Episode 1

How to Unlock Your Company’s Potential

Matt Hulett
CEO, PetMeds

Episode Summary

Can a struggling company change its destiny? Can you reliably turn a company’s fortunes around? If you’re Matt Hulett, the answer to both of these questions is a resounding yes.

Over his 30 years as an executive in the technology sector, Matt Hulett has become the go-to company fixer. From RealNetworks to Rosetta Stone to Expedia, he has steered start-ups and large companies into renewed areas for growth and driven more than $2 billion in value creation. He’s in the midst of his latest venture as the CEO of PetMeds.

In this conversation, Matt shares his operating framework for turning companies around and evaluating a company’s likelihood of success — T3PM: trends, timing, track record, planning and momentum. Matt recently documented the T3PM framework in his book Unlock: 5 Questions to Unleash Your Company's Power. He relates each of these factors back to real-world examples from companies like Expedia, Rovio, Concur, and yes, even Convictional. He also shares how he’s leveraging T3PM through his current turnaround at PetMeds, where he is CEO and President. No matter where you are in your career, you’ll have something to learn from Matt.


How Matt built his triage mindset


The T3PM framework


The difference between TAM and SAM


Finding the right timing with learned secrets


How Matt earns trust from his teams


Navigating PetMeds through the market downturn


PetMeds’ competitive edge in a crowded market

Matt Hulett

About The Guest

Matt Hulett is a seasoned technology executive with more than 30 years of experience building and leading world-class SaaS and consumer companies. Matt has led the growth of companies in the private and public sectors, including Rosetta Stone, RealNetworks, Expedia and many more. He has had multiple turnaround successes as a public company president as well as a private company CEO. Matt has a proven track record raising venture capital from blue chip firms (Sequoia Capital, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Allen and Company, Intel Capital) with multiple liquidity events.

Episode Transcript

Chris Grouchy (00:00:05):

Hey everyone. Welcome to season two of the Legends of Retail Podcast, brought to you by Convictional. We talk to leaders in retail and e-commerce so you can learn from them about retail strategy, leadership, team management, and take their insights back to your company. I'm your host Chris Grouchy, co-founder and president of Convictional.


What's Convictional? In short, retailers use Convictional to connect to vendors for dropship and curated marketplace. We're kicking off season two with a very special guest. Over his 30 years as an executive in the technology sector, Matt Hulett has become the go-to company fixer from RealNetworks to Rosetta Stone to Expedia. Matt has steered startups and large companies into renewed areas for growth and has driven more than $2 billion in value creation. He's in the midst of his latest venture as the CEO of PetMeds.


On today's pod, I asked Matt about his new book Unlock: 5 Questions to Unleash Your Company's Hidden Power. In the book, Matt shares his framework he calls T3PM, trends, timing, track record, planning, and momentum. It's a framework that I think every entrepreneur and business leader should understand when they're considering starting a business or joining a team at an established company. We dive into each of the elements of T3PM framework and tie them to practical lessons from companies like Expedia, Rovio, Concur, and yes, even Convictional.


Matt's learned from some famed entrepreneurs and investors including Rich Barton of Zillow, Mike Moritz of Sequoia Capital, and Mike Hilton of Concur. Here's my conversation with Matt Hulett, CEO of PetMeds. Matt, welcome to the show.

Matt Hulett (00:02:04):

Hey, thanks for having me. I'm really excited to meet you in person.

Chris Grouchy (00:02:07):

Yes, absolutely.

Matt Hulett (00:02:09):

I guess kind of in person.

Chris Grouchy (00:02:10):

Well, we could see each other, which is great. Next time you are in Toronto or I'm in Seattle, I think that's home base for you. Is that right?

Matt Hulett (00:02:18):

That's right.

Chris Grouchy (00:02:19):

Cool. Well, we'll do this face to face. But I want to begin our conversation by asking about a moment in time very early on in your career of how you got hired at this company nobody's ever heard of, Progressive Networks.

Matt Hulett (00:02:36):

Yeah, and it's open up your history books. At one point in time it was the only application where you could really experience live audio and live video, so streaming audio and video on the internet. Just to contextualize kind of how early it was, NCSA Mosaic, which was the first web browser that came out of Champagne Illinois created by this guy named Marc Andreessen, who everyone knows now as part of Andreessen Horowitz, created the first graphical way to experience the internet. It was a free application. Later he started a company called Netscape, became one of the hottest internet IPOs of all time.


Anyways, I was at this other company. I downloaded, I think it was like a Solaris box, so it was a SunOS kind of system. I downloaded NCSA Mosaic. And for the first time, and I was relatively geeky into the internet like pinging things, telemeeting into things, it was the first time I graphically saw the internet and I quickly wanted to get involved in that. Somewhere in Seattle, I literally wrote a letter to a company called Progressive Networks that had just started out streaming. I think they had kind of an early version of what was called the RealPlayer. And wrote the CEO a letter and he called me. I think it was on a Friday, interviewed on a Saturday. I quit, and two weeks later I was working there.

Chris Grouchy (00:04:00):

So I will admit I heard this story. The reason I wanted to start with it is because this audacity of writing a written letter, right? Today we just use email or something. Didn't have any business writing. I believe it was Rob Glaser, the letter, and saying, "Hey, I want to work for you," right?

Matt Hulett (00:04:22):

Yeah. Yeah.

Chris Grouchy (00:04:22):

That was actually how I got my first job out of college at Shopify. Obviously massive Canadian success story, being Canadian-based, it was like e-commerce is the thing. I want to go see what this company's all about and work for a winning company and learn how to do that. And so I cold emailed a few folks over there and sure enough, three weeks later had an offer in hand, signed it, and then that was it. So the idea of you being able to reach out to anybody regardless of where you are in life, it's so profound.

Matt Hulett (00:04:54):

Yeah. We probably don't have time to cut into this, but there's lots of signals for what makes a great hire at the right time, but just kind of the grit determination is a big part of it. I'm always surprised at the folks that I talk to that will give up after one or two inbounds trying to get to me. Because everyone says, "You have 15 minutes," none of us have 15 minutes. But the most persistent people who can craft a message and shape it to something that's actionable end up getting hired.

Chris Grouchy (00:05:24):

It's a superpower. If you can master the art and science of a cold email or a written letter, you can literally add zeros to your net worth. I believe that to be true.

Matt Hulett (00:05:32):


Chris Grouchy (00:05:33):

So further on in your career, you started getting a lot of responsibility in various roles and at one point speaking on stage to a group of developers and you're very early on. Was there some imposter syndrome that came with that responsibility early on in your career? What was your relationship with imposter syndrome?

Matt Hulett (00:05:52):

Well, everyone has it. Actually, this is the only podcast I've ever written notes for because you did such a good job of asking wonderful questions and I thought I should reciprocate by nailing the answers. I guess I would say that everyone experiences it. It's now acceptable to tell individuals and empathize with individuals that you have it as well, which is good. We have major sports stars that talk about their mental health and mental diversity. I guess I would say is everyone has it.


