Gideon Shalwick, Founder, Splasheo and Veeroll
Finding Your “Why”
Gideon Shalwick, founder of Splasheo and Veeroll, talks self-discovery, video marketing, and personal branding.
Gideon Shalwick believes there’s one trait every entrepreneur needs, and it’s not persistence, a strong work ethic, or creativity. It’s self awareness. His own desire to better understand himself has led him down a winding road of serial entrepreneurship and self-exploration.
It’s what first inspired Shalwick to drop out of the 9-to-5 club early in his career, move to another country with his wife, and start fresh. The pursuit of his true calling led him to publish a successful ebook in 2006, and two years later, develop a blogging training product that boasts over 40,000 subscribers. Meanwhile, Shalwick was also building up a personal brand as an expert in video marketing.
But his journey didn’t stop there. In 2012, Shalwick founded video captioning service Splasheo, which has become a major source of passive income. He followed that success in 2014 with Veeroll, a SaaS company that automates the production of video ads for YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook, and now dominates the video advertisement space.
While Shalwick saw great success with these companies, he found that tug of self-discovery pulling at him again. He realized he had become so caught up in the startup world that, in the process, had forgotten who he was.
So he decided to walk away from the projects he spent over a decade building. Now, he’s in a period of self-rediscovery and is sharing his entrepreneurial wisdom with others while plotting his next move.
Five years into his career, Shalwick decided to start over, for the first time. He had graduated with an electrical engineering degree from the University of Canterbury in New Zealand and immediately recognized that he didn’t enjoy working for someone else.
In an attempt to try another path, Shalwick got his master’s degree in engineering management, which focused more on the people side of business. Still, he felt frustrated by his job.
“I don’t think there was any job in the world that would allow me to live out my potential the way that I wanted to, so I felt really stuck,” Shalwick says.
He turned to his wife and suggested that they quit their jobs, move to Australia, and start from scratch.
At first, the plan was for Shalwick to find a job in Brisbane as their ticket in. But three months later, he still hadn’t found employment. He asked his wife to try applying for jobs as well and, within a week, she had three offers. While this allowed them to successfully relocate, Shalwick still had no idea what to do with his own career.
Shalwick began reading books on entrepreneurship, with the hope that they would point him in the right direction. It was Rich Dad, Poor Dad, which talks about the importance of building up an asset, that eventually struck a chord. Shalwick wondered how he could build up his own asset and started to explore a variety of options.
He considered everything from franchises to a dog-washing business, but ultimately ended up attending a book-writing course that gave him his first taste of entrepreneurship. In 2006, Shalwick wrote and sold a personal development ebook for $47. The title? Millionaire Dropout Secrets.
“I blush when I think about the title, but I have an excuse,” Shalwick says. “The course taught us that titles with the words ‘secrets’ and ‘millionaire’ in it do really well. So I came up with the title Millionaire Dropout Secrets…I wrote it as a reporter, looking at everyone who dropped out of the system and became successful.”
The ebook was a huge success. The instructor who taught the course offered to help promote the product to his database of 10,000 people. An email was sent out on a Friday night and, by Saturday morning, Shalwick’s ebook was selling like hotcakes. In fact, he sold enough copies to where he felt extremely optimistic about the idea of selling digital products from the comfort of his home for the rest of his career. Shalwick was on cloud nine.
Until one day, his ebook ran out of steam.
After the initial rush of sales, Shalwick’s ebook experienced virtually no traffic for two years. Because he had little experience with business building, traffic generation, or customer relationship management, he had no idea how to bring his sales back to life.
But Shalwick knew he could learn by tapping into the expertise of others, so he purchased a camcorder and decided to start interviewing people on video to better understand how to set up successful online businesses.
Shalwick snagged his first interview at an industry event, where one of the speakers agreed to talk to him. Over time, this was the formula Shalwick used to eventually collect five gigabytes worth of video interviews. He planned to upload them all to a membership site, but before he could launch, the sheer size of the files ended up killing his PC and the project never got off the ground.
But all the effort wasn’t for nothing. Shalwick became close friends with one of his video interviewees, and together, they launched a product called Become A Blogger (a course for those who are just starting out with blogging or looking to take their blogging to the next level) in 2008. Within the first two weeks of launching, the business had over 10,000 subscribers and an income of over $20,000 per month. This was life changing for Shalwick, who had been making no money for the previous two years.
That business gave Shalwick the exposure he needed to start building up his own personal brand, as he took to YouTube to teach people about building successful video products and online businesses. His channel grew to 36 million views and 360,000 subscribers, and the name Gideon Shalwick became widely associated with the video marketing space.
When Shalwick and his wife welcomed their first daughter in 2010, everything changed.
“I realized…what if something happens to me? Then what’s going to happen to the business and income for the family? So I decided I’d better change tactics.”
This dawning realization is common for entrepreneurs who build personal brands. Shalwick believes the most important thing is to know yourself and understand the benefits and drawbacks of each type of business.
For instance, personal brands are simple to start up, have low overhead costs, and make it easy to build a connection with your audience. But as Shalwick realized, the trouble is that a personal brand can’t survive without its creator.
If you have a personal brand, Shalwick recommends looking at other ways to build assets that can run independently of you. This could mean investing your income in other wealth vehicles or creating a separate product or service.
