What the Most Innovative Venture Companies Look for in You
September 24, 2020
Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:
- Darren Hill shares the features and benefits that entrepreneurs can expect from RevRoad
- How RevRoad helps entrepreneurs make better decisions when exiting or acquiring a business
- RevRoad’s criteria for deciding which companies and executive teams to work with
- How to evaluate whether or not you have the right team and strategy in place to succeed
- Derrin explains why his portfolio includes a number of physical product companies
- Derrin’s advice to entrepreneurs on innovation and product development
- How product companies can create a feedback loop with their customers
- The role marketplaces like Amazon play in Derrin’s evaluation of companies, and the types of product companies he works with
- Where to learn more about RevRoad
In this episode…
For most entrepreneurs, starting a business is very capital intensive. The cost of producing a new physical product or software and taking it to the market can be extremely prohibitive for these innovators. Luckily, there are a number of venture capital firms and incubators to give them a boost.
However, having a great idea for a product or software is not enough to land a deal with these companies. You must also have a dynamic team and strategy in place to propel you toward success. In order to evaluate a potential client, venture services firm RevRoad uses a model that they refer to as the five Hs: Head, Hands, Heart, Humor, and Humility. So, do you have what it takes to get started on the road to success?
Derrin Hill, the Founder and CEO of RevRoad, joins Eric Stopper in this episode of Buy Box Experts to talk about what the most innovative venture companies look for when evaluating entrepreneurs to work with. Derrin shares his firm’s five Hs evaluation model, how his team helps brands grow, and the types of companies he’s most excited about right now. Stay tuned.
Resources Mentioned in this episode
- Buy Box Experts
- RevRoad Events
- Derrin Hill on LinkedIn
- Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t by Jim Collins
- KIZIK Handsfree Shoes
Sponsor for this episode…
Buy Box Experts applies decades of e-commerce experience to successfully manage their clients’ marketplace accounts. The Buy Box account managers specialize in combining an understanding of their clients’ business fundamentals and their in-depth expertise in the Amazon Marketplace.
The team works with marketplace technicians using a system of processes, proprietary software, and extensive channel experience to ensure your Amazon presence captures the opportunity in the marketplace–not only producing greater revenue and profits but also reducing or eliminating your business’ workload.
Buy Box Experts prides itself on being one of the few agencies with an SMB (small to medium-sized business) division and an Enterprise division. Buy Box does not commingle clients among divisions as each has unique needs and requirements for proper account management.
Learn more about Buy Box Experts at BuyBoxExperts.com.
Welcome to the Buy Box Experts podcast we bring to light the unique opportunities brands face in today’s e-commerce world.
Eric Stopper 0:18
Hey, welcome to the Buy Box Experts podcast. This is Eric Stopper. Today’s episode is brought to you by Buy Box Experts. Buy Box Experts takes ambitious brands and makes them unbeatable. Ah, everyone take a deep breath, it’s going to be okay. FBA is going well. The people at Amazon are becoming much better at identifying fraud. Just take a deep breath, it’ll be okay, come and talk to our team, go to buyboxexperts.com click on the free analysis button you’ll be connected with me or remember the other consultants that I work with. And we would love to help you identify key low hanging fruit. And just give your brand an analysis right help you get give you some tools to move forward with your business. Go to buyboxexperts.com. The free analysis button is big and orange, you can’t miss it. Come and talk to us today.
I am so absolutely pleased to be joined by Derrin Hill, Founder and CEO of RevRoad, an accelerator incubator company for entrepreneurs that provides venture services on the road to success. And they use a unique approach to providing resources and experience at just the right time. They have a huge catalog of products that they can offer to brands that work with them, who are affectionately referred to as ‘roadies’, you can check out their brands and services on their website revroad.com. Derrin is an entrepreneur, a loving father and husband, and a great mentor and friend. I brought him on the show to talk to us about entrepreneurship in 2020. And moving forward, and how we can build better businesses and leverage the best technology and processes for years to come. Derrin, welcome to the show.