It's really a reflection of your own ego, it's your own inside thoughts. I have ways in which I can break that down, but I always like to... And maybe my wife says it's somewhat sociopathic, but I've always imagined these boxes in my head. When something's really, really hard, I always assume the situation I'm in is like a sitcom and I'm floating outside of that situation and watching it so I can kind of parse the fear and the perceived danger to actually intellectual splicing of the puzzle.


And so that has always helped me reflect on whether there's a real issue. For example, imposter syndrome is basically the fear that someone's going to find out that you're not worthy of that skill or task or job. And so I always kind of parse that feeling into a box and then evaluate it like, A, is this true? Well, no, I've done X, Y, and Z for a number of years. And then B, if it is true, then really my job is to uncover how to solve the puzzle. It's no reflection on myself. So I try to unpack that syndrome per se by compartmentalization and also kind of playing a kind of sizzle reel of what I'm really capable of. And that kind of disassociates the problem of imposter syndrome. I don't know if that answers your question.

Chris Grouchy (00:07:44):

Absolutely it does. Everyone experiences it, particularly people who maybe have a degree of success early on in their career and they need to somehow contend with this because it can be crippling. I think the idea or the tactic you're recommending of compartmentalization or rather being able to separate yourself from the imposter syndrome is quite powerful. And so I love that idea and the metacognition that goes into it. I grew up in a single parent household, I'm sure that has something to do with that. Our upbringings have screwed us up in one way or another and it's up to the adult version of us to go back and look at how that impacts us now.

Matt Hulett (00:08:21):

Oh boy, are we going to get along. There's a lot of similarities here between you and I.

Chris Grouchy (00:08:26):

All right, well let's talk about the book Unlock. Congratulations, it's an incredible read and also congratulations on the recent audio version. I've been crushing it. In the very beginning of the book, you liken yourself to Liam Neeson's character in the movie Taken. For folks who have seen that movie, they could probably almost hear Liam Neeson's character in their ears right now, which is a man with a very particular set of skills. I'm curious, Matt, what are those skills that you're referring to and did you intentionally decide to learn them? And maybe we'll start there.

Matt Hulett (00:09:05):

Yeah, you brought up environment versus genetics. That was a gateway drug kind of point that you made earlier about a single family home. I too lived in a single family home, primarily raised by my mom. My parents divorced when I was younger. It thrust me in a situation where I was the head of the household in many situations, far younger than most would be at that age group. And so maturity wise, I accelerated massly in terms of maturity scale, in terms of at least what I perceive maturity was. It gave me kind of a triage mindset because there was always a lot of stress coming at me. And so I felt like I was always wired at taking on lots of stressful situations very quickly and parsing the importance of it. Like some people talk about prioritization frameworks like the Eisenhower Matrix. I felt like I was really good at a young age of the figuring out, "Okay, what are the most important things to do and address in stack rank order?" which may be a great product manager when I gold older.


But I felt like I was very good at taking really stressful situations and I think I became over time addicted to the dopamine of that. So the environment created it. I did have some genetic pieces around, I'm dyslexic and then by nature I'm relatively good at creativity and management, not particularly great at reading quickly. I think the combination of environment and genetics kind of made me wired to be this kind of person. And over time as things tend to do, you get typecast at that. And so whether you decide to be good at it or not, you become known for that. And those are the types of roles and functions that come to me.

Chris Grouchy (00:10:46):

I think a lot of people who are looking at the skillset that you just described would say, "Oh, I'm just going to go and get an MBA because that's the shortcut. I'll pay hundreds of thousands of dollars, get the piece of paper, and now I've got skills." Let's debunk that myth. Do you need an MBA to acquire those skills?

Matt Hulett (00:11:06):

You don't. Tactically, if you're stepping back from your career and you're architecting or as anyone 20 or 30 years younger than myself says manifesting, so if you're trying to manifest some kind of outcome, I would say just if you're looking at a baseball card of the manifestation, statistically, if you go to an Ivy League school, that is a strong signal that you have grit and you have some level of superior IQ. It doesn't mean that a level IQ helps you later in your career, but it's some signal that as an employer, it's a vetted candidate. So you have kind of less risk to hire that person than someone off the street that was self learned.


So that's helpful in many verticals. You see that in finance for in particular or doctorate programs. That does help you. However, for the vast majority of people, especially today with the access to the aptitude, the specific kind of micro classifications you can get online, you don't need that. It just, I would say, helps you get early signal to move in some of these more Ivy League oriented professions in like investment banking.


I would say for the vast majority of people, you don't need an MBA. I don't have an MBA. I got my career very quickly in the software industry as a product manager in a company that was growing very quickly, 100 revenue from kind of 20 million to when I started. And I thought that was normal. And so my MBA was on the job. So the signal that I acquired very quickly was real world experience and good progression in my craft. And so you don't need it, you need it less so.


And over time, the state and the economics of higher education are changing such that you're going to have a lot of colleges that are going to be bankrupt. The Ivy League will be the Ivy League because they control the supply of entrance. And then you're going to have a lot of people who have to make the decision, "Well, do I get kind of a mediocre MBA or just do I do this on my own and get real world job experience?" And so economically I'd say you're going to see a lot less MBAs over time with the same number of Harvards and Yales out there because that's kind of an elite brand that will always be controlled with a high price point and a high filter.


So you don't need an MBA to be successful in business. And I find that I can't even discern four to five years out MBA versus real world experience any kind of aptitude that's missing if you don't have an MBA, to be honest.

Chris Grouchy (00:13:31):

It makes sense. You make this point in I believe the timing section, which we'll get to in the book around how it's never been easier to start a company. And so if we look at that as a vehicle for learning, really the risk is that you maybe run out of money and you have to start over. You have to get a job. So I think that's an important point.


All right, shifting gears, T3PM. Matt, can you maybe explain this acronym for the audience?

Matt Hulett (00:14:04):

Yeah, I affectionately call it the company's insight score and it stands for TAM, so Total Addressable Market, basically how big the market is that you're competing in. Timing. So where are you at in terms of timing? Are you too early? Just right? Too soon? Track record. So how have you been doing in your plan? Are you growing to the revenue pace of the market or the unit share pace of the market, or is there something wrong? Plan. So do you have a plan to take advantage of what's in front of you? And then momentum. So can you attract the capital and the team to actually get you to where you need to be?


And so you calculate it in a very easy heuristic. So the first four variables you calculate 1, 2, or 3, higher the better. Add those first four variables up. So if you're perfect, you do a 3 plus 3 plus 3 plus 3, which is 12. And then you multiply those by 1, 2, or 3, which is your ability to get capital and team, and that's your score. If it's over 20, you have a pretty darn good chance of being a market leader.

Chris Grouchy (00:15:08):

And of the five vectors that you use to calculate the insight score, talent has this multiplier effect. What is it about talent that makes it a multiplier effect on the rest of the score?

