Jimmy Zollo

Yeah, so I think we’ve learned two really interesting things so far. But the first one which is not surprising is that authenticity is really easy for for people to figure out. So an example of a good and a bad NASCAR this year, as far as a good It went when they removed the Confederate flags from being allowed in their arenas and when, but it seemed

Jeremy Weisz

like a no brainer, no, it should

Jimmy Zollo

have been a no brainer, but for their fan base it it was really controversial and totally got, they got 1000s and 1000s of fans saying they’re never coming to a NASCAR event ever again. But but but they finally put put their foot down. And then at the same time Bubba Wallace, they’re the only driver of color found a noose in his locker. And they stood with the NASCAR really strongly stood behind him and all the drivers stood behind him and had maybe the most iconic sports moment of 2020 because of it. And the interesting thing, looking back at 2020 NASCAR’s numbers relative to every other sports league, were were phenomenal. They saw the least drop out of every other sport league during during lockdown and during quarantine. And I think a lot of that goes to they weren’t hiding behind their values they were they were authentic about it. On the flip side, real quick,

Jeremy Weisz

before we get to the flip side, you bring up something very interesting with with NASCAR. And it kind of parallels what happened in whenever someone’s watching this, you know, Capitol Hill, and I was watching one of the Michigan constituents talk about how you know if talking about that certain things are wrong with the people that stormed even if it’s going to affect you getting elected, right? And it seemed like that’s what you’re saying with with NASCAR as well. It was it’s maybe a no brainer decision for some people but it they knew was gonna piss a lot of people off

Jimmy Zollo

that that’s exactly right. To to take a stand that is going to offend a portion of your base, even if you think it’s the morally right thing to do, hasn’t always been easy for big brands to do, especially recently they tend to hide behind things. So that the flip side was that was I won’t throw this specific company under the bus but there was a fast food organization who like everyone else put out a statement about how they stand with Black Lives Matter and they believed in defunding the police and all that. A couple hours after they released that statement they fired an employee for wearing a black lives matter facemask to work. So like that, you know, authenticity when that gets caught. Really, really hurts. And it becomes so obvious who’s speaking out of both sides.

Jeremy Weisz

Um, do any other good examples stick out along with NASCAR?

Jimmy Zollo

Yeah, you know, I actually think the NBA who their numbers were way down. But that’s a longer conversation as to why I think it’s more that their target demo is on social media not sitting behind watching a full NBA game anymore, but I think the NBA did a phenomenal job this year. Now Not just in how they stood up for Black Lives Matter, but but there have been, they stood up for voting rights acts, they they they did everything they could and make every single NBA stadium available for in person voting during the election, which was a pretty incredible undertaking something that had never been done before and was done because of not just the actions of the players and their sort of push. But but but the entire league got behind it so that the NBA has just been an absolute leader in saying what you mean, and meaning what you say.

Jeremy Weisz

Jimmy, talk to me about that for a second. So the NBA comes to you, they’re like, Jimmy, we totally see this as valuable. We know words matter. We need to be better at this. And usually the companies that are really good at it want to be better. And how does it work? With? You know, like, let’s do it. How does it work with them working with you?

Jimmy Zollo

Yeah, so there are a few different ways to work with us. The first is typically Collaborata is essentially essentially an incubator of big ideas. So so for example, in this case, the idea is putting together a universal language depth definitions of what these words of social justice and social equity actually mean. So so when we have that idea, we then form a team behind it, we always bring in a subject matter expert, if not multiple subjects, subject matter experts, as well as bring in some some unique research tools to make sure that we can do the project at scale in a really interesting, effective way. From there, once we sort of define the goals of the research, we look to go find others and see who may be natural allies are who would be good to share that research with. But in other cases there, there have been some really surprising collaborations that we’re proud of. We’ve had Procter and Gamble and Unilever, on the same project together, which was pretty cool. We had Bank of America and Global Atlantic Financial and Wells Fargo together, and a number of other financial institutions who typically feel like competitors, but for the sake of learning and knowledge, and in sort of expediting their own internal growth and innovation, they’re willing to work with competitors, which, which is really validating for what we’re trying to do.

Jeremy Weisz

When they collaborate. What is how do they typically use the research? So if, you know in the if the NBA is like, cool, like we actually, with social equity, here’s some language and here’s some stuff that we want to use, do they usually actually push it out across? commercials or logo? Like, how have you seen the them use the the research?

