Vested Capital
Vested Capital

Episode 28 · 2 weeks ago

(EP28): David Ciccarelli, CEO And Founder Voices.com, Marketplace For Voice Audio Content, Raises $18Mil Towards IPO

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

David Ciccarelli is the CEO and founder of Voices.com.

Based in London, Canada, Voices.com provides an online marketplace, facilitating transactions between business clients and over two million voice over professionals.

In this interview David shares the origin story of Voices, how they first launched their platform, secured a great domain name, attracted new customers and new voice talent to make sure they had both supply and demand and then grew the company to the point where it is today, heading towards a Nasdaq listing after raising $18 Million from Morgan Stanley and others.

Enjoy the episode.

Yaro

Podcast: https://www.yaro.blog/pod/

Blog: https://www.yaro.blog/

Hi there this is Yaro and welcome tovested capital Episode Number Twenty eight featuring my guest David Ciceri,the CEO and Co founder of Voices Com vested capital is a podcast about howpeople make money and put their capital to work. I interview start up foundersAngel Investors, venture capitalists, Crypto and Stock Traders, real estateinvestors and leaders in technology today. My Guess David is going to takeus back in time and explain how he and his wife launched voices com, amarketplace that connects over two million providers of voice talent withcustomers who are looking to purchase some kind of voice content for thingslike commercials, maybe podcast audio, like you're listening to now, possiblyfor a documentary voice over a character in a cartoon anywhere. Youneed voice. They provide the talent to do the job as can expect as a marketplace. There was a serious challenge at the star, with growing both the supplyside and the demand side. I was majorly impressed to hear David share the storyof how he was a responsible for growing demand, which meant finding thecustomers and he did over. Ten thousand phone calls just one by one trying toconvince these people to come over to voices and purchase talent. There youknow of higher people to Create Padi content. Meanwhile, his wife was on theother side. She in fact was voice talent herself, that's how they met tohear the origin story of their meeting and she was more in charge of themarketing side and growing the talent pool to basically have supply, so youcan provide the service. We also hear the story about voicecode, the mainname which I was super curious about, since it is a premium domain name andit's a fun story about how David managed to acquire that back when theyhad almost no money so very difficult to get a higher price, the main name inthat kind of situation. We move forward in the story and hear how David startedchanging the pricing model. That was an important step. They had to build someescrow technology to do that. We move forward again to hear more about thegrowth in terms of the team and eventually getting an office all theway up to the current situation. Where they recently raised funding, not thatrecently actually was two thousand and seventeen. Now it's a few years agothat was their last raise. They did raise some debt financing in severaldifferent races before that, but the eighteen million dollar US raise theydid with Morgan Stanley, as the lead was a major stepping stone towardslisting on the Nasdaq Exchange, which is an IPO. That David is hoping andworking towards in the short term future and, of course, that money goesto everything you would think it goes to. You know growing the team,marketing and sales. It's just getting everything professional ready to go,including the board directors board, Advisors, everyone they needed place todo that. IPO and David is fantastic at telling a lot of longer answers toquestions is not a short podcast, as you can tell David, has a wealth ofinformation experience from being the CEO from day, one of a boot strap startup to now, a company that's starting to raise and get ready for the IPO phaseand concluding like what's his hiring philosophy and some tips around that,obviously everything they did to grow. The company, during the early days, allthe INS and outs of how he runs the company and how his role is changed andeven what he's done regarding his own finances- and you know, has he takenmoney off the table since all of his net worth is basically tied up intovoicecode. So it's a great interview for anyone interested in starting amarket place and everything that goes on behind the scenes, and I know you'llget a lot out of it. 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...currently drowning in any kind ofadamant, tasks or email or anything that you feel like could be handed overto someone else in the virtual capacity in buck. Oncome is the place to go. Ifyou got the money for, like a part time assistant, it's a good fit for you headto that website book. A discovery call tell us what you need help with, andthen we can provide you with two dedicated virtual executive assistance.That's in box done com; okay, that's IT for me! Now we're going to begin theinterview with David Siserari, I David! Thank you so much for joining me today.I appreciate the tire to chat and I think, we're in for a good one today,yeah, so most people will know. Now you are the the Co founder and Co voices,and I was digging into your platform as well as your own personal history. Thecompany's history you've been at it for a while, which is fantastic. It's niceto hear a longevity story, we're going to dive into all of that, maybe justfor the people, don't really know what voices is. What is it today and evenwhat was the original plan for it when you first started sure well start withthe present voices is really an online market place, an online freelancemarket place where we're connecting creative talent. Let's call a audioproducers, voice, talent, translators and musicians with those corporateclients, often that advertising agencies, creative director at amarketing department and the common theme there is that these clients havean important story to tell a message to share, to educate and form or otherwiseentertain their audience and they're. Looking to predominantly find a voiceto tell that story, so we serve as that market place as there have sprung up anumber of freelance market places nowadays that kind of bring these twoparties together. That's what we are today. A funny thought I had. I don'tknow if this is relevant, but I was looking at your service. I know a lotof it's also about the spoke voice. Town and it's like I'm need a customscript read out by a great voice and it could be something simple. Like mypodcast, I might want to get an intro done that I would then use over andover again for the show, but I've noticed a lot recently. I'm throwing abit of a left wing question. Here's all over the place, but youtube videos,you're hearing a lot of automated, robotic voices like people, I think,are literally just uploading a tech script and having a robot read out anden they're putting that over images and releasing a video. I'm asking us. Iguess because this feels very current too, with AI coming into play withvoices. Have you found people come to you to do a voice over for a fullyoutube video, and what is your thoughts around the Ai side of thingsyeah, so Internet? We just kind of classify it as Internet videos. Itcould be used. You know mostly for Youtube, of course, but other socialplatforms. That is the number one most used and fastest growing category. It'ssixty five percent of all the jobs on voices are in internet videos and thatcategory grew at two hundred and twenty percent last year. So it's by far andaway. You know almost like that primary use case, if you will that we go tomarket with with respect to AI voices, I think it's A. I think it's a reallygood observation. I mean this in effect, was the existential threat that ourinvestors now you know, asked us at the time and do diligence was what is goingto be the one thing that may put you out of business or put this ourinvestment at risk and, I always had said the well funded competitor. Thatwas just always something I was concerned about what I think what hastranspired over the last five years has been the increased usage andsophistication of AI voices or synthetic voices, people kind of use,those terms interchangeably. There is certainly a time in a place for theiruse. I almost think of it like a two by two Matrix, where you have kind of timealong the horizontal and the shorter, the recording or the shorter. Like theutterance that you would be hearing back, okay, fine, you might be able tobear with a robotic voice, whereas the more kind of and on the vertical accessyou know could either be kind of quality or like kind of character, theamount of character work that needs to be done and if it's really just anindustrial purpose, think of like a parking arage or like a kiosk or youknow, trains, planes and automobiles type travel information. That'schanging all the time. You don't need a character to do that. It just means tobe voiced for informational purposes only, but as you get kind of get moreinto character, driven content. That is also long form in terms of it beingnarrative, not just kind of raw data. That's being read out audibly, that'swhere I think you would be moving away and really synthetic voice or an aivoice would not be suitable for characters and where there's anarrative to be told so there's a time in a place. We actually see some, youknow, column, Big Tech companies or even startups that are looking tocreate their own synthetic voice and they need data to do so and the daythat here would actually be voice, data to train those systems and so actuallybe hiring, and sometimes using voices...