Matt Hulett (00:15:22):

Yeah, you've heard this adage before, sounds like a made for TV movie a little bit but it's all about people and your ability to scale through people. It's not just the amount of people, but getting the right ratio of people. That could be number of developers to everybody else or number of salespeople to sales ops people. But it's also the stage in which you hire people, so people that are good at tactical startup execution or really important early stages of a business versus later stage where you might need more general management experience.


So it's really important to get obviously the right people in terms of IQ, grit, creativity, determination, but also get the right people for the right stage in which your business is at. Which is why when I jump around at different businesses in different verticals at different stages, I typically am not always bringing the same people that help me in my last job. So I try to assess who's right the right time, the right stage of business.

Chris Grouchy (00:16:18):

Stage is incredibly important in assessing talent. And as a founder, that's been one of the most challenging things to nail because oftentimes you can sense quality, but stage appropriateness is just another level of difficulty because someone could be great and have all of the competencies that you want in your business. But in the role and jobs to be done today, those competencies and skills may not be most important, right? And so kind of planning for stage appropriateness within your talent is just so key. I've struggled with that before.

Matt Hulett (00:16:54):

Yeah. And I think talent acquisition and hiring is something that, especially for a founder or CEO, is something you have to commit, dedicate a time to every week. And you're playing chess nut checkers, like you're thinking multi quarters out, if not a year out around, "Okay, if X, Y, and Z happens with the plan, I hit this level of stage measured by whatever metric it is, do I have the right person for that or do I know who I'd be talking to or looking to hire?" because the best talent takes a long time to actually land as you know. So it's something that is just like you seem like somebody who's very regimented and believe in compounding of talent and compounding of learning. Talent acquisition is the same type of abbot that you have to do every day.

Chris Grouchy (00:17:37):

It's a perfect segue to what I'd love to ask you about, which is about something that stood out to me in studying your background, reading Unlock, the exposure to legendary entrepreneurs and investors that you've had over the course of your career, right? Like folks like Rich Barton, Mike Hilton of Concur, and even Mike Moritz of Sequoia Capital fame. We'll return to Mike Moritz in a moment, but at a certain point I believe you receive a call from Rich Barton to give a reference on someone and he starts recruiting you.

Matt Hulett (00:18:11):


Chris Grouchy (00:18:12):

I'm curious about that experience and what you ended up learning about talent from Rich Barton.

Matt Hulett (00:18:17):

Yeah. And Rich is... I think most people know him. He's the founder of Expedia. Just a context setting, he's spun Expedia outside of Microsoft, which is a pretty impressive feat in and of itself. Took the company public, ran it to a huge company, IAC, eventually Interactive Corporation run by Barry Diller and whose CFO at the time was Dara Khosrowshahi who's now the CEO of Uber. So there's a lot of names in this example. Rich has subsequently been a partner at Benchmark, started Zillow and is now the CEO of Zillow, came back as CEO recently. Started Glass Door that was acquired Avo, which is a legal marketplace. A bunch of other things. So he really does have the Midas touch, but you would never know that when you meet him because he doesn't hit you over the head with his ego.


There's other components to him that I find quite special. To answer your question about Rich is, it was right after September 11th and I was just kind of licking my wounds from laying off a lot of people at a startup that I was the president of, not the founder of, but the founding partner of, called AtomFilms and was taking a little bit of time off.


Rich called me and was thinking about recruiting somebody to the company and then asked what I was doing. He basically told me to get off my ass and do something and then travel was probably the thing that I should be doing since no one's traveling. And if you don't have travel, you don't have life so get off my ass and work for him. So yeah, Rich recruited me on that call. I met with the entire executive team at Expedia. It was a pretty quick interview loop, pretty intense interview loop. I knew Rich because he was on the board of this startup called AtomFilms, which was a digital entertainment company.


So yeah, I mean, to kind of bleed into your next question, Rich is a phenomenal leader in that he's really good at defining BHAGs, like the Jim Collins' BHAG of big hairy audacious goal. Something that's very big, seems larger than what you could achieve, is very good at developing systems and meritocracy in an organization. So really the feeling that an Expedia, in the golden area of Expedia I would say, is it felt like anyone could come up with a billion dollar idea. We hired a caliber of people that certainly came up with billion dollar ideas, but he certainly cultivated an environment where that was reinforced.


And in addition to that, he's just super competitive. I remember we did a company outing. I don't know. It was a party. I don't know what it was. But the Seattle Mariner Stadium and there was a home run competition, so you could try to hit a home run off a major league baseball pitcher. And he gets up, he being rich gets up and hits a home run.


Now the background on this is, I guess he spent weeks upon weeks training-

Chris Grouchy (00:21:07):

Oh my goodness.

Matt Hulett (00:21:08):

... with a major league baseball player. He had some kind of training. So the thing about Rich is funny, he's really competitive, but he also is good at trying to figure out the edge, the asymmetrical edge to win. Not to cheat but to win. And that came up a lot of times in how he operated Expedia, that he had some kind of edge that he learned, some insight that he learned, something that he learned that he used to exploit. Again, not cheat, but to exploit an advantage he was really good at. So he was a pretty phenomenal person to grow up with in my career.

Chris Grouchy (00:21:42):

Oh absolutely. One of the lessons there is just always be recruiting, right?

Matt Hulett (00:21:48):

Yes, always be recruiting.

Chris Grouchy (00:21:49):

Always. Always. Yes. And just have that eye for talent acquisition because you never know when you're going to find it. And when you find it, hang on for dear life and always be recruiting. Love that. Go ahead.

Matt Hulett (00:22:02):

I was going to say that was an important point that I missed since it was part of the September 11th story and how he pitched me, he gave me a business when I was really young both age and into my career where the company trusted me with a business that became around a billion dollars in gross sales. And it wasn't just me, it was a ton of folks, guys like Spencer Rascoff who ran Zillow for a while, who's a phenomenal investor and operator in his own right. Lloyd Frank. Barney Harford who's had a phenomenal career for a while. He was the COO of Uber and he is on the board of United.I mean, I could continue. I mean, everyone I could mention they were all kids. I mean, some of these folks were running kind of call centers. And it was just hiring the smartest person that you could find and give them a big challenge. Get out of their way. Obviously stage gate it so you're monitoring them through project reviews, but inspire people to do their absolute best in an environment that cultivates that. It's just an amazing way to keep hiring talented people all the time in setting these big goals and really enabling you to mess up in big ways without getting fired. That was my MBA. The Expedia in the early days was my MBA. And I think Rich is one of those unique founders who's also a great operator.

Chris Grouchy (00:23:22):

So much there. Absolutely, always be recruiting. The ability to operate and take bets on talent and hiring generalists early on as opposed to specialists again, and just raw talent, aiming it at something, at an ambitious goal and just going for it and knowing that the default state is failure so be okay with that. It's like as long as we learn something that we can apply moving forward, that's actually success.