Jimmy Zollo

Yeah, so it depends on the specific team that we’re working with within an organization. Typically, though, it’s used for communication strategy. So across media, so whether that’s commercial, whether that’s social media, how they’re using their brand messaging, a lot of times it’s also product innovation, too. So we’ve done a lot of really interesting work in the aging and longevity space, specifically with companies like Procter and Gamble and Bank of America. And those organizations use that information to ensure that they’re best serving a specific audience and developing the types of products and services that can help them specificallyin this case as they age. The other interesting one is occasionally, depending on the organization that we’re working with, they’d actually use this for lobbying purposes as well, to ensure that they have a full and complete understanding of a specific group of people within this country and how to make sure that this country is best representing their needs.

Jeremy Weisz

Let’s talk about before we hit record, you were talking about hacking longevity. That talk that’s right up my alley. I love talking about health stuff. So and I didn’t want you to tell me anything, because I want to hear it for the first time. So what did you mean by that?

Jimmy Zollo

So hacking longevity is a series of research projects that we’ve been doing over the past four years. We’re actually now on our third one. So we started with with the foundational research called hacking longevity, which took a look at Americans 65 plus in this country and sort of looked at their aging journey, because as we know right now, the way in which we age is very different than how our parents generation aged and the way Millennials are aging, the way Gen Z is aging is gonna be very different for a multiple multitude of reasons, whether that be our our health, our financial stability, the the activities that we do. So we took a foundational look at aging within this country. From there we then what we found was that your specific place that as you age, there are specific events that can happen that fundamentally change who you are as a person right now, not not surprising, but we defined five of them for the next hacking longevity. In dove into those where we call life shifts, one of them we called aging single. So it was an individual who either became divorced or widowed later in life, obviously, totally unexpected and could have major, obviously financial ramifications. But but it’s also really impactful from a health perspective as well. And how that can impact someone, we looked at a happier one, like becoming a grandparent for the first time, and how that changes somebody’s life. And in particularly now, boomers are the most empowered grandparents we’ve ever seen. They, they they really are kind of second parents, to their grandchildren, they’re spending more money than grandparents have ever spent on their grandchildren, which is a really interesting thing. And for organizations that we work with, that’s something that they definitely need to better understand.

Jeremy Weisz

So what have you found with the research from hacking longevity that you’ve changed? Because you know, it’s going to help you live healthier, longer, better, happier, whatever it is?

Jimmy Zollo

Yeah, I think there are a few things. The first one from a health perspective is I think it reinforces the need to be really, really active in really healthy with, with how I eat, and, and for me being healthy, that means low impact. So I try and ride my bike as much as I can low in Chicago right now, that’s, that’s not very easy. But from a diet perspective to that, that means a lot. The other big thing from a financial perspective is, is understanding that, despite hopefully, the plenty of success to Collaborata or any other endeavor that we may have is that, that millennials are not going to retire in the same way that our parents generation will retire. The retirement age right now, and six is 65. The reason that retirement age was originally set at 65. Because at the time, the average American was dying at the age of 64. So so we need to know that that sort of Social Security mistake probably won’t exist for our generation. And we’re going to have to work later in life than our parents generation ever did. And just sort of be prepared for that and understand, hey, we’ve got to save now, but also not burn out. Now. We there’s that balance, knowing that we’re going to be working later into life, regardless of a lot of things that are outside of our control.

Jeremy Weisz

What made you start going into the hacking longevity, and one of my favorite books is the Blue Zones. And it’s kind of it talks about kind of some of the lessons for living longer, and it did some, you know, mathematical research on in, you know, there’s certain Blue Zones in the world of people are more likely to live to over 100. And so I’m fascinated by this, this type of research, why what made you go down that path?

Jimmy Zollo

No, is actually the inspiration of one of our clients. So one of our clients is AARP. And they’ve they’ve been our champion behind this project for the last four years and had been really sort of instrumental in driving, where we go, this was something that they wanted to get behind. And we’ve partnered with an expert as well on this Her name’s Lari Bitter. She’s the president of an organization called the business of aging. And she’s phenomenal when it comes to understanding this audience. She used to lead JWT’s Boomer group. She is sort of a foremost thought leader when it comes to aging and longevity in this country. But that was really the inspiration with was AARP as well as some past research we had done on generations in the country.

