Why EVERY Brand Needs a Creative Operating System W/ Shane Hegde

December 1, 2022


Hosted By

Rabah Rahil
CMO at Triple Whale
Ash Melwani
Co-Founder & CMO of MyObvi


Shane Hegde

Episode Description

in this episode, we talk about everything creative and media and why you need air.inc#Adspend

Notes & Links

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Follow the people featured in this episode here:

- Rabah's Twitter: https://twitter.com/rabahrahil
- Ash's Twitter: https://twitter.com/ashvinmelwani
- Shane's Twitter: https://twitter.com/shanehegde


Shane Hegde (00:00):

Today, every company across the globe is a media company. Whether they like it or not. And, and that's because regardless of what industry you're in or what product you're selling, you know, content needs to flow through your organization. The marketing team needs it. Sure. But sort of sales and partnerships and product and operations and everybody in between. And so because of how prevalent content is through a business, you need an engine to really drive how content flows through how you get feedback, how you distribute assets, how you collect them. And we call that a creative operation system.

Rabah Rahil (00:38):

Your favorite DTC podcast is back folks as always Robert here driving the fun bus with my partner in crime. Ashmani Ash, how are you?

Ash Melwani (00:47):

Good, my man, how are we doing?

Rabah Rahil (00:50):

Oh, fantastic. You beat me on the whale Wednesday. I have some peak Panther gear on and you are swag up. Um, I need to get the other man with the plan. Some swag Shane from air ink, Shane. Welcome to the show.

Shane Hegde (01:02):

How are we doing? Hi. How much do I have to pay for some whale swag? That's a real question.

Rabah Rahil (01:06):

Oh, oh, we it's an absolute oversight on our part. That it is not in your guys' hands. I have such a little brand crush on you guys. You, you have some, some really fun stuff going on over there. Where's this podcast find you today.

Shane Hegde (01:19):

I am in red hook in Brooklyn, New York. Um,

Rabah Rahil (01:23):


Shane Hegde (01:23):

Beautiful. Living out here. It's not, not as hot as Austin. I imagine.

Rabah Rahil (01:28):

No, it's it's brutal right now. It's like 105. This is, this is the don't come to Austin time. <laugh> or come to Austin. If you wanna figure out if you wanna live here, cuz you can get through it. Um, it's beautiful for the rest of the month, but yeah, you're melting out here. It's a,

Shane Hegde (01:41):

There's no locals only for the summer, right?

Rabah Rahil (01:45):

<laugh> it's a bit of that. Yeah. It's it's proper hot man. It's we had, uh, our, uh, big DTC after dark event. Um, and pretty much nobody was from hot states. Like California was the hottest state there from and um, Texas thermostats just different. It just hits different. It's hot, it's proper hot. Um, speaking of proper hot, you have created a pretty compelling product that, uh, I wanna get more light on because it's incredible. It's helped alleviate a lot of different workflows. Um, but for people that don't know what air does kind of let us know, give us the product pitch elevator pitch. Um, and then let's talk a little bit about, uh, creative operations, SOPs, et cetera.

Shane Hegde (02:24):

Cool. Um, well thanks for having you guys. I, you know, started this, this business about four and a half years ago with my co-founder and we really started with a, with a problem statement. It's really difficult to work with media in the cloud at scale. Um, you know, for any founders out there, I would never start a company again, off of a problem statement because it's a pain in the ass to figure out who needs that solution. Uh, but you know, over the course of the last four and a half years, what we've come to understand is that today every company across the globe is a media company, whether they like it or not. And, and that's because regardless of what industry you're in or what product you're selling, you know, content needs to flow through your organization, the marketing team needs it. Sure, but sort of sales and partnerships and product and operations and everybody in between.

Shane Hegde (03:09):

Um, and so because of how prevalent content is through a business, you need an engine to really drive how content flows through how you get feedback, how you distribute assets, how you collect them. And we call that a creative operation system. Um, so the goal of our product air is similar to what GitHub does for a developer. You know, its goal is really to centralize the creative process so that you can do version control and get feedback and distribute assets, uh, no matter what use case you're creating in distributing content for. So it's been fun. It's been a wild ride. We, we launched our free product in March of last year. And uh, you know, it's just been an exciting journey since

Rabah Rahil (03:51):

That's so tricky. The GitHub is a really interesting analogy that is making a lot more sense. Now you are in that sense, a little bit of that, cuz you do have all that kind of, what I've found was really crazy is like you can almost really replace like frame IO. You can, you can pretty much almost look pretty like everything in it, right? Like, yeah. What are some cool use cases that you've seen before with your product that you didn't think of? Totally.

Shane Hegde (04:15):

It's been, it's been amazing. So, you know, 90% of our customers migrate from Google sheets, email threads, slack messages. Yeah. And then they're using Google drive Dropbox box, uh, we're the first piece of media infrastructure that they buy, you know, as soon as they acknowledge, like we need an engine to really centralize this stuff, then what happens is once they start using it, they cancel the frame IO or they might be using Vimeo for something or markup or whatever, you know, whatever tools that they're using. It all just starts to centralize on air. Um, what's also cool is we're what's called a product led SaaS company. So you don't have to talk to, you know, Chad and Brad on the sales team in order to buy it, you can just sign up on the marketing site and get going. Um, and so what's amazing is, you know, the free product generates all these crazy use cases to your point that I would've never imagined, you know, today we service large businesses like Google and NBC and like duke basketball uses our product.

