If Yoda, John Stockton, and Elon Musk all had a baby together it would be Owen Fuller.
 
Chatted with the GM of Lucid Press, Owen Fuller, whose company has 20 million users, recently raised a Series C of $72 million, and has over 400 employees.
 
Owen grew up in Alaska. Got into entrepreneurial world when working for a wireless internet service provider that grew to be largest in country.
 
He comments, “People that start successful positions are normal people that work really hard.” And shares other great entrepreneurial advice.
Podcast Episode Transcripts:

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


Hey listeners. Thanks for joining for another episode of learning from others today. Oh, and fuller, um, you know, Owen, I’m gonna, I’m gonna go right into the funny stuff because we have a mutual contact that introduced us. And so Alan follower is the GM of Lucid Press. Um, and our mutual contact introduced all into the podcast by saying if Yoda.

John Stockton and Elon Musk all had a baby together. It would be Owen Fuller. Oh. And welcome to the show. And that’s the nicest thing anyone’s ever said. Yeah. What do you, do you take that as a compliment or what do you, how do you take that edge? That’s talking about the way that I look or act or whatever, but, uh, here I am all the same and you get to be with you.

Well, I appreciate you jumping on. Now. You press I’m familiar with, um, because they’re in my neck of the woods here in Utah, but why don’t you tell our listeners what lucid press offers and how large of a company you are? Yeah, you bet. So, uh, we suppressed as part of lucid software. We have two products, lucid chart, which, um, people may know it’s the leader, as far as, uh, diagramming and flow charts in the, in the cloud as over 15 million users.

And the suppressed is the next product from, um, The same family, a lot of similar features with, uh, something that’s in the cloud and track and drop and all of that stuff. Um, for people that are again familiar with our flagship product lucid chart, but what, what we’re doing here, that’s really exciting with it presses, um, helping people to.

Have a consistent brand and so that anyone on their team can very quickly and easily create on-brand materials. The way that we do that is through lockable templates. So if you’ve got a huge distributed team of salespeople or, um, real estate agents, or, uh, Franchises or whatever it may be. You know, this, the man that gets put on a creative team where there’s constantly new requests coming in for material, it takes a while to turn around.

The creative team is doing that in InDesign. The rest of the team doesn’t know how to really work within design. And so they. Yeah, everything gets bogged down. And what that leads to is rogue content, really ugly, terrible stuff that these end users create, because they’re like, I can’t get my stuff. I’ve got to get something out there.

So with Lucidpress you have a platform where you have all your brand style guide, all of your templates in one place, you can actually import from InDesign. You, uh, the creative team can then lock or partially lock those templates. So people can’t screw it up. They send it out there. And so. In very similar fashion, like a Google doc or something like that.

But with design capability, these end users can quickly create flyers, brochures, social media templates. So it’s digital it’s print and, um, it really he’s taken off. Yeah, we have just over 5 million users. Uh, our whole company lucid software just, uh, raised a series C of 72 million recently and, uh, quite a ride with, uh, you know, we started a year over three with 300 people.

We’re just over 400 now and finding to grow a lot more in 2019. Very cool. What does that, um, 72 million, what does that put the valuation of the company at. I can’t say, um, fair enough. You know, like people can kind of do the math. If you, if you kind of look at how, uh, companies are typically valued, um, We’re in a good spot.

And I’m certainly fortunate to have these resources to take this thing to the rest of the world. And one of the big announcements we made with the funding is that we’re opening our first international office in Amsterdam here next month. That’s very exciting. What, um, what type of thoughts and considerations go into deciding where you do your first international location?

There’s actually a, a big decision and a. One, that takes a lot of effort to sort through the options. So in our case, we were looking at London at cork Ireland when Ireland and Amsterdam, those, those kinds of, sort of, you know, floated to the top amongst other choices. And you’re looking at things like the tax structure.

You’re looking at the talent that you can acquire, that you can attract there. Um, you’re looking at a place that you feel out might be able to fit in. Well, for some reasons with your. Existing culture and, um, company. And so for us Amsterdam, really check the boxes in the best way. You can definitely go to London and have a good setup there.

It’s going to be pretty expensive and there’s going to be pretty crowded. Dublin is becoming kind of like, is this maybe too strong, but a bit like the Silicon Valley of. Um, Europe where there’s so many tech companies they’re battling each other for talent. And, um, that’s kind of the culture there. Uh, we really liked Amsterdam.

