Vested Capital
Vested Capital

Episode 28 · 1 year 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 Yarrow and welcome to vested Capital Episode Number Twenty Eight, featuring my guest David Cicerelli, the CEO and Co founder of voicescom. Vested capital is a podcast about how people make money and put their capital to work. I interview start out founders, Angel Investors, venture capitalists, Crypto and Stock Traders, real estate investors and leaders in technology. Today, my guest, David is going to take us back in time and explain how he and his wife launched Voicescom, a market place that connects over two million providers of voice talent with customers who are looking to purchase some kind of voice content for things like commercials, maybe podcast audio like you're listening to now, possibly for a documentary, voiceover, a character in a cartoon. Anywhere you need voice, they provide the talent to do the job. As you can expect, as a market place, there was a serious challenge at the start with growing both the supply side and the demand side. I was majorly impressed to hear David share the story of how he was responsible for growing demand, which meant finding the customers, and he did over tenzero phone calls, just one by one, trying to convince these people to come over to Voicescom and purchase talent there, you know, a hire people to create audio content. Meanwhile, his wife was on the other side. She in fact was voice talent herself. That's how they met. To hear the origin story of their meeting, and she was more in charge of the marketing side and growing the talent pool to basically have supply so you can provide the service. We also hear the story about Voicescom, the domain name, which I was super curious about, since it is a premium domain name, and it's a fun story about how David managed to acquire that back when they had almost no money, so very difficult to get a higher price to main name in that kind of situation. We move forward in the story and hear how David started changing the pricing model. That was an important step. They had to build some east grow technology to do that. We move forward again to hear more about the growth in terms of the team and eventually getting an office, all the way up to the current situation where they recently raised funding, not that recently. Actually has two thousand and seventeen now, so it's a few years ago. That was their last raise. They did raise on debt financing in several different rayss before that, but the eighteen million dollar US rays they did with Morgan Stanley as the lead was a major stepping stone towards listening on the NASDAC Exchange, which is an IPO that David is hoping and working towards in the short term future. And of course that money goes to 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 of directors, board advisors, everyone they need in place to do that Ipoh, and David is fantastic at telling a lot of longer answers to questions. Is Not a short podcast. As you can tell, David has a wealth of information and experience from being the CEO from day one of a bootstrap start up to now a company that's starting to raise and get ready for the IPO phase, including, like what's his hiring philosophy and some tips around that. Obviously everything they did to grow the company during the early days, all the INS and outs of how he runs the company and how his role is changed and even what he's done regarding his own finances and you know, has he taken money off the table, since all of his net worth is basically tied up into Voicescom. So it's a great interview for anyone interested in starting a marketplace and everything that goes on behind the scenes, and I know you'll get a lot out of it if that is you today. Sponsor for this episode is Inbox Donecom, a virtual executive assistance service that will provide you with too dedicated US based virtual executive assistants who specialize in written communication, in particular handing over your email to them, so delegating your email so you no longer are stuck in your inbox all day. They also do your calendar for you, so no more back and forth emailing or managing all the researching questions for whatever kind of calendar you have to manage, or maybe several calendars. They do dot entry, admin tasks, social media replies, basically anything we need a high quality, attention to detail, written English kind of person. You're going to get two of them. Every client gets to assistants as part of the inbox done service, and that is a deliberate decision. 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...much as you like. So if you're currently drowning any kind of admin tasks or email or anything that you feel like could be handed over to someone else in the virtual capacity. In box DONECOM is the place to go if you got the money for like a parttime assistant. It's a good fit for you head to that website, book a discovery call, tell us what you need help with, and then we can provide you with too dedicated virtual executive assistance. That's inbox. Donecom okay, that's it for me. Now we're going to begin the interview with David Cicerelli. By David, thank you so much for joining me today. I appreciate the time to chat and I think are in for a good one today. Yeah, so, most people will know now you are the the cofounder and CEO of Voicescom, and I was digging into your platform, as well as your own personal history the company's history. You've been at it for a while, which is fantastic. It's nice to hear a longevity story. We're going to dive into all of that, maybe just for the people will don't really know what Voicescom is, what is it today, and even what was the original plan for when you first started? Sure we'll start with the present. Voices is really an online market place, an online freelance market place, where we're connecting creative talent, let's call them audio a producers, voice talent translators and musicians, with those corporate clients, often at advertising agencies, creative director at a marketing department and the common theme there is that these clients have an important story to tell, a message to share, to educate and form or otherwise entertain their audience, and they're looking to predominantly find a voice to help tell that story. So we serve as that market place, as there have sprung up number of freelance market places nowadays that kind of bring these two parties together. That's what we are today. The funny thought I had, I don't know if this is relevant, but I was looking at your service. I know a lot of it's also about bespoke voicetown. It's like I'm need a custom script read out by a great voice, and it could be something simple like my podcast. I might want to get an intro done that I would then use over and over again for the show. But I've noticed a lot recently. I'm throwing a bit of a left wing question here. It'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 and then they're putting that over some images and releasing a video. I'm asking this, I guess, because this feels very current to with AI coming into play with voices. Have you found people come to you to do a voice over for a full youtube video, and what is your thoughts around the AI side of things? Yeah, so Internet we just cut a classify it as internet videos. It could be used, you know, as it mostly for Youtube, of course, but other social platforms. That is the number one, most used and fastest growing category. It's sixty five percent of all of the jobs on voicescom are in internet videos and that category grew at two hundred and twenty percent last year. So it's by far and away, you know, almost like that primary use case, if you will, that we go to market with with respect to AI voices. I think it's a I think it's a really good observation. I mean this, in effect, was the existential threat that our investors now, you know, asked us at the time of due diligence, was what is going to be the one thing that may put you out of business or put this our investment at risk? And I always had said the well funded competitor. That was just always something I was concerned about. What I think what has transpired over the last five years has been the increased usage and sophistication of AI voices or synthetic voices. People kind of use those terms interchangeably. There is certainly a time in a place for their use. I almost think of it like a two by two matrix where you have kind of time along the horizontal and the shorter the recording or the shorter like the utterance that you'll be hearing back. Okay, fine, you might be able to bear with a robotic voice, whereas the more kind of and on the vertical access, you know, could either be kind of quality or like kind of character. The amount of character work that needs to be done. And if it's really just an industrial purpose, think of like a parking garage or like a kiosk or, you know, trains, planes and automobiles, type travel information that's changing all the time. You don't need a character to do that. It just needs to be voiced for informational purposes only. But as you get kind of get more into character driven content that is also long form in terms of it being narrative, not just kind of raw data that's being read out audibly, that's where I think you would be moving away and really synthetic voice or an ai voice would not be suitable for characters and where there's a narrative to be told. So there's a time in a place. We actually see some, you know, column Big Tech companies or even startups that are looking to create their own synthetic voice and they need data to do so, and the data here would actually be voice data to train those systems, and so the actually be hiring and sometimes using voicescom is, ironic...

