Episode: How Nick Gray created a $1M+ business by hacking museum tours
Andrew Warner (the host of Mixergy) has a lot of very smart listeners: a ton of people emailed and Tweeted at me after the show aired!
Take a listen here, or read the transcript below.
Andrew: Hey, everyone. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy.
There’s a guy who I’ve known for years who I freaking love, Michael Alexis, long-time listener of Mixergy, helped me out tremendously at Mixergy. Basically, if he said, “Andrew, taste this poison. It’s good. It tastes good. It will be good for you,” I’ll drink it because the guy knows his stuff. Still, when he suggested today’s guest, I hate to admit it, I hesitated because here, let me tell you what today’s guest does.
His name is Nick Gray. He is the founder of Museum Hack. Museum Hack, it’s a private company that encourages people to experience museums in a new way. It takes them through tours that are way better than the tours that you have offered by museums and that you experienced even when you were a kid.
So I get it. I get how that would be fun, but I had to say, “Michael, is this really a business?” He goes, “Dude, you’re totally missing out. You’re not thinking clearly about this.”
So we did some research here at Mixergy. Our producer talked to Nick. Here’s how determined Nick was to make this into more than just a fun art experience and make it into a business. He committed himself to not do something until he hit $1 million in sales. He worked like mad to turn this business into $1+ million in sales business. Anyone who’s that committed and does something so interesting I’ve got to have on Mixergy.
So I’ve got to first of all apologize to Michael Alexis–you were right again–and second tell you that that’s what we’re going to find out about today, how Nick Gray turned Museum Hack into more than just a fun way to experience museums, into a big growing business that allows people to experience museums in a new way.
And this interview is sponsored by two great companies. The first actually Nick has hired. It’s called Toptal and they help you hire great developers. The second company I think Nick needs to find out about and so we’ll talk about how using ActiveCampaign can help Nick or any business grow their sales by having more intelligent email marketing.
But we’ll talk about those sponsors later. First, I’ve got to welcome Nick. Good to have you on here.
Nick: Thanks. I’m happy to be here.
The part where Andrew insults me:
Andrew: Were you a little insulted to hear that I felt like this just wasn’t going to be that big of a business?
Nick: You know what? I deal with that all the time. I don’t like museums and if you are listening to this podcast and you’re like, “I don’t like museums, this doesn’t have anything to do with me,” I made Museum Hack for you and so your reaction of like, “This can’t really be a business,” I deal with that a lot.
Andrew: And you’re not a guy who set out to do this. You’re a guy who before this, you were selling electrical equipment for planes. Tell me what that’s like. Give me an example of a kind of thing that you were selling and who you were selling it to.
Nick: Okay. So the company was called Flight Display Systems. My dad started it in the basement of our house. So, it was a family business. The first product he made was that map that shows you where the plane is flying across the world. So, it sits in the back when you’re in the back of the plane as a passenger, you see that map, how fast the airplane was going. The product we sold was that for private jets.
Nick: And we also started to sell–once that came out, people wanted to buy the screens, the DVD players, these are the raw hardware components that get installed into the private jets and military planes.
Andrew: That’s hot. I’m now on the site looking at photos. I freaking love private jets. How many flights have you taken in private jets?
Nick: Okay. Two.
Nick: But I’ve been on more private jets than I can count. I’ve been on hundreds of them, but they’re always on the ground and they’re always like half taken apart.
VIP client in the Middle East
Andrew: And one of the projects you did was for a Saudi princess. Can you tell us that story? What were you doing there?
Nick: Oh my gosh, yes. It was a very VIP client in the Middle East. I think I never even actually knew the exact name of her. It was a woman who was very, very, very wealthy through her family. She had a private jet type of Airbus that was outfitted for her. This was like a worldwide hunt to find the LED lighting components that lit the floors of her bathrooms.
Nick: Oh my gosh, nobody could go on the plane because of security concerns, but they were searching for a vendor who could search with these very special LED light strips. It just blew my mind to think there’s this whole other world out there.
Andrew: Why am I not a freaking Saudi princess? Think about if I was a Saudi princess? First of all, I need a jet. It bothers me that Mixergy isn’t big enough that I could do that. Second, I’d like the perfect lighting too for the bathroom. All right. I get a sense of what you were doing before. Then you were on a date with whom and what happened on that date that changed your life?
