Unpacking growth with Andy Johns, Partner at Unusual Ventures

The below is a full (unedited), machine-generated transcript of a Youtube session / podcasting episode I recorded with Andy Johns, partner at Unusual Ventures in Q1 2020. You can view the video/listen to the podcast on YoutubeApple PodcastStitcheror wherever you get your podcasts.

Erasmus Elsner 0:06 
So welcome everybody to another session. My guest today is Andy Johns, who is a partner at Unusual Ventures where he’s leading and building out their consumer tech portfolio. So, Andy, welcome. Are you ready to take it from the top? 

Andy Johns 0:10 Thanks for having me. 

Erasmus Elsner 0:11 So you’ve been really lucky in that you’ve been part of four breakout rocketship consumer tech companies, including the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Quora, and Wealthfront. So let’s take this station by station. Let’s start out with Facebook, where you worked on user growth and engagement, helping the company grow between 2008 and 2010. From 100 million users to 500 million active users. Facebook is often thought to have pioneered the growth team and growth hacking notion. So it must have been a highly formative experience for you. And I saw that you in a blog post of you that you mentioned that, during this episode, the Northstar metric was really a 2% week-over-week growth rate, which would have taken you from 100 million monthly active users, I think back then, to 300 million active users in 12 months time. 

Andy Johns 1:15 
You’re right. I think the key word is lucky, right? It was a great experience. And when I joined the company happened to come in at the time where we had just established this growth team. So there were only five or six of us met a few years later. Next thing you know, it’s a 40-50 person team. But when I came in and to your reference around the 2%, weekly growth rate was, is at a time when we were about to approach 100 million monthly active users and the executive staff and the board, they got together, they talked about what the company wide goal would be from a growth perspective for all of 2009. And they said, Well, obviously, we want to get to a billion active users. And we want to be able to do that within a reasonable timeframe. And the only way in which we can sort of chart that course is we have to accelerate growth even even faster, and put it on a path to go from 100 million monthly active users to 300 million monthly active users from the beginning to the end of 2009, which seemed like an absurd proposition at the time, even set up a sort of lofty goal related to that, and an outcome where we said, Alright, well, if we hit this number, we’re going to go to Vegas to celebrate for a couple of days, which we ended up doing. But the math behind it was was pretty simple. We said Well, right now we’re growing at about one and a half percent week over week, and growth rates naturally want to decline, right, you’re sort of fighting gravity in that sense. And so we needed to prop up the rate of growth, not only maintain some rate of growth, but we need to bring it up higher in order to go from 100 million to 300 million. And it turned out that that rate of growth is 2% per week. And so we said well, I mean, that’s a pretty simple metric to orient around, we just need to do anything we can within the company within the growth team to go from one and a half percent weekly growth to 2%. And then we needed to sustain that, on average, every week throughout the year. Now, we managed to do it through an awful lot of stress and hard work. And a little bit of luck as well. But yeah, that was that was the the core thing that we focused on. And when I say do anything to make that happen, we used every tool in the shed, so to speak, I was personally in charge of search engine optimization. So I focused on SEO did a bit of paid acquisition as well, as well as conversion optimization. Because at that point, we had such a huge inflow of traffic that we just needed to do a better job of converting them to a registered user, and then onboarding them through an activation flow to get them highly engaged by the end of it. As I mentioned, we had a 4050 person team that was working on all parts of the product stack to find every ounce of optimization we could.

Erasmus Elsner 3:49 
Yeah, super interesting. Let’s move on to your experience at Twitter, which you joined in 2010. At this time, Twitter had about 30 million active users and you helped to grow it to 150 active million users and it was much smaller than Facebook, only a fraction of it. So how was it to go back in time? How was that transition for you?

Andy Johns 4:12 
Oh, it was difficult. It’s very challenging. I mean, anytime you go earlier stage in a startup, the the difficulty rises exponentially, especially in consumer companies, you begin oriented around a vision, sort of a belief and rooted in what I call sort of the humanities sort of based perspective of building companies where Twitter, from a culture standpoint really didn’t think analytically or use data at that time to make decisions with respect to product. They made product decisions based entirely off of a vision for the future. And some some instinct, frankly, and sometimes they’re really really right. Sometimes they’re really, really wrong, obviously did something right. To get it to that point, the company was right at this this transitional stage. where it needed to effectively professionalize some some aspects of product development. And a version of that is starting to pay attention to data. And so one of the very first things that I had to work on when I came in, and it was quite a challenge, because the arts versus sciences approach to product can reveal itself in the form of kind of a culture clash. And I was smack dab in the middle of that trying to introduce more of an analytical approach to product, because I knew that that was that was at the core of figuring out growth for the business.

