Do you have a buying mindset? Would you love having a digital mall, featuring just your favorite brands? Today’s guest is Todd Furneaux (fur-KNOW), co-founder of AdKAddy, a mobile app that keeps your personal inbox free of brand clutter by giving you a new email address and experience to use for all your consumer needs.
In this episode we discuss:
I hope this episode helps you learn from this successful business owner how to develop creative solutions to business problems.
Josh Fonger: [00:00:00] Welcome to the Work the System podcast where we help entrepreneurs make more and work less using systems. And I’m your host, Josh Fonger. And today we have got a special guest. We’ve got Todd Furneaux. Todd is the co-founder of AD Catty mobile app that keeps your personal inbox free of brand clutter by giving you a new email address and experience to use for all of your consumer needs. All right, Todd, I’m excited to have you on the show. And I got a chance to chat beforehand. What did you tell the audience how you got into this line of work as an entrepreneur?
Todd Furneaux: [00:00:31] Yeah, absolutely. I started you know, you eleven years at the Home Depot and I was a merchant. So you can buy and sell and launch a bunch of products and through that process. And then when I left there and started two other businesses prior to AD Caddy, just kind of notice when you launch a product, customer acquisition is a very difficult thing. And then once you have that customer, you want to maintain or retain the relationship with them. And there’s kind of a missing link because right now all brands use email to stay connected. And if you were to ask a brand, hey, do you want a hundred thousand email addresses or a hundred thousand Facebook followers? They’ll take the email addresses, all day. And so knowing that’s the strongest connection, we wanted to create this kind of brand manager that allows a consumer to manage their brand relationship life by making it uninterrupted to their personal inbox as the standard platform where they control when they engage with these brands. And then at the same time have it highly organized towards marketing emails by brand and then looking at shipping and receipts at a central location. So kind of through the, you know, years of launching products and trying to get the word out, just noticing this kind of gap in the marketplace as far as how people stay connected. And the funny balance here Josh, is you think about the brand has to get their communication out no matter if you wrote a book or you’d launch a new product. You have to let consumers know the flip side that consumers actually want to know this information. That’s kind of the trick is, you know, they actually want to stay connected. So what we’re trying to do is bridge that gap to say, OK, right now it’s inefficient. They kind of annoy each other in this process. So listless, screwed away with the consumers in control. And then they’ll actually want to engage with their with their brands or who they’re listening to.
Josh Fonger: [00:02:15] So this is a really unique, innovative, innovative idea, but it sounds like it’s very difficult to get to a place where actually making money. So what do you do in a company like this where, you know, you have got to start from scratch and it’s new, the markets like opening a hair salon or a smoothie shop where you kind of know what to expect. How do you go about making that happen and what does the process I mean, did you did you raise money along the way or what to do?
Todd Furneaux: [00:02:41] Yes, that’s really a question. And, you know, we may have to wait another 18 months for we raise money. And, you know, part of kind of advice that I’ve given myself and I think has worked really well is to stay as flexible as possible on spending until you have that product market fit, until you are ready to roll, whether you are putting a hair salon or you have an app that might take three years to get enough mass in order to monetize it. So we did raise capital. Between myself and a few others putting money in their kind of friends and family around, we did about half a million and we’ll roll into a seed round right now at about 2 million. But all of that stuff will flow into the business really around customer acquisition and building new technology in the app. So still has some time to kind of monetize itself over the long haul.
Josh Fonger: [00:03:30] So I had several clients build apps and some app developers. It’s it’s hard it’s hard to get critical mass and actually make money. So what what is the what is the revenue model? I mean, to people who have regular companies develop an app or or not? Why do you decide to do it app as opposed to just another way to distribute your idea?
Todd Furneaux: [00:03:50] Yeah, I wanted to do an app because we really look at as a platform. So it’s a platform to connect consumers and brands. So ultimately email is the beginning. But you know, it’ll be the place that they connect. Whether it be, you know, obviously it’s receipts and shipping, but if they want to do it, messaging or everything down the line to commerce, they can connect in the app for all updates events. You know, you name it that maybe not is maybe not an email, but they send a coupon out and they can connect through it. So, you know, we did it in app because eventually a desktop version as well. But we wanted something that standalone. Think of LinkedIn or Instagram. We had those connections. So it had to be something that is a standalone platform in order to do that.
