Ivan Ramirez joins us today on LearningFromOthers. He’s one of the first employees at Overstock.com. Later saw a business opportunity to start his own operations. He successfully grew that business to be bought out later by Groupon. We talk family and how financial free isn’t the end goal but freedom of time is. Please welcome, Ivan Ramirez.

  • 00:01:13 Ivan’s Background
  • 00:07:38 Sold his company, started working with Overstock
  • 00:15:38 Damon’s Notes
  • 00:18:02 What is success?
  • 00:24:09 Shift in role
  • 00:29:18 Shares his experience
  • 00:38:00 His take with college and entrepreneurship
  • 00:40:49 Role in E-move and other projects
  • 00:51:27 Time management in projects
  • 00:55:00 Funny story
Podcast Episode Transcripts:

Disclaimer: Transcripts were generated automatically and may contain inaccuracies and errors.

Hey, everybody. Welcome to learning from others today. I’m excited. We got, um, uh, guests that I’ve done a lot of business with over the years, and it’s been interesting to see the evolution of his career and the different things he gets to dabble in and, and where that’s gone and, and, uh, the opportunities that I’ve had to work with him in those different projects. Um, so why don’t we just jump right into our, our guests today? Uh, Ivan Ramirez, thanks for joining us. Um, why don’t you give us like the, the crash course on, uh, your background and, and tell us what you’re up to, and then we’ll kind of circle back on what those projects have been and what you’ve learned from them. Can you hear him, Kyle? Nope. Nope. Hey Ivan. Okay. You got, I got no audio on you. That’s where, cause it’s not switching to him, but it was when, before you hit go. Yeah, let’s see nothing yet. What if it can handle all three of us, right? Yeah. I can take like a hundred people. No, I haven’t. Can you hear us? That’s where we can hear you before you hit record you to trying to stop it and start it again. Now let’s say, Hey, can you guys still hear me? Yeah, I can hear you now. Okay. Alright. Let me, let me start that. Let me start that over then. Um, everybody thanks for joining us for learning from others. Say we have a guest I’m really excited to, to talk to. I’ve worked with them on a lot of projects over the years and started with his own business. And then he’s kind of sold that and taken the opportunity with that, to work with some big companies and do some investments. And I appreciated the opportunity to work with them in a variety of those trials. It’s over the years. So today what we’re going to kind of skip the current events and just jump right into the guest style. Ivan. Thank you for joining us. Why don’t you just give some background on where you came from and what got you into this industry, and then we’ll go from there and tell us about what you’re into nowadays. Yeah. Hey Damon. Thanks for having me, man. Um, yeah, listen, um, a bit about myself. I started off as an entrepreneur actually pretty, pretty early on in life. I think. My first sort of little business that I started was like many other kids out there was cutting grass around the neighborhoods. And, and, uh, I learned one of my, I tell everyone that I learned one of my first business lessons during that, which was, you know, I had once I had a lot little deals, um, sorry. A lot of clients I’ve had to, I had to go out and hire or some friends to kind of help me cut grass. I could do it all on my own. But my friends were constantly saying like, Hey, you’re charging these guys 15 bucks. You’re giving us five. You’re keeping 10. Why aren’t you getting this path of what you charge us as well? You know, I didn’t know much about business and entrepreneurship back then, but I was like it to me, it seemed logical. Then the guy that knocked on the door and got the contract, got the line share of, of the, of the revenue. Right. Uh, they, they were looking at as like, Hey, let’s split it or I should get the 15. Cause I did the job over here or I should get the 10 and you get the five. I was like, no, I get the 10, you get the five. They walked in the door. I got the business. I’m B. Now I understand that, you know, as an entrepreneur, the guy that takes the risk and the guy that goes out and does that, you know, it does what many others don’t have. Uh, you know, the majority of the people, the reality, the majority people don’t have the guts to become entrepreneur. It’s tough. It’s it’s really, and trust me, there’s times where I’ve been. I want to get out of this, right? I just want to go to a nine to five job. And I want to get to this a very, very tough thing to do. It’s very lonely. And so, anyway, so that was one of my purse sort of, uh, sort of business lessons. So I started off, I started off my first eCommerce site in 1999, a company by the name of brandbuy.com. And I was getting that up and running. Um, and I needed some, some capitals. So I went out and looking for some capital to build a technology, which at the time cost millions of dollars. I remember back in the day we got, we got a quote to build a website and there was about $750,000 to build a website back back in 89. I mean, it’s like my God, I could build much nicer sites today, myself on Squarespace. Right. That was back then you needed a lot of capital to build a lot of this technologies today, um, you know, has become a lot easier to do. So I went off to start looking for capital and I read, I ran across an article on Forbes magazine about this guy, Patrick Byrne, uh, who had just invested in a small company talk called overstock.com. They were, they were just getting up and running. I remember when I went to the left, they had a little counter at the top of the website that tells you the amount of products that they had up there. And it was like you’re, you know, hundred and 25 products that if I can remember, um, it was a tiny little company back then. I reached out to the guy and I was like, look, I’m doing a very similar business. Uh, does it make sense? And for us to partner up in one way or another. Send him a, uh, an email with a, with a business proposal. And two weeks later, I hear back from Patrick burn himself and says, Hey, I got your information interested in learning about what it is that you’re doing and got on a call with the guy. He, uh, invited me to come out to an interview and, um, by the way, come out to an interview, super, super busy guy. So like I was in my hotel. He’s like, look, I’ll, I’ll see you later. You have dinner before you come into the office tomorrow. Well, the executive business, and so the guy, the guy never showed up. So I like, I ordered some Chinese food in my, to my, in my room. My ate. Then I get, literally, as I’m finishing the last bite, the guy rings, he’s like, Hey Ramirez, I’m an ex rivers. Let’s grab some dinner, you up for dinner. I’m like, yeah, sure. Let’s dope. So I’m full as can be walk over next door to