That’s the reason Shalwick decided to launch his human-powered video captioning service, Splasheo, in 2012. To this day, it still functions without Shalwick and serves as a passive source of income for his family.
A few years later, Shalwick decided to venture into the SaaS space. He initially wanted to set everything up through Splasheo, but decided it would be cleaner to create an entirely new entity based in Singapore. And that’s how Veeroll was born in 2014. This SaaS company was created to automate production of video ads for YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook. The idea came from the nine years Shalwick had spent in the video marketing industry, where he constantly heard about the biggest pain point in the market: the production and editing process.
Because this software so directly addressed a source of frustration for video marketers, Veeroll quickly became a leader, and today is a million-dollar company.
The Hunt Continues
Despite the success of Veeroll, Shalwick decided to sell his shares and walk away from the company earlier this year. Working in the world of SaaS was intensely challenging, he explains, even for someone with a technical background.
He recounted the time he reached out to Clay Collins at Leadpages for advice when he first started Veeroll. Collins told him, “There are a million things, and you have to get them all right.” While Shalwick didn’t understand what he meant at the time, he grew to appreciate the truth behind this statement.
But it wasn’t just the technical aspects of the SaaS business that were overwhelming. As Shalwick describes, he was also burned out by a high-stress environment, brought on from pursuing extremely aggressive goals. That’s when he recognized how easy it was to get caught up in the wrong things and lose sight of what’s important.
So he decided to step back once again, and focus on rediscovering himself.
Shalwick has spent a lot of time contemplating his life’s vision. He believes that for each of us, this vision is guided by an “unconscious drive,” what some people refer to as their “why.”
He discovered after much reflection that his unconscious drive is for significance. All of his actions had been driven by a desire to prove himself. He was embarrassed by this realization at first, because it felt superficial, but he came to embrace it over time.
Now that he understands this reality, he has made an intentional effort to channel his drive from achieving significance for himself into helping others feel significant. For Shalwick, this has been a huge game changer and has made the vision for his life much clearer.
“As entrepreneurs, you really have to get to know yourself,” Shalwick says. “Each of us has a unique capability and gift or talent we can give to the world. But it’s conditioned away by society…and it’s a real challenge to rediscover that again. When you can rediscover that and find your true why, then everything becomes a lot easier.”
The Formula for Successful Video Ads, From Gideon Shalwick
Shalwick uses the AIDCA formula to ensure successful video ads that consistently convert customers. Below is a breakdown of each component of the formula:
A = Attention. The first part of the formula is all about grabbing people’s interest with a hook. According to Shalwick, one of the most effective ways to do this is to identify your audience’s biggest pain point then turn it into a question. For instance, if your intended audience is video marketers, you may ask: “Are you struggling with video editing?”
I = Intrigue. You can build intrigue with a story of open loops that draws people in and makes them want to keep watching. In other words, create a sense of mystery. This part of the formula relies on the Zeigarnik Effect, which states that people remember uncompleted or interrupted tasks better than completed tasks.
D = Desire. Now it’s time to create desire around the solution. Shalwick recommends listing the benefits, features, and differentiators of your product or service to make it more appealing to your viewers.
C = Conviction. According to Shalwick, it’s important to provide as much proof as you can so the audience is convinced that the solution you’re offering actually works. This can come in the form of testimonials, social proof, or a stamp of approval from an authority figure.
A = Action. Finally, you have to ask people to do what you want them to do. This is where you insert a call to action and guide your audience in the direction you want them to go.
Interview by Nathan Chan, feature article reprinted from Foundr Magazine, by Sophia Lee
- Why Shalwick and his wife decided to quit their jobs and start over
- How he got his first taste of entrepreneurship with an ebook (and why the title makes him blush to this day)
- Why his ebook sales skyrocketed, then saw virtually no sales for two years
- Shalwick’s journey to better understanding online businesses
- How he built his personal brand in the video marketing space
- Why the birth of Shalwick’s daughter made him reconsider the way he approaches business
- The birth of Splasheo, and how it became a source of passive income for Shalwick
- Shalwick’s successful venture into SaaS with Veeroll
- Why Shalwick sold his shares and walked away from Veeroll
- The importance of discovering your true “why” as an entrepreneur
Full Transcript of Podcast with Gideon Shalwick
Nathan: The first question that I ask everyone that comes on is, how did you get your job?
Gideon: I got sick of working for someone else. Basically, that’s how it happened. I was qualified as an electronic engineer. I hated that. And then aI thought, “Let’s do another degree.” So I did a master degree in engineering management, which was more to do with the people side of business, and I really enjoyed that.
So I went into the management side of engineering, which is cool, but it was still working for somebody else. Which is… It’s fine. It wasn’t a big problem per se, but I got really frustrated because I felt like I couldn’t really live out my potential. I felt really stuck and I don’t think there was any job in the world that would allow me to really live out my potential, the way that I wanted to. So I felt really stuck.
And there are few other things as well. I started reading books like… Old classic like Rich Dad, Poor Dad, and he talked about how when you’re working in a job for example, you’re not really building up an asset, and this sort of thing. So I started thinking, “Well I’ve got to do something to build up my own asset. The day I stop working would be the day I stop getting paid in a job.”
