Jesse Pujji currently serves as Founder & CEO of Gateway X and as Executive Chairman of Ampush and MySubscriptionAddiction.com.
Prior to GX, Jesse co-founded and was CEO of Ampush. He grew Ampush to over 100 Ampushers, managed over $1BN of digital media spend, and partnered with brands such as Dollar Shave Club, Uber, Birchbox and Hulu.
Prior to Ampush, Jesse started his career with short stints at both Goldman Sachs and McKinsey.
Gateway X is a holding company that builds, buys and invests in market-leading direct to consumer companies.
In this podcast, Jesse and Aaron discuss experimenting with TikTok ads, lessons from joining the Red Ventures portfolio, and the DTC companies Jesse has launched.
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If you liked this interview, check out our interview with Marshall Haas about building a holding company of a profitable businesses.
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Watson: Jessie, It's nice to be talking to you. Thanks for coming on the podcast.
Pujji: Thanks for having me on air and I appreciate it.
Watson: So I thought an interesting place to start would be the fact that you got your start by being one of the early users, your early folks running Facebook ads. And that was really one of the things that kind of broke your business and push today.
Maybe you can quit say you don't buy this premise. Tik Tok ads might potentially represent a similar type of opportunity and that it's a nascent platform not taken seriously by everyone, but there's a ton of users' attention on platform like that through the lens of how you first came to Facebook and learn how to do it efficaciously.
What advice would you give to someone in your shoes? Just getting started in marketing performance marketing to potentially approach a platform like Tiktok.
Pujji: Yeah, it's a great question. And a funny one, because at Gateway X right now, we have a huge effort going to figure out Tik Tok. So it, you know, I actually do believe that it's very much the second coming or it's certainly up there, you know, it's, it's hard to know how big any of these things ever will get.
But yeah, I think the, the biggest, best piece of advice I can give someone similar to Twitter is just, just do it, get engaged into it. Stop worrying about whether you're doing it right. Stop asking people for, you know, the perfect advice that, that, you know, not to say you shouldn't ask for advice, get out and ask people. But a lot of people use that as a way to just not try it and do it, and like start making Tik Toks, start posting things on onto the page, and really get to know and get to understand the platform.
And, and I would light up a marketing campaign as fast as you possibly can for anything. It could be for your local, you know, your favorite local restaurant or a non-profit you like, like there's anything you can do to get, to start to trying it and doing it because like anything, every iteration you're going to get 10 X better, especially in the beginning.
And, and, you know, that would be kind of the approach. I think the other thing I would do is like, build a lot of relationships in and around the platform. That was a big thing for us, including with the platform itself. So people who work at Tik Tok, you know, Tik Tok, the employees and the culture is it's a pretty hungry culture and it's a much more commercial culture than Facebook was.
You know, when we work with Facebook channel 11 years ago, we used to joke that it was like a nonprofit. Like they really didn't in the early, early days pre pre going public. Facebook does not care about being about making money. It was just not a priority for them. That changed obviously, but so I would, I would get to know people in and around, you know, the ecosystem of, of a company like Tik Tok, and then obviously specific to Tik Tok, just more tactically, like the creative and the format of video is so different than anything else that's out there right now.
That part of just doing it as you're going to really learn what it takes to create and make something like that. And the scale required to do that, which is you know, I think there's going to be a whole ecosystem of companies built around Tik Tok. When we, Gateway X as a venture studios that we're incubating and thinking of ideas all the time and in the last month is getting to know Tik Tok.
We've had like five specific ideas. Like there should be a, a non Royal non-licensed not royalty free music marketplace. You know, I'm sure there is something like this, but like it's made for Tik Tok it's various, the sounds are very specific to Tik Tok sounds, but it's like super easy to use. And just makes it really easy to produce a bunch of these Tik Toks.
Like there's gonna be so many ideas ecosystem wise around just like that have been around Facebook in the last 10 years.
Watson: And one thing I've heard you talk about before is this opportunity with Gateway, which is kind of a new endeavor for you is really a chance to kind of get back to your roots.
Building new companies focused on the direct to consumer space, leveraging all of your past experiences in running this performance marketing campaigns. Can you just kinda give us a 360 view of the entity that you're building right now?
Pujji: Yeah yeah. Sure. So, you know, Gateway X is sort of a venture studio, a unique spin on a venture studio, you know, and there's kind of a few different, the threads of fabric that tie together, you know, one is the 10 years I spent building and scaling Ampush where I worked with, you know, tons of direct to consumer brands, tons of entrepreneurs, really helping them grow and scale customer acquisition.
And the other one is like really a ton of personal work. I've done inner work, I'd say around what I truly love and what sort of, you know, what my purpose is, what I want to build, where I get my, my energy from.
And kind of putting, bringing them together. You know, it's like, I love, I love coaching, teaching, helping other people learn and grow. And that's the thing where I can put my, when I put my energy towards that, I tend to be at my best. And it turns out entrepreneurship is like a great canvas for personal development and growth.
You know, you started a business, you know that, you know that the lessons you're learning, how much you're changing and evolving as a person. And so I was kind of like, we're going to, what kind of, what would a business look like? Where that's how I help people learn and grow by a building businesses.
You know, and I also got to do all the fun, strategic work of building and scaling businesses. Let me also leverage the knowledge I have from Ampush and customer acquisition. And that's kind of what the Genesis of Gateway X was or is, and, and what we're doing. That's, you know, it's, so it's a venture studio we're launching both, direct to consumer brands, which sort of leverages my knowledge of that and customer acquisition.