Erasmus Elsner 5:30 
Yeah. And then in 2011, you decide to leave Twitter and join Adam D’Angelo over at Quora. So you were one of the first 20 employees there. And so I’ve personally built a question and answer sites a very niche question answer sites. And I know how absolutely difficult it is to get initial traction, you end up in the beginning, you seeding the forum with lots of questions. And I hear it from one of the early angel investors in Quora, that this was in many ways, also, a little bit what was going on at Quora in the in the early days. This is why I think even to this day, you have a bit of a Silicon Valley Tech overhang in terms of the questions on Quora, because a lot of people from the tech industry, were basically cultivating and seeding this, this initial questions and answers. Take us back to these days and talk a little bit about content driven businesses and how to get traction early on in such content driven businesses.

Andy Johns 6:23 
Yeah, they’re really tough. I think the key to it comes down to precision and focus with an almost comically narrow definition of who your target user is, and an almost comically narrow focus on the type of content you want them to create. Because, you know, I think a bit in the sense of entering an existing market, you know, think of Tesla in the early days, right? They’re trying to enter this large existing market. And the question is, how do you sort of break into that market? What is the beachhead, every startup wants to sack Paris? But the question is what’s Normandy and you can’t just go straight to Paris, in Tesla’s case, their, their approach was, well, we’re going to prove what the technology can do on the high end of the industry, because everyone before them introduce this half hybrid, junky car that to the average consumer didn’t demonstrate superior technology, they thought, This is what electric is, I don’t want to just said, you know, we’re gonna build this this supercar, this $150,000, sports car, and we’re gonna make it better than a Porsche. And we’re going to sell it to about 2500 people. And many of those are in the Silicon Valley. And they were sort of laughed at at the time, because people said, Oh, look, it’s just some some wealthy tech guy who’s trying to sell a hobby technology to his friends. It couldn’t be further from the truth, it was a brilliant beachhead strategy, we now know how that’s unfolded, because they were able to sort of take a pinprick into the balloon, so to speak, and then carve their way into the market with each succession of the product, moving to the Model X and the Model S and the model three, and so on, you move to higher unit volume at lower unit cost. And then you move into customer adjacencies in the market. And now it’s the juggernaut that it is today. And the same is true within content and community driven products and networks. And so to your point about, you know, core having this bias around technology content, oh, yeah, it’s absolutely true. I was one of the first one or 2000 users of the product in the beta, we relied on our friends and family and former colleagues to establish the initial expectations around how the product should be used, and to demonstrate what high quality questions and answers look like. And to do that within the subject matter that we knew. We were sharing our experiential knowledge as folks within the technology sector. And what we did is we landed that beachhead, and we showed amazing content that you could not find elsewhere. And because of that, that’s what core became known for and that’s why other people were attracted to it. And then from there, just like test, though, we very surgically moved into adjacencies of different topics and different content. And it expanded into the very, very large platform that it is today. I think the last I saw is Adam Di Angelo mentioned that they have 300 million visitors a month.

Erasmus Elsner 9:14 
Yes, super interesting to learn about this D day of Quora. So let’s let’s move on to your time at Wealthfront in 2013. After a brief stint as a entrepreneur in residence at Greylock, you joined Andy Rachleff, over at Wealthfront as a director of growth and eventually became the president. I mean, this was fintech. And while it was consumer FinTech, it was still very different from the social vertical that you’ve been an integral part of before. So if I remember correctly, Andy Rachleff once talked about Wealthfront’s user base, and what really stuck out to me is that they don’t want to speak with anyone. The millennials, that goal is for them, to not have to speak with another human. That objective seems very juxaposed to what you experienced at FB, Twitter and Quora in terms of like engagement. I mean, while social really tries to maximize engagement with Wealthfront, it seems to be the opposite in many ways that you’re trying to have it as frictionless as possible.

