Craig Weiss 5:04
So, you know, I grew up in, I think, a very unique situation and that my my mom, mom and dad were married for 50 years. And my mom gave birth to children in the 1950s 60s 70s and 80s. And she had she had seven children across four decades. And the
Jeremy Weisz 5:29
Craig Weiss 5:32
yeah, so on top of everything else, she was a federal judge for 25 years, probably the only female federal judge in the United States who had seven children. And as one of my brothers used to joke and would you believe it was all with the same father. And so, so So, you know, we had this weird family because the first five children were born in five years in three months with no twins. And then eight years later me and then eight years later, my little brother So I had this strange upbringing in that the closest sibling to me in either direction was eight years, which, you know, it’s all of high school and all of college. It’s, it’s a big gap. So I had this weird kind of only child upbringing with six siblings. So and you know, that there’s, there’s this whole grouping of my five older siblings are between eight and 13 years older than me. And so, so, so it was unusual in a lot of different ways. And, you know, I, I guest lecturer at the WP Carey, the business school here at Arizona State University, the largest university in the United States. And when I sort of talked to them, and I tell them my story, the irony is i’m i’m, i’m guest lecturing in the in the business school, so it’s either MBA students or exact MBA students, typically sometimes the seniors taking entrepreneurship and I usually start my story with Kendra And so it just kind of a fun place to start. And so I tell the story that one of my good friends here in town is a Board Certified neurosurgeon. And his mom, over 40 years ago was my preschool teacher when I was in, you know, preschool and kindergarten. And so he once said to me, you know, Craig, I grew up on stories about you in my home. And I said, What do you mean, about me? Like, that doesn’t make any sense. Why would your mom be telling stories about some kid in her kindergarten class? Like, what, what, what story could there be to tell? And he said, Oh, well, she would tell me, you know, it’s so interesting, like all these little kids in my class, you know, when it comes time for lunch, they take out their little brown paper bags, and you know, they’d have their little PB and J’s with a cross cut off and their little baggie with you know, carrot sticks, but there’s this one little boy and he’s got like a can of coke and a chocolate chip cookie.
And so she said, She’s like, he’s like a total free agent. You know, and And like all the other kids are like, how do I get on this program? And so, when I tell the story, I say, look, I was the sixth of seven children and packing
Unknown Speaker 8:09
your lunch was going, Yeah,
Craig Weiss 8:10
clearly my parents had given up on child raising at this point. And, and I must have been packing my own lunch. And so, you know, back in kindergarten, and so, I sort of say, look at from an early age, I always say was, you know, trying to figure things out on my own. And I do remember. I do remember when I actually genuinely try to think back to my first kind of entrepreneurial moment. I do remember it actually, I was in elementary school. And I was you know, like, like a lot of little boys at the time had baseball cards and was into baseball cards. And I remember reading about like, the most valuable baseball card at the time, not like historically but like during my card that would have been can sort of contemporary time
Jeremy Weisz 8:56
Yeah, card during your time.
Craig Weiss 8:58
Yeah, it was that was the Don Mattingly. 1984 Don Ross baseball card and it was like $100. And I remember that when the card first came out, it was like a penny. And you could buy them for a penny. And that was worth $100. And I sort of did the math in my head and I’m like, Wait a second, that means this thing went up, you know, 100 times 100. Right. It was like a 10,000, you know, percent increase in price. And I was like, well, so there’s a lot of money to be made. I mean, if I bought all those Don Mattingly cards at a penny, like, you know, wow, I could make so much money. And so what if I could predict what’s the next card? That’s that’s now worth not that much, but that could be worth a fortune. And I did all this kind of research and I came to the conclusion that there was this one card and it was the the Bo Jackson rookie baseball card. You know, here’s the two sports star and that the card that came out was this 1986 you know, tops card. That was part of their Extended rookie cards, there weren’t that many of them. And I went to my dad with this idea that I could get them for you know, $1 $2 and I thought they’d be worth a lot of money. And my dad, you know, just totally supported the, the whole idea, the strategy, everything, and we he would come with me to baseball card shows and we start buying them up. And I remember, you know, I bought 1000 of these cards, wow. And, you know, spending, you know, call it, you know, a couple of thousand dollars with a thought, hey, if these things go up to $100 or more, you know, there’s some real money here. And then for those for those who remember, you know, he had this devastating career ending, you know, injury, the super freak injury, and he went from this incredible two sports star to you know, that was it, he was he was kind of done and, and my investment in essence kind of went down the drain. And, and my dad was just, you know, never for a second made me feel bad that you know, we sort of a bad investment or that it didn’t work out. I think he was just Totally supportive that I had this idea and a strategy and hey, you know, you can’t control all the outcomes, but you know that he was so supportive of it. So I think that was sort of, for me my first taste of being an entrepreneur, but
Jeremy Weisz 11:11
but after that I probably you didn’t just dominate the stock market with that mindset. Yeah.