...as this sounds, using voicescom to hire live human voice actors at the tune of like hundreds of people at a time to actually create one of these synthetic voices. But I think in the long run, I mean you're still going to have always the need for a person to breathe life into that script, just like you have on camera actors and you still have animated characters. You know animation is going to replace on camera actors. I think they're two different use cases. Time and a place where it makes sense to use though. So hopefully we can live in harmony with the robot voices. Yeah, and I suspect you must be planning maybe in the future to provide the AI voice service with voices as like. It's not necessary something that will make you go out of business. They'll become part of your business. I could imagine too. We've thought of it. We've partnered with a few companies over the years. If YOU'RE IN AN AD agency, you want to hire a voice actor, if you're at a median entertainment company. So we've not found nearly the amount of kind of like uptake with that. I think it comes down to knowing what we do best, which is where the market place. We are, not the tech enabler and provider of that type of technology. Where the marketplace and therefore that that's kind of the it's the business model we know really well. We you know, we're not a software as a service business where we're licensing out some kind of synthetic voice or kind of creating them on our own. It's interesting we're even going in this direction because it's it has been a concern of a lot of talent believing that we're like ingesting all of this data and that behind the scenes we've got this like big data science, a team creating this, you know, ominous synthetic voice that can do all manner of productions. It's just not true. The analogy I often give is kind of, I think, how some of the traditional broadcasters were so loath to brace the Internet at the beginning because they realize that they were trading kind of like, you know, analog dollars for digital times. And it's almost the same way, like we are enabling people to hire live human voice actors who really bring their unique ability to that recording and a great quality that the discerning ear can tell the difference. Certainly over ten seconds you definitely know it's a robot or not. Why would we trade that for the we've even spoken to like PhD's and at Mit was one of the programs we were working with it, just in terms of like an understanding like this technology and some of the smartest minds in the world are like this is ten years away and the key tipping point, if you will, will be the moment that a robotic voice is indistinguishable from a human. And that's kind of the it's pretty far away where you're listening for any length of time. Sometimes in like the first five or ten seconds you're like, Oh, can you tell the difference between the human and the robot, and like yeah, I listen for three seconds that I barely kind of computed in my mind like what I was even hearing. But when you get into like fift thirty seconds, if there's a certain lifelessness about it where I think if you're in the creative industries, you're not going to launch a product, you're not going to go out to the world with anything less than all the emotion that only a person can provide. I feel like I've asked You my last question. The first question here at David the the the future of your in the street, was usually I would end this interview on, but I really appreciate your answer and I found myself having conversations like this recently, especially around film, like you were mentioning before, with actors in movies. How there may be a time when, yes, small roles will be replaced by a digital human being acting, but the unique talent, especially for those main roles, will always require the human being for the dynamic nature. You can't kind of replicate that creativity in AI. So I feel like you're kind of giving that answer as well. There might be use cases for a bit'll for a lot of situations. It'll always let people always want to human being. So I appreciate that and I know I asked you, before we hit the record button for a claim to fame, to sort of point out how big voicescom is today. So maybe we can work away back. How big is voicescom today in terms of whatever numbers you want to share? Sure, so, in terms of the number of people that have taken that step to register free on the website create a profile. You know, this is the those creative talent. There's well over two million creative talent on the market place, who mostly our voice talent, because that's been our heritage for the better part of fifteen years. But just this last summer we actually expanded the platform to enable and welcome on other creative services. Then I would consider immediate adjacencies. So there's well over fiftyzero translators, you know, thirtyzero audio producers and editors, somewhere between twenty five thirty thousand, I'm musicians and kind of music, composers and different musicians. So most market places, in my experience, you know, and observation of learning the best in class from others, you need to start with some semblance of supply, if you will, and in this case would be that kind of creative talent, and...

...so getting into the realm of tens of thousands of talent in these new areas is really promising to us. Now it's all about driving that demand. And for what it's worth, I mean that we do that, it's almost becomes our entire exclusive operation is on the demand side of the market place those clients. And you know, we have a team of a hundred and thirty plus people who are in, you know, roles of sales and marketing, product development, you know, technology, finance and operational roles as well too. So that's where we're at today and I notice for those watching the video, I feel like it's a real background we're seeing behind you there. So are you in the voicescom office, and that's London, Ontario Right. Are you back to work like people with you there now or well, we, you know, definitely were one of the first in the city to go wholesale remote at the onset of the pandemic. We are also one of the first to stop playing the guessing game when you know when the covid wave would subside, and so early on we just said, look, it's going to be a hybrid work environment indefinitely and in just embrace that. And then we also went to lengths to I mean the office is forty five Thou square feet, which is a typical office downtown office towers about Fifteenzero Square feet of floor this is just have an incredibly it's one floor plate but very large. So we have lots of space to do all the necessary protocols, have the social distancing, you know, for those that want to feel like they have more space. People can all kinds of hot desk that they can certainly utilize as well too. So usually a couple I mean I'm in here, I'm on a I'm in here pretty much every day and I would say call it ten to twenty percent of the company kind of rotates in and out. You know, it's not prescriptive. We're not demanding that people come in, but I think there's certainly a draw if there's a team event or a quarterly kickoff or maybe annual strategic planning sessions. There's absolutely something to be said about bringing people together, so long as they feel safe and comfortable in the environment that we've created and kind up, you know, policies and practices to support that. I've actually certainly been noticing more people want to come in and the reaction is afterwards like wow, we should really do this again. Sometimes like this is used to half and every day. Maybe it'll take some time. I think we'll get back there eventually. Okay, well, I mean you know my show, I go back in time, so I'd love to hear the origin story of voices. But just one question before that. What did you, David, do before you became the CEO and Co founder? I was saying to you this before we hit the record. I was like, I normally go by Linkedin as a way to guide I early years for my guests, and I don't see I mean unless you're like, I don't know, hiding some kind of bobs that you know aren't relevant or lead in profile anymore. We born and raised in London, Ontario, the o. There wasn't a whole lot. I graduated from High School. One of the things mom and Dad said before picking a career path and educational path was go do some good in the world, go to some social work, go find a cause that you believe in. And the deal was with myself, my brother and my sister was mom and dad would pay for an open ended plane ticket anywhere in the world and you have to go spend a year there in some type of program so I found a group called youth with a mission, which is like a Christian missionary organization. I went to Perth, Western Australia, which was I literally got out the globe. I grew up in Thunder Bay, Ontario, which is at the northern end of Lake Superior, and I found the furthest place away from home according to the globe. So Perth, Western Australia is on the opposite end and I had an open ended plane ticket there. was certainly about, I think was about ten months of like official programming with that group and we helped find billets and kind of living quarters, if you will, for athletes competing in the two thousand Sydney Olympic Games. So kind of going back between Perth and Sydney. That was certainly my first away from home experience and a big learning one as well when I came back. In fact, while I was there I applied, but when it came back I ended up actually going to an audio engineering school here in London, Ontario. So I was always really fascinated with sound. I played piano, played drums, you know, helped the do the sound booth at Church and youth group in that kind of thing and just, you know, tinkered with it to the degree that I, you know, knew enough to be dangerous and really enjoyed it. Is kind of the convergence between music and art and technology is what I really loved, and so that was the program as an audio engineering program where I went to school. Okay, when you did that program was your plan, like was their career path you saw that would kick off and your head at the time, I think so. I think I wanted to do one of you know, I really wanted to open up my own recording studio. But you know, through the year there was all kinds of other opportunities presented, like being the basically being the sound guy on like a cruise ship, which sounded really cool. You know, you only had to work in the evenings and two of the world, and some people absolutely went to do that. I was pretty set on opening my own recording studio. I wrote a business plan, my dad kind of serving as a mentor for those early years. He Co signed alone. So he believed in my business plan, which...