Shane Hegde (05:06):

But then, you know, last week there was a oil refinery in Texas that started using our product. Uh, the week before there was a stock yard for livestock in Chicago that was using our product. Uh, you know, we've had a, a drywall company in California, a driveway installation company in Denver. Uh, it's been, it's crazy, you know, and what's also cool is it's global, right? We, you know, in Brazil, this travel agency is using our mobile app and our desktop app and our web app all to like record some of the tours that they give and then send them out to prospective people. So again, we believe every company is a media company and that, that just gets proven out. You know, as you look at the usage patterns in the product today,

Rabah Rahil (05:50):

That's an interesting thesis. I dig this Ash. Why, why aren't you guys on area what's going on here?

Ash Melwani (05:57):

<laugh> I think you almost sold me already. Um, right. Yeah, no. I mean

Shane Hegde (06:01):

In the dark days it's probably, yeah. Ash is lost right now.

Ash Melwani (06:05):

Yeah, no it's um, we, we definitely are right now we're using Dropbox and like, even that thing is a mess. Um, it's like, I think I've spent weeks trying to clean it up and then it's like, all right, we have a process in place. All this media that comes in, it's gonna go over this folder. And then two weeks later it's like all, we can't find shit. So now yeah.

Shane Hegde (06:27):

Well it's crazy. Look, I, I wish my first 10 minutes of any customer call is this exact same conversation where you're sitting there and you're trying to figure out how to optimize the next campaign for a thousand dollars. But now you're not even thinking about the $20,000 you spent on the shoot last year to create all these assets. So you could just create variance of and spit out. Yeah. Because they're lost in some giant thing that you don't even know if you have rights for or who created it or if the guy that shot it even still works for you. So yeah. You know, I think that's, that's the power of, of what we're trying to do, you know, is allow you to make those real time decisions with your content.

Ash Melwani (07:06):

I was just thinking this because like, when we have our like creative meetings every Monday, right? Like, Hey, here's the content that, or here's the ads that we're gonna make for this week? Um, oh, by the way, we had new content come in from our agency. Um, make sure we're utilizing it right. We obviously paid for it. Let's utilize it. Um, and like, I feel like I find the team using the same images over and over again. And it's like, didn't we just get new stuff? Like, have we used everything? Like that is my question. Like, have we used everything? Like, that's the whole point, right? We're supposed to test everything. Are we really testing everything? And then the other part of it is because, and I think this is where maybe some of the features of air would make like total sense here is we have so many products.

Ash Melwani (07:48):

Right. And then different flavors within certain products. Right. So like I saw you guys have like a, a smart search, right. Or a small smart filter or something like that, where if I can search for like, Hey, I'm looking for fruity cereal content, being able to just pull all of that together. That's huge because all right, maybe this week we gotta push it a little bit more. Right. Instead of like, yeah. All right, lemme go through the entire folder, let me pick out the ones that are just fruity cereal and then like send it to the team. So I mean that's,

Shane Hegde (08:17):

And that the qualitative stuff right there is what you remember. You remember, like it was this orange looking thing yeah. With like a red box. And we did it like between January and June and of like three years ago. And you can, you know, really triangulate in air through the mess of your chaos, you know, with simple search, just like that. Uh, so it's been, it's been cool, man. And I look, I nerd out and get excited cuz I imagine where this could go. Right. You know, at some point we're gonna connect with Facebook's at API and be able to pull in all that performance data so that you can, you know, you can literally look at what's performing in the same product as you're creative team is creating variance in versions and you're giving them feedback. All of that can happen in one streamlined conversation and that's yeah, that's the power we wanna unlock at air as we, you know, just keep stepping towards the vision.

Rabah Rahil (09:07):

Smart. Yeah. I see so many value vectors for me. Um, it goes almost just to the, the cheap ass that I am kind of to as Ashley's point of, like, I remember working for a client and they had spent like 10 or $15,000 on a shoot and then they sent me all the Dropbox links and they're all dead. You're just like, yeah. <laugh> and then you like go good luck finding the creator. Like they're the hard they're like Jason born, you know what I mean? Once the fucking invoice is paid, you're never hearing from that person ever again. And so like you just spent all this money on these assets and then also to as Ashley's point, like even if the assets are together, you kind of, you know, pat the least resistance sometimes where it's just like, I know where these photos are. I can throw some, you know, things on 'em and just, that's why you keep seeing those photos just cuz they're easy to get to. I don't

Shane Hegde (09:57):

Exactly. Everybody in your seat has has that story. You know, I, I used to be the chief digital officer of a television network called revolt TV in LA. And we partnered with Diddy and launched this music network and we spent $50,000 to get this shoot done and like to try to get that man to go to a shoot and get stuff done, you know, like I dunno heavens once every six months and I kid you not the kid who was a PA put the hard drive in his book bag, lost the book bag. Like that's, that's still like, you know, like, so the next week, you know, he pulled off whatever his selects were and we were fine, but the next week we wanted to go back to all the source material gone, you know? And no one's connecting the dots on the budget to the content because it, you know, you, you see 10 pictures on your computer and you don't think, oh my God, these pictures are worth $50,000 insert here number. Right. Yeah. And that's, that's, that's part of the, the, you know, the challenge as we moved to digital and like this stuff just gets quick and you know, we're shooting stuff back and forth on our phones. Like shit just gets lost and you know, it's, it's all over the place at this point. Do you guys have a mobile app as well? Yeah. Yeah. iOS and Android Ash. We're in it, dude. Don't, you know, hit the, leave it there, go for

Rabah Rahil (11:16):

You to fair the

Shane Hegde (11:18):

Jodo. I love, uh, the Doto uses our product. Uh, it's a media company in New York, uh, focus on animals. They use our product to coordinate with all their different influencers. So they'll send out a board on air and people can drop in content directly from their phone and it'll go all the way into the library and they can start the workflow that way.

