Teresa Whalen is the CEO of CytoAgents, a startup focused on the development of solutions to combat persistent and potentially deadly strains of Influenza, COVID19, and other viruses.
Teresa’s career spans 20 years in the healthcare industry, including health technology executive, life sciences investor, and clinical pharmacist. She has brought multiple successful life-changing healthcare products to market.
She currently leads a team of clinical drug development experts and scientific advisory board members aiming to revolutionize treatment for respiratory illnesses and viral epidemics.
In this interview, Teresa and Aaron discuss the long process of FDA approval, how Teresa came to lead the company, and the dangers of a cytokine storm.
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Teresa Whalen’s Challenge; Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you.
Connect with Teresa Whalen
If you liked this interview, check out episode 338 with Courtney Williamson where we discuss developing a medical device or episode 413 with Dr. Gordon Vanscoy where we discuss his pharmacy that collects drugs for treating rare diseases.
Text Me What You Think of This Episode 412-278-7680
Brock Blake is the founder and CEO of Lendio, a marketplace for small business loans. Lendio offers borrowers access to loan options from more lenders than any other marketplace in the industry.
Brock has been building his company for nearly a decade and raised more than $100 million in venture capital. 2020 has stretched his team and tech to new heights, as they’ve facilitated over 100,000 PPP loan approvals and the issue of $8 Billion in funds.
In this conversation, Aaron and Blake discuss why Brock pivoted away from his first company, the challenges and constraints of scaling, and the values he’s instilled in his company culture.
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Brock Blake’s Challenge; Identify someone important in your life and go have an experience with them.
Connect with Brock Blake
If you liked this interview, check out episode 434 with Henry Schuck where we discuss his recent dollar IPO and becoming a billionaire.
Text Me What You Think of This Episode 412-278-7680
Casey Gauss is the VP of Amazon SEO at Thrasio. Thrasio is one of the most interesting companies I’ve come across in years.
Thrasio was founded in 2018. It has gone on to raise $520.5 million and be valued at over $1 billion. The companies has acquired more than 70 businesses that sell products on Amazon.
By bundling the companies together, they aim to build the CPG powerhouse (think Unilever or Procter & Gamble) of the digital age. Casey leads the team’s efforts in optimizing Thrasio’s 6,000+ product pages on Amazon to ensure that they rank high.
This translates into lots of sales. Thrasio is profitable ???
In this conversation, Casey and Aaron discuss the Thrasio business model, how the acquire companies in less than 45 days, and the philosophy behind selling online.
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Casey Gauss’s Challenge; Listen to audio books and increase the speed that you read them.
Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain by David Eagleman
On Intelligence by Jeff Hawkins
Connect with Casey Gauss
If you liked this interview, check out episode 413 with Dr. Gordon Vanscoy where we discuss building a Billion Dollar company selling rare pharmaceuticals, and episode 414 with Glen Meakem where we discuss FreeMarkets being a unicorn during the DotCom boom.
Text Me What You Think of This Episode 412-278-7680
Will Dzombak is a Pittsburgh native and one of the entertainment industry’s top music managers. He’s helped guide the career of Grammy-nominated rapper Wiz Khalifa and cofounded Taylor Gang Entertainment.
As a student at Penn State, Will co-founded an events company, where he booked Wiz Khalifa will he was still just a rising Pittsburgh rapper. After the first show’s turnout exceeded expectations, Khalifa sought out Dzombak’s help with booking more shows for him.
Within a few years, Dzombak has helped Khalifa create one of the most successful and consistent summer tours for the last 7 years. He’s also been one of the executive producers on Khalifa’s last three full-length releases.
Together, Wiz and Will have built Taylor Gang Entertainment, invested in the e-sports team Pittsburgh Knights, and much more.
In this conversation, Aaron and Will discuss the early days of Wiz’s career, their new restaurant Hotbox by Wiz, and the marketing strategies that they’ve been early to embrace.
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Will Dzombak’s Challenge; Start a second hustle.
Connect with Will Dzombak
Taylor Gang Website
If you liked this interview, check out episode 358 with Jamilka Borges where we discuss the restaurant business, and episode 450 with Brian Scott where we discuss better planting soil.