...included a list of audio recording equipment that I wanted to purchase and as a well, fifteenzero dollars of recording equipment. And that was, you know, precisely what it did. Is a small kind of project. Recording studio is going to record garage bands and hip hop bands and, you know, rock groups. And I actually got my name in the local newspaper, the London free press, on my birthday of all days, and that's really, I think, where that, you know, the origin story for voices commences, because I met through that newspaper Article Stephanie, who's now, of course, my dear wife and Co founder and voices. So it was really co founded as a husband and wife team. And Stephanie, she would sing at weddings and funerals and special events and her mom would carpool or her around to go to all these in person auditions and said, you know, you really ought to record your singing repertoire and get, you know, some CDs or, you know, an MP three file that you could share with people so they could hear you sing instead of you and having to do these in person auditions. So Stephanie's mom actually cut out that newspaper article and left it for her on her bed and prompted her to come down to the studio. We ended up hitting it off. But because of that same article and there were other local businesses that wanted you know, they wanted some work done. They will the phone system recording some local commercials. They wanted a female voice and I was a total nerd. I knew nobody else in the city except that I had just met Stephanie the other day. I 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 my pitch to her. Not My marriage proposal, but my pitch was I'll be the recording engineer and you be the female voice talent and here the here the page of the copy. Will just split the money fifty. And that's how we ended up started working together. I think we were dating at the time. Of course, you know, fastward got married and have four kids. Still both highly involved in the business, but that's how we got into the voiceover space. Maybe just to if I may, kind of just the the next natural step was, well, let's put up a website. You know, this is great. You can record a page, a copy, get paid a, you know, a couple hundred bucks. Way better than the exchange of time for money, which was selling hours out of the recording studio for thirty dollars an hour. This was way faster path to, you know, financial success, if you will. So we put together this website, which I took out from the local public library, web design for dummies. I got a copy of Dream Weaver, I think, from line wire, some file sharing, fair file share, excite, and just edited and created our own very primitive version of a website, is pretty static version of a website that showcase Stephanie as one voice talent and soon other voice talent from around the world. There's a fellow in Quebec who spoke French and he wanted to be listed. There people who did character voices in Los Angeles, someoney in New York and they said, Hey, can I list my name and you know, you link up my audio, my voice demo, on your website? We always just said yes and at the same time, concurrently, we would get clients who would say, I found your website, I see this guy. How do I get in touch with them? And that was the proverbial Aha moment, I call it, of like wow, we're bringing these two parties together. Clearly there's like supplying demand. As a really fascinating with the ebay business model at the time. It's where I bought and sold a lot of recording equipment, so I kind of understood the mechanics of how this worked. But I'm like, why don't we get of the recording 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 and it's been in for a lot. In a lot of ways, the same business that we started fifteen years ago. Okay, a few questions you've raised here. First one, voices iscom great domain name. Was that what you purchased back them? And can we time stamp this? You're talking about lime wires. I'm thinking early. was that when all that was happening? YEA, so two thousand and four was when we first launched our static version of the site. We rolled with a launched as interactive voicescom. So it's a little bit of a mouthful. I'm out of breath even saying it right now, which was actually the case that was kind of part of the problem was people didn't know if it was singular or plural, if it was only new and interactive media. What about all these other genres or categories of voice work? And so pretty pressed to a like change the domain name. This is kind of the height of like, if you were call like this web two point o movement, where everything was big and bright and bubbly. Companies were dropping their vowels from their name and it was like flicker and twitter and it was this whole kind of theme, and so I was like, oh well, we should become let's rebrand and let's become like Voxyo or voxy or something along these lines. And I actually put in a bid. There was an auction for voxcom, which is Latin for voice,...

...and I put in a bit of a hundred thousand dollars, which I did not have the time and we also lost the auction nonetheless. So no harm, no foul 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 Voicescom, just nice and clean says what we are. The brand doubles as the address and destination and I did what probably most of you've done. You just type it into Google and see what's there, and it ended up being a medical journal called silencing the critical voices in your head and it was from one thousand nine hundred and ninety eight. It predated Google's registration itself. It's like it looked like it had been there forever, but it really wasn't being used. They hadn't been used since the year two thousand. So I realize, though. I did a WHO is look up. I figured out who was owning the domain. But I realize if I David at Interactive voicescom with a real company in a website, had tenzero users on there at the time, Microsoft was a customer and NBC as a customer. They probably kind of put one one together and Jack up the price. So I actually had just met a business lawyer who moved into the coworking facility across the hall from us at the University and I said, what kind of 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 if you could work on. Can you reach out to this fellow ask it would they sell the name and, if so, what price? And the price came back at Fiftyzero on well, wow, that's fantastic, because I that's half what I was going to try to pay for vox. But I did not have fiftyzero. So I did what most of us would do. You go to the friends, family and fools. Basically, is anyone going 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 deck. They're like, are you buying servers? Do you need like fire walls? I'm like no, no, it's just like, you know, it's just a domain name and we're going to use like some colocated 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, and like it doesn't work like that. This one's like a premium name. It's already registered. So everybody said No. Now they this is a really important life lesson which our lawyer Phil taught me at the time, which is said never take no for an answer, which is this company was willing, this fellow actually was willing to sell the name. Fiftyzero was out of other range. What can you do, David? And I'm like, like, honestly, Thirtyzero, but I'm going to have to break up the payments like and so we created an offer which was a counteroffer, Thirtyzero, but it was in Fivezero increments. So five thousand dollars or I'll send ever every quarter for the next six quarters, and that's how we'd get there. And with that he went for the deal. So for Thirtyzero we're able to acquire the domain name voicescom. Wow, great story and no doubt that the main name is worth so much more to you now as a brand and just the fact that the mains appreciating value so fantastic. Going back and looking back, I would say I just add that was probably this single best decision, you know, marketing decision, 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 a commitment in advance. What we ended up doing was pretty much just a lift and shift, like we had this name, the site writing on interactive voices. We had this other domain on this new server which we upgrade the server. We just copied everything over from one server to the other server and then just, you know, redirected the traffic. Think of it like redirecting the mail from one address to the other right. And not only did our customers like, wow, this is great that we feel like we're, you know the voice tewn, like we feel like we're part of a bigger entity, like it sounds like we've been there forever. So they were excited for like the brand affinity and but the time, you know, Google was, I'm going to dare's a overweighting the age of the domain name and the keyword in the domain itself, like all of these factors that seem a little rudimentary kind of in hindsight. Easily, some easier to manipulate than others, but the age was something you couldn't manipulate. So we ended up tripling our organic traffic from Google, like virtually overnight over that weekend, which just meant that we didn't have to advertise on Google ad words 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'm really proud of that moment and it shows you sometimes you do just need to step out in faith a little bit. Yeah, I mean even thinking about the email I received about you as a potential guest for this podcast, and the thing that stood out was you had voicescom as her domain name before I even did any research on anything else. It's like, Oh okay, the branding of that, the seriousness of that, the sense you probably in business for a while. If you came to me and it was called interactive voicescom and...

...that email, I probably would have thought Boutique Agency. I don't know how big this is. So it's amazing just the subtle difference of a one word English to main name like that. We get inquiries in bound from journalists and reporters that 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 when kindle, Amazon first generation, like Amazon Kindall, was going to have this like again, synthetic voice, probably pre a, certainly pre Alexa, but the synthetic voice that was going to read out your audio books and the question 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, but I was able to weigh in. And why do you think? You know, when a journalist is doing research on something, they're going to do what do we all do? Type in a keyword and they're going to scan both you know do is this a brand that's recognizable, or is it one that looks like it's been there forever? And they're running down the list of names with hs and DOT Biz and Info and names with, you know, numbers in them, and just it doesn't and then you see Voicescom is probably, in all likelihood, the first result. It's just going to be the goto place, and so that's actually how we even describe our mission of being the definitive destination. That's how we want it to be thought of in the minds of our customers, of like, oh right, this is where you go to hire a great voice for your project. Yeah, it's definitely helpful. I think for the sake of beginners in the audience, we should say you don't need to have Acom, you know, top level, dominate because it's plenty of examples of even before we record. We were talking about one of my previous interviews with Vato's cofounder, call us, and they run market places like you, and their first market places were like them, forest and PSD too. So there they didn't have like themescom and they still made a very successful company too. But I think it's definitely an advantage for all the reasons you've said. One of the question that I was interested in when you were just 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 better than running per hour. The studio wasn't sure, though, because we're still not be paid. Is like what's is there a payment difference? When you're like is it just studio time per hour? And then if you're hiring a voice town off from a website, the pricing structure is different. Like did rhanderstand the difference? Yeah, it was just about scalability where we viewed hey if we could. So the business model at the very beginning was a subscription based website. Any talent that signed up paid forty nine dollars to participate in the marketplace. And then think about the timeline on this, was is like two thousand and five, almost to the date. Actually, October two thousand and five was when we incorporated and really kind of got the business going. There's no Linkedin, there was no facebook and let alone friends to there's no wicks or wordpress, 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 freelancer. Then we're in a designer or graphic designer than enough themselves. So it was a subscription based model and the calculus that we had done, which was, hey, either you're doing you know, you know Steff I'm kind of billing out this recording studio or Stephanie's doing the work at, as I say, thirty dollars an hour, or we can spend our time marketing this platform. And would if we could get a couple hundred people to subscribe right and then over time get more people to subscribe. So long and our brand promise has always been in exchange for your annual subscription or membership fee, we will market you, we will bring job opportunities to this marketplace. Then you can audition for and obviously hopefully land and for the 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 can continuously work for, that's great. I mean it's almost like pooling all of their marketing dollars together that we then go out and, you know, aim to dominate the search results, bit up on all the keywords on Google and really bring those jobs to a central location instead of which is easier for the client. They're not having to visit ten websites, they're just going to one and then having the talent respond in a kind of a predictable manner. H Okay, that makes sense. It was a complete switch and business model. Really. It was from yes, we're just going to build out the service we provide to we're going to charge the service providers an annual or subscription fee and deliver, hopefully, work to them. Take US forward from that point then. So you build a website. I realize it wasn't quite yet voicescom, but we've shared that story, which is Great. It sounds like basical the way you described before. The talent was coming to you, they were just finding you and then asking to be listed, and then, of course, you were starting to charge a subscription fee and, I'm guessing, the actual album.