rivers, Cottonwood Heights, and we’d have dinner with this guy. I couldn’t, I don’t know how I stopped. The bull pasta down my mouth. Cause I was just like, I could not eat any more, but I was like, I’m not going to let go of this opportunity, eating this great guy and you know, this business and talking to him about business. So, so anyways, I started off, I, I, when I interviewed it was about 13 of us when I got there. I remember that day we were having a standup, it was 13 guys just gathered around Patrick in kind of talking about some of the things that, the amount of money that we had lost during that week, which was, I don’t know if he. It was kind of like a wait for him to test me and said, okay, let’s see, you know, how, how, um, how this guy takes it, that we’re losing X number of hundreds of thousands of dollars per week at the time. I think we’re some ridiculous amount per week in the business up and running. So, um, it was about 13 of us, um, interviewed with a bunch of folks. And then I came back and, uh, back to California and. Sort of, this was like around October of 2000, uh, January, 2001. I got an email saying, Hey, you, um, I can’t investigate your business, but why don’t you come on over and help me build my business, helped me build this business, give you some stock in the business and that sort of stuff. So I always tell that I sold my first company for a job. So I, so I went back and kind of said, you know what? I told my partner onbrandbuy.com. I said, dude, I’m going to go ahead and take this opportunity. It sounds like a great opportunity to go and learn. Um, the guidance done, you know, has got a pretty good business acumen. And at the time there was not a lot of internet entrepreneurs. They really didn’t exist at that time. If I think about it 2000, I mean, Jeff Bezos was the only guy. Then there’ve been a bunch of other guys that had done it and failed miserably. And then this guy was picking up the pieces, all failed. Internet companies are turning them up and building a business, which at the time, nobody, nobody thought he would survive because he’s like, well, you know, you never survived, but the Internet’s dying. Uh, but he, but he managed to pull it through. So I ended up, I came, spent seven and a half years at overstock has been probably the best education in my life. Uh, I didn’t finish. I, I brought that college when I, when I came over to take his job and Patrick would always tell me I don’t to tell Patrick, Hey, I feel a bit intimidated. I work with some of guys that have a lot of experience that master’s degree, PhD degree. Don’t worry about it. The most important thing is that, you know, the work that you’re going to do here, there is going to equate to a few master’s degrees. Once it’s all said and done, and he wasn’t was dead on the amount of work that I did at overstock. The experience that I got, I mean, it’s a 21 year old kid, 22 year old kid to walk into a business and be given projects. Um, like the projects that we would given. And I wasn’t the only one, there was a ton of very young talent that was given a lot of those opportunities. So I spent seven and a half years there doing things that were amazing. Uh, at the age of 27, I was VP of biz dev and at a publicly traded company, which was like, wow, that’s I don’t think there was a lot of young guys at that age, getting an opportunity. Um, And so spent seven and a half years there learned the time left that company to start my own company, commerce interface. And, uh, and yeah, and I started commerce interface. It was a technology business that we were going to use to connect, uh, manufacturers to multiple online sales channels. And probably one of the biggest mistakes I made in starting that business. Was not having a cofounder that was technical at the time. It was probably one of my biggest mistakes. If I, if I look back at it, um, or two, it was there’s was two ways I could have gone about that. Right. One I could have had a technical cofounder. Um, and I think I would have, yeah, take myself a ton of headaches or two. I could have had somebody else to come in and run the commercial side of the business. And I could have dove in earlier on in that journey. To being a technical, a product technical. So, but yeah, I had to deal with both. That was the guy coordinating thing, engineers. I mean, we built out half the platform in PHP. Then I met guys that said, well, PhD is not a scalable way to build the type of application and let’s move over to that. Icon to Python framework. And at the time I was like, what the hell is on stuff like that. I just want this system to take it, story, all this stuff. I’m like, God, what is all this stuff? I don’t get it. And then at the time we were using co-location. So like, if the servers went down, I had to go to the colo and like do the restarts and, and it was just, it was getting painful, man. I was like, this is not for me. I come home crying, literally I’d come home. So my wife said the freaking applications down for three hours. Couldn’t figure it out. I had no control over it. The guys, you know, the guys couldn’t figure it out. They finally got it up and running. Everyone was kind of keeping you in the dark as to what was going on. Little did I know that it’s I mean, now I know it’s just all poorly written code. That was, you know, um, that was the issue. And so it’s not that it took three to four hours to figure it out. It just took three to four hours for them to go back and fix their spaghetti code and shit that they had done. Right. And so it was like, they were literally fixing the junk that they’d written. So, so I think I finally said one day I woke up one day. I said, look, I can’t run a technology business and not have a really good understanding, you know, technology. So I made a decision. One day, I got up one day. Hired a guy to come in and do my commercial, the commercial side of the business, sales, marketing, all that. And I jumped head first in the product. I mean, um, that was about a little over 10 years ago. A little over 10 years ago, just jumped head first into product, started to, I knew that there was something to be said about what the customers were asking for and what we were actually putting out. Right. And the engineers are like, the customers doesn’t know what the hell they’re talking about. It’s BS. I’m like, dude, the customer. You said, we got these manufacturers that are using our product. They want these features, this is how they want it to work. Why are we going to argue with right. Um, so that’s when I really learned to, I really learned one of the most important lessons about being a product person. And that is you gotta have, you gotta listen like crazy to your stakeholders. Right. Um, and so I, I did for the. For the next sort of 10 years after I made the decision, that’s all I did is I just focused on building out my product. Um, I learned