In a world flooded with other professional networking platforms like LinkedIn, how can a startup compete to solve problems like finding meaningful connections better than the competition? In this episode, Ryan and Robert talk with Kris Eul, Co-Founder of Kinetic, a new professional networking platform prioritizing valuable conversations to build meaningful relationships. Learn how Kris went from a Wizard of Oz prototype to launch and his journey as a founder.
Kris Eul: I was the wizard behind the curtain, you got it. Before we even thought about building a product, we wanted to say, okay, we have these interviews. We said, okay, we have something here. People want a place where they can connect you know, more genuinely and build deeper relationships based on where they're going, not where they've been, but let's like actually put this in motion in the scrappiest way.
Ryan Hatch: Welcome to exploring product, where we go behind the scenes on what it really takes to bring new products to market. Too often, people focus just on the success stories. Our aim is to flip the script. We try to unpack what product teams actually go through in trying to bring new products to market. I'm Ryan Hatch.
Rob Kaminski: And I'm Rob kaminski. Every day, we're trying to build products that our customers love and we know just how messy and difficult product work can be. We don't have it all figured out and we're okay with that. Join us on our journey as we explore the world of creating new products.
We are stoked to have Kris Eul with us from Kinetic - founder and CEO. And we're going to talk through his journey. of Building out a new product and business everything from getting started all the way up to raising money. So it should be a great conversation. Kris, thanks for joining us.
Kris Eul: Yeah. Thank you guys both for having me. This is great. I'm super excited.
Ryan Hatch: You bet.
Rob Kaminski: Yeah.
So for those of you who maybe don't know kinetic or you maybe talk a little bit about, what is kinetic like your intro story and we'll kick off from there and just kind of unpack as we go along.
Kris Eul: Yeah, you bet. little background on kinetic, you know what it is, and the website, you can check it out. joinKinetic.com. We have fully functional product up where people can sign up today. What it is and what we're doing in the grand vision is we wanna make the who you know, equitable in professional careers. So we really want to work towards eliminating that barrier of not knowing someone to prevent someone in their professional journeys and their growth.
And so a little bit of background on, on how we got here is 10 years I the opportunity to work with some you know, professional sports teams and large CPG brands building and deploying social tools and actually too and in full transparency, you know, I got to do that with a couple of the partners at Headway, both Eric and Andrew, and so, you know, fresh out of college and, you know, in their early 20s, we're we're partnering with these sports teams and these brands, and they're leaning on the three of us to, and somehow we got to convince them to trust us, to build these tools and deploy it to mil- you know, the millions of followers.
And what we found really early on was that we could gamify the system. Because of the way that social media is structured. So because of the vanity metrics or the micro actions that's social media is built upon the likes, the follower counts the notifications, the scrolling in the feeds, you know we learned really early on that if that's what, you know, the clients wanted and ultimately the brands wanted, and that's how they measured engagement, we can make that happen all day long.
And actually one of tools that we deployed for a team works so well that within a couple of hours of deploying it and they're hosting a it on their website, the pro shop website, we actually crashed site within a couple of hours because it was just, you know, it's just this influx of traffic from, you know, millions of followers from both teams. So, you know, after realizing that it kind of had this epiphany of like, you know we're all connected, but we're not really connecting, you know, a a like, or a share or you know, a notification that someone's viewed profile like that doesn't really help me build relationship that doesn't really help me connect in a deeper manner.
And so, you know, after doing that for a few years, we kind of walked away from social media and said, Hey, like, you know, we don't feel like we're really moving the needle. We don't feel like we're actually contributing to something better because we're just, again, kind of gamifying the system.
And I think that was also validated. You know about a year ago, Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter was on a podcast the times the daily podcast. And he actually mentioned in that episode, is like, you know, if I were to go back, one of the first hires I would ever bring onto the team would have been a game theorist.
Because ...I would have wanted to know how we, how highlighting those metrics as, as far as followers of retweets and counts of likes would have impacted the behavior of the members and the users.
Rob Kaminski: Mm-hmm [affirmative].
Kris Eul: And he's like, if I could go back that would be one of the first hires I would ever make and bring on to the team.
And I think that's totally, completely fascinating. and on point, as far as how it's gamified in giving you to do actions versus having the conversation. So along the way, you know, uh, you see the world's largest professional network not to name names here, but you see the world's [laughs] largest professional network online at
Rob Kaminski: Yeah.
Kris Eul: ...770 million members.
And the irony behind it is that it's the largest world's largest professional network, but it's at, isn't actually built to help professionals network with one another, right? built on the same social media principles that gets get in the way of the actual connecting and the conversation the relationship building. So,
Rob Kaminski: Yeah.
Kris Eul: ...you know, after you know, after building social tools for a few years uh, gig I did was, you know, across the enemy lines. I went from Wisconsin in into Minnesota here where I now reside. Had never been to Minnesota. Of course. Meet the girl. who is now my wife and mother of our children.
And she gets me to cross enemy lines and you know, I end up come, first, you know, looking for a job. and meet a, a gentleman by the name of Chris Smith, who was you know, starting up company called Kipsu. He needed his first sales higher, You know, had never been a quota-carrying salesperson before.
So I said, Hey let's give it a try. If you're willing to give me the opportunity. I'll figure it out. And came on as employee number five, you know, over the last five and a half years we built the company from the five of us to just over 70 full-time employees. You know, we went from like 30 partners to 2,700 in 40 different countries.
And we, I really got to experience going through like that full cycle of, being one of the early hires to you know, having you know HR you know, It's uh, having committees
Rob Kaminski: Right.
Kris Eul: ...within you know, committees and different organizations, you know, subcommittees within the organization. And, you know, having to think about paid time off and, you know, 401ks and all sort of stuff.
And I was like, gosh, I never... you know, I thought I was gonna be successful. we hired anyone after me let alone, you know, 60, some other people. So yeah, was really exciting to be able to see that and to be part of that and you know, again, think about now that we're building kinetic, what goes into building that early foundation, how critical and vital it is as we look to you know, prepare ourselves for the years of ha- years ahead. April of, or, you know, March of last year, right? Pandemic. Lot of transition where you see record unemployment you see a lot of people moving either unemployment or underemployment and there still was this need to connect and to have dialogue and to have really thoughtful dialogue with one another force for professionals in particular.