We’ve loved growing our business in Utah. We thought Amsterdam was kind of a similar market as far as attracting talent, as far as, um, you know, the tech ecosystem there where it’s, it’s definitely existing and vibrant, but, uh, on the rise and we feel like we could be a part of that. And, uh, the direct flight to Amsterdam doesn’t hurt either from salt Lake, a little easier to get to than say a place like cork in Ireland.

So a lot, a lot of factors, but, uh, you know, we’ve got a team there now, and it’s really exciting to, um, uh, have people that will be native speakers in all the languages of our customers in Europe. And we think it’ll make a big difference for continued growth there. Yeah. Now how old is the company and when did you join the company’s journey?

Yes. And company started in 2009 with a student in Utah here at BYU. He was working for another software company and was sick of how, uh, the collaboration worked for them complicated, um, flowcharts. He was using to design that software. People are actually printing things off and then writing on them and then faxing them and things like that.

And so he created this really powerful, um, Diagramming software in the cloud, uh, grew, um, you know, slowly at first with a big emphasis on engineering and then really it’s gained momentum. Uh, I joined in, uh, just last year and 2017 about a year ago. Uh, after some other entrepreneurial pursuits. Yeah. Well, that’s to get an opportunity to kind of segue into your background, to how you got to, you know, lucid press is a big company and you have a big title within it.

So let’s kind of go on your background and, and, and. To kind of educate our listeners on what those entrepreneurial pursuits were and what experience you gained to get to the position you’re at now. So, um, when we were talking offline, you had mentioned that you got into the entrepreneurial world through a wireless internet service provider.

Why don’t you start there? Yeah. So I grew up in Alaska, came down to Utah to go to school and being the youngest of 11 kids. It was important to be working all the way through and a fame band for things, and hopefully hanging up my scholarship while I was at it. And, um, I got a job at this wireless ISP that had 500 customers or so at the time.

And that’s where I caught the entrepreneurial bug. I continued to stay with the company as it grew. Um, I was in sales first and then in marketing and it. It became the largest wireless internet service provider over time. And seen that journey is where it really dawned on me. Oh, you know, the people that start and build businesses, they’re smart, but they’re like kind of approachable, smart, like you and you and me, you know, they’re just, um, normal people who usually work super hard to.

You know, bring some vision to reality. So, uh, I thought maybe I’ll start my own company someday. I didn’t expect that I do it so soon after I’m working at another startup and ended up helping to launch a nonprofit and, and, um, a startup was teaching kids, English and Europe. I decided to start my own.

Marketing company in 2009, I ended up getting my degree in advertising. And at first he was a COO for higher business. I just have people hire me to be in charge of their marketing. And I thought that would be fun lifestyle and it kind of travel. I had a, I had a client in Hawaii who always liked to meet in person.

So I felt like this could be, and then. That grew over time, ended up bringing on a partner and we ended up, uh, focusing on inbound marketing as our real core focus. We were an early HubSpot partner and a partner with some other marketing automation system, some things like that. Uh, so the business, uh, that was totally self funded.

And so I thought it’d be a good experience to them. Um, graduate to, uh, you know, venture backed company and see what that was like. And I think graduation is probably the wrong word for me. It was just an evolution of different, a different learning experience because, you know, frankly, I think now having done both the ideal for starting your businesses to be really rich and have your own money and then have it that way.

So, if you can pull that off that’s that’s cheating. So, uh, anyways, did the venture backed software thing, built a company called quizzer with partners and friends, and that grew quite a bit. We raised like 8 million, a couple of rounds of funding, and ended up stepping away from that, uh, to join lucid in the role that I’m at now.

Very cool. You know, I like how you said that people that start successful businesses are you realize that they’re just going to normal people that work really hard. And I think that’s a valuable lesson for our listeners who are largely entrepreneurs or aspiring entrepreneurs, is that you don’t always have to have a special skill set.

I mean, you have to have core talents or, or, you know, something that you’re passionate about. But at the end of the day, I, uh, where I see the most success is just like you said, people that work really hard and, and, and. Put in the hours and dedicate to whatever it is that they want to bring to light. Yeah, I completely agree.

And I think my story is if there’s anything like noteworthy or a theme that I would just want to share with people about it, it’s the fact that I haven’t known what I was doing at nearly every juncture of my career. And it’s worked out pretty well by, uh, just working really hard through that and just to get like a tangible example, you know, um, I’ve, it was embarrassing to say at one time, but, you know, I think it’s instructive to share.