Rabah Rahil (11:36):

All I promise this, wasn't supposed to turn into a product pitch, but that's really fucking compelling actually. That's actually really, we just did the DDC after dark. We do have an air board for that. But um, the influencer stuff is really interesting because, uh, yeah, that's really, really interesting actually. I mean,

Ash Melwani (11:54):

It's huge right now. We're just talking about it

Shane Hegde (11:56):

Form. Yeah. Just literally just you, you grab that share link. There's a way to create a view. That's just the form. And then you text it to people on their mobile app. They don't even have to have the app. They just see, oh, this is like a pretty landing site, has some directions and what to upload. I upload it right into there and then it goes straight in the library. So it works great for events. Also.

Rabah Rahil (12:15):

Maybe we just get, get on the real tip with, uh, the Josh der and put in our automated. Once you sign the influencer Ash and just

Ash Melwani (12:23):

Put your stuff up to no, that's the way I'm thinking about it, man.

Rabah Rahil (12:25):

I mean my ties on the beach,

Ash Melwani (12:27):

Huh? I mean, think about it man. I mean two weeks ago, right? I, I put out that tweet, like looking for U GC creators and we had like almost 200 responded, sent out a hundred packages this week. Like now organizing all that is probably going to be the worst part of it. Um yep. But mean to your point, right? It's like setting up a whole thing where like, Hey shoot them off a, a link to just drop it here and then just organize it that way.

Shane Hegde (12:55):

Totally. It should be that easy, right? Like it's 20, 22, like <laugh>, we're all we all operate like media companies in our personal lives. We got Instagrams. We're tweeting, we're snapping. We're making tos. Like why shouldn't it be that easy for our work? And you know that that's, that's the premise here.

Ash Melwani (13:16):

Well, so walk, walk me through this. Right? I have, I'm about a hundred creators about to drop some content in the next week or so. Right. And I wanna say organized, how can air help me

Shane Hegde (13:28):

Got air dot Inc. Sign up. All you gotta do is create a password. That's all we ask you for. You're gonna create a, what's called a board. So a board on air is like, when you start a project, I don't know if you use Trello, you make a card. Or if you use notion, you make a page on air, you make a board. So you create this board and a board can have many different view types. A board could be a table. A board could be a, a board could be a gallery. A board could be a form. And so in your case, you just create a board as a form and you would give some, you call it like influencer event or, you know, campaign, whatever you wanna call it. Uh, give it some directions you can say, Hey, you know, everybody, please upload some content directly into here.

Shane Hegde (14:08):

Here's the specifications. Here's what we're looking for. And then do you just tweet it out, text it out, email it out, whatever you want to do. And no one has to have the product. They just get a link. It's clear what the directions are. They upload directly into there. If you want, they can see the content that they're uploading. If you don't want, they don't have to be able to see it after they upload it or they can't see anybody. Else's, uh, if you want, you can also enforce them to tag it. So if you want them to give like expiration dates and like handover rights, they can do all of that directly in the form. And that's it. Then it's all automatically tagged from the uploader as it flows into your library.

Rabah Rahil (14:45):

Wow. Huh?

Ash Melwani (14:45):

I already got the ideas going, man. Imagine a hundred people, uploading videos, have them tagged by like flavor by like time product, stuff like that. Yeah. Product totally.

Shane Hegde (14:57):

And you can mandate it. You can mandate it so that when you upload, you also have to tag. So if you're like, I want these people to tag which person is in what person is in this. Or, you know, if they're approved as far as like our usage or whatever, whatever qualifications you have, those are all things we call custom fields and people can, you can enforce that. People do that when they upload, before they submit it.

Ash Melwani (15:20):

Yeah. All right. Sold.

Rabah Rahil (15:21):

Huh? Got me. That got me. <laugh> um, where's the name? Come from Shane.

Shane Hegde (15:28):

You know, the big, the big theory was uh, oh, a couple things I used to work in, in private equity. And so we were investing in a lot of, of, yeah, it was a, you know, huge tool hanging out in a suit <laugh> uh, and, uh <laugh> and we used to invest in a lot of like media companies. It's a big thing to be like on air. Yep. Uh, so that was, that was part of it. And like, you know, or again, our original thesis is it's hard to work with media and cloud at scale. A lot of that was media companies. Um, but then as we figured out that every company is a media company, you know, there's this whole notion of like the cloud and being able to work in the cloud and say, yeah, I don't know. You know, it's a bit of, a bit of those two things.

Shane Hegde (16:07):

I think it, it, it obviously hurts us with SEO, but the minute I talked to a CMO and I say like, we're air, it's just air dot Inc. You know, they're like, holy shit. That's like, you know, you're really, you really think this can be something, you know, you're big ambitions for this brand. If you think you're gonna be able to survive past the, you know, the ability to be UN searchable. And I'm like, yeah, you know, I do think at some point we'll get there. I'm super long in the business. So anyway, that's the, that's the name? I wouldn't recommend a three letter common word, you know, to businesses, not great unless they wanna go through some MIS

Rabah Rahil (16:40):

Not great in, in a weird TLD, but Hey, to each their own living, living on air, baby <laugh> um, how big are you guys now?

Shane Hegde (16:50):

60 people. Holy shit. Um, yeah, it's, it's been crazy, man. We were eight, uh, before the pandemic. And then, uh, we raised our series a in, uh, September of 2020, congrats, uh, from tiger global and slack ventures. And then mean last year the market was crazy. So we just raised, we sort of invented and coined this thing called an operator round. So we raised from about a hundred CMOs and creative directors. Uh, we raised about 10 million bucks, uh, last, uh, I guess it closed in January. Um, and so it's been, it's been a wild ride again. We launched our free product March of last year and, uh, this is the first year we've started really invest and go to market. So we spent more on ads in January than we did all last year. We made more money in Q1 than we did all of last year. So, you know, it's been, it's been an exciting, you know, exciting time for the business and that we doubled ARR in the last six months. Wow. So we're just trying to keep the foot on the gas man. Um, it's obviously wild times in the market right now. So, uh, you know, it's not just all about growth now for us. It's, we're trying to figure out growth efficiency. Yep. Yeah. And, uh, you know, that's the stuff that you guys know better than I do.

