It is uncommon to get disenfranchised from your career and journey toward your passion. Discover the remarkable journey that led today’s guest to success. Jared Robin, the Co-Founder of RevGenius, navigates through his journey to find his core in building an amazing community. He also shares how LinkedIn helps him acquire amazing people around his business. Jared also explains the value of diversity and inclusivity in a community. Today, we are thrilled to embark on an incredible journey with the one and only Jared Robin. Get ready to dive deep into this captivating episode!
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RevGenius: Building An Amazing Community With Jared Robin
I hope you’re having a great day or evening, whatever may be the case. Here I am, super excited to have a new guest on the show. I’m thrilled to host Jared Robin. As you may have heard, he is a man of many backgrounds and many achievements, one of which is the RevGenius community. Without further ado, let’s welcome the guest and dive into the details here. Welcome, Jared. I am super thrilled.
Thank you for having me. I’m so amped to be here.
Likewise. The first question I always ask each and every one of my guests, and this is where discussions get going, is how do you view and define go-to-market?
A cohesive plan and strategy to bring your product or service to market. It is plain and simple. There are lots of nuances in there from different sales motions, marketing, rev ops, etc., and the nuances between the plan to do it. It also is continuously evolving because it’s not just bringing it to market. It’s also when you’re in the market recalibrating, doubling down, and scaling.
Especially the last portion that you mentioned, I believe it’s Sangram Vajre and quite a few others who mentioned thinking of go-to-market as a product and it is evolving. You have a version one. It especially depends on the stage of the company or the stage of the product you are in. It’s going to evolve. You need to be in touch with your market, customers, and segments. Depending on whom you’re targeting, it has to evolve, plain and simple.
There are no two go-to-markets that are identical, even if the founder is identical. There are nuances. There’s so much that could change including the actual market.
You have grown up the ranks, especially in sales. You started your career at FedEx. Why don’t you share your career story, and then we can deep dive into the specific timelines over there?
I went from being an individual contributor at FedEx to being a Head of Sales at early-stage companies later on. What a journey. I went from a Fortune 100 company seller to technology sales. I was running a fashion magazine on the side, and then culminating before running sales and growth for a couple of two-sided marketplaces early that didn’t find product market fit. One of them didn’t. The other one could have and should have, but there were some nuances that the founding team didn’t address that probably held us back from that. I certainly felt like we were there. Also, being the first seller leader at a marketing agency before the pandemic and then founded RevGenius.
If I were to go back in time, you are talking about companies like Granify. You were at Flipkart, which is pretty impressive.
I was at a company that sold Flipkart. That was Upstream Commerce. I was the Director of Enterprise Sales there.
You were at Granify. What did Granify do back in the day?
Predictive analytics and eCommerce. We looked at 400 attributes every second of every visit of every website visitor. We were able to understand who was going to buy or not buy on their website. We then figured out what they needed to see, when they needed to see it, and how they needed to see it to overcome the why and get them to throw something in their card and close the deal. We held ourselves accountable against a control group to show that we were impacting revenues. That was several years ago before all this AI stuff. That sounds pretty close.
Something that catches my attention is you started off as a sales individual contributor then went into more of biz dev, and then eventually sales executed roles. You also crossed or touched upon different industries. You touched upon eCommerce. FedEx is completely and entirely different. You went into leading a digital fashion publication magazine. You were editor-in-chief.
I did that as a side project.
What is driving you to pursue all these different diverse activities?
I went into FedEx because I was a supply chain major. My dad met a FedEx rep at a barbecue. I’m like, “Wow.” I wanted to go into sales, not the supply chain part. This was a logistics company. It meshed both together and made a lot of logical sense and a pretty good career progression. I left that because my ambition wasn’t being satisfied. It was hard with a Fortune 100 company to put your stamp on things. Even if you were in leadership, that would’ve taken a lifetime to get to the director level. VP level may or may not have happened, but even if you got there, it is still hard to put your stamp on that company. You could have, but it was a long path and one where I didn’t feel I was driving enough impact.
I went into tech because I wanted part equity in something. I always wanted to be an entrepreneur. At Granify, we didn’t have a product-market fit early. I got to create something that I wanted and realized that fashion was something I liked. I figured that out along the way. We built a fashion magazine and got 10,000 monthly readers to it. We built quite a bit of credibility in the fashion industry and won international fashion film awards in other countries. We were in other international fashion film festivals. That appeased my creative side.