Josh Fonger: [00:04:33] Okay. So I think I might have might be using wanting to competitors right now. Years ago, five years ago, someone introduced a product called UNROLL dot me, you know, to be honest, I haven’t checked unroll dot me and probably four months. And basically everything that I kind of want to have, I don’t want to unsubscribe from it goes to one thing called unroll. And so once that once a day I get to unroll email with. How is your is different to some of the competition that’s out there? I think also has a way to get a G-mail to segment things and each each e-mails, segment things. How is your is different?
Todd Furneaux: [00:05:10] Yeah, great question. So Unroll Me is good for kind of getting everything out of your inbox. We actually recommend them. They’re a good company. They help you do kind of de-clutter anything that you don’t want spam wise in your inbox. The problem and where we’re different is we believe that people actually want to engage with the brands. So when Nike comes out with a new shoe or there’s a new event on Ticketmaster, you know, keeping up with these things, there’s kind of this fear of missing out that people have. So one area is making sure you’re being a savvy shopper. I get the coupons. I know in the sales happening for Pottery Barn, you know, all these things that happen, but also your products do events, like we said. So, you know, we believe consumers want to stay engaged with their favorite brands. That’s a core idea. And everyone else really unrolling G-mail is a way of just getting rid of all of that stuff. And the problem is, once you get rid of all that, the brand still has to communicate, too. So now they’re gonna start texting you. They’re going to show up at your house. They’re gonna find another way. You have your physical mailbox will get full like mine is today. You know, they’re gonna mail you things. So they still have to get this word out. That never gonna go away. So if we can give the control back to the consumer and let them control the flow of information, who they hear from when they when they actually pick it up and look at it now, they actually feel like they’re in control and they’ll want to engage because Nike’s your favorite brand or Patagonia. You’re excited to see that new product coming out. Or maybe it’s a new promotion. So that’s our core belief. That’s what we think is very different. And contrary into the rest of the world is we actually are building an app that people want to look at advertising. They want to look at the market from their brands because they’re in control. They’re doing it on their terms, their timeframe. So that’s that’s kind of the core difference in the way we’ll monetize it. I didn’t answer your question earlier is really around when you’re flowing through these ads from the brands we call it kind of a curated magazine is you’re looking at all the unread emails, you know, whether it’s in shipping notification or new products. And we’ll insert things that become exciting that we call discovery. And that is maybe a brand or new item that you didn’t know about. And we will get paid by it because it’s a targeted digital ad. But it’s it’s relevant because you’re there to, quote unquote, shop or be a consumer and look at these brands. So it’s good for both sides. The brands will get engagement and the consumers will find new brands, new products that they didn’t necessarily know about before. I always ask people have you ever bought something on Instagram? People say, yeah, i bought something on Instagram, because they’re really good at targeting ads. But the problem is, you’re not on Instagram to look at brands. You’re on Instagram, look at friends and family and, you know, new surf pictures. So we think with people in our app, though, we’ll actually want to view them as long as they’re in control.
Josh Fonger: [00:07:48] So it’s a place where people go with a buying mindset. They’re there to shop.
Todd Furneaux: [00:07:52] Exactly. Undiscovered. So that’s that’s how we’ll monetize it over time with opt in from the consumer. So.
Josh Fonger: [00:07:58] It’s kind of like I think about this, you know, that the standard old fashioned mall, you go to the mall and you walk around the mall and there’s a hundred shops, you’ve kind of curated your own digital mall and you go out there and you’re walking around your digital mall, the shops, you can like the shop and see what’s going on.
Todd Furneaux: [00:08:14] It’s only your brands and the entire mall and you’re seeing everything that they put in the window, which would be new items, promotions, discounts. So it allows you stay up on them and you know, if let’s say you just bought a suitcase from To-Me, you’re going to shop for another 90 days, we give the consumer control over, you know, you can kind of snooze a brand for a period of time so that future will come out. We’re gonna give all types of controls to where everyone can still stay connected and do it on what makes sense for them.