The buyers side of this marketplace where also coming to which improved when you got voicescom because of all your rankings went up with the authority. That the main age improving. So then that's organic. Was it a case of one of these stories where you're just struggling to keep up with the demand, or did you still have to go and stimulate the man like? What was those first few years? Like most market places are going to be either supply constrained or demand constraint, and for us we were demand constrained. There are a lot of people, rightly wrongly, who believe that doing voiceovers is very easy. It's just simply reading a you know, you know you get paid to talk for a living. It's like, well, you're actually that. You know you're acting. You need to edit, you need to communicate back and forth with the client, maybe even help shape that script. There's a lot more than just merely reading. And then certainly it's not just reading. It's also interpreting the script and adding something to it right to give that great performance. So there were, you know, there's there's a lot of people who had kind of tractors, performers, you know, people who were radio a broadcasters, on air talent and providing that supply side of the market place where we were constrained. And admittedly, you know, today it's still the same issue, if you will, which is the business is really driven by. Can you bring those clients with the job opportunities to the market place? If you can and give them a great experience, they'll probably keep coming back time and time again. And so at the beginning I was always the client guy and Stephanie was the the talent Gal. My job was to call. I mean, you know, I think at one count you know, we bought sales forcecom to manage my outbound calling to add agencies and video production companies and made tenzero phone calls in the first couple of years to all of these clients and just trying to basically cold column, try to get them on the phone or, like, send an email as a follow up and just try to bring people to the website, because relying exclusively on organic search meant that their current service provider was no longer available. And if there's anything I've learned, and it actually comes from Robert Hurchevik, which is nobody switches from good enough to maybe better. You have to be ten 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 voiceover. You Know Betty and accounting. She's fantastic. We just use her like there was all of these issues that we had to overcome that, in somewhere or another, still persist today. So there's definitely organic and paid search activities, but there's also outbound initiatives that go on to change that buyers behavior from relying on their kind of current path or current source to considering using voicescom for their next project. So it would, far from being kind of inundated, I think take the perspective that we need to win that client over for every new project. It's a full on effort to bring those clients and keep them coming back. So as the story progressed, I could see you both just hustling to build both sides of the marketplace. Correct if I'm wrong, but did the business model eventually changed to no longer charging a subscription fee to the talent. Perhaps the other marketplace model that's quite common, which is take a cut of the transactions. It did eventually that happen. Yeah, it did. So we still even to this day, have a subscription element. Talent can sign up for free or they can upgrade to subscribe to what we call a premium membership, which really like similar to a linkedin membership. Cut unlocks additional features and benefits, statistics, higher ranking in the search results, that you kind of proactively go after 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 happen all that often, but when it did it was very problematic, which was hey, we facilitated the connection between client and talent and we didn't really have 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 unquote, monetize the transaction. Talent also were delivering work and then not getting paid for a client that we hook them up with and they were holding US responsible and we would go, well, did you get fifty percent up front? Did you ask for payment, like you know who this person is, because we just have like a name and an email address. After that. Having happened enough times, we realize that the role of a market place is to be that trusted into mediary, to intervene when needed, but otherwise kind of get out of the middle of that transaction, and so we developed a payment service which we call sure pay. It's in effect an ascrow service, which most market...

...places have something to that effect nowadays, where when the client posts a job and the talent reply, the talent say I can do this work for five hundred dollars, the client would actually make that five hundred payment by credit card in advance. So we'll be holding onto that full five hundred dollars when the work gets done and delivered. So the talent has the peace of mind that they can do the work guarantee that they're going to get paid. And the off chance the client says, oh well, you know, the talents unavailable, you know they got ill, whatever reason, we need to hire somebody else, you know they're not out that money either, so we can help them hire somebody else in vast majority cases that talent does the work and then we pay out. Talent earn eighty percent of that. So in kind of a startup community, we would know that as the take rate or the rake. It's a platform fee for work that is successfully kind of completed and consummated on the platform. That's been very effective. I think it aligns our interests. We call it shared success because the higher the amount that the client pays the talent, you know, it's the more that we're making and it's the more that the talents making as well. So we are to use the term incentivized to ensure that there are fair and appropriate rates for the kind of work that gets completed on the platform. You know, counter to maybe some that believe, oh no, we're just, you know, purposely trying to drive down the prices and like why would we want to do that? I mean it's completely counter to actually our business sustainability. Instead, if we can understand that the client is this is a national advertising campaign, it's going to be able 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 raising your budget. Then everybody wins. So I think this notion of shared success. You're absolutely right. There's still a small part portion of our business is kind of like the subscription based for the talent, and then the platform transaction fees would be the other part. What year to do make that switch? I want to see in 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, I mean there was a comple I mean we ended up patenting it in the US and Canada, the patterns, and from two thousand and nine, then we have to kind of commercialize it, like it just it was. I mean it was a team of a handful of web developers that, you know, you're charting new ground and and it just took us, I think, a while to kind of get it off the ground. And then, of course, the education process of teaching the clients this is how now you pay a talent on on platform. We expect you to do that, as well as informing the talent. Hey, we need to in order for our sustainability as well. The transactions needs to stay on platform form before you used to just send paypal or asks and to pay you some other way. There was a lot of change management, if you will, that needed to occur, but I think we're at a really good spot now. Telling appreciate that they're going to get paid every Friday for work that was done the previous week. So becomes really like a predictable income stream for them as well too, and for you guys. I was ext going to ask, do you remember that switch, how big an impact it meant to the bottom line of your company as well? That's quite a dramatic change in business model or pricing model. Yeah, I mean it's really like bringing on a whole new revenue stream and in fact we actually started initially at ten percent and then years later, increased it to twenty percent and there wasn't single like blip. Nobody no kind of questions asked. sent out the email notification. I think it was like the clients are still getting the same talent, they're happy, the talent are still getting paid for work done. Not that there hasn't been kind of other challenges in terms of because most things in market places, you know, you have two sets of customers. It's very different than a SASS business or ECOMMERCE, we have one customer for the most part, two sets of customers with diametrically opposed needs and wants. The sellers want to get top dollar there, especially with voice talent, their artists in a lot of ways too. So they want to take their time. This is their 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 the file and they want to pay as little as possible. So you have to kind of balance and educate Bos sides of the market all the time, as well as kind of matching that supplying demand for every given job. When we send out a job opportunity, you don't want to send too many response as it overwhelms the client. You know the paradox of choice, if you will. If you've ever walked down the Jamile or the toothpasteyle, you know what I'm talking about. If you send too few than the client things all there's not enough variety, there's not 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 challenges that 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 possible and just create this like frictionist experience so someone could hire the right voice and and be on their marry way. I know...