Jeremy Weisz

In this this kind of, you know, talk, you know, goes a little bit Jimmy into Joe and Bella. You’re right. And you started Joe and Bella. And that comes from a personal story.

can check that out Joe and Bella calm,

Unknown Speaker

Joe and bella.com. Okay, thank you,

Jeremy Weisz

um, back to Collaborata for a second. What was the initial idea behind it? Yes,

should be what was the key? You know, oftentimes, when companies change, it’s probably it’s usually driven by customers demanding certain things and and the smart ones listen to their customers, and what they’re asking and deliver what they want, and then more of that, but what was a customer or a request you got that really helped you shape? What the company does now?

Jimmy Zollo

Yeah, you know, I think, what was when we found out that the actual model that we had set up just didn’t make any sense. So it was every project needed 10 clients, so everyone was paying 10%, that didn’t make any sense. So So I think it was actually AARP, who came to us with the idea of hacking longevity and said, Hey, we’re actually willing to underwrite a really high percentage, well over 10% of this cost in order to get the research off the ground. And also that way, it helps incentivize some other really great companies to come and collaborate with us. So the idea then really shifted from this isn’t just about cost savings, but it is the value of the collaboration, it’s the value of the partnerships. And it’s about having this, what we call our champion behind it AARP, who who’s really sort of instrumental in driving the project and the research for

Jeremy Weisz

I’m interested, also, Jimmy, how you navigate these what youth looks like competitors, and they’re getting this Intel nice IP, and getting the work together. So what are some of those? Give me an example. And you talked about one earlier? At first glance, these looks like competitors. And I would think they they are spending the time energy and money on this IP, they don’t want to share it with the other organization. You know, what was the collaboration conversation look like? So it gets people out of that mindset of No, actually, this is actually better than, you know, together than not,

Jimmy Zollo

it’s, it’s really tricky. And there’s still people we will run into, that will refuse to work with us, just for that point there. There was a, I won’t say the company, but there was a VP at one of the biggest research buyers in the country. So they’re, they’re about six, six companies that really sort of dominate this landscape. And he said, Jimmy, I don’t really understand what you’re doing. I don’t know if this was about five years ago, I don’t think I would ever buy anything from humans, I don’t want anyone else to be able to see what we do. But it goes, but I’d also never get an Uber. So maybe you have a decent idea. Then from there, he’s at the end of the call, we spoke for another 30 minutes, he goes and by the way, if give me a call back, if any of my big competitors buy something and let me know what it is because I’ll sign up for that and collaborate with them. So he just didn’t want to be the first one to jump in. And I think that’s typically what it is, is that that that FOMO, for the fear of missing out on the information has has been really key and critical to us. But also, at the end of the day, we live in a world where there is so much data, there is so much information that everyone’s going to get it somehow or some way Facebook is getting the same information. Google is granted, they’re collecting slightly different data sources, but but but the depth of their data is similar. So everyone else who is not Facebook, who is not Google, who is not Amazon, is that this massive data disadvantage. And what we’re trying to do is democratize access to all of this other data that’s out there in the world and give them a level playing field against these tech giants. Because right now, it’s it’s not not fair to the level of access that they have relative to everybody else.

Jeremy Weisz

Talk about some of the popular research categories. So we talked about, you know, obviously hacking longevity and health, right. social equity and language. What else have you seen, I guess, trends of people researching?

Hmm, that’s really cool. Yeah, cuz I could see you are seeing a lot of this first, and then you you really have a broad view of the trends that are going on. I want to hear about what shaped you and you know, specifically grub hub, and the bowls. Talk about what were some of the lessons you learn in a story from the Chicago Bulls days.

Jimmy Zollo

Yeah, so working for the Bulls was was really cool. So the offices for the bulls are right there in the United Center. And I grew up a bulls fan. So it was, it was just incredible. Every single day, you walk into the arena past the Michael Jordan statue, and then go and get to work. So it’s so it was a phenomenal and cool experience. But I was there at a unique time. So I was there the year of the NBA lockout, where it was a shortened season, as well as the previous season, Derrick Rose had won the MVP. So there was all this hype around the bowls. And I was there just for within a few months, because of the hype around the team coming into the season, we had sold out literally everything there was to sell every single season ticket, every individual game ticket, just about every single sponsorship was gone. And we more or less had the option of Hey, you guys can stay and be sort of glorified customer service at this point throughout this year. And then next year, start selling again. Or not. And I chose or not so I left without really knowing what I wanted to do. But I knew as a salesperson, and someone that liked to be really busier really needs to be really busy that I wanted to find a situation where I couldn’t sell out there, there was always going to be something next to do and sort of that that feeling of we had achieved something we’re like we’ve got to the top of the mountain and there was no sort of other other place to go with. It was really weird. So because of that, that that’s how I fell in love with startups. And I had gone to a little bit after that I didn’t know what I want to do. I had gone to 1871 just to sort of network with some people and I had stumbled into a talk. Matt Maloney the founder of grub hub was speaking there. And I just sort of fell in love with what he was saying about how he was so convinced at the time. And this was well before online food ordering had really taken off. But he was so convinced that Grubhub was going to blow up and that they were going to be the next big Chicago startup. And that night I went I apply for a job at grub hub, I think I interviewed a few days later and started the following week. And it was just a phenomenal experience in really sort of built my love for startup culture, especially here in Chicago.

