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David Feinleib is co-founder of Speechpad, the leader in crowd-sourced audio and video transcription. He has founded five tech businesses, with acquisitions by HP, EMC, and Keynote Systems.
He is also the author of Why Startups Fail: And How Yours Can Succeed.

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Watch this interview: [Video & mp3 included]
-How did he go from the idea to generating sales and starting the company?
-How did feeling the pain of his customer help him?

Full Transcript

Jeremy: This interview talk with David Feinleib, one of
the co-founders of Speechpad. He’s founded multiple companies that have
been acquired. He talks about going from that idea to starting to get
sales. He talks about feeling the pain of your customer and how important
it is to go through that customer experience. That and much more coming up
right now.

Jeremy Weisz here. I’m here with David Feinleib. Let me just introduce
David to you because after you hear this you’re going to want to hang on
his every word like I do. David was a self-taught developer from age 12.
His first entrepreneurial job was shoveling snow in Boston on the winters.
He’s an inventor on 15 U.S. patents. He’s co-founded multiple companies
including Likewise which was acquired by MCI, Consera which was acquired by
HP, just to name a few.

Currently, he helps run Speechpad and the Big Data Group. He’s also if that
wasn’t enough, he’s also author of Why Startups Fail and How Yours Can
Succeed which we’ll talk a little bit about later and also the author of
Big Data Demystified: How Big Data is Changing the Way We Live, Love and
Learn. David, thanks for joining on.

David: Jeremy thanks for having me on the show. It’s great to be here.

Jeremy: So, I always include a fun fact about a guest and the fun fact for
you is you’re a six time marathon finisher and Iron Man.

David: Yeah.

Jeremy: That’s amazing.

David: Last year, I . . . yeah, thanks for mentioning that. I completed
Iron Man France in Nice, France last June and I have to say it was one of
the most challenging and rewarding undertakings in my life and I couldn’t
have done it really without a group called the San Francisco Triathlon
Club. They were incredibly supportive.

Jeremy: Yeah. I was going to say all of that seems hard, but the Iron Man
out of that long list would seem like the most difficult almost.

David: I never thought of myself as an athlete and Iron Man was a huge
challenge. There’s a lot more to it. There’s the race itself but of course
there’s also the heat. It’s over 90 degrees. The day that we did it was
over 90 degrees all do, so a lot of exposure, a lot of sun, you’ve got to
stay hydrated and all of that and it was tough but it was amazing.

Jeremy: We’ll hear about how you applied some of those I’m sure tactics for
training and everything in all of your business success too. So, we get a
lot of people, they have tons of ideas. Sometimes they don’t know where to
start or they’re having a hard time getting traction. They feel kind of
stuck or they don’t even know if they’re heading in the right direction and
I know we’re looking and listening to you and how you replicated kind of
going from that idea to successful company many times over. So, hopefully
sharing that success formula with us and going from that idea to making our
sale or beyond.

One thing I want to mention with Speechpad is it’s one of the most seamless
checkout processes I’ve ever experienced and I’ve referred people. I just
said, I don’t care if you need something transcribed or not and you’ll talk
about Speechpad, but I go just purchase it and see how seamless their
checkout process is. Did a lot of thought go into there or did it just
happen that way? Tell me about that because if people could replicate that,
I think it would be unbelievable.

David: Yeah. It’s . . . well, first of all thanks for saying that and I’ve
got to say kudos to our UI designer. He was really instrumental in the
overall design for the sight, Joey. He just has kind of a vision of the
total experience, the end to end product and making that experience
seamless and really easy is something that we all put a lot of time and
effort into, but he especially did that. The version of the site you’re
seeing is actually the second or third version that we’ve had out there.

So, the first version that we had was straight forward but it wasn’t
particularly engaging. The second version had a lot more features and
complexity and all that. They had some benefits but this version really
pulled everything together and one of the key things was make it easy, make
it really easy to use and just get three people through the process.
Because basically when it comes to transcription, people want to upload
their files, they want to know it’s going to work and they want to get
their transcripts back and they just want that to be a seamless experience
just like what you’re talking about.

Jeremy: Yeah and it definitely does that. So just to tell people a little
bit about Speechpad, how did you . . . going back, how’d you originally
come up with the idea for it?

David: We were using a service to transcribe our voicemails into text and
there are a number of services. You can imagine which ones we were using
and the transcriptions weren’t very good. You could sort of tell who had
called in maybe a couple of the words, but the overall transcription
quality was quite low and it was hard to tell what someone was actually
saying. So, we built a service to address that particular need.