how to use different design tools at the time, so I can mock things up. They didn’t have all the cool tools like they have now, like sketch and about Psalm eight and all that stuff. So I was doing most of that stuff in PowerPoint and then getting together with our engineers. I eventually. I ended up changing out my group of engineers, going to India, outsourced all that stuff to India. And I was fortunate enough to meet this guy, Amman James, just, I mean, he’s still a partner of mine and, uh, he’s an amazing, uh, software engineer, maybe a software architect architect, and literally sat me down and they would show me any code. He was like, I have it. Let me show you. Why this is failing. You see this code here and have you seen how we’re making multiple costs to the database to retrieve the same information? Does that make sense to you? No. It makes no sense if you’re treating the same information. So he’s like, all right, here’s the change we’re going to make? And we’re going to speed up, you know, the performance of this, of this, of this order, uh, list, view page, for example. So he literally took the time to teaching all those things. And took the time to like explain architecture to me and how systems should work. And so that’s how I ended up getting, I’ve never written a line of code in my life. I would say that I can give you a very raw face, um, architecture design on any system type of application. I can definitely design and handle the user experience, uh, for any application. Um, and all of that has been. Just based on what I, I pretty, it wasn’t by design. It was, I had to do it or else I felt like my business was going to fail. So I think, yeah, that was my biggest mistake. And I encourage every entrepreneur, like, look, if you’re not technical, go out and find her. So for really good technical program. And, um, and, and, and build it together with a really technical cofounder now that could have its challenges, right. Because. Dealing with, with partners co-founders it’s has its own set of challenges. Right? So, or if you’re a technical founder, one, find yourself a really good business. Co-founder because I’ve also seen a ton of businesses as an investor that have amazing product, amazing software stack, but they haven’t figured out a way to monetize this thing. Right. Yeah, that’d be my advice on, on that. And that’s yeah. Anyways, that’d be sort of my, my first piece of advice on that. Yeah, no, that’s a good background. Um, so I, I made a couple notes. Um, w what I think is interesting, like when you talk about your, your contact over in India, what I’ve learned over the years is, is there’s a big difference between people that can. Accomplish a task just to accomplish it versus, but people that, that won’t accept failure. Like you want the guys that aren’t just gonna check off the tasks, just to check off the tasks you want to surround yourself with people that will go above and beyond that, to make sure that. It actually solves the underlying problem, not just to check off the task list. So it’s really important to surround yourself with those people. And I think that’s what really makes a big difference with successful businesses. Is the guys, just like you say, you applied that to yourself. I became that guy when it came to the reliability of your product and you, like you said, you don’t end head first. So you became that guy that wouldn’t accept failure in that respect in the past. And then you’ve got your indie connections. Who wouldn’t accept failure and not that respect of task. Um, then. You know what I will. Well, you also mentioned that I thought was interesting, that I can identify with, as you talked about, um, risk and loneliness of being an entrepreneur. What I find stressful to deal with as an entrepreneur, uh, aside from just the risk and loneliness is the lack of understanding from the other people, because other people see the rewards when you have a success in the entrepreneur space, but they don’t see the 20 hour days. 10 days in a row or the financial investments that you roll the dice on. And, you know, you front your own assets, your own capital and, and well, you know, that’s, that’s you taking that risk and if it succeeds it’s, everybody wants to participate in the success, but nobody even acknowledges the risk that’s being put on the table to begin with. Um, and you know, Kyle and I can. Relate to that. Even right now, we’re making a big marketing investment, um, to, to scale our company. So with our company, we’ve grown a lot over the years from referrals, but you know, referrals, isn’t a scalable thing. You can’t pour more fuel on the fire. So we’re investing a lot right now. And, um, you know, for our size of operation, it’s a, it’s a big financial, I would say risk, you know, what the calculated risk. Um, but you know, nobody sees those risks. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. You know, I think you don’t want to success, right? Like I, you probably saw Robert Easter and stuff was like, like everyone always talks about like success, success, success, what the hell is success? Right. It’s like, Oh no, it’s definitely not it’s to me. Like, I just don’t believe in it. Like I used to, I used to be, I used to be like a sucker for anything that had success on me. Cause all that shit. I figure if I read it. It’ll just organically come, I’ll be successful. Everyone else has read these books. I’m going to read those books. I should be successful. It just doesn’t happen. I like success is not an end state. Like I’ve always thought of success as a, you know, a it’s just being able to do it, whatever I want to do. Right. Um, and having, having the courage to tell. Established businesses or the world. That’s like, you know what, you’re wrong? My approach is better, whether it’s right or wrong, doesn’t matter. But the fact that you’re able to take that stand and say, you know, the way been done historically as long, I’m going to improve the weight and we hit, um, and then having an endearing to just fuck things up, excuse my language, but on your own, because you will mess things up. You will mess things up. Right? So like that, that to me is success, right. Is, um, it’s right. To do whatever I want. How I want it on my own terms, err, to tell people, no, that’s, that’s not the way I’m going to approach this problem. This is the way you could completely fail. That’s okay. But to me, that, to me, that’s success and it’s, so it’s more of a mindset than a, than a, an instate, right? Sure. Cause like, like, you know, like when I sold my business right. And I got, I got, you know, millions I got from my business, whatever that was. I was like, I, it felt great. Like when, when that, when, when you open up your bank account the next day and you, you see a bunch of little zeros in there and I was like, wow, that’s great. But then like the next few days, or the next few