Jeremy Weisz

You know, it seems so obvious now. But back then, it wasn’t so obvious on online ordering. What when you went into a new city, like because you had to go for expansion? What were some of the conversations you had to have? Because you have to do some convincing. It wasn’t. I mean, these people were early adopters, I imagine.

Jimmy Zollo

Yeah, it was a those early conversations were so different than the conversations I would have four years later. The first the first few years where people didn’t believe it would work restaurant owners would would would laugh at us said no, no one’s going to order online. No one’s going to order. They’re just going to call us why wouldn’t they just call us on their phone? This doesn’t make any sense. We were getting laughed at in the other big challenge was was actually competing with another Chicago startup Groupon because we had salt call Hey, this is Jimmy from Grubhub. And they said no, we don’t like Groupon and they would hang up.

right? It was it was way too similar, but eventually what ended up happening and what ended up working was literally just sitting down with restaurant owners and doing the math saying, All right, here’s how many orders are coming into the zip code that right now are going to these restaurants next door, these restaurants that you’re competing with, and then sort of going through their own costs on a per order basis to show them, Hey, this is what you could make on a per order basis. If you were to start working with GrubHub. In once we sort of got over that threshold, and sort of learn how to best communicate that with our restaurant partners, things really started taking off

Jeremy Weisz

any favorite customers that you worked with a grub hub?

Jimmy Zollo

Absolutely. So there was a Chinese restaurant in St. Louis, and no one there spoke English. And they were they were all first generation Americans. And they had just opened up a few months earlier. And they were really, really struggling. And I was trying to convince them to be on grub hub, and explained that, hey, Chinese restaurants are doing really well in St. Louis. And maybe this is a good way to get get get your name out there. And they didn’t know what I was saying. It was we there was this really tough language barrier. And then they had taken me into their kitchen because it was before dinner rush was about to start. And they’re, I think 13, or 14 year old daughter was in there doing their homework, doing her homework. And she had been had overheard our conversation. And she spoke fluent English. And she started translating on my behalf to her parents as to why they ought to be on grandpa. And because of her, they ended up joining, they’ve ended up being a really big success they’ve had they’ve all open multiple restaurants. And it’s just a sort of a really cool story of sort of that the iconic American dream of coming here, opening up your own business, really being authentic family business, and it’s, it’s been fun to watch.

Jeremy Weisz

So what made you Jimmy was the next transition. So towards the end of grub hub, I mean, it’s, it’s grown a lot.

Jimmy Zollo

Right? Yes, it they’ve been phenomenal. So my, the transition out of grub hub was right after grub hub went public. That following week, they brought in a team of attorneys to tell us all what the new rules of operations were, which is great, you’re now a publicly traded company, you absolutely have to behave differently than how you had before. But for me as sort of someone who had fallen in love with Grubhub, because it was a startup and and sort of that freedom and that flexibility that startups entail. Once they gave that speech, I started coming up with different business ideas, and figuring out what what what I wanted to do on my own. I come from a family of entrepreneurs. My dad was an entrepreneur, my grandfather was so I knew I always wanted to do my own thing. And right after that IPO, it just felt like the right time.

Jeremy Weisz

What what’s some best advice you received from your dad or your grandfather?

Jimmy Zollo

I’ll give you I’ll give you one one for my grandfather is not to always trust your gut. Which, which, which was a an interesting lesson. So his story, his entrepreneurial story was he was college roommates with Hugh Hefner. And the two of them had started a magazine together called Chicago. And it did okay. I think it had a few additions before it eventually went under. And Hefner came back to my grandfather and said, Hey, Bert, I’ve got this great idea for a new magazine. I’m going to call it playboy and he explained to my grandfather what it was. And my grandpa goes, absolutely not, I do not want to be a part of that. It’s going to be a horrible failure. You’re making the biggest mistake of your life. And Hefner, of course, goes on to found playboy in those first few editions. Most of the articles are written by my grandfather under a pseudo name because my grandmother refused to let him use his last name in it. So so it was something they didn’t like to talk about a lot. But but the lesson is that your guts, not always right. I did just to take chances. That’s amazing.