Then we're also launching. What I'll call broadly as like, direct to consumer enablement companies. So both SAS and services. So either software or services that sell to the brands themselves. So that's kind of a, the mandate. We're looking for ideas that are sort of between the mom and pop and that you know, the venture scale.
So part of what we believe is there's a ton of ideas and a ton of room to build. Profitable five, 10, $20 million EBITDA type businesses, but you can do that over a five or 10 year horizon. You don't have to be a billion dollar unicorn in three years, or you're a failure sort of mindset. And then over time we can kind of amass a portfolio of those that we build and, and those that we scale.
And so this year, you know, by the end of this year, we'll have launched four companies, two on the brand side and then two on the enablement side. So the brand, the two brands one's called “Poo Phoria”. And “Poo Phoria” is that fun feeling, you get after you take a number two. We built that tried to scale it. I can go into the details.
Ultimately it's sort of on maintenance mode now for like, a variety of reasons. And we're launching a V2, literally next week called Unbloat, which is a much better product, more of a pill, less of a powder. And it's really targeted towards a specific demo of like 40 to 60 year old women. And we found like a very underserved category there.
The word bloating is searched as often as the word hair loss. And yet there's like very few products on the market for bloating and a ton as we all know for related to hair loss. So we're really excited about that. It launches next week. It's the URLs unbloat.me. And then we have two other businesses.
One is called Growth Assistant and Growth Assistant is a really, you know, kind of a fun idea. It's, it's basically, a place where entrepreneurs can get a trained, you know, support type growth marketer. So someone who can you know, help you set up your campaigns or run the emails or look at you or your URL codes or format creative.
They're not a strategy person and they're in the Philippines and they're $2,500 a month. So it's kind of that entry-level junior marketing person, but offshore, and that business has been growing like gangbusters. And then the fourth one is a software business called Kahani and Kahani means story in Hindi.
And we're basically building a software where your e-commerce store will have its own stories, the way Instagram has stories, and you can tap on them and you can interact with them. And, and they're gonna, you know, they're driving up conversion and engagement, very meaningfully, for the swords we're testing on right now.
And we're, I'm like really, really excited, And like I think, starting an e-commerce, but I think every website could have our product on it and stories, you know, can be everywhere on the mobile experience.
Watson: Right on. So we've covered a couple entrepreneurs like yours, which is partially a story of having some success and having that compound, but really being in this space where you can not be completely like spread thin to the point that you can't really give the best of yourself to anything, but really travel a couple paths and kind of leverage the expertise and skill that you've developed to the max and Marshall Haas to, we, we just had on the show, like literally also has a company called Support Shepherd. That is a similar premise of leveraging international talent in order to, you know, be able to kind of fulfill some of these needs.
I'm really curious] if you could articulate what you've learned, since launching Gateway, which is once again, a relatively new endeavor about managing energy, managing focus because despite your experience and the ability to, you know, hopefully leverages us against us as many business entities as possible, there's still, you know, skills of delegation, skills of just understanding your own mind so that your not just kind of jumping from thing to thing, but really putting all your weight behind that which you're focusing on.
Pujji: Yeah. Yeah. It's such a great question. I mean, you know, the context switching is hard. You know, and it's like, when I, you know, I remember as through the Ambush experience, helping people level up and someone who would go from a individual contributor to kind of a half manager to then a full-time executive over five, six years and the executive switch, everyone would go, wow, the context switching!
You know, and even within a company, an executive has to go from motivating their team one minute to fighting with a bill, maybe with a client the next minute to then selling the company in a recruiting meetings or even the normal job for a single company, CEO. My context switching is challenging and, and, you know, in the world I'm living in it's, it's hard.
So I don't want to make it sound easy nor do I want to make it sound like I don't, this might not work, right? Like, I, I don't know. I don't know what I'm doing for say, like, I don't have a master grand master plan, that I know exactly what's going to happen and what's going to work. But, but I think some of the things I try, that have helped me, you know, one is like really knowing where my strengths are and, and where I bring the, you know, bring the value and where I don’t.
And so, you know, I bring value in some of the like marketing ideas and creativity around that. I bring, bring value in problem solving in a resourceful fashion. So if we can't figure out how to get something done, helping think through how we may get that thing done, I bring value with my network and being able to help solve problems that way.
I bring value, by being, you know, helping make decisions when people are stuck. But I'm not like, you know, I'm not a great product manager. You know, I'm not good at inventory logistics. I'm not great at necessarily even keeping trains running on time, like, you know, in an operations context.
And so those are some of the, you know, hiring great people around me and being very conscious of those things as, as created a lot of made, it made a lot of value right? And, and, and so I try to only spend my time on the things that I think I'm going to add a lot of value and typically the things that are going to give me energy back that I enjoy doing.
Because those are kind of where I'm at my best. So that's one big one, you know, there's a ton of tactical stuff. Like I meditate every day or almost every day. I also, like when I when I go into meetings, I usually spend the first minute or two with the team getting present in some way. Okay. Let's just close our eyes guys.
And like, I'm sorry, like, you may not need this, but I need four breaths. Like, I need to kind of like, forget what I was just doing, and I need to come here and remember, okay, this is, was just talking about how we're going to run ads on Tik Toks for this brand. And now we're going to talk about this bug that's in our software that we're trying to ship and it's like, holy shit, these are, they couldn't be more different.
And even the tool belt I need to pull out. So getting present is a really big one for me. And I, sometimes it's breathing sometimes it's like, let's do some jumping jacks, like whatever it is just to kinda create some switch between the two things that I'm doing. You know, I'm really good at email, you know, it's like, it's, that sounds so stupid, but it's such a big thing.