Derrin Hill 1:52
Thanks, Eric. It’s a real pleasure to be with you. And love that you have that big orange button for people to smash for their free trial and their assessment. That’s awesome.
Eric Stopper 2:03
Yeah, we’re getting, we’re getting fast at it too. Luckily, you can come. We can give you just a handful of insights that even if you don’t work with us, it’s always super valuable. I wish we could make the button bigger. Um, so lots of questions for you to set the stage right? A lot of these guys listen to product people, agency people too, we want to be able to empower them with the best. So tell me a little bit more about RevRoad from a like kind of feature benefit standpoint just to break it down and distill it for everybody that works with you. What can they expect working with RevRoad?
Derrin Hill 2:42
Sure, I’m guessing that most of your listeners at one point or another had a beginning in their company. And there was some innovation that took place where they iterated on some sort of product, or some way of delivering that product in a new and better way. And in doing so they had to find that product market fit, they had to, then once they got that solid, go through all the growth steps that are necessary to to build their business. And each of those phases are things that we help entrepreneurs work through that RevRoad so they can grow their business. And while we’re helping them do that, we help them keep control of their company too. Because while some of us are really good at creating products and services, and getting them to market, there’s this whole other side of the business that requires, you know, some savvy and capability and making sure that the funding can take place in a way that lets those entrepreneurs to be able to take advantage of the benefits of what they’ve created over the years.
Eric Stopper 3:48
And you as one of the venture resources that you provide the portfolio companies is funding there’s a there’s some sort of equity event in there. Do you help them find investors? How does that work?
Derrin Hill 4:00
Yeah, that’s a great question. That’s one of the 12 service areas that we provide. Those services are everything that a company would need to nail it and then scale it. So capital is one of those services, we help companies raise capital, we have a very incredible group of investors who are part of the RevRoad investment network. And so when entrepreneurs want to go and do a raise, we help them go through all the stuff they should look at before they do it, you know when to do it, why you should do it, how to do it effectively, and who to do it with and so we put all those pieces into place. So in other words, we’ll help them do their, you know, modeling of their economic model. We’ll put together what their forecast looks like for their DCF for valuations. We do a complete analysis of their cap table structure and ownership and So that we can help them optimize when it comes to that. And then we take them through the process of building their deck, making sure that it’s optimized for their particular circumstance. And then we put them in front of groups of investors who, who have been there before, who understand how to do it well, and who happen to have great capital resources, and so that they can do a fast raise, a fair raise, and do it with people who are friendly. And have those folks on their cap table.
Eric Stopper 5:31
I yeah, so lots of stuff to unpack there. And for, for all of you who are wondering, like, in my business, you know, how, how can I use the insights from, you know, someone that provides venture services in my business? I think a huge part of that is figuring out what it is that you want, at the end of the day out of your business? Is it an acquisition that one of the first things that you go through with people is like, what is the actual end all be all of your efforts in this business?
Derrin Hill 6:00
Yeah, I’m super glad you asked that. So we do begin with the end in mind, we ask the entrepreneur, you know, the executive team, what is it that you would like to have as the outcome of this effort that you’re putting into this company? For most people, they want to have an exit, they’d like to have an acquisition take place or an IPO. And that’s fantastic. And we are really good at helping them prepare for that work towards that and get the growth necessary to make it happen. For others, they’d like to create a, you know, multi generational, long lasting enterprise, that can be sustained well into the future. And it’s interesting, because if you look at certain geographies, the headquarters of Fortune 500, companies seem to be clustered in certain locations around the world. And, and we think that, that there’s great potential for all kinds of companies to grow into, you know, become one of those or something, you know, that’s not quite that big, but still substantial. And, and to have it just be a going concern, something that stays, you know, within their family for generations. So regardless of which camp they happen to be in, in terms of their objective, we understand how to help them move down that path to make that a reality for them. And so, but it does take, it does take a specific approach, and a purposeful one, you know, if you want to build that long lasting that multi generational firm, you have to look differently at what you do, you can’t just reinvest everything into the business over and over, you’ve got to give some some love to your your investors and your your shareholders. And so that means you’ve got to build distributions into your, into your financial plan. So it really depends on what that end goal is as to which path we choose to go down.