When I started my marketing company, the first group that I was talking to about like signing a contract, uh, was asking me what I charge and I should have had a good answer for that, but I didn’t, you really know like what the market was or like, and I was pretty young. I was right out of school and yeah, so this guy just asked me point blank, what I’m going to charge him.

And I. I look him in the eyes. I look across the table and I say, I was thinking $20 an hour. And he, he, I could tell him his reaction. I was like, Oh my gosh, that was way low. Like, that was not what he’s expecting. And he’s like done we’ll sign, like, great. Okay, perfect. Let’s get started. I was like, Oh, okay.

Got to figure something out, satisfied my pricing model here. And what I feel grateful about is that I started my first company when I was like kind of too young or at least naive in my case to really know the odds that were stacked against me to really know how hard it would be. And I think I could have easily been too smart.

To, uh, start that business and it ended up working out great because of that like focused effort, dedication, the hard work to figure it out. And so, you know, uh, I think there’s a soul. There’s a saying I’ve heard that a culture will eat strategy every time. I think you have that right culture and your approach to a business, you’ll find your way to some success more often than not.

Yeah. You know, it seems like a common, um, pick in these entrepreneurial groups, whether it’s on LinkedIn or Facebook, but these groups that I participate in and help encourage other entrepreneurs, it seems like a common topic comes up lately is, is, you know, where do you start? And. Every time I just come back and I say, just start.

I think people overthink, um, you know where to start and, and obviously you want a game plan and the more detailed the better, but at the same time, don’t let that paralyze progress because once you do start that game plan usually goes out the window. I really agree. That’s the, that’s the same thing that I, um, really.

Try to share with all of my friends who ask about like starting a business and they see there seems to be this because there is a lot of, there can be a lot of fear associated with this idea of like, well, we’ll get everything right in our lab. We’ll like, we’ll think about it hard for a few years, then we’ll be ready to roll.

And it’s like, a lot of that thinking time is frankly and productive. Like get out of the seat, you can sell something. As soon as you can, like, if you’ve got an idea that you think will work, how can you get to the place where you can get external validation? And the best validation is if someone is willing to like, you know, run a credit card or give you money and whatever forms you can get it in.

Yeah. Yeah. That’s what I would say to people like with my, with my marketing company, um, That was the key is that I have all of a sudden I have five customers and I had to figure out like, how the heck do I make this all work? And that led to the idea of like, Oh, I want to be able to make money in my sleep.

I better be able to actually like scale a team and et cetera, et cetera. And, um, you know, off to the races. Yeah. When you had commented that, um, You know, you just, you just kind of jump into things and our listeners will have heard me say this before, but, um, are you familiar with, uh, entrepreneur? Um, Jesse Eisler it’s where I’m not, yeah, he of founded NetJets and, um, Zico coconut water.

And his wife is the one that started Spanx. Very cool. Okay. Yeah. Then I have, so he, um, he was on, um, I think I heard it on Joe Rogan’s podcast. I’m sure he said it on a million other things, but, um, he says that his, he finds that he is most successful in areas that he is not familiar with because he just jumps in, like he doesn’t do the research, he doesn’t forecast and he go, you know, he picks his path of what he’s interested in and then he just starts.

Yep. I love it. I mean, uh, aye. I think you made a really good point too, about not getting so caught up in a business plan. I like a business model that fits on one page of paper. It’s basically outlining, okay. This is where we’re going to plan where we’re not going to play. This is, this is how we win here and now let’s go test it and let it evolve from there.

Yeah. So outside of blue suppress, um, you’ve done a little bit of, um, co-chairing and political groups. Uh, so tell us about that world. I mean, how’d you get into that as that kinda more of a passionate thing you’re into. Yeah. So, um, I I’ve been interested in politics, but never really, um, engaged in a major way.

Uh, but after I sold my marketing company, I kind of had some time to think about it and to get to know some people in the political realm. And, uh, frankly, I. They didn’t find a lot of things that were encouraging for me. It’s I got closer to that space. In fact, it was the opposite. It was like, Oh man, I shouldn’t he’s broken.

And, or just, uh, I really preferred the kind of entrepreneurial mindset and the focus that an entrepreneur brings to solving problems, as opposed to how slowly the wheels turned into a lot of the political settings. But. I wanted to get involved and I thought long and hard about it and decided that the, the best way that I can, I stayed in that is to find people that I really believe in that I think would have a very healthy approach to public service and do what I can to support them.