Craig Weiss 11:17
Yeah. Well, you know, it is funny because I do that’s funny, you bring up the stock market, because there’s there’s a few stock market stories in terms of my, my, my development, both as an entrepreneur and just personally. So if we remember, we’ll circle back to them, but when your dad do correct, so my dad was a patent attorney, he was the youngest ever managing patent attorney at IBM, which is I was born in Poughkeepsie, New York. And then he moved out to Phoenix in the 1970s, when I was literally six months old, to become the general patent attorney for Motorola. And so so I grew up in Phoenix as a result of you know, that big move. And so he and then about a little more than 40 years ago, my father founded his own IP firm here in Arizona, the four oldest son so the first of the seven kids, the first two were girls. The next five are boys. So, my sister Gail is a funny story. She also was a little bit of a late bloomer, she finished last in her class in high school, and and then ended up going to college to the small college in Ohio, where she became the first person in the hundred and 50 year history of the college to triple major. And then she went to Yale and got a PhD in philosophy, and she’s now a professor at George Washington University. And then my sister Felicia has a PhD in clinical psychology. And then so then there’s my next set of brothers. The my three older brothers are all IP attorneys. And and I and I started off also as an IP attorney, I became a patent attorney like my father and the four boys who were all IP attorneys all ended up working for my father at the family firm.
Unknown Speaker 12:59
Craig Weiss 13:00
But But what was funny about that was to be a patent attorney, you have to have a Bachelor’s of Science degree, and to qualify in order to take the patent bar, and so, so I was a philosophy major in college. And so I had literally not a single credit towards a Bachelors of Science degree. And so after law school, I literally had to go back to school to take the equivalent of a Bachelor’s of Science degree, in my case in biology and chemistry, so I did that. And why philosophy. So I grew up. I mean, you went to Penn, you’re
Jeremy Weisz 13:35
like, I’m gonna major in philosophy.
Craig Weiss 13:37
So you know, it’s funny, I, I was always interested in philosophy. I was reading books all throughout high school. I loved Marcus Aurelius meditations on first philosophy, fascinating, sort of stoic philosopher. I just, I don’t know I was always kind of fascinated by the way, taking a back, and how to actually how to how to how do things work? How do people interact? Why do what motivates people to do what they do? How does society kind of get structured, and in some ways law was was an extension of that curiosity. I remember my first year of law school, sort of felt like I was putting on a different set of glasses, like, Okay, so, you know, we all have to interact, but there have to be sort of rules that govern how we interact. And then if you break those rules, there have to be consequences. And so it came in handy. It came in handy. I’ve actually I’ve often felt that the philosophy studies have come in handy in many aspects of my life in terms of just it, it helps you learn how to think. And of course, you have to do a lot of writing a lot of reading and a lot of writing and those are good skills to hone as well. So
Jeremy Weisz 14:55
so then law you went on to law school.
Craig Weiss 14:58
So you know, the funny thing about being a dad offered you a job? Yeah. You know, it’s funny, right? I mean, there’s there’s a great, you know, the Nobel Prize winning. he’s a he’s a psychologist but he got the Nobel Prize in Economics is Daniel Kahneman. And he was like, yeah, a lot of
Jeremy Weisz 15:17
amazing books he’s written to
Craig Weiss 15:19
Yeah, so really interesting guy and he has this in his head. He’s got a book called, I think Thinking Fast and Slow. Yeah, Rob on really long and tedious book to get through, like really important, but not super well written. And, and he has this sort of, I can remember if it’s in that book, or in or in the better book, which is the undoing project, which is Michael lewis’s book about Daniel Kahneman.
Jeremy Weisz 15:41
The best stuff is like the books that that use his research, like I think Dan Ariely has a Marlin Michael Lewis had, there’s a bunch of really good ones that use his research. Yes,
Craig Weiss 15:51
totally. So So in one of those books, he sort of has this theory that I think is so true, which is that you often can’t learn very much about The most important choices people make in their life, you actually can learn a lot more about them by much smaller choices. So for example, you know, what they end up doing for a living might be just kind of what their parents did for a living, which is kind of my story. I became a Padre, my dad was a patent attorney, like he had his own firm, like, I probably didn’t think about it as much as I should have, um, and, you know, who you marry is often, like, who sat next to you, you know, that day in school, right, like, and, and so whereas, you know, what, what, you know, what kind of law you practice or, you know, other things might be, you know, more specific, that that are more telling. So, in my case, you know, my mom was a lawyer, she was charged My dad was a lawyer, I was always argumentative as a kid. So people kept telling me, I should be a lawyer. And so, so I, you know, for a decade I was a patent attorney and you know, providing legal services to clients and I met entrepreneurs every day. You