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Nick: Yeah. It was a third date in New York City. This woman brought me to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where you know, like as a New Yorker, I had been there before but I never–I don’t like museums. I don’t have an art background. But she took me to the Met. She was planning the date. She said, “Let’s go to the Met.” I said, “All right.” We went. It was a snowy night out. It was the middle of December, so not many people were there.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, like some museums in big cities, it’s open late on certain nights. So we went and there was like nobody there because of the snow and she’s giving me this private tour. I started to think I’m from the South originally, but I started to think as I walked around this space like, “Wow, I moved to New York City for places like this.”
Nick: I was like, “I can be in a dive bar right now,” which is where I usually was, no offense to dive bars. “Or I could be at this amazing cultural institution, this awesome place.” So I became obsessed with the museum. I started going back every weekend. I would look things up on YouTube, on Wikipedia, do my own research, join the museum tours. It really became like my third space.
Andrew: Interesting. By the way, unlike dive bars where you have to spend money for drinks, you could go to the museum for free. They ask you for money on the way in, but essentially it’s a volunteer donation and they also have food. They serve coffee and I think they even serve alcohol, right?
Nick: They do serve alcohol. I would go there. I would have multiple glasses of the alcohol and enjoy exploring this awesome museum. The Met really is–if you’re coming to New York, by the way, the Met blows everything out of the water compared to the other museums just based on sheer size and scope of the collection.
Andrew: You’re right. People don’t realize they can go and experience this. I used to do it. I used to go there. I remember even taking someone out on a date there. The problem was, “What am I looking at?” I’m just looking and pretending I appreciate and enjoy it and excited that I’m in Midtown and doing something other than what I would ordinarily do, but frankly I’m lost. All the research in the world, I don’t know if I can absorb enough about it.
You’re saying you became self-taught and you learned enough that you can then go and teach people and walk them through the museum and interesting way.
How it all started
Nick: Yes. I was self-taught. I started to give tours for my friends. It started with my little sister and my friend Will who were in town. I said, “Let me show you around. I’ve been coming here all the time.” That then started to evolve. I would invite my friends, Andrew, to come with me to the museum. Nobody wanted to go.
So I had to trick them, and I had to host my birthday party at the museum because then it’s my birthday, they had to come. But then when the museum found out I was going to have like 40 people, they were like, “That’s fine but you have to pay all these thousands of dollars because it’s a group larger than 10. So now you have to pay all this amount of money.” I said, “You know what? I’m sorry I misspoke. It’s actually four groups of ten. It’s not one group of 40.”
Andrew: And then on your birthday, for your birthday you gave yourself the treat of telling other people what was in the museum?
Nick: Exactly. For my birthday, I said, “Come to the museum.” It was my 30th birthday. And I gave them all a tour of my favorite stuff. It was a sophisticated tour. It was basically ten cool things I found and three things that I wanted to steal.
Andrew: I like that last part. What’s one thing you know could get people fired up or you knew back then when you were doing ten and three that you knew would get people fired up?
Nick: I loved this little case. It’s a Goa stone case and it’s about the size–a Goa stone is about the size of a billiard ball–and this was meant to house this Goa stone from the year 1600 or so, and the case that they made for it is this intricately carved 20-odd carat gold just amazing thing. So I would ask my friends, I would joke with them, “Think about having a case like this in your house. What type of stuff would you put inside of it?” And I’d ask them to think about it. The answer, by the way, from my friends, was usually chocolate or drugs.
Nick: But I like to think about this case and for me, it was like a shining golden light in the little corner of this Islamic section that I would never go to otherwise.
Andrew: I see. You’re also giving them a history of what the case is about and the period in time and so on, and you’re giving them room to say things like drugs, which in a museum, you’re not supposed to do.
Nick: You’re not supposed to do it. That’s what we try to do at Museum Hack. We try to like break conventions, not rules. So one convention is you’re a bunch of adults. You’re not going to sit down on the floor. Well, on my tour, sometimes we would sit down on the floor. Maybe we would do an activity like little kids do because that can connect with people.