weeks, it’s like, okay, what’s next? Like this? Like, no, this is. This is not it because you can sit on your ass and you’ll, you’ll spend that money no time. Right. So now it’s like, okay, what’s next? And so that’s when I finally discovered I was like, shit, now I’m now I got the ability to do this. I’m going to then define, I’m going to start doing things on my own terms to me designing my life the way I once, uh, working with entrepreneurs, teaching them what, what I learned about all my page and helping them hopefully. You know, deal with some successful businesses, go off and do that. But at this time, and to me, it’s not about like, Oh, I’m going to exit, make a bunch of money. It’s more about, wow, it’s cool to take that somebody created that’s a bit of capital to help them drive it and help them exit that business. Yeah. The monetary thing is excellent. But to me, I’d rather point back at the badges and look, I did that, man. I can’t, nobody believes that. We build it and build something great. And you got people to buy the product, drove revenue up to X amount of time. Yeah, I think a common thread with successful entrepreneurs is that, um, you know, when you get into the entrepreneur world, you, uh, you know, the financial reward at first seems to be the goal, but then once you accomplish that one time, then you realize that. Financial success. Isn’t, isn’t a gall, but the next round financial success, this is your tools for whatever you want to accomplish afterwards. And the common thread that I see is freedom. And so I wrote a piece just recently about how freedom is the new currency. And so you want money, but not or money. You want money for freedom. Yeah, set on. I think man, I would say freedom over any, any over any level of money right now. I mean, the freedom that I’ve been fortunate enough to experience after having sold my business is just absolutely amazing. And I, I don’t want to get it up to me. That’s a lot more valuable than any right. And so that’s why. That’s why I decided that I will get in the past and help others because I wasn’t going to be with God driving that business forward. I wanted to play at that supporting cast member. Well, as opposed to be the main guy in the business. Right? So Ivan Ivan is now the record producer. That makes millions behind the scenes off, off the wrapper. Right. I don’t want to beat. Yeah, I’ve never. Yeah. Yeah. I will nickname Timberland. You’re everyone’s favorite producer, you know, it’s kinda like I’m for real, right. Nobody knew who the hell morale was when he finally decided to come on. I was like, who the hell is this guy? I was like, are you serious? You’ve been producing all these major hits that you’ve been listening to for the last 10 years. I mean, he just. Exactly. I’d rather do that. To be honest with you, it’s just find a business where I can step in and support them. Kind of what I do now. Hey Russell. I mean, that’s an amazing entrepreneur. He’s great PR guy. I would never, in a million years think that I have the skill to take over. He does a CEO that he knows so much about the history. It’s his first start out, but it doesn’t matter. And that’s sometimes, sometimes people. People want to focus on how do I it’s like on all the negatives that some of the individuals, instead of like, help them shape themselves instead of like, you know, supporting them and like, you know, prying them up. And that’s kinda my support. I’ve been my role with Russell and I told him that we had an incident before I came. I got involved with racially. Where we had somebody that wanted to becomes your business struggles and that never happened, but like, you’re not going to have that issue. And I have no interest in being a CEO. I have an interest in supporting you, become, uh, supporting this business and become successful. And that’s it. I’ve got no interest in being yelled at, but I just, I want to support and the partner where I have the, the part where I thrive is I like product and technology. That’s the part where I like to feel the products. And in a way, a CTO is a bit like a CEO, right? Because you’re, especially if you’re in a product based business, right. You’re, you’re the guy that’s driving the vision and the guy that’s driving the product code. So anyway, that’s another thing. I think that in the early days of my career, I was caught up on, I want to be CEO. I want to be the title. I want to be the guy that starts at all. I want to be the guy that owns a hundred percent. Nah, not really. Not really because you know what, that was another mistake I made in commerce interface. I think the commerce interface could have been 10 times more valuable if I would have given, if I would have brought in martyr people earlier on given them more equity, you know, um, in having them help us build that business. I think that I could have sold that business for 10 times the amount, or we may have, we may have not sold it. We may have grown it to be a substantially large business. And I would’ve just, you know, at the time, if I would realize, look, I’m not the guy to run out with, stepped away. It would problem with the cost me to step away, because I think it costs you, you can go to step away, but that’s another big lesson that I learned, man, is you got to bring in people that are smarter than you. Okay. And you got to let them do the thing. Right. And a lot of times as co founders of companies, we feel like if we open the door and let somebody else in and tell us what it is, That they’re stepping on our toes. No, not at all. They’re going to help make, I mean, you’ve gotta be smart enough to be that what they’re going to be smart enough to see what these people are doing is, is heading in the right direction or not. Um, because as a seat, if you just kind of step aside, it’s not like you just step aside and let everyone do what they want to do. You step aside, you watch them operate. You’ve still got to have the ability to identify what’s right or wrong for the business. Right. And if it’s right, then you want it, you want to support them so that they can do more of that. It’s wrong. I want to pull back and say, Whoa, what’s going on here. Right. And at the end of the day, data doesn’t lie. Right? A lot of times in the Europe, as you know, in my business, I didn’t go off early on. I needed to look at data as a major way to drive decisions. We looked at just. You know, it was a lot of very anecdotal type of situations, but now I won’t make any decisions without data. Like one of the first things I ask, I ask them, what kind of data do you have available to tell you? You know, if you’re making the right or wrong decision on either spending the marketing dollar or decreasing prices, increasing prices. So we always go to, I always try to look at it. As data to help drive those decisions, then you don’t get into arguments. The data counts probably emotions out