Rabah Rahil (18:03):

Yeah. Definitely in that same boat as well of, uh, not that we're at like a growth at all costs kind of mentality, but there was definitely a very supercharged growth atmosphere, right. The last six to eight months. And I think now people are kind of going back to like profitable growth or like, how can I expand, but not, you know, just lighting hundred dollars barrels on fire? Like what, what can I like, what what's the fastest, not like, I guess not necessarily fastest, but what is the least amount of growth I have to give up for profitability? Like people are starting to balance that a little more versus like let's just hockey stick. Like if it costs thousand dollars leads buy 'em $2,000 leads buy 'em where now it's like, oh, you know, we'll pay up to $500 for a lead kind of stuff where there's a little bit more, uh, moderated partying

Shane Hegde (18:51):

And there's, you know, there's tension there, right? Like the two metrics. Yeah. At least in our category that we feel people are pushing are payback period and burn rate or burn multiple. So on a payback period. Right. Like you're trying to get below 12, 12 months. Yep. Ideally. Right. And, and that's assuming strong retention and, and a really great LTV that bolsters that. But you know, trying to get your unit economics right. In a economic downturn when it's getting more expensive, because it's really hard to do qualification, you know, when iOS changes, you know, the ability to be able to track people, there's downstream effects a company like ours, trying to qualify and find a specific persona that gets harder. And so it gets more expensive, you know? So there's, there's, there's the unit economic side. That's challenging where we're trying to build efficiency. And then on the other side, there's, you know, you're, you're, you're burn multiple, which is how much money you make over how much money you spend in a given period. And, and for us, the difficult thing is we're at this like inflection of growth for not like fully matured as a growth stage company. Right. And so you're still forward investing, but you're trying to do that efficiently, but you need to invest in order to get signal and risk, you know? So it's, it's, uh, I don't know, man, uh, it's, it's a, it's a touchy road, but adapt and survive. I think robo was the mentality you pitched earlier.

Rabah Rahil (20:10):

Yeah. I think, I mean, honestly, I think that's the best just in general, even then the good times and the bad times, cuz then the good times you can kind of get a little crazy. But yeah, I, I think we're in a very unique place where SaaS companies have a little bit more grasp on their burn than other companies and, or not grasp, but like we can ratchet burn down a little bit faster than some other companies. Yeah. Where like it hurts to kind of let go some people because they're, they can be core to the business where there can be not, not fluff and SAS, but there's ver usually faster ways to kind of churn down a SAS company and things will still kind of keep going. Whereas like, you know, whole foods lets go of 20% of their staff. Usually it's gonna be like, or I guess Amazon now, but you get like Shopify just cut 10% of their people.

Rabah Rahil (21:03):

Even if it's a thousand person company, that's, you know, it's a hundred people lose or a thousand people, totally 10,000 person, but a thousand people losing their job. Like that's a decent amount of people. And even though it was like sales and recruiting and things like that still kind of hurts a little bit. So I don't know. I think that, uh, yeah, I'm, I'm kind of, of two minds of it. I do like the correction a lot, but obviously you don't wanna see people, you know, losing their job, I'm going through financial hardships, but that's kind of just the, I don't know the hard part of capitalism there has to be winner sometimes and you know, you make bets and sometimes those bets don't pan out. So I don't know. I don't, what are you guys' macro thoughts you think? Where do you think this heads are? Like, how does it, like, what are the knock on effects for, I guess B2B SAS and then D to C

Shane Hegde (21:45):

I'm gonna sound stupid. So I wanna make ASCO first and I'll go after him.

Ash Melwani (21:48):

<laugh> um, I, I really honestly like I, I do feel like on the DDC end, um, and I don't know if like other brands are seeing this, but I feel like we feel that AOV is slightly dropping. Mm-hmm no matter what we're trying to do in terms of like trying to boost that up. Right. Trying to get people to buy a lot more on their first order. Mm-hmm um, I think a lot of people are, there's a lot of less discretionary spend nowadays that's fair. Um, right. Gas prices, the markets, you know, in this shit right now. And, and I think people are just trying to save or just spend a little bit more efficiently. So I think to, to combat that one, um, at least for health and wellness, I feel like we're not completely recession proof, but like people are going to worry about their health.

Ash Melwani (22:31):

Right. No matter what. Um, so the, the biggest things that we're trying to do right now is at least like, you know, we, we just got sample sticks, right? So running promotions around there, where one, you don't have to commit to the full price, but we just wanna get product into somebody's hands. Right. So for example, like I was right before this, I was building out a landing page where it's like, you know, you can try Avi, you get four sample sticks, four different flavors, you get a free shaker cup and then a $10 gift card for your next order. Right. Um, all for 1199. Okay. So instead of the full price of $45 for one canister, $12, you're getting a free gift, free gift card, four flavors. And then hopefully we can acquire one at a lower K than trying to sell like a full fledge product.