Text Me What You Think of This Episode 412-278-7680
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Watson: Alright. Well, thanks for coming in here and being on the podcast, man.
Dzombak: Of course. Thanks for having me.
Watson: So I reached out to you because I saw the news. I don't know if it was complex or wherever the headline was, that Wiz is launching a ghost kitchen, Hotbox by Wiz. And Hannah and I have been going crazy for like, just the general idea of ghost kitchens for a while now. It's clever, you know, not having the physical area where people actually come in, but it's all delivery. Tell me about the idea, like when the start of this happened and how long it took to Germany before you guys launched at the beginning of October.
Dzombak: So this idea came to us through a friend of mine, and it came up in May of this year, when everything was going on, and we worked on it all the way up through the launch. So, it's just a very interesting idea. We always- Wiz loves being in tech. I love being in tech things and being at the forefront of stuff. And when we were pitched the idea, we had heard about it and done a lot of research on it and how it all works financially. And this deal really made sense and was in a great place, better than a lot of the other ones that we had been talking about. So, our partners Ordermark and NextBite really, really knocked it out of the park.
Watson: Yeah. And the brilliance of it to me was not only is it very like tech forward and very like where things are going, as opposed to where things are, particularly in a pandemic, when not everyone's necessarily looking to go into a physical location to eat. But it's the kind of brand alignment where, you know, forever there's been the band, they play their songs, you buy the music and you buy the kind of standard merchants, a t-shirt or something. And that's as far as it goes. But the kind of brand that's been built around Wiz's music, is this, you know, In the cut, like w where, where in high, we're having our munchies and all the kind of names of the food on the menu as well. So it seemed like perfectly aligned.
Dzombak: That's what we love doing. And that's a huge part. But behind our strategy is, you know, to make him bigger than just the music, to make them a multifaceted whole business. You know, his app is the second most successful celebrity app ever. And it still crushes. You know, we, we had over 10 million downloads and still have over a million active users.
So it's all these different silos add into, you know, the excitement behind him and all the various things he does. And Hotbox was just another great thing to add into the character and everything that kind of goes on with it.
Watson: And it seems like there's just no stopping, like from the early mixtapes to Black and Yellow breaking out. And maybe, maybe that's not the framework that you have, but I have this memory of being at the first concert back at stage AE after Black and Yellow blew up, and just like this complete shift, it was just staggering. Like the, you know, the people around the corner for the concert and everything. But you know, there's no real relenting in terms of the business empire you guys are building.
Dzombak: That's one of the main things I live my life by and Wiz does is just like, if you ever stop learning, you stop growing. So we never want to be like, ah, we know everything. It's learning and evolving and growing because the guys that think they know it all are the ones that get stuck in. Stop crying.
Watson: Yeah. How has the model changed from like the early days when it was still very either a concert centric or album sales centric to streaming centric? Like how has the business of being a music artist changed since you kind of started with Wiz back? Was that 2007?
Dzombak: Yeah. It's just faster. It's it's because there's so much access to recording. So it's back in when we started, we were selling and pushing physical compact disc where you had to go print it and wait for it to be printed and make sure it wasn't messed up. And if there's a mess up, it's like a huge screw up. And now it's like, 'Oh, that was the wrong mix. Uploaded to the whole world. Ah, we can just switch it out. No, one's going to know.' And it's just a whole different world of speed and technology being in it and reading and researching and figuring out who are the hype piece and who are the real deal. Because, you know, you get pitched a million ideas every day and you got to know the key questions to ask and what to point out to know if someone's being legit or not.
And that's like the Hotbox thing, you know. We had heard other similar pitches similar, but it just didn't make sense. And when we really got in with Order Mark and Next Bite, it was like, okay, you guys really get it and understand how to grow this thing. And that's, that's, that's the biggest change I would say.
Watson: I think that's such an interesting filter and I think that the art of filtering the hype beast from the real deal, the ability to discern. Those characters and make that filtering decision. That's almost like one of the universal skills. So whether you're in the restaurant business or the music business, or any other business building that capacity, how have you, I mean, it's reps, but like how else have you honed that ability? Because you need it when you're deciding who to sign to your label. You're using that in every instance.