And the options just weren't cutting it. And so, you know, what what Andrew and I did was we sat back when we said, Hey, maybe this is the time - you know,, we were literally sheltering in place. We can't go anywhere, but we still need to talk to other people. We still need to be able to network and communicate and do it really effectively versus this kind of hodgepodge of, okay, let's roll LinkedIn, let's email a bunch of people let's check, you know, let's send out a bunch of blind slack messages. Hopefully someone responds. Let's take the guesswork out of building the network and do it really thoughtfully with the members' best interest at the forefront. And So we put up a basic landing page.
Rob Kaminski: So hang on. Before you jump in-
Kris Eul: [crosstalk 00:08:39]
Rob Kaminski: That's was so good because the question I have is are you still at Kipsu right? Like your or are you like, are you on this hiatus of, well, we're all-
Kris Eul: Yeah.
Rob Kaminski: ... have nothing going on or is this a side project at this time when you're like maybe now is the time?
Kris Eul: [crosstalk 00:08:54]
Rob Kaminski: What was happening then?
Kris Eul: So, you know So I was furloughed, right? So Kipsu serves the hospitality industry and I, you know, I knew it was coming right. Like when the industry that you serve, they're not only cut, closing their doors, but they're like selling assets at the time. Like you're going to be one of the line items to go. Right. And so it it was nothing that, you know, that we could avoid it. Obviously the pandemic created something that was unforeseeable, you know Chris and um, still 100%, you know, if he's the mentor to me, he's actually an advisor to the company. Like I think the world of him he's, you know he's trained me and grown me to you know, levels beyond my wildest dreams. So we still are very close he is a trusted advisor to us as well.
Rob Kaminski: So blessing in disguise, right? You got to almost-
Kris Eul: blessing in disguise.
Rob Kaminski: ...focus on this.
Kris Eul: Absolutely. So, this was, if it was ever gonna happen now is the time, right? Because again, you know Andrew and I have talked about this over the years of like, gosh, how, you know, uh, not to calling one out or bang on it, but like how garbage is this? Like how, like ridiculous is the fact that it's still so difficult to find help from help that I can also help, like that's the kicker. It's like, I'm not only asking for help, but I also have experiences and insights that can help you too.
Like why is that so difficult right now? And we just you know-
Ryan Hatch: stop, stop right there. That's great.
Kris Eul: crosstalk
Ryan Hatch: So before, so just so the audience knows what Kinetic is. Just give the quick overview of like, What Kinetic is, that's the problem you saw. And then let's peel back We'd love to talk about how you really got started with it.
Kris Eul: Yeah.
Ryan Hatch: what is Kinetic?
Kris Eul: So, you got it. So what can Kinetic does is we you know, are the place for where professionals build meaningful relationships. So through gold-based introductions, office hours and monthly coffee clubs help members within our community accelerate their progress.
Rob Kaminski: So you're creating those like friction moments where people could actually connect in a non-superficial way It's kinda how I
Kris Eul: A hundred percent, yeah. you know we have a lot of factors that go into the process of how we connect people really thoughtfully when folks sign up and they create their profile and Ryan, I apologize if I'm jumping the gun here, but when they create their profile
Ryan Hatch: Great.
Kris Eul: You know, two things that we really highlight and focus on are what are you looking to learn?And what are you looking to share? Right. That alone. We want to focus on what you're doing and where you're going versus where you've been. I think the biggest, you know, the, one of the biggest challenges that we continue to hear during our our customer interviews was that all of the suggestions on these other channels are all based on things I've done in the past, but that's not where I'm going.
I'm starting something comdi- completely different. Or I'm looking to do a side project in a different industry that I've been a part of, I don't know anybody. So help me get that insight, help me find.
Rob Kaminski: Yeah.
Kris Eul: ...You know, relevant people that I can talk to and I can engage with that. I can also help, so I can build relationships you know, better than just sending out blind and cold emails.
Ryan Hatch: Yo- You're connecting with so many people connections, but they're all artificial connections and there are actually, you know, who's actually aligning with you on, you know, the people that are actually trying to do the same thing. Future based.
Kris Eul: Right? Right, Exactly. Yeah.
Rob Kaminski: All right, so I'm gonna go back You [inaudible 00:12:30] You said, all right, we gotta do something.
Kris Eul: Yeah.
Rob Kaminski: So you reach for landing page. Like,
Kris Eul: Yeah.
Rob Kaminski: that's, have you done that before? did you hire someone What did you-
Kris Eul: No.
Rob Kaminski: how much effort you put into that first landing page?
Kris Eul: I Put in no effort into it. And I assigned that to Andrew, so that was great.
Rob Kaminski: Nice.
Kris Eul: I said, Andrew, you got time, man. You got all the time in the world.
Rob Kaminski: Yeah.
Kris Eul: No. So for context I'm talking about, you know, headway. Partner and CEO, Andrew Verboncouer, But you know, Andrew and I have been , childhood, you know, buddies for, 20 and we know, each other for 20 years. stood up in each other's weddings. Like our families are close. So like, you know, this is one of those things that has always been in the back of our minds.
Like, why is this happening? Why is this happening? So before we get into the landing page, though, this was the thing, you know, so we I guess that's fair. We put up the landing page. It actually full transparency. Right? We're talking about exploring product. We were called clink.
What does that even mean?
Rob Kaminski: What is that? Are you in Jail? Are you in the clink? How did-
Kris Eul: So that's actually the Australian term for a jail cell. Like, and it's like what were we doing? You know, we were thinking of like, oh, clinking of the glasses, people meeting-
Rob Kaminski: Yeah. ...
Kris Eul: Like, it's happy hour type and it was the website was clink.chat And the only thing that we put on the landing page was like network anytime and a, like one line, like first name, last name, email, like hopefully people show up and sign up. you know, they're interested in whatever this is,
Rob Kaminski: Yeah.
Kris Eul: so that, that was our landing page. Super simple. Like there was no product we weren't making doing anything.We just wanted to get feedback. Yeah.
Rob Kaminski: [crosstalk 00:14:10]
Kris Eul: Yeah, so we emailed, you know, we emailed the link to a couple of you know, threads that we're a part of. And just hoping that people would sign up. Right. You know, so, you know, one of the, one of our unfair advantages I think is because we've, we've been in the startup space now for like the better part of a decade.