Josh Fonger: [00:08:42] Yeah, I was thinking about my wife’s email inbox. Every once in a while I’ll be, I’ll see her inbox and I’ll just get, I’ll have a heart attack. Because she does the majority of shopping for our family. And so I know that a lot of the things that she tracks, receipts, shipping, all that stuff. It just it’s insane. But you can’t delete it. She has to keep it. So what’s interesting, let’s get to more broader, you know, beyond just your product. So you mentioned customer acquisition. So when you started your company from nothing, how did you gain attention and start to acquire new leads and actually get it? It’s a long road. So how did you go about doing that?
Todd Furneaux: [00:09:20] Yeah. And I’ll back up one step and kind of talk about product market fit because we’ve been out for about 18 months and it’s really been a Beda for those 18 months. And that’s why you want to kind of scale back on the spending and be smart about how you’re going about it. You know. Product market fit is the most important thing for a startup or an entrepreneur, making sure that you have a product that the customer wants and it’s not confusing. So initial product for us was more wasn’t email, it was just more geared towards brands, could come on produce advertising and consumers could receive that. The problem is that we’re still getting the same ad from an email and so we had to provide a core utility. And that’s the thing for apps. You have to. The consumer core utility, then on day one they could use. That’s the case for any product, but specifically the App world. It’s not just about giving someone an experience experience. It’s kind of like early 2000, now you got to changed their life. You got to give them a core utility that’s going to make their life better for the long haul. So that’s a really good kind of mental block there. So we’ve gone through three different iterations of product market fit and, you know, don’t need to get into each one. But those iterations, if we had a bunch of money early on, we would have drove into the first iteration, you know, it was the wrong one. So as we pivoted, whether it’s small or large, you know, being more lean allowed us to be smarter about, hey, we didn’t just invest a million dollars in our first idea. We’re investing the money as we know the market receives it and wants it. So I think that’s really critical when you talk more about that. But, you know, then you kind of lead into, okay, now you’re right that we think people want. How do we get the customer acquisition? And it’s a really simple thing of looking at, OK, what’s your customized you cost? And you can test all types of theories around Facebook and Instagram, Google from a digital perspective. And then, you know, you can do e-mail blast there at AD Caddy or through your ESP. There’s all types of ways. But understanding that and how hard it’s going to be or easy is going to be net cost against how much money you can make against that customer. Right. So the lifetime value, but just the revenue per user on almost an annual basis. So those two things are pretty critical.
Josh Fonger: [00:11:29] I think they are something that I’d preach as well with the companies I work with is that if they’re really new with their startups or their new ideas, don’t don’t invest a ton of time, energy and money into building a bunch of systems just to scale an idea that hasn’t been tested. You know, if you only have three customers, maybe you want to give it more, more time to get the feedback from the customers to find out what would make the product or service better before you invest a ton of money or time scaling something that is a few degrees off the wrong way.
Todd Furneaux: [00:11:58] That’s the hardest thing in the world to tell anybody in a startup because they’re ready to go. You know, they’re nervous and anxious. And it takes a lot of discipline to kind of sit in the idea and make sure that the product market fit before you run after it.
Josh Fonger: [00:12:12] Yeah, well, and you love your own product. You love your own service. You have to give give it time for the market to love it and show that they do.
Todd Furneaux: [00:12:23] Beyond acquisition, you know, a big learning is around retention. So now you have this customer and you know, for us, we need them to come back daily and weekly. But if you sell vacuums, maybe you’ll need to buy once every five years. But typical products, you want some someone to come back. So you’re selling a clothing line you want them to buy every season. So how do you get to be retained in your business? And that’s a very important strategy to think. I think when I first started, you know, five years ago in this world of entrepreneurship startups, I was just thinking, how do we just get them into the funnel and have them buy? The most important piece really is after that, you know, customer service and all the things that flow on to make sure that they love your product. They want to tell other people your product, they want to buy more as you launch more items. The retention side almost becomes more important than the acquisition.
Josh Fonger: [00:13:15] So I’ve got to believe that there’s lots of competition in this space. How do you mean you’re all about trying to stay above the noise? How do you stay above the noise of all other ideas that are floated out there? Like I’m just curious how you differentiate and stay above that noise?
