Search Interviews:

Philippe LeBlanc 14:07 

Yeah, so there’s one co-founder. So this is really the third venture with this co-founders. So we had a startup called Our Balance, which was a health and wellness that was done a long time ago. And then that was like corporate wellness, and then a second startup Flixel and then the third one Funday and he’s the only co-founder out of all the three that’s been consistent. So we’ve been over 15 years doing companies together or almost 20 years now. And this time around we decided to be co-CEO because we’re so aligned now in terms of, we have different strengths and weaknesses. And we were very fortunate for Funday to find really the other two key co-founders that has made our success of Funday go so rapid, and, and really aligned. And so one of the co-founders, well, both of them actually, we had worked in some capacity before we ventured into this one. So there was, without going into too many details. So I do think like, if you want where you look at our work together before Yeah, kind of.

Jeremy Weisz 15:30 

Yeah. What were you looking for that you said, obviously, because of.

Philippe LeBlanc 15:35 

Yeah. So I think it’s important to have different skill sets, different personalities, but a shared vision for what you’re trying to accomplish a mutual respect, very, very important. Communication is going to be ongoing. One of the things that, learning from other startups that is part of my journey is, we hired a coach from day one, kind of startup coach, that was part of our inception. And we meet every week with that coach, and it allowed us to, issues that could fester or take longer, we address it much quicker. So it doesn’t become something where it becomes really difficult to repair later on, you’ll still have your challenges, you’re still going to have your disagreements and all the rest. That’s healthy. And it’s actually how I think you get to a better end result. Or what you do want is respect while you’re in that disagreement. So you’re all trying to find the best solution, not trying to win your argument, but trying to find the best path forward for the end goal, which is for the business to grow and to prosper.

Jeremy Weisz 17:04 

That’s really interesting. Phil slipped from the beginning, you have a weekly, we won’t call it therapy session, but it is, you know, there’s probably some therapy in there too, as business and just navigating the personalities. And other three co-founders or four. Because I didn’t mark the previous one that Flixel. Okay, got it. Yeah. So there’s four of you, how do you decide to choose a coach? Like, how do you find a coach?

Philippe LeBlanc 17:33 

In this case, this someone we mark and I had worked with prior. So we brought it to the fold. And so the other two obviously trusted us? And obviously, if the coach wasn’t right, we would have not continued on over the years with him. But yeah, I mean, that is one thing that you have to gel, and he’s a professional at this. And right now he’s got a business that they do quite well, you can check them out. Blueprint Management. Che is his name. And yeah.

Jeremy Weisz 18:13 

Blueprint Management. And then do you find I’m sure you’ve the sessions have iterated over the years. But what is the format, like, when you walk in?

Philippe LeBlanc 18:25 

It depends on the week. So there’s hot topics, there’s what’s going on in the week, that is, start with by celebrating the wins. While in our case, we start by celebrating what’s fun, because a Funday, and we can talk a little bit more around the name. Because there’s a lot there around culture. So we touch on different things that’s going on the business, some things that are working in the business, some things, like working on or working in, sometimes it’s specific issues related on something tactical, other times, it’s more strategic. So it varies. And because it’s weekly, you kind of see what was covered the last time and sometimes you kind of bring that back and there’s continuity. So it’s still fairly free-flowing, I would say, just in general. But there’s a bit of structure within that free flow.

Jeremy Weisz 19:32 

Yeah, I want to talk about culture for a second before we launch into that. Talk about the transition from Flixel to the idea of starting Funday.