of it. Totally do you totally do it. So, um, you talked about Amy. I think that’s a good opportunity to transition to what your, your projects are. But, um, before we do, I have had one other quick question. So you talked about how you started your first business and then, and, uh, told your partner that you’re going to kind of exit and go work at overstock. So what type of background did you have before that, to even be able to start that first business? Like where did you learn whatever you learned? Was it just trial by fire? There was no background, man. It was, it was, I mean, I, I mean, I mean, obviously as a young boy, I had, you know, like I told you my little, my little grass cutting business, and then later on, I skipped a piece where I started a water filtration business that was actually pretty successful. And then I lost business, another story for another day. But, um, but I, I didn’t have much experience. Most definitely not experience on learning a website. We’ll take a time in 1990 times, very, very Amazon started in 95. So 95 minutes, six. So I think that, uh, nothing, I just had the desire. I just knew that I wanted it. I, I read a lot of Newsweek. I subscribed to Newsweek every single news week, every single week. It was these articles about very young God is starting businesses that were selling for me. Right. And so I was like, man, why can’t I do that? Right. That’s what motivated me in the very beginning to want to do something in technology at the time you can search. Right. I had no experience. There was zero experience. I cofounded a webmaster, but they used to call it back then. It was the webmaster. Um, and he built, he built the left side and Dreamweaver and, and did all that stuff. When I had no experience in my experience, I knew that I had to buy something 10 and sell it for 15. I knew that it was, you got to make the profits. I didn’t know what operational costs were. So I’m glad I went to work for overstock percent happier. Even today in today’s economy, there’s many, many internet retailers that are still fading. Don’t understand how to operate a business. They don’t understand friction goes to operating commerce business. And so they think like, Oh, I’m buying this for 10. I’m selling it for 15. I’m making five bucks of profit rate. I should be profitable. What about your door, your returns, handicap. What percentage of that stuff comes back? What about your credit card feeds? What about your picking path? What about all of this? My friend, you got to take that 10, that you cost. You got to add friction to it, then add your margin on top of it, right, right. Just to be, it’s going to be a rabbit. So those are all the little things that while paced it, I learned that overstock.com onto how to run an eCommerce business. So. But I think, I didn’t know anything. I really didn’t know. I really didn’t know anything about business at the time. I just, I just went into it and did it. And I came out the other side years later. I’m like, man, I’ve learned a lot. They’ve been when I started commerce interface, I didn’t know much. They think when I left commerce interface and all of a sudden Groupon buys my company and I was saying was great. Now you’re part of a company that is 14,000 employees globally. I was like, Holy shit. I mean, I was at overstock or a thousand people, and then I went to a company was 14 of us, my company. And then I get thrown into a company where there’s 13, 14,000 people globally, a company that’s the fastest growing company in the history. And it’s like, here, you’ve got to take this technology. And you got deployed in 38 countries because now all of a sudden it’s like, I didn’t have any experience. I didn’t know what I was going to do, but, you know, so. I just did it. And now three years later, I came back and I’m like, shit. Yeah. I rolled out technology in 38 countries. Right. I’ve worked with organizations that are very large scale organizations. I’ve architected, you know, microservice, a microservice systems that allow us to scale, you know, four or five, six years ago. I did not, to me, it was a monolithic system. Seemed like that’s the only way to go. Right? You build this big monolithic system and it does everything. You know, this whole concept of microservices to do all the different days. Nobody knew about that. Or at least I didn’t. So you start facing the challenges that push you to learn those new ways of doing it. Right. And what’s what happened at Groupon. And I had to learn fast. I got, I got, literally, my company was purchased and closed deal December 20th. And I started the job on the 5th of January and I had to run because by the end of January, I had to have the entire us business. Which was growing at X, some serious serious rate. I had to have it fully migrated on floor plans. And I had to, by the end of February, I had to get the UK up and running. Right. And then it was like, after that, it was crazy, crazy goals. And the CEO had for me at the time. So we went out and we did it and we pulled out 30 countries. About 18 months. We took a project that would have taken it. Six months to do. And we get in 45 days because he had to, because it was like at the time the European business for Groupon was because they weren’t showing your where your growth. And so they needed several hundred million dollars of revenue for quarter of that year. So we, the project that we did allowed us to deliver that and we delivered it and we deliver about $114 million of revenue for the fourth quarter of that year with the work that we did. Did we have any experience? Not at all. None of the people on the team had any experience on how to do it. I don’t think none of the people on the team had ever done anything like that, but we did it. Yeah. I think, I think that, um, you know, there’s so much in the proliferation of social media that there’s so much inspiration to be had, that it’s almost become an addiction where people are. Uh, reading the next book and the next block of post and hoping that that’ll be the magic switch that, that makes them successful. And, and what I’ve learned, or my opinion is, um, people need less inspiration and more doing, just, just do it, execution and execution. Exactly. Just put your head down and freaking do it. It’s the only way you’re gonna learn. Right. Then it’s like, then I had another sip. I did that whole thing at Groupon. And then I got called by staples. One of my former group on calls went to work $20 billion business. Right. Who is paying a ton of money? To a third party to do the supply chain software. So staples and the same thing I go in and I interview you with these 20 year old veterans that are used to using IBM systems and Oracle databases, things like that. And all of a sudden we start throwing. Concept of sequel databases. Heroku is a cloud platform. They want to know what’s the specifications of the, of the