...com. As ironic as this sounds usingvoices to higher live human voice actors at the tune of like hundreds ofpeople at a time to actually create one of these synthetic voices, but I thinkin the long run I mean you're still going to have always the need for aperson to breathe life into that script. Just like you have on camera actors,and you still have animated characters. You know animation isn't going toreplace on camera actors. I think there're, two different use cases timein a place where it makes sense to use those. So hopefully we can live inharmony with the robot voices yeah and I suspect you must be planning, maybein the future, to provide the AI voice service with voices as like. It's notnecessary. Something that will make you go out of business he'll be become partof your business. I could imagine too, we've thought of it. We've parted witha few companies over the years. If YOU'RE IN AN AD agency, you want tohire a voice actor if you're at a median entertainment company, so we'venot found nearly the amount of kind of like up take with that. I think itcomes down to knowing what we do best, which is where the market place. We arenot the techener and provider of that type of technology were the marketplaceand therefore that's kind of the it's the business model. We know really well,you know we're not a software as a service business where we're licensingout some kind of synthetic voice or kind of creating them on our own. Youknow it's interesting we're even going in this direction, because it has beena concern of a lot of talent, believing that we're like ingesting all of thisdata and that behind the scenes we've got this like big data sciences team.Creating this you know ominous synthetic voice that can do all mannerof productions. It's just not true the analogy I often give is kind of. Ithink how some of the traditional broadcasters were so loath to embracethe Internet at the beginning, because they need to realize that they weretrading kind of like you know, analog dollars for digital dimes, and it'salmost the same way like we are enabling people to hire, live humanvoice actors who really bring their unique ability to that recording and agreat quality that the discerning ear can tell the difference. Certainly overten seconds, you definitely know it's a robot or not. Why would we trade that,for the we've, even spoken to like PhDs and at Mit was one of the programs wewere working with it just in terms of like an understanding like thistechnology, and some of the smartest minds in the world are like this is tenyears away and the key tipping point, if you will will be the moment that arobotic voice is indistinguishable from a human and that's kind of the it'spretty far away, where you're listening for any length of time, sometimes inlike the first five or ten seconds you're like Oh, can you tell thedifference between the human and the robot and like yeah, I listen for threeseconds. I I barely could of computed in my mind, like what I was evenhearing, but when you get into like ten fifteen thirty seconds, if there's acertain lifelessness about it, where I think, if you're in the creativeindustries you're not going to launch a product you're not going to go out tothe world with anything less than all the emotion that only a person canprovide. I feel like I've asked You my last question the first question here aday of the the the future of your industry, which usually I would endthis interview on, but I really appreciate your answer and I foundmyself having conversations like this recently, especially around film, likeyou were mentioning before with actors in movies, how there may be a time whenyes, small roles, I will be replaced by a digital human being acting, but theunique talent, especially for those main roles, will always require thehuman being for the dynamic nature. You can't kind of replicate that creativityin AI, so I feel like you're kind of giving that answer as well. There mightbe use cases for it, but I'll for a lot of situations it'll always, but peoplealways want a human being. So I appreciate that- and I know I asked youpore e- had the record button for a claim to fame to sort of point out howbig voices com is today. So maybe we can work away back how big, as voicesdotcom today in terms of whatever numbers you want to share sure. So, interms of the number of people that have taken that step to register free on thewebsite create a profile. You know this is the those creative talent there'swell over two million creative talent on the market place who mostly or voicetalent, because that's been our heritage for the better part of fifteenyears, but just this last summer we actually expanded the platform toenable and welcome on other creative services that I would considerimmediate adjacencies. So there's well over fifty thousand translators. Youknow thirty sand, audio producers and editors somewhere between twenty five,thirty thousand musicians and kind of music, composers and differentmusicians, so most market places. In my experience you know an observation oflearning the best in class from others. You need to start with some semblanceof supply. If you will- and in this case would be that kind of creativetalent and so getting into the realm of...

...tens of thousands of talent in thesenew areas is really promising to us. Now it's all about driving that demandand for what it's worth I mean that we do that. It's almost becomes, ourentire exclusive operation is on the demand side of the market, place thoseclients, and you know we have a team of a hundred and thirty plus people whoare in you know, roles of sales and marketing product development. You knowtechnology, you know finance and operational roles as well too. Sothat's where we're at today, and I noticed for those watching the video. Ifeel like it's a real background, we're seeing behind you there. So are you inthe voices office an IT's London Ontario right? Are you back to worklike people with you there now or well? You know definitely were one of thefirst in the city to go wholesale remote at the onset of the pandemic. Weare also one of the first to stop playing the guessing game when you knowwhen the coved wave would subside and so early on, we just said: Look it'sgoing to be a hybrid work, environment indefinitely and and just embrace that,and then we also went to lengths to I mean the office is forty five thousandsquare feet, which is a typical office, downtown office towers about fifteenthousand square feet of floor. This is just Havin, it's one floor plate, butvery large. So we have lots of space to do all the necessary protocols. Havethe social distancing you know for those that want to feel like they havemore space, people can all kinds of hot desk. They can certainly utilize aswell too. So, usually a couple I mean I'm in here, I'm on a I'm in herepretty much every day and I would say, call it ten to twenty percent of thecompany kind of rotates in and out. You know it's not prescriptive, we're notdemanding that people come in, but I think there's certainly a draw ifthere's a team event or quarterly kick off or maybe annual strategic planningsessions. There is absolutely something to be said about bringing peopletogether so s they feel safe and comfortable in the environment thatwe've, created and kind of you know, policies and practices to support thatI've actually certainly been noticing more people want to come in and thereaction is afterwards like. Oh, we should really do this again. Sometimeslike a this used to happen every day. Maybe it'll take some time. I thinkwe'll get back there eventually, okay! Well, I mean you know my shell. I goback in time, so I'd love to hear the origin story of voices, but just onequestion before that: What did you David do before you became the CEO onCo founder? I was saying to you this before we get the record I was like. Inormally go by Lindon as a way to guide my early years for my guests, and Idon't see I mean unless you're like, I don't know, hiding some kind of jobsthat you know are relevant or league in propel anymore. We born and raised inLondon Ontario. The other wasn't a whole lot. I graduated from high schoolone of the things mom and Dad said before. Picking a career path and aneducational path was go. Do some good in the world go to some social work? Gofind a cause that you believe in, and the deal was with myself. My brotherand my sister was mom and dad would pay for an open, ended, plane ticketanywhere in the world, and you have to go spend a year there in some type ofprogram. So I found a group called youth with a mission which is like aChristian missionary organization. I went to Perth Western Australia, whichwas, I literally got out the globe. I grew up in the Thunderbank, which is atthe northern end of Lake Superior and I've found the furthest place away fromhome according to the club. So Perth Western Australia is on the oppositeend and I had an open in a plane ticket. There was certainly about. I think itwas what ten months of like official programming with that group and wehelped find billets in kind of living quarters if you will for athletescompeting in the two thousand Sydney Olympic Games so kind of going backbetween Earth and Sydney. That was certainly my first away from homeexperience and a big learning one as well. When I came back in fact, whileas there I applied, but when it came back, I ended up actually going to anaudio engineering school here in London Ontario. So I was always reallyfascinated with sound. I played piano play drums. You know help the out. Dothe sound booth at Church and youth group, and that kind of thing, and justyou know tinkered with it to the degree that I you know, knew enough to bedangerous and really enjoyed. It is kind of the convergence between musicand art, and technology is what I really loved, and so that was theprogram as an audio engineering program where I went to school. Okay, when youdid that program was your plan like was there a career path? You saw that wouldkick off in your head at the time. I think so. I think I wanted to do. Oneof you know. I really wanted to open up my own recording studio, but you knowthrough the year there was all kinds of other opportunities presented likebeing this, basically being the sound guy on like a cruise ship which soundedreally cool. You know you only have to work in the evenings and to or theworld and some people absolutely went to do that. I was pretty set on openingmy own recording studio. I wrote a business plan, my dad kind of servingas a mentor for those I early years. He...

Co Sines alone. So he believed in mybusiness plan, which included a list of audio recording equipment that I wantedto purchase and as well, fifteen sand dollars of recording equipment, andthat was you know precisely. What it did is. A small kind of projectrecording studio is going to record garage bands and hip hop bands, and youknow rock groups, and I actually got my name in the local newspaper, the Londonfree press on my birthday of all days, and that's really. I think where thatyou know the origin story for voices commences, because I met through thatnewspaper Article Stephanie Who's. Now, of course, my dear wife and Co founderand voices. So it was really coped as a husband and wife team and Stephanie.She would sing at weddings and funerals and special events and her mom wouldcarpool or her around to go to all these impersonal, auditions and said.You know you really ought to record your singing repertoire and get youknow some CDs or you know an MP three file that you could share with people,so they could hear you sing instead of viewing happen to do these impersonaauditions, so Stephanie's mom actually caught out that newspaper article andleft it for her on her bed and prompted her to come down to the studio. Weended up hitting it off, but because of that same article and there were otherlocal businesses that wanted. You know they wanted some work done. They w tthe phone system recordings and local commercials, they wanted a female voiceand I was a total nerd. I knew nobody else in the city except I had just metStephanie the other day and said you've got a so I gave her a call. I said:You've got a great singing voice. Have you ever done? Acting or performing?I've got a couple gigs that came in what about this, and so this is mypitch to her, not my marriage proposal, but my pitch was I'll, be the recordingengineer and you be the female voice, talent and here the here, the page ofthe copy, we'll just flit the money. If fifty and that's how we ended upstarted working together, I think we were dating at the time. Of course, youknow fast. Word got married and have four kids still both highly involved inthe business, but that's how we got into the voice over space- maybe justif I made kind of just the next natural step was well, let's put up a website,you know it's is great. You can record a page of copy. You get paid a you knowa couple hundred bucks way better than the exchange of time for money, whichwas selling hours out of the recording studio for thirty dollars an hour. Thiswas way faster path to you know financial success. If you will so weput together this website, which I took out from the local public library webdesign for Dummies, I got a copy of dream. Weaver, I think from lie wire.Some file sharing, Farfal share in site and just edited and created our ownvery primitive version of a website. It was a pretty static version of awebsite that showcase Stephanie has one voice, talent and soon other voicetalent from around the world. There's a fellow in Quebec who spoke French andhe wanted to be listed. There are people who did character, voices in LosAngeles, someone in New York and they said Hey. Can I list my name, and youknow you link up my audio my voice demo on your website. We always just saidyes and at the same time, concurrently we would get clients who would say Ifound your website. I see this guy. How do I get in touch with them? And thatwas the the proverbial Aha moment. I call it of like wow we're bringingthese two parties together. Clearly, there's like supply demand. I wasreally fascinating with the ebay business model at the time. It's whereI bought and sold a lot of recording equipment. So I kind of understood themechanics of how this worked, but I'm like why don't we get out of therecording business and instead build out this from a website to a marketplace? That's precisely what we did. You know we hired a web developer andit's been for a lot in a lot of ways, the same business that we startedfifteen years ago. Okay, a few questions you raised here: First, onevoice, escam great domain name- was that what you purchased back then andcome time stamp, this you're talking about lime, wires, I'm thinking earlytousands was that when all that was happening, yeah, so two thousand andfour was when we first launched our static version of the site we rolledwith a launched as interactive voices. So it's a little bit of a mouthful, I'mout of breath even saying it right now, which was actually the case that waskind of part of the problem. Was People didn't know if it was singular orplural? If it was only new and interactive media, what about all theseother jars or categories of voice work, and so pretty press to a like change? Thedomain ing? This is kind of the height of like. If you will call like this webtwo point: o Movement, where everything was big and bright and bubbly companieswere dropping their vowels from their name and it was like flicker andtwitter, and it was this whole kind of theme. And so I was like, oh well, weshould become let's re brand and let's become like vaxinating these lines andI actually put in a bed. There was an auction for Foxo, which is Latin forvoice, and I put in a bit of a hundred...