One of my co-founders you know, I was telling him about needing to deal
with this personal pain point that I had around getting my own voicemails
transcribed and he said, “Oh, I’ve been thinking about this problem for
years,” you know, “we should work on it together.” It turns out he has an
issued patent on a marketplace for transcription services; he had all these
great ideas. He has this vision that someday we’ll be able to do 60 minutes
of transcription in one minute by having multiple people work on it at the
same time.

So, some pretty forward thinking ideas on how to do transcription but that
was really the original idea was how do we solve this pain for ourselves.

Jeremy: So, why did you even want your voicemails transcribed?

David: Well, I get a lot of calls as I’m sure we all do, lots of different
things. It could be for sales. It could be your friends calling. It could
be work, meetings you know, just everyone has so much going on these days
that I would be there and I’d be looking on my phone and I’d see there was
a voicemail, but I really want to be able to see who called and what did
they say and figure out what to do with it.

Jeremy: Right.

David: I’m kind of an email. . . I use email all the time and so I sort of
thought of voicemail as an extension of email for me and so that’s a big
part of why I wanted to have it in text form.

Jeremy: Right, yeah. Looked like you had a big pain point around that. Do
you remember a time that you just . . . it bit you because you didn’t have
it transcribed? Like you missed a big client or a big call or someone’s
birthday. What was that big pain so we could experience it?

David: Yeah. At the time I was in a job where I was doing investing and a
lot of investing as with so many other things requires you to be very
responsive. I can’t think of a particular instance where not having the
voicemail cost me a deal for example, but when people call you really do
need to get back to them and you have to be very responsive to kind of a
lot of in-bound inquiries. So, just being able to see all that in visual
form and see the text is really important.

Jeremy: Right. I just wanted to feel your pain because I feel like I would
have been like, yeah this is kind of annoying I hope someone creates this
but you, it was enough of pain for you to actually go out and do it.

David: Yeah. Well, I had tried multiple services. I was getting tons and
tons of calls. It’s hard to explain how many phone calls you get as an
investor. People joke that a big part of investing is saying “no” to the
investments which is difficult and sort of emotionally challenging. But
you’re just getting a huge volume of in-bound inquiries and so just being
able to sort through those and see them and respond to them quickly and
easily is really important.

So, it was enough of the pain where I really wanted to see it. So, also
it’s incredibly frustrating because you would get these transcripts and
they were really bad and so you’d see the bad transcript and it’s almost
worst than not having the transcript is having what someone said
inaccurately represented. It’s almost more frustrating to have it be wrong
and so it just made it more and more of a challenge that I wanted to go

Jeremy: Yeah. You spend more time deciphering it.

David: Right.

Jeremy: So, what was the moment early on because obviously you’ve had
several successful ventures. What was the moment early on that maybe it
felt impossible to get a customer or you hit a big road block with the

David: Well, we had really two things going on with Speechpad. One was, we
had a large direct customer that had come through someone that I had worked
with a number of years ago and so that customer you know, we were building
and addressing a lot of requirements for that specific customer. And so
often times we would be doing a lot of work to make the product work for
that customer’s requirements and we’d often wonder are those requirements
applicable to other potential customers.

So, we’re spending all this time on this large direct customer and
meanwhile we were sort of expecting, as so many entrepreneurs do, and as we
all have that people would just show up and use the site and start ordering
transcriptions. Lo and behold without doing any marketing or any online
promotion, not that many people were showing up and using the thing.

So, we had this one big customer. We’re doing a lot of custom work for them
and then we were sort of . . . we’d show up at our meetings every week and
go, where is everyone? How come more people aren’t using this thing? Of
course, the obvious answer was we weren’t doing any marketing and so that’s
why no one knew we existed. So . . .

Jeremy: Were there features . . .

David: You know it . . .

Jeremy: Go ahead.

David: It seems self explanatory and yet when you’re in the thick of it
sometimes you, you know, it’s just so easy to forget that you’ve got to do
just basic marketing. You’ve got to get the word out. Let people know it’s
out there. You’ve got to ask a customer, hey if you had a good experience
with us would you mind telling a couple of your friends and you know you do
that enough and people really get to know about your product.

Jeremy: Were there features that the big customer was asking for that you
thought would hit it big but ended up being something that most people
didn’t want?

David: Well, a lot of you know, we have a number of larger customers now
and a lot of larger customers tend to need things like API’s where they
want programmatic interfaces for uploading their files in very large volume
and getting the transcripts back in very large volume. So, that’s one thing
where we’ve done a lot of work. It’s really paid off because we have
integration, but it was a lot of work. It’s not something that you know,
someone doing a couple of transcriptions a week is going to think of when
they’re initially using the service. So that was one thing.