I ended up putting it down because, and we’ll talk about this later, from the go-to-market perspective, it didn’t generate any money. I wasn’t thoughtful about the plan to do it. I thought a passion project would turn into a money project by osmosis but realized later that intentionality is an important factor in a lot of things. Also, I could have probably stuck out, gotten smarter people, and brought in somebody to leadership to help my gaps. I probably should have.
During the daytime, I found an opportunity that bridged this technology and fashion together, which was Swipecast. It was a two-sided marketplace where I brought on the first sales connecting models, photographers, and hair and makeup stylists to brands. I had a salary doing that. That wasn’t a high salary. I took a pay cut to do that, but it was a passion.
After everyone there was let go, I went to a two-sided marketplace called Portion, which was art on the blockchain. I love this idea of creativity and technology meshing. I told you about the fashion part. I told you about the tech part. We never hit product market fit there. Investors stopped investing and all of that stuff.
It is interesting you made the change or jump from fashion to blockchain. It’s completely like night and day.
It’s not. Some of the principles are similar in terms of creativity. From a blockchain perspective, we were selling art and collectibles. We were selling creative products that were tokenized. Picture Artsy on the blockchain. There wasn’t enough interest from people in the art world to have blockchain behind the stuff. There was more interest in creating NFTs. That was the gap. We were trying to bridge the worlds together. It was a great learning experience nonetheless. Better GTM would’ve helped there, for sure, but the product market fit wasn’t there. I’m not even sure that that would’ve been perfect. I then stabilized after that whirlwind at a marketing agency.
Is that Deux you’re referring to?
Yes. It was Deux that dealt with eCommerce clients, so full circle. That was a good experience, but I lost my job at the beginning of COVID and decided to start a community. The community is important because that was one of the things that connected all of those jobs if you think about it. With the fashion magazine, we threw events. There were lines around the corner. There was a community of artists and designers that we were featuring.
In two-sided marketplaces, whether it’s Airbnb or ones that you might not have heard of like Swipecast or Portion, there’s a community of people. Marketplaces are like communities with a business model. Here are fractional CROs on this side. Here are companies that might need them on this side. They are all in a community together to learn and there’s a business model in between. I’ve been in two communities. Hanging out with friends and being a part of some exclusive communities for some time, inclusive communities, and all of that, I’m like, “Let’s do something that aligns at my core in community with that.”
It’s pretty interesting. It’s only in hindsight you’re able to connect the dots. You went and pursued your passion project around fashion.
It was a smart decision.
That led you to a different opportunity, which was around eCommerce.
Fashion didn’t lead me to eCommerce. FedEx led me to eCommerce. When I went to fashion, it was out of the blue.
That’s pretty interesting. That did lead you to Swipecast. Portion is the blockchain for NFTs and other creative forums.
My brother-in-law was the COO there. I wanted to get in and I had an opportunity through him.
I completely can relate to what you’re saying about marketplaces. To build one is super hard because you’re talking about two “communities” coming together and they’re finding values.
That’s the supply side and demand side.
It’s not easy. You figure out it’s the chicken and egg situation. Which one comes first? That’s a whole different ballgame.
Whatever people pay for comes first, and then you get the people to pay for it because you have their supply.
That’s correct. That led you to RevGenius. You identified that you wanted to do something with communities or build a community. Why sales, and how did you start out? What were your early days like?
Why sales is a great question. It’s because I became disenfranchised with sales. If you can’t tell, I tried everything in my power to get out of this from the side projects of running a fashion magazine to one foot in with any of the day jobs I had. I was in sales in cool industries to me. When I was thinking about what to create, I first wanted to create something in the creative space because that’s what I like. I wanted to create a community of creative directors, like an actual creative director community, because I thought the space was lacking it and that member clubs like Soho House, which I’d been a member of, are more of a social seed than the people doing the creative.
I asked my partner who is the creative director of a massive publication. She is the creative director of Cosmo magazine. I’m like, “Would you pay $100 a month to be in a community like this?” You watched her face not even comprehending what I was asking. I’m like, “I’m not even going to ask five other people. I live with you.” There is an opportunity there, but it is a fact that maybe it’s not mature yet.