Andrew: Okay. So then you said, “Look, this is so much fun. I want to start charging for it.” And you did something wacky after you charged for it the first time. I’m curious about how you got people to pay.
Nick: There was a huge waiting list to join my tours. I did these for fun for free for my friends. I did them for my birthday and then I was like, “All right, this is going to become my full-time hobby.” I was obsessed with it. So I did tours all the time.
The start of payed tours
Everything changed when this blog wrote about us, a blog called DailyCandy. As soon as they wrote about these tours, the next day more than 1,300 people emailed me wanting to join one of my tours. So I had this huge waiting list. The first real time I started to charge for those night time tours was when I’d let people skip the waiting list. I’d say, “I’ve got like 1,500 people on the waiting list. If you want to skip it, you can pay and you can sign up for a couple spots this weekend.”
Andrew: I see. That’s interesting. You were doing it for free and that’s when DailyCandy wrote about you.
Nick: That’s right.
Andrew: Interesting. Got it. Okay. Then you got people to pay the first time and what did you do after you gave that tour?
Nick: The first time I ever charged money for one of these morning tours–I do a tour on Sunday morning at like 10:00 or 11:00–the first time I ever charged for the tours, I was so nervous, I was like, “Are they going to like me? How’s it going to go? Is it going to change everything?” I think I charged $19 or $20 a piece.
At the end of the tour, I had so much fun that I gave everybody their money back and everybody was completely weirded out by this, by the way. I said, “I can’t keep your money. I had too much fun doing this. It would change for me what this was about. I can’t take your money. Take it back.”
Andrew: Is it also guilt that people are paying you?
Andrew: It was? How do you get past that guilt? I get that.
Nick: I knew that I had to grow an organization. For us to reach more people and really change the way that museum tours were done, I knew that I needed to hire people.
Andrew: Knowing that and actually like recognizing that you’re resisting payment are two different things. How did you realize that this was an issue? Was there someone who came and helped you think this through? Was it Michael Alexis? I know he’s good with stuff like that.
Nick: Michael is really good at stuff like that. I’m sure he would have been have been able to help me. I struggled with this. I literally lost sleep over it for the week that we were thinking about this. It was not an easy decision. I lost friends. Our very first tour guide, this amazing guy named Matthew, he and I kind of had a falling out about it because he said, “Look, I don’t want to start to charge for this. For me, that changes everything about why I do these tours. People start expecting a lot more of me. I can’t just have fun anymore.” We really went through a lot of conflict and discussion around making this change.
Andrew: How did another person get involved in this? I thought it was just you giving tours.
Nick: It was. It was just me at first, but then this guy Matthew joined one of the tours and he said, “I love what you’re doing. I’d love to lead tours as well.” I had this huge waiting list. For me I said, “Great, now I can serve twice as many people. Matthew will take them for the first half. I’ll take them for the second half, and we’ll swap groups midway through and immediately I can double my list.” That’s when we first started to tour together. Those early days were crazy.
Andrew: I’m actually like as you’re saying things, I’m looking them up to do research on it. I was looking for the DailyCandy link and I couldn’t find it. Oh no, I did find it. You know what else I’m coming up with? I’m finding a bunch of articles about you. You were on the Bench blog. Bench is the bookkeeping service that advertises on Mixergy. You’re on their site. You were on Newsweek. They had the best headline for you, “Girls Gone Ancient with Museum Hack?”
Nick: That’s correct.
Andrew: That’s you?
Nick: We do bachelorette party tours.
Andrew: And then you were also on Penny Hoarder, which was founded by a guy who was recently on Mixergy. We did the interview about them. Interesting. You’re really good at getting PR. How did you get that first DailyCandy mention?
Nick: That article–well, the short answer is from a friend that I knew socially, somebody who came on one of the tours. These tours became very popular among influencers among other people. We had a very strong like no press policy, which I think added to the allure of writing about it someday when we finally started to open up.
So when we first got our very first huge, huge press piece, which was a big article in the Wall Street Journal for our launch, that came about–a journalist who had been on the tour wanted to write about us. I said, “No press, not until we’re ready.” And then when we were ready, she got the exclusive.
Andrew: This DailyCandy post, it’s so good.
Nick: Yeah? Good.