know, those were my clients that come in with new ideas, and they were generally you know, excited, exciting people to talk to they they came into my office. They were full of energy they were pumped up, you know, we were usually one of the first people they met with at the beginning of their entrepreneurial journey. So they were still upbeat and enthusiastic and hadn’t yet been kind of beaten down by life. And so it was, you know, really positive. And, and, and so, but I noticed a few things. One was, I wasn’t super happy, like, I, you know, I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but I, I didn’t feel entirely fulfilled professionally. And I don’t I don’t, you know, I don’t know that I knew why, but I just felt a little bit like, you know, it was the grind, you know, you know, you have to make a living. So this is my, you know, path and I’m going to go to work and draft patent applications and, you know, try to get patents for my clients, but it didn’t, it didn’t really just get me super pumped up every morning to you know, race into the office. And so, so I had this, you know, interesting thing my wife and I moved Israel. And so we actually we met on Junior of college abroad in Israel. And and and she’s actually a rabbi so she had to go back to rabbinical school. So we took a year off between college and law school, we lived for a year in Jerusalem. And then we ended up moving there for two more years, between 2000 and 2002. And it was during that time that I met this guy, another American who would who was living in Israel, this guy LA and and for like the first almost 10 years of our friendship, we were just friends and we, we, you know, got to know each other and on and hung out and, and eventually when Eric and I returned to the United States, I stayed in touch with LA, which, you know, wasn’t super convenient to do. This was kind of at the beginning of, you know, of internet and I was also a big time difference too. Yeah, big time difference, but we stayed in touch and when he would come to America, which he did quite frequently, you know, he would try to swing by Arizona, we would we would hang out or I’d come visit him and other places that he was in Colorado or another Other places. And he was a guy that I kind of knew early on, was our serious entrepreneur. He had taken three companies from founding to IPO in his 20s. But just wow, you know, kind of amazing. And at the time that I met him, he was a venture capitalist, and eventually became one of the 10 partners at benchmark, which was a VC fund behind Twitter and eBay. And so
Unknown Speaker 19:25
you better have them on the podcast, by the way,
Craig Weiss 19:26
yeah. So for sure. So, so about sort of 10 years into my you know, friendship with Ellie. There was this transition where he went from from fen friend toward to mentor, and, and it happened around this, the company that I ended up sort of making my name with so because it was our own law firm, and because we kind of were meeting with entrepreneurs all the time, we were, you know, a little entrepreneurial ourselves, and so in 2005 My my brother mark, who’s also a patent attorney, went to China for a client of our law firms. And he saw a crude version of an electronic cigar. And he thought, you know, this would make a great product, you know, if ever somehow they could get it down to the size of like, an actual cigarette. And so he founded this company called enjoy as adventure of our law firms in late 2006. So on day one, I became, you know, a shareholder, but I wasn’t really involved with the company. And my brother mark, for his part, you know, was also an IP attorney like me, and so he brought in some friends of his to who were more business operator types to to run the company. And so the company, you know, starts off kind of strong, they do 300 grand of revenue and oh seven, they do 3 million and oh, eight, they do 7 million and oh nine, they’re really starting to grow. And then a couple of sort of few terrible things happened. So in 2008, my father passed away which was, you know, really Yeah, no, I appreciate it. It was really devastating, you know, to my whole family, he was, you know, beloved guy. I had a really close relationship with my dad. And, but also he was, you know, the head of the firm. He was the Rainmaker. He probably brought in 40% of the clients. And so there was kind of a horrifying realization. For me in particular, you know, I was, gosh, 34 years old, and I had a 15 month old son at the time. And I just had that feeling of, I’m up on the tightrope, and you know, that that’s just been pulled out, you know, from under me, like, you know, my dad was one of those guys that if he was always going to be there for you, he was always going to make sure you didn’t fall and but you know, he was always going to be there for you until he wasn’t there for you, right because he couldn’t be and so so it was just really terrifying. And I just remember that feeling of fear. And so, so that happens. And as I’m kind of starting to recover from that I start to focus on Well, well wait a second, I mean, who’s going to replace all of this revenue that my dad’s generating from the law firm, like this firm could go under? You know what? So I start reading a bunch of business books and I start joining like, kind of SEO organizations and church just thinking of the law firm as a business, right? How do I grow this business and keep this business healthy? And so Meanwhile, this this, this enjoy thing on the side is starting to kind of percolate and, and so it
Jeremy Weisz 22:43
sounds more like percolate.