The old-school creative space, fashion space, and art space are not ready for disruption and may never be, and that’s fine. The true creatives aren’t ready for disruption. I’m like “I like the idea, but I don’t like the space.” I looked back at the space I was trying to run from, which is sales, and said, “I need to make this for me right now in this space. If I don’t do it, who’s going to do it? Who’s going to have an open, inclusive, and free community for everybody?” That’s how we lift the space. We have to have access for everybody. There are other communities that are wonderful. They’re doing great. Having that free entry point was important because I felt like I could impact the most people.
In the early days, I didn’t even know I was going to build a community at first. A lot of things converged together. I thought that the problem that needed solving was that there was so much content coming out in so many directions and there was no place to centralize it. People might want to go to it. A couple of years ago, people did want to go to it. This time, I’m not as sure. You have to put good stuff in.
A couple of years ago, people wanted to go to a lot of it, multiple webinars a week. Maybe they still do if it’s good. They were curious and were looking at more stuff. They were more likely to go then. I thought we needed an Eventbrite for sales and marketing events and that it was going to be on a spreadsheet. Every Sunday, I’d sign up for every single mailing list so that I would know all the events and then pick my favorites or I’d sign up for every single mailing list that I respected. It was a lot.
We put a group together. There were four of us on LinkedIn in a message group. That grew to 25 or so. I was trying to circulate the events to them. I’m not sure that they ever went to the Google sheet. Maybe they did. What I did know is they broke the LinkedIn app every single day because they were talking to each other so much and enjoyed each other’s company. These were all salespeople or one-off revenue people. I had to move from LinkedIn to Slack because it wasn’t usable. At that point, I surveyed the landscape and was like, “Is there no open, inclusive, and free community for all revenue professionals?” If there was, I didn’t know about it. It didn’t seem like others knew about it either. We made it and started figuring it out from there.
There are so many points I want to deep dive into in all those things. The first thing that stood out is you wanted to create a community but at the same time, you wanted to test it out. You asked one of your fashion creative directors to see if she’ll pay $100. That is a very early test, and that’s critical. It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to build a tech product, service, or community. It’s a simple test. Kudos to you for that. Moving away from that, something else that caught my attention is you wanted to do or pursue something in an area that you were “trying to run away from” initially, but then, you said, “I need to do it for myself.” It was more therapeutic and coming out, which is good.
I don’t know if it was therapeutic. I saw it’s such an obvious need. I’m like, “Whether it’s good or not, it’s important.”
You also mentioned that you brought together a few sales folks on LinkedIn initially. How did you identify those sales folks?
They were people who were around. They were people who were active on LinkedIn.
You knew them prior or you saw that they were active and then you reached out to them?
I knew them for a short period prior, not for a long period. A short period means some a month if I knew them prior. I forget how I met Galem. We probably went to a webinar together, hopped on a call, and then threw a Slack group together. She is the Cofounder of RevGenius.
We saw some people commenting on posts on LinkedIn that seemed cool and invited them into the group. It was one person and he brought somebody. We had the four musketeers. From there, I said, “Can you bring other people in that have the same energy as you?” They did. That’s how we got to 25 people.
That is very cool. It’s a common thread in the sense that number one, all are interested in sales. Second, they’re active. Third, it’s not necessarily that you knew each other but there was a common factor that was bonding, bringing all of you together to engage with each other.
Fourth, it was a social channel that we could use as a channel for acquisition.
That was LinkedIn initially.
It still is, but it’s way more organic. It was organic then. The definition of organic is not paying for it. When I say it’s more organic, I was reaching out to people then and asking them to join. This time, I’m not and they’re joining.
I can see some parallels. It is similar to my show. I’m sure you can relate to this. Initially, I used to reach out to the guests. Later, I’ve been seeing a lot of inbound coming in. It’s less of an ego boost. It’s more of validation that there’s something that I’m doing which is right and it’s resonating. Those like-minded folks are getting attracted to it.
You’re being seen. That’s it.
It is pretty cool. That was year one or the first few months where you had 25 to 50 folks in the RevGenius community.
25 was the first couple of weeks, three weeks. We then started acquiring about 1,000 people a month. It was 1,000 in month 1, 2,000 in month 2, and 3,000 in month three.