Ash Melwani (23:18):

And then two, see if that the fact that like now they they're getting a taste for more products than just the one. They might find something that they actually love and then come back. Um, so I mean, one trying to maybe give something, give more value upfront so that people don't feel like they're, they're investing too much into something. Um, and then two, just trying to, you know, give the experience of like, all right, well, I'm getting so much out of this, right? It's like, oh, I'm getting shaker cup, get that's like, alright, I can get a shaker cup for like 15 bucks here. This whole thing is 12 bucks. You know what I mean? So I think that's what, that's what we're seeing at least. And then hoping that it's also summertime. Right. So supplements during the summer time, it's like people aren't really, you know, caring too much about weight loss too much. They're like, all right, well, I worked out the first half of this year. I'm gonna go to the beach and I'm gonna look like, I'm gonna look the way I look. Right. That's how, how I then Q4 comes around and that's holiday season. Right. So gifting comes back and I feel like people are probably saving for, for then too. So that's how that's I think about it.

Shane Hegde (24:23):

Yeah. I, I, you know, I think on my end, I'm extremely bearish on the market right now. You know, I think Facebook just makes earnings today. I mean, I think it's, I think, you know, my, my, my macro point here is that, uh, cash management is becoming really, really important. And you know, that, that comes down to like bolstering the balance sheet with whether right now we're talking to venture debt providers to make sure that we have like some coverage just in case, you know, we're thinking about, should we open up a note for some of our existings who missed out and wanna put in more money? Not because we think we need it. We, we just raised and knock on what, thank God we did. But you know, you just don't know, you don't know if this is gonna be six months or if this is gonna be 18 months.

Shane Hegde (25:08):

And so making sure that you have a plan, if it goes six or 12 or 18, I think it's really, really critical to get right, right now. And you're making decisions right now with that, at least in the forefront of your mind. So that's the, the first thing I'll say is like cash, you know, real cash inflow, outflow, sit in the cash flow statement and like think through it and think through your plan. Um, I think that the second thing is continuing to like invest in the things that like make your business whole in this period. So as an example, um, I just talked to a buddy who runs a, one of the executives at a company that sells salmon. Uh, they're based, based in the Northeast, they they're air customer. So I'm gonna yell that out, but they, you know, there's a flight to familiar in a recession.

Shane Hegde (26:00):

So salmon is one of the products that is actually gonna do super well. So they're, they know their business. Well, they know how it's gonna react to this economic climate. And they're really trying to just continue to invest in the channels that are working now, regardless of whether it's getting more expensive, because they know that the scale is gonna be there for them similarly in SAS, right. For us, we know that there's gonna be a consolidation of tools because at, at the end of the day, right now in this climate, you're trying to cut down the number of tools you have and ideally save some money. So we think we can be a little bit bullish in this period, but it's still like a, a give and take to your point robo. Right. We can spend, but then we can pull back. That's the beauty of a SaaS company, you know, that has that kind of model.

Shane Hegde (26:42):

Uh, if you're not, then I, you know, I think in Ashe's point, if you are gonna need medicine, regardless of what the economic climate is, if you're not, then I think what you gotta do is just really start thinking about owned and operated channels that you can invest in now for the long term, you know? And what's so cool about a downturn. Is it forces you to be unnecessarily practical? You gotta be correct. Right. Like I, you would never do some shit about the foundations of your business unless the world didn't give you an option. Yeah. And so I think that's, that's the kind of thing that becomes really interesting, uh, in this environment.

Rabah Rahil (27:15):

Yeah. I couldn't agree with you guys both more. I think that's exactly it where, um, you need to bolster your financials. Um, I wouldn't say it's necessarily like austerity measures, but, uh, it's your point? Shane people are, are, are looking at like, why am I spending X on Y like, and then there's the, and that threshold is lowered a lot more, right? Like maybe you're looking at thousand dollars month spends you're like, well, let's take it down to 500. What do we spending 500 or more on, like, let me look at what's going on at yeah. Like where is this money going? And then, um, yeah, I, I think you're absolutely right. Making sure like that that balance sheet is really, um, tidy. But again, I think there is a bit of like, obviously, um, you know, dark times ahead, quote unquote, but there is a light in the sense of, it shows you how to run a better business, um, because you don't have this cushion that you did.

Rabah Rahil (28:06):

Um, so I think there there's some pros and cons to it, but yeah, I, I don't think it's gonna be doom and gloom, but I do think like drop shippers and people that were on the margins in terms of arbitraging here and there are gonna have a lot more tough times just because there's just knock on effects across the whole system and to your guys's point as well. Um, like seasonality is kind of a dirty word, but it is what it is like, there's definitely like, you have to look at your company's revenue curve, but you're gonna have peaks and valleys. And sometimes most of the time, this is a valley for a lot of businesses. So it just feels like, yeah, it's exacerbated even more because you have these macroeconomic headwinds on top of people are traveling. People are spending money in different places.

Rabah Rahil (28:49):

And so I, I think there's just a lot going on, but net, net, I think we come out of it. Okay. But yeah, it's definitely, if you have some spicy, some spicy economics right now, it's gonna be really challenging to, to find growth. And the other thing, actually, I think Shaq just tweeted out or something. I think there also is a certain aspect of, uh, more of a primal instinct of survival versus growth. Like if you're surviving right now, like you're actually gonna be fine. But if you, if you're trying to grow right now, it's gonna be really cha not like, like not, you can't grow, but like, you're doing incredible. If you can grow right now. Like if you can just keep, you know, your, your current run rate as is in terms of growth, you're gonna be doing fantastic, cuz you're negating all these other macro kind of factors. So I don't know. I think it is gonna be interesting. Yeah. I don't like definitely tons of haircuts. I mean, Shopify snap got decimated, like everything in the space ancillary to like DTC and e-commerce is, is definitely cooling off for sure. But I don't know. I, I don't know. I,

Shane Hegde (29:54):

I just hope here, my, and my fear is that, and you're seeing it happen where people are like, oh, we shouldn't do that experimental brand campaign. You know, like, no one's doing that right now, but I hope that doesn't mean that people stop investing in brand, you know, and, and like, my push would be to invest in brand more with your time than with your dollars, but to still do it and because it matters and it matters so much, you know, people's attention hasn't changed. Yeah. You know, like you still have to make it through the noise. You just can't shell out a quick buck to do it automatically.