Jeremy Weisz

That’s an amazing story. Does he still have those laminated somewhere or the the articles he wrote in the first edition?

Jimmy Zollo

It’s a funny story, so they’d never had any of them. Because my grandmother refused to have them in the house. She didn’t want any associate kid. I didn’t get I get that. Yeah, but maybe like five or six years ago, I saw the first edition was on eBay. So I paid way too much money to get a first edition and I got it framed now, which

Jeremy Weisz

is pretty cool. That’s your wife. Yeah. Your wife’s like, oh, Why you buying this? Like? research? It’s my grandfather’s legacy. I need these.

Unknown Speaker

Exactly. Explain that one

Jeremy Weisz

away. Um, first of all, I have two last questions for me. I just want to thank you. Thanks for sharing amazing stories. Everyone should check out collaborata.com, they can check out joeandbella.com. Check out other episodes of the podcast. I always ask. Because it’s Inspired Insider. Is there any other places we should point people towards by the way online? To check out what you’re what you’re working on? Are those the best places?

I don’t know if anyone could top a grandfather story that you just told. Jimmy but um, I always ask since inspired Insider, what has been a challenging time low moment we know is an entrepreneur journey. It’s lots of ups and downs. And then on the flip side, what’s been a proud moment for you in the journey? what’s been a challenging time, or a low point that you think back on that, you know, kind of pushed you forward?

Jimmy Zollo

Yeah, you know, getting Collaborata off the ground was really, really hard. Like I said, or initially, we just didn’t have the model, right. And it took us nearly 10 months before we made a sale. And those first few days after you wake up if quitting your job and not having a salary. At first, it’s exciting. And then you go 10 months without making a sale, and every type of doubt that you’ve ever had every negative thought you’ve had about Am I the right person to do this is a good idea? Why would I leave sort of a rocket ship of a company, every single doubt creeps in. So that was really, really hard.

Jeremy Weisz

Being a salesperson, I mean, at heart, right? I mean, you’re used to going city to city and, and making sales.

Jimmy Zollo

Exactly. So to go 10 months, that was it was brutal. But once we broke through in once we had our first big success, or a first big success was a project called generation nation. And it brought in 10 companies and some iconic brands, including the NBA, and Ford and Reebok, among others. And once that happened, the trajectory of the business sort of changed overnight. And it changed because number one, we didn’t stop testing new ideas are our initial sort of assumptions of how we’re going to build a business where we’re all wrong. I’m sure a lot of our assumptions about how we’re going to continue to build the business are wrong, but we just didn’t stop testing. And we didn’t stop trying to figure it out. So that

Jeremy Weisz

why didn’t you quit? I mean, at month, four month, five months, six months, seven months, eight, What kept you going? You know,

Jimmy Zollo

I don’t have a good good explanation other than I really hate to quit. I was I was so convinced that there was something there that we were, we’re sitting on an idea that it fundamentally made sense for organizations to share their data to democratize it, so that they can compete with the big tech companies on an even playing field. I was so convinced of that. Just basic thesis. I knew we had sort of how we do that wrong. But I thought if we just kept sort of poking at it that we had figured it out. And yeah,

Jeremy Weisz

yeah. Your belief was kind of pushing you forward. And maybe the execution, you know, you’d had to tweak. Gotcha. On the flip side, a proud moment

Jimmy Zollo

for you. Yeah. So I would say launching john Bella has been a really proud moment. So Collaborata for us is sort of like this really great commercial product that we’ve put together, Joe and Bella, to me is something that’s really personal. That right now, for folks in assisted care or nursing homes or skilled nursing, it is really, really hard. They can’t see their families, a lot of them can’t talk on the phone. It’s, it’s horrible. So for us to be able to give back in any way we can to help those in assisted care in any small way, is something that we’re really proud of, and we’ve been able to roll up the site and get it launched in a couple of months is been well, we’re running another business full time has been been something we’re really really proud about. Jimmy Thank you everyone.

Jeremy Weisz

Check out collaborata.com check out joeandbella.com and more episodes on the podcast. Thanks again.