Dzombak: It's just, and I know you would agree with this, it's just, there's so much more data available now is really diving into the data and doing something with it. So many people will pound their chest. I have all this data it's like, yeah, but did you read it? Like, do you understand it? Are you just regurgitating what someone has already told you? And it's that, and I'm a huge believer in team and bouncing other ideas off people and being able to cut through the nonsense and what's real and important and the things to prioritize.
Watson: Yeah. And I'd imagine what also makes the speed possible. So it's actually like, kind of crazy. If you think about, like you talking about the speed of the music coming out, we're also talking about like the idea for a restaurant to a card was idea in May to restaurant launched in October that's four months.
That's someone who's got a lot of time and like no time at all. So that, that speaks to me, not only the partners that you had that were capable of spinning something up that quickly, how many of you guys launch with 50 locations?
Dzombak: Yep. And we're going to keep growing.
Watson: Yeah. And that's the capacity is, so can you talk a little bit about how that works? Like actually at the technical execution of a agenda, we have that partner, but like, are they finding the commercial kitchens for you and staffing that on your behalf and then like training them up on your guys' specific recipes?
Dzombak: Their software company, that's already in a lot of these restaurants. So a lot of these restaurants use their software.
So they're partners and they go out and pitch the idea to all their partners and they have thousands of partners across the country and test it out in key areas they think it'll work the best with. You know, great fulfillment partners that they already know, and they already do business with that they know are legit and then grow it.
You know, if you, if you go too wide at first, it'll it'll be too much.
Dzombak: So grow it, create a demand, and they have great connections and partners through their other businesses to do that.
Watson: And how did you guys come up with the menu? So like, like the names were fantastic, but even just like the specific foods would say your guys' favorite foods, was it stuff that was data tested that like people like wings or?
Dzombak: It was a combination of both. So they laid out a huge menu of things that they know work, are easy to do, are easy to replicate and all across the country and we narrowed it. And we had a whole conversation about Wiz's favorite foods. What he likes, what he doesn't like. And so we had a very broad menu and then did a taste test, which was insane. It was like a four-hour taste test.
Watson: That sounds like a good day.
Dzombak: 15 courses with a couple breaks in between to really get our appetite up. We tried so much food and narrowed it down into what fits and what's easy to, you know, keep quality control on.
Watson: And I think that that's such an interesting angle for this, because it is kind of personality centric. And if he didn't like Turkey burgers, it wouldn't make like, forget the margins, forget the, like it sells well. It has to be something that he can authentically, or like even the fact that you guys have so much, you there's all this kind of no knowledge in the public domain about Taylor Gang. That if, there was never a Turkey burger to be seen. Then it would be completely out of place for that to be on the menu.
Dzombak: That's goes back to what I was saying. That's how we build our brand and make things believable. It's things Wiz actually enjoys. You know, I'm not out here trying to sell cleaning products cause it's like, that would never make sense. And people would see right through this. Oh, these people clearly paid Wiz for an ad, but if we do things and come up with brands that he actually truly enjoys. It sells itself and makes the process way easier.
Watson: So how do you think about that persona then in the line of where everyone's like, multihyphenate? There's a musician or an artist or an entrepreneur or these other things, like, do you, how do you think about trying to bucket the persona in that way? Or are you always looking to kind of push it beyond whatever boundaries have been laid?
Dzombak: I think, not to either one of those points. It's just about keep growing. Yeah. Right. Because things are going to change. Like we talked about earlier, like when we first started, we were selling CDs, the MP3 download isn't even a thing anymore.
That's how much things have changed, you know? So I think it's just about. Constantly growing and coming up with new ideas and constantly evolving, because if you do the same thing over and over, people are gonna move past that because there is so much data, so many new things coming out constantly, you need to just constantly try different things and not be scared to try different things.
Because if you stay in the same box, people will be like, I know you do all that. That's dumb.
Watson: Yeah. So tell me about your evolution then. Like, let's go back to the start of you as manager back in 2007. You organized a concert at Penn state?
Dzombak: Yeah, so I was in a band in high school, and I was a big pop punk kid and I believed in all that touring that way.
And when all my friends decided, 'Hey, about the band thing, let's go to college instead.' I was like, ah, I just went to school, but I knew how to promote shows because I'd been in a band and doing shows and I was like 14. I was like, okay, I could get a real job or do this. And at the time, and at Penn state, the Mr. Smalls of Penn state was this bar called the Crowbar that closed when I was a senior. So the only place to see concerts was at the arena.