Matt Hulett (00:23:48):

I think you hit on something that I meant to say but I didn't when you unpacked it is, a lot of individuals hire for knowledge, work experience, prior experience. I haven't found that to highly correlate to success. Example, and I failed it right. I had a product idea around this. It was a hiring product, so you could kind of wait attributes over time on people you hire over high velocity jobs and see what value attributes actually correlate to successful outcomes. I was trying to moneyball talent. You can do that for things like salespeople or maybe developers. But one of the things that you said about knowledge that I wanted to highlight is generally curiosity trump's knowledge. Generalists that are curious, obviously with some level of raw IQ and energy and grit end up doing way better.


So hiring someone from the last B2B SaaS company to focus on government sales and you're a new version of that B2B SaaS government sales team, you're assuming the same level of outcomes generally doesn't come to fruition. And so the knowledge piece I think is right that certainly in some cases you could hire. Amazon might steal someone from Microsoft for some bespoke thing they need. Sure, there's exceptions to all of this, but in general, I think the generalists that has raw IQ and that energy and curiosity, they tend to trump folks that have years of experience.

Chris Grouchy (00:25:18):

Well said. And that's talent and Rich Barton being an incredible figure to learn from all of the secrets there, not just within talent, but also operating. If we go back to the first T of the insight score, we have TAM, right? It's all about market size, TAM standing for Total Addressable Market. I'd love to illustrate this very important point, which is the difference between TAM and SAM, right? Sellable Addressable Market. I'd love to maybe use a story of your experience working or being on the board of Empire. I believe the original product was an ERP for eBay buyers, so kind of relevant in my world a little bit. I would love to illustrate the points of an importance of TAM versus SAM through that experience. If you don't mind,

Matt Hulett (00:26:05):

Yeah. TAM and timing are kind of very close. They're twins, there's the Hector & Polyx of business planning. So the TAM is something you just can't manufacture. It's the Total Addressable Market. In my mind, it should always be big. Even if you have a small business, it should always be big. If it's too small at some level of competency of could be acceleration of market or time, there's going to be a lot of competitors, it's going to be hard to acquire customers. So a billion dollars plus, everyone has their benchmark. I always think start with a B and figure it out from there.


So the Total Addressable Market is the absolute total number of users that want your product or service or could consume it. The Sellable Addressable Market is the specific cohort of people or companies that want your particular thing because it's almost impossible to have 100% market share unless you're a monopoly.


But a Sellable Addressable Market really denotes the fact that individuals and companies are different. There's different size of companies, there's different verticals within companies, different SIC codes. Consumers are different. There's rich ones, there's poor ones, there's thrifty ones, there's age splicing. There's psychographics, people who like country music versus rap. Not everyone's the same, thank God. And so the Sellable Addressable Market is the sliver within the Total Addressable Market that you can actually start building a wedge, you can start building very custom solutions that really address those companies or consumers needs.

Chris Grouchy (00:27:39):

I think one of the, I guess splashes of cold water in the face as I was reading the chapter, was how founders lie to themselves.

Matt Hulett (00:27:49):


Chris Grouchy (00:27:50):

Has that been your experience?

Matt Hulett (00:27:52):

Well, yeah, they fall in love with the product versus the pain, the customer pain.

Chris Grouchy (00:27:56):


Matt Hulett (00:27:59):

It's easy to see it when it's not you. And I do this all the time, I could give you a bunch of examples where I come in with a specific idea, I think I have some insight and it's a problem that I have and I skip all the different Lean Canvas frameworks or whatever framework you want to use, there's tons of them, and I go right to the solutioning and like, "Okay, let's do some fake front door tests and do some sample Facebook traffic to drive to email signups," all the hacky stuff.

Chris Grouchy (00:28:27):


Matt Hulett (00:28:28):

You don't pass go and you don't collect $200. You go right to product. And that's always the problem. Rarely that's the right way to go. I have found that truly understanding, even an uncomfortably small Sellable Addressable Market, it could be a very small number of people that have this problem, inevitably gets you to get an understanding of what they truly want. Some people call that product market fit. There's lots of names for it, but when you know that your reorder rate's really high, customers are helping you build the product, there's a path to making this a reasonably sized business based on what you think a reasonably sized business is. Then you're on the right track.


Too many folks, including myself, I don't know if you have this problem, try to hit all the bowling pins at the back of the TAM, versus I'm going to hit the first bowling pin, which is uncomfortable. An example is Expedia, my go to market was software companies or technology companies and manufacturing companies to sell them online corporate travel. Now that seems like the babushka of Sellable Addressable Markets, right?

Chris Grouchy (00:29:33):


Matt Hulett (00:29:34):

It's like, "Wow, it says trillion dollar market plus and he's spliced all the verticals down to this one little sliver. Well, why was that?" Well, they were the loudest. They also had the highest margin in their overall operating businesses. And I felt like those businesses were growing very quickly. And they kind of got it. They were already using technology at the time. Not stupid to... When you listen to this, you're like, "This guy can't be... He's got to be 800 years old." But at one point there was real travel agents in companies sitting outside the CEO's office that did travel.


So I was introducing a electronic version of that, a digital version of that so that anyone could book their travel. There was lots of cool tools around that. We automatically upgraded people's seats and waitlists. There's lots of cool stuff that we did. The transaction fees were really small, like $5 versus going to American Express, which was $100. I knew the market was going that way, so I tried to find the smallest group of people who understood this, had the same pain and wanted my product. And then once we nailed those folks, Amazon was an early customer for instance, we expanded. And then eventually we had the companies you'd expect to see, financial institutions and stuff like that.


But so if you don't start out with that core understanding of the Sellable Addressable Market and their pain, you're going to build something that usually doesn't work or needs too much capital and then you hope it works. It's just not going to be the right thing. everyone tries to solve the back of the bowling pin problem.

Chris Grouchy (00:31:00):

I relate to the back of the bowling pin analogy. When we first started Convictional, my co-founder, Roger and I, we'd left our jobs at Shopify. We're like, "Okay, we are going to basically reinvent B2B trade." EDI is incredibly legacy. It's hard to work with. And that pitch, it's responsible for $5 trillion worth of B2B trade. That pitch is seductive to a certain person, probably investors and so on, but customers make no sense of that. I think that just was a two year lesson for us of, "Okay, what is our version of the first bowling pin within this much larger vision that customers can relate to?"


I think that dovetails into your section on timing of the book, and this one is the most difficult. I'd love to maybe just elaborate on Convictional before jumping into the question, but in the book you talk about how it's a good idea to map out technology shifts and behavior shifts. With Convictional, I don't think we could have started this company five to 10 years ago. I think it's sort of like right now, the market is happening right now because you have large retailers who want to shed excess inventory. Customers are buying from D2C brands that you Shopify and retailers are like, "How do I source those products? EDI?" Well, Shopify doesn't speak the language of pre-internet ERPs, right? And so we came to this conclusion, what if we allowed large retailers to onboard modern brands and vendors?


That single sort of one liner resonates much more than reinvent B2B trade.

Matt Hulett (00:32:42):


Chris Grouchy (00:32:42):

Is timing actually about serendipity or is it about preparedness and having a secret? And hopefully that question makes sense.