hardware that’s on the rack. That’s going to host this application. I was like, I don’t fucking know, like it’s, it’s horrible. I just go on and I, I provisioned a diner things up in a funny, like, I don’t know, literally they had this, they had us like set up a call with like Heroku mediators to like, understand what was the actual, um, What was, what were those servers that they were hosting the guys at our upper, like you never have, right? Like there’s a world has changed. The world of developing technology has changed. The bar has come down and it continues to come down. I think we get to a point where somebody that has zero understanding of, of, of writing code and configure logic for an application. Through a user interface tool. I mean, a lot of that already exist and it’s very basic, but I think that it will come to that day. So, you know, guys like that at staples were like, well, what experience do you have in doing? It’s like, well, I don’t know. I just built a business and I did it for, I rolled it out in 38 countries. Literally I was in a meeting room with like a ton of like executives and 20 year old. Most of them had been there for 20, 25 years. You know, asking all these sophisticated, um, computer science questions around. I said, guys, the only thing I can tell you that I’ve done this before. So that’s the that’s, that’s the only thing I can tell you. I’ve done this before, right? And it’s up and running. You just processing billions of dollars of transactions globally. So, um, yeah, I think it’s, um, You know, people also look for another mistake that we can make too, as entrepreneurs is that we want to bring in that super highly experienced guide of knows what the hell is it doing? In some cases that’s good. In some cases, it’s not that good. Right? Because tell you, one thing is to pull out somebody out of a corporation that has had experience doing it, not building it, but doing it. Well, they put him into a position kind of supporting staff around them that helped them be super successful. And the other thing is bringing in the guy that actually did it, built it and got it. I’ll take the guy that built it, got it there. And then was either kicked out because he couldn’t scale. Right. Then the guy that took it from that point and actually. Grew it, because he doesn’t know how to you’ll run up against the challenge. You’ll be like, okay, what’s next. Right. He’s not the kind of guy that will say, okay, I’ve got to figure this out. Right. So that we have a lot in businesses because some of my startups that I’ve invested in are now we’re hiring sort of that next level of talent. And what I find is that it’s a lot of good talent. Don’t get me wrong. There’s good, talented, bright, bright people, but they’re not the role of your sleep kind of people. They’re the people that say, well, until I hire the guy that needs to work for me, that’ll do this and this and this position. I can’t start doing well. Can you just roll up your sleeves and get it 80% of it the way they’re right. Or get it 50, 70% of the ways I have a thing that it’s like, I’d rather be, I’d rather be. Approximately right than precisely wrong. Right. So it’s like, just get it there. But a lot of these people that I know, I can’t do anything until I hire everyone under them. Yeah. Yeah. You know, if you wait for perfection, it just never happens. Um, you know, you had mentioned you had, uh, dropped out of college and jumped into the career. Um, you know, I did I get the same kind of thing went to, was in the middle of college, started my business on the side and you know, the whole point of college is to make money and yeah. Your your business and my business started making money. So, uh, you know, why go back, but what I, you know, what’s your take on college? Cause it seems like, um, you know, you talked about these bright people coming and working for you. Um, it seems like there’s a big gap in. What’s tonic college. It’s almost just like textbook do this, this and this versus what’s actually applicable in the real world. There’s a huge gap based on what’s taught in technology and what you actually do. And I think that goes back to what you’re saying. Just roll up the sleeves and figure it out. Yeah, I think, listen, I, that’s an interesting question. I mean, I, I didn’t. I think I would, if my parents would have had the financial means, I obviously would’ve finished college, but I was at age 22. I was still trying to finish cause I had to pay for it all myself. Um, by then, Like I tell my children, I’m like, you guys, you got to go to college. Whether it’s going to be good or bad for you, like at least do your four years. Because I think that there’s some good foundation that those first four years when years ago you, that I wish I would’ve had so that, um, I, I had to do it all over again. I told four years of college just so I can get that foundational, um, that, that foundational element. And then immediately go into the forest and never go back for an MBA. Go back for a PhD MBA, at least in my opinion, respectfully there’s some careers are unique. MBA want to continue to learn technology? I don’t know. I don’t know most of the guys that I’ve met some of the brightest EGD or some of the brightest data scientists that have not finished, uh, have either brought that to college. Or have not gone on to get like masters, we figure things out. Right. Um, but I think I’m not a big fan of it. I think the return on investment is not there or for something like a master’s degree or PhD. If you looked at it from a, and then ROI lens, it’s just not there. Right. Well, and what’s jumping the projects. We’ve gone over a lot of good information. I know you’re super busy, so I don’t want to, to kill your whole day. Um, so you mentioned your EMA, uh, give us a crash course on email, what your role is there and how you’ve got into that relationship with the move. And, and then, um, you know, any other side projects you got going on? Do you want a digital real estate company? So, um, what we’ll do is we charge the UK sellers would pay about 2% of the value of the property seller property. We came out with a flat fee model Russell early 2010, and he built a nice little business. Got it. To where it was generating about 300,000 pounds in revenue, you know, about 20,000 pounds and net income. Um, so it was a decent business need to build a little website and all this stuff wants to customer our model was better. they kind of exceeded some set of pain, you know, sort of 2% on a 500,500,000 pound home in central London. Nice pets, right? Flat feet. Take the property, we market it for you. So that’s how the business started Russell fee. Well, at the time I was working a lot of time in Europe and I met him through a friend. Um, and, um, and so I, I, I ended up meeting that way. And decided to invest in it. I think he’s very passionate about when you get here, we