Philippe LeBlanc 19:47 

Yeah. So, one of the things for tech startups is, it’s a very competitive market and you have a window and you either sell your company or you have to keep iterating and innovating, and before money runs out effectively, or if you’re profitable normally you have a lot of different paths. But the reality is most tech companies are not profitable. And I mean, we see it in the public markets, the vast majority of tech companies are not profitable. It’s quite competitive. And you have to get the scale. And so we had, well, I mean, Flixel is still going on. But we had a software solution, which we’ve created called Cinemagraph Pro, which for those listening, it’s basically, it’s still utilized in the advertising world, it’s essentially a medium, a new medium ideal for micro-content. Now, it’s used primarily for billboards, so digital billboards, it’s essentially a hybrid between a photo and video, so everything is still it’s a photo, you’ve probably seen them, and then you could have just a hair in motion, while everything else is still so the movie industry uses it quite a bit, you’ll see some of those. And there was a period before 5g, before TikTok, people were familiar enough and confident enough to do video. This was kind of the perfect ad type for mobile devices. And Facebook pushed it a lot because it was low bandwidth. Because of the way the cinemagraph crunches the file, because there’s only a little bit of motion. It had motion which is attracts your eyes and it’s more catching then than photos, you can direct the audience to your kind of brand, whatever you’re trying to sell. Right. So if you’re selling shampoo, then the hair is in motion. And if you’re selling something else that could be whatever it is that you’re trying to sell. These are, this is fun day. So this would be on Flixel. So Well, I mean, like the images are moving, or is this a video? No, it would be where everything is still and just a part that’s in motion. So if you go in Flixel, you’ll see examples on the data. Cool. And so very popular for a period of time, we had a window, we came close to selling it, we didn’t. Now it’s primarily use for big digital billboards, and it’s more of a niche, versus all of the SMBs, that could use it for their digital ad strategy on Facebook, which was the market we were going after, because we were competing against Adobe Photoshop, that you could do it there, but much more complex. So we were going for the prosumer market and the small business owners. And so when that became clear that it wasn’t going to get the results that we had all hoped for, I decided to or at that point, I stepped down and kind of looking for my next thing to do. And Mark and my co-founder, he had acquired Flixel studios. So the arm of the business that was the production side. And we had some conversation, then we said, we got to go back and do a new thing. He had Flixel studios. But then as we discussed it, we said, well, we really want to be everything we learned around building a startup and all of the folks we encountered and everything we learned around marketing, we said, well, we really want to be a strategy creative agency. And so there was one particular missing piece for that, which was Jared Folkman, which he became a partner as part of the inception of Funday. And so he had 20 plus 25 years of experience in the creative agency world, he was working with the biggest agencies in the world running the biggest accounts and brands in the world. And so, he brought in all his expertise in kind of the big agency experience. But he wanted to do what we wanted to do, which was like boutique vibes, right, like working, not for accountants, ultimately, but working for the craft and the joy of creativity, and doing really work that matters. And that helps the incline and building a culture. That was really a differentiator. That’s where we saw the biggest opportunity was on the culture side, because a lot of creative agencies can do great things. There are a lot of similar celebrities and great people working on different creative agencies. But ultimately, the one you as a client want to work with is someone that ultimately cares about your business. And that the people working on the account care about your business, and will bring their best creativity. And so, as you’re seeing right now, Funday is your strategic and creative partner. So we wanted to bring that energy to our clients. And so Jared was perfect to bring in, and he’s our chief creative officer, and he runs really the day-to-day team, the creative, anything touching the creative, and he’s brought in some of the best from all the years of experience, he’s worked with all the greatest talent, and they’ve come for the culture. And then our fourth partner, Alex Bhajan, he came from the AI world, and being part of the founding team for the financial services for AI Watson, and really understood the FinTech space, really well, AI web3, crypto. And so with the four of us, we were able to, there was a good, good mix of talent and ambition and wanting to do things differently. And that was really the birth of Funday.

Jeremy Weisz 26:31 

There’s two things I want to unpack there for a second, though, which is, you say, we brought Jared and he was the missing piece. Right. But it’s not always easy to attract top talent, like it’s suddenly this person, they could probably do whatever they want. I mean, yeah, they’re working with big brands. Like, how do you attract Jared into the company?

Philippe LeBlanc 26:54 

Yeah, well, without going into too many details, one of the things we, as intrapreneurs, that you do is you, you try to direct people as much as possible, you try to make it attractive, you really want to set the tone. So, we did secure certain clients that we’re going to be able to kick things off, that always helps. Now, there was some hustle that came before that, we were able to leverage. But ultimately, he was also helping. There were many other things that he helped us along. So there was a relationship, it was a relationship, yeah, for over, many years.

Jeremy Weisz 27:52 

You drop these like seeds in a way, like, you should work with us.