It was all because either you were reaching out or folks in the community were reaching out to others and inviting them. That is very cool. Something else that caught my attention is you kept mentioning a community that is diverse and inclusive. What do you mean by that? What did you see that was missing in other similar communities from diversity and inclusivity?
The ability to come in at no cost allows every type of person to come in. The act of putting a fee down excludes people. The act of requiring a certain title to come in excludes people. If you have both those levers, it could exclude a lot of people. Removing those allowed everyone to come in and have the energy that everyone is welcome in. Combined with that is how it got promoted.
That is very cool.
That’s important because you need to lift the whole world.
You mentioned titles. You mentioned the ability to pay or need to pay.
Some communities are paid and you need a title or something. In some communities, you don’t have to pay but you need a title. In some communities, you might have to pay and you don’t need a title. The fact that you have neither and you create an environment that’s welcoming to everybody in addition to that helps quite a bit.
That is very cool. You mentioned a couple of things, which are inclusivity and diversity. You talked about not needing to have a specific title and also not needing to pay for membership. Those are the two main criteria.
Since we have paid memberships as well for senior leaders, to be clear, it was important to have an entry point that is accessible for all.
I’m looking at the timeline. You started Rev Genius. The early days of RevGenius were right around the time of COVID. That helped. From a timing point of view, you couldn’t ask for anything better. Clearly, that helped, for sure.
It helped people wanting to be in a digital community, for sure.
Since we are way past the COVID days, especially around people, you’re talking about digital events fatigue.
Bad events fatigue is real. Good events, if they’re digital or in person, people will show up.
Let’s expand and expound on that. You mentioned organic acquisition. Is it still organic, most of your growth from a new membership perspective?
Yes. We’re not throwing a lot in the top, so to speak. We’re fixing activation. We’re improving activation and engagement following first. It’s a long project. We have 37,000 members. We have enough to go crazy and bring a ton in. We need to have a plan to have everyone hit value as fast as possible.
From my personal experience and even from others that I’ve heard who have been part of communities, people get excited. It is initial excitement. They join the community, but then, there is something missing or lacking after some point. Maybe it’s week 1, month 1, or something. How did you tackle that gap or the pain?
That’s activation. I onboard people directly. I give tasks on how to hit value as quickly as possible. I understand what people want. It’s about the intake form, and then it’s about creating programming that meets their needs. It’s not easy.
That was one of the reasons that motivated me to have you on the show. It’s not easy to build a community. You guys have done something. Even 36,000 is not a small task with what you guys have done.
That is what got me excited about having you on the show. We are double-clicking on the various topics. Clearly, there have been such stories and failure stories as you’re building along.
It’s hard because if you’re bootstrapped, you have to build with a really small team. You’re constrained by resources.
You also mentioned in the early part of your career, you started a passion project without intentionally focusing on bringing in money or making revenue. Has that changed? Are you looking at the monetization angle for RevGenius? How are you doing that?
I do this full-time. I pay a team of seven. The government’s not giving me checks to do that. That’s a real burn. That’s a real payroll. We monetize through sponsorships. That’s our primary driver. RevRoom is growing. That’s membership paid for VPs in C-Suite. We’re looking at other products to potentially add as well that are probably aligned with 1 of those 2 drivers. Either the companies pay or individuals pay. I don’t know who else would pay, but it is aligned with either sponsorship or individual memberships.
It is sponsorship or membership. I would assume that happened not necessarily in year 1 but maybe in year 2 or year 3.
It happened about 6 or 7 months in when we got our first sponsor dollars. I could have probably gotten it earlier, but I pushed it off to understand what we had because the members were so tight. They were so fiercely linked to one another that I wasn’t sure how bringing a sponsor in would counteract the vibes that were there. I also knew that I needed to bring in revenue in some way.
This is a saying. It’s very easy to follow. You need to take care of yourself to take care of others. From an entity perspective, you need to take care of the initial members and yourself personally for the benefit of the bigger pursuit and vision of RevGenius.
You have to take care of yourself personally because you can’t take care of the members at your downfall.
Walk us through how you approached or identified that initial or first sponsor.