Andrew: You did have a URL though at the time, Hack the Met. It was still meant to be free?
Nick: Yes, it was still meant to be free. Hack the Met was what we called it at the beginning, Hack the Met. That idea is so awesome. Then we changed it. When we launched it as a business, we kind of did a rebrand to say, “Now this is Museum Hack. This stuff we’ve learned here at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, we can do that at more places.”
Andrew: Yeah. I know you guys do the de Young Museum and others here in San Francisco, for example. I’m looking at the old Hack the Met website. There’s one guy on the floor playing dead, another person over him with a fist in the air reenacting the photo, reenacting the painting. That’s the kind of stuff that was going on.
Nick: Absolutely. We still do that type of stuff at Museum Hack. That is a tableau vivant. People used to do that before there were cameras and other ways to share about like the paintings and works of art that they would see. They would come home and during a party, they would reenact the scenes from a painting they saw, sharing the image with their friends.
Nick: It’s called tableau vivant. It’s awesome.
Andrew: What else do you do to make a tour interesting?
Things that make Museum Hack different
Nick: We think it comes down to three main things that make a Museum Hack tour completely different from everything else–guides, games and gossip. It starts with the tour guards. We hire standup comedians, Broadway actors, science teachers, former museum employees gone rogue. The guides all write their own tours. So it’s not a script that like I’ve come up with. I think that’s where a lot of museum tours lack is they’re trying to work off a script and yet we empower our guides to build their own tour because they have to speak from passion.
Nick: Two is games. Our tours are very fast-paced. They’re two to three times as fast as most museum tours. Average museum tour, you see five or six pieces. With us, you’re going to see 10, 15, sometimes 20 objects. The guides are doing games. They’re passing out candy. They’re doing selfie challenges.
They do games that have really awesome prizes, actually and some more group dynamic things where we make the group a cohesive unit to encourage the participation. Then the last one is the gossip, my favorite part. These are like the juicy backstories about the art, how much things cost, the donors who gave it, crazy stories between the artists.
Andrew: I see. So that contemporizes it.
Nick: That contemporizes it. That brings the pop culture references in that we’re not afraid to drop.
Andrew: What’s an interesting story about a donor or something related to the art?
Nick: So there’s this one piece of art that the Metropolitan Museum acquired in 2004 by an artist named Duccio. It’s a tiny painting about the size of an iPad. Yet it’s the single most expensive painting that they ever paid cash money for. The story goes that they had to raise all the money for it in like 36 hours. We talk about, “What is that crazy story to raise that much money in 36 hours? What would that have been like?” We show people the list of donors they had to call.
Andrew: Why did they need this artwork so badly that they had to do all that?
Nick: They believe that this Duccio is like the stake in the ground of where Western art today begins. He was the guy that first made it like perspective within our–where the painting is looking at each other, where there are feelings and emotion.
Andrew: Notice how now I’m actually freaking Googling this thing. I would never care about it. But you’re right. Now that you tell me how much money they spend, how much work they had to put in to get it together, now I want to see it.
Andrew: What could be so magical about this? Now I’m getting lost in like the whole story about it. I get it. I get what you’re doing. Okay. Let me do a quick sponsorship message and then come back. The sponsorship message is for ActiveCampaign. Before we started, you were saying that you guys have an email list. How many people on your list?
Nick: We have about 25,000.
Andrew: 25,000. And essentially everybody gets the same thing or do you segment by city and state?
Nick: We have different lists. So we have people that are museum employees and then we have our past customers. That’s a generalization.
Andrew: Okay. So here’s the thing about ActiveCampaign. ActiveCampaign would still allow you to do that, two different lists if you want. Actually, it would be one list with two different tags. But in addition, every time someone buys from you, say in San Francisco, you just tag them with San Francisco.
And if they bought a de Young ticket, you tag them with de Young in San Francisco. That way if you have an opening for San Francisco next week, you could say, “Let’s just go to people who are in San Francisco.” Better still, you could have a segment of the email that changes based on whether or not they’ve seen the de Young. So if they bought the de Young ticket, you could say, “I know you’ve been to the de Young before, but we just have this new thing going on right now. We have a couple of empty spots. Here it goes.”
