Our guest today is Chris Lu, who is a co-founder of copy.ai.
Copy.ai is an AI copywriting platform that uses cutting-edge artificial intelligence to help marketers and entrepreneurs grow their businesses.
Chris has worked at the ESO Fund for the past 5 years and is passionate about early-stage investing and entrepreneurship.
Heâ€™s angel invested in over 20 companies, especially in the Passion Economy, Climate, Crypto, and EdTech.
In This Conversation, We Discuss:
- How Copy.ai helps the small business and solopreneur to succeed with copywriting
- How they are managing the growth and the viral demand
- The effects of automation on jobs and the benefits of implementing automation
- How to decide what to say â€œYesâ€ and â€œNoâ€ to
Connect with Chris Lu: LinkedIn
Copy.AI â€“ http://copy.ai/
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Our guest is Chris Lu, who is the Co-founder of Copy.ai. It’s a company that Iâ€™m insanely excited about. It is an AI copywriting platform that uses cutting-edge artificial intelligence to help marketers and entrepreneurs grow their businesses. Chris has worked at the ESO Fund for five years, and he’s passionate about early-stage investing in entrepreneurship. He has Angel invested in over twenty companies, especially in the passion economy, climate, crypto, and ed tech. Chris, welcome to the show.
Thank you for having me, Cameron.
As I said, Iâ€™m super excited about Copy.ai. I heard about it on Clubhouse and then shared it on the Trends community online. It’s blown up. People are super excited about this. Tell everybody what Copy.ai is, and then how did you and your Cofounder, Paul, get the idea to get this going?
Copy.ai is what the name says. We use the latest technologies in AI to help companies, specifically smaller businesses and solopreneurs, write and help brainstorm their marketing copy. We have a mission to help people create, live, and love. We can dive a little deeper into that later in the episode. Recent AI advances have gotten pretty insane. These AI can write quite coherently. We are utilizing that technology to help empower everyday people and make it accessible to people globally.
Give us an example of what it might be used for. Give us maybe 1 or 2 little quick case studies of what somebody might use it for.
There are a lot of people who are freelance social media managers out there, and their main limitation is the number of clients they can take on. They have to create a lot of content, whether it’s Instagram captions, posts or videos on social media and on various other channels. It’s a lot, and they suffer from writerâ€™s block quite a bit. Using our tool, they can plug in the context for the company that they are consulting for and immediately get back 7 ideas every 10 seconds. They can continue to click that button and get a bunch of unique ideas. You can add or change the context. For example, if you wanted to do a post around Christmas, you can add it for this Christmas or holiday, and the results will synthesize the brand based on that given context.
It’s crazy. When I heard about this, I jumped all over it because Iâ€™m a quick start. Iâ€™m a 4-3, 9-3 Kolbe and a 98 in DiSC. I execute, and I plan later. Iâ€™m like, â€œThis sounds amazing. I got to go check it out.â€ I typed in COO Alliance as the name of my company, and then I typed in the only network of its kind in the world for the second in command to grow their leadership skills. Off the top of my head, that’s what I wrote down. The Copy suggestions that I came back with instantly blew my mind. Some were a little bit odd. It was like Kevin Spade was the CEO. Iâ€™m like, â€œNo. it’s clearly Cameron Herold.â€ The rest of it, it’s all at 90% completed.
You tweak it a little bit, you can press go, and you are good with posts. I sent it off to the woman who runs my social media team for me. She was blown away, and then I sent it off to the CEOs of two quite large digital marketing agencies. One has 700 employees. One has 250, and Iâ€™m friends with their CEOs. They were blown away by it, so you are clearly onto something. How are you managing the growth and the viral demand for this? Is this another WhatsApp where you can sell it for $1.8 billion with only 55 employees?
Thank you so much for sharing with all those people. That’s huge. Word of mouth has been our most viral channel. What’s more important is the vision that we have behind the company, which is to truly empower people globally. Everything we do comes from that thesis. Paul, our CEO, is our chief cheerleader in some ways. He posts about our mission on Twitter a lot. He’s also fully transparent when building the company. Every month, we give our investor update to our entire Twitter following and make it completely public.