Like my inbox ends at zero every single day and that's just like, it helps me triage everything, you know, what's going on, how's it going on? Where, what needs my attention, what doesn't need my attention and knowing kind of, you know, again, I don't think I'm great. I think I'm like probably C plus or B minus at it still, but better than a lot of people, which is like knowing when to get deep, and when to kind of pull back and let things kind of unfold a little bit and like, just getting good at that.
Watson: Are you superhuman, do you batch, like what, what's your strategy?
Pujji: I use superhuman. I love superhuman. But I was, I've been doing this many, many years prior to superhuman existing. Like there's a, if you Google, there's like some 2013 article that has, like, I had like seven softwares that were all doing pieces of what superhuman does today.
And I had like mixed them all up together.
Watson: So you were like squarely there early days target demo.
Pujji: You know, because I, I never wanted to be the bottleneck for someone to get something done. And I also didn't want to, like, you know, I always tell early again, new leaders, like, man, there's money in your inbox. You know, like it's so the idea that you haven't seen the email yet.
And I think part of the, part of my method and my approach is I want to see everything. Once I've seen everything, then I can triage and manage how I want to do it. It doesn't mean I do everything in that moment, but I want to see everything. So I, you know, probably two or three times a day, I triaged down to zero.
Watson: Well, there's a book called frenemies. That was about some of the like biggest agencies in the entire world. And I'm blanking on which specific character it was. But just an anecdote that always stuck with me was that the, the head of it was notorious for always replying. Like people would email him at eight and like, they'd hear back promptly, that you know, or whatever the thing may be.
And, you know, one, one interpretation of that, which is completely valid is I don't want to live like that, that ain't for me. But the other, you know, notion of like how plugged in someone who built one of the biggest agencies in the world had to be in order to reach that level. I'm sure he found all sorts of money in his inbox, super promptly before other people.
And you know, you kind of have that, that similar background and I also want to push back, you know, I appreciate the humility. I don't know if the, you know, this Gateway X thing is going to work yet. But the, you have a framework, or at least I would say probably some mentors and other kinds of models that you could pull from, which is, the, your past company Ampush that you built, sold to a company called Red Ventures, which is another kind of holding company that's figured out how to, you know, do the culture and the spin-out and the acquisition thing really effectively.
And, and there are company that, you know, most, most people have actually probably come into contact with without knowing it, right. Seeing that and the points guy and lonely planet and all these other entities that they own. So can you just talk a little bit about what you've taken from them, particularly as a holding company that can accomplish such growth and scale, kinda behind the scenes.
Pujji: Yeah. Yeah. I'm glad you asked about that. You know, they they bought a minority interest in Ampush actually. They didn't acquire the whole company. They're amazing partners. And part of the reason I think I've gotten more humble is meeting them. Like I, you know, I like when I was 30 years old and Ampush was all, I had only grown and scaled, I was like, yeah, I'm going to like eight out of 10, nine out of 10 entrepreneur.
And then I met these guys and Rick in particular, their founder and CEO is a dear friend and mentor to me. And I was like, holy shit. I'm like a 4 out of 10. Like this guy, this guy is playing six dimensional chess in, in five minutes. And it's only the two would take me a day, you know? Like, and so that's kind of important, right?
It's like constantly seeing that there's levels to it. Not, not just like yourself out or to make yourself feel less than, but to actually just like, keep, keep yourself humble and also keep learning. And so, yeah, like, man, there's so many things I could tell you about how amazing there is, but I think the,
Some of the things, you know, they have a very singular culture. And, and, you know, all the great companies do McKinsey, does Facebook does. And, and what that means is not, you know, it's not a certain type of person. There's all kinds of different people there, but there are certain things that really come to the top in their business right?
So, you know, in their case, they're, they're very action oriented. They're very focused on the bottom line, not the top line. They're really strong, like quantitatively rigorous and oriented around numbers. Everything's oriented around numbers and they're really nimble with how they move people around and and they move anything around.
Like they have, Rick has one of his, one of his many beliefs is everything's written in pencil, you know? And it's like, anything could be erased, anything can be changed. And, you know, there's one thing to say that he lives that. I mean, they, they would acquire businesses and, and re–, you know, restaff a hundred people from one project going on in their company overnight to another, to another business.
And, you know, if any, if you were me tried to do that, it would not work because, because you have to have people and a culture and an orientation that has that level of nimbleness in them. And so they've really just built that as a, as a, you know, very they're very decisive, at every level.
And you know, they, they also, they're really big on this. I think there's companies like Disney and others who were really big, like their executives do not manage people or like, you know, not to say that they're, they're very compassionate and about people and culture. And that sense, but they don't manage people.
They don't like, if you think about the traditional executive, it's like, I'm the VP of this group. I have my five directors and each director does X, Y, and Z. They're at, from top to bottom from Rick all the way to the most junior person. Everybody manages the business. And what I mean by that is the metrics, the numbers, what drives, outcome, what's going to make it grow and scale.
And so if you talk to a very senior executive at Red Ventures, they would know the click-through rates of their business. They would know how much the one click through rate needs to improve for, you know, their Facebook channel or something like that for X, Y, and Z to happen. They'd probably know the top creatives in a campaign and there, they might be running a nine figure EBITDA business, right?
So there's huge businesses and that's how dialed in from top to bottom. Everybody is in the business. And that's a really unique, so it's not that they, you know, they're not always operating there, but they can go down to the bone whenever they need to go to the bone and remind me of like, I can give you a specific anecdote, not unrelated.