Rabah Rahil (30:27):

Yeah. And I think it's just more efficient than it is, um, anything right? Like just people are kind of, there's just a little bit of Pearl collection going on right now. I don't know. What do you think Ash?

Shane Hegde (30:37):


Ash Melwani (30:38):

No, I, I think to your point, you know, like invest, like you said, investing in brand, right. I think one thing to even consider whether this is, you know, a part of brand or not, but like even like just focusing on LTV, right? I mean, you're, you're for, at, for at least B2B at, at maybe a little bit different, but at least on our end, we're, we're doubling down on what we can do better in one are, you know, Facebook community, um, what we're doing on email subscription, things like that, where one, we already have this customer base that we've paid to acquire. Right? Like there, there, there are some die hard fans in there that still are going to, you know, they're on this journey, right. At least for health and wellness, right. People are on this journey, they're gonna stick on this journey.

Ash Melwani (31:18):

Right. They've already allocated their, a certain budget towards buying supplements or whatever it is. So like cleaning up that process and still making sure that like, you're not, you're still coming out with like some fresh stuff. Right. So for us, you know, still, um, flavor expansions, right? Yeah. Um, even if we're doing like a minimum run, we're still, you know, growing in that sense and, and still innovating in that sense where we're doing these fun drops. Right. So we have a, a flavor drop next week on Friday. Can't, can't give too much info on it yet.

Rabah Rahil (31:51):

Oh no. Breaking news. Come on. <laugh>

Ash Melwani (31:54):

But, um, yeah, it's one of those things where like, from a, from a business operations standpoint, it's like, Hey, if we need cash flow, like, all right, let's we already approved this flavor months ago. Like, all right, can we get a minimum run right now? Fine. Let's do it. And then kind of prop up, uh, revenue and cash flow through, through there. So I think those, those small things that we can small wins where we can kind of prop things up until things start to get better until you hit, you know, the holiday season and things like that. Um, you know, focus on that, like, you know, um, growth doesn't need to be the, the key focus right now, um, until the environment suits for it.

Shane Hegde (32:33):

I think it's also to that point about growth Ash, it's also like qualifying that with, with where you're at in your life cycle as a business. Right? So as an example, like for us, if we're growing it over 250% year over year, we'll be able to go out and get hopefully a 30, 40, maybe 45 times multiple on ARR in our category. But if we're sacrificing and we're only growing at 150% year over year, then that multiple's down to 20% or even below. And so, you know, I think like it's all this equation that is a delicate dance for sure. But, um, making sure that everybody across the organization understands how the math plays out. You know, if we cut the dollar here, if you don't do this, then we can't do that. Like, that's, that's the thing that I'm struggling with the most right now is to like, get everybody to see the whole game instead of just like their style

Ash Melwani (33:28):

Of it. Yeah. No. And, and to, to even like, at least on our side, where if we cut back like investment on marketing, right. It doesn't just affect D TOC. It affects everything else. Right. The whole ecosystem, retail, vitamin shop, GNC, Amazon, every other channel that we're in, that you don't see on a day to day basis. Like that is where I think we learned our lesson where like, you can't drastically cut back just cuz like costs are like kind of inching up, look at it on a month to month level. Make sure that, Hey, like if you cut back spend is, is vitamin shop placing another order with you? Right. Or is GNC placing another order is Amazon like still, you know, performing. So don't look at it as just a single channel. I mean, if you, if you are just online then obviously that, that is what it is, but look at everything else around you. Right. So for you, like you're the example you said like, Hey, you're, you're thinking long term, right? Like if, if you stop and you cut back then long term, you may not be able to raise it more than you could have. Right. So that, I totally like, like you said, it it's an equation that you kind of have to figure out and the brands that are scrappy enough to do it, um, I think will survive in the long run.

Rabah Rahil (34:37):

Yeah. And I think it's in a weird way, better for that. Cuz it's just gonna produce better, more robust businesses versus people that are just shipping a product they've never seen before and throwing shitty branding on it. They got from fiber shout out fiber. I used to use them like way back in the day. And then they realize like a couple months ago they're public public companies. It's crazy crushing it. Um, Shane, what are you most excited about? We've kind of hit the Debbie downer stuff. What are you most excited about with the, um, current, not only just like market, but what you're seeing in terms of cuz it sounds like you have a real, uh, pulse on people are trying to systemize more for that efficiency. And obviously error is one way to do that, but is there any other themes that you're seeing across clients that are really exciting you or that you think like, oh man, that's really smart. More people should do that.

Shane Hegde (35:32):

Hmm. Um, a lot of folks, oh I guess two things, one that's like super specific and the other that's, that's sort of sort of more macro, uh, on the really specific side, uh, crowdsourcing creative, um, has been like something that a lot of our clients have done recently. We were just talking about that collection form of board. So it came to mind. Um, so many of these partners we work with are sourcing campaigns, creative ideas, feedback, et cetera, from their communities that they've been building. Cause I feel like for the last few years, so many people have invested in community and like people are still fighting out new and new ways to activate them. Um, and so I've been shocked to see how many brands in so many different categories are sourcing content, not from their agency partner, just from mm-hmm <affirmative> people who love their product.