We have groups and pockets of people that we could send this out to. that we're, you know, are early adopters in general of new sites and technologies. so we sent it out to them and we had about 100 people sign up and we're like, okay, that seems sufficient. And we started having user interviews and you know, it wasn't until.
like, You know, a couple months ago that Ryan, Ryan was actually a host on another another show that we did Ask the experts and he's like, yeah, you need about 30 user interviews. Well, we we did 110. We just like really wanted to make sure
Ryan Hatch: So awesome.
Kris Eul: this is really a problem that we are solving. So
Rob Kaminski: I love that.
Kris Eul: [crosstalk 00:15:05] yeah, I mean, after 110 interviews, you know we realized that every single person that signed up on our landing page had a LinkedIn accountand it's like, Game on, like we got it. Like we can do something here now, whether this is actually gonna work and then would people pay for it. that's a whole different story. But they're like, that was enough, like enough validation for us to say, okay, well, let's figure this out and let's put something, let's put something out there and let's see if like we can start matching people.
And so that's when we started introductions.
Ryan Hatch: Okay. now, hold on a second. You get this landing page out to all your network. Then these are all people, you know, these are like communities you're in, right?
Kris Eul: Yeah.
Ryan Hatch: I mean People, you know, as well, but you said you get 100 interviews. did you get 100 people to talk to you like that's super hard. Even there.
Kris Eul: Yeah. Well, you know what? it, Well, a lot of the, the communities that we send this out to were part of like start-up or entrepreneurship. groups. And so it was like, you know, Hey, like, Hey, we're new. We're trying to figure ourselves out.
Like, is there anything I could do for you? Like, is there any way, could I have five minutes? I mean you're just hustling like, you're just like
Rob Kaminski: Yeah, you just hit on something that we talked about quite a bit. There's, like Even like people want to sell their product. You're not selling Clink at the time you're selling,
Kris Eul: No.
Rob Kaminski: ...Hey, I'm Kris. please help.Almost like
Kris Eul: Yeah.
Rob Kaminski: I, I call it the pity strategy, right?
Kris Eul: Oh yeah. It is, it is.
Rob Kaminski: Like, spend some time with me so I could learn. And in the community, I think you probably resonated where people have been in that spot and you know, these people and they come in,
I think that's awesome.
Kris Eul: Yeah and I had some Really great conversations is this. And I found it almost like therapeutic while we're sheltering in place.
So, like we're talking to new people. Right. And just to like have conversation and have dialogue and it was just so fun to hear about what people are doing what they're up to. And, you know, it was really interesting too. It's like, it, wasn't only just like, you know, these founders these entrepreneurs that had that were starting a new venture or part of new ventures anything like that.
but it it were, it was a lot of You know, like corporate, like you know, those in, in corporations and larger firms that are. like, You know, like I just want you to plug into startup scene. Like I don't have a good way, like I'm in supply chain or logistics or branding. And I love my nine-to-five and I want to keep paying the bills, which, you know, my nine-to-five provides and I've loved my W2, but you know, what I'd really like to do is something fun in my spare time and support these startups, in my community, like how can you connect that?
And I was like, Absolutely. Like there's another job be done, which I'm sure we'll touch on too, but we love talk about jobs and it's like, bam, like there's one. We haven't thought of.
Rob Kaminski: Yeah,
I love the hustler's mindset. I think it's overlooked in early stages. Like you're selling something and people confuse what you're selling. you have to just be super scrappy, which I know
you were through that. so interesting and we almost validate you know, in a way we validated Why kinetic just through those interviews, because when you can have a conversation, there's an idea, or there's a concept known as media richness theory or MRT, and it describes the channels of which to have certain conversations the more complex uh, or complicated the topic is.
Kris Eul: The more important it to have those that verbal dialogue whether it's in person or over video. And because we couldn't be in person, Our next best option was video, which clink at the time, focused on, we could actually have that conversation be like, oh, what you mean by that? Or, yeah, that's a great, that's a great point.
And guess what else we can do or guess how we're thinking about? And so it's not only just. like, Hey, like, let me sell you on getting on Clink, but it's like, Hey, like tell me about what you're struggling with and and how can not only Clink help, but how can I help and how can I help you get to that point? or just like be a resource to you along the way.
And that's where we started building early credibility and validation of like, wow. like this, Like somebody cares to help me, like everyone else is just like, you know, scrambling and, you know, has their hair on fire because like we're losing jobs and we're, you know, we're record unemployment and everything else you know, was going around.
We have a pandemic going out, but like, I still need to like, get work done and someone's willing to take the time to help me. Like, That's phenomenal, you know,
Rob Kaminski: Yeah. that's pretty cool.
Ryan Hatch: I think one of the most amazing things that we'll talk about about your story, Kris, is, what you just started to hit on, which is, Hey, no- not only how can clink help, but how can I help?
And you became this concierge, you became this, you know, this human side of the business where they're not just on a landing page, or just this this other thing. You started to servicing it. Can you unpack a little bit, like you got the landing page How did you guys get your first, what was the first product?
How did you service them? Just kind of talk about that. Like you got these interviews going, but what are you going to pull them into?
Kris Eul: So Oh my gosh. I just, I can't
Ryan Hatch: Were Were you doing it were you doing it by hand? or what, what what ......
Kris Eul: Yes, I was the wizard behind the curtain. You got it. And there was no MVP. I mean, Before we, you know, even thought about building a product, we wanted wanted to say, okay, we have these interviews, you know we knocked out these interviews.
We said, okay, we have something here. People want a place where they can connect build deeper relationships based on where they're going not where they've been. let's like, actually put this in motion. in the scrappiest way, right?" And and there, I just like, [crosstalk 00:20:59] being scrappy like, we didn't even plan that, but like who knows however that happened?
Rob Kaminski: Jacob BMC. thanks Jacob.
Kris Eul: Yeah, exactly. But we like do this, you know, we had no money, right. Like my wife. Sure. Wasn't going to be like, oh yeah, like go invest money in this. See what happens. like, no, there's no way. So we did it we took all the emails. We put in an Excel We asked, you know, like the same five or six questions in the interviews.
We put those, you know, we put those in the spreadsheets as well. And we started, and it's like, you know, year, just over a year to the date. it was like May 6th or something. We started with like five email introductions and it was just, you know, Hey, and I,
Rob Kaminski: wow.