Matt Hulett (00:32:51):

It makes a lot of sense. I hated writing this chapter because it's really hard. Anyone that's, it's like, "How do you moneyball that you're a new service or product or maybe an adjacency play on an existing thing that moves into another vertical, how do you make that successful and do it in a way where you're not too early? Because most entrepreneurs are too early because they're really smart.


I mean, most entrepreneurs that I know, it doesn't sound like you're one of them, are way too early and commit way too much capital before the market's ready. Big companies usually can have the ability to sit back in the sagebrush, watch all the young lines go by and then pounce, and they can do that relatively effectively. So you look at Apple. Apple's not really an innovator, they're a packager. They're always not the fastest and first on the spec, but they're the best at kind of packaging it within their ecosystem at a high price. They're not trying to be a unit share leader, they're trying to be a revenue share leader.


So to answer your question a long-winded way is, all the folks that I talked to in the book kind of lied. They always say it's serendipity and they didn't know what they were doing. But when I started really drilling into the years before they committed capital or first product and I really kind of pushed them on what was the thought process was for whatever they were doing like a game in the case of Rovio or Concur, which is online expense reporting in the case of Concur and Mike Hilton, was a secret. That secret is pretty consistent. Everyone that you talk to that you have, since there's no edge, meaning advantage in anything technology-wise because everything's an API, everything's open source. You can spin up Sprox everywhere, databases everywhere. Everything's easy, then you only have an edge.


Information is actually super commoditized as well. I mean Robinhood of today is far different than actually manually going through and kind of finding value based companies going through manual 10Qs. It's so hard back in the day. You had edge if you were a patient, if you're a Warren Buffet, you had edge. Now you don't have any edge. And so the people that have edge I think have some kind of insight and that insight can come from many places.


In the case of Rovio in the book, it was these game developers that built traditional games on traditional Java BREW handsets that were kind of non graphical and crappy and they worked with Nokia but they understood at the hardware level where things were going and they knew that they could see the trajectory of Nokia's development, the chip sets, and they knew exactly where it was going and what consumers wanted because they watched the PC console games. And they're basically like, "Look, we know that this thing in your hand's going to get better. We didn't know that Apple..." They didn't know that Apple was going to be as big, but they were completely on the sidelines waiting to take advantage of hardware specific things that they could build really compelling games around because they knew that generally what people wanted to play.


And so that was their insight, is the device is going to be small, there's going to be device-centric things like an accelerometer that are going to be fun, they didn't know what it was going to be, and that consumers are going to want a very bespoke experience based around that device, it's just not there yet. And so they learned their craft by being very close to Nokia and waited it out and almost were too late for the app store roll out. They were actually a little skeptical. And then once they saw a couple of million downloads on a game called Doodle Jump, which is one of my games back in the day, they were like, "Hey, this is actually kind of up our alley" and went all in.


So to answer your question long-winded away is I do think there's certainly serendipity, but I definitely think that the edge and the serendipity are almost the same as someone's really focused on a problem and understands an industry pain point and kind of gets a sense of technology or workflow changes generally has that edge.


There are ways to find the edge. One way to find the edge if you're a consumer business, is you can do really easy testing. I highlight a gentleman who is part of Pioneer Square Labs and they're in the business, they're a startup studio accelerator that test hundreds of ideas and kill most of them. They have it down in terms of figuring out if they're going to go to a market based on customer acquisition costs. You can get data bred comes really quickly if you look at intent being high, in CAC being high, that's generally something you don't want to be involved in if you're early stage.


There's some things you can do in B2B as well, but a long-winded way is I do think it's an edge around a secret. I think the best entrepreneurs that I know have some kind of fundamental knowledge because they spent time in this, maybe it's their own problem and they understand kind of the underlying rationale why this is going to change. It's articulated frequently as serendipity, but when you dig into it, it's not.


I mean Barry Diller, a guy I worked with for years at IAC, media mogul, brilliant guy, would always say, "I don't know how things work. It's serendipity." Yeah, serendipity, he's working 90 hours a week. He studied home shopping network, he saw the internet. I mean he had his own edge, he had his own insight. He's like, "I'm going to buy all these e-commerce businesses like LendingTree and match.com and Expedia and hotels.com because all these things are going to be important. I'm going to buy a lot of them because eventually Google's going to compete with me so I need to control demand and then we need to have control over supply." So he not only had a thesis on the internet being big on e-commerce, he had a thesis around how to stave off competition on the demand and in the supply side.


So all these people that talk about edge or serendipity, yeah, it's the Edison, like the famous quote about how many hours he works that's how much you create in terms of luck, is I think it's the edge because you have that insight.

Chris Grouchy (00:38:40):

Mm-hmm. Our listener is hopefully keeping track of or maybe struggling to keep track of the number of industries and verticals you've led companies in turnaround situations in everything from language learning, gaming, SaaS, startups, retail and more. One question that comes to mind across the companies that you're often parachuted into is how... It's an existing team in an existing culture. When you enter these businesses to set a new strategy and direction, they are effectively taking a leap on you, right? You, Matt, as their new dear leader. How do you earn their trust to execute towards the new vision? Your vision quickly. It's easy to see how you would face resistance perhaps early on.

Matt Hulett (00:39:31):

Yeah. And I always use this term heart and math. What does that mean? Heart and math is inevitably before I accept a position... And just to be blunt, people look at my career and they go, "You're like the king of weird shit" because I've jumped around to... One of my investors said, he's a microcap investor, he said, "Everyone looks at me and says I invest in weird shit." I'm like, "Well that's funny because I operate weird shit." And he's like, "That's why we're a good match." But I opt into what I take on. It's not like I'm a PE and I'm given an assignment in a briefcase and a silencer rifle and go in opting into it.And so the heart of it is I have to find a purpose for that business that's bigger than itself. Maybe a purpose that they don't even know that exists yet. But I have to have some empathy before I go in on the people, the mission, the culture. Even if the culture is screwed up, but there's good people, I have to have some empathy for it. And so the heart component, people feel when you're there. Everyone talks about being authentic and empathetic and transparent and collaborative.


Yeah, if you walk in kind of selling a bill of goods, people will smell it really quickly. So I walk in generally being selfless, very clear about what I want to do, very clear that people in the team may not like what I'm going to be doing. Some people don't make it so I have to get rid of some people, I have to hire new people, I have to just people's pay, but I'm super clear after about 90 days why I'm doing it. And that's usually a cultural reset or enhancement, refinement of the vision and mission, simplifying the operating model, getting new capital, strategy. I get all that stuff fixed or at least set on a template pretty quickly, doing its hard.


And then the math piece is being data driven in everything you do, even if you don't think you're data driven. The thing that drives me nuts is if you talk to someone and it's okay if they need to take a two hour Udemy class in Excel, is you got to have a no hypothesis in life and you got to come to me with a recommendation. I don't care who you are. Even if you're like, "No hypothesis." Look it up. I mean, you can learn pivot tables very quickly. In fact, it does it for you now. I always use a traditional view, but it's super easy now. I still like to drag the rows and columns versus Excel's like, "We think you want this." And it's like... So the math of it is setting up an environment where the KPIs are simple that anyone can remember the most important one, but you've architected the entire environment of your business to track to a plan.