Andy Johns 10:12 
That’s right. You know, growth isn’t. I think the key point on this is growth isn’t one size fits all. The the approach to growth from one startup to the next can be drastically different. Depending on the product, it’s building, the market, it’s entering, whether it’s a new market, or an existing market, the implementation of a growth team or a growth focus, consequently, needs to be very different. And I was I was attracted to wealthfront, because at the core of growth is a phenomenal product. Right? I think, when I think about something that can grow to be large and sustainable, I think it has three primary components, it has a top of funnel, some way of attracting and acquiring new customers, its core product value is exceptional. So it offers something that’s 10x better relative to the alternatives in the market. And then it has something that you would consider sort of magic moments, right, these these parts of the experience that elicit an emotional response from the user. And that part is, in my opinion, the most important part because if it delights the customer so much, that they can’t help but tell other people about it, then that’s what solves the top of funnel problem for you. Right, that’s what produces exponential organic growth, that’s product market fit. And so I was always attracted to any product that had those three components to it. And in particular, 10x better value, relativity, alternatives, and magic moments in a product that delighted me such that I told others, and that’s what wealthfront did for me as a consumer from a personal finance standpoint. And so when I joined the company, for me, it was a no brainer, I needed to be part of something that was making a run at the large financial institutions. And this was at the time before FinTech and robo advisors before that language even existed. So it was very early. But for us growth was driven mostly through product innovation, and a little bit through product optimization.

Erasmus Elsner 12:10 
Now let’s talk a little bit about your transition to Unusual Ventures. So Unusual Ventures is a rather young firm, co-founded by Jyoti Bansal and John Vrionis in 2018, starting out with a first $160 million fund, and last year, it raised its second vintage a $400 million fund. And so Jyoti was famously the founder of AppDynamics, which he sold to Cisco shortly before the planned IPO. And then John Vrionis, was formerly a partner at Lightspeed, where he invested in companies such as Mulesoft, Nimble Storage, and of course AppDynamics. These co-founding partners, they seem to have more of an enterprise, cloud and data infrastructure background. And that’s where you came in, basically joining as their consumer tech lead. Talk to us a little bit about how this came about.

Andy Johns 12:58 
Yeah, so let me I’ll reference what I mentioned about the beach head thing previously, which is, you know, I thought about a venture firm like a startup. Right? when you’re when you’re starting a company, there’s a variety of questions you have to ask yourself, but one of those questions is, am I entering an existing market or creating a new market? And the approaches can be very, very different? Depending on the answer to that question, if I’m entering an existing market, which is venture capital, it’s an existing market, just like I mentioned, with Tesla, and with Quora, I need to be able to come to market with something that’s 10x better relative to the alternative. And I need to focus that value on a narrow scope of the customer. And so when I thought about joining the venture capital side, I said, Look, I want to go in at the early stage, because that’s where the leap of faith happens. That’s the fun part. I’m much more about the journey. I don’t really like it when it becomes obvious. That’s, I like trying to figure out the problems that exists in the early days. And so I knew I wanted to be early stage. And I knew that in order to become part of the venture firm that had the chance of being quite successful in an incredibly competitive market, like how do you compete with the sequoias and benchmarks and entries and as an excels? Well, just like a startup, I’m going to think about what is 10x better relative to the alternative. And when I chatted with John, about their vision for early stage firm focused exclusively on Seed and Series A with a couple of very narrow theses around enterprise infrastructure and consumer, what we wanted to do was provide something more than just capital and more than just advice. And so we have great company builders as investors that our founders get to work with. And we write checks like most of the firm’s but the thing that we do that is different is we have an extreme level of company building support through the services arm of our firm that other firms don’t offer. So an example of this would be we hired the former VP of Marketing out of Okta, the number one salesperson all time out of MongoDB, and head of technical recruiting from app dynamics and when we invest, make a serious investment into a seed stage enterprise company, that’s SWAT team, so to speak, of company building experts will be so highly engaged that they actually have their butts in seats, they have a seat in the office of these companies. And we will do recruiting work for them and hire multiple engineers and usually head of marketing and head of sales, we will build and construct the entire sales motion for them and help them identify their first paying customers and land them at least a few 100k of initial revenue. And we’ll teach them to fish and show them how to do sales after and then we help redo all their go to market because it’s common that these great technical founders don’t have a lot of experience and understanding how to break their way into a market and how to position a product. And that’s what that SWAT team does. And, and so we built the firm around this fundamental belief that the earliest stage companies of those that need the most help and support but in the market today, they received the least because as funds get bigger and bigger, they have to write larger checks. And as they write larger checks all their time, and attention is going towards those $50 million checks. And none of it is going towards the $2 million check. But that’s where we play