Kris Eul: You know, it wasn't like the interest were like that aligns by any measure because you have 100 people all with different you know, backgrounds and interests and goals, and it's like, the sample size is like not sufficient at all.
Rob Kaminski: Yeah.
Kris Eul: And you also have to think about availability, right? So it's not only that I have, or you know, that we had these 100 people that signed up, but are you available? this Week to have an introduction that you can later schedule between yourselves to have a conversation. So, you know, I think again, that first week we had like 10 people, right.
But Hey first five introductions. and-
Rob Kaminski: And So you literally went from landing page, it listed people did 100 interviews of them, list of 100 and then there's no product you're hopping on your email account and saying this email, plus this email, Hello
Kris Eul: Yep.
Rob Kaminski: ...to you both, like
Kris Eul: Totally, Yeah. Yeah. This is-
Rob Kaminski: Okay, total wizard of Oz. like
Kris Eul: [crosstalk 00:22:35]
Rob Kaminski: [crosstalk 00:22:36]
Kris Eul: Yeah. Totally.
Yeah, totally. You know, it's like, okay, this person's looking to learn this and this person is looking learn this. And it's like, because you don't have a product, everything's free form. So you like trying to decipher like what they're actually saying.
Rob Kaminski: Yeah. Wow.
Kris Eul: ...I ... Some of those you know, first few introductions, the first few weeks were like, just like, like, you know, again, it was like a healthy mixture of you know, people that I knew and and people that know.
And so it was really interesting about that. It's like, you know, I'm texting calling people It's like, Hey, like I made the introduction three days ago. It's like, You need to follow up with them, man, like I was like
Ryan Hatch: Wow.
Kris Eul: ...doubling down in this thing. So I'm like calling and texting like, you need to help me out. You signed up, you need to get this [crosstalk 00:23:17].
Ryan Hatch: Yeah.
Kris Eul: like, you better show up, dude, but-
Ryan Hatch: my name's on this. You better call me back.
Kris Eul: Exactly. Like, I'm like, like I just quit my, job. I can't go back.
Rob Kaminski: Sorry, I gotta pause there. that's brilliant. You're mimicking. Like the customer value. Like you're pretending that there's a network when there's not you. you really got was like the first 10% of attention. And you're pretending the other 90% is there from the people who interact with you.
Kris Eul: Totally. Yes. yeah.
Rob Kaminski: That's what- that's really. You're almost creating the supply of what you're selling, even though you didn't have the supply for it.
Kris Eul: Oh, we don't have supply,
Rob Kaminski: [crosstalk 00:23:48]
Kris Eul: Yeah. We only, We have very Minimal supply. So, yeah, so it was a lot of texting, you know, my personal contacts And I actually made sure that like, when we were doing those introductions, it was always between someone like, I didn't know.
And I did know so that I can make sure to follow up with the person I did know in case they didn't sign up and follow through.
Rob Kaminski: Got it.
Kris Eul: So I think that's one of the important lessons. too that I learned early on was that like the products or, you know, whatever you're building. it's ...even if your friends don't use it and have all the best intentions of the world doesn't mean it's not valid, and doesn't mean it's not a good product, right. Because it, we're serving a specific job. And you know, um, we were realizing we had specific personas that were signing up early on. And if you're like, you know, your base of friends or family or whatever, they have all the best intentions of the world. And For whatever reason, if they drop off early, it does not mean that your product sucks.
It just means that it's not for them and that's okay.
Ryan Hatch: Or at that time, it's the wrong timing. Right. They don't have a need. Right. now.
Kris Eul: Yep. Yep. 100%, Yeah. So [crosstalk 00:24:59]-
Rob Kaminski: how did you start to, so you're initiating this learning, love the interviews really. You haven't built anything. You let someone else You let Andrew build the landing page. Great.
Kris Eul: Yeah.
Rob Kaminski: And then product. You're the guy behind the scenes.
Kris Eul: Yeah.
Rob Kaminski: Is that like, Where was your mind on, want to say scale, but like, what, as you were working toward it, like when did you know to do something else? Like when did you know to maybe invite the next 10 people or a batch of And I, And I know it's abstract. but Like, what was your thinking process? in like I'm serving 100 people, maybe it's really like 10 or 20, the first interaction that you talked about. like-
Kris Eul: Yeah,
Rob Kaminski: then what?
Kris Eul: Yeah. Yeah. So yeah. So as far as growth, I think what's really interesting is, and this is even true to date is that we don't know our pack, Right. We have spent this much on marketing. As far you know finding, finding new people to sign up, it's been all organic you know we, when you sign up, you just, within the last couple of months, we just, you know, when you sign up, you're put on a waitlist that generates a referral code.
That if you refer someone you're, you know, you bump the waiting list and you both you know, you get access to it. But at the time it was just like the idea that we had. was just keep launching, right. Just keep launching and go to different platforms and telling people about it and telling different communities about it and just keep launching and tap into those communities.
And and that's what we, that's what we did. I mean we gotta, you know, a healthy lift from somehow the star Tribune ran an article on us this, you know, this past winter which is the largest newspaper here in in the state of Minnesota, but like, It was just that repetition of just, finding different-
Rob Kaminski: How does that happen? was that luck or were you calling up newspapers?Like
Kris Eul: Luck. It was in column, ...It was funny that was in column newspapers, I was just like, "Hey, you know, career was, were you walking with newspapers, like newspapers, I was just like, Hey, you know, I think this goes back to just experience and having a little experience and having a foundation and you know you know, product founder I think that we were our our initial beachhead was startups and founders and startup ecosystem.
And so the guy that the person that wrote the article is Lee Schafer, He wrote a couple articles on Kipsu over the years. And I like came across his name I was like, oh yeah, he wrote an article on Kipsu, like, I wonder if he would be interested in this. And so I just emailed them and said, Hey, here's where I am, Like I'm building this thing, like we're about to launch. And like, we actually, like, you know, we, had a couple conversations with him. He's like, I don't know. He's like, I right about early stage startups like this isn't, there's not a lot of here. But you know had a personal connection to some of the perils of, you know, social media and the largest social network out there that resonated with him that said, yeah, like there's something here and I'm happy to like share the story of it.
And so that was like a huge. you know, Blessing that that just helps get it out there. And, but yeah, we just, again, we just went through this process of finding new communities and ways to to launch ourselves and get out. there.