I met the president of Disney plus a couple of years ago. No, its Michael Paul and, and you know, the guy who manages 1300 people, this huge operations a few years ago. And, and he liked had a very in-depth toe to toe conversation with me about Facebook attributes shit. And I was pretty blown away.
Right. Because here I am, I'm like, this is like, I spent a lot of time talking to you about this. This is like one tiny part of this huge business, but it was just showed the level of depth that he was able to operate at when he needed to.
Watson: That's awesome. So one of my things I always love with podcasts or I is a pet peeve that we're not going to fall for here is when someone says, oh, I could go on and on and on with that since you did a great job there, but I want to just push a little bit more on, on the lessons from red ventures and you watch the show succession.
So I think part of the reason people like a show like that is because they feel like they're getting a little bit of the taste of the quote-unquote six dimensional chess, that one plays at those high-level executive levels. You don't have to refer it to succession necessarily, but when you say that, you know, this executive completely gets it in five minutes, would take you a data.
Understand, like, can you, can you just make that a little bit more legible for people who might aspire to be able to process things that way, but don't necessarily have a, a tangible example outside of a show like that on HBL.
Pujji: Yeah. Yeah. Well, I don't know exactly how he does it because if he, if I did, I would do it too, and I'm not there yet.
I, you know, I'll give you an example of, of a common, I'll give you a really cool example, actually. So at red ventures, somewhat organically, there's this thing they they're, they're pretty famous for called business reviews and every company does business reviews, but theirs are a little bit different.
They're no longer than 15 minutes. There are less than three slides. So you bring in more than three slides. Someone's going to talk to you. And, and they will sit down for a day and they will have 16 business reviews or no, not even more than that 20 business reviews. So you walk in and it started by obviously just meeting with Rick and the management team, and then maybe a VP level or director level comment.
Hey, here's what I'm planning on doing. Here's what I think we can grow. And then Rick had this idea. He said, you know what, Like, why don't we show the whole company, how we make decisions. So then he just made this a completely public meeting. And so now it's like, it's like a 500 person meeting. It happens once every, you know, four to six months, depending on the cadence of their business.
And. You know, you, you, you come in and you basically in within 15 minutes, you'll bring your top problems. What's going to generate the most incremental dollars in terms of EBITDA profit. And you'll, you'll square off, you know, and to have a conversation with Rick about it and, and really Rick and the team.
And, and Hey, I don't think this is a good idea. Like, I think you're missing something. I think you need, like, give that CEO a call and really talk through these different issues with them or the pricing model that you're leveraging on Healthline.com. I think you're missing that we could be charging more based on lifetime value, not based on CPA.
And that's the, I mean, they're, they're really deep. And, but they're very fast and very decisive and they walk away with clear decision-making. So that's like an artifact. Now I saw that, you know, and I'm a young, eager CEO. This was maybe when they first invested four or five years ago. And I go, we're going to do business reviews also, of course right?
Like, and it turns out you can't microwave that kinda thing, like I tried it, I said, okay, three months, guys. I want you all to walk in and you have 15 minutes. And, and you know, my team gave an amazing effort, but you know, they didn't know what issues, matter. And I realized, I didn't know certain things about the, about their, their different client situations or different parts of the business that what was driving, what, and it ended up becoming kind of like a dog and pony sort of like, we didn't actually make any real decisions in the meeting because I like, I wasn't up to speed enough or they, they, they brought up three issues.
I go, this is just I'll you the important ones. What about the fact that the client, you know, the new CMO in, in place? And so it, you know, we, and we tried it probably for two years straight. And eventually we, you know, it still exists, but we pared it down pretty dramatically and we focused a little bit more on learning, but it just wasn't, this is a great example of something that man, you see that that's culture.
Like we tried to, we literally, I got to attend them at red ventures. I was there. Like so I got full access to them. I got to see what they were like. And I tried to replicate them my own organization and I wasn't successful. So that's like that's culture, right? That's something you can't just microwave from someone.
But it's a really cool example of, of the dynamicism that exists there.
Watson: Absolutely. And it seems like that would just be such a powerful tool for you know, Almost implicitly, like training up your team, because if they're watching all these different pitches and they're getting, like, I always think about it, my mental reps, right.
You know, when, when I'm on the field near, I used to play ultimate Frisbee when I'm on the field with like the very best throwers who just see the field differently. You start to see the field in a different way. And you know, maybe not every person in their 4,500 person organization can, you know, make every single decision, obviously not, but they start to at least kind of comprehend the bigger picture outside of their maybe small domain that they're working in.
Pujji: Yeah Totally. And, and like, Rick has a, you know, one of his, again, many beliefs, like, you know, he, he wants everything that he is going to underwrite or take on to be a three four. Right. And so it's like, and one of the, you know, the behind that is like a common business mistake is like “Well, we can either go for a profit or growth” and, and he's very wise and he goes, well, wait, why is it an either, or why don't I only, I only have a certain amount of time in the day.
So why don't I only do the things that are going to be both be profitable and help me grow, because I only have time for three initiatives at any given moment anyway, but then his three, four thing is a double is even more of that, which is anything that he takes on. He wants it to have like three, three sort of value adds, right?
So in this case, it's like he learns more about his own business units and what's going on. He gets like you know, to make decisions with those executives and a very fast, and then people get to learn and see how the whole group thinks about things and how they think about business. So that's like a, it's a cool example of a three for those businesses profusely.
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Watson: Well, you said earlier in that, that, you know, you, you were humbled, you were 30 years old or so thinking you're pretty hot stuff because of the success that you would accomplish.