So, uh, You know, you mentioned the co-chair thing. I helped with the campaign. So, uh, now a congressmen, uh, who was a very popular mayor here in our state. And I spent a lot of time recruiting them to run because he’d been a very successful business person. He had over 90% approval rating. This mayor, I said, you know, we don’t usually get people like you in Congress.

Because why would an executive want to go to a body like that where you can’t, you know, uh, kind of the decision making process can get bogged down. And, um, when he finally said yes, then, uh, you know, his response was well, like I’m ready to go. Now you have a team, right. He didn’t have a team. And so we really approached this campaign much the way you would have start up, like kind of like getting the right people in place.

You know what I say, a lot about entrepreneurs is like, You just have to be good enough. And a lot of things like I’m constantly hiring people that are better than me. Like pretty much every like, like if there’s something that I’m doing, chances are very high. There’s someone who’s going to be much better than me at that who specialize in it, but I’ve kind of found a way to have a broad enough skillset to kind of get things going.

So in that case with the campaign, it’s like, Who’s going to be the campaign manager, who’s going to run the finances. Who’s going to, you know, do the paperwork and all those little things like communication strategy and all that. And so to get that set up was fun. It was cool. And, you know, Somehow he won.

And uh, and now I’m also monopod cast called Cox and friends with the Lieutenant governor here in Utah, where we talked about business and technology and politics in the state. And, and I like to kind of stay connected to the political realm that way. That’s cool. Um, I’ve had, I’ve had other acquaintances that have kind of jumped in into the political world out of personal interest.

And they’ve said very similar things about their, the more they got into it, the, the, the, the less appealing it was for them to stay, that they wanted to stay into it. And, you know, it’s unfortunate, but at the same time, I say kudos for, um, testing the waters, you know, Yeah. And I think, I mean, what I, what I said I’m from it is that you can make a big difference.

And so that’d be something that I’d say to just encourage people. If they have an inclination to do it, like it doesn’t get better if we don’t participate in it. And so, uh, You know, you, you can make a big impact. That’s what I found through that, that experience of really trying to find someone who I thought would make a great congressperson, doing everything I could to encourage.

And there’s one point that he wrote me an email and said, you know, I’ve thought long and hard about it. And there’s a 1e-05% chance that I’ll ever run for Congress. I gave him the dumb and dumber line back of course, which is like, great. So you’re saying there’s a chance, like awesome. Like, man, I’m really glad to hear we’re making progress once he keep talking about it and Hey, he’s representing us now.

And I think he’s doing a great job. So, you know, I said, don’t be discouraged. You can make a big impact even though sometimes it’ll probably be very frustrating. Did. Um, so I had a, I had another, um, I had another acquaintance that ran for office for, uh, one of our local towns and. And he, um, well, I mean, regardless of him specifically, I’ve heard other, just people in general say in politics, they feel like that at the city level, like the further down in the levels, you get, the more impact that you think you can have.

Would you agree? And is it almost like a trickle up effect? I guess you’d say. Yeah, I think that there’s a really good point on that. And there tends to be a, you know, a lot more sort of unity and collaboration at the local level and the higher up you go right now, the more there’s, um, The polarization. I like to call it the political, industrial complex.

Like there are lots of machines in motion that make a lot of money by ramping up a big divide between people like what media company or something else that is like, Hey, let’s divide these groups into camps and then get these camps to support us. And then we get more. Feedback and whether that’s, you know, you’re being paid by people’s attention or you’re actually getting money from them or whatever it may be.

Um, at the local level, you don’t have all that. Right. Cause it’s like, well, someone’s got to fix these things potholes. Like we got to decide how we’re going, what about this park or whatever. And so, yeah, I do really think at that local level is where a lot of the most important stuff happens and it’s might be less glamorous than, you know, running for.

President, but, uh, it’s a great place to, uh, make an impact in your community. Yeah, well, but kind of back towards the entrepreneur world, um, as we kinda get close to wrapping things up, uh, do you have any advice that you would give either your younger self that, you know, wisdom that you wish you, that you have now that you wish you got back then?

Or maybe something for our listeners that are aspiring entrepreneurs? Yeah. Um,

yeah, you know, I, you mentioned that a lot of the questions you get are on this idea of how to get started. And something, someone told me that really stuck with me, uh, along those lines is, uh, Think about a problem that you know, that, you know, well, but like a problem that you really understand that the details of it, where it’s a problem you have yourself or someone close to you has.