Another thing that big customers really need is comprehensive invoicing and
you know, you might not think invoicing. You know, what’s the big deal? But
it turns out that to get through procurement and payments and vendor
management and so on at really large companies, large public companies,
they’ve got to have detailed invoices and they’ve got to adhere to certain
formats and all of this stuff.

So, a lot of that you know, you have a specific format for a specific
customer. So we would do a lot of work on invoicing just so we could get
paid, which was really important, getting paid for the work we had done.
But those are things that you know, the customer coming to the site who
puts in a credit card and just wants a great transcription experience might
not worry about those at least at the beginning.

Jeremy: How’d you figure out how to charge early on because if you have
these big customers and then smaller customers, I’m sure there is
differences there.

David: Yeah, so our kind of overall principle was make it easy.
Transcription is a market that exists. It’s a very large market and we
looked around and we saw that it was very complex. Lots of different
charges for lots of different activities and you couldn’t get an immediate
quote for your audio or video. So, it’s kind of frustrating to try and just
get a transcription done.

So, our goal was make it simple. If there is you know, if it’s hard for us
to hear the audio, if there’s a ton of speakers, if it’s just plain harder
than average then we charge extra for that, but for the vast majority of
transcriptions we should be able to do that for you know, with a pretty
basic pricing mechanism.

We felt that after doing a bunch of market research that a dollar a minute
was a price point we wanted to be able to offer at least as an entry level
price point. Now, customers want faster turn around. They want timestamps.
They want specialized invoices. There are a lot of things that again, often
for larger customers that they need or want that we charge more for, but we
really wanted to be able to offer basic high quality transcription at a
buck a minute.

Jeremy: Yeah and then people who want premium features they can pay a
little bit more for those things.

David: That’s right you know, closed captioning, specialized style guides
for different verticals and different industries where you have your
translation, things like that. Those all are additional.

Jeremy: Yeah. I guess that’s a good point for any business is they should
have a starting point and then some premium features that will build on
that. So . . .

David: That’s why we’re also all about trying to . . . and from my own
experience you know, I really like to think about taking the friction out
of the product. So, you want someone to be able to show up. They need your
service. They want to use it. You don’t want to give them any reason to
turn away, right? You want to get them in and using the product and to just
make it really, a really great experience.

Jeremy: Right. They’ll figure out as many reasons as they can to turn away,
so you want to make it as easy as possible. What was the story early on of
how you got your first sales after that big customer?

David: So, we put up a website as many people do and we did a little bit of
SEO and Andrew Warner at Mixergy was one of our early kind of podcast,
videocast customers.

Jeremy: I didn’t realize that, okay.

David: And . . .

Jeremy: Yeah.

David: He started using us for every single show that he did and he
provided a link back to us saying, and transcription services provided by
Speechpad. That’s a model that we’ve replicated now with lots of customers,
you know and customers now voluntarily say, “Hey, would you like it if I
mentioned that our transcription was done by you?” And we’d go, “Wow,
that’d be fantastic, we’d love that.” So, that’s a lot of how our new
business comes as referral business. It’s not a ton of online advertising
or things like that. It’s just customers who used us on a consistent basis
. . .

Jeremy: Right.

David: . . . who liked the product and got benefit from it and in some way
showed our product to their users and so we get a lot of referrals that

Jeremy: That’s the funny thing is, that’s Andrew and I were talking and
that’s how, that’s why I came up and that’s why I started using it. So . .

David: Yeah. That’s exactly it and now of course we do direct sales to
other large customers. That’s kind of sales as we’re all familiar with. We
contact the customer and sell and do all that, but a lot of our customers
really are in-bound.

Jeremy: That’s great and so now . . . so, when he did that, did he ask you?
Like, can I put . . . or he just put it up or was that part of when you
send people the transcript does it include by Speechpad or how do . . .

David: We should probably do that. It’s on our feature list.

Jeremy: Okay.

David: But many, no. Many . . .

Jeremy: Well, just do it because they love it.

David: Yeah. We should do it. Yeah. We’ll add that in, yeah.

Jeremy: People just do it because they want to and yeah, it’s great.

David: And they like the product and they’ve had good experience or it’s
really helped them with their online marketing and so they . . .

Jeremy: Want to give back.

David: Yeah, exactly.

Jeremy: Yeah. So, tell us a little bit about one of those biggest turn
around sales like, someone was definitely not buying and they ended up
doing it anyways and what you did because I know a lot of times we get
these whether it’s resistance from customers or maybe emails. What happened
with, example from Speechpad?