Philippe LeBlanc 27:59 

You can just attract without either building a long-term relationship over the years, or having something substantial to bring to the table for them. So yeah, you have to look at you, what are you offering, and, and make it attractive. And I mean, one of the things for him that attracted him primarily was, you know, he could run his own ship, in the sense that, you know, he had learned all these things. And there’s a lot of times, and this is a frustration we see in the advertising agency, and this is actually all one of the things that is problematic in the creative agency world is people work very, very long hours, with very little respect. And it’s a grind, and ultimately goes to, you know, bean counters, so to speak at the top, because most of the big agencies are owned by holding companies, and they just care about the bottom line, not the work, that’s not their primary thing. It’s like, Oh, if the work gets you the money, that’s, that’s fine, but it’s the bottom line. So a lot of decision-making is made based on that. And so you don’t get the chance to nurture the same way, your team, you don’t get to reinvest sometimes the way you would, if you were independent, and playing the long game. And one of the challenges a lot of independent companies is they don’t have enough revenue to be able to make those investments into the team. And so we brought a lot of our innovation from our backgrounds and technology to cut costs that we saw as kind of fat in the system, for example, we are fully remote. You don’t when you hire us, you’re not paying for us to have a big office space that ultimately does not matter for your end result as a client, because we’ve hired folks who love working remote, we were born during the pandemic, so we were remote from day one, that’s a huge competitive advantage because our processes are much leaner, you cut costs there that goes into cost savings for your clients, which again, that allows for more profit as well and to reinvest in your company. We’ve built our own software for time tracking, as an example, to make it easier and more fun, we call it fun times. And so, those are just some of the examples I can give, but there’s many others that allows us to be just much more efficient. And those, but at the end of the day, we’re doing all of these things, because there’s always fun to be had. And we want to get to that fun for our clients, for our team, in everything we do. And so, if I may go in a little bit further here. One thing I always liked about a quote that always stuck with me was Jeff Bezos. He said, “your margin is my opportunity,” he was talking about the retailers that had fat margins, and he kind of played a different game, because he was e-commerce, and it allowed him to do that. And he could scale and he could play the long game in the public markets that they couldn’t play, because he had scalability, and then build all those other services around it, and obviously worked out really well for him. In our case, our philosophy is your culture meetings, most of the creative agencies out there, obviously, not all there are some that have incredible culture, your culture is our opportunity. So if we build the best culture possible, we will attract the best creative talent, we will have those great of talent, do their best work and be happy and work really well with our clients, our clients are going to have the best work, and they’re going to have great results and have fun working with us. And they’re going to spend more with us and tell their friends and so forth, and it kind of grows, the work gets more work. And, ultimately, that’s our kind of view of the marketplace of how we can win. And it’s really worked well. In less than three years, we’ve grown to 60-plus employees, and we’ve had tremendous clients and really have done it in a way where the culture is the culture we wanted to build. And Northstar is to make every day a fun day. And that’s for our partners, that’s for our clients. That’s for, you know, employees, of course, it’s a Northstar, you don’t always deliver on that there’s some days that aren’t fun. But that is the guiding principle. And when we’re off course, what’s great about our name is it always is a mirror to us, and it’s funny every time we’re not as winning as other times or things aren’t where it’s like, it always goes back. Well, what’s not fun, right now and you’d like once you figure that piece out, and you kind of correct that everything falls into place. So that was the general philosophy was that fun and performance are, you know, two sides of the same coin. And so, what is fun, winning is fun. Playing your best is fun, doing great work is fun. Hitting your numbers is fun. Working in a collaborative way is fun, right? Like all of these things boil down to that. And so that was why we call ourselves Funday. And I would even say one more thing around that is to our customers. When they are with a creative agency, the most fun part of their day should be with a creative agency, it shouldn’t be when they’re talking with legal and you know, other board issues or a bunch of different HR issues that’s going on there in their world it should be the most fun part of their day. Because you get to play you get to create storytelling, it’s you’re making things you’re seeing your brand come to life, you’re seeing your, it should be playful. And so that was kind of the reason why we call ourselves Funday and it’s at the heart I have this business, which is really around that concept and infusing it that first at the cultural level. So at the employment level, and then it’s going to trickle its way all, and touch everything, including our clients and partners and so forth.