So I got cold feet. We were… Me and my wife were both back in New Zealand. And one day I just said, “I’ve had enough working.” This is like five years working. And I said, “I’ve had enough. This is not what I thought it would be. Let’s quit our jobs.” My wife had a job as well back then. And said, “Let’s quit our jobs and let’s start fresh. Let’s immigrate to Australia at the same time and start a whole new life, a whole new business.”
And at first I said, “Look, I’ll go and apply for jobs just to get us a ticket into Australia. And then once we get a job, we’ll go.” Three months later, we’re still stuck in New Zealand. I just… Nobody wanted to have me as an employee, which is just as well. Right? Anyway, so I asked my wife, Tynika. I said, “Look, why don’t you apply for something? Let’s see.” So we were both applying for jobs.
Within a week, she had three job offers. And then she flew over that Friday. And to all three and got… She could decide between any of the three jobs. She decided on one of them. A month later we landed in Australia. I was jobless and she had a job. She was paying the bills. And I was there in the apartment, thinking about, “What do I do now? I don’t want to work for someone. But I know I want to start a business. But I have no idea.” No idea what I was doing and no idea even what I wanted to do.
So I’ve been so conditioned with the education system, to think and act in a certain way that by that time I’d forgotten who I was myself. And I’d forgotten what my key strengths and talents were. So at first I just started looking at… I looked at everything. Thinking back now, I looked at franchise businesses. We went to this franchise expo. Or I to this franchise expo. And I remember there were these dog washing franchises. And I was looking at it going, “Oh, I could do that. I mean how hard could it be to wash dogs for a living. These guys have a franchise out of it.”
So luckily I didn’t do that. Probably nothing wrong with that. You can probably do quite well, but it wasn’t for me. Anyway, the franchise thing wasn’t for me. I ended up going to a course. They taught us how to write a book. I wrote the book and sold it as my very first product online. It was an eBook. So this is back in 2006, 2007. So I sold it for $47US and that was my ticket. That’s how I got my job I suppose.
Nathan: Wow. What was the book on?
Gideon: So the book was a personal development kind of book.
Gideon: I blush when I think about the title, but I have an excuse. On the course, they taught us that titles with the word secrets and millionaire in it, do really well. So I thought, “What sort of title can I come up with?” So I came up with the title, Millionaire Dropout Secrets. So I was just starting out writing this book, but I didn’t write it as me being successful. I wrote it more as me being the reporter, and looking at everyone else that’s dropped out of the system, and how they become successful.
And I remember using a text from Larry Ellison as my forward. It’s debatable whether he actually wrote it, but it was all about basically dropping out, dropping out of the system. And that’s really what it was like for me. I really felt, at that point, that book represented me dropping out of the system. Whether it was just in my head, that I was stuck in, to be able to do what I really wanted to do.
Nathan: Yeah. Wow, that’s crazy. So what happened next man?
Gideon: Well, from there… It’s interesting. I sold enough books, when I launched it, to think, “Hey this is, this is amazing. I could be doing this from…” I was working just from our lounge area. We had this little one bedroom apartment in Brisbane. And that’s where I created everything. Right there. I thought, “Oh wow, this is great. I could be working from home, selling these digital products, and live happily ever after.”
But what happened was, my very first success was the person who taught me how to write the book and promote it. He had a list of 10,000 people on his database. So he promoted for me. He was my first joint venture. So he promoted this book for me. We made a tonne of sales. I remember waking up one Saturday morning… Because he sent the email the night before, because he was in Europe, and he sent it when I want to sleep… Woke up in the morning, and there’s email after email, sales, sales, sales. And I was so excited thinking, “Wow this is too easy.
And then I ran out of traffic. I had no idea about business building. I knew how to write a book. And I was lucky to get my mentor to promote it for me. But then I had no idea about having a proper business. I mean, a book is not a business, right? It’s just a book. I had know idea about traffic generation, or relationship building, customer relationship management, any of that stuff.
So I then went on a massive journey, because we had sales and then nothing. And that nothingness basically lasted for about two and a half years, or two years. So it was… It took me about six months to get the book out. And then two years of figuring out, “Okay, how do I make sales again?”
And then I started interviewing people on video. Very much like we’re doing now. Back then everyone was doing audio interviews, but I wanted to do video interviews. So I got my little cam recorder. And the very first one that I did, I got lucky because I got the idea at an event. And then I asked the leading guy of the industry if he was keen for an interview. I ran up to him and say, “Dude, do you want to get interviewed?” And said, “Yes, I’ve got a … Actually, I’ve got a camera I’ve set up in my hotel room. Let’s do this.” And I said, “Sweet.”
So I got him on board. And then from then on I went to event after event, and just introduced myself to speakers, all the experts in industry. And I said, “Do you want to be part of this interview series?” And then did it.
And so the idea was that… two things that I would learn from these guys. How they became successful. How they managed to build successful online based businesses. And… But then also, I wanted to create those videos as like a membership site, that I could sell to the public.
So what happened was, I tried to bite off way too big a thing. It was like way too big a project. The technology back then was a nightmare. I mean the camcorders back then was very, very basic. The files was so huge. I mean an hour long interview where… I think it was maybe four or five gigabytes. It doesn’t sound like a lot now, but in 2007 that was bigger than your hard drive almost, you know? So I ended up just killing my PC and that’s how I switched over to to Mac, which was game changing back then.