The goal here is to inspire more people to start companies. So far, we have been pretty capital efficient, and it doesn’t take too much of a team to get to where we are. When you have such a large vision, it will require some more people to execute a lot more. We hope to touch the lives of everyone. We have the stretch goal of a billion new companies in the next decade. It’s a little bit farfetched but if every single person has 2 or 3 companies because it’s easy to start them, it’s possible.
It’s incredible the number of entrepreneurs or entrepreneurial people that you will empower, for sure. Two friends of mine came up with a book in the last quarter. Dan Sullivan, who built Strategic Coach and Ben Hardy, who is the number one writer on Medium, came up with a book called Who Not How. They are pushing this whole concept of, â€œI need to know how to do something.â€ It’s like, â€œNo, you need to know the person that knows how to do it.â€ Iâ€™ve jumped that shark already.
I hate that term but Iâ€™ve jumped over that concept of who not how, and Iâ€™m starting to think about what AI exists that I can plug in instead of a person. I follow the idea of stopping, optimizing, automate, and outsource. The automate is the AI component. Are you trying to combat the outsourcing of copywriting and wedge your way in between? Is that a part of your strategic or marketing plan at all?
It goes back to a philosophical point that matters to us. There has been this narrative that AI is coming for your jobs, and the biggest narrative that has been pushed over the last decade since AI even became a thing in every medium. What people don’t realize and think about is that if AI does replace some jobs, it makes other things easier to do because you have less people needed to get it done. That works in multiple ways. People also believe AI is so powerful and it knows everything. While that is somewhat true, it’s not fully true.
The way we see AI is like a Harry Potter spell. It’s as powerful as it is in the hands of the user. The good copywriters love our product because it gives them superpowers. They are great at editing, creating and unfeeling the story once it’s written. A lot of the best avid readers already outsource the first draft on a per-word basis using Upwork. They can get to that first draft a lot faster at any given time about any given topic, which is powerful.
Thatâ€™s what I have been wondering. Will Copy.ai start to push away some of those outsourced beginning-stage copywriting? Iâ€™m not worried about jobs. We will always be able to create more opportunities but Iâ€™m curious why I would bother outsourcing the copy to Bulgaria or the Philippines when I can crank it out with the computer in two seconds and then polish it? Is that part of the marketing, do you think, or will that happen organically?
That will happen organically. We are already seeing early signs of it. We get some user feedback saying like, â€œIn about ten minutes, I can crank out a first rough draft of a thousand-word article.â€ We ask them, â€œHow do you do that.â€ They use our tool a lot and understand how it’s built so that allows them to do that. That is part of the longer-term goal because we don’t believe that a lot of those people enjoy running that first draft. There’s a reason why everyone outsources it.
It’s too much. It’s too hard to come up with a creative idea every day or every hour.
We would rather you outsource it to us. We hope you create it, and then you can edit it. What this means, though, with all the people who are writing those first drafts initially will have more time to focus on other things. There will be a skillset of using this AI as well. It’s a layer on top where they are going to be able to process and make a lot more first straps than they were able to before.
This will do subject lines, headers, copy, tweets, and blog content. What other kinds of content is it creating?
We have some fun ones, and then we also have some more serious ones. My favorites are the copywriting formulas because they are pretty well-defined. For example, Pain-Agitates-Solution. Itâ€™s the world’s oldest sales partner. It works so well, and you try to focus on the pain points. Itâ€™s because this AI is a massive model and understands context well. It can take your input and then create or find the pain points associated with it that it thinks it is right.
For Copy.ai, when you run it through there, they are like, â€œIt takes too long where you can’t focus on the rest of your business. It’s stuff that you have to do but you don’t like.â€ It knows how to agitate it even further. Itâ€™s like, â€œCan you imagine the next ten years of doing this?â€ or stuff along those lines. It then leads you to the solution. Itâ€™s because it is a formulaic brainstorming exercise, and it’s good at that.
That’s very similar to the Xerox many years ago. They had what they called SPIN Selling, which was a Situation Problem Implication Need-Payoff. It sounds very similar to the model you are talking about and can generate those pain points and build off. That’s unbelievable.