Craig Weiss 22:44
Yeah, no, it’s definitely very, but it was, it was really taking off but in some respects, like, you know, all the more reason why there was nothing for me to do like, like, kind of like, hey, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Like clearly these people know what they’re doing the company’s taking off. I have all these shares, you know, that might solve all of our financial problems. And so, and better yet, I don’t even have to do anything, you know, to to make that happen. And so, so so so the first thing that happened was before my father passed away, our youngest brother was at the time of day trader. And I used to joke that that day traders don’t really care if stocks go up or down as long as they respond violently. And, and so, you know, he, he’s the one who kind of started to say, wait a second, you know, these really volatile stocks, some of them are really moving up and down, because the companies you’re involved in like, you know, bet the company patent litigation, and like, you know, what, wait a second, my brothers are patent attorneys, if they could, like read the briefs and go to court and tell me who was gonna win, and I know which way to bet, you know, I could make a fortune. And so he comes to, you know, us with this idea. And so, you know, when I went to the University of Pennsylvania, I was studying philosophy in the College of Arts and Sciences, but I had a bunch of friends We’re at Wharton, you know, getting business degrees. And so I went to the top schools in the country. Yeah. So So one of my good friends that I’m still in touch with, I went to, and he and he was running a hedge fund. And I said, Hey, Adam, you know, what do you think of my brother’s idea? And he goes, I think it’s a great idea, you know, you should you should do a hedge fund with that. And I said, What would he do a hedge funding? I am the philosophy guy. And, and he’s like, No, no, it’s not. It’s not that complicated. And he walked me through kind of the economics and here’s how you get it, set it up. And this is the lawyers, I would recommend you use this the brokerage firm. And, and so I said, well, would you help? Would you, you know, help us would you be a partner? And he said, Sure. So we, we start this hedge fund, you know, in essence on the side of the law practice, because it wasn’t, didn’t require a full time attention because these, these occurrences were not that frequent. And so, but it taught me some valuable lessons I learned about doing something outside of the practice of law, even though it was you know, tangential to law. I also learned how to you know, kind of have a How to make very quick decisions with imperfect information and risk management and, and also a little bit of fundraising, I had to raise some money. And Adam basically said, Look, the only way to really make money in a hedge fund is to have institutional investment people who can write really large checks. And the only way to get institutional investors is to have a track record that you can point to. And the only way to have a track record is to have a track record. So basically, you just got to raise from anybody just to get started. And then you can build your track record. And so
Jeremy Weisz 25:31
the advice is to live by in order to track a unit track or what exactly
Craig Weiss 25:36
it was like a catch 22 so I started raising money and I only I raised not a lot of money, like maybe 1.8 million bucks and you know, mostly family and friends.
Unknown Speaker 25:45
And so large chunk of money for not right, yeah,
Craig Weiss 25:47
yeah, exactly. So, you know, we had a nice compelling story to tell and we started making money doing this hedge fund thing. And so, so it’s just kind of a fun thing on the side. So So anyhow, so My father passes away, I’m joining the CEO groups, I’m reading these books. And then and then on the Android side, too terrible things happened. One, one was the FDA directed US Customs to see shipments of enjoys products as unapproved drug delivery devices. And, and around the same time, my brother had a falling out with these friends of his he’d brought into run the company. So it was just really kind of a terrible kind of double whammy. And so Ellie, my friend, you know, who’s turning into my mentor says, you know, Craig, this electronic cigarette thing seems to be kind of, you know, a new trend that’s taking off, you know, your family founded this company, like kind of how come you’re not more involved in this. And he was the first person to kind of plant that seed. And so I continue to kind of, you know, learn more about it and read more and, and Ellie starts to encourage me to take, you know, a more active role and I asked him to You know, we’ll if we’re able to retake kind of control over the company from the people that that my brother brought in, you know, would you become my chairman of the board? Would you, you know, would you take an active role and he agreed to do that. And so it’s a longer story for perhaps another podcast but but the takeover story is its own crazy story, because we’d given away so many shares that we’d actually lost control over the company. And and so it was literally like a hostile takeover. Probably
Jeremy Weisz 27:27
more common than people think in across the board.
Craig Weiss 27:32
Ya know, I always talk to people about this. When I talked to other business school students or other people, other younger entrepreneurs about making sure you maintain control. And so how do
Jeremy Weisz 27:44
you navigate a hostile takeover?
Craig Weiss 27:48
It’s a crazy story. I literally, I don’t want to go too off topic, but let’s just say that, that there were there on June 4 2010. There were two groups of shareholders at the Annual shareholder meeting, each group has 51% of the vote. And, and but I had a later date and 51% than the other group. And so I had a off duty police officer with a gun and a badge for $47 an hour on standby in case people like, you know, went crazy. And two teams of sort of computer forensics specialists ready to seize laptops and clone hard drives. And it was really like a scene out of a movie. But we we took control over the company at this at this sort of crazy annual shareholder meeting. And then, you know, Ellie gave me a speech. That was when I think back and it’s a story I always tell when I talked to the business school students at ASU, when I think back to like, you know, was there a moment back that one moment where you became an entrepreneur, this was the moment he was visiting me in Arizona, we were I took him on a drive up north to some, you know, a couple of hours