If they didn’t go to the de Young before, you send the same exact message, but the middle section might say, “You’ve never been to the de Young Museum even though you’re in San Francisco. You’ve never taken our tour of the de Young Museum even though you’re in San Francisco. You should be aware of. . .” and then you tell them what. That’s the beauty of ActiveCampaign, totally simple, deceptively simple, but it is one of the heavyweight direct email marketing software out there. That’s what they’re about. Does that make sense?
Nick: That makes sense. My understanding–it’s deceptively simple. It’s easy to use. It would help me leverage up my email marketing.
Andrew: Right. You could tag people based on whether they’ve even clicked de Young. Maybe somebody actually keeps clicking over to the de Young. Am I right that de Young is one of the tours that you do?
Nick: Yeah. Right. I’m just getting excited to think, “I can now segment or tag my lists based on somebody’s activity on my list.” I have no way to know that right now.
Andrew: Right. Exactly. And it’s the activity that’s interesting. Whether they purchase or not, what they clicked out, whether they saw a video or not, maybe they shared it–all those pieces of information tell you what they’re about. What it also allows you to say is let’s go back and see who bought. What do all those people who bought have in common? Do they have the same tags? What is it that people who don’t buy have in common?
Maybe we just email everyone in San Francisco who hasn’t bought and we understand why they haven’t bought and we discover, “A lot of our tours happen in the middle of the day, but if we did them at night, then we’d be able to really increase our sales. So we let people know more explicitly that we actually do have night events or we open up night events or we open up night events.”
This is the kind of thing that ActiveCampaign thrives on, this direct marketing but with intelligent automation. If you’re out there listening to me and you haven’t added this kind of intelligence, maybe you’re worried that a lot of the software that does this is so packed with features that it’s too confusing.
The beauty of ActiveCampaign is they focus on making it super simple. What I like about their website is it’s full of .gifs. So, frankly, you don’t just see a feature. You actually see a .gif that shows how that feature is being used. I’m actually watching on right now that shows me how I can just drag and drop the different elements that I want onto my flow chart. So, if someone does this, then do that.
This is so cool–wait a little bit before sending the next message. That’s clever. You know why? You ever fill out a form and then the CEO emails you right away and says, “Hey, thanks for filling out my form.” You know it’s not the CEO. He wouldn’t have responded right away. What if it happens 45 minutes later? What if it happens the next day? That’s the kind of thing that this drag and drop automation allows you to do.
All right. Listen, guys, if you’re listening to me and you want to check it out, they are offering Mixergy people a special deal that they’re not giving anybody else. Mixergy people are going to get their second month free. They’re going to get two free one on ones. You’re really going to get to strategize with a consultant who works with ActiveCampaign because they want you to use all these features.
The more you grow your business, the better customer you become for them and ideally become one of their case studies. And they’re also going to do free migration. So if you’re with a service that you’re not happy with because it doesn’t do this automation or because it’s so complicated that your virtual assistant can’t do it and you need to hire a team of people, they will help migrate you over.
All right. Here’s the URL–ActiveCampaign.com/Mixergy. I urge you to at least go check out. Frankly, those .gifs are so good that even if you have no interest in marketing automation, just go see how they explain complicated topics, complicated ideas in an easy to understand way and .gifs are a really good way to do that. All right. ActiveCampaign.com/Mixergy.
You know what? I’ve really been getting into these sponsorship messages, Nick. It’s because people are paying me. The more they pay me, the more I go, “What the hell? They’re paying that much for an ad? They’re actually getting their money back.” Then I go, “I better really step it up, step it up even further.” Did you find that, that when you started to charge you had to step it up to make it more valuable to people?
Nick: Absolutely. When we started to charge for the tours, I could no longer show up a few minutes late. I couldn’t have my facts a little foggy. When we started to charge, it really professionalized the product. You know what? People actually liked it better.
Andrew: Right? How did you know they liked it better because they were paying?
Art, power and the vision
Nick: I think when something like this was free, people thought it was very low value, first of all. Second of all, they just thought there was a gimmick. They thought that I was going to like sell them Cutco knives at the end or like push them for something. That was the craziest thing for me. When I started to charge, I got taken a lot more seriously and people enjoyed it better. For them, it was a clear value proposition.