Todd Furneaux: [00:13:29] Yeah, for me, I just kind of focus on the thing that I know to be true, which is advertising not annoying the interruption is and that people want to stay connected with their brands. And so what can I do to simplify that message and deliver that promise to the consumer to say we’ll allow you to not miss out on the things you want to miss out on, connect to your brands, because it’s kind of an un-optional or it’s not optional at this point. Right. If you’re checking out a Nike dot com, you have to give them your email address and now forevermore you’re gonna get a marketing e-mail from them. So if you control that stuff when you get it and you know how you receive it, how often and then where it’s going, where it’s uninterrupted. We believe that that that belief will get us a long way. I mean, we don’t look at Gmail as competition. We think that you personally know extremely well. We want them to continue down that path. We just won’t take branded email and be the best experience a consumer can have. So by giving them a new ad Caddy email address in a way that, you know, in a standalone platform for that flow into, we think just focusing on that core mission and not a bunch of other stuff will make us successful.
Josh Fonger: [00:14:38] So what can you say about our broader market for those? Because a lot of people may include we we acquire customer lead and we want them to stick around for the long haul because other things want to help them with services, deals, offers. What what are some things you’ve found that actually keep people engaged for the long haul? What what what helps, for that?
Todd Furneaux: [00:15:01] Yeah. You know, from a retention perspective, I’d say you’re kind of holding their hand because you got to think they have hundreds or thousands of other people. Right. In your case, you know, brands or whatever might be that are talking to them. And how do you hold their hand and make sure that they’re comfortable as they go through this process? So I call it customer service. That’s a very broad term. But I think, you know, we assume because we know our products so well that they know it. At the same level. And that they’re comfortable going to step B, because it’s really simply just, oh, you just click that button or do this task. But ultimately allowing them to kind of thinking of them as as the first they ever seen this or heard this holding their hand is kind of what I always say is, you know, make sure that they know where to go next, the next step in the process. And they’re very comfortable throughout it and then sending reminders on their cadence. So it may feel like, well, you know, I set the miscommunication. I didn’t hear anything. I didn’t get the follow up. I want. I don’t want to annoy them. I think that’s a good balance to have. Ultimately, they may be waiting for you as somebody they rely on for the information. So following up with that communication, I think back to when you didn’t get shipping notifications. So you buy something like, is it coming? How long is it gonna take? Now, we’re so spoiled Amazon. It’s like, well, I know if I buy in two days, it’s going to come. But, you know, 10 years ago, you’d buy something. You say, well, I never got an email that told me it was coming for a receipt and I never got to shipping notification. I hope it shows up in like three weeks from now. Maybe forgot about it. Well, you take that same mentality and anything you’re doing for a customer and say, how do I have that same level of process to walk them through? Hold their hand, make them feel very comfortable. They’re gonna come back. They’re gonna trust you. And then it kind of builds the trust there.
Josh Fonger: [00:16:46] Well, I have had a few clients over the years who’ve been asking me specific questions about should I raise money, should I not raise money? Should I get credit? Should I get the best scholarship? What should I do with my company? Any advice you’d give for people about whether to raise money or not, as are certain types of businesses that are better or raising money for the other ones?