away where there’s some really nice hiking And some great sights to see. And we said we stop in this tiny little artist colony town up in the mountains of Arizona. And there’s a little coffee shop there. And so we sit down and he looks at me and and he says to do you want me to give you the secret to life? And I’m like, who says no to that? You know, yeah, bring it let me hear the secret to life. And so he kind of crouches down, like almost like pretend like, you know, he doesn’t want anyone else to hear. And he sort of motions to the other people in the room. And he says, he see all these people over here, because they have the same inventory of hours each day is you and me. He said the difference between me and them is they’re selling their time for money. And you see that guy and he points to the barista, you know, behind the counter, he goes, and he’s selling his for, you know, five bucks an hour. And he goes, look, Craig, you’re a smart guy. You’re a patent attorney, and maybe you can sell yours for you know, a couple hundred bucks an hour, but at the end of the day, there’s only so many hours in the day and if you’re selling it for money, There’s only so much money you can make. But as an entrepreneur, you can leverage your time in an exponential way to make money that’s not sort of correlated to, you know, your hourly rate. And there was just a certain beauty to that logic, and was really powerful to me. And I just was like, it clicked. And I was like, that’s, that sounds good. That’s for me. So with his encouragement, and this crazy hostile takeover, you know, I become the president of this company, that really, I have almost zero background or knowledge in and I, and one of my favorite things I love saying to the business school students is, there’s not a single person in this room who knew less about business that I knew, you know, when I sort of became responsible for this company. It was manufacturing, it was product development. It was, you know, r&d, it was regulatory, it was sales and marketing. It was distribution. I mean, things that I didn’t know anything about. I had no experience in. And so I did in essence, what my brother did, I brought someone else in who had a lot of those skills to run the company. But over the next six months, I started to see, like, what I didn’t quite feel like that person, you know, entirely was making what I thought were the right decisions, and I didn’t understand some of their decisions. And, and, and Ellie kind of kept encouraging me encouraged me, then he was the first person to say, Craig, maybe you should be the one running the company. And at first that just seemed insane to me. Like I’ve been providing legal services to clients for 10 years, like what what do I know about all of those things? But he was very supportive and was like, you know, you’re a smart guy, you’ll figure it out. And, and so I leaned heavily on him and called him every day probably for the better part of one to two years with questions, you know, Hey, I got this situation. Got that situation, what you think about this reading about that? I kept reading books, I kept going to my CEO groups. And the crazy thing is when I when I took over the controller, we had eight employees and the controller said we’d be at cash in two weeks. And we were locked in this kind of death struggle with the FDA. And, and ultimately, you know, I mean, it’s funny, I remember we had to use our vendors as our line of credit, you know, we couldn’t pay our vendors until we got paid from our customers and it was just sort of this giant, you know, game of borrowing from Peter to pay Paul. But we, you know, I, I brought I was very fortunate, I was able to hire some really smart people. I had, you know, Ellie’s tremendous mentorship, and we defeated so that the crazy thing is, we we defeated the FDA in federal court, it’s probably the thing I’m most proud of, is that we, you know, we
you know, I ended up meeting with FDA four times and and the M HRA in the UK, they’re the FDA equivalent twice and Health Canada twice. But we really created the regulatory framework for a whole new category to exist. In this interesting field that’s become kind of controversial, this electronic nicotine delivery field. I can say, from my perspective, I was totally focused on the fact that you had like, basically at the time I started it enjoy. The smoking rate in the United States had actually been increasing in 2008 2009. And in 2010, over 20% of the adults in United States were smokers. Over 40 million Americans. And the World Health Organization had come out and said, you know, over a billion human beings were going to die this century from smoking. And I thought, you know, this is nuts. I mean, nicotine is not carcinogenic. Nicotine is an FDA approved drug and the patch and the gum it’s the delivery system that’s, that’s toxic and carcinogenic, and get into your lungs. Yeah, you’re burning this organic material and you’re lighting the stuff on fire and you’re breathing all this horrible, you know, crap into your lungs. And I thought, Well, wait a second, if we can, you know, create technology to give the Over 1.3 billion people on the planet who are already addicted to nicotine, you know, the same nicotine that they crave, but in a non toxic delivery system. I was like, This is like the greatest public health opportunity of the century. I mean, you have almost 500,000 Americans dying every year from tobacco related illness. And so it’s it’s a huge number, it’s over 1000 a day, right? So. So I got kind of obsessed with that idea of we’re, you know, we’re public health company, we’re a biotech company, we’re, you know, we’re basically going to save more lives than Pfizer. And so, I with that kind of power of that, you know, sort of technology and argument, I was able to recruit the 17th, Surgeon General, the United States to serve on our board of directors and my chief scientist, you know, had an MD PhD from Stanford and was a full tenured professor of biochemistry at Princeton and was on the stand up to cancer team. And, you know, my chief of regulatory came from Johnson and Johnson, who was the head of their global efforts of, you know, eradicating tobacco use, so you put not easy Team there, ya know, it’s just an amazing, amazing team and, you know, kind of little by little, you know, we will, you know, wasn’t so little by little we in a really fast way we grew tremendously. And so. So yeah, so I ended up getting my first private equity investment in 2011. And we’ve raised $30 million at at an $80 million pre money valuation. And that was like, oh, wow, like this is now