Eric Stopper 8:01
That makes sense. Now, I imagine that and by the way, guys, I applied to RevRoad as a brand when I was running a nanotechnology business. And, and this question is very much for me as well. And I’ve eventually, I’ve left that business since then, and happy at Buy Box Experts, um, I’m sure that you have seen so many young and old executives, teams that these random people, you know, around the state and around the world are making, how often when you meet a team, is the executive team just wrong. And you help them figure that out and reconfigure, like, who is on their team so that they can have a healthy future?
Derrin Hill 8:48
Sure, yeah. It’s a good question. And I remember your application and your pitch, and it’s one of the reasons why we’ve become friends, you’re an impressive guy. And we’re constantly given the opportunity to to look at different organizations and companies and their founding teams. And what really helps us is we’ve established a set of criteria, it’s a couple dozen criteria that we’ve built into a proprietary model that helps us understand that business and the core operational features of it, and so that we can use the scores that come from evaluating against those criteria to determine if that company is a good fit, you know, if we can really help them grow, and in within that team is a big part of it. So while we have a lot of detailed criteria that we look at, we also have simple ways to communicate that. And with teams, we look for five simple things five H’s, okay, head, which means we look for a team that has smarts, education, talent in those ways, but not just book smarts in education, but also street smarts, common sense. intellect, all the measures that you would look for in that kind of a category. So that’s head, hands is our next one. And that skill, experience, grit, resilience, determination, all the kinds of capabilities that are necessary to, to execute, execute what has to be done there, okay. And then heart is the third one. And for us, you know, that heart piece is super important. We want them to be passionate about something, it can be about their product, it can be about the industry, it can be about creating jobs, it can be passionate about building a business, I mean, it can be passionate about a lot of different things, but there has to be a passion there. And and if that passion is there, then it is, it gets them through so many hard times that they won’t get through if it’s not there. So head hands heart. Humor is the next, we love to work with people who are happy, and who have fun. And frankly, most people do. And so we’re very careful to make sure we find people who are fun to be with and they can laugh at themselves. And, they can joke around with their colleagues. And humor goes a long way to kind of soothing the rough parts, making it so that difficult relationships can be strengthened and mended. And we feel like humor makes a big difference in leadership as well helps great leaders communicate things that otherwise might not be received very well. So we look for that as our fourth area. And then the last one, our fifth age, after head, hands heart, humor, is humility. And this is our most important one, we feel very strongly that they can have all the other ages. And if they don’t have humility, we just say we wish you the best. And you’re, you know, good luck. Because if someone thinks that they’ve arrived if their ego is in the lead, and it makes it almost impossible for them to see the opportunities for growth, for progression for improvement in themselves and their teams and their company. And so that humility piece is essential. And I love the way that Jim Collins referred to this in good to great, you know, he said, basically, you know, when you look at five, five star leaders, you’re looking for leaders who have enormous capabilities, those are those first four, and humility to counterbalance those. And so that’s really where our focus is when we look at people that come in now to your specific question about do we ever see teams that come in that aren’t balanced? Well, or maybe are short on one or more of those things? The answer is yes. Absolutely. And we do share feedback regularly with the teams that apply to RevRoad, if they ask. If they don’t ask, we figure they’re just not interested in that feedback. But they do ask that we share that feedback with them. And then in many cases, we help them supplement their teams, we help them bring in top talent to make sure that those teams get rounded out. And so they’ve got the full breadth of capabilities. You know, we’ve helped teams find CTOs and CEOs and even CEOs for their companies. So in addition to all the different staff positions,
Eric Stopper 13:56
so it sounds like anyone who’s listening to this who is involved with any sort of entrepreneurial team, they could evaluate themselves right off of these five H’s and just have some sort of indicator. But is there? I mean, is there one question that you would encourage everybody to ask themselves today to figure out if they’re on the right path with the team that they’ve built and the playbook and strategy that they have?