Erasmus Elsner 16:05 
Absolutely, makes a lot of sense. A lot of the venerable venture firms have to some degree retracted from the Seed and Series A segment and go up where there’s more signal. Yeah, so definitely makes a lot of sense what you’re focusing on this most interesting segment. And so let’s move on to a deep dive into the balanced approach to growth ebook that you put out there. You started this with four blog posts that I want to dig a little bit into. So the first one was on “optimization versus innovation”. This is where you’re really differentiating between incremental innovation in a sense and radical innovation. So you hit it off with this great quote from Satya Nadella, with his opening email after becoming the CEO at Microsoft, where he says our industry does not respect tradition, it only respects innovation, which was a clear call to action at Microsoft when they really needed to reignite innovation. In the same way. I recently listened to Dan Rose from Coatue, and he was giving this really great insight about how Jeff Bezos was dealing with the innovators dilemma when he was launching the Kindle project, where he told the executive who was running the core book business “Effective tomorrow, your job is to kill your old business with a Kindle”. And so this is obviously like radical innovation versus optimization, and incremental innovation. So talk to us a little bit about this differentiation when it comes to growth along these two extreme ends of the spectrum.

Andy Johns 17:29 
Yeah, so the background behind why I wrote that piece was that over the last few years, I continue to observe this troubling trend. As I spent time with startups, I found that they have this increasing obsession with this data driven, optimization driven, experiment driven approach to solving growth, challenges for their startup. But the irony is that the vast majority of growth, from my experience, and I think from anecdotally, from anyone’s experience, paying attention to the great breakout companies. So the vast majority of growth comes from innovation. And so I would see these early stage startups series A Series B companies, where as I dug into their org chart, as I chatted with their founders and met members of their team is I found that they were very good at measuring things and optimizing and iterating. And they’re quite poor at figuring out what is the next big leap of faith we’re going to take? And what is the innovation that we’re going to introduce, that brings even more value to our customer, or unlocks a much larger part of the market, because it’s so appealing. And that’s where the majority of growth comes from. And so a lot of companies reach out to me and they’re like, hey, Andy, we want to build a growth team. We want to hire growth people, let’s talk about growth, and nine out of 10 times after I spend a few hours with them and dissect what their business is doing. The answer is not in a growth team. The answer is not in running more A-B tests. That’s not it at all. I call it the Steve Blank era in the optimize the era, where for the last 10 years, we’ve been cultivating this environment of founders and operators who are entirely bought into the optimize of the era. And experimentation and data certainly plays its role within companies. But we’ve overcorrected so far away from an innovators approach to building new products and services that bring value to the customer, that many of the folks who grew up in the Silicon Valley and in the tech industry in the last 10 years don’t even know how to do that. They don’t know what customer development is. And so here’s a data point for you. I’ve actually got to, I said, You know what, like, my intuition is telling me that something’s off here. So I went to Google Trends. One of my favorite tools, and in Google Trends, you can look at relatives, keyword interest, or search query interest for different terms in Google and I looked from 2010 to present and I typed in growth hacking, and then of course, you see this big up into the right graph, and then I typed in product market fit and I was looking at The relative search query data over the last 10 years globally, and there’s three to five times as much interest in growth hacking as there is product market fit. And that’s troubling. That’s an issue. Now, if you slice it even further, and you just look at that data in the US, it’s starting to look more rosy. The reason is, the search interesting growth hacking is on the decline, quarter over quarter starting to fall and product market fit, it actually looks like the keyword product market fit in Google Trends, looks exactly like a product market fit graph, it has a lift off. And for the first time in the US over the last quarter, there’s more relative Search interest in product market fit and there is growth hacking, and that’s a good thing. Right, we’re at this inflection point where I think so many startups attempted to solve their growth challenges and to build large businesses based off of this data driven approach, this Optimizely era. And the results are clear, you can’t do it, what I’m hoping over the next 10 years, and I want to play a major role in this through the work that I do as an investor and through my writing, is to get us back to the fundamentals of focusing on provide value to the customer. That is the greatest driver of growth by far. And the rest is a rounding error

Erasmus Elsner 21:14 
Absolutely, makes a lot of sense. Let’s move over to the second part of the series, where you talk about “shipping the org chart”, which is a really interesting expression. And so the gist of this is that you say that you have to design the organization really in a way that the product can be iterated on effectively. Talk to us a little bit about “shipping the org chart” what it means and how you experienced this.

