family. Anyway, fast forward, I think the investors obviously freaked out because they had just liquidated us. And one of the co founders who’s the face of the company is going to tap out.
[00:45:55] And, and over that time, I started seeing like my roles diminish, right? Like different people came over, took over my roles. You had a CTO and I used to run products. So you got a CTO also runs product. Now I used to run marketing, got a CMO. So all these things. So I didn’t know what was going on. And in that period, we also hired like 80.
[00:46:15] Now we’ve gone from like 30, 35 people to over a hundred people. August comes around my, my nine year old. She was eight at the time. She’s like, dad, everything you said in the press article is a lie. You’ve gotten much worse. I barely see you anymore. What happened? And I said, sweetie, like we’ve got a hundred plus people more.
[00:46:35] You got to make sure that things are on the right track. So we do right by, by those who put their belief in us. And she said, dad, why don’t you just go and work for somebody who thinks like that? So I can have my dad back. Um, that, that shook me. offsite.
[00:46:55] Not in California now in Texas and my phone’s always down. I pick up the phone. There’s like 20 missed calls It’s my wife’s best friend. She’s like you’re such an asshole for the third time your wife’s in labor, and you’re not around come back So I take the next flight By the time I, I make it just in time to see the birth of my third kid.
[00:47:17] And I, in that same vein, right, I’m like a pirate. I’m a zero to one guy. That’s all I’ve been, all my career has been zero to one early stage startups. And now I come back from Covid. I’m in this company where we got Navy, not pirates. Right, more bigger company like C T o from a $10 billion company. Exactly.
[00:47:37] Um, C M O from another multi-billion dollar company. So all these big wigs. In the company and my view was I couldn’t operate at that level. So I was at loggerheads with them, obviously, because I’m used to doing things, executing. I was like a super IC in many ways, right? You know, we all, as founders have these inflated titles, CEO, whatever president, they’re all inflated titles because when you’re an early stage startup, you are an individual contributor and every single Every single role, when you hire a few people, you become a manager.
[00:48:12] When you hire a manager to manage those few people, you become a VP. You might, you might, you might never become a
[00:48:18] Jared Robin: manager because you might just hire somebody that, that, that is that manager and you could stay
[00:48:25] Lloyed Lobo: that founder. Exactly. Right. And so I was having this great conversation with Jason Freed, um, CEO of Basecamp, and he said, a founder and CEO are.
[00:48:35] Two titles that are at loggerheads with each other. It’s like having the title of chief Luddite and CTO in the same title because a founder’s job is to inject risk in the business and a CTO, a CEO’s job is to stabilize the business. So they’re at loggerheads with each other. And so me and my co founder operate really well.
[00:48:51] He’s the CEO. I was the president and I was. In charge of new markets, new tech, anything new, new strategies. And, and that was a fun, fun job reinventing myself in the job. But now I see all these Navy SEALs in the company and they want to hire people to hire people to do the job. And they had one way of doing it.
[00:49:11] I’m not saying that’s right or wrong. But I was at the creativity out, didn’t it? Yeah. So I was, I was at loggerheads. I truly believe in more generalists can stretch longer. Um, but that strategy is working great for us and both. I mean, the company has doubled, uh, more than doubled since, since we did that right deal.
[00:49:31] Anyway, I was at loggerheads board meeting. And, uh, board meeting comes around and I’m like, Oh, you got to fire all these execs. And they’re like, listen, you’ve had a very stressful year. Why don’t you, you’ve had a very stressful year, right? Almost dying of COVID, just had a kid. Why don’t you take a paternity leave?
[00:49:51] And when you come back, we’ll figure out a role for you. When you tell a founder, take a paternity leave. It’s like the writings on the wall.
[00:49:59] Jared Robin: They’re like, take a paternity leave and here’s some paperwork
[00:50:02] Lloyed Lobo: for you to sign. The paperwork didn’t come, they didn’t give me the paperwork though. You know, uh, fortunately I, I’m still on the board.
[00:50:11] There was no paperwork of that nature. It was like, take a paternity leave and we’ll figure out. I went home that day, man. And I hugged my wife and I cried. I literally weeped. I don’t think I’ve ever wept that much. And I said, I’m sorry for all the times I put you guys last for this company. And today the company doesn’t need me and you’re the only one standing here.