Rob Kaminski: Right. And my guess is I haven't read the article, my guess is I think you hit on it. He talked about more your story and like, what problem are you chasing? Not that, Hey, there's this amazing thing. That's the next ...greatest
Kris Eul: Yeah. Yeah.
Rob Kaminski: thing. ...It's like, this, here this truly aligned story of experience the problem to approach that's new. It was probably that is my guest, but. correct me if I'm wrong,
Kris Eul: Yeah, it was that. And I think too, like personal, the, you know personal experience too, that he had with, you know, that particular network where, you if I go in, you know, if I'm ever presenting you know with whatever I get back in a room full of people, right.
One of the first things I ask will ask or have asked, is like, how many times like, have you felt like their Platforms out there that helped you connect with other professionals in a really thoughtful manner. You won't see a single hand raised.
Rob Kaminski: Yeah.
Kris Eul: Right. So it's just like, one of those things that are like, how many times have you been spammed by someone you don't know, asking you to buy something that you don't need?
Right. Like it's just, like, [laughs] ... We all have this, like personal, life stories and experiences of just like when it goes to. Expanding our network, our existing networks, it's really difficult. It's really challenging. and, that there's this there are irony with like the more connected we are, the more distant we actually become.And like that in itself-
Ryan Hatch: Isn't that true?
Kris Eul: ... that in itself is something that we need to solve. It's more intimate, you know, when having a real conversation in a one-on-one than you are in a room full of 100 people.
100%, yeah. ...
Ryan Hatch: more people, more connections, but it's actually that, that's, the inverse, right?
Kris Eul: Yeah.
Ryan Hatch: You know what signals did you get? You know, when you're being on the scrappy topic yeah. what signal did you get early on to know? You know, do I keep on this or is there nothing here? Right. You had to have kept asking yourself that question You said don't give up, don't give up even if blank, but what signals kind of fed your motivation to say, Hey, there's still something this is, this could be something.
Kris Eul: Yeah. I think at any stage, would, of your organization, your venture, whether you're, you know, uh, you have an MVP or you don't even have a product or, you know, 10 employees, 100 employees, I think something we really double down on early on was to be metric driven and let the data.
help Make the decisions. And so we would keep track of signups We would keep track you know, folks that would mark their selves as available yeah, introductions, and use those were like our first metrics. Like, are those growing, are people signing up? Are people opting in? So it's a double, you know, again, not to like get off, but it's a double opt-in where like one person is now at the mercy of another person for asking for help.
Right? Like they're both. saying, like, "Yes, sign me up, connect me to somebody, but it was those early metrics. And those are very you know, top of funnel tofu, if you will, right. Indicators. But then we started after a while, we're, like, So, so what are the, what's the outcome? So people are doing this, but now what's the outcome.
What are they getting from it? And so we incorporated a, a post-meeting survey, a simple five questions, ...you know,
Ryan Hatch: Hmm.
Kris Eul: ...it's like how is the conversation, your overall experience. You know, what, you know what was your favorite part of the conversation? What are ways that we can improve? Like, would you want to meet with this person again, five questions and that just like took it to another level you know, to ha- actually have an outcome-based, outcome-based metrics versus, you know those top of funnel metrics. I think is just so much more valuable. So we could see that, you know, even the thing that really surprised us even early on, well even with those, the very first introduction we made terrible introductions. The first few that we made.
Right. But people, the question would be like would you want another introduction? And it was yes, every time. Yes,
Ryan Hatch: Wow.
Kris Eul: ...every single time I want another introduction, help connect me. like ...And it was like, you know, let's give it another try. I believe in what you're doing. Like keep going. It was like for whatever reason people said yes.
And to this day, you know, we have a sample size of over 400 completed surveys. 99.7% of people want more conversations within our community.
That like right there is unbelievable. 92% taking that step further. Just north of 92%. Want a follow-up conversation with the person they just met.
Ryan Hatch: Wow. Wow.
Kris Eul: you, You talked about like being data-driven, talk about, are we actually providing. Value, like, I don't know how else we could decipher that. And then you get some of the raw feedback as far as like, you know, super interesting person ask the que- you know, we have ever changing needs and, you know, we have these broader goals, but within those goals, there are these step functions that we have to get to along the way.
And those from getting from a to B and B to C and so forth, like there are different needs and asks along the way and because we can change with them and we can be agile enough to connect them with the people. Like it just kept getting better and better. And our overall conversation.
quality, You know, started at like, even during those terrible conversations, our conversation quality was at, it started off at 4.4, which like that alone was like, wow. I was like expecting low threes.
Rob Kaminski: Yeah.
Kris Eul: two.
Rob Kaminski: Right.
Kris Eul: To- Today, it's its north of 4.8. Right. We just ended our month. ending of April was a 4.81 out of five.
Rob Kaminski: Wow.
Kris Eul: and it's just like, it just keeps getting better as the community grows.
Rob Kaminski: Tell me about I'm curious now, as you're making progress, you, it sounds like you almost opened up, not this can of worms, but like clarity on the value the outcomes you're talking about, which probably creates a lot of opportunities. of why do we serve all these? so there's probably like, how do you wrestle with that, but how did you start to move from okay.I'm. The wizard behind the curtain, like to even start moving into, can we automate some of this? Like when did that trigger? And like, what were your first steps
Kris Eul: Yeah, I think we're, you know, it's I think after a few weeks of making those introductions, we realized okay, like we have something here.
We started seeing the feed, you know, we started seeing the feedback that feedback before we had that survey and had the product, I was, you know, a lot of times calling or texting my, you know my buddies or my acquaintances or colleagues of like, Hey, how did it go? Like, Was it good? Was it bad? And like a lot of times they're like, what was that You know, like, what just happened there, but like sure.
Sign me up for next week. Whatever. But you know, I think it got to the point where, we're, like, well, We need, like, there's a better way. Like if we're gonna do this, like there, we need to have a better way of actually understanding their real, ne- their, you know, their real needs between what they're looking to learn and what they're looking to share and being able to put in a some ty- type of like, Systemic process. And so that's where we created our MVP, where people could actually create a profile. Like that was like, whoa, people have profiles. Now this is great. And like, you know, you could, we actually too You know, one of the tough learnings though, is that when Had our initial MVP, like, and you put in what you're looking to learn and what you're looking to share it's still free form.