And, when I was prepping for this interview, I was talking with my wife about how around 2015, 2016, you guys managed $350 million worth of ad spend, which I can understand why one would think that they were pretty hot stuff after, you know, building a business to that, to be a scale. And working with companies like Dollar shave club, Peloton, Uber, Hulu, Birchbox, what have you, Can you tell me, I think our actual exact words were I'm sweating.
Just thinking about that. So, so tell, tell me about the process of, you know, when you were sweating that stuff and then what it took to not necessarily be sweating when you saw that amount of number running through your business.
Pujji: Yeah. I mean, you know, honestly, that, that it's a good question. Like I was definitely, it was probably more than 350, by the way, but I was, I was, I was like definitely the frog in boiling water.
So I didn't, I don't ever remember waking. I do remember there was a couple of moments I remember with my co-founder Nick. We'd look at, we looked at when payroll and at one point payroll hit a million and a half dollars and we said, holy shit, that's a lot of money to be paying in payroll right? Like, so I do remember there were certain moments like that, that were the kind of sweaty moments, but in general, the spend, it never, you know, it started at zero.
Obviously we had two or three clients, those clients grew to 10 million in spend and, and then we added more and then, you know, I'll tell you like, I’ll tell you what I think, where I think we got lucky. And obviously I'll tell you like, I’ll tell you where I think what we did really well, you know, where, where we got lucky was like, Hey, well, what we did well was we put ourselves in the game and that's really important for every entrepreneur got to get in the game.
Right. Because I was working at Goldman Sachs and I remember very specifically telling my, my co-founders. We're never going to come up with the next great idea. Sitting, working on our desks here. We're just too far from what's happening. So let's go get in the game. So we got in the game, we were not doing Facebook marketing to start.
We were doing random affiliate search marketing stuff that we had no idea what we were doing. And we were in the right place. Therefore, because of that decision, what, where we got lucky was Facebook, it launched and we were like, they're ready to pounce on it. Right. And that was kind of a lucky stroke.
And then kind of the second or third lucky thing was. You know, we, the fact that Uber did business with us or dollar shave club did business or Supercell was not because we were anything special. It was because there was like four companies who knew how to do Facebook ads. We were one of them. And so they talked to us, right?
And, and we, you know, we sold them and all that stuff. What we did really well was we were really good at hiring bright people and investing in training. And, and so, so what happened was once we were, did start working with us to go, wow, these people. We would like to hire these people. They're really smart people and they're doing a great job at campaign management and communication.
And so we actually got just really good at scaling by hiring people who had no background in marketing or advertising and training them in how to do that. That was the thing that we did really well that allowed us to continue with these Mega companies and help them scale and grow their customer acquisition.
Watson: And, and from a decision-making framework from the standpoint of these clients, I think that something, someone who's in a kind of more novice position would say to themselves, well, Uber raised all that money or Peloton saw their, you know, market cap skyrocket. So they can, you know, issue all sorts of equity grants to potential people that they could bring in house.
What is it that as a, as a service provider, Keeps you relevant? Is it as simple as like, Hey, when they spend money with us, they end up making more money or like, are there other elements that you've learned from like, from being a client service provider that keeps you relevant to these companies as they go from, you know, seedling series A to some of the Goliath of our modern economy?
Pujji: Yeah. I mean, well, but some of it is, is honestly like Ampush has gotten really good at particularly supporting the S curve and then oftentimes. When they do exit or they're gonna to exit, they'll take it in house or they'll change the way they're approaching it. So it's not that, you know, I, I think we fought that for a long time and we did come up with a bunch of ways that have worked many of them to making us stickier and better.
But a lot of it was also just realizing that, you know, there are, there's a natural cadence of some of those things that, that you have to sort of be okay with and be prepared for. I think the biggest thing, you know, by far is performance. You know, and, and relate to that as growth, like good, good, good economics and growth.
And it's like, if you can keep delivering more and more results, like anything, no one’s gonna, no one's gonna press on that or push on that, right? I think the second one is, you know, relationships, which is like, if you know the right, like, Uber's a great example where, you know, we scaled all of Uber's driver acquisition in North America, and then they go, okay, you know, we've worked for you guys for three years.
We're going to take that in house. Like that's a natural part of our evolution. And they said, but we're going to give you guys international, and international is three times of US, right? And it was like, well, we have relationships, right? Like, and, and we, like, that was a way we could actually scale the business because even though all literally North America was going in house, like we were getting international and that was plenty for us to eat and spend time building.
And I think the third one that that's probably the most interesting for a service provider is data and insights. You know, that's the one thing we do have that, that no individual client will ever have, which is we can share what's happening across the board. What are different areas that are popping up?
Why, why are we seeing closer to the problems than they are? Innovating new channels, like Tik Tok, just to because we have that market knowledge and Intel, that's a really powerful thing.
Watson: Right on. All right. I've got five relatively quick hits here. And then we'll aim towards asking our standard last questions.
These are probably the most selfish ones. I'm the whole thing selfish, because I get to talk to smart people. Same thing. Like you said, you like being around other people that are operating at a higher level. Poo-phoria and the pivot to unbloat. Can you just take us through. Cause you know, it's always, Hey, we accomplish this, we knocked this out of the park, whatever.
You were very candid already with one of the failures in terms of getting that, like 15 minute presentation thing implemented in your company, but the original idea wasn't quite landing. Can you just take us through like the, Hey, you know, you just need to stick it out versus we kinda need to pivot.
We can need to let you know, release that tight grip on the idea that we had so that we can go grab a better idea.