Andrew: The thing that you set as revenue goal surprised me. You said you wanted to hit–what was the number?
Nick: I wanted to hit $1 million in sales in one year.
Andrew: In one year? The reason it surprised me is because when I look back at the pieces, the articles written about you, they all emphasize how much of just an art lover you are and I see you in this Ernest suit. In fact, even DailyCandy, which really cares about design, complimented your suit, I think, right? You seem like you just love art. You love the work.
I don’t see a guy in you who wants to make a lot of money. I see a guy in you who says, “If I make $70,000 and I’m still living in New York and I do a job that I love, then I’m happy.” Where does this need for more money come from, the need for the goal come from?
Nick: Yeah. I think I’m motivated by two things that most entrepreneurs are. Very simply that’s money and power and the collection of these.
Nick: Yeah, of course.
Andrew: Where’s the power that you get?
Nick: The power for me comes from like the influence in the museum world. I truly deeply believe in the power of museums. For me, it has created a physical space–maybe I’m having a stressful day. I can go and unwind, turn my phone off if I want to when I get in and just experience this space that costs millions of dollars that people have created for me to enjoy.
So, for me, I really loved the idea of museums as the third space. I like to think about them as like the future of church for some people to go to a physical spot to be inspired by history and art through time with a historical kind of perspective. So I’m excited about that. I see this renaissance that is happening within the museum field, and I’m very motivated by having like an influence and a team that drives that.
Andrew: And in your vision, where would that–what would that power look like ten years from now?
Nick: The first thing I want to see is better museum opening hours.
Nick: I think it’s very unfortunate that most museums close every day at 5:00 p.m. Like who is that serving?
Nick: Like most people don’t have a flexible schedule like me and maybe many of your listeners, and it is actually impossible for them to go a museum any day except for Saturday or Sunday. Most people tend to go to museums on Sunday, which is the worst day to go to a museum. If you’re looking to avoid the crowds, which I always am, Sunday is the worst day to go. So there are little things like that.
I know that that’s trite and somebody who works for museums is listening to me now saying, “Genius idea. He’s going to change the hours of opening.” There was this Forbes article that came out about us that said “The Five Things That Are Wrong with Museums.” And a throwaway comment that I said was to add map rooms inside of museums.
Andrew: So they emphasized that.
Nick: They emphasized that. Everybody thinks I’m a moron, which I am, but still.
Andrew: No. I think you’re absolutely right when it comes to museum hours, but it’s more than hours. It’s changing the way you think about what you do, because when you say third space, that crystallizes it for me. There are some museums that do it, frankly, right? The Getty Museum in L.A. will actually invite you to picnic out there.
Nick: That’s awesome.
Andrew: It becomes a thing that if you’re not into art, you go there to experience this beautiful environment in sunny Southern California and by the way, there’s this art you get to experience and there’s this man, JP Getty, who you get to find out about. Beautiful. When the MoMA was closed in Manhattan because they were renovating it, they went and created PS1, which was in Queens, where they showed off some pieces from the MoMA.
But they didn’t just invite you to come in at bankers’ hours, 9:00 to 5:00. They said, “Friday nights, we’re going to have a DJ here. We’re going to perform outside. We’re going to have some drinks for you. Yeah, there will be beer, adult beverages too. But you’re going to experience this in a new way matched up with the old way,” which means you could see the pieces, you could interact with them, but you can also have a good time with your friends and drink and families came with their five-year olds and 20-somethings came in with their dates. That allows the art to be more approachable as opposed to something that’s really distant.
Let me add one more thing because I’m totally on your soapbox except maybe a smaller version of it. The worst for me was the Picasso Museum in Spain–I forget what city it’s in. Barcelona, is it?
Nick: It might be. I’m not sure.
Andrew: Here’s the problem with that. They had this one video to show you, “We’re not just about art. We’re modern.” They showed this video of Picasso painting with such vigor, with such force, with such energy and the rest of it was just stand back and watch with your hands held behind your back, which to me feels like you’re not getting the message of his art. His art isn’t about like calming. He’s not trying to tell you just chill out here and contemplate. He’s trying to evoke an emotion and you’re completely contrasting that with the environment you’re setting it up in. I completely agree with you on that.