The heart and math component makes people actually feel better. It makes people feel like my mission in life is surpassing what I thought it was. I'm doing something greater than myself. I'm either opting in or opting out of it, but the folks that are opting in should feel good about it. And secondarily, there's a math model, there's some person behind the curtain who's tracking all of this stuff with a proverbial metaphysical green visor that says, "Yeah, LTV to CAC is this" or it's, "My revenue number's that." And people can track it. It's like a big thermometer that goes up or down.


The heart and math piece reinforces that what you're doing is working, or if not, what we're going to do about it. It's a style in which most operators don't like. Most operators like to be day one the CEO and founder, and they're the product manager day one and everything's perfect and the cultural values have been laid out in an offsite and whistler and everyone's drinking beers. I mean, that's awesome by the way. I don't have the luxury of doing that. I have the luxury of going in and there's preexisting stuff. So the only way you can do it is I think heart and math. The math reinforces the plan. The heart gets you through the tough times and reinforces something that can be a moat. It could be a cultural moat. It could be a brand that has a moat and a promise around it. And so that's how I think about it.

Chris Grouchy (00:43:29):

Heart and math, especially relevant in bad times. If we look at the current macroeconomic conditions, we kind of see some patterns of what happened after the great financial crisis in 2008. And just a backdrop here, Sequoia Capital recently published a memo, fantastic read, called Adapting to Endure, which basically advises operators on how to make sense of and survive the current macroeconomic conditions. In 2008, Mike Moritz, someone I believe you've had the opportunity to learn from, of Sequoia Capital, famously showed portfolio company CEOs a tombstone that read "RIP, good times." How are you thinking about this in the context of running and operating PetMeds? Would love to dive into that.

Matt Hulett (00:44:25):

Yeah. In context, I mean Mike is arguably, I'm sure I'm going to be somewhat right, somewhat wrong, but one of the most successful investors of all time. And he is certainly the most interesting. He was a journalist by trade and a very counterintuitive thinker in his investments. In fact, he invested in a company that I was a founding partner of called AtomFilms. As part of a culmination, we were a startup based in Seattle that was basically had a thesis around entertainment's going to be short form, it's going to be on your phone, it's going to be on your screen, and everyone's laughing like, "Dude, that's YouTube." I mean we were funded before YouTube. In fact, Mike Moritz later went on to fund YouTube after us.

Chris Grouchy (00:45:04):


Matt Hulett (00:45:05):

It was a little bit better of an IRR than us. Eventually, our company did get sold, but it wasn't like a huge return. You would've done better maybe with S&P 500, but it was some return. Viacom bought it. But the point of it is, I was just coming out of this highcompany we talked about earlier, Progressive Networks, where I had a product that was being downloaded 300 times a day, and then when I left was being downloaded 300,000 times a day back when we used to download software versus within a web experience. And so I thought everything always would go up. I didn't have to manage a P&L.


Fast forward, there was no business models. Companies were not as healthy as they are now. The class of companies that have been funded now actually have good businesses for by and large they do. And if they're not, they've been laying off pretty aggressively. So I think the business class of this generation is much stronger and smarter and there's more playbooks because we have more history, we have more historians now and older folks with gray like myself who can go, "Okay, I remember what that was like," or "You better get your unit economics down."


So Mike was a board member on this company called Atom Shockwave. Virtually, overnight everything busted. There was no advertisers on the internet, which is a big part of our revenue. We had a lot of fixed costs and not a lot of runway. And I think we closed the last substantial round in Silicon Valley Bay area. Yeah, it was like early 2000 for $23 million or something. I remember driving, I had a... This is kind of funny, but I had corporate housing in Marin in the Bay Area. It was a beautiful drive, it go across the Golden Cape Bridge, but it would take you an hour plus. And as soon as the bubble popped the next day, meaning people were getting laid off, businesses are dying, it took me 15 minutes to get into work and it was like a ghost town. I was like, "What the hell?"

Chris Grouchy (00:47:02):


Matt Hulett (00:47:02):

Mike had this perspective that you need to have a set of operating practices to survive. And in essence, that started my career off on being kind of a turnaround guy because I had never really had to lay anyone off until then. That was my fault. And I took it very personally. I got really depressed, hundreds of people going out the door and me having them to sign your releases and stuff in mass doesn't make you feel good. And if it makes you feel good, then you're a psychotic person.


Mike was really good. And I think all the subsequent Sequoia Capital memos are basically derivatives of that memo with ideas around preserving cash, getting your unit economics down, not being so burdensome on CAC. And hopefully you have a good mix of CAC. Understanding the specific product strategy you're going after versus multiple. There's a lot of things you get into trouble with when the funds are flowing and then you're VCs are saying, "Grow, grow, grow, grow, grow at all costs" because the step up valuation's great for their assets under management and their management fees. So that gets me off a little derivative there.


So step back, you asked me a question about PetMeds. So in general, I think of businesses as discreet things versus macro things. And so everyone comes to me and says, "Oh my God, I'm running out of money in 30 days." I'm like, "Well, you should have called me six months ago." So in general it's like it is good practice to have at least two years of cash. Like your fixed costs times 24, that should be the amount of money in your bank. Do most startups have that? No.


Should minimum be a year? In general, you should understand when to hire somebody. You should understand what the metric is. I don't know what the metric is for each business. For revenue for instance, how many salespeople do you need to hire based on the pipeline that you see and things like for SaaS, are 80% of my reps hitting plan or not? And if not, then I probably wouldn't be hiring more people. So simple ways to know when to, in a KPI driven way, control your costs.


Sometimes the smart thing to do is stop everything and know backfill. If you feel like you're spinning at a control, you go into triage mode, you don't do back fills. Some people are doing layoffs, but you can, with proper planning, be really smart about it so that you can come out of a recession or a downturn much, much stronger. And so cash preservation's one thing.


The flip side to that is some verticals... And I'm answering not around PetMeds for a reason. Some verticals, you actually can accelerate share during recessions. So if you're in the business of consumer, I love consumer businesses. B2B is easier, everyone's going to debate me on this.

Chris Grouchy (00:49:42):

I agree.

Matt Hulett (00:49:43):

I just think consumer's so much more fun.

Chris Grouchy (00:49:45):


Matt Hulett (00:49:46):

So you can actually find areas of white space to expand. A lower CAC is typically a determinant of a turn down. Public companies have to show remediation very, very quickly. They pull out a variable marketing to hit their earnings targets. Things like top of the funnel advertising become really inexpensive. It was like that with the pandemic. In fact, I'm still kicking myself that I pulled a very large TV buy during the pandemic and one of my competitors babble accelerated because TV rates were dropping. And so for the mindful operator that understands their unique economics, understands how to control their fixed costs and be mindful of when to hire the next new person, it could actually be the best time to be growing your business.