Derrin Hill 14:26
Oh, sure. That’s a great question. I’m not sure if I could summarize it in one question, but I’ll attempt to. If the one question is about themselves, it would be really simple. Is this right for me? There are a lot of what our CEO Jason Caldwell calls entrepreneurs, where they’re in love with the idea of being an entrepreneur. But having taken a hard look at what that path really means. The level of sacrifice and dedication and grit required to see it through. So for an individual, that would be the question, you know, is this right for me? For some people it is, and it’s wonderful for those if it’s not, you know, if the risk tolerance level doesn’t fit, or if, if there’s not, you know, supportive family or spouse, or if there’s not, or if there’s economic need, you know, if you’re trying to get food on the table, you’ve got it, you’ve got to be able to kind of provide for basics and still be able to do the entrepreneurship. In terms of team, there’s one simple, simple question that I would ask, and that is, do we have unity in our purpose. And so each member of a founding team, obviously plays a different role. You know, you have a technical person to help with building product, or you’ve got to have someone that has some good financial sense and background and you got to have someone that’s got, you know, the visionary leadership aspect, you’ve got to have someone that’s got some Rainmaker DNA to sell on market. And then you’ve got to have someone who cares about the customer and make sure that they’re attended to, and they have a wonderful experience. So however, you round that out, and you know, each company has their own specific set of needs. If there’s a unity, unity of purpose and capability there, then it’s a good fit. But there has to be that unity of purpose and capability.
Eric Stopper 16:44
It sounds as well, like you said, there are several dozen questions that you asked these teams in the beginning. So you found some sort of way to quantify head hands, heart humor, and humility. I am most interested in humility. How do you quantify how humble somebody is?
Derrin Hill 17:08
Yeah, it’s, um, I won’t, I won’t claim that our approach is perfect, right? It’s actually on our fourth version of our model. And that’s how it happens. This is the way you iterate. That is the way and so we’re pleased to be doing that. Our focus, however, is definitely on making sure that there is a it’s definitely making sure that there is a series of interactions that we can have with a person in that team to measure humility. And I’ll just give you a few examples of some Sure. Do. We have some folks who, when they come into present, present or pitch, we always have some level of feedback that we’re providing during the presentation. And the point of the feedback is not the point, the point of feedback is to see how they respond. And they take it. Yeah. You know, are they welcoming? Do they appreciate it? Do they do something about it? You know, do they actually act on it? In many cases, that feedback comes with an invitation to follow up with us on something, you know, nine out of 10? Don’t?
Eric Stopper 18:29
Wow, nine out of 10? Yeah. And,
Derrin Hill 18:34
you know, they’ll say something like, Oh, great, thanks. And then, you know, you just don’t know, hear back from them on the follow up, where we’ll say, Hey, you know, you might want to go and check on this. And if you do, let us know what you find.
Eric Stopper 18:45
Derrin Hill 18:47
Another thing that we’ll do on a frequent basis is we’ll come in and have, you know, a series of interactions with them, if they get through those things that we just talked about, we and they get to be a finalist, we’ll for sure, take them into a setting where we’re going to take them to lunch or a breakfast or be in a setting where they have somebody serving them. And we just see how they treat them. See how they treat people that they don’t have to be nice to right, or that they don’t think they can get something from. And that’s a big indicator as to how they’ll behave towards their employees, towards their customers, towards their investors, their partners.
Eric Stopper 19:31
That makes so much sense to me. And I wonder when these companies come through, and they think that they need your help. Right? They think that RevRoad is the right way. And it actually ends up not being the right way because they don’t they’re missing something. Where do you send them? What do you encourage, I mean, obviously, you give them some feedback and everything but is there like another direction They can go in that would then lead back to you guys that’s that systematic and helps them get to the next level where they’re prepared for like a real engagement.