Shane Hegde (36:25):

And then they're using that for collateral. There's this huge shift that I've been seeing with the partners that are using our product, um, who are trying to fit into the mold of AU authenticity really is like the, the word of the time. Um, and so they're just taking it in from customers and putting it back out. So to ASHA's point earlier about investing in your customer relationships right now can really provide some dividends there. Um, so that's, that's one on a super micro scale on a real macro scale. And this is like, I know it's obviously challenging. There's been 50 to 60,000 people. Who've lost their job in the last six months. Um, specifically within the sectors we're talking about, but at the same time, there's a lot of great talent out there who now as the opportunity to find the perfect next step for themselves.

Shane Hegde (37:14):

And there's a lot of companies that are really struggling cuz they don't have X person or Y person with Z skillset. And I think that like somehow if those equations align, it's gonna be really interesting for both those individuals as they look to further their own careers and for these businesses that move forward. And so, you know, as an example, you know, we are spending a lot of time in recruiting in this period. It's because we can, because the pipeline is really strong and big and you know, we can be patient, we're not like in a rush to just spend money to spend money. Um, and you know, it's allowing us to really tighten our processes and prove our practice as a business and ideally great get great talent that fits perfectly into what we're looking for. Um, so those are two things that I, I don't know at a super high level and then really narrowly, uh, focused on, on marketing that we've been saying.

Rabah Rahil (38:07):

Yeah, no, I'm really into that. I think there's definitely something to be said about, um, talent and there's a bit of a correction of wages too. I think like the, the totally crazy shit was insane. Dude, media buyers, everybody

Shane Hegde (38:20):

Was like, if you're not paying me a 55, I'm not working

Rabah Rahil (38:24):

Saying man, I was hiring people up and I was throwing people, some real numbers, like especially considering like age context or career, all these things like dude, I never was even close to making that when I was your age. Like I felt, felt like I'll get off my lawn old man. So I think there's gonna be a lot of <laugh> um, not only wage corrections, but um, there's gonna be some cool companies that come outta these talented, talented things that will, uh, there's gonna be these talent aggregators that'll then build, um, kind of will have another boon boon cycle in terms of building. But I love that. That's fantastic. Um, let me see, what else do I got for you? <laugh> I think that's the big one.

Shane Hegde (39:04):

What about you guys? What's what's the latest over there at, uh, at triple oil would

Rabah Rahil (39:08):

Love to, oh, a lot of the same man. We we've been really conscientious of the burn, but at the same time we wanna make sure that we're still placing bets. Um, there's also this thesis that I have and it's, I guess the too long didn't read is there's, uh, I call it the proximity to profits. So the closer you are to actually making the company money, like the less, um, for lack of a better word, like, you know, easy the to easily to let you go type of thing. And so I think we've really Hond in, on like a really nice core team that is, um, really able to push the, the needle forward. And so we have all our foundational teams in place now, and then our biggest spend now is just if we find amazing developers, right? I mean, just like you guys, like you find amazing developer, just like write their own check kind of stuff.

Rabah Rahil (39:59):

Um, but in terms of the foundational teams, totally, there was an aspect of expansion and then a little bit of contraction cuz we kind of just grew way too fast, way too big. And that was a big credit to AJ and max to kind of, um, write the ship where we're still a speed boat and we were kind of building for a cruise ship. And so I think the biggest lesson that we learned and luckily one we raised at like perfect timing as well. And then the other thing that we've really learned and kind of our new philosophy is higher don't hire until you fill pain. We were hiring to a future a lot. And so it just started to add on layers of complexity and like red tape and stuff. And pretty much everybody here is either like X entrepreneur or like super on the educational or not educational executional versus strategic.

Rabah Rahil (40:45):

Like we have people that are kind of both, but almost everybody can really drive their own bus. So we, we really trying to act almost like a compound startup where everybody's kind of running their own little startup, but under one umbrella has been a really big, important kind of culture for us to cultivate where, um, if you need to hire somebody or you need to buy a tool, we kind of like, why? Like if it's gonna make you do it faster, better. Okay. How much? And we can talk about it, but like if it's just cuz you don't want to do it or I, I don't know, you know what I mean? Like we're trying to get out of that. Like just, just get this or just get that where it's like, Hey, figure it out. Okay, cool. You do need to shovel to dig faster here, let's go get you a forklift or something and stuff.

Rabah Rahil (41:26):

So I think that was a big thing before cuz we, I think people have aspirational, um, views of their company, which is fantastic. But at the end of the day, like we could get to a whole bunch of money with really little headcount. And so there was no reas, especially outside of like dev and uh, CX. Like those are always gonna be two headcount, heavy places in the business cuz we're they're they kind of variably scale, right? Like the more people we have, no matter how good your CX guest, you, you can only have, you know, so many clients per CX agent and so on and so forth. And then developers is gonna be, um, again going back to path or proximity to profits developers, almost a direct line to being able to push features out. Cause we also believe in a little bit of product led growth.

Rabah Rahil (42:11):

So the more product velocity we have, the better the company does, et cetera, etcetera. So, um, yeah, so that was kind of a whole meandering way of saying, uh, basically we got really tight on the wallet, but also, um, very first principles of like we have really clear silos of ownership. And so I think that for me, designed by committee or decision by committee is like the worst thing you can ever do. I don't think that input's bad, but I think like the king or queen needs to make the decision. Cuz if not like one there's no ownership and two like, yeah, there's just so much fuckery that arises from that. Whereas like you have everybody kind of congregate everybody domain experts can put their 2 cents in, but the end of the day one or two people kind of own the decision and then you just kind of go from there. So that that's for me kind of been the big, big changes here at the whale app where kind of going back to that small scrappy startup, even though we're super well funded. Now we have like over 5,000 merchants, but being able to kind of always be able to, you know, artists, real artist ship kind of stuff.