[00:50:34] And I don’t need the company. And I got very depressed. Yeah. And I got, I got extremely depressed. I got drunk. I got overweight. I, I just destroyed my health over the last six, you know, over the following six, eight months. Um, and then one day my wife comes to me and she’s like, listen, I’ve let you grieve.
[00:50:54] As much as you want, but look at you, right? Um, there’s a, there’s a post about it on, on my LinkedIn. And, uh, and she’s like, if something happens to you, we’re going to be left holding the bag plus this big community you built, you’re not doing, you’re not going to be able to do service by that community.
[00:51:18] And that day, uh, incidentally coincidentally, I was having lunch with Atlassian’s president, Anu. And she’s like. There was a time where she felt really burnt out and she went to resign with my Ken Brooks and he said, take a sabbatical don’t resign. And so she took the time off to do, you know, hang out into desert and do animal rehabilitation went to Antarctica and came back to become the president of this company.
[00:51:44] She told me self care is never selfish. It’s the only way you can create value in the world. So do it. And that night when I went home, I was unable to sleep. And I look in the dark corner of the room and there’s this Peloton bike that everyone got at one point. Right. And it’s turned into this makeshift towel rack because my wife’s an ER physician.
[00:52:03] I’m busy. We don’t have, you know, we don’t have the time, right? It’s tough to find. If you don’t have the motivation, you don’t, uh, you know, it’s tough to find 20 minutes, right? It’s tough to find 20 minutes. And so I, I dusted off because now I’ve driven by this, these words from my wife, from, from a new Atlassian hop on the bike, instantly the, the, the instructor that comes on, I feel deeply connected to her.
[00:52:30] Coincidentally, she was also coming off. I find another community and the first step, actually, pure coincidence, she was just coming off pregnancy and she couldn’t write as fast and she felt like she’s like, I feel like crap, I’m feeling low. And I can’t, I don’t feel as strong, I can’t ride. And then she says something, she’s like, Self pity is toxic.
[00:52:57] Cut that shit. Right? It’s one, one crank, one shift, one walk around the block. I am, I can. And those words kept coursing through my veins and this, this Eye of the Tiger from Rocky. Was playing in the background. So I, that one ride turned to two, turned to four. And again, Peloton was this, this camper, right?
[00:53:19] Connection, because I felt, I felt so deeply connected to the people on, on there. It was the instructor, the people high fiving on the side. There was autonomy because I’m in charge of my own destiny there. There was mastery with each ride. I’m getting better and better. Right. And purpose. I mean, what better purpose than I’m now playing the long game of good health so I can spend time with my family and business energy.
[00:53:50] I mean, the music, the high fiving, all of that. And then the last thing being recognition people. Uh, one, recognizing you, two, them proactively sending you rewards, badges, streaks. So I was hooked, man. Like Peloton became my lifeline and over time I added weights and, and other forms of working out and then it became a morning ritual.
[00:54:13] Now I wake up every day, I give thanks for something good that happened in my day. I play. I have the tiger bang out 50 pushups or as many as I can and then go for a workout. But, you know, the four times a community has been there for me, four or five times is one gulf war refugee to traction in building.
[00:54:36] Two, financial independence, building a successful company. Three, we almost, we, we, we were expecting twins and one of our babies passed in the womb and we had to pull the other one five months early to spend a hundred plus days in the incubator. And there was this physician’s mom’s community, which is 100, 000 members in 100 plus different countries, and my wife heavily relied on them to get the energy and support and see other moms who had gone through the same thing and now they’re thriving kids.
[00:55:09] So that kept our motivation going. And then when I end up, you know, no money in the world will save you from your own mind, right? When I went through mental health issues, the Peloton community saved me. So when I sat there with nothing to do and now relaxed and rejuvenated, I said, you know what, I owe it.
[00:55:34] To give homage to the community and all the people, all the community builders out there. And so I end up writing this book from grassroots to greatness, 13 rules to build iconic brands with community, let growth stories from hundreds of communities and brands. And that was my sort of give back to to the community.
[00:55:52] But you’re right. Every time I look around. Even, even your kid, even looking after a kid, man, it takes a village, right? Like your school, your parents, your family, that’s all your first community.
[00:56:04] Jared Robin: Yeah, man, everywhere. You look now, if you were to give one piece of advice to somebody just starting to integrate community in their go to market strategy, everything you’ve learned, what would it be?