And so for PetMeds, we're in a vertical where pets are your family members. We're in the consumable side of the vertical. It's a hundred billion dollar vertical, we're in a 10 billion SAM. That vertical is pretty recessionary resilient. It remains to be seen with this kind of inflation how resilient it is. And so what I always like to do is look at lots of TTM, lots of historical data. It's a 26 year old business so I can look at and plot how things look over time. And then I ask customers like, "Hey, why did you not refill a prescription?" for instance. And so any operator can be actively talking to customers in a non scalable way. You can actually call them, which is super fun. Or you can actually survey them. Or there's lots of ways to do it.


But you'll get a sense. In the B2B business, if you're selling a procurement, that's an easy call. If you're selling to the IT, head IT, and you get like five to 10 data points, you generally get a sense when budgets start drying up. So with Pets, our business has been so unoptimized for so many years, we've been losing share, I've been the CEO for less than a year, that we have a lot of things to do to get to competency, and those things are going to show us growing. So because I take on assets and companies that are a little bit screwed up, my playbook's different than if I was in a startup. A startup, I think the playbooks are... Look, you're a Y-Combinator background, you have resources to the world's best playbooks. They'll tell you exactly what to do. With a vertical like Pets, it's pretty recessionary proof. Knock on wood.

Chris Grouchy (00:52:03):

And that's a fantastic position to be in. You had a note, "A trick is not to get into the ring.". And I love that a large part of our audience would be retail executives. I think what's so interesting about the principles of thriving in a downturn apply regardless of whether you're consumer or B2B or retail versus SaaS or pick your vertical or product. Cash is king, right?

Matt Hulett (00:52:28):

Cash is king.

Chris Grouchy (00:52:28):

Runway is the... And unit economics are critical in all times, but now more than ever. So relevant across verticals. Just had a couple of other quick questions and then we can wrap up. PetMeds, it's this brand customers have trusted for decades as a pet health brand. Are you thinking about assortment expansion as a growth lever and how are you approaching that?

Matt Hulett (00:52:52):

Yep, most definitely. And you have some choices to make in retail businesses because it's the two by two of Michael Porter, which is on my right bicep. It's a joke. No one laughed.

Chris Grouchy (00:53:03):

Really I had my myself on mute there, but I almost... Because I was taking a sip of water and I was like almost going to spit it out on my microphone. Really.

Matt Hulett (00:53:12):

Because in the far right you have the vertical focus. On the left, you have the horizontal focus, right? And then you have low cost on the left and premium on the right. And so inevitably in retail, because the answer's always, "What about Amazon?", right? In my world it's Amazon and Chewy and others. I'm not going to be able to be everything store for pets. I'm way too late if I ever to do that and that doesn't make any sense.


So for any retailer that's trying to compete against the macro low cost, large SKU, large assortment value discount kind of player, those are very difficult places to play in. There's tons of places where you can play in the vertical side. And so a long-winded way is, yeah, I mean right now majority of our business is prescription products because there's friction there. A consumer has to actually contact us, and then on behalf of the customer we get the prescription authorized by the vet. And that has a lot of friction. A lot of companies don't like the fact that you can't just use a headless e-commerce solution, hit buy and it ships right away. There's some logistics in the background like the contact lenses space or the other analogies.


So our milk at the back of the store is the script, is the prescription. And so what I see us is as more of the CVS up to the Walmart, and it could be the chewy is the equivalent of the Walmart. And so yeah, we need to actually fill in a bunch of SKUs and assortment on food and more consumables and we don't have those. There's a variety of reasons why the company didn't do that over the years. But an environment where it's recessionary, customers do flock online, they like the convenience of it. People don't want to drive because of gas prices. They want more solutions from one vendor. And so it makes more sense for us to be offering more products. Not probably as much as the other folks, but the ones where through their prism of us would want to buy. And so absolutely, yes.

Chris Grouchy (00:55:12):

You'll have to get the BCG matrix tattooed on your thigh or something next time.

Matt Hulett (00:55:17):

Yeah, that'd be weird.

Chris Grouchy (00:55:21):

Yeah, I'm sure. And it sounds like from, at least in assortment perspective, PetMeds thinks about it in a more curated way. Most of our customers would be similar in the sense that they want to be fresh and different, not an Amazon clone.

Matt Hulett (00:55:34):


Chris Grouchy (00:55:34):

I think that's critical to the success of retailers long term. How do we be fresh and different with our assortment and be first to market with new products that we know our customers want and then cycle out SKUs that don't make sense, right? If a SKU isn't productive, get rid of it and cycle on a new SKU that we think has promise and test and learn.

Matt Hulett (00:55:54):

Yeah, I agree. I would not call myself a traditional retail executive, although I run a retail business and an e-commerce business. And because of that I always find it's interesting how... Gosh, are they still around? Remember Channel Advisor?

Chris Grouchy (00:56:10):

Oh yeah, they're still around. Yeah, still kicking.

Matt Hulett (00:56:12):

Okay. But there's all these companies that had feeds and they thought about feeds of SKUs and the taxonomy of a SKU. You know what I'm talking about because you're in this business.

Chris Grouchy (00:56:19):


Matt Hulett (00:56:21):

I just like looking at data. I'm always like, "What is all this stuff?" eBay was the mosh pit of taxonomies because it made no sense and because it's consumer entered obviously. So you could misspell something and find something. I guess that's your form of edge.


Long story longer is the smart assortment, the smart merchandise, we're reflecting on what you're saying, building some intelligence so that the operators and the retailers offer differentiation and they can put services and brand around it is where it should be going. And I'm surprised entering this company, I've talked to people who are Petco and PetSmart, it just feels like everyone's schlock in SKUs and I'm like, "God, this is so weird." It's kind of like social shopping. I buy a lot of stuff on Instagram. I mean, my feed is like hats and shoes. The targeting is relatively good, but the experience is still pretty shitty.


And I think to myself like, "Man, when are we going to start getting really good next level kind of feed management?" And I know I'm giving you an advertisement, but still I'm shocked coming into the industry again and looking at feeds because I've worked with eBay and Amazon at a very detailed level, at an API level. It kind of feels like there's been no innovation there. And so I'll triple down on what you said that inevitably if you're trying to compete on selection, you're trying to compete on shipping that's kind of been done, what is your thing? And so if you're trying to be a taste maker yourself and you're not data driven as a taste maker, good luck. You have to be either really, really bespoke.


And so my wife, for instance, has her own line of non-alcoholic wine alternatives.

Chris Grouchy (00:58:05):

Rock Grace.

Matt Hulett (00:58:06):

Yes, Rock Grace.

Chris Grouchy (00:58:06):

Shout out to Rock Grace.

Matt Hulett (00:58:07):

Rock Grace and my wife. But the types of brands that she's into are Tata Harper, Goop. And I was like, "What is this?" And it's like women that wear Lulu Lemon pants and drive Range Rovers. They buy these products. And it's clean beauty. And I'm like, "I don't know what this is, but it's really expensive for small bottle." But they have limited SKU assortment and high end brand and high on individual ingredients or assortment. Even some of the high end retailers in the skin and beauty space do a really good job around providing an experience around the SKU assortment.