They came to me. When you’re growing 3,000 members a month and everybody’s hitting and hollering on LinkedIn, people will see that. That’s a key takeaway. When you’re giving such immense value to those you serve that they’re screaming from the rooftops and you’re not asking them for anything, people will notice. That’s an anomaly. Everybody asks for something. They’re like, “Are you kidding me? Who is this psycho?” That’s how you create a movement.
You really hit it on the head.
They’re like, “Who is this psycho? He must be creating a movement.”
I love this. That is the peak of our conversation. We hit it at the top level over here. It looks like I ticked something on your side and we are hitting it at the right level over here. You cannot pursue a community initially to be like, “I’m going to do this so we can monetize,” versus delivering value and keep delivering value so much so that your customers or users scream and promote. That’s what you guys did.
There was so much value that people got from adding RevGenius to their LinkedIn profiles. That’s a cool growth loop. Thank you. Some people are getting more value than we’re getting from it. That’s phenomenal. I had somebody reach out to me from India. He said, “My firm got let go by a US client, but because I had RevGenius on my profile, they hired me directly instead.” I never met this person. I define that as a value at $0. Are you kidding me? Getting a job is a big value driver for a lot of people, especially if they don’t have one. It is very big.
I keep driving us back to that initial 6 months to 1 year. That was a crucial phase. Clearly, you guys hit that product market fit back then. You got started getting inbound sponsorship requests. What are the high-value activities that the members were seeing in their first 1 to 3 months?
Networking. It was having a connection with so many people. It was also being a part of something really cool and fast-growing. There’s a lot of value to being a part of the wave. There are so many events that people associate with or tie themselves to because of how many people are going for it. How many people want to run a marathon? In the New York Marathon and all these marathons, before there was an event around it, how many people honestly wanted to run 26.2 miles?
1 or 2 maybe because they are idiots. You have these marathons. It’s like a notch on the ladder for what people are doing. People are training all the time. They are praying that they get in and then paying for the opportunity. They have created a movement. There are other things outside of what the actual marathon people did, like the health stuff and all of that. You don’t need to run a marathon to be healthy, do you? No. You don’t need to run a half marathon to be healthy. You could run 2 miles 3 days a week and eat well and do very well.
That was my story several years ago. I never could have even thought of or dreamt of doing a half marathon. I trained myself and ran three half marathons within a span of 1 or 2 years.
That’s amazing. There’s a lot of value in being a part of something is where I’m getting at. With belonging, there is value in belonging. If you said you had 5,000 members, how many members got a new job? Maybe 50, maybe 5. I don’t know. Maybe 500. Them being a part of something was invaluable. They were part of something cool. That’s what culture, being a part of something cool. Why do people wear a certain company or T-shirt? Why do you need a Gucci T-shirt? It’s culture.
How do you see RevGenius spanning out? What is your big vision? Where do you want to take this? You already have 36,000 members, which is no small amount.
North Star metric has moved correctly to more about the value that the members are getting in engagement and things that we could measure. We can measure net new members. If we’re at 370,000 members, there’s value in that. I don’t know if there’s value in 370,000 people being in the same Slack together unless it’s organized very incredibly well, and I sense it wouldn’t be. We want to create the defacto most important space for go-to-market and have it be community-driven. We want to create a category that becomes important because of the impact it drives on the space and the world. I want to be helpful to so many people.
The vision is to build out collaborative growth, which is what community ultimately is. It is to help pass the message, not just to leverage X for go-to-market of Y. X led growth, but it is to sustain X and make sure that the pie is bigger in the process, not leverage events and not care about the people that come. I’m not saying that people do that, but lift the people up in the process so that we can create a higher ceiling of abundance for everybody. Community when done right is the most powerful thing in this world. It’s right next to love. It’s a connection to love, which is the most powerful thing in this world. It is a positively powerful thing. Fear is equally as powerful, but love could solve that.
That is cool. I’m pretty impressed with what you guys are doing. Do you have a breakdown of the professional backgrounds of the members, like sales versus marketing versus product versus founders?
Yes. We’re probably about 50% to 60% sales. Rev ops and marketing are next. They are 15% to 20% each, and then customer success. The community is about 60% to 70% manager and above. We are about 42% directors and above, which is quite a lot of directors, VPs, C-Suites, and a bunch of founders. About half the companies in our community or a little less than half, like 40% to 45% of the companies in our community, are 1 to 100, and then maybe 15% over 1,000. It’s a pretty normal range for that many people. In RevRoom, everybody is VP or above. We have two senior directors. We have companies from Series A to public companies.