David: Well, we you know, so we have a lot of people come in, use the site,
have a great experience. I personally come in still and handle some of our
customer service inquiries. One, I enjoy it and two, it gives me a real
feel for what’s going on in the business. You can really tell how your
product is, what kind of experience people are having by just looking at
the kinds of inquiries that come in and handling some of them yourself. Of
course we have account managers, sales people and so on, but it’s really a
nice thing for an entrepreneur to do that directly.

I remember I got up one morning and there was an email in my inbox from
someone and it was a pretty tough email. It’s something you know, I . . .
this person was just very upset and I can remember it was partly with us,
partly just was clearly having a tough time. We’ve all had those moments. I
was reading this email and I was personally very hurt by the email because
it was one of those customer service moments where you go wow, we’ve been
just working so hard, we had so many happy customers and here’s someone
where for whatever reason they didn’t have a good experience.

I remember writing this person back and I said, “Please give me a call. I’d
just love to talk about your issue and what we can do.” About 30 minutes
later I get this phone call from a guy in Australia and I’m talking to this
person and he goes . . . I remember this. He goes, “I forgot that there was
a human being on the other end of this service.”

It was just one of the most memorable moments for me because it’s so easy,
especially on the web to forget that behind the webpages and the interface
and all that, there’s an actual person on the other end of that transaction
who’s trying to deliver, make their salary, do their work, do their job and
make you happy as a customer not just at Speechpad but at so many
companies. It’s really easy to forget that and I just . . . it was very
memorable for me to have him say, “Wow, there really is a human on the
other end of this thing.” I said, “Yeah, here we are. We’re just trying to
deliver great transcriptions and make your life better.” I think he
appreciated that and so that was one of our more memorable customer service

Jeremy: That’s great and I do notice on your website you make it so easy.
If you look at the right hand side, you have the email, you have a phone
number, so it’s like that kind of speaks to you know, call us. We’re here.
You can address us via phone. You can email us. So, it seems like very easy
and people can kind of get a hold of you anyways.

David: That’s . . .

Jeremy: Sometimes I have to search around for phone numbers and I’m like,
you know, that happens.

David: Yeah, no and we really want that and we really like hearing from
customers. The other thing is that we found was being really responsive
again, maybe this goes back to my original experience with the voicemails
and as an investor, but we try and get back to people as fast as we can.

A lot of companies you say you get that email that says, “Thank you for
your inquiry, we usually respond within two business days,” and you’re
sitting there going, two business days, that’s an eternity in today’s age.
I need to get this answer right away. And so we really try and get back to
customers really quickly even if it’s, we’ve got your email and we’ve
looked at your account, here’s what we’ve found. We need to do a little
more research, but it’s more than just the hey, we got your inquiry,
someone may get back to you. We really try and be responsive and I think
that’s made a big difference for our customer base.

Jeremy: Yeah, for sure. So, what’s, David, what’s the time when you had the
most pivotal sale or connection or you hit a big milestone later on in the

David: Well, we are right now really scaling up the business. Video has
been one of the big drivers in this business. We started out doing audio
transcription. That’s still a large part of the business, but video today
for two main purposes. One is online video. So, content like this, the VP
of marketing interviewing the CTO for a product launch, original content
creation, all of that. Video is just so easy to capture now and on a
relative cost basis getting a transcription is just a very cost effective
way to create original content. So that’s been one big driver.

The other is something called closed captioning and with so much
programming going on the web now, there’s a lot greater need to make sure
that everything that goes online has closed captioning to go with it. So,
those have really been two big drivers and in the last few months we
introduced some capabilities that really let us streamline and scale up our
delivery of closed captioning timestamped video and that has made a huge
difference in the kinds of customers that we can go after. We’re now
closing six figure deals around closed captioning, around video
transcription, things like that. So . . .

Jeremy: That’s amazing.

David: Then yeah, I don’t know if I could say it’s one particular moment,
but it’s really amazing when you’re in a market and you’re able to
introduce a little bit of technology and a little bit of work flow and you
kind of have everything working and then you’re able to say okay, we can go
close the big deal.

Jeremy: Yeah, so I mean, how do you go from . . . you don’t have to mention
names of company if you can’t but so, how do you make that big connection
because I mean, that’s not something that happens over night. What happens
if you can’t get to that point?

David: Yeah, I know. I think that’s right. It’s not easy. We’ve been around
for awhile. We built the business up. A lot of the customers have been
doing a handful of transcriptions a week.

We started to get some bigger customers about a year and a half ago in
addition to this first very large customer. So we had experience with a
very large customer when a few more large customers came along we said,
okay, we think we’re at a point where the platform, the kind of the
software and the people, those two parts are at a sufficient scale that we
could add more large customers.