like, we’re a real company. And, and then we grew and grew and grew and then raised $75 million from a group that included Sean Parker and fidelity at a 420 $5 million valuation and then grew and grew and grew. And then a year later raised $74 million at a billion dollar valuation from fidelity, Morgan Stanley and a group part of Bain Capital. So it was this three and a half year kind of insane rocket ship. And it was it was a wild time. It was an exciting time. We ended up manufacturing 80 million units of products that, that we distributed in about 130,000 retail locations all around the world. I ended up you know, with offices in three continents, we had, you know, 130 employees. And the thing I’m most proud of is, you know, not only when I left enjoy in 2000, I went from CEO to Chairman in 2014 and cycled off the board 2015. You know, the smoking rate was under 14%. In the United States, which was a such a precipitous decline. It was totally unfathomable to public health that the smoking rate could drop that, again, it was going up, you know, 2008 2009 so for it to drop that much was totally shocking. And I was excited that we were using technology, which is what I think great American companies do. just solve what had been previously thought to be just kind of an unsolvable problem. And, you know, I still have people come up to me today, like, Oh my god, you know, I was a pack a day smoker for 20 years, and I tried the patch, and I tried the gum and nothing worked. And I used your product to quit smoking, like, thank you for saving my life. Yeah, and so, you know, of course, in the last couple of years, you know, there’s been a lot of, you know, sort of publicity about youth access. And it, you know, fortunately, is not about our company, you know, my company’s products, but but but, you know, one of our competitors, but what I would say is,
you know, that’s part of why I’m no longer at enjoy was that in 2014, you know, right. When those people came in the last group of institutional investors, it was really at a time when consumer the consumer market was changing and from our product which looked exactly like a cigarette. products that look nothing like a cigarette. And that consumer preference to a different form factor really, you know, caused us to our company to, you know, miss our numbers. And at the end of the day when you’re the CEO, the buck stops with you. And so the new investors were wanting to one of their, you know, a CEO of their choosing to come in and so I, I was, you know, politely asked to step aside, which I did. And so that was, you know, for me a bummer, you know, I had no sooner been congratulated for you know, creating a unicorn a privately held, you know, company with a billion dollar valuation that I was sort of, you know, sort of shown the door so, that was a good life lesson for me. And fortunately, I, I had not allowed the success of enjoyed to kind of infect my personality or become too closely identified with who I was as a person. And it was helpful to have a very down to earth wife who never Let my head get too big. And so when I when it went away, it was a bummer. But it wasn’t like the loss of an identity for me. So but but yeah, so it was this wild ride. I mean, during the heyday of speaking at conferences, I was getting interviewed. I was on TV almost every week with you know, CNN and Fox and MSNBC and CNBC and, you know, front page of The Wall Street Journal and the front page of the business section in the New York Times and in just, you know, one thing after another was a just a total wild, you know, wild wild ride.
Jeremy Weisz 39:34
Your wife would have to deflate your head on a daily basis.
Craig Weiss 39:41
She’s about the least materialistic person I’ve ever met. So she really could care less about you know, all of the successes.
Jeremy Weisz 39:47
Right? Yeah, I know you’re on the front page go to the dishes.
Craig Weiss 39:50
Well, it’s funny, you know, we that I mentioned that the board certified neurosurgeon that I’m friends with, so he married like his high school sweetheart and and his wife You know, of course knew him before he became a Board Certified neurosurgeon. And she’s like, the most lovely down to earth person ever. And, and she used to tell a story to my wife and I that my wife absolutely love, which is that she’ll still say to her husband, you know, hey, Dan, I know it’s not brain surgery, but can you take out the garbage?
So, yeah, there’s there’s definitely something that
Jeremy Weisz 40:24
yeah, that we gravitated towards. That’s amazing. Thanks for sharing that story. Take me up to present day. So how did you meet Blair? And so I want to talk about how this idea came about with mouth guard club retainer club. So you know, Blair, and I’ve known each other for almost 20 years, he moved from Chicago to Phoenix.
Craig Weiss 40:47
Early 2000s. We met through our wives Actually, my wife met his wife who’s actually she Blair’s wife’s also a dentist, and so, so she’s my dentist and he’s my orthodontist, but but We met through our, through our wives, and Blair and I just really hit it off. And I, I used to joke with Blair that he was an entrepreneur trapped in the body of an orthodontist. You know, he had these tremendous entrepreneurial instincts. And, and then he started a business on the side. And he’s tried another business on the side. And he, excuse me, he was always kind of had that, you know, he was an early adopter of technology, he was always kind of on the cutting edge. And I really tried to encourage that I had him join one of my co groups. And, and I just thought it was remarkable for someone that that was in a profession that, you know, isn’t, isn’t entirely known for its entrepreneurship to to embrace entrepreneurship. And so we became really good friends and about, gosh, you know, maybe three or four years ago, he came to me with this idea and it was sort of just as I was transitioning out of it. Joy, but he said, Look, you know, I want to have this idea I want to run by you and he had a front row seat for this crazy, you know, rocket ship, but enjoy ride. And so he said, you know, the standard of care and orthodonture is, you know, when you have either braces or invisalign, you’re done with treatment, you’re supposed to wear a retainer when you sleep at night, for the rest of your life. And if you don’t, your teeth are going to move. And of course, anybody who’s you know, kind of the age that Blair and I are in knows this to be true, because we probably had braces like me when I was a kid, and we didn’t wear a retainer and our teeth moved and and I ended up having to go back to Blair