Derrin Hill 20:08
Absolutely, yeah. And that happens frequently to us, you know, telling someone no doesn’t mean no, forever, it just means you’re not ready yet. And so our focus is very much on helping those companies get ready. In fact, we offer a whole system called RevUp that we provide every week at RevRoad on Thursday evenings at 4pm. And they can attend it for free. And we have our specialists who work with them. And that’s where we work specifically in their company on their particular obstacles or opportunities. And, and we actually partner with several of the local universities and provide RevUp classes for their students and for their entrepreneurs. Separate and apart from that. So we typically are offering two or three robot classes every single week, and they can attend those as long as they want for free until they’re ready. We’ve had some companies who have applied to be a part of the RevRoad portfolio, not made the cut in that cohort, and then attended RevUp and gotten ready and then reapplied and gotten in. And then in addition to that, we’re not the only resource. There’s so many other resources. And we do encourage them to take advantage of those other resources from Million Cups to, you know, all the local opportunities that are available for them to spin up and build their institutional credibility and strength.
Eric Stopper 21:38
Oh, yeah. And although I mean, you look at the even the five H’s here, right? If everyone were to go today and try to evaluate themselves even on something like a five point scale, it would more than likely change the track trajectory of their business.
Derrin Hill 21:52
Yeah, we think so we constantly evaluate ourselves on those five points, as well as the other ones that we evaluate the applying companies. So yeah, once any of us thinks we have arrived, we have just not arrived. Yeah, you’ve
Eric Stopper 22:07
officially officially failed for a season. And now it’s time to re-innovate. Right, fail fast.
Derrin Hill 22:15
Eric Stopper 22:16
Um, so you’ve got lots and lots of companies in your portfolio. And there’s one or two product companies, actual physical product companies,
Derrin Hill 22:28
We actually have several physical product companies now.
Eric Stopper 22:32
Tell us all the listeners, why them because you have far more software’s we do. Yeah, tell me why those product companies made the cut?
Derrin Hill 22:42
Yeah, so a couple of reasons. First and foremost, I think there’s a little bit of an illness in, in the venture community today, where they feel like the only thing worth investing in is software. And I think it’s a mistake. We’ve seen over the past 40 years, our country become a place where we make far less than we used to make. And there are many reasons for that. But one of the main reasons are, that our funding mechanisms are broken. are many funding organizations are looking for a quick hit, you know, they had a few successes and wins in software. And they saw how quick and easy that could be or quick and replicable that could be. And so then that’s all they wanted. Yeah.
Eric Stopper 23:30
It’s more based on math than anything else, it was just quick and quick out. And they they didn’t look elsewhere,
Derrin Hill 23:36
short sighted math, very short sighted, because a healthy economy has to have a robust mix. And so we do believe that there are great opportunities in software, and we see those, but we think there are also great opportunities in hardware and in mixed offerings as well, especially in mixed offerings. You know, some of the coolest innovations that are taking place today have a mixture of hardware and software firmware or some sort of, you know, interaction there that gives them spatial special capabilities. So I can give you a few really cool examples, you know, with Foam Soap. It’s a product that sterilizes mobile devices, and kills all the germs and viruses that you would find on them. These devices we carry around with us. There are third hands that we never wash, you know, and then, you know, people go to the bathroom, and then they wash their hands and they walk out and they go sit down at their table and grab their hamburger. And they, you know, pull out their phone and use their phone. And that phone hasn’t been washed in three weeks. Yeah. And it’s covered. It’s got a team, you know, it’s covered in bacteria. It’s got 18 times more bacteria than a public toilet seat. So Wes Laporte and Dan Barnes, our partners of phones, have developed a way to build UVC, sterilizing light into phone chargers. So it’s like a little tanning bed for your phone. Yeah. And sterilizes it. And people love that. Only about five people have only about 5% of the people in the United States cared about it before Coronavirus. That’s much higher now.