...thousand dollars, which I did not haveat the time, and we also lost the auction. None the less so no harm nofoul there, but I realized okay. Well, none of these other names are working.What if we could just get rid of the interactive part and just be voices?Just nice and clean, says what we are. The brand doubles as the address anddestination, and I did what probably most of you have done. You just type itinto Google and see what's there and I ended up being a medical journal calledsilencing the critical voices in your head, and it was from one thousand ninehundred and ninety eight. It predated Google's registration itself. It's likeit, looked like it had been there forever, but it really wasn't beingused. They hadn't been used since the year two thousand. So I realized,though I did a WHO is look up. I figured out who was owning the domain,but I realized if I David at Interactive Voison with a real companyin a website had ten thousand users on there at the time Microsoft was acustomer and NBC was a customer, they'd, probably kind of put one o one togetherand Jack up the price. So I actually had just met a business lawyer whomoved into the co working facility across the hall from us at theUniversity, and I said what kind a lot of you practice corporate law greats.Do you want to be our lawyer, because I've got a deal that I'd like to see ifyou could work on? Can you reach out to this fellow ask it? Would they sell thename and if so, would price and the price came back at fifty thousanddollars? Oh well, wow, that's fantastic, because that's half what I was going totry to pay for box, but I did not have fifty thousand dollars, so I did whatmost of us who do you go to the Friends Family and fools? Basically? Is anyonegoing to lend me the money to pull this thing off? Everyone was saying: No,let's go to the banks. I go to all the banks that created the pitch deckthey're like are you buying servers? Do you need like fire walls and like no?No, no! It's just like you know it's just a domain name and we're going touse like some co located servers and they're like a domain name like can't,you just go, buy those from go daddy for nine dollars. Ninety five cents, Im, like it, doesn't work like that. This one's like a premium name, it'salready registered. So everybody said no now that this is a really importantlife lesson which our lawyer Phil taught me at the time, which is saidnever take no for an answer, which is this company was willing. This fellowactually was willing to sell the name, fifty thousand as old, O ther range.What can you do David and I'm like, like honestly, thirty thousand, but I'mgoing to have to break up the payments like, and so we created an offer, whichwas a counter offer thirty thousand dollars, but it was in five thousanddollar increments, so five thousand dollars I'll send over every quarterfor the next six quarters and that's how we'd get there and with that hewent for the deal so for thirty Sandolas we were able to acquire thedomain name, voices, wow great story and no doubt that domain name is worthso much more to you now as a brand and just the fact that the mainsappreciated values so fantastic going back and looking back, I would say Ijust add that was probably the single best decision. You Know MarketingDecision Technical decision in a lot of ways that we made in those early years,which was definitely the biggest investment we had made and kind of acommitment in advance. What we ended up doing was pretty much just a lift andshift like we had this name, this site ruing on interactive voices. We hadthis other domain on this new server, which we upgraded the server we justcopied everything over from one server to the other server and then just youknow, redirected the traffic think of it like redirecting the male from oneaddress to the other right, and not only did our custers like wow. This isgreat that we feel like we're. You know the voice town like we feel like we'repart of a a bigger entity like it sounds like we've been there forever,so they were excited for like the brand affinity and at the time you know,Goopto was I going to daresay overweighting the age of the domainname and the kwore in the domain itself. Like all of these factors that seem alittle rudimentary kind of in hindsight, easily some easier to manipulate thanothers, but the age was something you couldn't manipulate, so we ended uptripling our organic traffic from Google, like virtually overnight overthat weekend, which just meant that we didn't have to advertise on GoogleEdwards as much as we had before. So this is about two thousand and seven,as you say, to kind of put a bit of a time stamp on it as well, but yeah, I'mreally proud of that moment, and it shows you sometimes you do just need tostep out and faith a little bit. Ah, I'm even thinking about the email Ireceived about you as Otenti l guests for this podcast and the thing thatstood out was you had vicecomes as your domain name before I even did anyresearch on anything else. It's like! Oh okay, the branding of that theseriousness of that the sense you probably in business for a while. I ifyou came to me and it was called...

...interactive voices com and that email,I probably would have thought Boutique Agency. I don't know how big this is,so it's amazing just a subtle difference of a one word: Englishdomain name like that we get inquiries inbound from journalists and reportersthat are writing about. Just like we started off our chat today, AI voices,synthetic voice, people writing about- and I remember one of the first ones-was a reporter from CNN. Shortly after actually, we made that change whenKendall, the Amazon first generation, like Amazon Kendal, was going to havethis like against synthetic voice, probably pre, certainly pre Alexa, butthis synthetic voice that was going to read out your audio books and thequestion was: is this going to ruin? You know the lives of all the audiobook narrators out there and they were just. It was just an opinion piece, butI was able to weigh in and why do you think you know when a journalist isdoing research on something they're going to do what a we all do, type in akey word and they're going to scan both you know do. Is this a brand that'srecognizable, or is it one that looks like it's been there forever and whenthey're running down the list of names with hyphens and DOT Biz and Info andnames with you know, numbers in them and just it doesn't and then you see,voices is probably in all likehood ad. The first result: it's just going to bethe go to place, and so that's actually how we even describe our mission ofbeing the definitive destination. That's how we want it to be thought ofin the minds of our customers. Of like Oh right. This is where you go to hirea great voice for your project. Yeah, it's definitely health flat. I thinkfor the sake of beginners. In the audience we should say you don't needto have a com. You know top level the main AI, because there's plenty ofexamples of we. Even before we record, we were talking about one of myprevious interviews with an Vatos, a CO founder Colis and they run marketplaces like you and their first market places were like them forest and psttoot. So then they didn't have like themes, com and they still made a verysuccessful company to, but I think it's definitely an advantage for all thereasons. You said one of the question that I was interested in when you werejust telling me the origin story with your wife there you built the website,so she could list herself as voice talent, but you said that was betterthan running per hour. The studio, I wasn't sure, though, because would shestill not be paid, is like what is there a payment difference when you'relike? Is it just studio time per hour and then, if you're hiring a voicetalent from a website? The pricing structure is different. Like I didn'treally understand the difference. Yeah, it was just about scale ability wherewe viewed hey. If we could so the business model at the very beginningwas a subscription based website. Any talent that signed up paid forty, ninedollars to participate in the market place and an think about the time lineon this was is like two thousand and five, almost to the date actuallyOctober. Two Thousand and five was when we incorporated and really kind of gotthe business going. There was no linked in. There is no facebook and let alonefriendster, there's no wicks or word press nothing that you're going to go,create a profile online. So this was a huge advantage for a freelancer to gain a presence on there,especially when they're an audio based freelance Er. They were in a designeror graphic designer than enough themselves, so it was a subscriptionbased model and the calculus that we had done, which was hey either you'redoing you know you know, staff, I'm kind of building out this recordingstudio or Stephanie's, doing the work and, as they say, thirty dollars anhour or we can spend our time marketing this platform and what if we could geta couple hundred people to subscribe right and then over time, get morepeople to subscribe. So long and our brand promise has always been inexchange for your annual subscription or membership fee, we will market you.We will bring job opportunities to this market place. Then you can audition forand obviously hopefully, land and for that talent, the return on investments,pretty straightforward is, if I paid a few hundred dollars in a membership fee.If I make a few thousand dollars back and I win clients that I cancontinuously work for, that's great. I mean it's almost like pooling all oftheir marketing dollars together that we then go out and you know, aim todominate the search results bit up on all the key words on Google and reallybring those jobs to a central location, instead of which is easier for theclient they're not having to visit ten websites they're just going to one andthen having the talent respond in a kind of a predictable manner M. Okay,that makes sense. It was a complete switch and business model. Really itwas from yeah we're just going to bill out the service we provide to we'regoing to charge the service providers are an annual or a subscription fee anddeliver hopefully work to them. Take US forward from that point then. So youbuild the website. I realize it wasn't quite yet voices, but we've shared thatstory, which is Great. It sounds like basically way you described it beforethe talent was coming to you. They were just finding you and then asking to belisted, and then, of course, you were j...

