Kevin Garber: [00:01] This week, on the "It's a Monkey" podcast.

Michel Feaster: [00:04] The other thing I think companies have to keep an eye on is that the generational expectations are shifting in a dramatic way. The millennials, they expect all channels to work. They expect to be able to shift channels on demand. Their patience level is so much less.

[00:21] I guess I'm a Gen X, and even I am incredibly impatient. My mom will go and stand in line at a store. I will never stand in a line. A millennial not only won't stand in line, but if it's not available online, they're not going to buy it.

[00:34] [music]

Kevin: [00:34] Good morning, good evening, hello, wherever you are in the world. It is Wednesday, the 5th of April, if you are watching us live on Periscope, and a special hello to you if you're watching us live on Periscope. Friday, the 7th of April, if you are listening in your podcast player or perhaps even on YouTube.

[01:01] We add the podcast on YouTube so you can subscribe there or listen to them there. We don't actually add the video quite yet.

[01:09] My name is Kevin Garber. I am the CEO of ManageFlitter and soon to be ManageSocial as well, which is very, very close to alpha release, so close we can smell it. As usual, I have some co-hosts with me. Also part of team ManageFlitter, co-host Kate Frappell who is design lead at ManageFlitter. Kate, thanks for joining us.

Kate Frappell: [01:33] It's good to be back again.

Kevin: [01:35] We're also going to drag in kicking and screaming, literally kicking and screaming, Josephine Pinto, who is the business operations manager of ManageFlitter. We're going to have some news items from her as well. Jo, thanks for joining us.

Josephine Pinto: [01:50] No worries. Glad to be here again.

[01:53] [laughter]

Kevin: [01:53] Later on in the show, I had a really, really fantastic interview last week with Michel Feaster. Michel is the CEO of a company called Usermind. Michel worked previously with Ben Horowitz. Ben Horowitz of Andreessen Horowitz, Venture Capital company fame, super, super smart guy.

[02:18] He's written a book, "The Hard Thing About Hard Things." Michel actually has investment from Ben in her company.

[02:24] We chat about all sorts of interesting topics, about the centrality of Silicon Valley and why it's important to try build a second Silicon Valley, about the challenge of woman in tech, about the enterprise tech space, about how all businesses are trying to become subscription businesses, and why that's actually good for business and for the consumers, and a whole lot more.

[02:50] That's coming up later on in the show chatting Michel Feaster. Of course, previously on episode 87 last week, we had a chat with Margaret Heffernan who is an author, an entrepreneur, previously had five businesses and has amazingly, has two TED talks which are over two million views each and one's nearly three million.

[03:13] We chatted about team building and hiring. It was really a fantastic chat particularly if you're an entrepreneur or CEO or are busy building your business. Lot of interesting insights from there.

[03:24] As always, you can email us at We've been getting some great interviews of people that are suggesting people they want on the show, even offering themselves on the show. You can always email us or say hi.

[03:35] Let's get straight into the tech news, always a lot happening in our industry. Interesting this week, there was a bit of a milestone in the Tesla, Elon Musk, world. Now of course, Elon Musk, [inaudible] , we've spoken about him on this podcast before.

[03:53] He has multiple businesses, one being Tesla, the electric car company. Another one being SpaceX, the reusable rocket company. He's getting involved in another company where you can put electrodes into the brain, which we spoke about in last week's podcast.

[04:06] Interesting to this week, Tesla, which is one of his companies, the electric car company that is listed, the market capitalization, that's the number of shares times by the share price which is considered what a company's worth, actually eclipsed that of Ford. Ford's market capital is about 45 billion. Tesla notched into the 50 billion for the first time.

[04:32] It's quite a milestone for a couple of reasons, Kate. One is that Ford sold 2.6 million vehicles last year. Tesla only shipped 76,000 vehicles. Yet, the market is deeming that Tesla is more valuable than Ford.

[04:49] This is a very, very interesting thing. It's basically saying that the market is viewing that the future of automotive transportation is basically where Tesla is. The market's basically saying, "Look, Ford is Nokia, and Tesla is Apple."

[05:06] It's saying that when Apple first came out and they sold very few phones, then Nokia were like, "Oh, we're selling 500 million phones a year. We don't have to worry, etc." Eventually, Nokia had to try catch up. Of course, they lost that and they don't really exist in the same form anymore. The brand still exists, but I don't think the phone exists in the same successful way.

[05:28] Similar things happening with Tesla where it's turning into this electric car that's filled with software. It's essentially becoming a big piece of software in a metal casing. Even though the numbers are very different and Ford sold 2.6 million cars and a tiny 76,000 vehicles, the market's saying that the future of this trajectory is going to be where it's all at.

[05:56] Also, remember the number of vehicles or the number of devices that are sold are not necessarily linked with the amount of profit. iPhone sells less phones than Android, but it actually makes most of the profit in the industry.

Kate: [06:10] Tesla stock is really buoyed by the world straight and vision of where this is going to go. It's similar to Apple. They backed themselves with all their software and the potential is why the stocks is flying upwards. Tesla even overtook General Motors a couple of hours ago.

Kevin: [06:26] Is that right?

Kate: [06:28] Yes.

Kevin: [06:29] They're really rocketing on ahead. Of course, we talk a bit about stock prices on this podcast. Some of them we own. For instance, I own a bit of Facebook, a bit of Twitter, but don't ever construe whatever we say as financial advice.

Kate: [06:43] Advice.

Kevin: [06:43] No one really knows where the stock market. The future is unbelievably difficult to predict. Interestingly about, talking about software and even the subscription market which we'll later with Michel.

[06:53] Marc Andreessen who's the business partner of Ben Horowitz who Michel worked for, Marc Andreessen has written a fantastic piece called, "Software is Eating the World." He wrote it a few years ago. It's become a classic piece. If you're listening to this podcast, have a look up Software is Eating the World.

[07:11] Basically, his argument is that every single industry is actually becoming a software company. You look at transport, Uber, it's a piece of software. Travel agents, all their booking online software. He argued that every single industry is essentially becoming a software. Software is eating the world. Now cars and...Software is eating the world.

[07:35] I was talking to someone who's in the aviation industry at a dinner the other night. They were saying that planes essentially fly themselves. It's just that the airports are not all setup to actually guide the planes on landing and takeoff. But the psychology of people having no pilots is a bit challenging even though the transport industry is already there itself.