Eric Stopper 25:24
Yeah, have you have they been able to quantify interest has has traffic gone up on all those different SEO efforts that they’ve been putting in for the last three years, through the roof
Derrin Hill 25:36
through the really yeah. And, and, and even prior to that, though, we’ve seen other applications where we could marry software, with our hardware providing the hardware that we’re providing. So, we have this whole line of phones, so products that sterilized air, the sterilized surfaces, that sterilize devices, and as soon water as well. And so we’re working in a variety of areas. And one of those areas where we’re marrying the software and the hardware is in providing a wand, where you can go over a surface with me. And there are many of those today. If you go online, you can see tons of them. But most of them are, they don’t use an effective bolt, they don’t have the kind of strength necessary to kill the bacteria and viruses. Most people don’t know how to use them. And so they go too quickly, or they hold it too far away from the surface. And so we’ve built some special proprietary capabilities into our one, one that gives us the ability where it will actually tell you if you’re not holding it close enough, or tell you if you’re going too fast.
Eric Stopper 26:51
Distance from it. Okay,
Derrin Hill 26:52
yeah. And, and by the same token, we have another line of products made for hospitals, that will actually track who sterilized their device, when they sterilized it where they did, and that can all that data can be aggregated and made useful with other data to prevent hospital acquired infections. So there are lots of innovations and physical products that are super, super important today that I think could be the wave of the future.
Eric Stopper 27:23
Now, there are there are a bunch of companies out there who are, you know, they’ve leveraged different platforms, and they’ve become really successful, right, quote, unquote, successful, where they’re making lots of sales, and you know, they’re making pretty good margin and life is good. And they’re not really on the path to innovation. Yeah, they’ve got this niche, and they’re pretty much good. Or they feel like they’re good. I’m wondering what encouragement you would give them as they look at the next five years? in how they view their product development?
Derrin Hill 28:03
Yeah, it’s a good question. So there’s, as you know, and I’ve seen you do this many times. Innovation requires a problem solving mindset. You know, I can’t count the number of entrepreneurs that come to us and say, yeah, I’m going to start my own business, I just need to get my idea. And we strongly believe that getting an idea is one of the reasons why nine out of 10 entrepreneurs fail. Right? They’re focused on an idea, and they’re in love with the idea of being an entrepreneur, but they’re not focused on it problem, and solving a problem. And so, you know, for any organization at any stage of life, whether it be in the very early formation stages, where it’s very entrepreneurial, or in kind of that midlife stage that you were describing, where things are just humming along, or in later stage companies, any any company has the opportunity to innovate. And that innovation will come by, you know, identifying a whole list of problems that are associated with their sector, or with their customers or with their products, or with their competitors products, and then going through a really great methodical process of identifying where those opportunities lie. And usually that happens through interviewing, you know, those customers, right? They’ll guide us there every time, you know, they’ve got a headache, they’ve got a problem, they’ve got something that they wish that they could kick in the butt. And if we listen carefully to them, and with purpose, and then we come back and go through careful analysis of the problems that they share. We will have a target rich environment for innovating.
Eric Stopper 29:42
Talk, talk to me a little bit about how you would encourage me, right any product company anybody selling products? Yes to create that feedback loop with their customers in this day and age?
Derrin Hill 29:54
Yeah, great. That’s a good question. So I’ll continue the phones so they seem good? Yeah, one of the things that the team has done there is, we noticed when we were selling devices that were made for consumer use home use, that we had a number of doctors and nurses who were buying our product, and or writing to us and asking about buying our product, and using it in their hospitals. And so there’s a level of intellectual curiosity that you want to have in order to foster innovation. You want to be curious about, well, why are they doing that? I mean, this was made for people to put on their bedside table. Mm hmm. Why are they putting it at the nurse’s station? Right? And, and so the team did the right thing. You know, Wes, and Dan and others went, and they just talked to them, they called them, they went in person and visited with them to interview them. You know, I helped assist with some of those interviews with some of my relatives who were in the medical profession, and who couldn’t wait to get a phone. So, yeah, so in the course of those conversations, it became very clear, they were scared, they’re worried. I mean, they’re dealing with Mercer, they’re dealing with staff. They’re dealing with really serious bugs that can like kill you. And, and they are in the environment where those things get passed around all the time. And so they were desperate hungry for a solution. I remember one doctor that I talked to in Michigan, he was my brother in law’s colleague. And we had a phone soft locker, which is kind of a larger funds up device. And as we were developing that, I said, What would you put in here? And he said, Oh, number one thing, my shoes.