Nick: It sounds like your Picasso experience wasn’t like a museum. It was like a mausoleum.
Nick: It’s like where good art goes to die. There’s some irony to the fact that the people who create the art are some of the most dynamic, candid amazing individuals and yet we worship it in these extremely silent, devoid spaces.
Andrew: So let me bring this back to our listener. Number one, you found an opportunity here. I like how you’re not just doing a business here, but you’ve got a mission that’s going to excite people beyond the dollars and cents of it.
The other thing I think we should just call attention to is if you’re listening to me and you’re going to coffee shops every day to work or when you need to get away to work, I get it. But rethink that. Frankly, even going into the café of a museum is going to open–hardly anyone is there on a Tuesday. Go there on a Tuesday instead of going to a coffee shop. You won’t feel compelled to keep buying coffee and junk food. You’ll instead be inspired by the environment.
In most cities, not in San Francisco, the MoMA does that for me. I see really interesting uses of every day pieces. They might take soda cans that I happen to have around my house and turn it into a piece of art that then makes me think I can turn the work I do into something a little bit better. So you’re there, you get to work in a free environment surrounded by stuff to energize you. MoMA, you feel this sense of grandeur. So that’s partially what I’d like to leave the audience with. Go ahead.
Nick: I’ve got one little hack. My suggestion would be you could consider a museum to some extent–and they’ll probably hate me for saying this–but like a coworking space.
Andrew: Right. Yes.
Nick: The pro tip there is buy a membership. It is surprisingly affordable. Usually they start at around $70, and that is going to complete flip your way of thinking that now it’s not about getting my dollars’ worth each time I go. You have unlimited admissions. Go for five minutes. Go and work for two hours. All museums, nearly all, have amazingly good Wi-Fi. You can go work out of there. They have cafes you can hang out in. That is a huge arbitrage opportunity for your listeners they can treat the museum like a coworking space.
Andrew: One hundred percent. I have an office here, a really nice office. Anyone who’s listening is invited to come and check out the office and work from here if you want or have a drink here. Still when I want a creative space to get away, I try not to go to coffee shops. I end up crowded. I end up drinking bad coffee over and over again. For me, too much snacks because I feel like I have to pay to justify my being there.
So, instead what I do is–it’s not inspiring, everyone is in there and they all look sad to be alive. I like to go to the most expensive hotel in my city, go to their lobby–the most expensive so you feel a sense of inspiration–go to their lobby where they create inviting spaces for their people to sit and work.
If you’re a guest, you need a place in a lobby to sit and work. Go work out of their lobby. Get one cup of coffee and that will last you for hours over there and get treated like somebody who’s important as opposed to like someone who’s crowding someone else at a coffee shop. And museums are a really good spot to go do that in too.
Let me continue. You have this goal for hitting $1 million in revenue. Your ticket sales are what, they’re under $100, right?
Nick: Our ticket sales at that time were $39, $69, yeah.
Reaching the goal of $1 million
Andrew: So how do you get to $1 million? What’s the first thing you do to beef up your sales so you can actually get close to this goal? You said to yourself, “I’m not going to drink. I’m not going to have a taste of alcohol until I hit this goal.” So what do you do to actually get closer and closer to this $1 million goal?”
Nick: I was drinking like every single weekend because that was a part of the tour experience was drinking. I said, “Look, I want to focus on this and I’m going to stop drinking.” I’d go out and I’d party with our tour guests on Friday or Saturday night and I have to wake up the next morning to do tours again. So I said, “I’m going to stop this until we can hit $1 million.”
How did we scale it up from there? The first step was hiring new tour guides. We were so completely sold out we had to add more tour spots. We had to hire more tour guides. We hired these two great guides here in New York. I learned there’s a whole freelance marketplace of tour guides.
Nick: Yeah, true story.
Andrew: How do I find this freelance marketplace of tour guides?
Nick: The marketplace, so to speak, was we would post ads and share around the space in New York City. It was called NYFA, the New York Fine Arts job board. We were able to hire these two amazing guides, one guy named Mark, this other woman named Jen, who helped bring the depth that I wasn’t necessarily able to have for people who had detailed questions. And there’s a certain amount of the tour that I can do just because you know me. If you don’t know me and they’re like, “Why did they pay that much for that piece?” and they want to go deeper, this tour guides helped us really do that.