[07:58] When we spoke with them a couple of podcasts ago and when we're talking about Internet of things, we spoke a bit about cars and transportation and how the cars are generating but not an old car, but a new car generates petabytes, which is thousands of terabytes worth of data each year.

[08:14] New cars are already chock full of software. I think there's apps that you can tap into your car's software and you can get bits and pieces of information already.

Kate: [08:26] Yeah. One of our cars at home detects who's driving, pretty much. Then loops into that person's phone. If two of you have programmed your phone into the car, it will only detect the drivers.

Kevin: [08:38] Interesting. What car is this?

Kate: [08:41] Holden Commodore.

Kevin: [08:42] Is it pretty new?

Kate: [08:43] Maybe less than 10 years.

Kevin: [08:47] OK. Still not that new, but the new cars...

Kate: [08:49] They'd be even better.

Kevin: [08:51] They'd be even better and you can track and monitor, and especially from a mechanical point of view, track and monitor everything. It's all electrics. Of course Tesla being electric as well, it's...Most of the cars and the non-electric cars that actually spends most of its power moving itself, moving the engine.

Kate: [09:11] OK.

Kevin: [09:12] Electric cars, the weight is the batteries. But it does actually save, still I believe, the fact that it is a lot lighter. In Melbourne, they've actually got a vehicle like a little golf cart that runs on compressed air. It's pneumatic.

[09:27] That's super light because it doesn't have batteries. It doesn't have an engine. It just runs on compressed air. It's quite fantastic. They obviously haven't discovered how to scale that to a car. It's the cleanest form of energy. You still need a compressor to fill it up with air. It's still energy down the track.

Kate: [09:49] How much do you know about the Model 3 coming out the end of this year?

Kevin: [09:54] The Tesla? That's the cheaper Tesla because I believe at the moment the Teslas are quite expensive, right?

Kate: [10:00] I think this one enters about 35 grand.

Kevin: [10:02] US?

Kate: [10:02] Yup.

Kevin: [10:02] That's what, over 45 Australian give or take. Still pretty expensive. It's not a cheap car. It's not a car for the masses, so to speak. But it's cheaper than existing Tesla, which I think is post to 100,000, right?

Kate: [10:21] I'm not sure, so I was asking you.

[10:25] [laughter]

Kevin: [10:25] It's a bit of a status symbol in, I know, a part of Sydney, and I think in Silicon Valley because they're incredibly fast, 0to 100 is incredibly fast. It's an electric car. It was unprecedented. Elon Musk definitely likes to push the boundaries. Interesting to see where it happens, what happens.

[10:44] I don't really like hardware businesses. I wouldn't buy Tesla. Businesses I don't really understand. There's a lot of things like the supply chain and where you get your materials from. There's a lot of other links that I don't quite understand. I like to only buy shares of businesses I understand better, which tend to be software business because that's what I'm involved in.

Kate: [11:07] Fair enough.

Kevin: [11:08] That's why although I do have a few Apple shares as well. That's pretty much also a hardware business. Anyway, that's Tesla. Of course, past week was April Fools' Day. It's become a tradition for a lot of tech companies to publish media releases, I guess.

[11:27] I remember in South Africa on April Fools' Day, they'd publish stories on TV. I remember two in particular. One was the police force were replacing all their cars with the latest Porsches.

Kate: [11:39] Nice.

Kevin: [11:40] That was pretty good. Of course as a young kid, I didn't put one and one together. [laughs] The second thing was that they've discovered a tree that produces spaghetti, a spaghetti tree. Of course, they had footage of all of this so that they created footage of all of this, which was...

Kate: [11:56] That's half of us. It's believable when you see it.

Kevin: [11:58] Especially if you're aware at the moment that it's April's Fools'. Anyway, Jo is going to contribute to this discussion as well. Just as a matter of introduction, if you're just enjoying the Periscope or the podcast, run us through some of the more interesting April Fools' Day initiatives that the tech companies got involved with this year.

[12:18] Kate Yes. Snapchat came out with a filter that basically mocks the Instagram interface where your picture would usually be. At the top, it's got the Instagram white border with the branding but instead it says Snapchat. Underneath, it has your likes, your hearts. It says, "Liked by your mom and one other." Inferring basically that only your mom likes your stuff on Instagram.

Josephine: [12:45] Oh, no.

Kate: [12:45] Nobody's on Instagram. It was Snapchat digging at them.

Josephine: [12:48] I think it was because it was to get back at Instagram for taking on their stories.

Kate: [12:55] Stories, yeah. Definitely having a poke there. That's probably one of my favorite ones. The second one would be Google Gnome. It's basically a spin off of Google Home, a device that connects all the different appliances in your house, but for outdoors.

[13:11] The Gnome turns your hose on and off and tells you which direction the wind is blowing and some quite a cheeky, sarcastic gnome as well. There's a whole video that go with it.

Josephine: [13:23] Yes. I did checkout that video. Very funny.

Kate: [13:25] Which one did you enjoy?

Josephine: [13:26] Actually, I really did enjoy that Snapchat one because it's interactive, right?

Kate: [13:32] Yeah.

Josephine: [13:32] But another one that I thought was a little bit quite smart was Petlexa. Amazon's just flipped it around with their Alexa home, which is the competition for Google Home.

Kate: [13:46] I believe so.

Josephine: [13:48] Yes. Basically, if you have a pet and your dog for instance and it barks, Petlexa will translate what your dog is saying.

[14:00] [laughter]

Kate: [14:01] I think I watched this one too and doesn't the dog barks, and they translate the bark into a command, like a ball to be thrown.

Josephine: [14:13] Yes, that's the one.

Kate: [14:15] It knocks down a picture frame or something. Then Alexa places an order online to replace the picture frame.

Josephine: [14:23] Yes, very smart. Very, very smart.

Kate: [14:26] [laughs]

Josephine: [14:26] Actually, I really wouldn't mind having a translator for your pet.

Kate: [14:30] That'd be great. My pet's pretty vocal, my dog. Especially she's getting older, she grumbles a lot.

Josephine: [14:38] You already understand a little bit what your dog's trying to say to you...

Kate: [14:43] Yeah. [laughs]

Josephine: [14:42] so maybe we don't need that.

Kate: [14:44] One day I hope she wakes up and talks to me. She's getting there.