...starting to charge a subscription feeand I'm guessing the actual. The buyers side of this market place were alsocoming to Y. U which improved when you got voicecode of all, your rankingswent up with the authority, the the main age improving. So then that'sorganic. Was it a case of one of these stories where you're just struggling tokeep up with the demand, or did you still have to go and stimulate the manlike what was those first few years like most barket places are going to beeither supply, constrained or demand constraint, and for us we were demandconstrained. There are a lot of people, rightly wrongly, who believed thatdoing? voiceovers is very easy. It's just simply reading a you know, Oh youget paid to talk for a living. It's like well you're. Actually, you knowyou're acting you need to edit. You need to communicate back and forth withthe client, maybe even help shape that scrip there's a lot more than justmerely reading, and then certainly it's not just reading. It's alsointerpreting this script and adding something to it right to give thatgreat performance. So there were, you know, there's there's a lot of peoplewho had kind of actors performers, you know people who were radio broadcasterson air talent and providing that supply side of the market place where we wereconstrained. And, admittedly you know today, it's still the same issue. Ifyou will, which is the business is really driven by. Can you bring thoseclients with the job opportunities to the market place if you can and givethem a great experience? They'll probably keep coming back time and timeagain, and so at the beginning I was always the client guy and Stephanie wasthe talent Gal. My job was to call I mean you know, I think at one count.You know we bought Sales Forco to manage my outbound calling to adagencies and video production companies made ten sand phone calls in the firstcouple of years to all of these clients and just trying to basically cold callthem try to get them on the phone or like send an emails, a fall up and justtry to bring people to the website, because relying exclusively on organicsearch meant that their current service provider was no longer available and ifthere's anything, I've learned and it actually comes from Robert, her Cheve,which is nobody switches from good enough to maybe better. You have to beten x better right and I think what was happening in those early days was yeah.I work with the talent agents, I know a guy who does voice over. You know bettyand accounting she's fantastic. We just use her like. There was all of theseissues that we had to overcome that in some way or another. It still persiststoday, so there's definitely organic and paid search activities, but there'salso outbound initiatives that go on to change that buyer's, behavior fromrelying on their kind of current path or current source to considering usingvoices com for their next project. So I W U D, Far from being kind of inundated.I think take the perspective that we need to win that client over for everynew project. It's a full on effort to bring those clients and keep themcoming back. So, as the story progressed, I couldsee you both just hustling to build both sides of the market place correctme from wrong, but did the business model eventually changed to no longercharging the subscription fee of the talent? Perhaps the other market placemodel, it's quite common, which is take a cut of the transactions. I dideventually that happen yeah. It did so. We still even to this day, have asubscription element. Talent can sign up for free or they can upgrade tosubscribe to what we call a premium membership which really like similar toa length in membership, kind of unlocks additional features and benefits.Statistics higher ranking in the search results. Let you kind of proactively goafter clients and jobs. There's just you know it unlocks new capabilities,but you're right. What we had uncovered was a client. Would it didn't happenall that often, but when it did, it was very problematic which was hey. Wefacilitated the connection between client and talent and we didn't reallyhave a means of enabling the payment to happen. It was just merely the matchmaker and we viewed that both as an opportunity, certainly to quote unquotemonetize the transaction talent also were delivering work and then notgetting paid for a client that we need to hook them up with and they wereholding US responsible and we ud go well. Did you get fifty percent upfront? Did you ask for a payment, like you know who this person is because wejust had like a name and an email address after that? Having happenedenough times? We realized that the role of a market place is to be that trustof intermediary to intervene when needed, but otherwise kind of get outof the middle of that transaction, and so we developed a payment service whichwe call Sur pates in effect and ascose...

...ice, which most market places havesomething to that effect. Nowadays, where, when the client posts the joband the talent reply, the talents say I can do this work for five hundreddollars. The client would actually make that five hundred a payment by creditcard in advance, so we'll be holding on to that full five hundred dollars whenthe work gets done and delivered. So the talent has the peace of mind thatthey can do the work, guarantee that they're going to get paid and the offchance. The client says: Oh well, you know the towns unavailable. You knowthey got ill. Whatever reason we need to hire somebody else, you know they'renot out that money either, so we can help them hire somebody else in vastmajority cases that talent does the work and then we pay out to earn.Eighty percent of that. So, in kind of a start up community we ud know that isthe take rate or the rake it's a platform fee for work that issuccessfully kind of completed and consummated on the platform. That'sbeen very effective. I think it aligns our interests. We call it sharedsuccess because the higher the amount that the client pays- The talent- youknow it's the more that we're making and it's the more that the talentsmaking as well. So we are to use the term incentivized to ensure that thereare fair in appropriate rates for the kind of work that gets completed on theplatform. You know counter to maybe some that believe. Oh No, we're justyou know, purposely trying to drive down the prices and like. Why would wewant to do that? I mean it's completely countered to actually our businesssustainability. Instead, if we can understand that the client is this is anational advertising campaign, it's going to be out to a huge audience,it's a big brand and we can encourage or otherwise inform that client that,in order to hire the top talent on the platform that you need to be raisingyour budget, then everybody wins. So I think this notion is shared success,you're, absolutely right. There's still a small part portion of our business iskind of like the subscription based for the talent and then the platformtransaction fees would be the other part. What year did you make thatswitch? I want to see like two thousand and eleven or so so it took a while,like it was a subscription only website for a good long time, and I think we Imean there was a cop. I mean we ended up patenting it in the US and Canada,the patens and from two thousand and nine. Then we have to kind ofcommercialize it like it. Just it was. I mean it was a team of a handful ofweb developers that you know you're charging new ground and you just tookus, I think, a while to kind of get it off the ground and then, of course, theeducation process of teaching the clients. This is how now you pay atalent on on platform. We expect you to do that as well as informing the talenthey we need to in order for our sustainability as well. Thetransactions need to stay on platform before you used to just send papa or asgoing to pay you some other way. There is a lot of change management if youwill that needed to occur, but I think we're in a really good spot now andtelling appreciate that they're going to get paid every Friday for work thatwas done the previous week, so it becomes really like a predictableincome stream for them as well too, and for you guys, I was actually going toask. Do you remember that switch, how big an impact it meant to the bottomline of your company as well? That's quite a dramatic change in businessmodel or pricing model yeah. I mean it's really like bringing on a wholenew revenue stream and in fact we actually started initially at tenpercent and then years later increased it to twenty percent and there wasn'tsingle, like blip. Nobody, no kind of questions asked sent out the emailnotification. I think it was like the clients are still getting the sametalent, they're happy. The talent are still getting paid for work done, notthat there hasn't been kind of other challenges in terms of because mostthings in market places. You know you have two sets of customers, it's verydifferent than a SASS business or e commerce. We have one customer for themost part, two sets of customers with diametrically opposed needs and wantsthe sellers want to get a top dollar the, especially with voice talent,their artists in a lot of ways too. So they want to take their time. This istheir craft and then the clients want things fast. They want to know hassle.They don't want to talk to anyone. They just want to get the delivery of thefile and they want to pay as little as possible. So you have to kind ofbalance and educate ble sides of the market all the time, as well as kind ofmatching that supply and demand for every given job. When we sent out a jobopportunity O don't want to send too many responses, it overwhelms theclient. You know the paradox of choice if you will, if you've ever walked downthe jam isle or the Tooth Paste Ile, you know what I'm talking about. Haveyou sent to few then the client thinks ah there's not enough variety, there'snot enough kind of what we would call market place liquidity happening here.So you know nailing that I mean these are some of the technical challengesthat you know. For the most part, we don't you know, go into any details,just not needed to. We try to keep all the technology as invisible as possibleand just create this like frictionless experience, so somebody could hire theright voice, andd be on their merry way.