And I was like, Oh, I'm going to kill it. There's 40,000 kids here. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesdays are days no promoters want. At Penn state kids Thursday, Friday, Saturday want to go to a frat and drink. I'll take all the Monday, Tuesday, Wednesdays, pay a lower rate, and I have a built in audience of 40,000 people. If I can get 500 kids in there, I'm making money.
Watson: Yeah. That's a relatively easy ratio.
Dzombak: So I know that was a long winded explanation, but that's that. And, I had a fraternity brother I had met with the summer after senior year, between senior year of high school and freshman year of college.
And, you know, Pittsburgh, small, everyone meets everyone pretty easily. And it was just in passing, whatever. And I had a frat brother who really liked his music and the frat brother passed away and we did a Memorial concert for him with Wiz. And I was like, I'll reach out and see if they'd be interested.
And he ended up coming up to Penn state. We had enough money to pay him, but didn't have enough place for him to stay. So I was like, you can stay at my apartment. Then he ended up hanging out for five days. And we, you know, we just started our relationship there. And I went from being his assistant to road manager, to co manager, to manager, to business partner, and just been trying to grow and, and, you know, keep the wheels turning.
Watson: So like manager can mean so many different things. It can mean business strategist. It can mean fixer. It can mean consigliere. It can mean, you know, first critic on like a first track that gets produced. So how has that evolved? Like when your assistant, maybe that's more like run this era and get this task completed. How did that evolve as the business of Wiz evolved?
Dzombak: I think a manager's role is subjective and anyone can interpret it differently for the situation they're in. And Wiz is and I are not only, you know, business partners, we're best friends. We lived together for six years. You know, when we go on tour, we still have just share a bus and, you know, and so it's, it's all those things and more, you know. It's covering the whole spectrum and, you know, just supporting each other and being able to have the conversations and do all those various things and, and building a team and having him trust me to build the team around them, to execute, you know, his vision, because ultimately that's the goal is to support your friends and help them execute their vision.
I never wanted to be like a rapper. So, you know, I was always intrigued by the business of music, and that's that's my role, you know. And it's interesting in hip hop, you see so many people that have these managers that, I won't say the artist's name, but an artist that, you know, had some success, but it was much smaller than Wiz their manager got on the phone.
And I don't know from all status on the podcast, but tried to big dick me. I was like, I'm getting my porsche squashed and blah, blah. I'm like great. I'm calling you about a YouTube algorithm deal. Like what? I don't give a fuck. Oop- Excuse me.
Watson: It's all good.
Dzombak: But, you know?
Watson: Yeah. So, the funny thing about that and, not as long, but Hannah and I have been business partners for about two and a half years. And what I've found is it's, it's a bunch of conversations, but it's actually like just this macro ongoing conversation of this thing that we're building together. And how each conversation was like bleeds into the next, until you reach this depth of number one there's insane trust. Like you don't, you don't start with that great trust, but you, you dive deep into that and you reach it.
It's like, okay, I know I can trust you. You're going to go in that direction. Our visions align our missions aligned. And we can roll.
Watson: And I imagine that's a big part of, is like, just knowing, having the autonomy to make those decisions when things get really big and hairy.
Dzombak: Yeah. Yeah. And just being able to navigate all that.
And, you know, especially being in the limelight, there's a million other little chirper voices and being able to keep our communication clear, you know, with each other is a super special bond and something I love having with, with him.
Watson: Yeah. So tell me about like, was there a 'Oh shit' moment or was there a, a moment where you kind of look back as, I don't even know what the right word is like, like to me watching that crowd at that concert, after Black and Yellow, I was like, 'Oh, it's different.'
Like, I remember listening to some of the mix tapes, like we would be driving to our ultimate Frisbee tournaments. And my really good friend Pat, like was like, dude, this guy is the truth. And then it was this enormous concept. It felt like the entire city erupted with specific type energy. So that's, that's kind of like the specific moment for me, but were there moments along the way, in terms of just like this is accelerating beyond our wildest visions, or maybe you saw it all from the jump?