Andy Johns 21:37 
Yes, so that’s a concept that I learned throughout my career. But it’s existed for decades, I don’t think it has enough visibility as it probably should. But the concept is simple. It’s whatever org you put in place your product becomes, right. So let’s, let’s say I, I create a growth team. And I stitch that into my org chart. And I stamp it with people and they build a roadmap, that roadmap contains a bunch of AV tests, and they start shipping. Well, then lo and behold, my product contains a bunch of AV tests. So the product becomes, or the product is a byproduct of the org chart. One example is I spent time with a company in LA looked at their org chart. And I love to do that it’s one of the first things because it reveals to me what their actual priorities are. And it usually reveals where a bunch of dysfunction exists, as well, they had a team that was called the lifetime value team. And I looked at that I knew immediately that there’s going to be problems there. And the reason is, because even though the name of the team conveys to the members of that team, what their job is, right. So if I’m, if I’m a relatively junior person, I’ve got three to five years of experience. And so to my colleagues, and there’s five of us on a team called lifetime value, then I know that my primary metric is to improve the lifetime value for the benefit of the business. And then I looked at their roadmap. And the roadmap was influenced their psychology was influenced by the very name of their team, the roadmap was full of reasonable projects, experiments, like testing, pricing, and testing the different tiers for their subscription model. And that’s a reasonable thing to do. But that was the only thing that they were attempting to do to improve lifetime value. And I asked him a simple question. I said, Where are the projects to make the experience better for the customer. And I was met with silence, and kind of looked at each other. And they didn’t really understand why I was asking that at first. And I said, Well, if you build more value for the customer, is it possible that that would increase increase lifetime value, and then it clicked the shipping, the org chart begins with not only the teams you put in place, but the very name that you give it, because it conveys and gives a connotation to the members of that team, how they should think about the products that they build, or the things that they work on. And so this my solution, my proposal for them as simple as like, you no longer have the lifetime value team, you have to be at the customer value team. Yeah, just by calling it customer value, it completely changed their psychology around, okay, what should I build to improve value for the customer, the benefit of that is the lifetime value improves for the benefit of the business.

Erasmus Elsner 24:18 
I recently heard this quote that the value of a startup is the sum of all the problems you solve for the for the customers. And that fits really well into this theme. So let’s move on to running experiments. In your piece you start out by saying that the size of the company, and the sample size that you’re dealing with really determines what kind of experiments you can run. Some AB testing can be run in at-scale environments where even small incremental changes can have a real effect. Whereas in smaller startup environments, it might be much more difficult. Talk to us a little bit about running the right experiment, and how to fit it to the startup environment that you’re at.

Andy Johns 24:57 
Yeah, so experiments should always still have some room within your company. Right? I think the question is, is 10% of your time focused on that? Or is 50% of it? Right. So that’s the first thing you should be asking. It’s about this balance between optimization and innovation. But if you’re going to optimize, and you’re gonna run experiments, the most important thing is you know how to choose the right experiments to run. A classic mistake that I see being made is now that we’ve had many more companies with with growth teams, and they’ve been successful at network effect, businesses like Pinterest, and YouTube, and Airbnb, and so on is those folks who grew up doing growth within those companies got to do so with very, very large sample sizes. In other words, just a lot of users a lot of traffic. And the method of experimentation there is quick and iterative, because you have so much traffic, that you can just sort of throw spaghetti at the wall. And then eventually, you’re going to be right with one of those experiments. It’s like the spray and pray approach to investing that some venture capitalists do same is true in the growth teams within these larger technology businesses, there’s a lot of spray and pray. And then the problem is they then go earlier stage and a new startup. And they try and use the exact same playbook. And it just doesn’t work. Because they don’t have the same sample size. When you do the math on it, you realize that the problem is if I run these small, incremental experiments, button level changes, right, just change the layout of the page a little bit and the text on it, if I only get a few 1000 visitors to my product per week or per month, it may take me three to six months to resolve that experiment with any degree of statistical certainty in six months, it’s like a third of the funding round for a startup. And so you’re just dead on arrival. If If your approach to experimentation is that within an early stage startup, the key is if you have a small sample size, then the only way in which you control for that small sample size, creating these really long experimentation cycles is obviously you want to bring that experimentation cycle down from six months to 10 days, the only way in which you do that is you produce really large changes relative to the control, you typically what’s required to produce really large changes to the to the statistical output is a really large change to the experience. And so you don’t want to move buttons around, you want to completely rip apart and change core parts of the experience, and then test those things. And you may find that it’s 40% worse than then the control than the original version. But the good news is, is you’ll learn that in three days, and you can kill the experiment and move on or you’ll find that it’s 40%. Better. And you’ll also learn that within three days, and then you can ramp that 200% and you’re a hero. So so the the core point is like even the experiments that you run an early stage startup need to be innovative, because you got to make big changes, in order for the statistics to bear out in any sort of reasonable timeframe.