[14:49] [laughter]

Josephine: [14:50] Another one that I thought was interesting was Duolingo had an emoji cause.

Kate: [14:54] That's interesting. How do teach emojis?

Josephine: [14:53] How do you teach emojis, exactly. [laughs]

Kevin: [15:02] That was Jo Pinto, the business operations manager at ManageFlitter and Kate Frappell. We're going to take a short break. We're going to come back with the interview with Michel Feaster who's the CEO of Usermind.

[15:18] We're going to chat about everything relating to building a startup, being a founder, building a business in Silicon Valley versus outside of Silicon Valley, women in tech, what's it like to work with Ben Horowitz. We'll be back after this short break.

Dave: [15:38] Hi, this is Dave from ManageFlitter. Are you interested in growing your Twitter account with real followers? ManageFlitter's power mode feature allows you to search for keywords in tweets and bios.

[15:50] It also allows you to copy your competitor's followers and filter out fake accounts. Go to and sign up for our pro or business plan to start growing your Twitter account today.

Kevin: [16:05] You're back with It's a Monkey Podcast. My name is Kevin Garber, I am the CEO of ManageFlitter and the co-host of this podcast that comes to you every week, or so. We are always looking for interesting people with a story to tell in our industry.

[16:17] It's not often that I can get someone at the end of my Skype line that was responsible or involved with a $1.6 billion acquisition. I'm excited to say I've got Michel Feaster at the end of my line who's the co-founder and CEO of Usermind, but was also involved in the Opsware acquisition by HP Software for $1.6 billion.

[16:38] Opsware actually just popped into my mind when I was preparing this interview. That was juggling my memory. I was like, "Where did I hear that name from?" Of course, there's a very famous book that all founders and want to be founders have read called, The Hard Thing About Hard Things, by Ben Horowitz.

[16:54] If you haven't read it, go and buy it today. It's a fantastic read. Ben actually talks about when he was involved in Opsware. I've at the end of my Skype line Michel Feaster, is someone who was right knee deep in in all of those exciting time. Michel, thank you so much for joining us.

Michel: [17:11] My pleasure, Kevin. Thanks for having me.

Kevin: [17:12] CEO of Usermind. We don't talk that much about enterprise style, for lack of a better word, companies. Do you want to give our listeners a very big picture overview of what Usermind does, bearing in mind they tend to be consumer tech people that aren't necessarily up to speed with all the lay of the landscape of enterprise software.

Michel: [17:37] Sure. What Usermind does is something I think all consumers can relate to.

[17:42] I think every consumer in the world has had the frustration of logging into their bank's mobile app, going into a Web app, or calling into a call center, and having to constantly repeat what their problem was or what their challenges were and not...or even then, going into a store and not having their Web history follow them around.

[18:06] Usermind is, yes, we make enterprise software, we describe what we do as a customer engagement hub, but really what we do is we help enterprise companies connect all those disconnected systems, so that the users can have a much better end-to-end customer experience.

[18:23] What that turns into is, if you're on the Web and you're struggling to add a new payee to your bank account, Usermind can detect that and actually get a call center person to reach out and call you proactively.

[18:36] If you've opened a ticket we can suppress all those annoying email messages so you're not getting spammed with marketing emails while you're struggling with particular problem.

[18:46] We think one of the biggest challenges to consumers is getting what they want from companies, is that those companies have tons and tons of silo-disparate technology. We help connect that so that consumers can have the kinds of experiences that they really crave.

Kevin: [19:00] Can you please do that for the medical industry? I'm so tired of filling out my details a million times at each little check up, or anything you go to, just drives me nuts.

Michel: [19:13] Yeah, isn't it crazy? What's interesting, when I started the company, you never know what verticals are going to pop first. I think that's true for any founder. What's been interesting to me is the verticals that I've moved the fastest for us have been technology companies. That's kind of a no-brainer, they tend to be more digital.

[19:31] Financial services. Those guys are getting disrupted big time by young entrance. Millennials really are open to not using big banks. Interestingly enough, manufacturing companies, people with really complicated supply chains.

[19:47] I think it will be interesting to see when it hits the medical field. I'm not sure they're going to be early adopters. We believe our market's huge because we think customer experience is a real core-competence in the next 50 years.

[20:00] As every company really is going completely digital, they're able to interface with you and I directly over all the mobile, social, Web -- all these channels. Increasingly, companies are going to grow or shrink. Win or lose, based upon the customer experience they deliver.

[20:20] The competition is one click away. So cheap to start a software company that, I think, if companies don't really win and delight their customers, they're going to go out of business.

[20:29] Although what we do is a little esoteric, I think it's something probably every person can relate to, and would agree that, if a company really could do that effectively, you'd be a customer for life. That's what our customers are aiming to try and achieve.

Kevin: [20:45] No one ever says, "I wish that company gave me less service," right?

Michel: [20:51] Yeah, right. I have a theory. Benioff, I often say Benioff is the godfather of Usermind. Benioff invented SaaS.

Kevin: [20:58] He's the CEO of Salesforce, if someone's listening and doesn't know that name, Marc Benioff.

Michel: [21:02] Yeah, sorry, that's a good context. When Marc Benioff leaves [inaudible] and invents Salesforce...He invented a lot of really interesting ideas. One of his ideas was the cloud. The idea that you could not install software on-prem. He was the guy who said, "No software."

[21:22] The fact that we all sell SaaS apps now is largely due to his innovation. His other innovation was a business model innovation, he's also really one of the business leaders who invented the idea of subscription. The idea that we don't pay an upfront license fee for software, we pay this yearly subscription for support and maintenance.

[21:45] From my point of view, I actually think people don't talk about subscription enough. The reason I think that is, increasingly I feel most companies are becoming relationship businesses. If you think about a bank, you open a bank account, and you have a relationship with that bank over many, many, many years.

[22:04] It's funny, I used to travel more abroad than I do now. I would go overseas and my credit cards kept getting shut down, and my bank kept trying to tell me I have to call ahead of time, tell us. I kept telling them, "Can't you just flag me as a high-travel profile?"

Kevin: [22:23] Whitelist you.

Michel: [22:24] Right, whitelist me, so I don't have to deal with that. What's interesting is I ended up switching banks. It sounds very small, but take that one annoying customer service issue, and I moved all of my money. Not just my checking account, but my credit cards, my money market accounts to a new bank, whom I've been with since, who I don't have that problem with.