Dzombak: It was different for me cause I was just so in it, you know. And to me being a Pittsburgh kid, when we first started playing shows outside of Pittsburgh, to me, it was like, we are fucking lit. Screw these losers. Like we were doing a show in Cleveland and there's 200 people here. So for me, that was the moment.
And it was like, we got over you know, $500 for a show. Like no one else in Pittsburgh's doing that. Like in the hip hop world, like young, like us. So to me, that was the moment. And there were all, all types of like, you know, when cushion orange juice came out, that it was already zoomin. You know, one of my most exciting moments was right when flight school came out. Do you remember Club Zoo?
Dzombak: Wiz played Club Zoo. And it was so crazy packed, like I'm friends with the former owners now. And he was like, that was our biggest show by far ever. We were way over capacity. He was like, but it didn't matter there. And I remember pulling up and we were late and it was down the block, like almost to the Heinz history center. I was like, there's no way this is real. Like some someone got shot or something bad happened and it wasn't. And it was, I was like, Oh, it's, it's lit lit. And that was in like 2008, you know, like two years before Black and Yellow. So I just saw it through a different lens, but it's so interesting to hear when people caught onto the wave, you know?
Cause some people are like I knew was a cushion orange juice. It's like, yeah. But did you know him at this that and the city? And like when, when that was be successful and then some people were like, I I've known whiz since black and yellow. It's like, yeah, but he was doing for five years before that. So for me that was the moment just doing shows outside of Pittsburgh was like, this is crazy.
Watson: Was there also, I guess, a period where it's shifted from like yes, to everything versus mostly no. We kind of have to be strategic with this because I'd imagine imagined like the first time someone said, Hey, will you travel to this other city for this show?
It's like, hell yeah. Like, like we're doing everything we can, it's the ground game for hustling. And then at some point it's like, there's just an overwhelm of being hit up, DMs, inbound that like, we now have to shift into this, like other posture of strategically filtering?
Dzombak: I think right after like the excitement of Black and Yellow was like, cause at that time we were just running, running, running.
We weren't saying yes to everything at that point, but like being strategic at that time. And because it was, had had a, had gradual success, we were good at going through things, knowing what he's going to do, what he's going to not want to do. And, but I think when, cause we toured for almost two years straight.
When we got off that tour, it was like, okay, let's spend a whole summer where we just camped out, like got our bearings again and like, you know, just tightened it all up. And I think that's when we really got good at, you know, figuring things out and setting up base and growing.
Watson: Right on. So what about some of the marketing strategies that you guys employed? Because like there's the famous story of soldier boy going and like uploading, it wasn't cassava, what was the other free file upload?
Watson: Limewire. Like just uploading other files with the names of like, not his song, but it was his song that was like the file that people were downloading.
And all of a sudden it was like familiar, he's making these lists. Like were there moves that you guys made or like strategies that you employed to help fuel the growth to get it going?
Dzombak: It was, it was just taking advantage of the internet. I think taking advantage of Twitter and YouTube and MySpace at that time was power thing.
And, you know, there were so many kids in New York, you know, that they could be around the labels. And as a kid from Pittsburgh, you're like, I don't know anyone in New York. And being able to really use the internet. I think, you know, Wiz was one of the first ones to do it well along with, you know, like soldier boy, Drake, and in that world was what really changed, changed the game for us, for sure.
Watson: When we were talking with Chance from Keep Pittsburgh Dope, he was talking about how he watched the vlogs from the very earliest stages when it was just like a little handheld, whatever. And the amount of loyalty that that inspired from, from that perception of like, I knew him when, like I knew him from the earliest ages. But also just getting a more kind of comprehensive view of the artists that you're really into his life. Like what else are they doing in addition to putting out this amazing track.
Dzombak: think that that's super helped. And if you look at everyone's blueprint now, it's...
Watson: That's it.
Dzombak: That it's, exactly what we were doing at the time. And I think everyone's just trying to duplicate that. Like every kid has their own videographer now and like, everything is captured on everything at this point. And that was, I would say we were one of the, not first to do it, but we were one of the pioneers of recording everything on the internet.
Watson: Definitely. Do you know where that idea came from? Do you know like how that started?