But anyway, this whole thing was way too big for me. Neville got it launched. I got all the videos done. I had the site really, but then I couldn’t launch it. It was just too big. I wanted to write a book from it. That was the promise that I made, and I couldn’t because it was just too much.
But then one of the people that I interviewed, we became friends, and then we launched a product together, soon after that, called Become A Blogger. And so this is two and a half years into my journey of earning very little money. And then all of a sudden we launched. We had about 30,000, 20 or 30,000 people join our email database within two weeks. Within a month we had our recurring income to about $23,000 per month, for that business.
So that was life changing back then. This is 2008… Yeah, around about 2008 we launched that. And that was the first time that I used video as a… successfully as a product to sell, online, to the public, and to have a reasonably successful business as well. And that that kind of put me on the map.
And then finally then it clicked. What I really needed to have a business that where you just didn’t have a product, but where you also had an audience, so that you could actually sell a product to that audience as well.
Nathan: I see. And then… So you… You’ve done quite a few things in the digital product space, and it sounds like you’ve spent a little bit of time playing with courses, eBooks. But then you got into SAS, which is what I find quite interesting. Because I think a lot of people make this journey as an entrepreneur or founder, and they look… If you look at the online entrepreneurship space, a lot of people, they might start off selling digital products or courses, but a lot do move into software, which is something that you did. Why was that when you started Veeroll? What was that reason?
Gideon: Yeah, so interesting enough, I didn’t start with Veeroll. What happened was, I built up a really good personal brand around Gideon Shalwick, and teaching people about video marketing. That’s where I ended up eventually. Because I’d built all this experience with video, creating video products but then also using video on YouTube to build audiences. Right? So it’s a really good combination. So I became kind of like an expert, and I started teaching people how to do that.
But then in 2010 our first daughter was born, and that changed me. Because then I realised, “Hang on, what if something happens to me? What’s going to happen to this business? What’s going to happen to our income?” Because at that point my wife had already stopped working. She… Because she didn’t have to work anymore. We were making enough money.
And so I thought, “What’s going to happen to the family now, if something happens to me? Because this business is so dependent on me and my brain. I’d better change tact here.” So I created the brand called Splasheo. This is way back. The first version of Splasheo at least. And the idea was that I would create a brand that… and an acid base within that brand, that could run and function independently of me. I could help create the value, but the value wasn’t dependent on me and my brain. I could build a team. I could build a product. And all could run separately from me. That was the whole idea.
A year into Splasheo, I met my first co-founder. My first, I guess, real… Let’s call him my first SAS co-founder. And I wanted to do everything through Splasheo, but then we discussed it. “Set up this company in Singapore. Let’s create a new entity so it’s nice and clean”. So we created the Veeroll. And the whole idea with the Veeroll was to automate the video production, or video ads for YouTube, Instagram and Facebook. So that’s how we got into that.
Nathan: Interesting. So that really took off. How did you find the need for that product? Because you guys became an industry leader in that space. How did you find out the need for that product? Because creating a SAS product isn’t easy. It’s very, very difficult. And I find it… Yeah, I’d love to know.
Gideon: Well I think it helped that I was already in the industry for such a long time. By that time I was already in the industry for a good nine or so years, maybe 10 years. So I already knew the pain points in the market. And the number one pain point for video marketing, has always been the video production, the video editing side of things.
Time and time again, I would run these surveys to my audience. I remember getting 1200 responses once from people. This was in 2009, no 2010. And I asked what’s the number one pain point you have for video marketing? And the number one… 80 or 90% of people that would say, “The video editing. The video production.” It would always be the pain point. So when it came to video ads, that was the same sort of thing.
But I thought, “Hey, this video editing thing’s been done now, but it hasn’t been done in the video ad space.” So I saw the video… I saw what happened in the organic video marketing space, with the growth. And then I saw the video ad thing just starting off. And I thought, “Wow, if this could have the same trajectory as the organic video space, that’d be pretty cool to get in now.” So we got on a right at the beginning of the video ad space. YouTube ads were just sort of… They were around for a while already, but you know, not many people were using it at all.
And so I thought “Let’s apply what I know about video content, and video persuasion, and video conversion, and build that into software, and turn that into a business.” And the reason I… Another reason we picked video ads, in particular, was because with video ads, especially direct response video ads, we want to get a direct response from that particular video ad, as opposed to just building a relationship, was that you could have them nice and short. You could have them 30 seconds to 60 seconds. Which would mean that you could create a formula for them and then basically create software to implement that formula. And that’s exactly what we did.
With Veeroll, we created… We just use an age old formula. AIDCA, attention, interest, desire, conviction, action. Right? That’s an age old marketing formula, or persuasion formula.
Nathan: Can you write that down, if that’s okay? A little bit more.
Gideon: Absolutely. Yes. So the AIDCA formula… Or a another version of it is also AIDA. They leave out the C. But we like putting the C in there, because it’s really powerful. It’s for conviction. So the first one, A, attention. It’s where you want to grab people’s attention.
Nathan: The hook?
Gideon: Yeah, the hook. And what was beautiful in the beginning days of YouTube ads, was that the whole video was clickable. And you still only had five seconds before the skip button would come up. But we could create these ads, where we could basically get people to click on the video itself, and then visit the website.