[22:47] From my point of view, there's a real relationship with the idea of customer experience and customer longevity. Part of why I reference the idea of subscription is, subscription businesses is focused on lifetime value.

[22:59] The theory behind a subscription business is that you make all your money over time with a customer. You want to over-invest upfront, because if you can retain a customer for another year, two years, three years, it's actually disproportionately valuable, because all the upfront cost is in customer acquisition.

[23:16] The marketing, the switching costs. My pet theory is that every enterprise, every company, banks, Amazon, look at that with Prime. Banks are offering us so many other subscription services, every business is going to become a subscription business. All about long-term relationships and ongoing purchase.

[23:41] I think in that world, customer experience becomes incredibly strategic. Sorry, if that's little bit of an aside.

Kevin: [23:49] No, that's OK. As a corollary of that, I would say because every business is a relationship business, every business is also a people business. I think in our industry, in the tech industry, it's so easy to get caught up in cloud, and AWS, and refactoring, and no-adverse PHP, but I keep on saying, we are a people business.

[24:10] We have people that build our product, we have customers, we happen to be enabling everything with technology, but every business is a people business.

Michel: [24:19] Yep. The other really interesting thing in business is generational shifts. I don't know how much the millennial shift is in discussion, if it's top-of-mind or not, but from my point of view, the millennial generation represents a step-function paradigm shift in digital fluency.

[24:39] That generation is digital-natives, multitasking, they're really able to be omni-channel. I have a lot of young engineers in my company who fall into that demographic. It's really fascinating when you watch them code or work, they just effortlessly move between their IDE, and they're on Slack, and they're on their mobile phone doing something else.

[25:01] The other thing I think companies have to keep an eye on is that the general expectations are shifting in a dramatic way, and the millennials, they expect all channels to work. They expect to be able to shift channels on demand. Their patience level is so much less. I guess I'm a Gen X, even I am an incredibly impatient. My mom will go and stand in line at a store. I will never stand in a line.

[25:32] A millenial not even won't stand in line, but if it's not available online, they're not going to buy it. I think that's the other really interesting idea to your point about it's all a people business, is that when your buyers and your customers expectations shift generationally, companies have to transform to meet that challenge or that opportunity, if you will.

Kevin: [25:53] Michel, let's talk about being a female CEO and co-founder. There's the cliche of the Silicon Valley, you go to Stanford, be some flavor of a bro, so to speak, tap into the network, and start up something in San Francisco, in the Valley.

[26:15] Talk to me about your experience as a female founder that that's not from Stanford, not in Silicon Valley, you're obviously having quite a bit of a level of success.

[26:26] Your list of investors is a real testament. Whilst the investment is only the beginning of it, the class of investor like [inaudible] Horowitz and Charles River Ventures, I believe as well, they have excellent track records. Talk through us about how's your path got where you are, and any unique challenges, I guess, as a female founder that's not from the Valley and not from Stanford.

Michel: [26:57] It's a great set of questions. I'll try to unpack it. Maybe a couple of minutes on my background, how I got to founding, because I think it speaks a lot to who my investors are, it's all relationship-based. I dropped out of college, I spent a few years, believe it or not -- I spent almost five years, I worked in a gas station.

[27:15] I ended up working my way up to running a bunch of those. I got my break in tech in the boom of '98 and went into pre-sales, originally. I was in the field, carrying a bag, helping customers POC and evaluate technology at the time.

[27:30] I ended up at Mercury Interactive, that was my life-changing company. I stayed there almost eight years. In that context, I went from pre-sales, I got really lucky there, I ended up working with a lot of big companies, GE, and Fidelity, who wanted to partner with Mercury on their larger vision of their company.

[27:50] I ended up working really close to with the product organization and joined the product team. That was the second great break in my life. One was probably getting into tech, two was getting into product, getting out of the field, and finding my passion, the thing I should be doing with my life.

[28:08] I like creating things from nothing, whether that's software or that's teams. That was really a seminal moment in my life. Mercury eventually gets acquired by HP, my boss called me, and said "Hey, you're one of my glass-breakers, you're one of my fixers, there's this really broken data center automation business, do you want to fix it?"

[28:30] That one phone call led to acquiring Opsware. That's how I met Ben Horowitz and Marc Andreessen. Ben became my boss. What a blessing, right? He joined HP software, he became my boss, and in that book that you referenced, which is amazing, he references a management technique he calls freaky Friday, where he swaps execs.

[28:53] He had me take over product in his business. I worked for him, can you imagine this, what a life-changing opportunity. I worked for Ben Horowitz, directly managing his old company, and leading that integration.

[29:04] Ben said to me, "Why aren't you in a startup? Why are you still at a big company?" I gave him a lot of credit for being the first person to make me think, "Why am I not doing it?" When he left HP, I went to my last startup. It was a startup where the CEO was a Mercury guy, and I was there from employee 17 to 500.

[29:26] What a life-changing experience, that company just went public. First of all, I would say I'm probably not a typical founder, not just that I'm a woman, but that I didn't found in my 20s. I spent many years learning from incredible product people, watching people build amazing companies.

[29:46] If you look at my investors, one, clearly, I didn't know when I led the Opsware acquisition, I had no idea that Ben and Marc were going to found Andreessen Horowitz. I had no idea they were going to completely reinvent Venture Capital on some level.

[30:01] When I started the company, I didn't just have an idea, I interviewer about 350 people to net out the product idea. Although I was very blessed to have a sponsor in Ben, if you'll look at my investors, it's all relationship-based. Charles [inaudible] , who you mentioned, they were very close to the Mercury leadership. In fact, they invested...Yuval Scarlat used to run product.

[30:30] He was my great mentor before Ben. CRV led their series B, I think. I met CRV through the Mercury team. In fact, my former CEO of Mercury and the head of products, had breakfast with them and said, "We've put our own money into Michel's company. You have to meet with her."

[30:48] I would say a big factor, I think, in my ability to raise money is one, a long track record. Mercury was very successful software company known to have great products. I think the market thought the Opsware acquisition was a good idea. I didn't just lead it, I built that plan.

[31:06] Apptio, now that's a public company. I was part of that. I think a piece of it is investors look at risk. I have a strong history. Another piece of it is I've built a really great set of relationships with people who went to bat for me to help me get those meetings and to help convince these investors that I would do well, I would do right by them. I think it's all network, for me. That's kind of my story.