It’s up to you to determine whether the pain point is valid or not. It won’t write it. It is like, â€œIs that a pain point, or is that more of an annoyance?â€ That’s up to the user to decide but it also helps you brainstorm because if you run it through a bunch of times and the pain points don’t feel like true pain points to you, maybe you save some time not pursuing that idea or you change your idea up a bit.
It’s interesting. This is getting a little off-topic but you brainstorm more as you use our tool. You get exposed to ideas and thoughts that you didn’t have before. No matter how experienced you are, you find new angles, and that changes the way you think about what you are working on. That’s one of the best parts.
When we were building 1-800-GOT-JUNK, we were getting quite well-known for all the press coverage we were getting. We had 5,200 stories written about our company in six years, including being on Oprah. We used to talk about reading the newspaper with both eyes. What we meant by it was that we were going to read the story but we were also going to read the caption and the headline and get to understand how they were marketing that story to the reader. By reading with both eyes, we began to learn how to pitch the journalists, and we were much more successful in pitching. It sounds like the same idea. Your copywriting skills are going to get developed by seeing all this stuff coming at you so quickly.
I know Iâ€™m a bad writer but my ability to identify a pretty good copy has improved significantly since we started this company. A more fun one that we launched is a Valentine’s Day cardmaker.
I was wondering, are you going to do the I love you notes? How about the apologies like, â€œIâ€™m so sorry I ruined our dinner date?â€
You can do so much with it. My girlfriend has noticed that the words I use, even in our day-to-day conversations, have gotten better because Iâ€™m exposed to a wider vocabulary and analogies. Iâ€™m like, â€œYour eyes are as deep as the ocean.â€ Sheâ€™s like, â€œThat’s powerful and deep.â€ When I talk to her, I may use a similar analogy or something that’s a little bit different but I find it popping into my brain now instead of the usual I love yous and whatnot.
When you pick the filtering for the content, can you have the cheesy scale like an up-and-down cheese meter?
We don’t have that yet.
You got to build that in. You should follow Tesla’s lead on that. Tesla does all these little weird things like Santa’s sleigh and the jingle or the fart machine. How many customers have you got with Copy.ai? When did you start, and what are you at now for customers and maybe how many countries? Give us some idea of the scope of where you are already.
We launched on October 15th, 2020. We did not expect it to go too far. We were struggling to get some early customers to try to validate our idea. Paul and I decided, â€œLetâ€™s tweet it out.â€ He puts out a tweet that gets 200,000 impressions and drives 2,000 signups on that first day. That kickstarted the entire process. We broke 1,000 customers, which is absolutely insane to me. I don’t know the exact number of countries but it’s a high number. It’s probably somewhere around twenty countries. Most of our customers are these small business entrepreneurs. It’s usually 1 or 2 customers in some of the different countries.
Four and a half months from 0 to 1,000 customers. How many employees? Is it just the two of you?
The two of us.
Are you outsourcing the development? Are you outsourcing some of the marketing? What are you outsourcing, and what are the two of you running?
We aren’t running any marketing. If you were to see our building in public as marketing, then my Cofounder and the CEO Paul are doing that. Iâ€™m the developer. We do outsource some of the development for some side pieces, so we are about to launch a Chrome Extension. That was outsourced. Other than that, we’ve run lean. We did have some contractors along the way and some copywriters to help us generate these tools in a way that works well. It has been pretty small.
Forgive me for not understanding the terminology. There’s an application that you are built off of. Did you license it? is it Google’s AI? Who’s AI are you built off of? Explain to people how that works because this is pretty new for everybody.
We are licensed off of Open AI, and that is a venture by a lot of the best people that I like in Silicon Valley. Elon Musk was one of the early backers. The interesting thing about them was that they had this thesis where if you build a large enough algorithm, it starts to become pretty smart. We saw early signs of it. Before GPT-3, there was GPT-2 and then GPT. GPT-2 was the first one that caught our eye and the attention from a lot of people. Paul spent 40 or 50 hours playing with that.