...from my research that you have raised funding, but it sounds like for a good amount of time, like the funding dates I saw, or two thousand and seventeen, so we're still talking about years here, that you were boots trapped by the sounds of things. How was that like and, in particular, how is that with growing your management team? I understand growing the supply side and the customer side. That was kind of like your initial two rolls, but you said just then you built a tech team to roll out this new payment system. You're now sitting in an office where you've obviously had many employees in what was it like to scale the company and you're the CEOS. I'm guessing all the hires were certainly your job during the early days. So what was that like? Oh Yeah, I think I've definitely done over a thousand interviews. We used to devil on the inner and that's like in persons and just looking at someone's or resumes. It began when Stephanie and I divide it up our role and responsibilities. We got out in an eight and a half by eleven sheet of paper and said I wrote what I think she was strong at and where I think she could excel, and she did the same for me. And I think right away we realize, okay, yeah, Stephanie, you're great with talent. You're going to be the marketing person. You're going to be the literal face and Voice of the company in a lot of ways, you know, building up the community, answering a lot of customer support questions. I will be on the client side of the market place. I'll handle technology, I'll handle kind of finance and sales and so that. I think it's something I would strongly encourage the startup founders and entrepreneurs, if you're working with someone else, just to even have that kind of like tacit agreement and I'd encourage you to put it on paper. I think that's going to alleviate a lot of kind of questions and concerns. And it's not to do it from a territorial perspective. It's to say, hey, within these healthy boundaries. You have tons of free rain and here's the ultimate decision maker within that space. I think we've applied that. When it came to hiring employee number one, it was we tend to hire kind of I don't know how prudent this is, but kind of more reactionary of like, oh my goodness, we are getting so many customer support questions, we need somebody to kind of backstop a lot of these. And then it became finance. There was it was just a highly transactional business. This is not my suit. It's not what I'm trained in or have a passion for. So let's hire someone who can also now handle customer support cases and, you know, close the books on a monthly basis from a finance point of view. But I think what we ended up putting in a really lightweight recruiting system that I just kind of had this notion that I yeah, we're probably going to if things continue to go well. We can talk about kind of the the financing of that as well too. But in terms of hiring, I mean I was I was always then on this continuous intake approach. There's always job opportunities listed on our site. For employees and we just collected resumes and it kind of became one of those like daily activities. What I always looked for what I call the three C's, I guess nowadays, which is somebody who's curious and almost doesn't matter what roll you're in, certainly a designer or developer or somebody in sales, but if you're curious, that's great. You want to understand the reason why. You're probably going to challenge the process that we have to go. Does it need to be this way or is it just been like that for years? So I love curiosity. I also love competitiveness, whether you're competitive with yourself. You know, I want to do better than yesterday. I want to do better than my peers in a healthy competition way. I want to beat that quota of you of assigned me, or reach the goal or complete the sprint faster than we said we were going to do or a minimally on time. That's that's often an achievement and of itself. And then the last one, I would say, is coachable. Where are there are going to be times where we miss the mark or we come up short, and somebody who can receive feedback and I know a lot of people say, Oh, they want the feedback, but do you receive it well and apply it? And so that's what we looked for in terms of some intangible traits, if you will, that don't always show up on a resume, but we certainly look for a lot of that and then likewise trained our initial leaders. You know, one of our first leader was VP of finance. You know, VP of sales. These are kind of like the building out kind of a for VP of technology. There's like a four five person leadership team in the earliest days and then nowadays it's a little bit bigger than that. But you know, those are the kind of the critical roles product finance, sales, marketing and technology. And how many people? I just saw one work walk right behind you. That is how do people work with you? Today we're at a hundred and thirty people here and everyone's in the vicinity, I would say, of London Ontario, which you know it's kind of an hour and a half ish out of Toronto. But I mean we've been people have decided to move back to Toronto. I think we're highly flexible on that. You know, we've just realized, Hey, we just now need to cover mileage for people if we're going to call them into the office. But I think we've for years. I was like insistent that we all needed to be together. But our business has thrived over the last eighteen to...

...twenty four months here part and parcel, because I think the pandemic was the greatest awareness events that we never asked for. People could no longer go into recording studios or work with the talent agent facetoface and kind of do things the old way, and they they ended up going to Google and saying, I still have an ad campaign, I still I need to update my phone system. The number of restaurants that would call us to see they're no longer taking reservations, like they just need a new voice on their phone system. Like really basic things, or like public service announcements or training videos, where just a message like and training on like covid protocol and health and safety measures, like. They're not glamorous, don't get me wrong, but they're the necessary content that needs to be produced and communicated out. We just had a ton of that work. So, as much as it's been certainly hard on so many people around the world and, God forbid, lost a loved 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 to those companies in a time of need. And I imagine most of the talent, it's all remote to so they were ready used to being digital. Exactly I actually did. I liked setting these goals for myself, whether it's, as I mentioned, the the tenzero phone calls or a couple of years and then, like, for at the beginning of Pantag I said I'm going to call our top one hundred voice talent. I said up calls with all them and I asked, I'm like, how are you? First, how are you? How's your family? In 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 live in I work from home. I'm already used to being stuck in a vocal booth all day long talking to myself. They're like this is business as usual for me. So was. It was a little kind of tongue in cheek, but I understood and I think they were, you know, a lot of talent were tremendously successful. Those who had the foresight to create home based recording studios, the dairy say, old school talent who kind of still did they like, oh, I kind of do this, I got an agent. They send me to do an audition at this studio and that place. They were not set up at all. and think they were the ones that had suffered because city shut down, facility shutdown. The only way work that was getting done for about six months and it seemed like the same guy or Gal was writing all the ad copy. You'll probably remember it. We're in this together. This is unprecedented times. Everything sounded the exact same because the airtime was purchased and these brands and advertisers quickly needed to pivot their messaging and then hire somebody remote. So yeah, great, great point. That's really cool what had transpired of the last a couple of years. I appreciate all the inside I didn't realize so much of those kind of, lack of a better word, mundane daytoday needs of voice was outsourced. I thought a lot of that was internally recorded. So that's really interesting. David, like to keep the story going, for we're almost threaty an hour. The funding so obviously companies growing well. Well your team. I don't know if you're read into the hundreds already by the point your hit sort of two thousand and fifteen, but obviously you had a well and truly established company with cash flow and records and everything up and running and your bootstraps to that point. So what led to the decision? And I'm just going to pull out my financial post, sign post here for the first time, I believe, if the currently, if I'm wrong, voicescom raised two million and funding back in two thousand and fifteen and that was the first time you raised. Is that right? Yeah, it is certainly any meaningful amount. I mean prior to that, you know, we've viewed it. There's always cash from costomers, which I described. You're going to fund your business, your startup from cash and customers launch and actual product or service where they customers receive value and they pay you for it, and that's kind of that boots drap we were able to secure some debt financing from the Business Development Bank Accounada, similar to like a small business, so you know association or some bit small business loan in the US. The first one was thirtyzero and Fiftyzero. We always paid them off early. Then it was like a hundred thousand, paid that off, two hundred fifty thousand, five hundred thousand, nine hundred thousand, and it was just kind of 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 bigger loan. It got up to that two million dollars with the Business Development Bank of Canada, which I think after that we realized there was a opportunity. I realized, you know, it's unlikely that a bank was going to loan us five million for that next leg of the journey. Through that experience with the BEDC we had also engaged what they call our growth driver program in effect it's kind of a consultancy and advisory program to develop a strategic plan, kind of a longer view of a strategic plan, and we had gone through exploring a number of growth avenues, considered hundreds of ideas and narrowed it down to one big one, which was to acquire a competing site. So...