Pujji: Yeah. Yeah. It was a tough one. You know, it, the, what was, what went well about it? Was it, again, it got me in the game and it, I had never built a brand. So I wanted to do the things that I wanted to get a Shopify site up and I wanted to get inventory and I wanted to get a three PL obviously I know the growth part really well, but I didn't know all those other pieces of it.
And that, and that sense was super helpful. It sort of taught me the limits of performance marketing because I was literally like, man, With a good, you know, funny brand name and some click clicky ads, you know? We're going to charge a premium to these relatively commoditized supplements. And like, it didn't work.
Our conversion rate almost never got beyond one and a half percent. And so, you know, I think the decision was, was a few fold. You know, we learned a lot about our customers through the process of launching Poo-phoria and, and we realized that the brand name and the brand was not appealing to them. It was like me being silly and, and thinking that could be funny, but it turns out 75% of our customers were women and women were the most interested in things that help their digestive track.
Men were not all that interested. And so it was like, well, this name just didn't appeal to women, even though a lot of women would come to it. And that was kind of the customer thing. So that was a good learning. One of the skews we had was a fiber product and it was expensive to ship. It was like our margins were lower and retention and returns are horrendous.
Like 10% return rate retention would fall off after three or four months. And, and meanwhile, when people bought just our probiotic, which is like our afterthought product, pretension was amazing. Nobody ever complained about it and the economics were better. So we were like, oh, that's interesting. And then I think the third one was like, we got really specific about a customer and a pain point in a way that Poo-Phoria was just like everyone poops, everyone could do better.
Like, it just, it was very soft when it came to. Whereas what we heard this code word from women. Which is like, I don't like the word poop. Like I, well, how do I think about what bloated? I don't like being bloating. I don't like, you know, that's like not a happy feeling and that there's a lot of emotional and sort of physical things tied to that, that feeling.
And it was funny cause this really came bottom up from, from running in and then we validated top-down by going wait, tons of people are searching this term. That seems like a, you know, there's one third of women have it, like there's, there's something to this. And then we realized that there was an opportunity with our, you know, our, our manufacture.
To build a product that nobody else out on the market and, and our product specifically was like a probiotic, but it included special all the like special digestive enzymes. Like, you know, you have lactose intolerance, but you'll have other intolerances, a bunch of natural stuff, magnesium. So we were able to put together a product that wasn't there.
And so I think it was a bunch of it, it was the economics was the marketing, the brand name was who we went after specifically. And then it was like improving the product. And so I think it was all those things kind of. So I think when there was enough things wrong that let us quit versus keep going. Kind of answer your bottom line, your, your answer, right?
Like we, we push, we pushed for like four or five months. We tried a lot of different Hail Mary's a lot of big swings. We could not move the conversion rate despite everything I know. And I've seen, I've doubled in triple conversion rates for clients. I've seen a lot of that. And at some point you got to go, it's something very fundamental to this.
It's the brand, it's the product, some, you know, combination thereof. And if we're going to iterate the product, let's say the brand's not that hard to iterate. Let's just iterate the whole brand.
Watson: Well, that's, I'm sure it wasn't cheap, but that is a really helpful kind of framework for how to troubleshoot something like that.
The, the next thing I wanted to ask about was you've really, started hitting, hitting the Twitter threads hard. And I think it's, it's been working for you. So just in terms of what you've learned in terms of writing Twitter threads with consistency, getting them to be, you know, shared engagement, whatever.
I've seen the pomp Leon owes bro, blow up with him and you seem to be in a similar type of a trajectory.
Pujji: Yeah. I just copied what they did, honestly. No, yeah, I think, I think a couple learnings on Twitter, I'd say the first one is I would not start by writing threads. That's like one of the first things I tell people, it's a little bit of the tree falling in the forest thing.
You know, like if you have 200 followers or even a thousand followers and you start writing threads, It's just a, there's no one there to hear, you know, the tree falls sort of thing. And so I advise people, you know, really build up yourself to probably two to 3000 by. You know, engaging with the community, like you see a cool thread and you see someone saying something about something, you know, about like, this is how I started.
I was like, well, like here's a, here's an example of a data point. We found that it's contrary to what you're saying. Or here's something that we also learned that I would add to this, like open up DMS, start DM-ing people like really get to be part of that community. So that there's a bunch of people who, who,
Who are following you because they've, they seen, you seen, seen you say smart things and like what you're talking about, then I would try a couple of single tweet type things just to say, like my idea stick. And then I would probably start writing threads and I would obviously, you know, the way I did it was most of my threads to start were all just very personal.
Here's a story about Ampush almost failed in the beginning. Here's the story of an M and a situation we were in. And I, you know, I, I, in order to do that, I sort of followed. What I saw other people's formats and what they were doing. Like I didn't reinvent the wheel there. Obviously there some art to writing something that's kind of gets, gets people emotional and gets the curiosity.
And that's a, a real art.
Watson: But those principles of copywriting were probably also what you were using with some of these Facebook ads, right? Like it's not that in terms of stimulating actions, stimulating interest.
Pujji: Yeah. I get attention generate curiosity, you know, there's the influence principles, social proof feel that like, there, there there's some, and maybe it's so innate.
I don't even realize what it's like. Yeah. Why is the, one of the first threads I wrote was like. Setting up the situation for the beginning of Ampush and we almost fail or we had failed, we thought we were over it and everyone goes, oh my God, I want to read this. Right. And they want to get into it. Or like, you know, one of the other first ones was like the biggest mistake I see people make is X.