That’s very cool. What advice would you give to folks? Maybe they’re in the SaaS tech space and are either starters or mid-market. What advice would you give them? A lot of things that we are hearing are all about community-led. People are impatient. They want to see results in months 1, 3, or 6.
If you want to see results in months 1, 3, or 6 and you do all that, then you don’t care about the community or anything outside of the company. That doesn’t mean that it’s not going to work, but it means you’re full of crap. You need to care about the community. A lot of people who do community-led work do care about the community, but they have a gentle balancing act with getting results.
If you set up growth metrics, do things the right way, and drive enough value, the results will come. The advice I’d give for people who want to lean into the community is to love the people that you’re serving. Understand. Do the things that don’t scale, especially with community. Even if your company has scaled already and you’re launching a community, have a human touch to onboard the people at least in the beginning. When in doubt, have a human touch in so many spots. It will show the people when you show up or the leaders on your team show up that you care. That’s felt in a big way.
I told somebody people are always asking about what platform you start on. I’m going to keep it super simple. Start on a platform you’re already on. It’s this simple. It could be a text message. You have WhatsApp, Slack, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. Whatever you have, start on one of those, and then figure it out before moving to Mighty Networks, Discord, or all the other ones. If you don’t have it, there’s a good chance most people in your space don’t have it, too. If they had it, you would have it. It’s not that it won’t work and all of that. I get it, but start simple. Start with something that’s in your hands already. That’s my two cents.
That is a great piece of advice.
Also, have a point of view when starting a community. That’s important. Many communities don’t have it. They serve certain people, but they don’t have a powerful point of view as to why people should pick. If there are two sales communities, why one over the other? One serves AEs and one SDR. That works for a while until the second one comes that also serves AEs. Why one or the other? It’s the point of view.
Be ferociously behind your people. Make sure that you’re solving an actual problem with anything that you create. People don’t need a 500th community necessarily. They need something that hasn’t solved their problem yet. If you have a company and you’re creating a community, it’s obvious to create a community to support your company.People don't need a 500th community necessarily. They need something that hasn't solved their problem yet. Click To Tweet
If you’re doing sales engagement, you could be like, “This is my sales engagement community.” I understand, but what part of that person’s life do you want to deal with? An AE, SDR, rev ops leader, or whatever, where are they struggling not to get help with? What part is it consistently? How can you drive value to that? That also is aligned with your product in a way. What problem can your product solve that’s an actual problem there? How can you build a community and take your product out of it because you’re not trying to sell something that’s related and that hits people’s needs? That’s all. Thank you for reading.
This is a great piece of advice. If you were to tie it back to RevGenius’ early days, the point of view that you guys took, and the initial pain point, what would those be?
I was talking earlier that our point of view was okay, but it wasn’t as strong as it was going to be. We’re evolving it. Our point of view is that there needs to be a single place for everybody. It’s a good noble point of view. Maybe it is a movement. Maybe I’m not giving it enough credit, but other people came in with similar things and there wasn’t anything that differentiated.
The problem we’re solving is that there was no place for everybody at the time. It was important for us to bring together sales, marketing, rev ops, and CS in one space. It doesn’t sound niched enough. I heard that a long time ago. I don’t hear it anymore because GTM is evolving so much. Alignment’s evolving. People’s roles are evolving. People’s titles are evolving. You have demand gen running outbound for some companies, not SDRs. If you have sales, it’s going to be myopic if you don’t have everything. It was critical for us to have the whole revenue work.
That’s pretty cool. I know we can go on and on. There are so many things I want to deep dive into.
We’ll come back. We should do part two.
We should do a take two in a few months’ time. This has been great. The final question for you is if you were to give advice to your younger self, what would that be?
It’s going to get really hard, but your older self has your back. We’ll make sure everything is okay, so do what you’re going to do.
That’s Fantastic. This was a wonderful, full of energy and passionate conversation. Thank you so much. Good luck to you and the RevGenius team.
Thanks. You mean the world to me. Take care.
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