for, you know, Invisalign treatment as an adult. And so, he said, Look, no one really wears the retainer forever because eventually the thing gets gross or you break it or you lose it or the dog eats it, and the process of getting it replaced. It’s just kind of a nightmare. It’s just a big bag of hurt. You gotta either track down your original orthodontist or find a new one and you have to do these horrible impressions with goo and your gagging on it and, you know, it’s multiple appointments and it’s hundreds and hundreds of dollars. And some people just don’t do it, they just blow it off. And so he said, Look my ideas basically like Dollar Shave Club for retainers, you know, retainer clubs. So Brandon retainer shows up in the mail once a year, 99 bucks throw with the old one, you know, pop in the new one. I’m like, wow, I think that’s a great idea. And he’s like, yeah, you know, there’s really no kind of subscription, you know, model in the whole field of orthodonture. And so I said, Okay, well, so like, how does it work? You know, I mean, and so he walks me through this kind of fascinating, sort of process that, you know, there’s a couple of key pieces of technology that are relatively new, not brand new, but you know, like, last 10 years, you know, kind of new that have made this possible. One is what’s replaced the goo is this 3d scanner, and there’s various tech companies that make this technology but you know, it’s, it’s, it’s in the 20 to $30,000 range for one of these 3d scanners and it’s just a high You know, high grade set of, you know, sort of cameras that take these pictures of your teeth that are super accurate. And what I learned sort of getting all this information from Blair is that the, you know, the accuracy of that of the alginate impressions that are taken with the goo is it’s there’s a lot of error with that, which is some something that has to do with your self worth and your companies are discovering as they mail people kits, and there’s a high error rate. They’re not entirely accurate, they they’re dependent on humidity and how long you’re keeping it in how easily you’re taking it out. Whereas the scanners are like perfect, they’re just they kind of almost can’t make a mistake. They’re so technology so amazing, and, and hyper accurate. So, so those scanners are now whereas Blair was an early adopter, maybe 10 years ago today. You know, the majority of orthodontist in United States have a 3d scanner and you know, 10s of thousands of Dentists have them too. So that was sort of the one of key pieces of technology and the other was 3d printing. So again, you know, 3d printers been around for a while, but not in a low cost enough way. And so, you know, Blair walks me through, you know, you, you take a scan and we become a, you know, we’re a drop down menu on on the scanner. And so we literally would get the scan in real time from anyone in the world. And then we can 3d print a mold and then make these retainers. And eventually Blair said, Look, they’re the, you can use the exact same technology more or less for making mouth guards, custom mouth guards for people who play sports. And so, the more I learned about all of this, the more I thought there was just this amazing opportunity. Because
I thought, you know, first of all, we’re not trying to create a new behavior that doesn’t exist, right. everybody wears their retainer, you know, the first night after they get their braces offer, you know, when they complete treatment. The problem isn’t, you know, getting them to start. It’s getting them to continue becoming Not only does the thing get gross, or they break it, or they lose it, but there’s sort of no one left to manage compliance in the system because they’re, you know, unlike dentists, people only have a two year relationship with their orthodontist. And then that’s it, they kind of never see them again. And so. So we, you know, we talked about it, and I, I sort of say, you know, start giving Blair some ideas that are just kind of coming to me like, Oh, you know, what you should do is, you should partner with orthodontist around the country and offer this service to them. And, you know, basically, they probably don’t even want to be in the retainer business. They’d rather spend all their time actually treating patients and, and Blair told me a story that that really reinforce that which was, he said, Look, I only have a two year relationship, unlike the dentist who might get a lifetime relationship, but it’s a great two year relationship, it kind of, you know, starts maybe, with people’s, you know, not happy with their smile. And then, you know, over these two years, we’re giving them an amazing smile and it ends if anything on a high note, and he goes, it’s a great great relationship and he goes 95% Some of the time I never see them again. But he said, unfortunately, in the 5% of the time that I do see them again, it’s not a great relationship. What ends up happening is they, they, they’re unhappy. They’re, their teeth have moved. They’re frustrated because they spent so much money with me. And I go from being kind of a sweet orthodontist to being a private investigator, you know, well, if you’ve been wearing a retainer, why’d you stop? How come you didn’t call us? And he said, it becomes almost adversarial. And it’s really unpleasant. And so he said, Look, you know, something like retainer club would really solve that problem. And so I thought, you know, this look, I think this is a wonderful idea. And so I start kind of giving him some ideas and he’s like, Look, you know, I, I’ve had this idea for two years. I haven’t done anything with it. What do you say we partner 5050. And I was like, sold. Let’s do it. So, you know, going into business with one of your best friends I think is, is either
Jeremy Weisz 47:53
going to be water, it’s uncharted waters, you’re
Craig Weiss 47:56