I'm going to unpack it now. And you're, you know, people are getting curious about it. So I think those things matter. And then, you know, the, the thing I do every week now is I write a bootstrap giant. And it's probably one of the more fun things, because I love learning about these stories. Like I love, You know, we've got one coming out tomorrow.
That's like such a cool story. It's so inspiring for me. It's so energizing for me. And, and then, you know, when I write it, people love them and, and it was, everyone goes, oh, that's such a good idea. And I was like, Did you like, where'd you come up with that? And it's so funny. Cause I'm like, I knew I liked those stories.
Like I love how I built this. I particularly love when it's bootstrap, because I feel like there's just, it's kind of a certain richness texture to it. But the first one I started, I was like, I love these stories. Let me just write one and see what happened. And the first one I wrote, it was insane. And I was like, oh, I'm gonna try another one.
Like, and that I did not have a master plan of like starting to write those. It just sort of, it came through me now.
Watson: Well that perfectly leads into my third of, of the last five here, which is in my opinion, the most intriguing of the threads that you've written, because I have a four month old daughter and I am not getting enough sleep.
So for the good people listening and selfishly for me, can you talk about teaching children to sleep when they're very young?
Pujji: Have you read the thread?
Watson: I have.
Pujji: Okay. I'm not think to tell you anything new. I mean, so, so I've had this conversation a lot, you know, when you talk to new parents and, and what I observed in the world when I talked to parents was how has being a parent and the degree to which they said most amazing thing in my life versus whoo.
You know, no parents says it sucks, but they’ll say this is really tough. Of course it's worth it, but it's tough. And I'm not really, you know, and I miss my old life and like, there's this big variance in people's response. And there were basically three variables. I, I noted that. I thought correlated strongly with that.
The first one was baby. Does your, does your kids sleep? Which means do you sleep is the most important one I think? The second one was, do you have some sense, some form of, of ample childcare, your parents live nearby. If a babysitter I'll pair, whatever. And the third one was like alignment with your spouse.
You know, what do you do when X happens? How in sync are you two working together? So I want to talk about number two, number three, but number one was like, everyone's like, well, no, there's two ways to make a baby sleep. One way is, is you wait until they're five or six months old or four months old. You leave them at all night to cry and they'll learn.
And I said, oh my gosh. I mean, people do that. I can never do that. You know, my wife could never do that. So that was not going to work for us. The other one I heard was you coddle them because eventually they'll grow up and you'll sleep on their own. And, you know, we were both like, ah, that's also like not cuddle, meaning they sleep in your bed.
If they need anything, you grab them so on and so forth. And so me being an entrepreneur and somewhat defiant, I thought that can't be true. Like I don't believe it. I just don't believe that's true. And so I went on this whole journey. Trying to disprove that those are the only two ways. Then it turns out there is a third way and I'm not the inventor of it.
Or like I just, I read a bunch of books and discovered in sort of synthesized what the, I think the major parts of it are. So what those parts are the first one that's the most non-intuitive is this concept of awake time. And so I'll have parents, like you have a form of goal to go, Jessie, my kid's not sleeping.
And my wife and I will immediately start asking them about their nap schedule. Why asked me what to ask you? How do you want me, baby? Don't see him and go, oh, the first thing you have to pay attention to is How long has your newborn awake, and in between their sleep periods and, and the reason that's important is, and, and the heuristic by the way, is 60 minutes of, of awake time when you're born and it grows by 15 minutes for every month they're alive.
So your baby shouldn't be awake for more than two hours. That's the bookends at any given moment. And the reason is because, you know, whenever you've done an all nightter. You've done all nighters. I assume I've done all nighters. Like, there's that like 2:00 AM second wind you got. And you're like, you were tired and all of a sudden you're like, nah, I'm ready.
Let's go another few hours. Right. And that's actually your body. Your body's like, oh my God, this person's still awake. They shouldn't be awake. They must be in a fight or flight situation. Let me give them adrenaline. So your body just releases adrenaline to your body. That happens to a newborn at like 65 minutes of awake.
And so a baby will be awake and they'll build, look sleepy for a second. And then they'll like, look, all giddy and happy. And it turns, it turns out, they're getting adrenaline in their body, which makes them harder to put to sleep, which means they sleep less. And that compounds in a really negative way. And so the best advice is like, it's like, like we would be super anal about it as like 45 minutes, put the kid back to sleep.
And I, my parents thought I was nuts until they were like, oh my God, you're six months old. You know, we went on a cross, cross worlds flight to Australia and my son slept through the whole flight and my parents were like, What kind of food do you know, are you guys doing, and so, that's a wait time is by far the number one, the second one is like all the five asses, which I'm sure, you know, just like there's this whole book called Happiest Baby on the Block.
The biggest of the 5s there. My kids are six and four. Now they're like a swing, stock, which is the pacifier, shush, which is the most important one. What's the blanket thing called. Swaddle, thank you. And then something else I can't remember, but the shushing, like it apparently in the womb, it's the sound of a vacuum cleaner.
That's how loud it is in the womb for the baby. So they're like any kind of like hairdryer noise or rain sound. The hairdryer noise is the best for a newborn really loud. And then there's a bunch of other things like routines getting them into like, it's funny by the way. Cause I have friends. Who didn't follow any of this.
And they have five-year-olds and they're still having trouble getting their five-year-olds to go to bed at night and to stay at about at night. And my wife, like, we look our kids even to this day at 8 to 8:30 they're in bed, and they're ready to go. That's just the routine that they're used to. So I could go on forever and ever, but there, there's a bunch of other pieces to the baby sleep stuff.