invested the four of us. We did the first round. The first thing we did is when you hired a, a product, build a product, you invest the money in your investments, build out technology. We’ve also always had the vision that, Hey, we need to build technology. Operator I’m a low cost. We need to be a low cost compromise. Right. So we need to take out all the inefficiencies out of the process can to make a little bit of money. Mmm. Well, the, uh, that’s an app business seven months into that, the guy that we hired then. You know, really good. Again, guy had got a came from eBay. He had worked at eBay search, uh, actually one of the cofounders of same search early those days. I had worked at eBay, worked with Ticketmaster. I mean, great, great CV. Um, came in to be kind of the head of product. We ended up. Giving him a role of COO, just because you want it to have that pound his chest tied up another big mistake, by the way, guys don’t ever fucking negotiate a deal with an executive that wants a title, but you know what, if you want to try to go find that shit somewhere else, like it’s, you’re like, that’s what we did. And we gave this guidance instead of rolling up his sleeves and getting to work and talking to his business stakeholders internally as customers, it’s fairly. Well understand what the product needed. He was busy trying to become a CEO of the business. And so we got rid of that guy and then I stepped in the board and Russell asked me, it’s like, look, we need your help. Can you come and give us a review on what’s going on here? So I spent two weeks and saw that it was a bit of a mess. We spent 750,000 pounds dollars at the time. And we had nothing to show for it. We had a crappy product that was still. Filled with, uh, problems from a workload standpoint, wasn’t the way they did business. Clearly they didn’t listen to product. So I ended up moving. I ended up moving London for two years. I said, I’m going to spend two years here. I’m gonna help you get back on track. So I spent, I’ve been the CTO and the chief product officer there till the late 2015. Um, when my family there to London. And he spent two years there. Now we’re back in Utah, but I travel every quarter there. I built a nice team. You have a team of about 12 engineers for product guys. Okay. And that, that, you know, we’ve got an actual process in place to capture business stakeholder needs, and it’s a valuable, uh, product features. Um, And then I sit on, I sit on advisory boards of a number of teams, pop commerce, which is another one of my investments. They’re the largest, uh, app. Uh, so the best way to describe him as like the Magento, perhaps. So you’re an enterprise, you’re a company you don’t want to go off and build your own app because you know, it’s going to take your time. You’re going to have to go off and build an iOS version, takes a lot of time to build your own app. So what these guys have done is they’ve created a platform. That allows you to get apps to the market a lot quicker. And he had a problem. I would say the, the, the biggest in Europe are on our platform. So the likes of Burberry, the likes of, of, um, how’s the Frazier dieted beat down names in Europe that are easy to pop platform. And then we just entered the U S market. Last year. There are four clients in the U S and growing. Um, so that company is doing really well. They’re raising, raising a big round of capital right now. Um, and then I’ve got a number of other businesses that have invested in company called notice. It’s doing some hyperlocal stuff. Kind of company called tool center. That’s more of a consumer. Um, and then there’s a few others that I can’t disclose yet. Cause we’re still in the process of there’s enough company in the U S citizen technology place for property. And, uh, another one that’s dealing with reverse logistics. So another big problem that we have with the growth of retail. Is that there’s so much product coming back. That’s being returned by customers and these products are not being useful. But just to give you an idea, just last year alone, we had $400 billion of consumer goods back to stores or a hundred billion, not million billion. What’s happening with products. Some of those products are ending up in line. So there’s another startup that I’m getting involved with that I’ve invested in going to play an active role in. That is going to try to resolve that issue so that we can get second life to those products and mortar and online returns, correct? Yeah, exactly. That’s combined brick and mortar and online returns, but the idea of the online returns rate on average, about 30%. So versus about. Little under 15% for brick and mortar, but, but online is growing at a rapid, rapid pace. So online naturally has a higher return rate. So as that grows, it’s just more, no. So you had mentioned some products go to the landfill. Is that just because it’s more cost effective to trash the product and to try and reach circulate it? Yeah, it’s more cost effective. There’s not a lot of companies out there that actually do work with remanufacturing factory products. Um, yeah. In some cases, this product beyond economical repair. Right. But there are other ways that you can think you can do that. And this company is going to do is they’re going, they’ve got technology that has, they bring this product through their returns facilities. It can identify by looking at market trends on what that product is worth and what it cost to fix. If it’s beyond economical, perish is beyond economical repair. Are they going to tear that product down and sell it by pieces? There is there’s recycling and the responsible side, most of these guys don’t do responsibility because it cost money to do recycling the right way. So what the, so what we’re doing is like, Hey, if the product really good and it could be sold and fam let’s get it back out there and let’s resell. If it can’t be resold and we’ve got to break it down and responsible recycling way. And one of the things that we’re doing is we’re partnering up with other companies that believe it or not a lot of parts from some of these products can be used in other new products that are being built. Just to give you an example, we have a, we have a contract with a company that not going to mention the name because really, really do they like to be super low profile this company. They make coffee makers and they don’t, they like to share right. Everything. Even if the stuff comes back and it’s in pretty good condition, they want to tread it and go. So what, what we discovered is that there’s some screens on those, on those units that are being used to manufacture another product. So what we’re doing is we’re shredding the stock, we’re selling the stuff, the plastic, we’re selling all the things, and we’re taking those little screens. And putting it onto an international market place to, by those screens, we recover