So that’s the first… What we did in the first five seconds was grab people’s attention. And the best way that we did that, was simply by finding out what is the biggest pain point for our target audience. And then turning that into a question. So for example, if it’s in the video marketing space, if the number one pain point is video production, or video editing, you could start by saying… What we used to do, we’d start by saying something like, “Are you struggling with video editing? Or is video editing a pain in the neck for you as well?” Or something like that. So… and that would just be a very simple question. All we had was text moving on the screen. That’s as simple as it was. That’s all the software basically that had fancy text moving on the screen, grab attention. But the thing that would really grab people was honing in on that pain point, and turning it into a question. So that’s all we did for, for attention. And that worked time and time again with with heaps of different industries as well.
The second letter is I, for interest or intrigue. So I like intrigue better, because it… we all like mysteries, right? Or we all get drawn in by mysteries. And that’s why these TV series, these programmes… Breaking Bad… They work so well, right? Lost, Game of Thrones, they all use this. It takes advantage of what’s known as the Zeigarnik effect. And there’s other names for it too, but Zeigarnik was a Russian psychologist back in the 1800s. And she discovered that if you open up loops, or if you… Well, in her case, she would break up her teaching with the students. Like some in the morning and then break it up. She wouldn’t finish it until the afternoon. And she’d notice that her students would pay better attention. And so that’s exactly the sort of thing that people then started using in training, and then later on in video and in TV, and all those sort of things.
All it is, is basically opening up a loop. And one of the best ways of doing that is to use a story. A story with open loops, where you draw people in. And that’s the whole point of this intrigue stage. You draw people in to want to keep watching.
The next letter is desire. So this is where you, you then… Well, in our case, in the video ad space, what you’d talk about is basically the solution. And talking about how cool would it be to have this solution, that could make your life better? And that’s basically the desire stage of it. And so you can talk about benefits and features, that sort of thing.
Then the C is for conviction. And this is really where you want to provide as much proof as you can. That what you’re talking about, is for real. And there’s many, many different things you can do there. Like your social proof, for example. You can use authority. You know, there’s… Like Robert Cialdini came with those six triggers. And you’ve got to be careful with them as well. You’ve got to always use them based on truth. That goes without saying. Some people don’t and it always hits them, and it comes back at them. But anyway, that’s what the C conviction is all about.
And then A is for action, and it’s very simple. You just ask people what you would like them to do. In our case, we could just tell them to click on the video… Back in the very first few ads, you could do that. Now it’s a bit more complicated. You’ve got to tell people where exactly to click, and that sort of thing.
But that was basically the software. And we used that formula to then build the software to automate these text-based video ads, that people create within five minutes.
Nathan: Interesting. So one thing I’d love to talk to you about, which I think is interesting, is we see a lot of people going through a similar journey to what you went through, five, six, seven years ago. Where people are building a personal brand, but they’re not building an asset. It’s not so much a real business, in a way, because it’s reliant on them. And I think… When I think about Foundr, that’s one thing I’m very proud of and passionate about, is we have an incredible team. If I was hit by a bus tomorrow, that the company would still run. I don’t have to do the interviews anymore. I’m not going to in the near future. The products and everything that we’re creating, and the way that we provide people with value in the content we produce, that is not reliant on me. Yes, I’m the leader.
So I think that’s a really good distinction that you made early on. And I think this is a trap that a lot of people do fall into. What do you think people should be thinking about if they do have a personal brand? Like you look at Tony Robbins. This is also something that I’ve seen him say, talk about openly. He found this particular trap as well. And that’s why in the past, I think 10, 15 years, he’s got all these other companies. You know, when we interviewed him… I think he’s a CEO, or founder or CEO, he’s running 10, 15, 20 different companies that the turnover over a billion dollars in sales or something… Or maybe in five. Some insane amounts of money. So, yeah, this is a trap that a lot of people often fall into. I’d love to hear your thoughts, or your take on that.
Gideon: I’ve done a lot of thinking about this, man, and I’ve gone in circles. I think, ultimately, the answer for me is it comes down to what kind of business is best suited for your personality. For me, that’s really what it comes down to. And so… Because each business has its own benefits, but each business has their own drawbacks too. So for example, a personal brand, what’s great about that is it’s relatively easy to start up. You’ve got low overheads. It’s very easy to build a connection with the audience, because they’re building it with you, as opposed to with a brand. So you can build an audience, I think, easier in a way, especially during the beginning days.
Nathan: Yep, I agree.
Gideon: But then the trouble with this, you can’t sell it. Or what happens if something happens to you, then what happens to the business? The business is kind of dead, unless you’ve got a legacy type of thing set up. So I think with a person… If you’re building a personal brand based business, I think it’s important then that you look at other ways for building other assets too, that can run independently. Obviously with Tony Robbins, he’s got other companies, right?
Gideon: So I would think about using the personal brand to build the wealth, or to build the income rather. But then to use that income to invest in other wealth vehicles. So maybe real estate, or stock, or other businesses. But have something else there, so that if something does happen to you, you’ve got a backup. And the trouble with that is that only becomes possible once you become profitable enough to start investing in other things, and to buy people’s time to help manage those things for you. Because you gets so busy running your own… Personally branded business, you don’t have time to become an expert at real estate investment, or stock investment, or other businesses. So you kind of need to start hiring people to do those things for you. Right? So that’s the trade off with the personal brand.