So, you know, a lot of times I'll still like, trying to, like, decipher, like, did that mean that? Or like if they said no cool, no-code like, you know, put bub- You this person wants to learn bubble, like, does this connect, like, does that make sense? But then, you know, on Tuesdays when I make introductions and still to this day, we, make our peer-to-peer introductions along the way, we also realized that my time to make those introductions kept increasing.
And that was like doubling like week after week, you know, it was like, it went from like 30 minutes to an hour to Gosh, Like, there's one day, I sat there for like four and a half hours making introductions of like point click point click. And I was like, look not efficient.
We got to figure this out, but it was a good, it was a good pain point to have. And then when we also figured, and when we also started seeing that people wanted to have those continued conversations, like they wanted to have follow-on conversations, We're like, wait, this is just, this is more than just introductions.
Introductions are means to an end. You know, they're a part of the process or they're a part of the offering, but people want more. So that's when we came up with the idea of office hours the idea of coffee clubs as a way to keep that conversation going and to be able to connect people you know, on you know, to give them more autonomy in who they wanted, who the- they wanted to connect with based on those aligned interests and those goals. And connect with more members in the community.
Rob Kaminski: Yeah. That's great. What was for you? Were you doing any of the, I know you guys use the no-code tool for this, right? When you first started,
Kris Eul: Yeah.
Rob Kaminski: Andrew all of that Were you guys collabing on that? What was what's your experience been no-code?
Kris Eul: You know, so A- Andrew again, and all this free time that he doesn't have, he taught himself and launched our MVP, like in a five-week, four-week process, it was unbelievable.
Like, You know, it was a lot of like sleepless nights. And I remem-, you know, I still remember, like we were up till 1:00, 2:00 in the morning. He's like, dude, I he's like, "I'm all hands at, in the morning Like, I have, I need like at least three or four hours to sleep. [laughs] Like, I have to like, I have to function as a human too. Yeah. Okay. You know, what it is And on the personal side, like we, you know, we both have two small children, you know, that are like three and younger. And so we've got as you know Scott Sambuchi, who I think is actually one of You know business development coaches that Headway uses. he talks about the four forces and, you know, you have your co-founding team you have your fam- you know, the family and the personal responsibilities that you have, and you have you know, and potential investors and you have your you're getting pulled in these four different angles at all times.
And it was just one of those. were like, Hey, if we're gonna do this, like we just got a double down and do it. And so you know, I made a lot of future promises, you know, to Andrew to get this thing up and running, but you know, with this, with, with this, it was just like, we just gotta figure it out. We just gotta do it.
And actually too, the no-code tool was the best way, because it was, it would have been, it was the fastest, it was the cheapest. It it was the most agile for what we needed and to iterate on our key learning. So it was like everything kept pointing to no-code tools. of being, like, Hey, if we're gonna, we're gonna test this and try to bring it to market, and we want to ship as quickly as possible.
This is our answer. And let's just go,
Rob Kaminski: Yeah. what's the lens on that now, like, and I don't know, maybe you can give us a a glimpse of the product the inside and how long
Kris Eul: Yeah. ...
Rob Kaminski: what where does your mind go in terms of will no-code stand this up for and to what degree? going forward?
Kris Eul: Yeah, so,
Rob Kaminski: [crosstalk 00:39:24] a lot of other folks have.
Kris Eul: ...you know, and to be honest, you what's really interesting.
And we'll talk about fundraising later on, but like the number of times a potential investor has asked me about our tech stack is zero. Right? So if like, anyone thinks that like, oh, it's no-code, you know, it's like, oh, it's no-code That's not, I mean, I can give you a after case of like no-code tools that have gone to like [Ray series As you know, for a multi-million dollars each. Like, You know, it's do I think that it can be like, you know the long-term tool? No, I mean, I think there we'll get a point where we're gonna have to cross over into something a little bit more sustainable and you know, more of a traditional the language. you can tell my technical expertise in this area that [crosstalk 00:40:13] I talk about You know, I think for, if you if your goal is to validate and to ship and to get feedback and to just have something in market after you've done your research. Like, I am the biggest proponent of no-code because it saves time and saved us money. And I think a lot of headache, I mean, you know, I will also you know as an asterisk here, I will also say that, like, it does require someone to understand like basic design development, because it is, essentially visual programming, you know, like I can like.
You know, drop a button into the webpage and I can get all the fonts and the colors. Right. But on the back and when you're creating the workflow is like, you know I it's essentially like a, you know, an Excel spreadsheet and writing out a formula in Excel, right. For the cells to interact with each other.
it's, you know, you're basically writing a, a string of commands. to Have the buttons and the data go where it's supposed to. So there was a time Andrew was like, Hey, just give yourself a week and just study study, no-code And just like take all the boot camp. And I was like, yeah, okay, I'm gonna do this.
[laughs] And like, dude, I I went through the boot camp. I did it. And I was like, Wait, how do you get the sign-up form to work? Like I can't, You know,
Rob Kaminski: yeah.
Kris Eul: It's like, it was one of those things where like, it is easier it is faster, but there is, you know, I think there, I just also want to like preface that there, like is some basic knowledge going into product, into design development that like that is required.
So you can like really run. So, sorry. I think went on tangent.
Rob Kaminski: No, this is great. It really is. Yeah. I know, I want to do keep some time here we get close to the end. Like, so we're going to fast forward a little bit, you all the way from early validation to starting to automate this with the no-code tool,
Kris Eul: Yeah.
Rob Kaminski: It sounded like you had some success there. Tell us about The shift of. There might be something real here and how you even begin thinking, like, how do I keep doing this? You mentioned you had no money when this started. Like, how are you thinking about runway? And then like, what was your approach to like, keep this keep the train moving, so to speak.
Kris Eul: Yeah. So so, you know, during this time we started building up a little bit of traction. We had, I think like, you know, A couple hundred folks and, you know, star Tribune runs that article and really helps like get us some notoriety, at least here in the area here in the state in Minnesota. Along the way I'm also emailing and introduce myself to you know, Neela Mollgaard who is the executive director of launch Minnesota.
And that's the state-funded program to support early stage ventures. And in my introductory email, I essentially, you know say that like, Hey, like I've been building this while on furlough, you know, getting paid by the state. I only feel like the state should be able to use it. Right. [
Rob Kaminski: crosstalk 00:43:12] that's great.