[31:34] Now to bring it back to being a woman, what a blessing to have the mentors I've had. People say it all the time, but it's really true. In my experience, any time you break through a glass ceiling in your career, any big jump, your first manager job, your first director job, your first exec job, your first founding gig, you need people to stick their necks out and say you're worth taking a risk on.

[32:02] I think no matter how good your idea is, no matter how much of a demo you do, the people who are investing in you are investing in you as a person first and foremost. I think I've been incredibly blessed to have these incredible mentors who have opened doors for me at every level.

[32:20] If [inaudible] hadn't called me and said, "Hey, do you want to try and fix this data center automation thing?" there'd be no Opsware acquisition. There'd be no life-changing relationship for me with Ben. If Ben hadn't said, "Both go do a startup." Ben told me, "Go found a company. What are you doing? What are you waiting for?"

[32:36] Beyond just the money, my mentors have changed my life. They changed my worldview. They made me think I could do things I didn't know I could.

[32:47] That's my life story. Back to being a woman, I think in general, it's harder. It's funny, I read, "Lean In." People ask me sometimes, "What are the books that blew your mind?" I think Ben's book is pretty incredible. I think Lean In is pretty amazing. When I read, and I read that late in my career by the way, I read that when I was already an exec. I was already leaving, I decided to leave Apptio.

[33:10] I don't remember where I was, but just the amount of factual data behind the Harvard Business Review study that said, "You can mail the same business case to VCs and if you just make the CEO a woman, the deal is twice as likely to get funded by a guy as it is if it's a woman." To me, there's a lot of data about the prevalence of unconscious bias. I think it's a real thing.

[33:37] I think I was very blessed to have incredibly strong sponsors that helped me navigate that dynamic. By the way, I also think that there's a double whammy, which is if you look at most women founders who get invested in or funded, it's in consumer.

[33:52] I'm actually a doubly rare animal in that there's really almost no female founders in enterprise. It's like it's Diane Greene and it's Paula Long, and it's Meg Whitman, maybe. But there's not a thousand of us.

Kevin: [34:08] There's Carly Fiorina as well. She's not a founder but she led HP, right?

Michel: [34:13] Yep, she led HP. She's more of a salesperson than a pure founder. I think my network was instrumental. I'd also say, as I reflected on it, people come and ask me, "What's the key?" I always tell people, "Just go found." I would say it's interesting, and Ben gave me this advice, Ben has always given me such incredible advice.

[34:35] It was harder for me to be an executive, to be honest. I found one of the things that struck me about Lean In was, there's all this research that said, "As women become more powerful, you become less liked. And as men become more powerful, they're more liked." It's amazing, I really found that.

[34:52] I feel like my least, I wouldn't say successful role, but the role where I was least loved and least understood, and certainly from my point of view, I had the least relationships, was my exec tenure. I feel I got to a level where I saw that in action. A part of it was my own stage, emotional maturity. I can take ownership for my own part in that.

[35:17] Ben once told me, he said, "At one point you can't work for anybody else." But he also said, "Michel, one of the most important things is that you need to create your own culture."

[35:25] As a woman, not only am I in an enterprise where there are few women, but Mercury was an Israeli company, and I think I learned in my young years a very direct style of leadership, a very no-BS style of leadership, and that served me so much less well.

[35:42] The more senior I got, when I left Mercury, when it was a more American culture, it just didn't work that well for me. What's been incredible to me is, in founding my company, everyone who works here has chosen to work for me, and the culture is pretty incredible. I think women often are in a catch-22.

[36:00] It's why I think founding is something more and more women should just do is, I do think you hit a point where it's really difficult to be successful as an exec.

[36:11] I think women can be very successful as managers and directors, but at a certain point I think the dynamics really work against you. If you have it in you, I think if you can found...You have to get money but if you can pull that off, you can build a culture that reflects you. It's interesting, my leadership team is half women and that's unusual. It wasn't by intention.

[36:36] Some of it is, women are attracted to the idea of working for women. I think a part of it is that I really value a very diverse team. I think decisions are better when there's a diverse team.

[36:47] I definitely think being a woman at the highest levels, when you hit being an executive, I don't know that it's as big, it's probably a small gap when you're in your earlier stages of your career but it becomes really, really pronounced.

[37:04] I think if women hit that point, I would encourage them to just get out and found because what's the worst that could happen? You might fail in your startup. But at least you're not failing due to a bunch of social dynamics that make it almost impossible to succeed. Anyways, hopefully that answers your question [inaudible] .

Kevin: [37:20] [laughs] Your comment about that women are predominantly or get drawn to consumer tech. One of the things that I was quite impressed with when I've spent lot of time in New York is, in the New York tech scene, there's an incredible diversity of female founders, even including very opaque, obscure technologies like the blockchain for instance.

[37:41] Very, very encouraged by the diversity of companies that females are founding there. I think if someone's listening to this podcast, what's so great about your story is not to be bound by narratives, dominant narratives. You don't have to be a MBA student from Stanford to go and raise money and put together a business.

[38:05] Even if you're not in the US, there's no better time to create something, anything. Start aggregating content or start a job, or anything. Just like you, I'm very much encouraging people to just go and just start something. Have a plan. That's when you really, really learn, and that's when you really get to understand yourself.

[38:27] I mean it's a real journey into yourself. It's a real tool into yourself, being a founder. What I find is, we are a small team of only 12, 13 people, and we have some incredible women on our team. What I find so interesting is that they're incredibly loyal, incredibly hardworking, but almost humble to their own detriments.

[38:50] Totally awkward when I give them a pat on the back or try to highlight how good they are at something. I say to them, and that could also be a little bit the Australian culture, which has humility at its core, so there may be other factors that play there. They definitely are not totally aware of their own outstanding [laughs] competence, which sometimes even frustrates me a little bit.

Michel: [39:18] Two things you said resonate with me personally. One, startups I think are an incredible, not just professional journey, but as you said, personal journey. I would agree with you. I feel like I've learned more about myself in the last four years doing Usermind than the rest of my life put together.

[39:37] In Ben's book, one of the things he talks about when you're a CEO or a founder is you have to manage your own psychology. I tell everyone, "Factually, I do a lot of the same things I've done before in my life. I hire people. I make product decisions. I go work with customers. I sell software"

[39:54] But I'm doing that in an emotional environment that's just so high-stakes because there's no safety net, and every decision matters so much more.