Because otherwise you have sort of this chicken and egg problem. You have
big customers showing up but you’re sort of wondering if you can scale to
meet their needs or you don’t have them showing up so you’re afraid to make
the investments to scale up. So, it’s sort of all about having this
critical mass where you have enough large customers showing up and enough
infrastructure built out that you can do both those things at the same time
and so I think that’s really what happened.

Jeremy: So, what’s one that you could talk about and like, how they
actually kind of came on board?

David: So, we, without mentioning their name.

Jeremy: Sure.

David: We work with a large company that provides a video for educational
institutions, libraries, things like that so a lot of online video.

Jeremy: Right.

David: They originally came to us as a what we call a “walk-up customer”,
someone who found us through the website maybe through a referral link or a
blog post that we did and you know, we look at every . . . so, every time a
customer shows up, a whole bunch of us get an email that says, “You have a
new customer,” and it’s this very exciting moment that says, here’s the
customers, here’s their email address, here’s their phone number. So, we
see all of those emails come in.

We look at this one and I go sort of like, oh, this one looks kind of
interesting. I went and checked out their website. We do that with a lot of
our customers still to this day. We look at the email address they put in.
We go look at their website and we go this could be a pretty interesting
customer for this reason or this other reason, new use case or the company
or what have you and it’s a really popular site or it’s something we
haven’t seen before. Lot’s of different reasons that could make a customer

This one we saw . . . I sent the contact an email and I got back an email
and this one had turned out that they wanted to do hundreds of hours of
transcription every month. In fact, they want to do 500 to 1,000 hours a

Jeremy: Amazing.

David: So, that’s a lot of you know, that is a lot of scale and so we did
some integration with them, we did a pilot, all the things you do in kind
of classic enterprise sale, but the thing with transcription is you’re not
doing it over 18 months. You’re doing it over maybe a couple of months for
that scale. So, they’re evaluating your quality. You’re talking about
pricing. You’re talking about account management. You’re talking about SLA,
Service Level Agreements, all those things that a large customer wants. But
really that one just came through. Someone found us through the website and
we worked with them and that’s how a lot of our larger customers actually
find us.

Jeremy: Yeah. It seems like you’re being a little bit modest because with
everything you’re saying, you are kind of adding that personal touch.
You’re looking through everything and adding that human aspect in going to
their website and saying, huh. Reaching out to them and seeing how else can
we help in kind of meeting the needs of that specific customer. So, yeah
maybe they found you, but it was something with you kind of following up
and seeing what they’re all about.

David: We . . . and so, thanks for saying that. So, we really are in there
looking at the customers when they come in. We’re checking in as they’re
using the service, how’s it working for you, did it meet your needs, and
people’s specialized style guides. I think everyone on the team really has
this go-getter attitude which is, how do we delight the customer? How do we
make this customer successful? Everyone’s got this can do attitude. It’s
amazing. We’ve had people who were started out with us as transcribers who
are now account managers and they are in there, it’s Friday night at 10:00
p.m. and an email comes in and you see a response from one of our account
managers. It’s Friday at 10:00 p.m.

Jeremy: It’s a good feeling.

David: “Thanks for your message and here you go,” or “What can we . . . how
can we help?” Things like that, so people really do have this attitude at
the company of how do we make it happen for you.

Jeremy: Well, I want to ask the next question, but I don’t want to brush
over that because . . . So, what’s something you do to help with the
culture because it’s not like every company. Someone’s like, eager to
answer customer service emails at 10:00 p.m. I’m like, what’s one thing
that you do at the company that gets people motivated or they’re excited to
do those things?

David: Well, I think it’s been said many times but you’ve really got to
lead from the front. You see this in the movies. You read about this in
history, but my co-founders and I really are in there. We get an email. If
we don’t see a response, we’re in there. We’re responding.

I remember my co-founder, Mike, sent an email and here he is replying to a
customer service question. That’s just how we do it and so people who then
move from being a transcriber to being an account manager are used to that.
They’re used to that level of responsiveness and they’re used to seeing us
do that and so it’s just natural for them to show up and go, “Wow, I need
to respond to this right away.”

It’s partly that. It’s partly by example and it’s also just being very,
it’s just practical. Just telling people being responsive is very
important. They get it right away because everyone’s had the bad customer
service experience and we don’t want to be those guys. We don’t want to be
those guys you never hear from.