I know for my research that you haveraised funding, but it sounds like for a good amount of time, like the fundingdates I saw or two then fifteen thousand and seventeen. So we're stilltalking about years here that you were bootstrapped by the sounds of things.How was that like? And in particular, how is that with growing yourmanagement team? I understand growing the supply side and the customer sidethat was kind of like your initial two roles, but you said just then you builta tech team to roll out this new payment system, you're now sitting inan office where you've obviously had many employees in what was it like toscale the company and you're the CEO, so I'm guessing all the hires werecertainly your job during the early day. So what was that? Like? Oh Yeah, I think I've. Definitely noneover a thousand interviews. We used to definitely interview and that's like inperson, is in just looking at someone's resumes. It began when Stephanie and Idivided up our rolling responsibilities. We got out an eat, an eight and a halfby eleven sheet of paper and said I wrote what I think she was strong atand where I think she could excel, and she did the same for me and I think,right away. We realize okay, yet Stephanie you're great with talent,you're going to be the marketing person you're going to be the literal face andVoice of the company in a lot of ways. You know: building up the communityanswering a lot of customer support questions. I will be on the client sideof the market place I'll handle technology, I'll handle kind of financeand sales, and so that I think, is something I would strongly encouragethe start up founders and entrepreneurs if you're working with someone elsejust to even have that kind of like tacit agreement, and I encourage you toput it on paper. I think that's going to alleviate a lot of kind of questionsand concerns, and it's not to do it from a territorial perspective is tosay hey within these healthy boundaries. You have tons of free rain and here'sthe ultimate decision maker within that space and think we've applied that whenit came to hiring employee number one it was, we tend to hire a kind of. Idon't know how prudent this is, but kind of more reactionary. If, like Oh,my goodness, we are getting so many customer support questions. We needsomebody to cut a backstop a lot of these and then it became finance. Therewas. It was just a highly transactional business. This is not my suit, it's notwhat I'm trained in or have a passion for. So let's hire someone who can alsonow handle customer support cases and you know close the books on a monthlybasis from a finance point of view, but I think what we ended up, putting in areally light weight, recruiting system- and I just kind of had this notion that,like yeah, we're probably going to if things continue to go well, we can talkabout kind of the financing of that as well too. But in terms of hiring I meanI was. I was always on this continuous intake approach. There was always jobopportunities listed on our site for employees and we just collected resumesand kind of became one of those like daily activities. What I always lookedfor what I call the three CS- I guess nowadays, which is somebody who's,curious and almost doesn't matter what role you're in certainly a designerdeveloper or somebody in sales. But if you're curious, that's great, you wantto understand the reason why you're probably going to challenge the processthat we have to go. Does it need to be this way or is it just been like thatfor years? So I love curiosity. I also love competitiveness, whether you'recompetitive with yourself. You know I want to do better than yesterday. Iwant to do better than my peers in a healthy competition way. I want to beatthat quota view of assigned me or reach the goal or complete the sprint fasterthan we said. We were going to do or minimally on time. That's that's oftenan achievement of itself and then the last one, I would say, is coachablewhere there are going to be times where we miss the mark or we come up shortand somebody who can receive feedback, and I know a lot of people say: Oh theywant the feedback, but do you receive it well and apply it, and so that'swhat we looked for in terms of some intangible traits. If you will thatdon't always show up on a resume, but we certainly look for a lot of that andthen likewise, trains are initial leaders. You know one of our firstleader was VP finance. You know VPS sales. These are kind of like thebuilding out kind of a forepate HNO logy, there's like a four five personleadership team in the earliest days, and then nowadays it's a little bitbigger than that. But you know those are the kind of the critical roles,product finance sales, marketing and technology and how many people I justsaw one or walk right behind you. There's how many people work with youtoday we're at a hundred and thirty people here and everyone's in thevicinity. I would say of London on Taro, which you know is kind of an hour and ahalf is out of Toronto, but I mean we've been people have decided to moveback to Toronto. I think we're highly flexible on that. You know: We've justrealized, Hey. We just now need to cover mileage for people we're going tocall them into the office, but I think we've for years. I was like insistentthat we all needed to be together, but...

...our business has thrived over the lasteighteen to twenty four months here, part on parcel, because I think thepandemic was the greatest awareness events that we never asked for peoplecould no longer go into recording studios or work with the talent agentface to face and kind of do things the old way and they they ended up going toGoogle and saying I still have an ad campaign. I still I need to update myphone system, the number of restaurants that would call us to see they're nolonger taking reservations like they just need a new voice on their phonesystem like really basic things or like public service announcements orpertaining videos, where just a message like and training on, like OvidProtocol and health and safety measures like they're, not glamorous, don't getme wrong, but they're the necessary content that needs to be produced andcommunicated out. We just had a ton of that work so as much as it's beencertainly hard on, so many people around the world and God forbid, lost aloved one or someone near to them that there are silver linings. If you will-and I think we were just pleased that we could be a you know- of service tothose companies in a time of need- and I imagine most of the talent is allremote too, so they were already used to being digital exactly. I actuallydid I liked setting these goals for myself, whether it s as I mentioned,the the ten thousand phone calls over a couple of years and then like for it atthe beginning of Pan K, I said I'm going to call our top one hundred voicetalent. I set up calls with all them, and I asked I'm like how are first, how areyou how's, your family, love ones, and it's like how's, business and they're,like you know what I've been preparing for this for five years and like I livein, I work from home, I'm already used to being stuck in a vocal booth all daylong talking to myself. They're like this is business as usual for me, so itwas. It was a little kind of tongue and cheek, but I understood- and I thinkthey were you know, a lot of talent were tremendously successful. Those whohad the foresight to create home based, recording studios, the Dari say oldschool talent, who kind of still did they like. Oh, like I kind of do this,I got an agent. They send me to do an audition at this studio and that placethey were not set up at all and think they were the ones that had sufferedbecause city shut down facility shut down. The only way work that wasgetting done for about six months and it seemed like the same guy or guy waswriting all the ad copy. You'll, probably remember it we're in thistogether. This is unprecedented times, everything's out of the exact samebecause the air time was purchased and these brands and advertisers quicklyneeded to pivot their messaging and then hire somebody remote. So yeahgreat great point: That's really what had transpired of the last a couple oyears, I apreciate all the insict I didn't realize so much of those kind ofLacovia Word Mundane Day to day needs a voice was outsource. I thought a lot ofthat was internally recorded. So that's really interesting, David, like to keepthe story going forward, we're almost ready on an hour the funding. Soobviously, companies growing well, your team- I don't know if you er into thehundreds already by the point, your hit sort of two thousand and fifteen, butobviously you had a well truly established company with cash flow andrecords and everything up and running, and you were boot strapped to thatpoint. So what led to the decision- and I was going to pull out my financialpost sign post here for the first time I believe it the currently from wrongvoicecode, two million funding back in two thousand and fifteen, and that wasthe first time you raised- is that right, yeah is certainly any meaningful amountto mean. Prior to that, you know, we've viewed it there's always cash fromcustomers, which I described. You know you're going to fund your business,your start out from cash and causers of launch and actual product or servicewhere they custers receive value and they pay you for it and that's kind ofthat boots. DRAP. We were able to secure some debt financing from theBusiness Development Bank at Canada, similar to like a small business. Soyou know association or some one, that small business loan in the US, thefirst one was thirty thousand and fifty thousand. We always paid them off earlyand then it was like a hundred thousand paid that off two hundred and fiftythousand five hundred thousand nine hundred thousand, and it was just kindof like get it. The loan work it for like three or four years, pay it off,maybe early, just to kind of refinance and roll it over into a next biggerloan. It got up to that two million dollars with the Business DevelopmentBank at Canada, which I think, after that we realized there was aopportunity I realized. You know it's unlikely- that a bank was going to loanus five million for that next leg of the journey. Through that experiencewith the B DC, we had also engaged what they call her growth driver program. Ineffect, it's kind of a consultancy and advisory program to develop a strategicplan, kind of a longer view of a strategic plan, and we had gone throughexploring a number of growth avenues, considered hundreds of ideas andnarrowed it down to one big one, which...