Heâ€™s cooking and generate more. The issue was 1 in 100 results were mind-blowing. Maybe 1 in 10 or 1 in 20 was mediocre or okay. It shows you the yearly signs of like, â€œThis thing has potential.â€ We kept it on the back burner, and then GPT-3 came out. We immediately were like, â€œIt’s 3 out of 10 or 1 out of 10, mind-blowing. 3 out of 10 are incredible.â€ There’s some stuff mixed in there as well. That was eye-opening to us. The interesting thing is that our missions are aligned.
Back up for one quick sec. Open.ai, if we were to give someone an analogy of what it might be like, is it the internet is to a web company or Shopify to a small store? Is Open.ai a platform for businesses like yours? Explain to people what it is, even GPT. Tell us what that acronym stands for so they understand that.
It’s not going to be the best analogy. It’s more of a programming language or platform that they are providing to other people. I would say it’s more analogous as to some no-code, low-code tools.
All the data is there. They’ve downloaded 10% of the internet and downloaded all the Wikipedia or something, and you are working off that. That’s the engineering background that you are built off of.
They spent all the money and the resources to generate this incredible algorithm. Mission-wise, instead of having them tackle like, â€œMarketing copy is for small business owners. They are aiming for a lot bigger.â€ This algorithm works for other underlying data. Some people are writing code with it generating apps and UI designs, and then the crazy stuff happens around images.
They released a blog post where you can describe an image, and then the algorithm will draw it. The applications are endless, and they will be attacking so many massive industries. They want to be the provider of all of that. They are incentivized to let developers ourselves build on top of them to solve very specific problems.
Do you pay them a licensing fee for this or how does that work?
They are still experimenting with the pricing but it’s on a usage basis as of now. They have a lot of things going on.
How are you guys funded?
Right after we launched, we started seeing some early tracks. Paul and I bootstrapped it a little bit. We are like, â€œWe’ll both invest a little bit of our own money, so we have some runway.â€ We then had to clear our jobs. Paul and I were working together at a venture firm. Afterward, we decided that this was so compelling that we had to do it. We raised small friends and family round. We recently closed a seed round as well.
Has the venture fund that you used to work for invested in the seed round?
The venture fund we used to work for is very niche. It’s called the Employee Stock Option Fund. We would help employees exercise their stock options and split the future upside. Direct investments don’t quite fit into that wheelhouse but a lot of our colleagues are Angel investors.
I was telling someone that in the summer of 2008, at Burning Man at 2:00 in the morning, I told the Founder of Uber, Garrett Camp, that it was the dumbest idea Iâ€™d ever heard on. I turned down an opportunity to invest. Kimball Musk worked for me back in 1993, and if I had put a $5,000 deposit down on the Roadster back in 2004, I could have gotten in on the founder’s round. I said, â€œNo. That’s a dumb idea.â€ If you guys are looking for an Angel investor that has a big strategic net of entrepreneurs that I know globally, Iâ€™m happy to throw some money into the next round. Iâ€™m not going to miss this one. You guys are onto something really cool.
Thank you so much. That’s the first in command’s job.
He and I met at Clubhouse, which I thought was very interesting as well. Is he on apps like that in social media to build Buzz? Is that why he’s in the core role, The rainmaker?
When we look at a company, the CEO’s job tends to be two things, hire good people and not run out of money. To hire good people, you need to stress the mission. At the same time, it’s also our marketing channel. He spends a lot of time engaging with our user base and with potential audiences on this mission because we feel so passionately about it.
It’s an entire wave that a lot of people aren’t giving enough credit to. He goes out of his way to make sure that people understand that, â€œThere is a future that’s more optimistic,â€ than, â€œWe are going to be dominated by our robot overlords.â€ The power of AI tends to be, as of now, more in this outsourced lateral thinking, outsourced creativity, where it helps you get started. It’s empowering humans rather than replacing them.
What other companies do we know of that are using AI at this point? Are any companies not keeping it secret from us but we are not aware of it?