We want to be the super responsive you know, your boss told me you had to
have the transcript on the site by 4:00 p.m. because of this marketing
initiative you’re doing. We got you what you needed and you were happy. I
just love that feeling and people really feel that. So, I think that’s a
big part of building the culture.

Jeremy: Yeah. So, obviously you’ve had a lot of success and people are
maybe like, well yeah, I wish I had those six figure deals and everything,
but I’m having tons of problems and they maybe not sure how to overcome
them. What’s one of the big failures or pitfalls you’ve seen that you wish
you would have avoided so far?

David: Well, I think we could have done marketing in sales a lot sooner
than we did. A friend of mine jokes that people actually know about us now
and he does that because he’s kind of elbowing me to say hey, you know, you
could still do more marketing. And we recently added our first real sales
person and so. . . Eric. And Eric has that same mentality, that same
culture you were talking about earlier.

He shows up. He works like crazy when we bring in a deal. He is working to
get the deal closed. He is talking to the customer. He is interacting with
them. So, it’s you know, he has that same can do attitude that kind of
everyone has.

But I think one thing we could have done and a lot of entrepreneurs can do
is you just get the word out. There is nothing like telling people that
your product exists and then having happy customers. There’s just nothing
to replace that.

Jeremy: What happened like, early on because you didn’t get the word out?
Did the company feel some kind of pain or do you remember a time when
you’re just like waiting for that text or email thing, we have another
customer? What was that pain you experienced because that’s what people are
experiencing now?

David: Yeah.

Jeremy: A lot of people. What was something like that early on?

David: Well, I remember we would again have these you know, in our
development meetings, customer meetings and so on and there just wasn’t
that much to talk about. We kept wishing there were more customers and it’s
really frustrating when you feel like I have a product and yet why aren’t
more people using it and I remembered things feeling kind of slow. I also
remember another entrepreneur telling me a number of years ago, you’ll know
it when you’ve got it. It’ll feel like a rocket and I always kind of you
know, back when I was first told that. I was like, what does that feel like

Now, I wake up and there’s 10, 20 emails saying between the time I went to
bed and the time I looked at my iPhone there’s 20 new customer emails just
in the span of six or seven hours. So, that’s an amazing feeling. You know
that things are on fire when it’s just happening like that.

But you also know when things are slower than they should be and you just
got to be real honest with yourself that it should be faster. It’s not and
what are the reasons for that? Is our website really hard to use? Our site
was hard to use a few years ago. Are we doing marketing? No, we’re not. So,
how would anyone know that we’re out there? Do we ask our customers, “Hey,
would you mind mentioning us or doing a you know, tweeting about us?” Or
anything, just mention us to a friend. It’s amazing what just a simple ask
like that can do to help your business.

When people are happy with your product like you said though, give back and
they’ll try and help make you successful because they want you to be
successful. So, I think a lot of that we could have done earlier and now of
course, we do a lot more of it.

Jeremy: Yeah and you do a lot of mentoring and things like that. What’s one
thing that you’d recommend the audience to do and start doing right now to
start getting more sales or even their first sale to get it going?

David: Well, first of all use your own product. One of the reasons I love
doing the Big Data Landscape shows and kind of all these Big Data videos is
I go in, I feel the pain. I record the video. I have to edit it up. I have
to produce it. Oh, it turned out the audio’s in mono instead of stereo and
I had ran into this Skype you know, all the little things that by
themselves wouldn’t be an issue but together all those little things add
into a big thing and are very time consuming.

So, when you use your own product you really feel kind of the whole life
cycle of the product and you really get a sense for that and when you show
up at the development meeting you go, you know that issue that we keep
saying we’ll deal with next week? You do it right away because you’re
feeling the pain and there’s just no substitute for that. So, I think using
your own product not just saying you’re going to do it, but actually using
it in a very visceral way is really important.

Jeremy: I didn’t know what you were going to say for that one, but I did
not expect that answer. That’s . . . so, that’s great. Feel the pain of
your customer and go through the customer experience because often times we
forget that and we’re kind of looking from the inside and we don’t see what
other people see. That’s perfect. I like that, yeah. What’s another, what’s
a tool or software or something, a system you use in your, like, in your
business that helps you to be as productive as you can be because I know .
. .

David: Yeah. We . . .

Jeremy: . . . managing a lot of stuff at once.

David: Yeah. We use a lot of different tools. We use Unfuddle for ticketing
and trouble ticketing. So, every time there’s a product issue, we ticket
that. It gets assigned to an engineer. And I think the bigger your
engineering team gets, the more pieces of the product you have, the more
critical it is to be very clear about what the issue is because all too
often you can say hey, there’s this product issue we should do something
about it. But turning that from a “We should do something about it” or a
customer emailed us and had this specific issue, that has to become a
specific ticket number and go on the work item list. So, we use Unfuddle
for that.