Eric Stopper 31:41
Mmhmm. We go walking around and all this stuff and his hands touch them when he puts them on. Every day. You guys got to talk to Kizik to that guy, cuz they do the hands free shoes here in Utah that like titanium company. Yeah.
Derrin Hill 31:54
Yeah, they’re one of our clients. Ah, that’s awesome. I’d love to talk to them.
Eric Stopper 31:57
Sure, absolutely. Let’s do
Derrin Hill 31:59
it. So that’s just one example of a way to innovate another one if you notice, one of our portfolio companies is called Elios, not by Josh cross. Most people have seen smart suitcases. Most people don’t know Josh was the very first to innovate a smart suitcase. In fact, he used to bring his prototypes to me and said, Okay, what about this one, you know, he built an actual plug that sat in the side of a suitcase and ran a successful Kickstarter campaign to get it funded. Of course, he had three copycats within three and a half months that were trying to think. And so every time he had a copycat, he had to innovate. Okay, what can I do next to stay ahead. And now, he’s built this great company called Elios that basically takes mobile power banks, okay, that you can find everywhere, you can find absolutely everywhere mobile power banks, and he said, You know what, I think I can make those smart. And I can, I can solve several problems. We have first responders who talked about how their channels get constantly messed up. And they have a hard time tracking people, because they have to triangulate between cell towers, sure. Or if they’re tracking someone’s cell phone. Well, we thought, you know, we can build a trackable device that’s got battery backup that someone can keep with them, that will actually give you precise location within two and a half meters. And, and part of that was tied to solving a problem because one out of every four young women in the United States are sexually assaulted in their undergraduate program. And we wanted to give them something that they could take that when the perpetrator tosses their cell phone that they could still have with them, it seemed to be a threat. So we built a little panic button into all different sizes of form factors. So these are power banks. And if they hold that button down for three seconds, that automatically calls 911, and up to nine other people that they have put into their system and sends them a message that says I’m not okay, I need help. This is an emergency. This system is going to start sending you my real my real time location every six seconds, please send health. Wow. And now that innovation is being used. We’ve got contracts with the United States military, with luxury travel brands with different security. So
Eric Stopper 34:35
this all came from a smart suitcase briefcase. Right? Yeah. Fascinating. So, tell me what role marketplaces play in your evaluation of these product companies like when you look at someone, do you look at where they’re selling the placements of their products, the product market fit, you know, how does Amazon fit into Your evaluation of these companies?
Derrin Hill 35:02
Oh, sure. Yeah, it’s a great question. So, I mean, Amazon is huge, right? I mean, it holds gigantic potential. In fact, we talked earlier about democratizing AI. What Amazon has done is democratize the market. Right? All right, gonna see an evolution of that, you know, where it kind of went from Craigslist, from, from, you know, from the get go, and now, yeah, all the way to eBay, and now up to Amazon. And so, you know, several of our companies have wonderful relationships with Amazon, and where we sell a lot of products. And we do look carefully at where the marketplaces are, the products are, are, are being promoted. We like to look at how they promote themselves directly. We like to see how they interact with a variety of channels, both online and offline, you know, in the physical world. We also like to see how they interact with specialty channels, like TVC, you know, or Woot, or some of the others.
Eric Stopper 36:13
Jane, even Zulily.
Derrin Hill 36:16
Yeah, yep. Interesting. So there’s, so it’s a, it’s a big consideration, when when you guys are looking at this with them, it’s huge, which is where you know, the service that you provide comes in, in a big way, right? Because you can help them with that analysis upfront to see how they’re doing in that, right. And then you can take it further, you know, they can leave it and take, take that information, and that’s valuable in and of itself. Or you can help them take it further and help them build out those capabilities.
Eric Stopper 36:49
Yeah, we mean, we’ve got a whole strategy plan that we create for everybody that comes in the door. And it’s all based on evaluation and data and interviews with the brand too. Yeah, it’s definitely important. So in the future, you know, you’re looking towards obviously getting some more portfolio companies as time goes on, and always building the book. What is, you know, what kind of product companies are you looking at these days?