[00:56:24] Lloyed Lobo: I think the most important thing where it all starts. Is with your ICP, right? So the first, first, first thing is figure out who it is. Find your people, who it is that you’re targeting. It’s better to be an inch wide and a mile deep when you’re starting out than a mile wide and an inch deep. I’ll give you an example.
[00:56:50] Have you ever gone to a party and then you walk in, you don’t recognize anyone? You got to jump through hoops to meet the host and you have no meaningful conversations and you just like that happens. But then you’ve gone to a party and the host opens the door for you. He introduces you, he or she introduces you to her friends.
[00:57:11] They pour you a drink and you’re having a good time. And next thing you know, it’s time to leave, but people are still hanging out on the porch outside. They’re hanging out by the car. Right. And that to me is, is community. And, and to engineer that you need to hone in your ICP. You need to figure out who they are, where they eat, breathe, drink, sleep, understand their pains, their aspirations.
[00:57:34] Because if you solve for that one person and get them to show up, get them to stay. Get them to keep coming back and bring their friends. Everything will expand from there. A lot of people start with, I want to build a community, but they don’t think about the ICP. They don’t think about how do I deliver value to this RCP?
[00:57:53] How do I do one thing? Everyone starts with, Oh, let me start a Facebook group. And they don’t think about the
[00:57:57] Jared Robin: people. They start a
[00:57:59] Lloyed Lobo: community. They don’t think about thinking about their brand. They don’t think about it without thinking about the profits. Without thinking about the people and you can’t have a community without people, right?
[00:58:12] If you look at it, Facebook, you know, a lot of bad things being said about Facebook right now, but they’re doing some good.
[00:58:18] Jared Robin: Uh, they’re, they’re, they’re, they’re piecing themselves back together. I think.
[00:58:24] Lloyed Lobo: But you know what? They were the O. G. in the game, right? They crushed community. First, when
[00:58:32] Jared Robin: there was Myspace.
[00:58:32] The first to really, really
[00:58:34] Lloyed Lobo: grow it, yeah. The first to really, really grow it. Again, it’s the first community. When Facebook launched, it was only for Ivy League schools. Yep. They honed, they did it for Harvard and made it, made the use case perfect for Harvard and then expanded from there. Had they launched it to every, everybody in the world, like MySpace, who knows if they would have been as successful as they are today.
[00:58:58] Right. And so there’s that, that thing is start with your audience, make it perfect for somebody, deliver value, get them to love it. They’ll tell their friends about it. The word of mouth, as you say, will spread and more people want to join and then open it over time. So start with the people. Start with the people.
[00:59:13] Jared Robin: Lloyd, what is the meaning of life?
[00:59:18] Lloyed Lobo: The meaning of life is, you know, taking you back to that, that first thing I started with. I was sitting on this rickety, broken bus going from Kuwait to Baghdad to Jordan in this refugee camp on the highway of death. Buses were bombed all over. We weren’t sure we were going to live or die.
[00:59:38] And as I look around the bus, people are laughing and singing and playing the guitar. I realize it’s not the destination or the journey, but it’s the people that matter. It’s the companions that matter the most. You could be on a shitty journey on the way to hell, but great companions make it memorable.
[00:59:56] To me, that is life. It, it doesn’t matter. Now, you know, I’ve lived in nine, 10 different cities from Dubai to Kuku. Austin, Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, San Francisco, man, you could be in a mansion in the Hamptons with no companions. You’re going to be miserable.
[01:00:16] Jared Robin: Lloyd. That’s a mic drop moment. Thank you so much for your time today.
[01:00:22] We had. An incredible conversation on community, on life, on, uh, evolution of goals and dreams and, and realizing what’s important.
[01:00:36] Lloyed Lobo: We focused on the people today, man. Thank you so much, man. Thank you so much. I enjoy the conversation. Great questions. I appreciate you, man. I appreciate you doing this. Thank you for hosting me.
[01:00:48] Jared Robin: This is another great episode of Revenue Today. If, if, if you liked it, you learned something, share it with others. Uh, we’ll be here next week. Thank you so much, Lloyd, again. Awesome.
[01:01:03] Thank you friends for joining me. That was another great episode of Revenue Today. If you’re looking to listen to more episodes or for the show notes, go to RevGenius. com. For all my friends in the RevGenius community, it was awesome to spend this time with you. Please DM me any feedback or ideas for future podcasts in our Slack channel or on LinkedIn.
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