So yes. In a long-winded way I'm saying, yeah, I'm surprised that there hasn't been more innovation there. I know this is kind of an advertisement for what you do, but I am surprised. Inevitably, I'm not going to win by trying to match the next biggest retailer in pets with 60,000 to 100,000 SKUs. However, if I can find things that nobody has, maybe I'll do private label, maybe I'll do exclusive, Target did a really good job of turning around their business many years ago doing Isaac Mizrahi brands and differentiated brands you can only find on their site.


My whole edge will be the more expert stuff I can do around that SKU experience. And so I'm not going to rely so much on exclusive. So for me it's the vet, telemedicine in your hand. So that's a long-winded way of saying, yes, I'm going to expand, but that I can't win SKU for SKU versus the biggest person out there.

Chris Grouchy (00:59:36):

And it makes sense. I think marketplace is, it's been done in many verticals and it's winner take all. And so if you're going to compete again, you have to be fresh and different, which is the framing that you laid out as it pertains to Pet. I think that also sort of this mosh pit of SKU taxonomy that you experienced with eBay back in the Empire days, certainly what we see when we're working with vendors, third-party vendors who use just a hodgepodge of different systems and we go in there and we have to clean it up so that we can surface it to the retailer and make meaning of it. And that's just an incredibly hard problem regardless of how many SKUs you want to take on.

Matt Hulett (01:00:15):

I think the thing I like about your business is it's the most unsexy business you can find.

Chris Grouchy (01:00:21):

Love it.

Matt Hulett (01:00:22):

No, I mean, it's a compliment. It's like Shippo. I love Shippo. That is the gnarliest business and I love talking about it to people. But these gnarly businesses that like it's just an API call and you're like, "God, I'm glad that Chris and his team are dealing with this because I don't have to deal with it," those are great businesses, really good management teams on really kind of logistically horrible, mentally tiring problems. I love those businesses.

Chris Grouchy (01:00:54):

Well, the more esoteric but bigger the market, or bigger the TAM or SAM, not only the more value you can extract from it, I guess that's maybe an over simplistic way to frame, it's like the fewer competitors you're going to have at any given point in time. Because the barrier to entry is awareness that this fricking problem exists. And by the way, it's a chief digital officer or CEO of a large retailer who's like, "I have this problem" and it turns out it's like it's part of the boardroom conversation. That's how difficult it is.


So we lived it at Shopify and then parlayed our experiences there in synthesis into Convictional. And actually my co-founder Roger implemented SPS Commerce, which is an EDI platform for GNC back in the day. So instead of going to university, that was his MBA. And then full circle, here we are with Convictional.


Anyways, this interview, Matt, has been incredible and I really appreciate you taking the time. I know we've gone over. I'd love to just quickly go into four rapid fire round questions if you don't mind.

Matt Hulett (01:02:02):

Let's do it.

Chris Grouchy (01:02:03):

All right. Most exciting opportunity in B2B post COVID?

Matt Hulett (01:02:07):

I like this company out of Seattle called Flexe, F-L-E-X-E. They're like warehouse on a cloud. This raised another round of money, CEO's really smart, the head of marketing is somebody I've worked with in the past. I think it's an awesome opportunity and they're going to be in the right place at the right time. This is the next where headless e-commerce is... This is not really lightning around I guess, but headless e-commerce was hot for a while. Still is, but this is going to be a hot, hot company.

Chris Grouchy (01:02:33):

Awesome. I'll definitely have to check it out. A brand you love and why?

Matt Hulett (01:02:37):

Yeah, I would try not to say Apple, but there's two. Athletic Brewing, which is a non-alcoholic beer, and I like it. I'm big on really curated brands that are consistent from the mission all the way down to the delivery. So they have a great brand, they give a large percentage of their company's profits to organizations that support variety of different causes. They support athletes in particular. And non-alcoholic beer just sucks. And it's actually the only one that I like. The packaging's beautiful and their service is exemplary. So it's kind of like the Patagonia of beers and it's not alcoholic and I just love their ethos.

Chris Grouchy (01:03:14):

Well, Athletic Brewing has non-alcoholic beers and Rock Grace has non-alcoholic champagne and cocktails, right?

Matt Hulett (01:03:22):

Yeah, you got it.

Chris Grouchy (01:03:24):

There you go. Most important lesson in fatherhood?

Matt Hulett (01:03:28):

Unconditional love and listen more than preach.

Chris Grouchy (01:03:31):

Love that. We will wrap up with this final rapid fire question, which is, the kindest thing someone has done for you?

Matt Hulett (01:03:38):

It has to be my mom. There's so many instances where my mom has helped me. I mean, she's famous. I used to open speeches up by saying, "With an attention getter, fuck you, I hope you fail." Which is something she actually told me when I was being an asshole when I was a senior in high school. But I mean, she is a hardcore devout mom. I remember I had this image of her staying up all night doing my campaign posters for my ASB president campaign. I went to sleep and she did worked on these things all night. I actually won. I was ASB president in my school. But I just have this image of her kind of crunched over sign after sign after sign, staying up all night just for me. I think maybe that exemplifies the devotion and the kindness that she showed to me.

Chris Grouchy (01:04:23):

That is a perfect place to wrap. Matt, thank you so much for spending time with me today to cover your eclectic career, your story, your incredible book Unlock. And for folks who are interested, Unlock, I would highly recommend it especially in these tough times. The audio book was recently released. You can find that on Audible. Matt will grace you with his voice, and I highly recommend the audio version. Matt, anything else you wanted touch on before we wrap up?

Matt Hulett (01:04:53):

No, I just want to congratulate you on being a lifetime learner. I listened to one of the first episodes with you talking to your co-founder and his interesting experience being homeschooled. I just find that your curiosity and your mission and your business is super, super interesting and compelling. So hats off to you for doing a podcast like this.

Chris Grouchy (01:05:14):

Thank you. I really appreciate it. And hey, we're trying to make it happen, right?

Matt Hulett (01:05:19):


Chris Grouchy (01:05:20):

All right, well that's a perfect place to wrap. And thanks again, Matt, really appreciate your time.

Matt Hulett (01:05:25):

Thank you so much.

Chris Grouchy (01:05:33):

Thanks again to Matt for coming on the show and just delivering the goods. And thank you listener for listening. We have an exciting roster of C-Suite executives in retail and e-commerce lined up for you in season two. So if you don't want to miss a single episode, please subscribe to the show on Spotify, Apple, or wherever you get your podcasts. You can also stay updated by following Convictional on LinkedIn and on Twitter.


Finally, if you want to share some feedback on the show, DM me on Twitter, I'm at @ChrisGrouchy, or you can email me@ at chris@convictional.com. Thanks again for listening.

Subscribe to Legends of Retail

Learn from retail CEOs, CMOs, and CDOs in every vertical