[40:01] I remember when I was hiring our first engineer, and I got turned down. I was just crushed. I was so, so crushed by that. It was because number one, it was really personal. Certainly it felt like, "Gosh, it's my idea and it was rejected." But just the level of emotion, they say the highest of the highs, the lowest of lows.

[40:24] I really do believe it's been a journey, looking into myself and learning about managing my own psychology. Four years in, I feel like I'm much calmer. I've grown so much. My ability to manage uncertainty, my ability to acknowledge my own fears and not project them outward, but to try to rise to the occasion of the leadership opportunity I've been given. That definitely resonates with me.

[40:48] The second thing you said that I was affected by is women being humble. I know personally that I have struggled with fear throughout my whole career. When I left Apptio, you'd think, "Gosh, Michel, Ben's telling you, Ben's telling you, you should found a company."

[41:06] I was the head of products at a startup. When I joined, it was a million and I left and it was 80, on its way to IPO. Everyone there would have said I was an instrumental team member. It was a team effort, but I was an instrumental part of that success. I literally spent three to four months, Kevin, talking to people, trying to decide if I was ready to found.

[41:28] I talked to probably 50, 100 companies, everything from two people in a garage with their dog, all the way up to GitHub, because I was really excited about what GitHub was doing. Come the full spectrum, just trying to see what got me excited before I decided what to do next.

[41:45] At the end of the day, I netted it out, and I'm like, "Well, there's only one or two CEOs I'd really want to work for." I flipped that question around. I was saying to myself. "Well, why..."

Kevin: [41:55] Which are those CEOs, by the way?

Michel: [41:58] [laughs] Well, one of them is Paula Long. She's the CEO of DataGravity. I'm a huge fan. She's just an incredible enterprise software founder. She just really wowed me. I thought I'd be a good match for her because she came from the engineering side. I thought I could really add skills. We would be, I think, a one plus one was three.

[42:19] Then the other unfortunately, he was the former CEO of Chef Software here in Seattle. Unfortunately, he's since passed away. He had cancer, which he didn't know at the time. He built a huge services company called Avanade and I was just really inspired by his leadership style. I thought he could make me a better leader, I could really grow.

[42:43] I ask myself the question, "Why is it that if I really can only work for a couple people, why aren't I willing to just do it?" When I sat down and really thought about it, it was that I was afraid. I didn't have a really good reason why. I mean I had all the skills. I had so much support.

[43:04] I do think there's something about that impostor syndrome, just the behavior of putting yourself out there that I think I struggled with it my whole life, and I think many women go through that same thing. I don't want to just over-rotate on being a woman, but that's definitely something that resonates with me when you say, "They're humble," I think women have a hard time accurately assessing our strengths and weaknesses.

[43:37] I think we tend to over-rotate to the weakness side and to undervalue our leadership and contribution. I think there's definitely points in your career when that holds you back, because you got to just jump in. To your point, found, just do it. It's scary or take that job, roll the dice. I know that for me it's been a journey.

[44:00] I tell everybody, "When you found, you're going to struggle with fear, and if you're not prepared for that and how that's going to affect you," I think it's a shock to a lot of founders. That's actually one of the thing that Ben's book really exposed. One of the reasons I admire it, even though I knew a lot of the facts already, is his relentless desire to talk about the truth of founding.

[44:24] Founding is, we tend to glamorize, Mark Zuckerberg and successful founders, and it's awesome. But the amount of struggle and pain, and stress, and accountability, which doesn't anyone shouldn't do it. You should do it. It's worth it. You'll grow, to your point you're going to grow like crazy. You're going to look back and be like, "It's the best thing I ever did."

[44:46] I think it's one of the best decisions I've made in my life and I don't want to underestimate and undersell to people that the growth comes...Ben once told me, for some people he said, "Michel, maximum discomfort equals maximum growth." To me, the startup, the reason I've grown so much is startups are uncomfortable. I've had to learn on every vector.

Kevin: [45:08] When I'm having a tough day, one of the things I'd do is I go to the quotes from Hard Things About Hard Things.

[45:14] [laughter]

Kevin: [45:15] There's some great ones where he talks about you always have options. When they were about to list and they weren't hitting revenue targets and the market was failing, they had options. It's simple little things like that. If I'm having a tough day, something hasn't worked out, we always got options.

[45:33] On the CEO point as well, I think in so many ways it's an absolute privilege, which I'm sure you will agree. But as Kevin Rose, who is the founder of Digg, he also says he wouldn't wish being a CEO on his worst enemy. The glamour of it is very minimal and it is tough. It is really, really, really tough at the best of times.

[45:55] I mean we bootstrapped. We've got a different set of problems. You've got a set of high-profile, brilliant investors. Just people may be interested that Charles River Ventures were one of the first investors in Twitter, even before Twitter was Twitter and when it was Odeo and a podcast company, and of course Andreessen Horowitz.

[46:12] I'm sure that the pressure of having such a pedigree of investors brings its own set of pressures as well.

Michel: [46:20] Oh, yeah. Look, I think most of us who have worked really hard to be successful, I don't want to let anyone down. I feel like my investors, individually, the board members I have, made a bet on me and on us and on the idea. One of the things I love about Silicon Valley is the comfort with failure.

[46:45] Objectively, Kevin, I know that my investors...If Usermind completely failed, in their mind that was always a possibility.

Kevin: [46:53] Do you think they're becoming a little bit too comfortable with failure? There's all this failure porn blog out there. It's almost like overcompensating, glamorizing failure. You haven't made it until you've failed at least three times. Are we taking it a little bit too far?

Michel: [47:11] I don't know. I feel like on the one hand, now that I'm four years in, I could give you a list of mistakes, Kevin, that it's incredible. I'm sure you have the same story where best information you had at the time, best judgment call you could make, and if you could just roll back in time, you would do it differently.

[47:33] From my point of view, it's good that we allow for failure, because I feel the intersection of like, did you find a big enough market, did you build a right enough product, and can you monetize? It's almost like this perfect storm.

[47:49] The amount of things that have to go right for there to be success, to me, just inherently means no matter how good the team, no matter how good the idea, no matter how much money, it's a really brutally hard thing to make it succeed.

[48:01] Because so many things have to succeed altogether for the startup to succeed. On the one hand, I'm really, really appreciative that there's a culture of saying, "We get it. It's really hard. It's acceptable to fail."