Derrin Hill 37:17
A lot. So, right now we’re somewhere between, we’re usually between 50 and 70 companies a month or a quarter that are applying to RevRoad for two to three spots. Wow. And so we see a lot of companies that come through, with all kinds of products and services, both physical and software. It’s been really exciting to see some of those. So I’ll give you a couple of ones that we recently saw and brought into the portfolio. One is called RaceReady. And race ready is one of those companies that exemplifies one of our core tenants, which is that there are riches in the niches and their niches, motocross, motocross, unlike most racing, sports, has not yet come into the modern world. I mean, if you go to a motocross rally, you’re likely to stand in line to do your registration, you know, and you’re filling out a piece of paper, right? And, and then when you go to find which races you’re going to be in, in which heats, you’re waiting in another line to get up to look at a piece of paper that they tacked on to a board. And if you want to get your campsite reserved for the weekend, again, you’re calling someone and making a reservation, it’s manual. There are some technologies in the field, but they are very siloed. And they do a wonderful thing. And so race ready said, You know what, we can solve all of this, we can do this one back end system, and do live timing and have a racer Connect aspect of that, that helps promote the riders and connect them with, you know, sponsors and things like that. So they’ve got this, this incredibly innovative back end system. Now that is revolutionizing the entire industry. And, and makes it possible for the promoters to make more money while making their lives easier. And making it easier and better for the fans as well. So that’s one example. And, again, we have hardware integrated with that, because we’ve got a gantry that we put up at the finish line with sensors that you know, let us know and a writer comes over and clocks them. We’ve got we’ve got tags that go on the writers, equipment materials, and so that we can track them in all of that is integrated with software.
Eric Stopper 39:44
Incredible. Yeah. So that’s one major example and I’m sure you are always looking for these new opportunities. So where, where do I send it? Where do I send my people?
Derrin Hill 39:55
Yeah, yeah, that’s great. We’d love to have anyone who’s interested, comment, apply. Go to revroad.com/apply. And at RevRoad, the website, you can find out all kinds of information about the services we offer the companies that are in the portfolio. And in fact, there are a lot of free services that they can take advantage of there too. We provide monthly workshops that are high level, the first Thursday of every month, at 11am. Mountain Time, they can tune into revroad.com/live. And they’ll get to hear from incredible entrepreneurs who have learned a lot of great principles so they can hear they can join in the workshops that are a part of that they can join in RevUp, they can be a part of the entrepreneurship competition that we sponsor every year.
Eric Stopper 40:47
10 $10,000, right.
Derrin Hill 40:50
Yeah, uh huh. Man, which is great. But the better part is, if you win. Yeah, exactly. Always, always, always the better benefit there. And you know, Eric, one of the things that you asked in preparation for this was you said, you know, what’s one of the key messages about what it is that we do at RevRoad. And I think one of those key messages is not just about what we do at RevRoad, but it’s about what we do as entrepreneurs all across the world, entrepreneurs provide hope. Hope that things will be better tomorrow than they were today. Hope that will create more jobs and opportunities, hope that we’ll get this crazy economy going again, hope that will help the people who are struggling with the effects of Coronavirus. You know, that’s real pain, you know, 37 million people out of work. Hundreds of thousands of people who have died over you know, multiple millions who have been sick with this. All of these are problems to be solved. And we as entrepreneurs bring hope that we can solve those problems.
Eric Stopper 41:57
Head hands, heart humor, humility, and hope. There you go. I love it. Derrin, thank you so much for coming on the show.
Derrin Hill 42:07
It’s been a real pleasure. Always fun to be with you and love what you’re doing, Eric,
Eric Stopper 42:11
talk to you soon. To finish today’s podcast, I want to share some final thoughts for third party sellers. To be successful on Amazon. You’ve got to get reviews. We at Buy Box Experts are really big fans of the team over at eComEngine, and it’s tools that help Amazon sellers simplify the process of soliciting reviews from customers who purchase their products. For more information, go to ecomengine.com. Thanks for joining us today.
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