value for those screens. So before they were paying money to shred those, now they’re paying money, we’re getting some money from selling the, the materials and we discover that the screens could be sold for another purpose. And so now this manufacturer is same, actually a lot more than what they were before, when they’re destroying the product. So there’s a lot of different ways. Um, I think what’ll happen is you’ll probably like, you know, you’ll probably get, it will be a bit a pyramid thing. Like we’ll end up selling X percentage of your products back direct to consumers, others kind of wholesale. Then there’ll be like another few layers. And then at some point, if you can’t sell that stuff, just got to figure out a very later recycle that product and get that money back instead of. Yeah. Yeah. That’s interesting. Um, so, so all, uh, you know, I could talk to you all day, um, but I wanna respect your time. So why don’t we just, um, cover one or two more things? Um, so w with all the projects you got going on, um, is there anything that. You any experiences you can share with others about diluting your time too much? Do you feel that you kind of get to a point where, where, um, you have a good balance or do some days you think maybe you’re not as efficient with your time because you’ve taken on too much. And if that ever happens, do you fill out a project or how do you manage your time? Which with so many projects? Yeah, listen, I definitely bout a project. I get, I get paintings quite regularly from. Brands or people in the industry that want me to act as an advisor actually got one yesterday or different businesses to me right now. I do feel, I do feel as a matter of fact earlier on today, I was looking for an assistant I’m like I got to get an assistant. Somebody that can really help me stay on track. My main focus right now is just because. That’s the business that I want to, uh, it’s kinda, it’s the leading horse in the race for me about most horses in the race, but this is the horse that’s that’s that’s right now. Um, and so that’s my main focus at the time, but I am, I’m pretty, uh, I like to tinker with everything. So like literally I wake up at five in the morning, put in. 16 hours to me, it’s not about the hours, but putting the amount of time that I need to make sure that everything is moving in the right direction. Um, and then I move on to work on some of these other projects. That’s a new lie. I also coach my sons competitive basketball team. So I like to do, I like to do a lot of that. I like to time for family stuff. And then, um, but it is challenging. Amen. It’s getting to a point where it’s becoming. More and more challenging. Um, and I think that, which is one of the reasons I want to bring in an assistant and I want to start hiring more people. Some of these newer companies obviously don’t have the capital to hire more, to spend a little more time doing some of these things yourself. But, um, but I think that I decided the other day after she did my wife, we’re like, you know, we’re just going to go ahead and make some additional investments in here to hire some of these people. So that. They could be, you know, more focused on doing some of the things that needs to be done, um, as opposed to diluting myself so much. And so I, I was using the analogy of like, um, I’m the director of the orchestra. I mean, I know how to play some instruments myself. You come out of an orchestra, right? The director directing the orchestra and playing right. Well, I think so. I definitely want to keep, I like being involved in multiple businesses. I actually beat that. Teachers teaches me a lot and a lot of me, I fly in the different businesses. Like there’ll be things in eCommerce that I can look and apply the proper prop tech. Right. It’ll be things in prop tech that I can look and apply to. Right. Um, so I think it’s important. I think it’s important for entrepreneurs to have. If you, if you just, if you’re just in your industry and that’s all, and that’s all you think about, um, I don’t know. Well, at least me, I don’t like it. I think I like to learn about other things, other industries, there’s a lot of things that you can cross pollinate, but it does get challenging. So I haven’t solved for that yet. When I, when I do, I’ll let you know. I would manage to make it. I know it’s pretty crazy days and I don’t get a lot of sleep, but hopefully, but, or if anyone from the listeners have any really good tips, I totally take when we, when we get off the call, I’ll, um, I’ll point you in the direction on some possible assistance. We, we can talk about what you’re looking for. Um, You know, you’ve talked about a lot and I don’t think I can understate that. Um, you know, I know how busy you are, so I, I sincerely appreciate your time. Um, I w I want to end with, with one thing that I think that you and I will always be associated with is, um, when I sent you that, that Christmas gift, I always get to share that story. So an Ivan was a commerce interface that, um, you know, there was this client that I had that solved. Food guests. And so I come into this nice package and I sent it to Ivan over Christmas and a couple of days early because I knew people would be gone. Um, what I, I didn’t know is that Ivan was already gone. And so I didn’t hear from him about, you know, I thought usually it gets just a quick thanks. Um, and so a little while goes by and I said, Hey, Ivan, did you get the Christmas thing I sent you? And, and, uh, Uh, Ivan can elaborate, but he basically comes back and says, Oh, that was you. So tell us how you found it. When I came back from vacation and all my staff is like, what the hell? It’s horrible smell in the office. And we searched everywhere. We couldn’t figure it out. Like one of my employees had a dog that she would bring, I was like insurance, not the dog. It took us about, I’m not lying at least three to four days. And we’d like used to spray off everything. We couldn’t trigger the smell with an opinion like, Hey man, by the way that you get a box and like a box of points, like. I’m like, where is this? So I started asking around the building, like, where was this box and somebody, Oh yeah, we put it over there by the, by the desk. Sure enough, man. As we get close, we can box of chicken soup for the soul, whatever it was. We carried it out, threw it in the dumpster. It took us about a month to get rid of that smell in our ears. Have a good one.

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Ivan Ramirez joins us today on LearningFromOthers. He’s one of the first employees at Overstock.com. Later saw a business opportunity to start his own operations. He successfully grew that business to be bought out later by Groupon. We talk family and how financial free isn’t the end goal but freedom of time is. Please welcome, Ivan Ramirez.


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