We use Google sites for a lot of information, Wiki type information that
we’re sharing with customers internally for our operations team. So, for
operations when we onboard a new customer we’re compiling lots of
information about who are the customer contacts, what are their
requirements, all of the details that go into a great relationship with a
customer. That’s all going into our online repository of information.

So, those are some of the biggest. Of course we’re built on Amazon web
services. We like that because we can scale up and down easily and it has a
lot of underlying security capabilities. So, all of those things really
help us build the business.

Jeremy: Yeah. No, thanks for sharing those and I want you to . . . I have
one final question. Before I ask you that, I want you just to tell people a
little bit more. Obviously, they get a little bit of a idea of Speechpad
but maybe one of the stories of a business that just can’t live without it
or . . . and maybe a little bit of what you’re working on now with

David: Yeah, so gosh, can’t live without it. So, we have some educational
institutions now that take some of their online courses and get those
transcribed and those really, truly make the video accessible. The closed
captioning capability we have now, that’s truly a can’t live without it
kind of thing. We have people who are hearing impaired, watching the
videos. Without the closed captioning they literally can’t incorporate or
use the video. They can’t make use of it and so having this time coding,
this closed captioning capability with the transcripts really is the can’t
live without it kind of capability. So, I feel really good about being able
to offer that part of the product.

Some of the things we’re working on right now. Again, more and more about
video. How do we get more integrated with YouTube so that you can take your
entire YouTube channel list of videos, pull those into Speechpad and then
voila. You get transcripts for your whole video library. You can imagine
that that would be incredibly useful for marketing organizations that are
doing a lot of online video production.

So, a lot tighter integration, making the work flow even more seamless and
then making the transcriber experience really easy. So, a big part of
having human beings do transcription is making it easy for them to do the
transcription. So you can imagine something like Lifeline where if they
didn’t know a word they could ask for help. We could highlight. We could
have glossaries of here are the keywords, lots of different things, built
in editing tools. We have a lot of this today, but I think we could go even

Jeremy: Yeah. So, just spell out the website just for people who are maybe
just listening to it.

David: Sure. It’s and you can go to Speechpad and upload
audio or video. You can put in a YouTube URL if you’d like. If your video
content’s already online, you upload that. Choose your turn around time
options. Put in your credit card or request an invoice and you’ll get your
transcriptions back.

Jeremy: Cool and then David, I have one final question for you. Being the
author of Why Startups Fail and How Yours Can Succeed, I have to ask you
this obviously. What are the two of the biggest mistakes that you’ve made
that other founders should watch out for? It could be with one of the
previous businesses too. It doesn’t have to be with Speechpad.

David: I think number one for technology is picking a small market. So, the
thing I love about transcription is there’s potentially a lot of
competition but it’s a huge market. If we built the right product, we’ve
delivered great customer service, we’ve delivered great transcripts, the
market is really, really big. So, we can continue to scale the business so
I really like that and you know, about this market.

The other thing as I mentioned earlier is just not getting out there soon
enough. It’s so easy to stay in the kind of the coding mentality of
building the product and it’s kind of really putting yourself out there to
say okay, I’m going to have other people try out this thing I built and
they might love it, they might hate it and again, with Speechpad I think we
could have gotten out there a lot earlier than we did.

Now that we, you know, now that we’re marketing and we have sales people
and things like that we can really feel it. So, I think it’s doing that
sooner than you might feel comfortable with.

Jeremy: So, what do you think was holding you and the company back from
getting out there sooner?

David: Oh, you know, we just . . . we were, we didn’t think about marketing
first and foremost. That wasn’t the first thought of the day. We didn’t get
up and go, how do we get more customers? We got up and went, this is really
cool. It’s really interesting.

Jeremy: I see.

David: We’re building up a nice product and at some point we made this
transition where we said, number one, the product has to sell itself. It
has to be really easy to use and two, if it’s that good, we’re going to
want to tell people about us. Having a great product, a product you know,
just because you said earlier in the show where people really love the
product. When you’re getting feedback then people say, “I love your
product,” and you get those emails, that really makes you want to get out
there and tell people about the product.

So, I think having a product that you personally love and that people are
telling you, customers are telling you they love the product. That kind of
lights the fire. It lit the fire under us to want to get the word out and
share the product . . .

Jeremy: Yeah.

David: . . . with more and more folks.

Jeremy: I see. Yeah, so early on you’re like, just or you know, product,
product, product then maybe you could have incorporated a little bit more
of let’s spread the word as we’re just [inaudible 00:44:01].