Erasmus Elsner 27:56 
I like that notion. And I think it makes a lot of sense that you have to be innovative in the in the kind of experimentation. I like that one. So let’s move on to the last point, were you talk about product development. And you mentioned that there’s no real standardization in terms of the product development process. And you try to set out some principles and guidelines in this last piece. Talk a little bit about this.

Andy Johns 28:20 
Yeah, so this is a fun one, because what we’re essentially talking about is process. And the technology industry is full of a lot of very smart, very capable, successful folks who hate process, generally speaking, are they sort of view processes as a thing that is inherently bad. Now I’ll give it to them that there are quite a few processes that you could either rip and replace with something else that’s better, or just get rid of altogether and you’d be better served. But some amount of process can be quite helpful. If you’re going to implement a product process, it should be implemented around innovation, not a process that helps you determine what innovation will be but a process that allows you to ship new and better products at a fast, reliable pace. And that process should be designed around solving the problems that commonly exist in product development, as opposed to the process that most companies introduce, which is a process based on some executives just wanting to have oversight. And so it’s a positioning problem, right? So it’s like, the VP walks out of their office and waves a bit of smoke like the Pope, and then says, Hey, we’re now doing product reviews, and then goes back into their office and everyone looks at each other like great, you know, the VP is micromanaging again. But that’s a poorly implemented and design process. And so let me give me an example of what I think is a quality product development process that helps a team or a company ship new products at a fast reliable pace. You know, we did this At wealthfront, were in classic startup fashion, we had some major stumbles in the early days when trying to build new products. So took a step back did a lay of the land and said, Why are some of these projects falling apart? Or why is it so painful to develop these products, and we identified some common issues. So an example would be one, there isn’t buy in from key stakeholders at the very beginning on what the customer value is going to be and what the strategic direction is. So what ends up happening is a team starts building. And then as they get close to launching, they then show these key stakeholders what the product is, and then it gets blown up. It’s a classic late stage blow up two weeks before launch, where the executive founder says, Nope, that’s not it, redo it. And everybody is frustrated and upset, Amazon would be a great example of how they drive by in strategic buy in and stakeholder buy in early on with the press release that they buy, that they write sorry, they’re very clear about this is the value that we’re providing to the customer before they even start writing code. And so we can’t just say, all process is bad. I think a product development process specifically around enabling fast iteration on new innovative products is a good thing. In particular, if that process is designed to solve the common pitfalls in the product development process, and the Amazon press release is just one great example of how process can be overwhelmingly powerful.

Erasmus Elsner 31:30 
Yeah, I like that a lot. So let’s move on to our last section, where I like to talk about some recent investments. I want to kick this off with the first investment in Wonderschool, which is a marketplace for pre-schools, to talk to us a little bit about their business model, how they overcame the classic chicken and egg problem and how you’re supporting them.

Andy Johns 31:53 
Yeah, so the value is pretty straightforward. It’s really hard to find high quality childcare, if you have friends or family members who have young children and you live in a major metropolitan area, they will tell you over and over again about how hard it is to find high quality childcare. And so there’s a supply constraint. And that’s why wonder school exists. They said, You know what, instead of having to look for this constrained supply, and having to put my kid in line for a six month waiting list, at quality childcare around the corner, what if we could enable people to build high quality childcare experiences in their own home and drastically expand the supply to meet the demand that is already there. And that’s what wonder school does. And so through their software, they allow people to get licensed and registered and set up to run an in home daycare, and then through their marketplace, they map them with parents and children to then give them a place to take the kids and give them a high quality education beginning in the early years. So that’s why I was drawn to it is this is solving an important problem. It’s a product that I myself would want to use someday the growth challenges are there. It’s a fun growth problem to work on. And that’s why I decided to get involved in the early days. And there are certain milestones along the way, in the sort of classic marketplace fashion, you have to build a series of playbooks, there’s a playbook for geographic expansion. There’s a playbook for bringing on the existing supply and doing that scalably there’s another playbook for building all new supply that has an innovation itself that that nobody else in the market has figured out. So you look for the companies that know how to bring on new supply, and do that scale ugly, and then you’ve got to build playbooks for for demand as well so that you can balance both sides of the marketplace. And, and that’s where wonder school is today. smack dab in the middle of making all that work.