So now… The way I look at it now, what works well with my personality is… Because I do like the personal brand type of thing. But I also like the branded thing now because I’ve been through it. Because of the benefits you get from that, is to build the brand, and build value through the brand, and create an amazingly awesome product that… or service, that really solves a problem for people. But have that all within the brand. So that’s what we’re doing with Splasheo now, right? So we’ve bought a video captioning service. And it really solves a very, very distinct problem very, very well. And we do it so well. Our customers, they love us. They just love us to bits, because every time they get exactly what they’re paying for, and more.
So building that value up. But then from that, build a side personal brand alongside that. But it’s based on the value that’s already been bought. So a good example for me is to look at someone like Elon Musk, where he didn’t start off building a personal brand, right? You started off building these valuable things. He’s built valuable companies. That then, eventually, would get people to ask, “Hey, who’s this Elon Musk guy?” And then it would just organically start building. So I’m not aware of him specifically going out and thinking, “Hey, I want to build a personal brand here.” I mean, maybe they did in their team discussions or something at some point. But it seems more like that was the thing that started happening organically. You know, same thing with Steve Jobs. It seems… It was Apple that was the valuable thing that was built, and then that was his claim to fame in a way. And then from that, there was a natural progression to a personal brand.
Nathan: It’s okay to have a leader…
Gideon: Right? A leader within the business, you mean?
Nathan: That is clearly propping themself up. But then you still have the business where the value creation is held with the business, not from the leader.
Gideon: Yes. And that’s the way I like doing it now. So I’ve seen both worlds now, and so now I’m combining both worlds in a way. But it’s interesting enough now… Previously, the personal brand work would have been to create value as well. But now the personal brand is more used for building audience, and building connection and relationship.
Nathan: And attention.
Gideon: And attention. And redirecting that attention to wherever I want to. So for the moment, it’s towards Splasheo. But I might want to start up another business, and redirect it somewhere else. But then always redirect it to other value creation entities, that are running independently of me.
Nathan: That makes sense. So what happened? Are you not active in Veeroll? What happened?
Gideon: So yes, I exited Veeroll at the start of this year. Sold my shares to my co-founders. I think there were a few things that happened. For starters, a SAS businesses is no joke. It’s… Funny enough, I’ve got a technical background. I studied electronic engineering, and there was a software component. So you’d think that I would get the software thing. But I’m not… The thing is I’m not a technical person. I never actually practised as an engineer. But that did help me to, I think at least, understand how technical people’s brains work. That’s a different language you’ve got to speak almost.
But it’s a real challenge because it’s not just a market that you’ve got to build. And it’s not just any kind of service that you’ve got to set up. You’ve got to solve a solution with technical development. And that requires some real brain power, and some investment. It costs money to get this brain power on board, to do this work for you. And not only that, it’s not like… just like an information product, where if you’ve got something wrong you just quickly change it, or whatever. Like when it comes to software, any change, creates like flow on effects onto the whole product. So it’s just really complicated.
And I remember when we were just starting up Veeroll, I showed a little message to Clay Collins, the founder of… co-founder of Leadpages. Now at that point, they were sitting at about 20,000 monthly subscribers. So they were just sort of taking off then. And I sent them a little Skype message saying, “Hey Clay, what’s the secret here? We’re just starting up a SAS. Do you have any tips?” And I remember him saying, “You know, Gideon, there are a million things, and you’ve got to get them all right.” And I was quite deflated when I saw that, because I thought he brushed me off or something. But then I realised he didn’t brush me off. Because what he said was true. With a software, or a SAS company, there really are a million different details. And you’ve got to get them all right. You think about it, with coding? You leave out one little comma, and the whole thing falls over. And that’s just one of the million things you’ve got to get right. So aside from getting the market right and market product fit, all that sort of stuff, you’ve got to get the product right as well. Internally, you’ve got to get the user interface right. All the technical stuff. You’ve got to get everything 100%. You don’t have to give them all right at the same time. But that, in and of itself, is a challenge. Okay.
And the other challenge is just working with people, right? Up until that point, I’ve had some partnerships before but never as intensely as that. And it was a pretty intense environment. We had some really aggressive goals to grow. And that’s one of the lessons I learned. I think sometimes it’s possible to be too aggressive in your goals. And you can put too much stress on you and your team. And then you end up burning out. And nobody’s any good, when you’re burnt out. And that was a really, really big lesson.
So, so we’re much more realistic with our goals. And we’re much happier. And funny enough, we also seem to be more successful now too. Like the success seems to come easier now that we are not putting so much damn pressure on ourselves. And I think sometimes we do this because we get caught up in this startup world, or this entrepreneur world. Seeing all the successes, which is a tiny fraction of all the startup companies, right? And we think that’s the way it must be. And it’s not the case at all. I think it’s much a much better way to go back into who you are, as a person, and really asking those tough, deep down questions of who you really are, and what you really want, what’s really important to you, and what really suits you and your personality. As opposed to going, “I want to be like that guy. Or I want to be like that girl.” Or whatever. “I want to have a company as successful as that.” Or, “I want to have a $10 million business.” Or, “I won’t have $100 million business.” Why? Where did you get that idea from? Is it something that came from yourself? Or was it something that you saw someone else did, and now they’ve become famous and they’re getting all this status and everything else, and you want that now too?