[48:14] By the way, I do think there's a flip side of that, which is, I know that if I were founding again, the lessons I've learned, it's not the failure. It's not the intrinsic outcome. It's that I...

Kevin: [48:25] I think it's very important point, yeah.

Michel: [48:28] I've learned so much. You and I in founding have learned so many things that probably I think if I did it again, I'd be better at it. I'd make fewer mistakes. I think I probably would have a better likelihood of succeeding. But I don't think it's about failure.

[48:46] I think that if the failure transforms you, back to your idea about our personal growth journey, if success or failure, if the founder has grown and learned, you probably are going to do better the next time. That I really appreciate.

[49:03] I do agree with you that...It's funny, Andreessen, for a while, they talked about fruit fly experiments. "Hey, people are throwing around a ton of money at these consumer ideas that are kind of fruit fly experiments." I think there are times when there is a little bit of a bubble and people are throwing money at really silly ideas.

[49:24] But overall, I'll tell you one of the things I really love about technology is I think there's these massive mega shifts in work itself. You go back to the Industrial Revolution was the last mega shift in work.

[49:42] Probably before that was cities were a mega shift in work. We're now in the information economy. We're in the middle of this mega shift where people who can create software abstractions are disproportionately valued in the economy.

[49:59] From my point of view, one of the things I really hope is that if we can figure out how to make more innovation happen, and if then spending too much money in the Valley as part of that, man, I hope we can figure out how to create other Silicon Valleys. I'm really convinced that...

Kevin: [50:15] Increase the speed of iteration, right?

Michel: [50:18] Yeah. I'm really convinced that for my children, I don't have children, but if I had children or my children's children, for the future of every country, we have to figure out how to democratize the white collar work skills. Part of that is democratizing the money.

Kevin: [50:37] It's a big question. Wow. That challenge is very bold and important and we need the likes of Andreessen and Ben dealing with that. I know Marc Andreessen's very bullish on the blockchain. The blockchain could be a step in that direction, right?

Michel: [50:59] Yep. Part of why I'm excited about software in general, part of why, by the way, I founded in Seattle is I'm really hopeful there'll be a second Valley that will emerge somewhere. I'm not so bothered by the failure part of Silicon Valley. I think it's largely positive. I get a little bothered when people say things like, "Well, we don't fund unless you're in the Valley."

Kevin: [51:26] Try being in Australia.

Michel: [51:27] I can't even imagine. To me, part of the issue is that we don't have a second Valley. I really think Seattle has a possibility to become one. If you look at the Valley, how did the Silicon Valley become the Valley? Well, there was two nurse trees, right there was HP and Silicon Graphics.

[51:50] They brought all these amazing people to the Valley and they all diaspora, or they all left, and it's all these diasporas of founders. These tech companies become vortexes that bring people in, and you can see them spit out all these new founders who create a ton of new companies.

[52:06] Silicon Valley just hit this perfect storm where it's so much talent in the same place and so much money in it to invest in that talent, but you get this incredible innovation economy.

[52:18] One of my beliefs is that opportunity will be more democratized if we can build a second Valley. More harmful than the myth of failure in the Valley is the myth that the Valley is the only place that can happen.

[52:33] When I look at Seattle, I've been here six years now, I think it's starting to happen here. We have Microsoft and we have Amazon as our nurse trees. We've had a number of really good exits, Zulily, Tableau, Apptio, and there's probably seven or eight more. You can see this ecosystem of user minds where there's so many more startups.

[52:55] One of my big hopes is that if one more geography, the minute you can have a second nearly as good Valley, you can have a thousand. It'll be so hard to convince people that it could happen in Australia, unless you can at least have a second one in the United States to me. I actually think the minute you get a number two, the fallacy of...

Kevin: [53:19] It's all going to break open...

Michel: [53:20] Yeah. It's a big part of why I...There's lots of other practical reasons, I think our development pool is awesome here. The quality of life is great. It's cheaper than the Bay. To be honest, I really, really hope that we can break that myth here.

[53:36] I hope we're part of that because the minute that happens, so much opportunity. If the money can go everywhere, then, there's so much opportunity created broadly geographically. You know what I mean?

[53:50] I think it has cultural implications. I think it has implications in terms of quality of life. I feel really strongly about that. I really hope that that happens in my lifetime whether in Seattle or somewhere else.

[54:04] I hope that we're a part of that larger movement because I think that it creates more meaning to me in terms of what is Usermind participating in. It's not just building a company.

Kevin: [54:15] That's a fantastic point. You even got a whole continent of Africa where I'm from originally, where people are so entrepreneurial and so passionate to enable change. Michel, I know time is not on our side. The one request I do have, can you ask Marc Andreessen to start tweeting again, please?

Michel: [54:31] [laughs] Yeah. I'll definitely mention it next time I see him. He's a pretty incredible tweeter, I'll tell you, that guy, he was the inventor of the Tweetstorm, right? I think...

Kevin: [54:45] Absolutely.

Michel: [54:46] he single handedly did it. It's interesting thing. I'm not super active on social media, but it's something I ponder, because I feel like social media is incredible. If you do it right, what an amazing thing that we all got visibility to his thought process, right?

Kevin: [55:05] It was just fantastic. I think there's a lot of people that would really, really love him back. We learned so much. I've got a list on my Twitter account called Startup Tech where I put smart VCs, and founders. I keep that open during my day. I'm learning the whole time and I learned so much from him.

Michel: [55:25] The challenge, I think, is that for any company or brand, there is a risk, too. If you take a controversial position on social, people can hammer you with it. I don't think we've figured social media out whether it's the impact of social media on the elections, or on fake news, or just the risk people take. The amount of backlash now that's capable in the social channels...

Kevin: [55:50] can be vicious.

Michel: [55:52] Right, it's vicious. I don't know the answer, but I think it's a shame when the level of backlash takes away the opportunity for all of us to benefit from, whether it's Marc or Ben or any...I love Aaron Levie. I don't know if you follow him, but I think...

Kevin: [56:09] Sure, founder of Box, right?

Michel: [56:10] Yeah, I think he's phenomenal. I think he's always got a provocative point of view, that whether I agree with him or disagree with him, he always tweaks my thought process.