...kind of our first MNA activity and as the site was called Voice Bank, it was a similar to voicescom but mostly they had talent agents and celebrities listed on this site. But it was built in one thousand nine hundred and ninety eight. It was really kind of bad plumbing. People knew about it, but it just didn't show up anywhere in Google like there's. So it's kind of a bit of a hidden gem. So we've identified this opportunity and that actually solved one of the biggest challenges that I had in pitching investors. Up to that point I had lived in New York for six months, I'd lived in Silicon Valley for six months before that, and in pitching investors I always found that there are three questions that they're ultimately asking. Number One, so this is my own pattern recognition. Number one, how big is the market? Right, it's got to be multibillion dollar market, global and growing. Number two, well, why you? Why are you, out of all of the company leas that are out there and all the startups, going to be the one that wins? Because most markets are winner take all, or certainly winner take most. And then number three will why now? Why do you need the money now and not next month and not next year? Maybe I can track you for another couple quarters and so I always had to challenge answering that. Why now there'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, you know, created a pitch deck and went really to market. And I had emailed every investor that had ever shown interest in us, you know, in the previous kind of five or six years, and I'd send them an emails a Voicescom, you know, going to raise fifteen to twenty million dollars and as the subject line is like, you know, we got in touch here, we're going to raise this money. If you're interested, let me know. I'll send you the one pager. Then those that replied, of the two hundred investors I reached out to my big google sheet. Those that replied, probably I was like eighty, two hundred, somewhere 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 and it's just a funnel. I just kind of just narrowed it down. We get the call. I'd do the call, the same catch over and over and over and they say, if it makes sense, maybe I'm going to send you our full pitch deck and if you still like what you see, let me know. I'm happy to come visit you, because we're in London, Canada, we're not in New York, we're not in Silicon Valley. So Stephanie and I actually got on it. We scheduled and planned road show where we went from starting in Toronto, then New York, Boston, La and San Francisco and then flew home, and so we just teat it up, kind of did around North America and eventually we collected three term sheets and the one that we felt was the strongest was with Morgan Stanley, a global investment bank. It was with their their own money, their private equity group in San Francisco, I mean their previous investors in Zappos was one of the ones that was kind of like they had just exited and kind of then and around that time, a couple email marketing platforms. They just done very, really well. And so that deal was eighteen million US, which was fantastic, provide us the capital to acquire voice bank and as well as accelerate sales and marketing, rebuild our technology that rip out and replace our financial system, our HR system, a lot of that kind of, you know, it would call the infrastructure that just needed to be there for the next leg of the journey end in a lot of ways. You know, with all respect, upgraded the leadership team. Some people knew and saw kind of the writing on the wall that they're like, this is getting intense. You know, this isn't kind of quite the job I signed up for, or I've never done this before, and they resigned or other people just decided, you know, hey, yeah, it's probably best that we part ways at this juncture. So it's an entirely new leadership team now and it's been a great relationship with Morgan Stanley. All concerns that a lot of certainly founders, would have around is their first move going to be to kick me out of the company? I got over that very quickly when I realized they shared their risk assessment with me and I and that came across this concepts which I'm sure you know well, called founder risk, which is what if the founders leave, and there was like all the concern that I had for them no longer finding need for me. They were concerned that I would no longer have need for them and kind of just leave and kind of move on to the next start up, if you will. So I thought that was, you know, an important kind of grounding. But they've been great partners all these years and continue to do so. David, you answered half the questions I was thinking about as your answering the question, so that's fantastic. The thing I was interested here, though, with an eighteen million US rays, obviously you switch sort of from we're no longer boots trapped who were venture backed or equity financing, back to, I want to call it. That means there's an exit well and truly expected of us. It's no longer you can totally destined control your own destiny. You have to kind...

...of move towards the IPO or be acquired yourself. Did you have to go through that switch, and you and your wife, I guess, as Co founders like, okay, this is not just a company we're enjoying running, we're kind of have a boss now, a little bit these investors, and we need to get to this place at this point? Or was that already in place for you at some point? Did you switch to realizing, Hey, we're actually building something that could Ipoh perhaps, and I'm thinking even knowing Canada, the bar for the number of like the revenue you have to earn to list on a tsx or something is a little easier to cross than, say, some of the bigger US exchanges. So you probably had that thought as well. We could potentially list instead of getting eighteen million from Morgan Stanley as as a possibility. I don't know your numbers, of course, but I'm intuiting it based on the eighty million rays that you must have been a number that could have justified floating on the tsx. So what was you're thinking around both the future and even listing in Ipoh? Well, we didn't have that thought or infrastructure ahead of time. In all honesty, it was kind of still a two person you know, Stephy and I were the two soul shareholders. There was no board of directors, there wasn't even a board of Advisors, and so we were really kind of calling the shots. That was mentally one of the biggest changes, but one that we embraced. We knew what we were getting into. That's why when we pick the investors, and I've this is public knowledge, they weren't the highest valuation, but they were the strongest investors, and I looked at that saying actually, those who know me know that I have a bullsheet on the side that we that says, you know, my personal ambition is is to take the company public on the NASDAC, and so that was something I had shared with them. Morgan Stanley, believe it or not, is actually the number one tech IPO advisors. It's not Goldman Sachs or credits weeeze or Meryl Lynch or anybody else. It's actually Morgan Stanley. They did facebook IPO, they did Google IPO, apple, CISCO, go all the way back. It's snap like everybody, and they're the lead. So I thought, even if it's not this group that I'm working with, they're going to know people that are minimally referral. Whether that's kind of an eventuality, you're right. Investors, certainly private equity or venture capital investors, are going to look for an exit, either exiting entirely or perhaps kind of bringing on new investors and giving you a bit more runway. So I think we have that optionality. At present. There's certainly pros and cons to going public. That's definitely been my ambition. I think we maybe have a bit more kind of room to grow into that and know that there can be. What I've learned and certainly built out our board of people who've been on public companies, is you need such confidence in your predictability of your business that when you go kind of create the forecast, that you know with a surety that you're going to hit those numbers. So I think that's something that we are trying to gain more predictability in the business. But these are all overcomable objections. The business remains sound and strong, but you're right, that is certainly something I'm thinking of and contemplating. Of what is that next step and continuing those conversations at the board level, and we have to independence to representatives from Morgan Stanley and then Stephanie and I, so it's a sixperson board and we have those kind of healthy debates all the time. I think it's almost becomes at a certain stage, especially after them and investing for four years, that becomes that moment where you do need to have those conversations. But it's a big change. So I know that it was very exciting it must have been for the company not just yourselves, to sort of realize, okay, we're not this little London Ontario Company. Now we're shooting for an Azz that listing, you know, global sort of recognition. That great domain name will come in handy once again, that's the day you list on that and as that. So maybe last couple of questions in terms of your own life you personally, obviously you're now a cofounder of what is becoming a very valuable company. I always ask this towards the end of invested capital because we are show about bested capital. Your personal net worth, although it is probably all on paper mostly, has certainly increased. How do you view your investing strategy? And I mean I don't know. Obviously, at some point you've been paying yourself salaries and that's been a consistent job. I know the first day you pay yourself a salary is a huge achievement with a new start up. And now you're at the other end of that cycle where your salaries, that you're salary and most of your your net worth is tied into this one entity and you don't have a history of having other companies that you've exited from or career that you might have saved up money. So how do you view the future? And this is a question you're full free to answer. You don't have to because I realize it's personal. When you do these races, are you consider taking some out to and, you know, selling some of your own equity out, just to keep yourself that kind of buffer and that that stability because you haven't had the exit yet? Yeah, for sure. So we've paid ourselves a, I'd say a market salary for as long as I can remember, that's for sure. I mean in the earliest days there was a moment of truth where I remember, I mean I think it was like him point number three or four, where we were paying them and not paying ourselves and I was just like collecting. I was like, I...