...was to acquire a competing site so kindof our first Ma activity and the site was called Voice Bank. It was a similarto voices, but mostly they had talent, agents and celebrities listed on thissite, but it was built in one thousand nine hundred and ninety eight. It wasreally kind of bad plumbing. People knew about it, but it just didn't showup anywhere in Google like there was so it's kind of a bit of a hidden gem, sowe've identified this opportunity and that actually solved one of the biggest challenges that Ihad in pitching investors. Up to that point, I had lived in New York for sixmonths. I'd lived in Silicon Valley for six months before that and in pitchinginvestors I always found that there are three questions that they areultimately asking number one. So this is my own pattern. Recognition Numberone: How big is the market right? It's got to be multi billion dollar marketglobal and growing number two. Well, why you? Why are you out of all of thecompanies that are out there and all the startups going to be the one thatwins, because most markets are winner, take all or certainly winter take mostand then number three well. Why now, why do you need the money now and notnext month and not next year? Maybe I can track you for another couplequarters, and so I always had a challenge answering that. Why nowthere's no sense of urgency and so the opportunity at hand to acquire this,then competitor voice bank answered that question, and so with that we, youknow, created a hitch, deck and went really to market, and I had emailedevery investor that had ever shown interest in us. You know in theprevious kind of five or six years and I'd send him an email and say voices.You know going to raise fifteen to twenty million dollars and is thesubject line is like you know. We got in touch here we're going to raise thismoney if you're interested. Let me know I'll, send you the one pager, thenthose that replied of the two hundred investors I reached out to in my biggoogle sheet, those that replied. Probably I was like eighty to a hundredsomewhere in that neighborhood I'd, send the one pager, then I'd say hey.If you like what you see, let's get on a call and then we'd get on a call, andit was just a funnel. I just kind of just narrowed it down and we get thecall. I do the call the same catch over and over and over, and I say if itmakes sense- maybe I'm going to send you our full pitch deck and if youstill like what you see, let me know I'm happy to come visit you becausewe're in London, Canada, we'RE NOT NEW YORK, we're not in Silicon Valley, soStephen and I actually got on it. We scheduled and planned a road show wherewe went from star in Toronto, then New York, Boston, La and San Francisco andthen flew home, and so we just heated up kind of did around North America,and eventually we collected three term sheets and the one that we felt was thestrongest was with Morgan Stanley, a global investment bank. It was withtheir their own money. Their Private Equity Group in San Francisco I meanthey're, pretty T- is investors in Zappos was one of the ones that waskind of like they had just exited and cut it in and around that time, acouple of email, marketing platforms they just done very really well, and sothat deal was eighteen million us, which was fantastic. You know, provideus the capital to acquire voice bank and as well as accelerate salesmarketing rebuild our technology that rip out and replace our financialsystem, our HR system. A lot of that kind of you know what we call theinfrastructure that just needed to be there for the next League of thejourney and in a lot of ways you know, with all respect, upgraded theleadership team. Some people knew and saw kind of the writing on the wallthat they're like this is getting intense. You know this isn't kind ofquite the job I signed up for, or I've never done this before and theyresigned or other people just decided. You know: Hey, that's probably bestthat we part ways at this juncture. So it's an entirely new leadership teamnow and it's been a great relationship with Morgan Stanley. All the concernsthat a lot of certainly founders would have around is their first move goingto be to kick me out of the company. I got over that very quickly when Irealized they shared their risk assessment with me, and I and I cameacross this concept, which I'm sure you know well called founder risk, which iswhat, if the founders leave- and there was like all the concern that I had forthem- no longer finding need for me. They were concerned that I would nolonger have need for them and kind of just leave and kind of move on to thenext start up. If you will so, I thought that was you know an importantkind of grounding, but they've been great partners all these years andcontinue to do so. David. You answered half the questions. I was thinkingabout as yours answering the question, so that's fantastic. The thing I wasinterested here, though, with an eighteen million US rays. Obviously,you switch sort er from we're no longer boots strapped, who were venture backor equity financing back. I want to call it. That means there's an exit.Well, I'm truly expected of us. It's no longer. You can totally destine controlyour own destiny. You have to kind of...

...move towards the IPO or be acquiredyourself. Did you have to go through that switch? And you and your wife, Iguess, is Co founders like okay? This is not just a company we're enjoyingrunning. We kind of having a boss now a little bit these investors and we needto get to this place at this point, or was that a ready in place for you atsome point? Did you switch to realizing hey we're actually building somethingthat could IPO, perhaps and I'm thinking, even knowing Canada, the barfor the number of like the revenue you have to earn to list on a TS orsomething is a little easier to cross than say some of the bigger USexchanges? So you probably had that thought as well. We could potentiallylist instead of getting eighteen million from Morgan Stanley as apossibility. I don't know your numbers, of course, but I'm intuiting it basedon the eighteen million rays that you must have been in a number that couldhave justified floating on the TS. So what was your thinking around both thefuture and even listing an IPO? Well, we didn't have that thought or infitstructure ahead of time. In all honesty, it was kind of still a a two person.You know, staffing o were the two sole shareholders. There was no board ofdirectors, there wasn't even a board of Advisors, and so we were really kind ofcalling the shots that was mentally one of the biggest changes, but one that weembraced. We knew what we were getting into. That's why, when we pick theinvestors and I've, this is public knowledge, they weren't the highestvaluation, but they were the strongest investors, and I looked at that saying.Actually those who know me know that I have a old sheet on the side that wethat says you know. My personal ambition is- is to take the companypublic on the Nasdaq, and so that was something I had shared with them:Morgan Stanley, believe it or not, is actually the number one tech IPOadvisers, it's not Goldman sacks or credit Suez or Merrill Lynch or anybodyelse. It's actually Morgan Stanley. They did facebook IPO. They did Google,I PO APPLES SISCO, go all the way back, it's snapped like everybody and they'rethe lead. So I thought, even if it's not this group, that I'm working withthey're going to know people that are minimally referral, whether that's kindof an inever you're right investors, certainly private equity or venturecapital. Investors are going to look for an exit either exiting entirely orperhaps kind of bringing on new investors and giving you a bit morerunway. So I think we have that option ality at present, or certainly pros andcons to going public. That's definitely been my ambition. I think we maybe havea bit more kind of room to grow into that and know that there can be whatI've learned and certainly built out. Our Board of people who've been onpublic companies. Is You need such confidence in your predictability ofYour Business, that, when you go kind of create the forecast that you knowwith a surety that you're going to hit those numbers? So I think that'ssomething that we are trying to gain more predictability in the business.But these are all overcombe objections. The business remains sound and strong,but you're right. That is certainly something I'm thinking of andcontemplating of what is that next step and containing those conversations atthe board level, we have two independents to representatives fromorgan sale and then Stephane I so it's a six person board and we have thosekind of healthy debates all the time. I think it's almost becomes at a certainstage, especially after them had investing for four years. That becomesthat moment where you do need to have those conversations. That's a bigchange, so I know that it was very exciting. It must have been for thecompany not just yourselves, to sort of realize. Okay, we're not this littleLondon Ontario Company, now we're shooting for an Aztec listing globalsort of recognition. That great domain name will come in handy once again,that's the day you list on that ASTEC. So maybe last couple of questions interms of your own life, you personally obviously you're now a co founder ofwhat is becoming a very valuable company. I always ask this towards theend of Vestan capital, because we are show about best of capital. Yourpersonal net, worth, although is probably all on paper, mostly, hascertainly increased. How do you view your investing strategy? And I mean Idon't know, obviously at some point, you've been paying yourself salariesand that's been a consistent job. I know that the first day you payyourself, a salary is a huge achievement with a new start up and nowyou're at the other end of that cycle, where your salaries, that your salaryand most of your your net worth is tied into this one entity, and you don'thave a history of having other companies that you've exited from orcareer that you might have saved out money. So how do you view the futureand a question you're full free to answeryou don't have to, because I realize it's personal when you do these races?Are you considered taking some out to, and you know, selling some of your ownequity out just to give yourself that kind of buffer and that that stability,because you haven't had the exit yet yeah for sure, so we've paid ourselvesI'd, say a market salary for as long as I can remember, that's for sure I meanin the earliest days. There was a moment of truth. where I remember Imean I think it was like employing over three or four, where we were payingthem and not paying ourselves, and I...