So I think that’s quite a dangerous… not dangerous, but it’s a nice way for adding a lot of pressure into your life that could actually see you burning out. And again, when you’re burnt out, you’re no use to anybody. And I think that’s what happened with us at some point with Veeroll. I think all of us, as co-founders, got to a burnout point, and that was no fun. That was no fun.
So you could get people who would normally get on really well with each other, during very high pressure and burnout stages it’s tough. It’s tough because you’ve got to make tough decisions. The market is demanding. Resources are demanding. Everything and everybody are demanding things off you. And then you get competitors coming in. So there’s a lot of pressure with a startup like that. And so, yeah.
So there was pressure with just the technical challenge. There was challenges with, I guess, just the people side of things within our team. And dealing with setting such crazy targets, and then struggling to meet them. And then feeling disappointed and all that sort of stuff. And I think that all contributes to making it harder to succeed as well. I think there’s a few things we could’ve done better for sure.
But it’s all learning. It’s all learning going back in time.
Nathan: I see. So you come to the conclusion that you wanted to work by yourself? Or…
Gideon: No, not necessarily. I do enjoy working by myself now. With my current company I’ve got 100% ownership. I don’t have any co-founders within the company. And I’m really enjoying it. I enjoy it because the control that I have… I don’t see myself as a control freak necessarily. But it is nice to have control over the company, in the sense that if there’s a difficult decision to be made, that I can make it, and I don’t have to debate about it. There’s nothing worse in a company, if you have to debate every single main question. And I think that is what is difficult for us. In Veeroll, we had a 50 50 kind of a relationship, where it was, with some of the really big decisions, it wasn’t just one person that could decide. And that’s just the way we set it up. We knew that going into it. But it did also make it much harder for us to make decisions. Because it was…
Nathan: How do others do it?
Gideon: I don’t know. I honestly don’t. I think if I would do it again, if I were to get partners on board again, I would probably… Well, in my case… I can only speak from my case, right? But in my case, I would probably not set up a 50 50 relationship again. I would set up something that’s in favour of me. So that the buck would stop at me. Or at least… Even if the buck doesn’t stop with me, at least have a setup where we know there’s one person where the final buck stops.
Nathan: And that’s the CEO?
Gideon: The CEO, or the original founder, or whoever it is, that’s assigned to make that final decision. And when they call the shot, they call the shot. It’s like… Running a business, it’s not a democracy. This is what I found. You can try to, but it really slows you down. And it just adds to the stress. If you’ve got to go through a democratic process to make a decision for every single main decision, really slows you down.
So now it’s a lot easier for me to make decisions, and move the company forward, because I have a certain intuition about what I think is right.
Gideon: I could be wrong. But we find out within time. And it’s… I find it’s much better to get a decision done and dusted and moving on, than taking ages to try and decide. I’d rather have a wrong decision, and find out really quickly, than bloody take three months to make a decision.
So I think that’s, that’s really important to… Even if it is a 50 50 relationship, maybe then to have a clear understanding, or shareholder agreement, between the people who make decisions, that there is perhaps one person where the buck stops. And have that agreed between everyone, before you go into… before you become profitable. Before you even start the business up. Get that stuff out, right at the front.
Nathan: So you need really clear leadership responsibilities for certain functions of the business more than anything? Right?
Gideon: Absolutely. And you know what’s so challenging about that, is that… especially when you’re starting out, if it’s your first business say. Or even if it’s… That wasn’t my first business, and we’re still learning. But it was my first SAS. And it was the first time that we actually set up a shareholder agreement. And we didn’t set that up until a couple of… about a year into it I think. Which was too late.
But that’s easy to say, in retrospect, because if I think back to when we were just starting out, I would have loved to have a shareholders agreement, but we probably wouldn’t have known how to set it up properly anyway. So it’s a tough thing to do. I would advise, if you can, to set up… to get some proper advice from someone. Maybe another startup founder, who’s gone through it. To get that advice on what’s the best way to set up something like that, before you get into it. Before you start making money. Before you start turning a real big profit, and then going, “Oh, we don’t have a shareholders’ agreement.” And then it becomes really messy.
Nathan: I see. So your focus really is heavily on Splasheo now? That’s what you’re going all in on?
Gideon: 100% yeah, absolutely.
Nathan: And how’s things going? What’s exciting for you right now? We have to work towards wrapping up.
Gideon: Yeah, I’m loving… Like I said, having 100% control of the business. We’ve got a very clearer vision now. And it’s, for the first time in my life, where I’ve got a really, really good alignment with who I am as a person. And what my… Why is my true why. Which I’ve only recently really discovered. And the vision for the business, and what we want to do for the business.
And it’s been really funny. The original… If I look at even the name and the original purpose, that I didn’t even know back then, is really well aligned with what we’re doing with the business now. So it’s been a very, very interesting progression of things.