Jeremy Weisz 35:20 

Phil could you talk about, what are some things that you do to instill culture in a remote environment? And what are some of the things that you do as a company to have a good culture, even though you’re not in the office?

Philippe LeBlanc 35:37 

Yeah, the one thing that plays in our favor is that day one, we were remote. So we didn’t go from being in the office to remote, which I think that causes certain other challenges. So it put everyone on the same level playing field, there is no like, differentiation within the team. And we are remote all over Canada, US, Europe. So our team is spread out. And one of the key things is it comes down to communication. Number one, so the way I view culture is, people processing performance, right, that makes up a big part. And then of course, purpose. And so on the people’s side is very important, that communication is awesome. And that’s, you know, you’re primarily communicating for the most part through, in our case, Slack. So the written communication has to be respectful. And then, of course, when you are in video calls, and so forth, the same thing. That’s at the fundamental, respects communication that starts everything, and then hiring people that embody that. So the no Asshole Rule, if you will. So that’s at the foundation level, because at the end of the day, it’s all people that are going to do things, right, like people can, that’s all what a company is, right? It’s a group of people. Then the people will determine the processes, so then you’ve got to be very mindful of the processes that you build, because that’s how you get the work done. So everything from the tools that you use to the, how complicated things are, from a structural perspective, you want to reduce that to simplicity, how we organize what we call pods, so how we service our clients, we design pods, so they work very closely together, and that kind of creates a good working relationship that they can service one or two clients within that pod. And really, always looking at improving the processes and then injecting fun in those processes as well. So, we have characters that have been designed that have been created within our culture where I won’t go into too many details, but it’s a kind of fun, TikTok-type character that just lives internally that shows up at different times. And we play games on Slack channel that, with emojis, and guess the movie trivia with emojis just like playful, silly stuff. We have weekly meetings where we have what we call truth and lies, which is, when a new member of the team gets onboarded, they get to kind of talk a little bit about themselves, but through a storytelling mechanism that we call truth and lies and you kind of try to guess what’s truthful and what’s a lie. And so, all these little things all add up, right? So you have multiple different things. But you also have to be performing as well right at the end of the day you have to grow, so as people process performance in the process, it’s a combination of things that are to get the business done for performance and then there’s other elements that’s to inject fun and to inject personality and to eject the spirit if you will, and to embody the Funday ethos, and then we do our holiday parties and other things where we meet in person. And that’s kind of the big picture.

Jeremy Weisz 39:29 

No, I love that. And so I know we only have a few more minutes, but I do want to highlight a little bit more about what you do. We’re talking about storytelling and this is what you help companies do. Right? And so we’re looking if you’re looking at this it’s You could see 7-11 you can see perfect, you can see Sara Belly. I don’t know if my favorite I love the Sara Belly one but go tall or Sara Belly, I don’t know which one will be better to talk about.

Philippe LeBlanc 40:00 

And yeah, so I mean, they’re both fun go to we just recently won a Clio award for it, we actually haven’t updated to the clue award on the website yet. So as like anything else, you always have things that you need to update. So this was kind of the older campaign that you’re seeing here. But it was basically what we, it’s a troll, troll that we invented a loo the troll, troll and it’s a fun character very Pixar kind of style, if you will. And it’s essentially him stopping you and explaining why you’re kind of an idiot, you didn’t download, go toll you could skip the toll, which is basically skipping the toll troll. And it’s a fun campaign, it’s little 15-second videos for different kind of use cases showing the reasons to believe into the products. And so a perfect kind of way to body. Again, the story around why use go toll, which is so you don’t have to use the transponders or go through the toll. And so it’s like a mobile app that just does it seamlessly, if you will. So kind of like how Uber does it for taxis. But here’s for tolls. And it really tells in a fun way you turn something that, is a very No, it’s a utility app, if you will, but you turn it into a story and you turn it into infusing storytelling elements. So that the ads are punchy, and they just delivered like incredible results, just in terms of the metrics that marketers care about, like CAC, and, and so forth. So because the better the ads, the cheaper your cost of acquisition becomes. And as we know, the social networks also reward you if your creatives are good by lowering your CPM as well. So there’s a lot of reasons to do great creative. It’s not just to win awards, it’s not just to do pretty things and it’s not just for fun, too, it’s actually it will drive performance. And so that was one of the campaigns that was really fun. And you’re just you showing me that they did though the website.