...was just like collecting. I was like Imean we didn't, have a payroll system as like handwriting, these pay checksand Stephanie was like. Why aren't we cashing our own checks and like Oh, wegot it like cash low. We got to make sure everyone else is checks. A she'slike come on, like we can't be paying other people and not paying ourselveslike Nice on us, but we also have a young family, and you know two kids atthe time, and so I think that was an early lesson for us as angered Ers,which is you need to view yourself on, like one hand, you're like a founder inand which I will never change, but on one hand, you're a shareholder, andthis is like value that you're creating. On the other hand, you are showing upevery day and therefore you need to be paid for that, and so include yourselfin that you know payroll run, so that was kind of one thing: We've learnedwith the Morgan Stanley. That was actually a criteria that we had withthat series a was. We wanted to have a very modest. What would be known as asecondary could to take some money off the table in terms of I M A in effect,they were buying the shares from voices from Step Ene. So that was somethingimportant we wanted to do. The other thing if by me is that we've also nowhave a compensation committee, so the Compensation Committee s no longer theleadership team kind of independently setting our own payroll and our own paychecks. That's actually done by the board of directors in the compensationcommittee who comes up with, I think, a fair and reasonable base and thenaggressive targets which we get rewarded on once again for the share itsuccess. Now, this time it's the company's success financially as well.We reward US and so you're right. I think that's there becomes these kindof moments. Where is a not quite majority, for each of us individually,but as major? Maybe let's put it that way: Major shareholders that it's onlyprudent to divest a little bit to take some money out of the company if itmeans that it can alleviate perhaps either some concern or some pressure. Ithink personally, I'm a very conservative investor, given how much Ithink by some accounts, you know risk there is in a technology startup whereyou're building you certainly have a lot of influence over the destiny butat the same time there's a lot of unknowns out there. So personally, Iwould say I'm highly risk adverse if you will and conservative in theinvestment approach and more than anything, just thinking about providingfor our Kids Education Fund and just all the all the prudent things youshould do the moment when you realize you not only have kind of all the nestegg is in there. You also have the chicken and the Horse and the wholebarn and the rest of the Patty in the farm like it's all in your company, andyou would gain that much more confidence to go harder and faster. Ifonly you could take a certain bit out. Well then, that's probably the momentyou should be talking to your investors or even if it's the first kind of yourseries, a you can have that conversation with the series, ainvestor to say: Listen. I've been at this for six seven years, and this is,I live, breathe and sleep, this business, I'm not going anywhere. Ireally want to go at it for the next seven years or five in terms of theirinvestment horizon, but I just need to know that my own personal financialneeds are also taken care of. Can we come to some understanding where thatmakes sense? I think you'll find that there are absolutely investors outthere that are supportive of that, because they would just want youcompletely mentally dialed into seeing this business successful. Even if meanstaking a bit of money out as founders yeah t. That makes a lot of sense. Thethe chance to take out secondary and alleviate the basic needs, dress andyou're. Okay, you're, not rich, so you're not going to think about hey,I'm I can go travel the world and fly private and because that's how much youput out of the company. But I appreciate the the background too.That's that's interesting David, maybe last question then day and the lifeyou're. The CEO still of this company sounds, like you said, you're, quiteconservative. So I'm assuming it's just a family life, very sort of simple. Youknow London, it's a city, it's not a super huge city, but you know it's acity like what is your kind of core role now and how do you live your life?I'd say my role is well personally. The role I'd say first and foremost ishusband and then father and professionally, I would say my rolewould be leader. Information Bear I'd, say to a large degree. Still you knowthe product visionary of of anticipating kind of market needs andseeing how we can continue to grow, but in a lot of ways you know it's morebecoming the kind of the champion, the the leader from behind who pushesothers to succeed and challenges them. I jotan say I'm on the companyhistorian, so I try to save us from repeating precisely the same mistakeover and over, and so thanks to the team for bearing with me on hearing allof the history. Sometimes, if I may, I think, ultimate decision maker.Sometimes it just comes to those moments where absolutely you're drivingfor consensus or you're driving for agreement on an endeavor, but perhapsthere needs to be the tie breaker and we can all kind of lock arms and sayhey. We might disagree, but you know...

...here's the decision moving forward. Doyou have an example of that kind of situation? It's usually more well, youknow here's a good example strategically. We made a decision thislast year to expand our categories of work. That gets you know done on theplatform. I say we got this legacy of. You know fifteen years of doing voice.What other services can we do? That was a huge kind of discussion and debate. Isay: There's three phases of every meeting. You discuss you debate andthen you decide and we did the discussion and debate and we actuallywere going to go to live with eight categories, which is like a lot tochunk off at once. They kind of got a little beyond immediately complementaryor adjacent to voice, and we realize let's Dil it back to things thatsupport more voice over work, because that's who the talent is that's themindset or, like the you know, analogy that people just kind of understandwhat we do. So we went live with three, so that was again something that wasthat was debate. I think we made the right decision. It wasn't zero when itwasn't one. We wanted to step up with enough we're even having that samediscussion again this year and we talk about strategy is, is merely thecollection of choices that a business makes that differentiate it from thosein its space right. If you boil down to strategy, is choice, then the choicethat we needed to make even kind of this year going into next is well. Dowe add more categories? Do we let more data roll in? DO WE CONSIDER GEOGRAPHICEXPANSION? Well, if so, which countries which languages so there's all of these?Where there is that type of healthy debate- and I think when you have this-like cohesive leadership team to use a a Patrick Lingioni term- a cohesiveleadership team- you can have these candid conversations and and to some itmight- it might feel argumentative. But it's never disrespectful and it mightbe heated and people are very opinionated. But we all- I always sayyou- can have your own opinion. You just can't you don't have your ownfacts out. You don't get to have your own data, the data, the data you candebate it one way or another or maybe question it its validity. But thechallenge with strategic choices is you're, not making a decision aroundhistorical data, you're actually making a decision about the future, and it'sabout the unknown, in which case there is none or very little data to be hadthere, and so that comes down to you know, as I kind of bring back thispoint of, like my role, sometimes needing to be both visionary andDecision Maker, in which case you just need to have a really strong degree ofconviction that this is the right thing to do. And I think, if you have otherbusiness partners at the leadership team level who are challenging you whoare willing and able to challenge you and likewise, you have a degree ofrespect for them where you're, also as a founder or CEO, that you can listenand absorb and know that it's coming from a good place right that theirconcern for their livelihood and the sustainability of the business as muchas you are as well too for seeing that vision come to life. So I think that'sone example of those types of strategic choices that we that we continue todebate and I'm assuming your wife is part of that leadership team still orshe stephanie's actually so Stephanie's a board member. She is a majorshareholder and she will always be a founder Stephanie decided a coupleyears ago to step back from day to day operations. Her role now is actuallykind of more of a brand ambassador. If you will she's the host of our PODCAST,she speaks at events. He contributes to the blog, so she's definitely out there,but just not in terms of a you know on the leadership team. I think we haddone that for such a long time and I think when the boardroom- or I shouldsay when the kitchen table doubles as the boardroom table, like one too manydinners. I think we just realized. We've taken this so far. We obviouslyare still married and happily so, and I think we just needed to set some ofthose priorities right. That was going to be actually one of my questions.There was, how do you make a marriage and business partnership lastsso long, because that's a lot of together time. That's a lot of makingbig decisions, so I can see the need to step down, but yeah you're, definitelyprobably one of the unique stories where it's a husband, wife team thathave grown it for such a long time. All the way to the point now, where you'relooking to potentially a listen in Nasdaq. So congratulations will done.Oh thank you. We definitely prioritize our marriage and we also realize thatthere's a time in a place to have business related conversations. Wereally believe. There's like Dr Henry Cloud talks about. You know I has wrotea brook called boundaries and he talks about having these healthy boundarieswhere there's there's a time in a place, and I think previously we just kind oflike launched into those type of conversations just because it felt likeyou know you go from office to home and it was just real. It was, I frankly,probably, admittedly, far to blur and...