Shane Hegde (43:13):

Totally, totally. Yeah. The, the managing of the mentality, you know, is very well put it's so, so challenging. Um, and it, it ebbs and flows and startups, especially, you know, every quarter is different. Um, and uh, and yeah, I mean kudos to you guys, uh, you know, we're similarly trying to figure out this new mentality and a new way of working and more people you have, the more challenging it gets and you know, it, it, so, you know, I think we're constantly just trying to learn from, from other folks like you guys about, about how to do that.

Rabah Rahil (43:47):

Amazing. I love it. Um, we are pushing up against it. So let's get to the weird question unless you have anything else, Ash,

Ash Melwani (43:55):

I think you guys, uh, yeah, I mean, you guys are in that situation where you guys are, um, you have gone through like the funding and things like that, where we're about to, to raise our series a, so we understand how important it is to like now, okay. We need that kind of, that, that basket to kind of keep us going. Right. Um, but yeah, we'll we can chat more when we get there.

Rabah Rahil (44:16):

Yeah, boy. Um, okay. So the weird question today will be, um, if you were handed over the, uh, ox cord, so the auxiliary cord in the car, um, what song do you play? And

Shane Hegde (44:33):

There's only one song. Frank Sinatra, New York, New York. See that doesn't

Rabah Rahil (44:37):

Pass is the amazing,

Shane Hegde (44:39):

I mean it's Frank dude. It's Frank, no questions asked, done amazing whole you're going live from Madison square garden. You're playing the whole whole show end to end. And you gotta get the little bits between where he pulls. He pulls that Dave Matthews, like I'm just gonna talk through the next phone. That's Frank Madison square garden. Put it on tonight, throws some bucatini maybe on and call it it, call it an evening.

Rabah Rahil (45:06):

Oh man. It's that was the, that was the best quickest answer to the weird question of the day. Shane. That was, you get the award so far.

Ash Melwani (45:11):


Rabah Rahil (45:12):

Can't even follow that up running champion. What do you, what do you got for me? Ash? I'm handing you the ox cable. You got no, no, no banger for me. Nothing. It's not, not Frank.

Ash Melwani (45:18):

It's not, it's not that I can tell you that. It's definitely, it's not gonna be Frank, but I feel like we're gonna have to put on Frank

Rabah Rahil (45:23):

After this. No. Right? Maybe copyright stuff. Get it, get it in there though. Editors take note. <laugh>

Ash Melwani (45:29):

Yeah, no, I mean, I don't know if you know me. I'm a big Drake fan. So I'm tossing on some of the, some of the oldies. Um, show me a good time by Drake. That's just my, my classic. If you guys haven't heard this,

Rabah Rahil (45:43):

That's a new album. I heard it's a little, I heard

Shane Hegde (45:46):

Hates the new album. Ash hates the new

Rabah Rahil (45:48):

It's a little sus, right?

Ash Melwani (45:49):

I gotta, you gotta get me like a nice like vibe. Like I need to be on the beach somewhere and then turn that on and I'll be, I'll be fine.

Shane Hegde (45:57):

Yeah. We can't all afford to go to Mico anymore. So we can't listen to the new album. Exactly. That's what it's <laugh> no, one's on a beach this year. We're trying to save money.

Rabah Rahil (46:06):

Just seeing the crypto tears while, while you're listening the Drake. Yeah, ain't great anymore. Um, amazing. I don't know what I'd go. Maybe, maybe a little Tom petty, maybe a little, little OG, maybe some food fighters. Maybe, maybe some rage against some sheen. Just, just go crazy with it. Ooh. Just get all jacked up and be, be going. Get the crowd going. Let everybody know, like it fantastic

Ash Melwani (46:26):

Answers. Three different genres.

Rabah Rahil (46:27):

Yeah. Fantastic answers. Um, Shane, where can people find you? How can people follow you? How can they get more involved in air? This time is yours, my friend,

Shane Hegde (46:36):

Uh, check us out. Www dot air dot Inc. IC. Uh, my email's Shane at air dot. Inc. If you have any questions, shoot me an email. I respond quickly. You know, I'm not a big guy on, on Twitter sphere. I don't really do that. I, you know, occasionally there's a LinkedIn post, but I'm around. Uh, I would love to help.

Rabah Rahil (46:56):

<laugh> amazing. Ash, let the people know.

Ash Melwani (47:00):

Yes, sir. Um, if you are looking for advice on paid media, I'm on mentor pass. So hit me up there. Um, if you are looking for some collagen in your life, check out a vitamin shop nearby, we will be there. And if you see it, take a picture, tag me on Twitter. Um, and then yeah, follow me on the bird at Ashvin. Melani just dropped a, a nice thread about influencer marketing. So check it out.

Rabah Rahil (47:25):

Heat, the kids putting heat out. Shane my brother. Thank you so much. If you're ever in Austin, gimme a shout. I think we're coming back out to New York. Soon-ish so I'll hit you up. If we do come back out Brooklyn, one of my favorite spots, Ash, always a pleasure. You're my man looking great in that triple swag, by the way, Shane will get your swag bag. Of course sent out to you. If you do wanna get more involved with the bird or triple well, geez. Get along in the day. Sorry. Uh, triple. Well, it is at triple on the bird app and then we have a fantastic newsletter that goes out every Tuesday, Thursday called whale mail. Definitely sign up there. That's right on our Twitter profiles. And then if you wanna go sign up, just go to triple well.com. Start printing money with the whale app, guys. Thanks so much. Go get air, go start and get your creatives and your SOPs in place. Uh, Ash, thank you for all the knowledge, my friend. We will see everybody on the flip. That's it. Another DTC in the books. Bye everybody.

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