Kris Eul: Like, like, you know, like, my [crosstalk 00:43:14] was like, Hey, you basically helped fund me, build my dream platform, like, and to be able to like, live my dream, like do you ...like, would you be interested in using this, like, could this help with economic development and and everything?
And so we had ongoing conversation and like fast forward to today, like, you know, they're one of our. First partners, you know, like, and cool. man.
...We now in the process of launching a statewide initiative and connecting the Minnesota startup ecosystem. That's launching next month. And it's just like, you know, like humble scrappiness, I think is just like one of those things where like, man, like it- it's okay to be transparent and.
like, You're not always crushing it as a founder. Right. Like I think we need to, like in general, it's okay to like be sucking wind And I think you have to suck wind and go through it in order to like, get to those points of you know, being able to like form some of these partnerships because you're showing progress along the way.
You're showing that you're committed. You're showing that. like, You know, through these updates and through the enhancements that like, like this is, you know, you need to, you know, you to turn those people into believers of like, Hey, this is this person's gonna follow through and they're gonna do it.
like the ones to do this. So yeah because, you know, it's [inaudible 00:44:41] can be a better partner. Right. And they're able to do it. So,
Ryan Hatch: yeah. That's, that's great. I I wonder if if it would be helpful for other founders, you know, to talk a little bit about, you know, how far you're able to bring this on your own and when you knew. like, This is, as far as I can bring it. now I need to go raise money.
Like, what was the appropriate timing for that can I talk about financially? you make this work? How do you stitch this together and then talk about your, a little bit about you're raising your financial, venture venture capital stuff.
Kris Eul: Well, I think every, you know, I think one of the things that I I would stress to founders, you know, and those that are looking to launch something new is like, you know, you also have personal responsibilities.
And that's very real. And those don't go away, you know? So I think everyone's situation is different. I think for us, you know um, wife and I can laugh about it now, but like, there wasn't like this, like sit down moment of like, Hey, like, can I do this? It was just like, you know, like, I'm gonna just, we're just gonna start figuring out and seeing what happens and seeing how it goes.
And you know, so I think as far as you know, from the personal side of it, like, you know, you never like don't, you know, Don't sacrifice you know, the personal side for your professional side. I think one of the things that, that I'm very aligned with, you know, Andrew and I are aligned on this, like, try as hard at home as you do at work and vice, you know,
Ryan Hatch: [affirmative].
Kris Eul: like make sure that, you know, your, all areas and facets of your life because ...I'm more than just Kris from kinetic, right.
I'm, you know, Michelle's husband and, and. Rosy and Hazel's dad and, I've got, you know, I have those commitments that I need to, like, those are non-negotiable. So I think that's something I would preface of just like making sure you're in the right spot. But as far as like raising and traction, I think what happened was, okay, so this is where we're going to talk a lot about.
You know, this is important to note as like, as you know, I've made every mistake in the book, I'm gonna be very transparent. on that, You know can back me up on that. and I thought I could knock. I thought I could knock out our raise in like 60 days now, here we are in month five. And what I've actually heard is like, it can be anywhere from like six to nine months or even more.
Right. Give yourself that grace, especially for first-time raisers of like, it's gonna take twice as long for probably half as much. And hopefully some of the things I share will allow you to expedite that process, but You know, as a first-time fund fundraiser, there's absolutely you know, investor, founder fit, right?
Like you, like, it's more than just money. It's more than, you know, whether you're raising friends and family or you know, going to institutional firm. Like I want people. Part of this, that believe in not only what we're doing today, but where we're going and if you don't, or, you know, then like, I don't want it to be a potential just like easy paycheck for you.
I want to, I want you in this because you feel as strongly as I do that, this it is going to make a big impact in the direction that we're headed. I think the other thing too, is that when you're fundraising, right, there uh, little things that can help move it along. Like having a close date, You know, the round ends on this date, get in or get out, like getting to a decision is the best possible, you know, the ultimate is a yes. Right. But the next best thing to happen is a yes or a no. And so the only way that investors will move is you have a close date. on it. And it's, you know it's closing on this date at this time.
Let me know if you're in, you know send updates, which is my third point. Yeah. I think one of the continued uh, pieces of feedback that I hear from other founders and investors is like, start the relationship early, Yu know, back in may, we did have a product. And I started talking to investors.
I started, ta- it was just the most like, you know, I just wanted to start building relationships. I knew no investors.
Rob Kaminski: What was your approach there? Was it, were you doing the what you were trying to solve like the superficial like LinkedIn? Hey, I'm Kris-
Kris Eul: Absolutely, absolutely.
Rob Kaminski: Yeah.
Kris Eul: Absolutely. It was just like, you know, I, I, you know, I talked with, I I think one of the first the one and only person that I knew in the venture side of things who isn't even a VC, you know was down over at best ventures, right? Or Michael Best. And I'm like telling him, on-
Ryan Hatch: Yeah, great guy.
Kris Eul: but you know what? Fantastic guy, but you know what, he sat down he took the time. And I think that's one of the key things is that like, when you ask for help, People. it, After you ask enough times. Right. on what the problem we're trying to solve people will typically help.
Right? You just gotta be humble. You got to be transparent. You got- you gotta be straight forward, but he sat down and he just ripped my deck apart. He's like, what is this man? I have like one chart, you know, one slide He had like six charts on it. he's like, where am I even looking? I don't know. And then I just kept reaching out to investors you know, here in, in throughout Minnesota and Wisconsin and just introduced myself, I said, Hey, I'm working on this.
I also. you know, It's I think tot- again founder product fit, I in the area, what I did, especially here in the twin cities, as I was reaching out to investors again, way too early, but as a way to build relationship early on was I piggyback off of the success of, of Kipsu? I mean, it's like I helped build the company, right?
It's known in the area. Everyone knows, you know, Chris and the founding team, like I've only you know, worked for them last six years. like, Hey, we know each other and like that, you know that you have a little bit of credibility of like, yeah, I'll give this guy a 15, you know, 15 minutes. A lot of times, those first calls were 15 minutes, but like they were first calls.And
Ryan Hatch: was there a point when you were going from these, like help me calls where it sounds like maybe you had a chance to show the deck to actually pitching. like- or was it-
Kris Eul: Yeah.