...certainly on my part- and I don't thinkit was exactly great for the kids either. I think they were probablytired of hearing about it. So I think we just reoriented, as I say, thepriorities in our life. What we've learned now is, we call it permissionto proceed right. Let's ask permission to proceed. Is it okay that I talkedabout this this opportunity? That's come up at work and she's like I'mtrying to coordinate the kids. You know dentist ment, it's like not the righttime or place or the other way around. You know I might be ready to be readinga book or something in the evening and just winding down and likewise you knowshe asked permission to proceed as well to a D, and I don't want to make itsound so formulaic, but I think it's just one of these notions that we'velike understood, that we have these boundaries that someone's mind mightnot always be on in the business and that there does need to be some mentalspace. That transition- and I think, since that both of us have been a lothealthier, a lot happier where we can still be involved in the business kindof to the degrees that we are, but also still have a marriage in a family thatis healthy en et of itself. I think that's a great point to end theinterview on David. Unless there's anything else, you want to say, I knowfirst of all for websites, voices, com and the other places you want to sendpeople to. If anyone wanted to connect personally line in would be a greatplace David's Israeli. On there I write on medium from time to time as well toabout kind of some of the experiences in growing a start up to a scale up soDavid's Israeli dot medium. Those are a couple great places, but yeah if you'reinterested in signing up on the website voices com as the place to go. Iactually do have one question about that. I'm I don't want to miss askingyou. This I've been on Youtube a few times, and this bearded voice overgentleman has run ads to me about the opportunity to make a living with myvoice, and I have to ask then in terms of a person it be listening to thiswho's thinking. Actually, how do you get into the voice over career and howmuch money could I potentially make you're the perfect person to ask this?So I know I'm throwing an extra question, but how would you suggestsomeone get started? The first thing that talent need would be I'm going tosay the gift of a great voice. So let's call it these artistic skills that canbe developed and homed. Often reading aloud is a great place to start because,fundamentally voice over you're going to be reading scripts aloud a lot sogetting comfortable with your own voice. You can take acting classes and soforth in PROV classes. That's all going to help. Then you need the technicalskills. You got to record edit mix in music. You got to kind of produce yourown material right. So when you get the GIG, you know you're often auditioningor replying to these jobs as they described on on voices. But then, whenyou get the GIG, you got to be able to deliver on it. So you need that youneed to be able to record on your own. The last one would be, I would say, becauses these type of business skills kind of knowing the going rates. Wehave a rate sheet on our website. You can google voice overrates, there's anumber of them that are out there. That kind of give you an estimate on a perproject basis. How much you know you should be charging or with the industry.You know, industry standard rate is, and it ranges from call it a couplehundred dollars to ten thousand dollars per project depending on the length andnot just how many words, but the audience size and voiceover isdifferent. It's not priced on just effort, it's like the license of theusage of that particular piece, and so that's kind of what increases theprices. So I think it's those kind of three the triple threat. If you will ofartistic, technical and business skills, when creating a profile like how wouldclients even discover you in the first place, creating a profile- and you knowa number of these voice market places- freelance market places the thing thatyou're uploading is called a voice over demo? This is kind of really what needsto be created, similar to a graphic design, portfolio you're, creating avoice over deval. The three you would need would be a commercial demo, andthis might be thirty or sixty seconds, and you have like Coca Cola, HiltonHotels, Teredos, like bump a PA, PA PA, and it's like a montage, a really tightmontage. So if you go on voices, you'll, listen to other talent who have thesekind of demos, Commercial Demo, often a narration demo could be like for these.Corporate training material could be documentaries but think of like longform, norration where, as commercials, like short form sprints compared to themarathon and then the third one, which is often is that most glamorous type ofwork would be character, work or animation, work, but kind of at leaststarting with the Commercial Demo and a narration demo. That's probably ninetypercent of the work that's out there, and then that becomes kind of the thingto show case. You know, if a client's interest in hearing you they're goingto want to hear how you sound I've seen those similar ads. I mean there'salmost this entire cottage industry of talent who have been successful, whoare in turned training kind of that next generation of talent on how theywere successful, how they do it, I would say you know the path to takewould be to work with a coach of somebody who's, a working voice, actorin the Internet age rather than...

...somebody who did work kind of through atraditional talent agency thirty years ago. It's just it's not how work getsdone anymore. It's kind of this fast pace, self directed home, recordingstudio, based approach, which is the vast majority of the work that getsdone. So I try to find a culture, a mentor who understands the modern ageof voice acting online and obviously have a good dig into voices. Do Comjust to see what other people are doing it. That would be another place so forsure yeah for sure awesome, David! Thank you for your time and insuringthe full story. That was amazing and congratulations are building a Canadiansuccess story. It's nice to hear and hear from that being a Canadian at themoment myself so yeah, I keep up the good work and I look forward to seeingthat Nastalik thing one day. That's exciting, I certainly hope so and I'll.Let you know in the next development in our story comes to fruition. I hope youenjoyed that interview with David Secare, the CO founder and CEO ofVoices. This was one of those episodes I enjoy listening to because it's amarketplace business- and I especially like hearing the first few months andyears of starting a business like voices because of that challenge, thatDavid highlighted of needing to build supply and needing to build demand andalways being constrained by one or the other, as the company continues to grow,but especially at the start, where you're trying to build both to thepoint where the company at least exists, I think, is really challenging. There'san Vesta capital episode, one twenty five. Yes, that's correct with collegeTaie, don't have a listen to that one, if you're also interested in marketplaces, if you haven't done so already, because Collis is the founder in Nevadagroup and they grew numerous market places that sell digital goods similarto what David does with audio content, they were selling some audio content,not so much voice driven more music driven. They also sell word pressthemes. They also sell flesh well back in the early days, flash designelements. Now they have video, they have a photo shot files all kinds ofthings. So it's interesting, though, to hear, with both these stories, Davidand within Boto group, how the founders were able to find the people whocreated the value, the supply side, in this case, with David and his wife, youknow his wife was the first ever supplier of audio content and then theywent on to find more talent, get them listed on the website and away you goand then, as David mentioned, ten Housen phone calls trying to getcustomers to buy and hire these audio creators to you know, record things forthem and that's a challenge. So if you decide to get into the market placebusiness model, you really need to have a plan for filling both sides rathersimultaneously. If you don't, do it the same time at the start, you know youmight be stuck. That being said, it does depend on what you're selling- Ithink in this case, and also within Bato sure you could have the talentcreate a bunch of product that that sits in inventory and and you go andfind the buyers. But with a lot of these sites, the talent is looking tomaintain a consistent income, not just get paid once so they need to seeongoing demand for what they create, or they is going to go somewhere else tolook for work. So the challenge there is they need to list themselves as heyI'm available for hire, or here is something I created for sale and thenyou have to have a bier come in pretty quickly to maintain that motivation onboth sides and then, of course, you got to make sure the buyers appy as well.So definitely a challenging business model also really enjoyed hearing thelater phase of the story with David wher. He talks about why he decided totake on financing from Morgan Stanley that eighteen million dollar raise andhow that's a decision to go towards an IP in the Nasdaq, and he is veryexcited to continue down that path. As the CEO, where, if you listen to theinterview I did with Callista and in Bato Vesta capal episode, twenty fiveyou'll hear call is talk about his early days and I explained because wedidn't really interview him too. Recently, it's an older one, but I didthe research when I published that episode and Collis has moved on. He isno longer he stepped down from the CEO roll. His wife also had stepped downearlier than him and he has basically decided not to IPO, at least at thetime I recorded that, and that was from a couple of years ago they looked likethey were going to IPO in Australia, but they decided not to their stateprivate and now the company just runs without them, basically they're stillin the board directors, but it's an ongoing concern where they're, not inthe day to day operations. Just like with this episode, David talked abouthow his wife stepped down. So you know there's a time in a place I think forleadership to move on. But as David mentioned, sometimes, when you movetowards IPO, you lose leadership and it sounds like you did- have a change insome of the key roles that are directly under him. Those leadership rose, butnot him, and he was glad he was worried that he potentially would be. You know,wish to side for a more IPO ready, CEO to grow to that next phase and, ofcourse the investors, as he said, were more worried about about him leavingand then the company not doing so well. So I think it is a real juggle thatdecision to IPO immerly creates a new goal post, that's a big one, so itobviously needs a certain type of...

...motivated leadership team and then, ofcourse, the growth plan. So I'm looking forward to see you where voices comcontinues. Okay, that's enough for me. Obviously I had a lot of thoughtsaround this market place model. It's always been something I've beeninterested from all the way back in my early days when I studied Ebay- and Iwas fun to hear David mentioned- that as well in this interview be bay, beingone of the very first supply demand side, market places online that reallyexploded. So it's such an amazing early day. Success Story from Web Bom Point O.That was a fun time. I hope you enjoyed the episode. Please share it. This isbested capital episode. Twenty eight share with anyone who is interested instarting a market place. Maybe anyone is looking doing their own start upbusiness. You know any kind of entrepreneur orientated person in yourlife and your family. Maybe it's you and you just want to listen to it again.That's obviously something I'd appreciate and hope you get a lot outof it, but I especially appreciate it when you share it with others, so thatwe can reach more people grow the audience pace, and this is somethingthat you know you don't necessarily here. PODCAST host talk about directlyon their shows, but one of the things that helps a podcast is obviously thequality of the guests. The guest will say yes to podcast that have a largeraudience for obvious reasons. So the more people that I reach with mypodcast now, the better quality I will be able to prove episodes in the futureand the more well known guests you're going to hear from as well over time.So it's kind of like one of those self reinforcing positive cycles. We allbenefit you get better podcast. I get better guests to share with you. Wereach more people who benefit from the content, and you know it's obviously abusiness that keeps going as well so share it. Subscribe, follow like theplus sign on some of the APPs to add it to your subscribe tool whenever you're,using to describe with whether it's itunes or apple sorry apple is I tunes,but as apple or Amazon or Google or spotify they're, all great places tofind vested capital and subscribe and listen all right. Thank you again. Ilook forward to speaking to you on the next episode of investor capital. Myname is Yaroto and I'll speak to you very soon. A.

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