Almost every single company these days uses some shape or form of AI. The question is whether or not they are using a very large, complicated model. Typically, the companies that are only able to afford the large, complicated models are the massive ones like Facebook, Google, and Amazon. To give you a sense of how expensive it is to train the model once, and this is an Open AI model, people are speculating it would cost $15 million to train it once or test it out. Imagine, every single time they test, it costs $15 million. They must have spent hundreds of millions trying to get into work. Not to mention they have a staff of a few hundred of the best AI researchers on Earth. They were not cheap either. Google spends millions of dollars almost per AI researcher.
How well-known is it now that you can build something off this platform? Is it well known that you can build something off of Open.ai or some of the other AI platforms, or are people waking up to that fact? Do people think they need to build their own algorithm? It is where Iâ€™m going.
People are pushing it both ways. A lot of people feel like this massive, â€œOpen AI, you should build on it.â€ We are seeing new apps being launched every day like Product Hunt, built on top of Open AI. Among the tech industry, it’s pretty standard now. Some people are like, â€œIf you’ve built on someone else’s platform, that’s dangerous for you.â€ They are right in some ways but understanding the incentives of Open AI helps you mitigate that risk.
Say, â€œYou are probably built off of Amazon and Google in a slightly different way.â€ The rest of the world might not be as aware. Social media makes it where the message can spread a little bit more but people aren’t seeing why it matters to them. They see all these cool demos but they don’t get to experience like, â€œThis is valuable to me. This moved my top and helped decrease our bottom line.â€ Once they start seeing that, they truly start understanding the power of it.
You did a seed round. How much did you raise in that?
We raised about $1.5 million.
What are you going to use that money for?
We are going to build out our team a bit more. There’s so much to do that there’s not enough time in the day. I have been doing everything but that’s not scalable to target all the things that we want. We are pretty much going to use it to scale up our operations and build out some processes where we can continue to launch and execute.
Are you looking for people that are based in the Bay Area? Are you going to hire remote? What’s your plan for that?
It’s interesting. Paul is based in Memphis, Tennessee, and Iâ€™m based in Houston. I was in the Bay Area for a couple of years, and then COVID. I left around February and March 2019, and I didn’t realize that I wouldn’t be back. Since then, we both quit our jobs. We are going to run the company fully remote because we do have global ambitions. When you have global ambitions, we think we need to have a global user base and team. A lot of our friends are in the Bay Area, so we are probably going to be hiring out there.
It’s opened up the doors now. Companies before that said, â€œIâ€™d never have a remote team,â€ they are now, â€œMaybe that’s even better.â€ I coached a company called Acceleration Partners. They run affiliate programs for Apple, Uber, and Target. I coached 40 people up to 100. They are a completely remote company. Bob Glazer, their CEO, wrote another book called Virtual Teams, and they ranked as the number two Company to Work For in the United States. They’ve never, ever had an office. They have only ever been remote. There’s something pretty powerful about being able to hire great people and build them out. What do you think your first few hires are going to be?
We are in the process of looking for a founding designer, engineer, and potentially a community manager who could help us engage even further with our passionate user base. Those three are pretty top of mind. The designer is a role that’s going to be critical because we have such large ambitions. We need someone to help set the user experience strategy. How do you take all this complexity, simplify it down, and make it intuitive?
We tried our best. We are pushed to our limits, so we are looking for someone who can help us take it to the next level. Engineering-wise, there are a lot of infrastructures to be built, even though it seems like it’s a simple app built on top of Open AI. There’s a lot you can do that will improve the quality of the generations, the results and the usefulness and efficiency that we need to work on.
Iâ€™m curious how you guys are approaching the endless amount of opportunities you could do and how you are deciding what to say no and yes to in terms of what you are going to build.
That comes down to our mission statement. It’s our North Star.
Let’s go there because you’ve brought up mission four times, so talk about your mission. You said to create, live, and love.
Create, live, and love more. When we look at a new tool, we want to see, â€œIs this useful to someone? Will it improve their lives in a meaningful way, and will it improve it along one of these tracks?â€ People do come to us all the time with ideas of different tools that need to be built but the way we prioritize them would be down to the amount of value that we could provide to our user base and potential users.