Dzombak: Wiz was just always into YouTube. And then, one of his former publicists, Artie, had told him, you know, Twitter is going to be the next wave. He crushed Twitter and Wiz is really good on the computers. So back in the day, you know, I would shoot the footage if he was performing and then I'd have to go to school during the day, like back to college. And he would spend the weeks chopping up the footage, putting out day-to-days on his Mac book, editing everything himself.
So especially now, you know, when our videographers are editing stuff, he can be like, I know how long it takes to buffer. Like don't give me that excuse, you know?
Dzombak: You know, and he has all the knowledge and it was his vision. And I think that's why he's had so much success because he's played all the roles. He's been his own camera, man, you know? All those types of things.
Watson: Yeah. I mean, that's a consummate start-up story. It's like, I'm not an accountant, but I kind of have to know basic accounting to keep the lights on. And there's like every single vertical you have eventually wear that hat.
Dzombak: Totally, totally.
Watson: So another thing amongst the hats that you wear is a co-CEO of Taylor Gang Entertainment, which is the label that you guys developed together. And, so maybe just tell me a little bit about what goes into that.
And frankly, I don't really know a ton about the music business. Like we've been trying to cover stuff like, you know, Calvin Harris just selling his music library to like private equity and things like that. But at the kind of base level, starting a label like that and operating it, like what goes into that? How does the business model work?
Dzombak: It's just like any other business. There's multiple revenue streams from songwriting, performing, merchandise. And, for Taylor gang, where we offer multiple different services, we, you know, we have an investment vehicle. We have a management company, we have a production management company, and we have a record label along with our other business ventures. And just having a team that services it and delegating out, and everyone doing their job is it's just how, how we run our business.
Watson: Yeah. And is that an arena where there's like a lot of inmailing, in terms of people hitting you up and being like, I should be the next person on the label?
Dzombak: Every day. Yeah. Every day. Yeah.
Watson: So can you tell a story like maybe the times when someone's actually broken through, like what part of the differentiation was as opposed to just spamming you that maybe made that happen?
Dzombak: You know, for me, and like how I look at things is things have to be real. Like I was saying earlier, there's so much hype. I have to feel that it's real. So I need to have my own connection or Whitney's to have a connection with someone to feel it. Just everyone can make great music at this point, there's computers can make algorithmically good music that people are going to enjoy.
So you need to have a, you need to see a movement going on. You need to have a connection with that person. And I think that's how we get through it. Just like anything and seeing through the hype piece. That's why I love, you know, being in Pittsburgh is you can get a real gauge on thing where people in LA are like, 'this is the next thing,' I go to Pittsburgh.
And I asked some of my friends, have you ever heard of this? They were like, 'fuck, no.' You know, that's how you're like, okay, this guy that just told me he's a nationwide star, he's not. Because these people read pop culture things, they're in it. But they're, you know, they don't have access to all the hype beast, LA/New York things. And if they don't know, then I would assume there was some America doesn't know and you're just hyping me up.
Watson: Makes sense. So how much of your time do you spend between the two?
Dzombak: Before COVID it was like 70% LA 30% Pittsburgh. After, like now, I'm just here and we have an office here, the studios here, everything is on the internet. So as long as I have the internet can, can really work from wherever.
Watson: Do you feel like that's going to go back to 70, 30? 50, 50? Like, what do you-?
Dzombak: Who knows, especially with what's going on in the world. It's changing every day, all the issues going on in the world. I have no idea, but I'm loving being in Pittsburgh.
Watson: Yeah. I would imagine like, so I guess this deal got done for the cloud kitchen with- um, I'm blanking on the company names.
Dzombak: Order Mark.
Watson: Order Mark and Next Bite. That happened via zoom?
Dzombak: had to have meetings, a few in-person meetings. I have to travel a little bit, but nothing that I need to be out there for months and months at a time at just go do, do a few meetings, see who I need to see.
Watson: And, but that's part of the filtering though. You still need to kind of get in the room with the same person like that. That's just, I don't see that going away any time.
Dzombak: No, but I think it'll be much less intense than what it used to be. Like, I just heard, you know schools there's no more snow days.
Dzombak: You heard that, like, it's just the changing of times. And I think, especially after COVID, tons of businesses are going to look like, 'Hey, we spend so much money on overhead and we were pretty much just as like efficient with everyone working on zoom.' I am the number one believer in in-person and that's how you really develop a relationship, but who knows how the world's going to shift.