Todd Furneaux: [00:17:05] Yeah. Good question. I’m going to kind of give two streams of advice. OK. One is you’ll hear people if you talk about raising money, especially in tech space. They’ll say raise twice as much money as you think you need. And I’ve done that before and it can be extremely dangerous. And here’s why we talked about this earlier. You have your first what you think is a good idea and it might need a slight change. Right. Anything that you see out there, including, you know, Uber, they didn’t start exactly as you see them today, had to make some level of pivot. Instagrams one of the best story had nothing to do with what it is and its format. And he had a massive pivot. Well, if you raise a lot of money early, you’re going to put all the money into that idea. You think it’s right and you’re just going to fight to make it right. And then you had this friction intention to make it right. So raising too much money really can be actually pretty dangerous. So my sense is you kind of think of this rubber band that you’re stretching and you stretch it as far as you possibly can until it might break. And then you raise money, right. Or then you hire the next person or you do the next tasks that you need. And so by stretching it as far as possible, it really forces some unique things that you’re gonna you’re gonna figure it out essentially like, oh, well, we need a developer to do this. Well, why don’t I go learn how to develop? So there’s just these things that you kind of take on yourself versus you raise money and you end up just burning net cash if others on the wrong idea or something that you probably didn’t need to do that early. I’m just a bigger proponent of until you have product market fit and you know that the people want it. They’re screaming for it. Then you throw fuel on the fire right before then. It’s very dangerous. Which is not traditional advice. Must be able to raise a bunch of money, raise it fast. There’s a ton of money on the street. You see this money moving more towards late stage companies because investors been burned so much that they’re pushing the money into later stage companies. Later stages means it’s fuel on the fire. You figured out party market fit. It’s working. Customers want it. So now let’s throw fuel on this fire. And here’s some cash. So that’s that is easy money to get to some degree. But you have to get that product market fit proper until you can get there.
Josh Fonger: [00:19:09] Now, that’s good advice. I think the nugget of wisdom there is is that it’s OK to set bounties or constrictions or restrictions on you because that’s where the innovations and ideas come. I’ve got a million dollars. You’re going to make decisions. I mean, loose. You have 50 grand and it’s all your own money. Yeah, there’s a little bit differently in that. That’s going to kind of force you pressure away.
Todd Furneaux: [00:19:32] The good way to prove that Point out is take a fifty thousand dollars, budget in a million dollar budget for marketing. How would I spent fifty an hour, I spent a million and that will tell you everything you need to know. I mean, as you do those two, you’re like, well, and this one, I’m really wasting a lot of money. You know, like, well, I’ll just do a budget of X on Facebook or Google when really you need it to go a different direction or to reach your particular customer. Facebook, Google Price will be part of that, but ultimately it’s going to be a little bit different. So budgeting at fifty thousand and a million, it’ll tell you everything you need to know. It’s really surprising.
Josh Fonger: [00:20:07] That’s a good little test. I think I’ll run that myself. That’s cool. All right. So what’s one thing that I didn’t ask you that you want to leave the audience with before we sign off today?
Todd Furneaux: [00:20:18] Yeah. I mean, the product market fit. We’ve been talking about. But I think it’s super important and we kind of hit on why. But I would say making sure that your customer has exactly the solution that they want. And when you think about that, there’s two two ways to look at, you know, I consider myself a product developer. So whether it be a physical item or a technology, there’s two things going on. When you talk to a customer, you can say, what is your problem with this product that you don’t like or what’s a problem that you that you might have? They’re going to tell you everything you need to know about the problem. And that’s the most important input for you as the entrepreneur, you have to think about how do I turn this into a creative solution for them? They will never give you the creative solution. If they do, you’re probably there too late to the party or it’s probably not the right solution. So that’s where you have to do the magic is figure out what problem are you trying to solve for them? If you’re not solving a problem, then you probably need to go back to the drawing board. Once you have that input, it will come to you as far as how you creatively solve it. And it’s actually simpler than you think. So that’s probably the biggest thing as you’re going through part of fit. Talk to your customers, see what they want, see how they react to your ideas or this particular thing you’re trying to solve. Then go do the work on how you creatively solve that, because that’s where the magic happens and kind of the creativeness which you look. Everyone can be an artist. You’ll figure it out. You have all that input. It’s just just kind of happens. It’s hard to describe.
Josh Fonger: [00:21:49] Well, this kind of leads me to a follow up question now. So how do you how do you get the best information from a customer? So, for instance, if I send a survey, I’m going to get a very small percentage of my audience to respond to that. I might not even be the best data. And so those who have really small lists right now and they might get five response or 10 responses, it’s not statistically significant. So what is what is the best way to mine that data from your buyers or leads?