And then the next step is think through a lot of other people have that problem. And that’s really where you’re getting kind of your sense of a market size. Like, is this, is this something that is a problem we’re solving and a problem that, you know, I would then ask yourself, is, is this a problem that you would be fine trying to.

Solve for the next five to 10 years. Like, could you be excited about that? If it took you 10 years to work on this and you were just iterating on this problem over and over again, is that something that could motivate you and is the problem worthy of that much time and attention? And if the answer is yes to that, then I think, you know, like let’s start a business and go for it.

Uh, don’t get caught up in all of the things that can be so hairy, like. People can spend a thousand days thinking about how to set up their LLC, like downtown, just go get a bank account set up. And I know that there’s like all these weird downs you have to break through when you’re starting out as an entrepreneur.

Like I remember, I remember the first time that I Googled, like, what does an invoice look like? Not up in word. And you’re thinking like, if I give this to people where they actually pay me money, like I just give them this. It’s like, okay, is this, you know, and you’re kind of like wondering the whole time, is this legit?

Like, is this really, you know, I remember feeling when I was working at home for a long time, like the first year of my business, it was just me, this marketing company I started. And I remember like feeling or thinking a question of, when will this feel like a real business? I’m actually getting, you know, I think just like blast through yeah.

All that, like you said, go out and talk to people. Don’t be scared of sharing your idea for, you know, and 95% plus of the cases like entrepreneurs are. Held back because they’re scared. Talk about their idea because they don’t want people to steal it. It’s like, look, you need to find allies. You need to find people who can help point you in the right direction.

So you better share that idea far and wide and trust that you’ll be able to execute on it better than others. Um, so that’s what I, I say, just go out, get external validation. Best way to do that is to start selling as soon as you can. I think that’s great advice. And I was kind of laughing over here because some of the things you said, but like I lived through that too.

So when you talked about, when is it going to be a real business? So I think, um, you know, the first, probably one or two years of my business, um, it was just cool to have a business, you know, work at home and do your own thing. And then it was like year two or three, and I said, You know, I should, I should probably, I put my big boy pants on and actually do something with this.

Well, I, a man, I can totally relate with my marketing company. I was like, okay, I need to get some help. And I remember thinking, how am I going to get help? And I had enough work to support paying other people. And the step that I took, which was a little unorthodox and weird, just that I, uh, I built this internship program cause I really want to just do it.

Trial run of bringing out some people. And I set aside 10,000 bucks, which I was like, okay, if I lose all of this, I’ll be okay. We find, and I’m just going to bring on five interns all at once and see what happens, you know? And that was like the start to then getting real. And before long that actually we had an office and, you know, uh, health insurance and other things like that, that seemed to be the trappings of a more traditional business.

But, uh, It’s uh, you know, it started very, very simply behind the scenes. It’s all smoke and mirrors. Okay. Alright. Well, I’ll end. Before we go. Um, we, we like to leave our guests with a random question generator, right? So you got a random question coming your way. So your question is what celebrity do you like to follow?

Good question. Uh, I’ll go outside of the business world. There’s business people, there’s political people and all that, but when it comes to celebrity, I may be the biggest boxing fan that I know. And so I really love to follow Gennady Golovkin. Who is currently my favorite boxer. I feel like he just got ripped off.

He had his first loss in his last fight, and I thought that the judges really did him wrong. But this dude’s from concept. Stan talked about somebody who like pulled himself up from his bootstraps and, uh, became a champion. Yeah. Longest running champion in the history of the middleweight division, 160 pound division in boxing.

And want to follow up? Yeah. He’s, he’s got great quotes. He’ll say things cause his English is a little bit shaky. Like his trash talk is it’ll say like, it’ll tell people, say respect box,

you know, but, uh, if you want to. Get into boxing and he’s a good place to start. What circuit is he going to see on the major circuit? Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So like in boxing you have different belts that people can when he’s, he’s won a number of bouts in the past. And, uh, he’s just trying to decide where he’ll sign next.

Like what, um, broadcast network would go to be on ESPN or maybe this new streaming service called the zone, but you’re not in Golovkin. That’s, that’s my recommended followup for you. There you go. I appreciate it. We’ll Owen Fuller GM of Lucid press. Thank you so much for your time. Thank you.

Right.

 

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Owen Fuller: Just A Normal Person that Works Hard

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