For example, we have all these business tools, and people love using them for business aspects but then, we throw in a few personal tools where it’s like, â€œMaybe this could help you out in your personal life.â€ That helps solidify the fact that we are trying to help individuals, not just companies. We are not here to do B2B and SaaS. We are more of a prosumer model because, in our vision, people become the brands and companies.
It’s very Oprah-ish that you are tugging on their heartstrings, which probably gets them to fall in love with the product even more.
Hopefully, we have a great time. Making that Valentine’s Day cardmaker is extremely fun because it’s meaningful. If we can help people improve their relationships with their significant others, that is more meaningful than a lot of the other tools that we generate. It’s more valuable to people’s lives even if we can’t capture that value.
How did you and Paul decide who was going to do what? Was that very apparent right from the beginning that you were going to do the coding and he was going to be on the biz dev side? How did you divide and conquer that in the early stage, and what’s your plan around rolling that out for the next 12 to 24 months?
Paul has pushed my thinking in unbelievable ways for years since we’ve worked together at the ESL fund. He has been the visionary. He saw all of this happening before Open AI even released GPT-3. As a matter of fact, even right after GPT-2, he was like, â€œThis is going to be the future.â€ The question is, â€œWhen? Can we get the timeline?â€ We had the entire idea of being able to generate images. We push our thinking as far as possible. It turns out we are 2 or 3 months ahead of the world, and that’s it. We don’t have much of a competitive advantage in terms of imagining the future. He’s good at that articulating the mission in a way for people to understand, and that’s extremely important.
He’s good at selling this entire vision. He does a great job at hiring at business development/marketing but it’s multiple folds at fundraising because they are all very similar skills. On my side, I have been very much an operator at heart. Even at the last venture firm we were at. I basically touched everything. I was an engineer to help them automate processes and improve solutions. I talk to clients all the time, and I would find ways to make things more efficient.
I also helped hire a good amount of the current team there. It came naturally to me, and I love doing things and getting things done. Paul would set up this vision and then be like, â€œHere we go. How do we get it to happen?â€ That’s my expertise. It felt pretty naturally. We have been working in this way for a while now. We are very familiar with each other’s thinking and brainstorming process. Also, we have good communication even remotely.
What do you think is going to trip you up? Not that it will totally hurt you but what do you think you will struggle with as a company over the next three years in your growth? What do you thinking about now? You will figure it out but in every business or life, we always have things that are a struggle. Which ones are you anticipating and wanting to think about?
Top of mind is hiring. We hear the story over and over again. If you hire good initial talent, it compounds significantly. Hiring bad people will compound in the opposite direction. That’s definitely a struggle. We have been learning as much as we can and trying to be as patient as possible before finding our initial founding team effectively.
What percent of equity have you allocated to recruit and hire people? Are you going to keep it all between the two of you or is there a portion that you’ve carved off for employees and for VCs? What are you thinking there?
We don’t have set numbers but we have philosophies. Our philosophy is that if this thing is big, we want a small piece of it. We are okay with a lot of dilution, and we want our early team to feel like founders. We want them to be here for the long-term. What we are discussing internally is whether or not we should be a little bit more innovative on the equity side because we have a lot of experience with employee equity from our last firm. Stuff that we are thinking about could be, by larger grants, extending the vesting period.
We’ve seen some interesting models come out of companies like Pipe, where they have an SPV that’s willing to buy up any employee’s equity if they want to sell early, and that goes to another employee. It’s recycling and re-upping based on people’s expectations of the company. We think that’s an interesting model, and we are probably going to follow in their footsteps if it works definitely for them. There are also other employee equity models where it’s specifically around extensions. If you work for us for over 2 years, then you get a 7-year or a 10-year NSO extension. We are deep in the weeds of equity, and luckily, we’ve seen pretty much every single model that a company has around equity.
One of the companies that I coach is called Tinuiti. It used to be called Elite SCM. They are a big digital marketing firm. I coached them from about 30 employees up to a couple hundred before they sold. They sold for the second time. I was talking to Ben Kirshner, their CEO, and that 25 of their employees became millionaires, which is pretty awesome, and liquid. They are done.