Todd Furneaux: [00:22:22] Good question. So I’ll give two examples. Let’s say you want to make a housekeeping cart for a hotel. I’ve actually done this in the past. It’s a fun example. We would go into the hotels and we would talk to the manager, staff and housekeeping staff and say, what’s your what problems do you see with housekeeping carts? You see him in the hallways. You know, housekeepers use them to clean the hotel rooms. You would hear very consistently over two or three hotels, which is not statistically relevant to your point. You would hear very consistently wall damage is the number one problem that we have with these cards is, you know, they want to get them out of the guest way. So they’re pushing them to the side. It’s hitting the wall. And we spend twenty thousand dollars a year fixing wall damage like, oh, that’s interesting. Again, that’s the problem. That’s the input. And we’d go back to the drawing board and say, well, how do we create something that is a roller system that drops down to the floor and hits the baseboard and doesn’t damage the wall. So really simple. You don’t need to disclose relevant information and you can kind of turn that into a creative problem and you might have to talk to three other two or three hotels before you get some level of answer around. Well, here’s the problems that we have. Like we described it. But on the flip side, if you have an app like ad caddy and you’ve got thousands or millions of customers using it, you need their input on it. I like a/b testing. And so you can do a here’s one way of doing this solution and here’s a second way of doing it. And let’s see through data how people respond to that. And that’s really the best way because, A, it gets you actually doing it versus just talking about it. And so you could physically have to perform both A and B tasks and then you can get the data back on which one worked better. And I can’t do that with asking the cart, but I can do it with ad catti. And so that’s kind of the difference here is a/b testing really can go a long way in that when you’re trying to test something new.
Josh Fonger: [00:24:09] Interesting. I was going to suspect you were going to day surveys and you did the opposite two different ways. One is physically asking, asking you potential buyers what they want. They’ll tell you, or the other one would be sell A B and just find out.
Todd Furneaux: [00:24:22] Yeah, just look at the data and let the data drive it. Were they engaging more. Surveys can be good. You have to be really good at, you know, architecting the survey and getting statistically relevant to your point. But I think surveys are good. I mean, you can get some good information back on, you know, are people going to do this? The problem is and this is actually a good lesson from Netflix. You know, they used to ask customers, what’s your favorite movie? Where do you know what type of movie? And that was not at all correlated to what they watch. So they would say, oh, my favorite movie is something very like that. Made them seem edgy, educated or, you know, they watch these really cool movies. But ultimately, like romantic comedies. Right. And so they weren’t getting the engagement. So they actually stopped doing surveys or stopped allowing people to give input into it. Again, it goes back to. They may have intention and what they’re saying, but they do something else. So that’s the only problem surveys you got to be really careful on them.
Josh Fonger: [00:25:09] So the money tells. So in the case of Netflix, where they actually what they actually going to tell you what’s it going to look at.
Todd Furneaux: [00:25:14] What they actually watching? That’s all I had to look at.
Josh Fonger: [00:25:16] That’s a good survey. OK. That’s cool. Well, that this has been fun, I’ve learned a lot. And you got a unique perspective on business. Where can people find out more about you, at caddy and where to find more information?
Todd Furneaux: [00:25:28] Yeah. I mean, if you just want explore, ad caddy, adcaddy dot com and you can download the app in the app store, both Google and Apple. It’s live now. And for brands, you know, you can tell your customers to get in an account. And you know, we’re seeing engagement rates that’s we’re trying to do. It’s free for you as the brand of you tell your customers to get a ad caddy accounted and connect with you on ad caddy. You know, we’re looking at 2 to 3 x the the open rates. So, again, it’s all about engagement.
Josh Fonger: [00:25:54] Ok, good. Todd, again, thanks for being on the show the day it learned a lot. Appreciate it. And thanks, everyone, for watching today’s show. Tune in next week. We’re going to be interviewing other experts like Todd or when my previous clients or maybe I’ll given you some advice, but we’ll be helping you make more and workless in your business. And if you want to copy that book right there behind me. That’s Sam Carpenter’s best selling book signed by him, then we must review go to any places you’re watching this. maybe at i-Tunes, maybe YouTube and leave us a comment leave us a review. Take a picture and send it to us at info at work the system dot com and we’ll be drawing one name out of a hat each week and mailing you a copy that book. All right. We’ll see you next week. Thanks, Everybody.
To share the podcasts on social media, note the buttons below.