Kevin: [56:20] I think I'm hoping the new generation, the millennials, maybe will have a level of maturity where they realize that that important part of democracy is that engaging debate and we lose out exactly as your point.

[56:35] If we get too vicious and we land up chilling speech, boom, we lose out on all those benefits that flows. If you disagree, just make sure that the debate continues to move forward.

[56:44] Michel, I know you've got a hard stop. I'm going to leave it there. I've really loved talking with you. Michel Feaster is the co-founder and CEO of Usermind. We're going to put links to all your bits and pieces on the show notes. I really appreciate your time today. It's been a fascinating story. Thanks for joining us in the podcast.

Michel: [57:04] Thanks, Kevin. It's very much my pleasure.

[57:05] [dogs barks]

Dave: [57:08] The "It's a Monkey Podcast" is brought to you by CheckDog. Use CheckDog to easily review and monitor your website for spelling errors, broken links, and broken images, all with the push of one button.

[57:22] CheckDog can also automatically monitor your website and to notify you of newly introduced spelling errors. Go to checkdog.comforward/podcast to receive 50 percent off your first month subscription., helping the world's leading websites keep their content error free.

[57:41] [dogs barks]

Kevin: [57:45] Kate, as I mentioned in the interview with Michel, The Hard Thing About Hard Things, is one of my favorite books of all times because it is just raw. The quotes from that book, fantastic. If you are an entrepreneur or wannabe entrepreneur, read that book. You'll just see how tough it can be sometimes and the roller coaster of it.

[58:10] Being able to work with Ben Horowitz must have been fantastic. He's a super smart guy. The fact the Michel's got an in, that he's investing in her business is terrific. She's wonderfully smart and lots of areas of topics and discussions that we could go on for a little while about.

Kate: [58:29] Definitely. Is he the author of this book you're speaking of?

Kevin: [58:32] He's the author of the book. He's the co-founder with Marc Andreessen of Andreessen Horowitz. Very well known Venture Capital company in Silicon Valley. Marc Andreessen of course invented the modern Web browser Netscape. He is the creator of Netscape.

Kate: [58:49] Cool.

Kevin: [58:50] Very, very smart guy, investor in many business, on the board of Facebook, and a bunch of super smart guys. They have a podcast. Their company, they publish interesting blog articles.

[59:04] Marc Andreessen used to be very big on Twitter. He invented what's called, as we discussed in the interview the Tweetstorm.

Kate: [59:11] You mentioned at the end of the interview that he doesn't use Twitter very much anymore.

Kevin: [59:19] He made one statement that was a bit political and controversial that got him into trouble. Then he disappeared from Twitter for a while saying he's taking a break. Then I see he's deleted all his tweets. Then I think he tweeted saying if people want him to answer a question, they can make a donation to charity.

[59:38] If he accepts that, the question, the charity will get the money. If not, the money will get returned, which was interesting as well. It's a real shame. He used to tweet really interesting insights about everything from leadership to raising money, to all sorts of things. I don't know. Some of these high profile people just get hammered on Twitter sometimes.

[60:02] It's a real shame really because a lot of the entrepreneurs, we really loved following his tweets and his Tweetstorms and getting insight into the minds of smart people. A lot of the time, they've achieved success. Sure, there's a lot of liking everything, but a lot of time because they're smart and they're hardworking as well.

[60:23] Interesting as well for Michel that...Where you are in life in terms of geography matters. Being in these environments where you can work with smart people that back you matters. There's sure...

Kate: [60:40] [inaudible] .

Kevin: [60:40] there's smart people all over in the world, but they haven't had the opportunity. That's why ecosystems evolve that we discussed I think even about Berlin. One smart person has success and invests in other smart people. The cycle continues.

[60:54] I'm sure there's smart people everywhere in Africa, but the ecosystem and the education just hasn't evolve to that point. Life has a bit of the right place and the right time. If you back that by hardworking and intelligent and giving things a go, amazing things can happen.

Kate: [61:16] She does talk quite extensively about the roles of her mentors who've played in her success and how they've shaped and coached her, I guess, in founding her own company, which I find that section of the interview interesting.

Kevin: [61:34] Interesting. She's a university dropout like a lot of famous people are. She worked at service stations, I believe, and landed up managing some of those service, which is fantastic. I think university is being disrupted as well.

Kate: [61:54] It needs to be.

Kevin: [61:56] It needs to be. It needs to essentially, except for the universities that really get face-to-face delivery. Well, the rest of them should all be online. Just put it all online.

Kate: [62:05] Certain bulk, yeah.

Kevin: [62:06] It's just a waste of...To have these expensive buildings and expensive lecturers. It's expensive, right? That's why if it's all online and you have a set of lecturers that get reused for three years or four years, cheap as chips.

Kate: [62:22] True. But even then, I don't know that you can just recycle content like that. I think it needs to be consistently updated.

Kevin: [62:30] Sure, depends what it is. Classical Greek philosophy, I'm sure lectures on that will last a lot longer than, I don't know, design trends or...

Kate: [62:43] That's true as well.

Kevin: [62:44] It really depends on the subject. A lot of subjects that are fundamentals, calculus, and organic chemistry, and things that, it hasn't changed in a million, not a million, but a long time. Universities are expensive, so let's democratize that and give access to people.

[63:01] In the States, people land up...Even in Australia, I've got friends with $20, $30,000 debts they have.

Kate: [63:06] The only good thing here in Australia is that you can take out a HECS loan so the government pays it upfront and you pay it back once you earn over a certain amount.

Kevin: [63:19] Is there interest on that?

Kate: [63:21] A little bit.

Kevin: [63:21] Right, but it's not a commercial...

Kate: [63:23] It's not ridiculously...They don't...Better make out that it's ridiculously expensive. I think it's just inflation.

Kevin: [63:32] Which is fair enough. In the States, it can be tricky. I still think you get a lot of value out a degree. But anyway, great chat with Michel. That's it for episode 88 of It's a Monkey Podcast. We come to you every week.

[63:51] The next two weeks, we're actually going to be playing some highlights and repeats of shows because it's Easter in Australia. Easters are relatively big holiday. We're going to be down a couple of people. For the next two weeks, we're not going to have a live podcast, but we will still publish a podcast.

[64:11] Please tweet us @MonkeyPodcast. Please email us at We love to hear from you. We hope you enjoyed the show. Thanks for listening to us.

Kate: [64:22] See you later.

[64:23] [music]