Ryan Hatch: ... oh, They just bleed together. like-
Kris Eul: So here's another great point. When I started these 15-minute calls, I went right into the pitch. I was like, Hey, you're gonna give me 15 minutes.
I'm gonna, I'm gonna pitch you and see what you say. So
Ryan Hatch: Yeah.
Kris Eul: ...that's another thing, ...like, you know, on the first call, like, feel it out, you know it's it's very much like dating, right? Like just kind of feel it out. like, You know, like, just like make sure, like there's, you know, you have that vibe, like you have the same like belief system and values in line.
And you know talk about the idea and the concepts and what you're thinking of doing, but, you know, just like make sure that again that that investor or that institution. like, You know, they have the, they back to other things in your space. You know, I think that was another hurdle that we faced and quite frankly, we're facing today is that we are building on the network effects.
Right. And you know, the common thing that investors want it, you know, again, in general, there's some really standup ones that say no, LinkedIn, cannot ..."you know, I didn't say that, but you know that this platform could definitely not do that. And you know, these other platforms can't do it. What you're doing incredibly unique because XYZ And I get you, you know, you know, it's like, oh just like that. And that's already available. Or what they'll also say is you're just like this other person in town. That's trying to do something, not quite similar, but similar enough. And they're sucking wind and you probably will too. And it's like, No, like we're not, we are not one and the same.
I'm not down there and not on, You know? So I think that was another thing too, is like, there is absolutely founder investor fit based on the region of where you're, you know, where you're where you're raising now, we started. we turned on the revenue our revenue model for subscriptions, you know, we we're built freemium plan right now for, you know, for individual professionals that sign up and we start, we started getting the first couple in the door and we're like, we made it.
We, We, might IPO in a couple of months. I don't know what's going on right now. But like, you know it's, like revenue check. Right. You know You know, was again interesting. And it's the different investing models and theories of you. Do you have revenue check? Do You have enough revenue what's enough, you know,
Ryan Hatch: Break even-
Kris Eul: And, uh, yeah, it's very just
Ryan Hatch: [crosstalk 00:53:29]
Rob Kaminski: [crosstalk 00:53:29] objections almost
Kris Eul: Yeah.
Rob Kaminski: like of who you're gonna talk to
Kris Eul: Absolutely.
Rob Kaminski: Got it.
Kris Eul: Absolutely, And you know, again, even today we have like, you know, we have less than 1,000 numbers on the platform. And are, you know, we have paying members, right. And we actually right now are at a five to one ratio of annua- of annual to monthly subscribers.
Ryan Hatch: Oh Wow.
Kris Eul: So people are telling us right now that I see enough value that I'm willing to pay the 125 upfront, ...then go month-to-month at 1499.
And ...for us, it's like, Okay. I feel like that's a great signal, you know? And so what's really what's really interesting. It's you talk to 10 investors regardless of where they are, regardless of where they're located, they have their own process, they have their own theory. They have their own way of doing things.
Right. And I think one of the biggest frustrations I used to go back and I you know, still Andrew, let you know, Andrew plays a lot of roles in this. Right. And so I'll go to Andrew and I'll say, "Andrew, What the heck is going on, man, We got the product. We've got traction, we've got revenue. What am I missing? What am I missing right now?
Like people like we should have our pick of the litter and, you know it's, it's uh, there, isn't like a universal way of going about getting funding. You'll ask any investor how they invest you ask any um, previous found- you know founder that's raised money and that you'll get 10 different, 10 different responses.
from, you know, 10 different people. And so, because there's no universal method, you have to find what works for you, but there are little, you know, some of those little like tips and tricks along the way of setting your terms and having an end date and, you know, making sure that you have this similar belief system and thought process in what you're building the market in the region that you're investing in.
have they invested in other things like you and not like, you know, like actually have invested in other ventures? Built on those same concepts. So if you're AI or machine learning or, you know, network effects or, you know, medical devices has this group actually invested in this space before. so that's, you know it's you you realize that like it's nothing personal.
It's just that like, no, one's going to invest in something they don't know. And if they try to categorize it. You know, if they can't categorize it. Right. And if they do that's way off, like that should be a red flag for you as a founder that like this isn't going to be a good long-term partnership.
Ryan Hatch: Yeah. It's almost like they have to put you in a bucket. Right. They have to,
Kris Eul: That's right.
Ryan Hatch: ... they're searching for the best way to predict the future is to look at the past. It's like, they're searching for the analogs. If they're not locked into the right analogies, the right parallels.
And then they don't know how to evaluate. you.
Kris Eul: Right. Uh, it's, Absolutely. right. Yeah. And, uh, And again it's, you know, not that they're a bad person or they like gypped you. Right. It's just that, like, that's the thought process. And that is like, they're trying to make the best decision because they're representing, you know, all these, all the funds in the LPs and like, they need to be able to go back to their bosses and be, you know, and say like, we made a good investment and, you know we can track it back to success.
Rob Kaminski: Yeah. Chris, I, love this story. I think, you know, my takeaway is hearing you like, talk about how you got first customers. Isn't all that different to how you're actually approaching fundraising. Like have ...the conversations
Kris Eul: No.
Rob Kaminski: ...early learn and discover and then [crosstalk 00:57:09]-
Kris Eul: Humble hustling.
Rob Kaminski: ...you're doing and figure it out and hustle. Like that's the theme that I really take So I'm gonna gracefully kick you off the show now with an invitation to come back Let's do it, guys. ... have to get going down the line.
Ryan Hatch: This is great.
Rob Kaminski: ...And
Kris Eul: Yeah.
Rob Kaminski: ... I really appreciate this build in public and going through with us. This was a lot of fun,
Kris Eul: This is a ton of fun guys, and I appreciate it. And I would love to come back whenever you'll let me, so let's do it.again.
Rob Kaminski: Right on. Cool. Well for those watching or viewing on YouTube, check us out at headway and go check out, joinkinetic.com, and start getting introductions. Until next time, we'll keep exploring. See you later.
Ryan Hatch: Thanks for joining us today. We hope this episode gave you some fresh perspectives and even some inspiration to help you on your product journey.
Rob Kaminski: You can access notes, Links and resources from this episode at exploringproduct.com. If you enjoyed it, please be sure to share it with us on Twitter so that we can chat about it together.until next time, keep exploring.
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