Watson: Are there other things that you guys need to cut out though? Because a lot of like, if you're creating content, if you're uploading something to YouTube, if you're putting out like IP basically it has this, it's very light. The reason that a lot of people aspire to that as a business model is when it works it's a very high margin endeavor, right?
Dzombak: It depends. It just depends. Everyone's different, you know, everyone's different.
Watson: So another question that I had was associated with, what do people not appreciate about the business that you guys have run? Or what you've built? Like what, what is like a misconception?
Dzombak: That everyone just gets drunk and high and hangs out all day. And everything's awesome. Yeah. I push very hard to keep it like any other business. Like I get up early, go to work, you know, have employees, have meetings, everyone needs to do reports. It takes a lot to move a train. And I think, just like anything, you can make anything look good on the internet.
And that's the whole point is to make it look like everything's sweet. But people believe that that's just how every single day is. It's like we could put two weeks of footage into, you know, eight minutes and people think that's all one day. It's like, that is not how every day is.
Watson: Yeah. That was the highlights of the highlights.
Dzombak: This is a highlight reel of the last two weeks. This isn't one day. This is everything that happens in eight minutes.
Watson: Yeah. You live in a spreadsheet or in some sort of invoicing software, isn't it?
Dzombak: Yeah. People have no idea that accounting exists or lawyers or anything negative in the music industry. 'You just get high and like make music and like enjoy each other's company.' Like yeah. Right. Not that we don't do those things, but like, that's not the one I think we do.
Watson: Yeah. And that's, that's also the brand that's being built. And what most of the fans are going to interact with and want to understand.
Dzombak: Yes. Yeah. And you know, we know that too, and there, there's definitely a fun side and I am beyond blessed, and we all are, to be able to do what we do. But when people think it's, 'Oh, you guys just got lucky, smoked weed on everything. And it was great.' Like, no way.
Watson: Yeah. So what about anything for the future? Like what is next outside of obviously more music inevitably, but what other kinds of projects have you really stoked for next steps?
Dzombak: We have a couple of different virtual reality things that we're working on that I'm really excited about. And I think that's a really tough space, and, you know, I'm excited to grow the companies that we have.
I'm excited to grow Hotbox and watch it become like a household name. Same with our cannabis company. We're partners in Shop GLD. And I think that's a really fun, cool business. And, and we have a liquor McQueen in the violet fog we're partners in as well. And watching that is like watching an artist career.
Like, you know, it goes from small and as, as it gets bigger and bigger, it's like a fun puzzle to figure out.
Watson: So on the VR front we've talked to Travis Scott concert in fortnight. Marshmallow did one, like, is that, is that kind of adjacent to what you're talking about?
Dzombak: Yeah. Yep. Both of their managers are good friends of mine, and everyone did it a little different.
We've already done one. We did it within Oculus, with Oculus in their venues app.
Dzombak: We did one, thug did one, gunna did one. There was like, it was like a seven part series, I forget, who did the rest of them, but, you know, it was really cool to see how we could build out the stage and can make things happen around, you know, in this whole world.
And it was really interesting to like, be in an audience where you could talk to other people sitting next to each other, but you weren't actually next to them in real life. There was a crowd though. You could hear other people's conversations. It was, it was really neat. Yeah. And it's just a taste of, 'Oh, it's going to get so much better in the next 10 years.' and I think in, you know, in 10 years, it's going to be ridiculous.
Watson: Yeah. I went to South by Southwest, I want to say in 2017, and I tried it and I had had like two drinks. And I put them on and I was literally physically nauseous immediately because the, whatever the pixels are, the processing rate, it just didn't, it didn't work out.
And then over the last holiday season, my in-laws had gotten the Oculus and we just like played around with it in the living room. And it was staggering, the amount of improvement that's happened in just that short a time. And I would just imagine, so, where that takes me is like the standard model for a tour is we do this show. And there's little tweaks happening, but like the, the equipment and the staging and everything that gets picked up. And it travels to the next city and that gets picked up and travels to the next city.
And we kind of have to pick the cities that we know can sell out venues of a certain size. But it's the same show over and over again. It seems like the potential with VR is that whole business model shifts to, we could create one spectacular show, put the whole budget of all those 30 locations into one show one time, and then sell not just to those markets, but to all the markets everywhere.