Erasmus Elsner 33:51 
I heard that Wonderschool actually emerged out of a pivot.

Andy Johns 33:54 
Well, yeah, it was they were working on something else entirely different. It’s more in the commerce space. And it wasn’t working. And they knew that all the signs were there. And to the founders credit, they said, well, let’s go back to the drawing board and get back to first principles around like, what are the problems that we care about that we personally care about that irrelevant to us, Chris Bennett, who’s founder and CEO, you know, he grew up relying on local childcare providers, they played a huge role in his personal development as a kid, his family could, you know, they really needed the local help of top fighters, and they had that. And so he reflected on that experience, and it just brought him back to you know, what, this is what matters to me. I’ve seen what it’s done for my personal development. And I’ve seen what it’s done for countless communities around the world. And there’s there’s tons of great research on this how high quality childcare within certain areas, you know, doing these longitudinal studies, you just see an overall improvement in The quality of life for these kids, and then for the community as they grow and mature as adults super interesting. And yeah, and so he just got back to like, you know, what great founders do in most cases is work on the thing that that’s personally relevant to them that they have an obsession about.

Erasmus Elsner 35:16 
Yeah, interesting. So let’s talk about another investment of yours, which is not announced at the time of this recording, but at the time, this show will air it’s a company called Ride Report. Talk to us a little bit about what they’re doing, and why you got excited about this deal.

Andy Johns 35:31 
Ride Report is a very interesting business, it operates in the mobility sector, and today, it’s specific to micro mobility. So the the big picture is, look, we’re at the very beginning stages of this large wave of new transportation options coming to market. Right, the, the need is clear, people need alternative ways to get around in their cities. We want alternative modes of transportation that are better for the environment. And we want to improve access by by enabling these new transportation technologies. There are multiple examples of this, ranging from a bike to a scooter to an electric moped all the way up to an autonomous car in a autonomous semi truck. And there’s always flavors in between. And then on the other side of the marketplace, you then have cities, some of them are very proactive, they’re embracing these new technologies, and they’re saying, great, come to our city, transform the way people get around our urban environment. And let’s do so in a way that’s better for the world. And then there are other cities that are like, wow, this wave just showed up. And I’m responding to it, right. But it’s clear from my, from my constituents, they love these things, they want them here. And so you’ve got this emerging marketplace of a lot of new transportation options and mobility operators, in the cities that are attempting to come together to find a way to enable these new technologies to be adopted, and to work within a new and evolving infrastructure within the cities. And you effectively need a market maker maker maker that sits in the middle. And that’s what ride report is. And so they work both with mobility operators, and with cities. And they provide freemium software for the city so that they can get real time tracking and analytics on how these new transportation options are being used within their city so that they finally have the tools and the information that they need to responsibly govern the the introduction and the use of these transportation options to their benefit. And the belief here is that, you know, that the Wild West days of just dropping scooters all over a city, and then just seeing how the city responds, those days are over, ultimately, for the mobility market to mature. And for new infrastructure to be laid to enable this market to mature, both sides of the marketplace are going to have to come together and cooperate. There’s no way around it. And that’s what right report does. And that’s why they exist.

Erasmus Elsner 38:08 
Super interesting. So Andy, thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule today and teaching us a little bit about about growth and about this modern notion of growth. You’ve really been at the at the epicenter of it so where can people find out more about Andy and what you’re up to.

Andy Johns 38:25 
I’m most active on twitter, at ibringtraffic, kind of an appropriate name. And also my personal blog at andyjohns.co, I do a lot of writing. Just a heads up it tends to be longer form essays because I really like to get into rich detail as opposed to stay at the surface level.