Jeremy Weisz 42:40 

You mentioned the billboards helped with this.

Philippe LeBlanc 42:44 

Yeah, so we also, I guess we’re talking about this earlier, before we started recording. Like all things, I think from this, why you want a strategic marketing company on your side, not just someone who’s doing pure bottom-of-the-funnel performance or affiliate marketing or some of these different niches, those are fine, you have a place for that in some cases. But the reason why you want a strategic partner is every product, every service has different things that will work for them to acquire customers in different ways. And you have to put on your thinking hat you have to start looking and sometimes test. And so in this case, for example, go toll Well, billboards when people are driving and seeing, even though they won’t download the app right there, it’s getting them to make the brand association and then realize the frustration of like, yeah, they got to stop and pay this toll and all the rest, where they could have just skipped by using go toll. So it brought in the right type of top-of-the-funnel brand awareness, then we follow up with those stories that we just talked about to go into the mid-funnel and bottom-of-the-funnel. So your full funnel is kind of touched on, and then you’re acquiring the customer, much, at a lower CAC. And so you really have to think of the customer journey and where is the best places for the customer to learn about you? And it’s not, most people just think like, oh, it’s social media. And yes, that is one part of the marketing mix. But depending on what you’re selling, there could be some gems that you should be testing and every company has these unique places. In some cases, it’s influencer marketing, in some cases, affiliate in some cases, it’s sponsoring a specific type of event because you’re b2b. So there’s all types of different ways of solving the problem.

Jeremy Weisz 44:53 

Yeah, I wanted to ask a one last question. I don’t know if we have if you have a few more minutes, I just wanted to hear some of your favorite book. But if you have to run, we can stop, Phil, but you have to go. And I just want to show people this is my favorite on the site, Sarah Valley. I just don’t know why it’s my favorite. I just love the way you walk through the journey here of art and science. And then the neurosurgeon mom of three and encourage people to check this out and other work you have on your page. But my last question is just some resources, some of your favorite resources, you mentioned The Power of Story, what are some of your favorite books or resources that you recommend other people check out?

Philippe LeBlanc 45:43 

Now, the things I like to read are not necessarily always on marketing is on psychology. But also I think this is touching more on the founder side of things, which is the mental game that you need to kind of get really good at, if you want to build resiliency and build the belief that you need in order to build something from nothing and to carry on. And so one of the things I grew up playing tennis, competitive tennis, and one of my favorite books that probably had one of the biggest impacts, not just on my tennis game, but in life in general. Because it’s really a spiritual book, if you will, and a psychological book all wrapped into one, it’s called The Inner Game of Tennis. And there’s a whole series of them, it started with tennis, and there was Inner Game Of Skiing, Inner Game of Music, Inner Game of Work, and it kind of became a, but at the core, it was about quieting the ego mind, if you will, the self-critical mind to let your natural self-play the sport. And the very interesting is like there’s two selves in you, right. And that’s why you’re talking to yourself, well, who’s talking to who and kind of that was the general premise, very much influenced by the Eastern philosophy of approach. But very fascinating way through the game of tennis to explain how to become more essentially intuitive, and being less by not getting yourself in the way, essentially, by not having your ego get in the way, or your self-critical element, right, get in the way. And so there’s some great tactics on it. There’s great storytelling in it as well. And obviously, it’s more fun if you play tennis because a lot of the analogies and the stories are on tennis but there are like I said a series so you can always use if you’re into skiing, you can read the Inner Game of Skiing and so forth. But I know that books had tremendous impact on many, many people in the business world. I know Bill Gates is one of his favorite books as well. I urge everyone to check out one of the Inner Game of Tennis is my favorite out of the ones that I’ve read.

Jeremy Weisz 48:29 

So I love it. Everyone check it out. Check out more episodes of the podcast check out Funday Agency, and Phil I want to be the first one to thank you. Thank you for sharing your story, your journey and the lessons, really appreciate it. Thanks, Phil. Thanks, everyone.