Watson: We'll link happiest baby on the block and that list there. But I can tell you that that has been shared between me and my wife and we are in the earliest stages of, of trying to implement that successfully, because you said in the first couple of months, there's not a ton you can do. It’s chaos.
Pujji: First couple of months or whatever, but I think once net, where you guys are at now is a good time to like, get the dream feed, maybe cut the night, feed out, see how the baby responds. If, if he or she is sleeping more than two or three hours stretches. The other thing I'll mention about that, just on that as like there's another like non-intuitive thing, which is nobody sleeps through the night.
So like even adults, we wake up every 90 minutes, babies wake up every 45 minutes. And so you're not actually teaching them to sleep all night. You're teaching them to go back to sleep once they've woken up. And once they prove they can do that, even for two hours, three hours, because they wake up every 45 minutes.
Then you can, if you remove some of the feeds and stuff, you can usually get them to sleep through the night.
Watson: One of the things that's interesting is that the REM cycle is different. The adults have like a four stage REM cycle. And when we're in like REM, which is when the hardcore stuff, that's when we're completely still, and for babies, it's the opposite.
They move during REM and they're kind of still during the other part. And so when we were Novices. We didn't know what we were doing. We'd see the baby move. It's like, oh, she must need us. And It's actually no, no, no, no. That is the time to like, let her kind of work it through. So, great, great thread.
Another question here.
I’m, I'm certain running out of time. So I'm just going to ask one more last and one then we'll, we'll aim our, our, our ask our final questions. I came across you by hearing you on the invest, like the best podcast with Patrick O'Shaughnessy, it is the only, and I've listened to every single episode of that show is the only episode that I've listened to more than twice, just because of the density of information there.
So we're going to link that as well for people that want even more insights from Jesse. But now that you guys are in business together, you're building a joint Colossus and doing these business breakdowns as another fantastic show, that I'm sure a lot of our listeners would enjoy. What have you learned from working with Patrick about he, how he approaches the world, his approach to business building and finance and investing and all that?
Pujji: Yeah. Yeah. I mean a ton of stuff. Patrick is a great guy. I mean, I think that's in and of itself an interesting learning. He's a, he's a very kind person. He's calm. He's thoughtful. He's just not. In my opinion, he's not the typical like bro tech entrepreneur who is like, oh, you know, in a pound three red bull, like that, he's the opposite of that.
And I, you know, I love that about him. You know, there's a few things like he, he's, he's really big on a very open calendar and open kind of exploration. And I think I tended to be, you know, I've gotten better at it by tended to be a pretty calendar person. And I'm not, I'm not a super organized person, but I like, I tend to just use my calendar and he's really good at like leaving day's open.
And I thought that's like a really, you know, interesting thing. He's really good at asking questions. And again, I, I'd say my default prior to that was being more of the, you know, I was like, nationals and debate and public Isiah. I'm used to talking and saying things and it was really cool to learn kind of the art of being a listener and asking questions.
And I still am really working on that. He is really, you know, I think, again, a person I look up to in terms of he's, he's figured out how to spread himself across a few things and do a great job of that. And show up for the things that he's able to show up for and bring a lot of value to. So that's really another thing I've learned from him. Yeah.
Watson: Right on. I mean, it's literally, it'd be always asked me what my favorite show is and invest like the best now business breakdowns has kind of joined that category, but it's just unfair that like that's now free and every other previous generation had like, I don't even know if you'd get that at an MBA.
It's like even surpass that in my opinion. Well, this has been fantastic, Jesse. I know that we've taken a lot of your time here. I want to ask the standard last two questions. Let's start off with where people can find you in the digital world. If they want to learn more about Gateway, follow you on Twitter, where can we point them?
Pujji: Yeah, sure. Yeah. Twitter J S Pucci P like Peter UJI, and then gateway.xyz as the website for Gateway X.
Watson: Perfect. We're gonna link that in the show notes. We're also going to link, all the other accounts that might be relevant and some of the books and stuff that we referenced in the show notes. For this episode, you can find it at goingdeepwithaaron.com slash podcast or in the app where you're probably listening to this right now.
But before I let you go, Jesse, I would like to give you the mic one final time to issue an actionable personal challenge to the audience.
Pujji: Yeah, sure. I could go a lot of different directions to this, but, I think, what I would challenge everyone to do is just remove the bottom five items on your to-do list. Like whatever's on your shoes right now, pull it out.
And just like, I'm not going to do these this week or next week. And instead I'm going to, I'm not going to guilt myself. I'm going to focus on these top three or five that I actually have to focus on, and I'm going to do a better job of that.
Watson: I, I am definitely guilty of failing to do that, but it's funny how, when you remove the kind of BS, like seven out of 10 tasks, you get a whole lot better at the top ones.
Pujji: Totally, Amen.
Watson: Awesome, Jesse, this has been fantastic. Thank you so much for taking the time to be on the show.
Pujji: Great job. Great having, great being here with you.
Watson: We just went deep with Jesse Pooja. Whoever out there has a fantastic day.
Thank you so much for listening to the end of my conversation with Jesse Pooja. Just two months ago, we interviewed Marshall Haas who is also developing his own holding company. I think that this is, pretty much the ideal of what most entrepreneurs are aspiring to all sorts of different outlets for their creativity, diversified revenue, income, and profits, and a ton of fun to continue building stuff.
So we're going to continue to look for entrepreneurs like these two gentlemen, if you haven't heard the Marshall interview, go check that out and hit subscribe because we'll be talking to more soon.
Thanks for listening. Connect with Aaron on Twitter and Instagram @Aaron Watson59.