...mean we didn't have a payroll system, as like handwriting these paychecks, and Stephanie was like, why aren't we cashing our own checks? I'm like, Oh, we got it, like cash little, we got to make sure everyone else's checks. When she's like, come on, like we can't be paying other people are not paying ourselves, like Nice on us. But we also have a young family and, you know, two kids at the time, and so I think that was an early lesson for us as entrepreneurs, which is you need to view yourself on like one hand you're like a founder, and which is will never change, but on one hand you're a shareholder and this is like value that you're creating. On the other hand you are showing up every day and therefore you need to be paid for that, and so include yourself in that. You know, payroll run. So that was kind of one thing we've learned with the Morgan Stanley that was actually a criteria that we had with that series a was we wanted to have a very modest what would be known as a secondary kind of take some money off the table in terms of me. In effect, they were buying the shares from voices from stephrew and I. So that was something important we wanted to do. The other thing, if by May, is that we've also now have a compensation committee. So the compensation committy. It's no longer the leadership team kind of independently setting our own payroll and our own paychecks. That's actually done by the board of directors and the Compensation Committee, who comes up with, I think, a fair and reasonable base and then aggressive targets which we get rewarded on once again for the share success. Now this time it's the company's success financially as well reward us, and so you're right, I think that's there becomes these kind of moments where, as a not quite majority for each of us individually, but as major, maybe, let's put it that way, major shareholders, that it's only prudent to divest a little bit, to take some money out of the company, if it means that it can alleviate perhaps either some concern or some pressure. I think personally I'm a very conservative investor, given how much I think, by some accounts, you know risk there is in a technology start up where you're building, you certainly have a lot of influence over the destiny, but at the same time there's a lot of unknowns out there. So personally, I'm I would say I'm highly risk adverse, if you will, and conservative and in the investment approach and, more than anything, just thinking about providing for our Kids Education Fund and just all the all the prudent things you should do. The moment when you realize you not only have kind of all the nest egg is in there, you also have the chicken and the Horse and the whole barn and the rest of the Patty in the farm, like it's all in your company and you would gain that much more confidence to go harder and faster if only you could take a certain bit out. Well, then that's probably the moment you should be talking to your investors, or even if it's the first kind of your series a, you can have that conversation with the series a investor to say, listen, I've been at this for six, seven years and this is I live, breathe, eat and sleep this business. I'm not going anywhere. I really want to go at it for the next seven years or five in terms of their investment horizon, but I just need to know that my own personal financial needs are also taken care of. Can we come to some understanding where that makes sense? I think you'll find that they're absolutely investors out there that are supportive of that, because they would just want you completely mentally dialed into seeing this business successful, even of means taking a bit of money out as founders. Yeah, that that makes a lot of sense. The chance to take out secondary and alleviate the basic needs dress and you'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 you put out of the company. But I appreciate the background to that's that's interesting, David. Maybe last question then. Day in the life. You're the CEO still of this company. Sounds like you said you're quite conservative, so I'm assuming it's just family life, very sort of simple. You know London, it's a city. It's not a super huge city, but you know it's a city. 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 as husband and then father, and professionally I would say my role would be leader, information bear, I'd say to a large degree still, you know, the product visionary of anticipating kind of market needs and seeing how we can continue to grow. But in a lot of ways, you know, it's more becoming the kind of the champion, the the leader from behind who pushes others to succeed and challenges them. I jokingly say I'm on the company historian, so I try to save us from repeating precisely the same mistake over and over and so thanks to the team for bearing with me on hearing all of the history. Sometimes, if I may, I think ultimate decisionmaker, sometimes it just comes to those moments where absolutely you're driving for consensus or you're driving for agreements on an endeavor, but perhaps there needs to be the tiebreaker and we can all kind of lock arms and say hey, we might disagree, but you know, here's the decision moving forward.

Do you have an example of that kind of situation? It's usually more well, you know, here's in a good example. Strategically, we made a decision this last year to expand our categories of work. That gets, you know, done on the platform. I say we've got this legacy of fifteen years of doing voice. What other services can we do? That was a huge kind of discussion and debate. I say there's three phases of every meeting. You discuss, you debate and then you decide. And we did the discussion and debate and we actually we were going to go to live with eight categories, which is like a lot to chunk off at once. They kind of got a little beyond immediately complimentary, your adjacent to voice, and we realize, let's dial it back to things that support more voiceover work, because that's who the talent is, that's the mindset or like the you know, analogy that people just kind of understand what we do. So we went live with three. So that was again something that was that was debate. I think we made the right decision. It wasn't zero and it wasn't one. We wanted to step up with enough. We're even having that same discussion again this year and we talked about strategy, is is merely the collection of choices that a business makes that differentiate it from those in its space. Right, if you boil down to strategy is choice, then the choice that we needed to make even kind of this year going into next, is, well, do we add more categories? Do we let more data roll in? DO WE CONSIDER GEOGRAPHIC EXPANSION? 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 Patrick clincione term, a cohesive leadership team, you can have these candid conversations and and to some it might it might feel argumentative, but it's never disrespectful and it might be heated and people are very opinionated, but we all, I always say, you can have your own opinion. You just can't. You don't have your own facts, your's and you don't get to have your own data. The datas the data. You can debate it one way or another or maybe question in its validity. But the challenge with strategic choices is you're not making a decision around historical data. You're actually making a decision about the future and it's about the unknown, in which case there is none or very little data to be had there. And so that comes down to you know, as I kind of bring back this point of like my role, sometimes needing to be both visionary and decisionmaker, in which case you just need to have a really strong degree of conviction that this is the right thing to do. And I think if you have other business partners at the leadership team level who are challenging you, who are willing and able to challenge you and likewise you have a degree of respect for them, where you're also as a founder or CEO, that you can listen and absorb and know that it's coming from a good place right, that their concern for their livelihood and the sustainability of the business as much as you are as well too, for seeing that vision come to life. So I think that's one example of those types of strategic choices that we that we continue to debate. And I'm assuming your wife is part of that leadership team still, or she stephanie's actually so. Stephanie's a board member, she is a major shareholder and she will always be a founder. Stephanie decided a couple of years ago to step back from day to day operations. Her role now is actually kind of more of a brand ambassador, if you will. She's the host of our PODCAST, she's speaks at events, she 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've had done that for such a long time and I think when the board room, or I should say when the kitchen table doubles as the boardroom table like one too many dinners, I think we just realize we've taken this so far. We obviously are still married, and happily so, and I think we just needed to set some of those priorities right. That was going to be actually one of my questions there was, how do you make a marriage and business partnership last so long, because that's a lot of together time, that's a lot of making big decisions. So I can see the need to step down. But Yeah, you're definitely probably one of the unique stories where it's a husband wife team that have grown it for such a long time all the way to the point now where you're looking to potentially go listen in that as de so congratulations will done. Oh, thank you. We definitely prioritize our marriage and we also realize that there's a time and a place to have business related conversations. We really believe there's like Dr Henry Cloud talks about, you know it has, you wrote a book called boundaries, and he talks about having these healthy boundaries where there's there's a time in a place, and I think previously we just kind of like launched into those type of conversations just because it felt like, you know, you go from office to home and there was just real it was, frankly, probably admitedly, far too blurred and certainly on my part, and I don't think it was exactly great...