It’s not like they traded up for stock. They have 25 people sitting on at least $1 million in cash, and all of these are 35 and under. That’s life-changing for 25 people. That helped build the company. I started coaching them a few years ago when they only had 40 people. That’s a pretty amazing success. You guys are on that path.
We hope so. That’s something that means a lot to us. Mark Cuban has that story. When his company got acquired, he was able to write these checks and give them out to employees personally. He’s like, â€œIt’s the most meaningful part of the journey in many ways.â€
What about yourself? I have one final question but what skills are you working on for yourself to develop as a leader?
Once again, hiring is top of mind. It’s recruiting and management. Recruiting is being able to sell the vision and try to at least attract them to get to a hiring stage. We haven’t pulled the trigger on anyone yet but once we do that, then it’s going to come down to managing. We are trying to study companies that have been able to manage remote teams successfully and effectively.
That’s a lot of research and trying to truly understand what worked and what didn’t and then see what we think will work for our organization, mission, and culture. A lot of these companies all run their ways slightly differently but it works because it fits their culture. Being able to define our culture and then working our processes and tactics around that will help a lot.
If we were to go back to the Chris Lu, the 22-year-old graduating from college, what advice would you give yourself back then that maybe now you know to be true but you wish you’d known when you were a little younger?
Back then, I was a little bit too spread out. Everything seemed amazing. We did some Angel investing for a while at us. The realization is that you got to swing for the fences. If you swing enough times, eventually, you are going to hit. I would probably tell myself back then to take even more risks. I did take a lot. When I first joined the ESL fund, my salary was low because they were starting. Instead of having the cushy job where you get six figures, it’s half of that but a lot of experience. That was a good experience for me.
Even operating ourselves, what we focused on is the 10X improvements. Where can you find 10X improvements? You have a lot of theories but it’s hard to execute that. We think that this onboarding experience could provide a 10X conversion on this funnel but it’s executing on it. If you hit one, it’s so much more meaningful than anything else you can do.
We did that when we were building 1-800-GOT-JUNK. We had six consecutive years of 100% revenue growth. We also did what we would have to change systematically. What system would break or we need to put in place if we were ten times larger now? What would we have to change? That stretched our thinking as well because it wasn’t like, â€œWhat could we do?â€ It’s like, â€œWe have to. We are ten times bigger now. What would have to change?â€ That was powerful. Talking about swing for the fences. How deep are you into Bitcoin and Ethereum? Did you get in?
Yes, pretty deep. I was fascinated by all of that in 2017. I listened to a podcast in early 2017. A lot of other people were converted by that podcast. They were able to articulate the vision behind this decentralized technology. It resonated with me. Since then, I have been active in this space until probably pretty recently when we started Copy.ai. My former roommate in San Francisco runs a company in that space. At least they were in the space. Now they’ve shifted into like, â€œHow do we transition the current web into this space?â€ It’s powerful as well.
I was part of a mastermind group years ago, and I got to meet Vitalikâ€™s parents, Maria and Dmitry Buterin. I got exposed to Ethereum back in 2016, and I got involved. I had been posting on Facebook in 2014 that people should be, and I was accepting Bitcoin as payment. I kept having all these people laughing at me, and they were going, â€œYou are such an idiot.â€ Not long ago, I got an email from a friend of mine and he said, â€œYou were right. I was wrong.â€ Iâ€™m like, â€œI don’t know what you are talking about.â€ He replied, â€œYou were very right. I was very wrong.â€ Iâ€™m like, â€œI still have no idea what you are talking about.â€ He goes, â€œBitcoin.â€ Iâ€™m like, â€œThat’s right. I forgot.â€ I wish Iâ€™d gotten in deeper and swung with the fences. Iâ€™m in pretty deep but hindsight is 2020.
You are always be deeper. That’s how I feel too.
Chris Lu, the COO and Cofounder for Copy.ai, I appreciate you being on the show and sharing with us. Thanks so much.
Thank you so much for having me. This is a lot of fun, and Iâ€™ve learned a lot. You gave us a few mental models to work off of.