either it’s either gonna be the greatest thing or like a catastrophe. So I can happily say, you know, over three years in now with Blair, it’s really been just totally awesome. And as I, as I’ve said before, you know, having a true partner, you know, just like I think in in a, in a good marriage, it makes the highs higher, and it makes the lows higher. You know, you’re not alone, you’ve got someone to sort of share the burdens with and you got someone to share the high moments too. So, so we started off as look, let’s start beta testing with your patients, you know, that, that doesn’t cost us anything. And excuse me, one one year in we discovered a couple of unbelievable things, you know, first of all, his patients loved it. You know, he, we, you know, there’s a couple of funny things and some of them, probably, some people don’t want to admit, which is, you know, blit but one of the things I love about Blair is his ability to be self aware. And so he said, Look, none of my patients wants to come into my office. Like, they don’t really want to come here to see me. They don’t want to, you know, take time out of their day or out of their school or work and drive. And even if it’s a five minute appointment, it’s not five minutes for them. They got to drive here, they got to park, they got to come in, you know, they got away. And so they really don’t want to come see me for a retainer, right, like post treatment. It’s such a simple thing. And, you know, we learned that just telling his patients, no, no, you don’t need to come in, we’ve got your scan on file, we’ll just send you a new one. They were just like, really, I don’t have to come in, like, like, this is awesome. And so that was super reinforcing. So we had a bunch of, you know, we had over 150, you know, happy paying subscribers at the end of the first year. But then we learned something else that was even more kind of remarkable, which was, as Blair was letting his patients know, about $99 retainers with retainer club. Half a dozen of his former patients who had stopped wearing their retainer, you know, five years ago, 10 years ago. their teeth and moved and they needed new treatment. And so they became new sort of new patients again, or new cases, which was a tremendous amount of new revenue for his his practice. And I realized what a valuable kind of value proposition for partners that not only are we going to kind of get this you know, sort of retainer business off your plate so you can focus all your time on treatment, you’re going to get new patients out of this or new case starts out of this, not just from your existing, you know, former patients, but also we’re going to advertise and we’re going to send people to you, hey, Julie’s your retainer, you know, hey, doggie retainer. And when we send those people to your office to get scanned for five minutes, some of them are going to become new patients of yours and so so it’s been a blast. It’s been totally a lot of fun. And I love kind of building a business from the ground up. And so yeah, it’s it’s been great and mouthguard club is fascinating because it It’s on the one hand very similar technology but on the other hand, it’s completely different product because you know retainer costs for people who’ve had orthodontic treatment, mouth guard clubs for anybody who plays contact sports. And so you’ve got you know, 40 million mouthguard sold in the US every year. You get all these people playing, you know, sports that require mouth guards like football and hockey and lacrosse, but you’ve also got, you know, plenty of people wearing them for basketball and soccer and other sports. And, and with the mouth guards, we can totally trick them out, you know, full customization colors, logos, jersey numbers, anything people want. And kids in particular, have a blast doing that. It’s so much fun. And so, that’s been that’s been a ton of fun to
Jeremy Weisz 51:41
Craig amazing, you know, this journey that you’ve been on. And, you know, I want to kind of wrap up with where we should point people towards, and I know it’s the the front of the interview we talked about, you know, obviously This is a technology that helps patients it also helps grow dental offices and orthodontic offices, which is you know, a win win win and keeping people’s smiles and teeth in check, hence in your face, so I’ll mention you know people can go to retainer club comm slash partner or mouthguard club.com slash partner any other places we should point people online to check out
Craig Weiss 52:30
so I mean those are great and and so the partner sides of the of those websites will will tell orthodontists and dentists all about the benefits of being a partner of course we’ve got the in your face podcast that they can download and check out where Blair and I are interviewing some of the leading entrepreneurs and other people in the orthodontic and dentist space that are making a difference. And you know, we’re we have partnerships now that are kind of cool because they’re extending outside of of orthodontists. DENTIST we’ve got a partnership with local ice hockey rinks here in Arizona. We’re hopefully about to announce some partnerships with some hockey schools in the United States. And so we’re really trying to provide you know, dentist and orthodontist with a steady stream of people who are going to be showing up in their office to get a scan, but probably need a dentist or probably need an orthodontist and you know we think it’s a real partnership Our goal is to be the orthodontist or dentist best friend. We we never want to compete with them we don’t move teeth that’s the job of the of the dental professionals. We were not a fan of the Do It Yourself orthodonture out there. And so you know to me, it’s a great partnership because we can help take care of you know, a dentist orthodontist patients you know post treatment you know, when they’ve when they’ve already had their treatment and their teeth are already have been straightened. But also get what is kind of A annoying aspect of their practice off their plate and and replace that with a much more lucrative aspect of their practice, which is new patients and new case starts. So I think it’s a win win. I think it’s a win win win, because it’s a win for their patients to get straight teeth for life and are better referral sources. I think it’s a win for the practices. And I think it’s a win for us. So I believe in that kind of Win Win philosophy generally. And so, and we’re doing some, we’re trying to be really innovative. So one of the things we’re excited about now we have these great digital kiosks that we’re putting into the waiting rooms of our partner offices where adults and kids can kind of customize their mouth guards while they’re waiting and then boom, they can get scanned Five minutes later, you know, they’re already there. So people are really, you know, having a lot of fun with the kiosks. So yeah, so, you know, we’ll be at the, you know, a to the American Association, orthodontists conference every year. And, and so yeah, though they’re, you know, And you can always just find us find us on the web.
Jeremy Weisz 55:03
Awesome everyone, check out the website retainer club. com if you are a patient, find an office near you or Tinder club comm slash partner mouthguard club.com slash partner, Craig, absolute pleasure. Thanks for having me. Thank you Jeremy
Unknown Speaker 55:26