Dzombak: Yes. That is a possibility. I think, like we said earlier, there's always something to be said about those in-person experiences, which is why I will never go away. But I think that will become more of an option. And I think that option will really grow with DJs in the EDM world and stuff like that. Where, you know, people can feel like they're in a concert and, you know, especially those EDM concerts, like they can put their headset on and just live in this crazy world and be on Molly or shrooms or whatever. And just be like, this is crazy.
Watson: Yeah. Because they are already relying on the light because it's not the music.
Dzombak: It's not like the music is like some in-depth musical, anything, or even the lyrics matter that much in that world. In that world people are just like, 'mm.'
Watson: It's experiential.
Dzombak: And like, they want to look at the lights and like be with their friends. And if people can just get drunk and put a headset on, in their living room, Game-changing.
Watson: Yeah. What about gaming? What about like the, the persona of like, we're into gaming, we're correlating with some of these like gaming bands, like hundred thieves, ones like that?
Dzombak: Yeah. We're partners in the Knights. We were early partners in them. We've been partners with them for a few years and their, their backend is really cool. And I think they're just building, you know, we're building out the brand like anything else. And all those companies, the thieves, faze, clan, all, you know, they, everyone has their strengths and weaknesses and yeah.
It'll be interesting to see where the space goes. We did a super cool streaming event with them. It was like eight hours. And we raised like over 65 grand for charity with them in April, or May. I forget, but you know, that world is ever evolving and as much as it is gaming and tournaments, it's content just content in general.
Watson: And that, to me, that seems like another arena, very similar to hip hop, or like we can kind of be under the same banner of, of the same level or same team. But we're also like very kind of independent in terms of the expression of how people consume us or people, how people consume these different personas. It seems like there's a lot of similarities there.
Dzombak: Definitely, definitely.
Watson: Cool. Well, we're close in time limit here. Before we ask the last two questions, anything else you were hoping to share about restaurant? Anything else I didn't give you a chance?
Dzombak: Just make sure you try Hotbox by Wiz. Khalifa Kush will be in Pennsylvania soon. Try McQueen in the Violet Fog. It's in wine and spirits. Go check out the Pittsburgh Knights page. Check out the Taylor Gang page. Yeah. All those fun things.
Watson: Right on. And If people want to connect with you in the digital world, I don't think I have too many aspiring hip hop artists, so I don't think you necessarily get that spam, but, but where can people find you on there?
Dzombak: My Instagram is @wgd6788 and my Twitter is just @realTaylorGang.
Watson: Well, so is that, the WGD six, seven - I just said it wrong...
Dzombak: Birthday and initials.
Watson: Birthday and initials, simple enough. Okay. Cause the first time I saw it, I like saw the account, I was like, ah, this is just like some sort of a spam account, but I was wrong.
All right, so let's leave folks. We'll link to all of that stuff, all the brands. If you wanna check those out, and Will's links in the show notes for this episode, you can find it at GoingDeepWithAaron.com/podcast or in the app, where you're probably listening to this right now. But before I let you go, I'm gonna have you issue an actionable personal challenge for the audience.
Dzombak: Find a second hustle. If you can't find a second hustle, you're not doing enough because there is so many of them out there, and it doesn't need to be massive. No matter how big or how small, you can always find a second source of income.
Watson: So tell me about the ranking of the hustles when you were still at school at Penn state. So you're going to classes, you were promoting the concerts in the first half of the week. And you were also going from personal assistant to co manager to manager for Wiz.
Dzombak: Yeah. So at school it would be doing the shows during the week and then Thursday, Friday, Saturday Wiz would usually have shows. I'd have to drive back to Pittsburgh from Penn state. Do the shows, fly out, come back, drive back.
Watson: Right on.
Dzombak: So that was a pain in the ass, but it works out.
Watson: But I mean, that's what it takes for, if you want a special result, that's what it takes.
Dzombak: Totally. Two hustles.
Watson: Amen. Well thanks for coming on the podcast, man. I appreciate you coming out here.
Dzombak: Of course, thanks for having me, I really appreciate it.
Watson: We just went deep with Will Dzombak. Hope Everyone out there has a fantastic day.