Nathan: Interesting. So you said you’ve got a really strong alignment. How do you think you found that? Or what would you say to people? Because I think, so often, people start a business because they want to make money. Which I was in that position as well, but I fell in love… I was lucky that I fell in love with the process. I fell in love with the space. I fell in love with the work. Now it doesn’t even feel like work. I don’t… Yes, of course, money’s important, but that for me is a tool of growth, so we can build something bigger. That’s what really gets me going. Tell me about that. I’m curious. You said… You’ve been doing this for a while. How’d you find that alignment? What do you think people should be thinking about, instead of just the sole purpose of creating a business to make money?
Gideon: Hmm. Well I think the penny dropped for me when I discovered that there is something like an unconscious drive that we all have. Which I now call my past why. And it’s something that becomes the reason why you do everything that you do. Or why you’ve done everything that you’ve done. So I’ve only relatively recently figured that out. I asked myself the question, “Why have I done everything that I’ve done in the past?” And when I started asking that question, the same… the exact same answer kept on coming back. And it was one word. It was one word that would summarise it. And I was embarrassed when it came up to me, because I thought, “Really? Is this it? Is this really so petty?” And I’m not embarrassed by it anymore, because I realised that it was an unconscious drive, and that we all have it.
And when you discover it, that’s when everything changes. Because then you can change it from your past. Why? For why you’ve unconsciously been doing everything you’ve been doing, to changing it to your future why. And it changes basically from serving self, to serving others, and contributing to others.
In my case, the reason why I’ve always done everything I’ve done in the past… my past why, has been in search of significance. That’s been… I think there’s a number of different ones for people. And, for me, it’s been the search of significance and connection. But the main one has been significance.
And you look at… A lot of entrepreneurs have this. This search for significance. And that’s the reason why we That’s the reason why we want to create greatness. We create this amazing company. Why? Because we want to prove ourselves. We want to somehow show the world than we are worthwhile. We are worth something.
So, we create these things incessantly, because that, that need, can never, ever be fulfilled. It’s almost like the search for money, or the search for happiness. It can never ever be fulfilled. It’s an endless hole. And when I discovered that, when I realised that that was an unconscious drive… Because it’s unconscious, selfish, egoistic drive, because it’s for the self. You don’t even realise it. You could be saying consciously that you’re doing this for other people, and for the good of humanity, whatever. But unconsciously, there’s this still… this drive that’s serving the self.
So when I realised that, I was, “Wow, that’s a wake up call.” And then it allowed me to change it. You change it from the drive and search for significance for the self, to the drive, or the desire now to contribute to others.
So now it’s still about significance. But now it’s not about my significance anymore. Now it’s about helping other people be significant, and other people feel good about themselves, and other people feel connected. So that’s not changed. That’s shifted.
And that’s exactly what we’re doing in Splasheo now. Our whole… That’s where the tagline came from. It gets seen. Which is all about helping people. It’s seen. Getting them seen. Just getting the world to see what value, and what amazingness they’ve created. And so we’ve created… Splasheo does that for people. And helps people get seen all around the world, through the video capturing service that we’ve set up. And so there’s 100% alignment with that now, and who I am as a person.
Nathan: Yeah, I love that. So look, we have to work towards wrapping up. A few more questions. You’ve been building businesses for a long time, been around the block. Any final words of wisdom that you wanted to share? And then, lastly, where’s the best place people can find out more about yourself, and your work?
Gideon: Sure. I think as an entrepreneur, you’ve really got to get to know yourself. And it’s challenging, because there’s so much conditioning that happens from when we are born. And I think each of us has a unique capability, and gift, or talent, that we can give to the world. But it’s so crowded, or conditioned away by society, education system. You name it. Everything. And it’s a real challenge to rediscover that again. And I think when you can rediscover that, and find out your true why, your true purpose, then everything becomes a lot easier. Then you start getting things like… Carl Jung talks about the synchronicities. Or a lot of successful folk talk about this, where things just happen for them. Or they just become lucky. The harder they work, the luckier they get. This sort of thing, right? It just… Things just start happening for them.
And I think that’s when you start getting that alignment. When you start figuring yourself out, and then you start contributing to others. I think that if you can figure that out, that can be life changing. And I think it can make you a lot happier as well. When you start pursuing these… When you start pursuing contribution to others, the side benefits are all these other things that you’ve been looking for anyway. Like significance, or status, or money, or relationships. Or whatever it is. It’s when you start searching for those things, in and of themselves, that you never get them. You’re just like… They’re always out of reach. But when you have a desire to contribute, I think that changes everything. So that was a big thing.
And I think it’s not just an intellectual thing. There’s two levels. You can get it intellectually, but you really got to get it at a much deeper level as well. Like at the heart, or a being ness level. Whatever it is. I don’t even know what to call it. But you’ve just got to… The penny has to drop. I think that’s where the change happens. And you know it. You feel it. It’s like you know it. And when that happens, I think everything changes.
So that’ll be my message. Just to keep searching and keep on digging. It’s there, and you’ll find it. I mean, if people want to find out more about what I’m doing, I’m in Splasheo, splasheo.com, is the place to go and see what we’re doing there, to help people get seen at scale. And if people want to reach out on LinkedIn, they can reach me there as well. Gideon Shalwick just on LinkedIn, and happy to have a chat.
Nathan: Awesome. Well look, thanks so much for your time, man. Making the time to speak with us and yeah, it’s been a pleasure, dude.
Gideon: You’re welcome Nathan.