David: As we’re [inaudible 00:44:02].

Jeremy: Right.

David: Yeah and you know, then once you get some positive feedback and you
have your own conviction, I think that’s a big part of being an
entrepreneur is you always have this moment where you decide I’ve got the
conviction to go make this successful and all the things that go into that
marketing and sales and great product and the right pricing and all those
pieces you know, you just wake up and you go, I’m going to make it happen.
That’s a big part of it.

Jeremy: Yeah. I love that and about the small market. Was there a time
where you remembered choosing a market and then afterwards realizing it’s
too small because a lot of people have a hard time judging? Is this idea
big enough? Should I even move forward with this? What’s an example you
could think of either from you or maybe one of the mentor companies?

David: Yeah. Well, an example that I like to give and that you know, is
fast food. So, fast food is a huge, huge market. Does that make it a good
market? No. Just because it’s a really big market doesn’t make it a good
market for me as an entrepreneur. I don’t know anything about how to make
hamburgers at scale for large numbers of people and deal with food
distribution and everything that goes into that. So, there is an example
where it’s a big market, but it’s not a good market.

A good market is not only is it a large market, but it plays to your
strength and it’s something you’re personally very passionate about. So,
that’s really the case with Speechpad is that it has all of those factors.
A lot of times what I see from companies that I advise or mentor is someone
will go after a very narrow problem. They have . . . I’m trying to think of
a good example, but you know, here’s a tool that solves some issue I was
having on my laptop or something. It addressed their personal need.

Jeremy: Right.

David: But it was too narrow to be broadly . . . you know, broadly
[inaudible 00:46:12].

Jeremy: Yeah. I know exactly what you mean, yeah.

David: To a lot of folks. It was just too narrow a solution and so when you
think about transcription, transcription’s something that’s applicable to
lots and lots of people. Different use cases within that market; captioning
versus online video versus podcasts and so on. But as an overall solution,
it’s very you know, it’s very large. So, I think that’s really what you’ve
got to ask yourself is, how many other people could benefit from this if I
solve the problem?

Jeremy: How did you know with Speechpad because obviously you had a
personal problem and what did you look at first to see is this a big enough
problem for me to spend a lot of my time and energy doing?

David: Yeah, so we looked at the market really hard before we got into it
and it’s a very large market measured in tens of billions of dollars when
you look at traditional captioning, when you look at audio transcription,
those were both very large. What really happened, what really changed
though in the last two years I would say is that online video just took

Online video just like what we’re doing right now is on fire and so when
you layer that in on top of traditional audio transcription on top of
captioning, online video is just this incredible driver. It’s like this
wave that is pushing our business and other businesses and that you know,
that’s an amazing thing when you have that additional driver to kind of
catapult the business to the next level.

Jeremy: Yeah. All right, so listen to Dave. Make sure you don’t have a
small market and just get your product out there. David, I want to be the
first one to thank you and I want everyone just to, you just take whatever
it is, some kind of audio or video and go through their check out process
and just purchase. And just even if it’s five or ten minutes or whatever
the clip is, just try it and see how seamless it is. It’s amazing. You can
incorporate that in your website and in your business too. So, Dave, thank
you so much for your time.

David is a 6 time marathon finisher and an Ironman.

Business Mentors, Tools, Books mentioned:

Why Startups Fail: And How Yours Can Succeed

A little background about David:

David has co-founded five startups, two venture-backed, three exits to date.

People would describe David as an entrepreneur, adviser, and investor.

From 2009 – 2011, I was a General Partner at Mohr Davidow Ventures, a Sand Hill Road venture capital firm with $2B under management. He has founded five tech businesses, with acquisitions by HP, EMC, and Keynote Systems. He is co-founder of Speechpad, the leader in crowd-sourced audio and video transcription and David advises a number of companies including SendHub, BandPage, and LiveMinutes.

David is also the author of Why Startups Fail: And How Yours Can Succeed. He blogs actively at When I’m not working with tech startups, I enjoy triathlons, rock climbing, and playing the violin.

A little about Speechpad:

Speechpad is the leading provider of crowdsourced transcriptions and translations for Video SEO, captioning and subtitling.

The captioning and subtitling services are used by some of the world’s largest media companies. Speechpad also provides transcription for insurance, legal, financial services and general business customers.

Speechpad uses an innovative, patent-protected workflow platform (US patent 7,016,844 – System and Method for Online Transcription Services, issued March 21, 2006) to deliver the highest quality transcriptions at the lowest cost. (David is inventor and co-inventor on 15 US patents.)

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