...for the kids either. Think they're probably tired of hearing about it. So I think we just reoriented, as I say, the priorities in our life. What we've learned now is we call it permission to proceed. Right, let's ask permission to proceed. Is it okay that I talked about this, this opportunity that's come up at work, and she's like, I'm trying to coordinate the kids, you know, dentist appointment. It's like not the right time or place or the other way around. You know, I might be ready to be reading a book or something in the evening and just winding down. And likewise, you know, she asked permission to proceed as well too, and and I don't want to make it sound so formulaic, but I think it's just one of these notions that we've liked understood that we have these boundaries that someone's mind might not always be on in the business and that there does need to be some mental space that transition. And I think since then and both of us have been a lot healthier, a lot happier, where we can still be involved in the business kind of to the degrees that we are, but also still have a marriage in a family that is healthy in and of itself. I think that's a great point to end the interview on David, less than anything else you want to say, I know, first of all for websites, voicescom and the other places you want to send people to. If anyone wanted to connect personally, linkedin would be a great place. David Cecreli on there. I write on medium from time to time as well too, about kind of some of the experiences growing a start up to a scale up. So David Cereli Dot mediumcom, those are a couple great places. But yeah, if you're interested in signing up on the website, voicescom is the place to go. I actually do have one question about that. I'm I don't want to miss asking you this. I've been on Youtube a few times and his bearded voiceover gentleman has run ads to me about the opportunity to make a living with my voice, and I have to ask then, in terms of a person I'd be listening to this, who is thinking actually, how do you get into the voiceover career and how much 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 suggest someone gets started? The first thing that talent need would be, I'm going to say, the gift of a great voice. So let's call it these artistic skills that can be developed in honed. Often reading aloud is a great place to start because fundamentally voiceover you're going to be reading scripts allowed a lot. So getting comfortable with your own voice. You can take acting classes and so forth, Improv classes. That's all going to help. Then you need the technical skills. You got to record, edit, mix in music. You got to kind of produce your own material, right so when you get the Gig, you know you you're often auditioning or replying to these jobs, as they described on on Voicescom. But then when you get the Gig you got to be able to deliver on it. So you need that. You need to build a record on your own. The last one would be, I would say, because these type of business skills, kind of knowing the going rates. We have a rate sheet on our website. You can google voiceover rates. There's the number of them that are out there. That kind of give you an estimate on a per project basis, how much you know you should be charging or with the industry, industry standard rate is, and it ranges from call it a couple hundred dollars to tenzero per project, depending on the length, and not just how many words, but the audience size and voiceovers different. It's not priced on just effort, it's like the license of the usage of that particular piece, and so that's kind of what increases the prices. So I think it's those kind of three, the triple threat, if you will, of artistic, technical and business skills when creating a profile. Like how would clients even discover you in the first place? Creating a profile, and you know a number of these voice market places, freelance market places, the thing that you're uploading is called a voiceover demo. This is kind of really what needs to be created, similar to a graphic design portfolio, you're creating a voiceover demo. The three you would need would be a commercial demo, and this might be thirty or sixty seconds, and you have like Cocacola, Hilton hotels, Dorito's, like bump up up a BA, and it's like a montage, a really tight montage. So if you go on Voicescom, you'll listen to other talent who have these kind of demos. Commercial Demo, often a narration demo could be like for these corporate training material could be documentaries, but think of like long form norration, whereas commercials like short form sprints compared to the marathon. And then the third one, which is often is that most glamorous type of work, would be character work or animation work. But kind of at least starting with the Commercial Demo, in a narration Demo, that's probably ninety percent of the work that's out there, and then that becomes kind of the thing to showcase. You know, if a client's interested in hearing you, they're going to want to hear how you sound. I've seen those similar ads. I mean there's almost this entire cottage industry of talent who have been successful who are in turn training kind of that next generation of talent on how they were successful how they do it. I would say, you know, the path to take would be to work with a coach of somebody w who's a working voice actor in the Internet age rather than somebody who...

...did work kind of through a traditional talent agency thirty years ago. It's just it's not how work gets done anymore. It's kind of this fast paced, selfdirected home recording studio based approach. which is the vast majority of the work that gets done. So I try to find a culture, a mentor who understands the modern age of voice acting online and obviously have a good dig into Voicescom just to see what other people are doing at that would be another places for sure. Yeah, for sure, Awesome Day, but thank you for your time and sharing the full story. That was amazing and congratulations on building a Canadian success story. It's nice to hear and hear from that, being Canadian at the moment myself. So I keep out the good work and I look forward to seeing that and mastack this 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 you enjoyed that interview with David Ce Cerelli, the cofounder and CEO of voicescom. This was one of those episodes I enjoyed listening to because it's a marketplace business and I especially like hearing the first few you, months and years of starting a business life voicescom because of that challenge that David highlighted of needing to build supply and needing to build demand and I was 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 the point where the company at least exists, I think is really challenging. There's a best to capital episode in with Twenty Five, yes, that's correct, with Callus tiid go. Have a listen to that one if you're also interested in market places, if you haven't done so already, because call us is the founder and Nevada group and they grew numerous market places that sell digital goods similar to what David does with audio content. They was selling some audio content, not so much voice driven, more music driven. They also sell word press themes. They also sell flash will back in the early days, flash design elements. Now they have video, they have photoshop files, all kinds of things. So it's interesting, though, to hear with both these stories David and within batter group, how the founders were able to find the people who created the value the supply side, in this case with David and his wife. You know, his wife was the first ever supplier of audio content, and then they went on to find more talent, get them listed on the website and a way you go and then, as David mentioned, tenzero phone calls trying to get customers do buy and hire these audio creators to, you know, record things for them, and that's a challenge. So if you decide to get into the marketplace business model, you really need to have a plan for filling in both sides rather simultaneously. If you don't do it the same time of the start, you know you might be stuck. That being said, it does depend on what you're selling, I think in this case and also within Vato, sure you could have the talent create a bunch of product that that sits in inventory and then you go and find the buyers. But with a lot of these sites the talent is looking to maintain a consistent income, not just get paid once. So they need to see ongoing demand for what they create or they're just going to go somewhere else to look for work. So the challenge there is they need to list themselves as Hey, I'm available for hire or here's something I created for sale, and then you have to have a buyer come in pretty quickly to maintain that motivation on both sides. And then, of course, you got to make sure the buyers appy as well. So who definitely a challenging business model. Also really enjoyed hearing the later phase of the story with David where he talks about why he decided to take on financing from Morgan Stanley that eighteen million dollar rays and how that's a decision to go towards an IPO on the NASDAC and he is very excited to continue down that path as the CEO, where if you listen to the interview I did with Callus, Tad and and Vato Vesta capital, episode twenty five, you'll hear Collis talk about his early days and I explained because we didn't really interview him too recently. It's an older one, but I did the research when I publish that episode and Callis has moved on. He's no longer he stepped down from the CEO role. His wife also had stepped down earlier than him, and he has basically decided not to IPO, at least at the time I recorded that, and that was from a couple of years ago. They look like they were going to IPO in Australia but they decided not to. Their stay private and now the company is runs without them. Basically they're still on the board directors, but it's an ongoing concern where they're not in the day to day operations, just like with this episode. David talked about how his wife step down. So you know there's a time into place, I think, from leadership to move on. But as David mentioned, sometimes when you move towards Ipoh you lose leadership and it sounds like you did have a change in some of the key roles that are directly under him, those leadership roles, but not 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 of course the investors, as he said, were more worried about how about him leaving and then the company not doing so well? So I think it is a real juggle. That decision to IPO immediately creates a new goal post. That's a big one. So it obviously needs a certain type of motivated...

...leadership team and then, of course, a growth plans. So I'm looking forward to see where voicescom continues. Okay, that's enough for me. Obviously I had a lot of thoughts around this marketplace model. It's all has been something I've been interested from all the way back in my early days when I studied Ebay, and it was fun to hear David mentioned that as well and in this interview, ebay being one of the very first supplied demand side market places online that really exploded. So it's such an amazing early day success story from Web one point. Oh that was a fun time. I hope you enjoyed the episode. Please share it. This is bested capital episode twenty eight. Share with anyone who is interested in starting a market place, maybe anyone who's look at doing their own start up business. You know, any kind of entrepreneur orientated person in your life, in your family. Maybe it's you and you just want to listen to it again. That's obviously a something I'd appreciate and hope you get a lot out of it, but I specially appreciate it when you share it with others so that we can reach more people grow the audience space. And this is something that you know, you don't necessary here podcast host talk about directly on their shows, but one of the things that helps a podcast is obviously the quality of the guests. The guest will say yes to podcasts that have a larger audience for obvious reasons. So the more people that I reach with my podcast now, the better quality I will be able to produce episodes in the future, and the more wellknown 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 all benefit. You get better podcast, I get better guests to share with you, we reach more people who benefit from the content and, you know, it's obviously a business that keeps going as well. So share it, subscribe, follow Click The plus sign on some of the APPs to add it to your subscribe tool. Whatever you using to subscribe with, whether it's itunes or apple. Sorry, apple is itunes, but as apple or Amazon or Google or spotify, they're all great places to find invested capital and subscribe and listen. All right, thank you again. I look forward to speaking to you on the next episode of invested capital. My name is Yarostark and I'll speak to you very soon.

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