Andrew: What does a tour guide cost?
Nick: In New York City, we were paying–when we were paying per tour, we’d pay between $100 and $150 per tour to them.
Andrew: Gotcha. So your price is four to five people cover your expense for the tour guide?
Nick: That’s correct. Now our tour guides at Museum Hack make between $22 and $32 an hour.
Andrew: Okay. So you needed more tour guides to handle more of the business you were getting. Quality control–did you put anything in place or did you have any tests to make sure they’re the right people? Did you make sure they were actually showing up? What was your system? You made this face when I said that. Tell me more.
Nick: I made the face which was like, “Oh wow.” Yes. We did have some quality control. How it would be is we would do like final examples and like sort of an audit. So the reason I made that face is because I was excited. I kind of missed doing this, but when somebody would get their lead guide certification, which is what we called it, we had this whole harmonica ceremony because we used harmonicas on the tour. I love using harmonicas in the museum as a tool for crowd control.
Andrew: They let you do that?
Nick: Well, they don’t necessarily let us do that.
Nick: But we would have a harmonica ceremony at the end of their tour where they would get their harmonica when we finally approved them. We’d all play the harmonica and it was a big deal. These days how we do quality control is we have a big staff for that. Our staff has an amazing hiring process, an incredible screening system, training for the newer guides.
How to hire the right people?
Andrew: Give me some insight into your hiring process so the rest of us can learn because hiring is a real challenge for everybody.
Nick: Hiring is a big challenge. The first and most important thing that we do is instead of job interviews, we do job auditions. A lot of people want to look at the resume, do phone screens. We skip all that. I mean, we will read the resumes. We use an applicant tracking system to centralize all our resumes and use it kind of collaboratively. Once we weed out like half of them who are clearly not a good fit, we’ll invite them all in for live interviews. That’s important to us because we’re screening for personality.
Andrew: I see. You’re saying, “Take us through this museum.” Are they all getting to see each other do it?
Nick: Yes. At the very beginning, we would call them all into the Metropolitan Museum of Art. We’d take groups ten at a time. We’d say, “Welcome to this audition. We’re in this gallery right now. You have ten minutes. Use your smartphone. Connect to the museums Wi-Fi, find a piece you like and build a one-minute story about it and then we’ll all circle up and you’ll tell the whole group your story.”
Andrew: I see. Do you give them any sense of what you’re looking for, like background on the donors, gossip, the whole thing you’re saying?
Nick: No sense of what we’re looking for. I would imagine that by looking at our website, they can tell that we’re not looking for deep art history. We’re looking for something fun. That is so important. We think that today’s audience has to be entertained before they can be educated.
Andrew: Okay. You have them do the audition. What’s the next step after that?
Nick: So, once they do the spontaneous audition, then we invite them back for what’s called a call back, similar to what they do in theater. On the callback, we give them time. We say, “We’re going to ask you to talk about this piece. We want you to build a script for it that’s between three and five minutes long.
Nick: So then they have time to research it. They have about a week. They come back to the call back. That shows us how well they can prepare and like the depth of what they’re going to talk about.
Andrew: Do you pay for all this work?
Nick: We don’t pay for this work. No.
Andrew: Okay. Keep going and then what happens next?
Nick: After that, I believe–okay, they’ve done the initial interview, they’ve done the call back. We then will make our selections for who to hire as an independent contractor to produce what we call a three-object tour, rules about what about it means to hire an independent contractor versus an employee means that we can only pay for what they deliver and that’s what we do. We say, “Build a three-object tour. We’ll give you $100 or whatever.” And then based on that three-object tour, how well they do on it, then we’ll hire the final round.
Andrew: Fair to say that someone who’s going in for that first audition for a minute feels like it’s fun to do it, challenged by it?
Nick: Oh my gosh, it’s so much fun to do our job auditions.
Andrew: All right. That kind of brings me to Toptal. One of the questions that people have with Toptal is, “Why would people go through this whole screening process?” It’s really this crazy making experience in the sense that they’re really forcing you to prove that you deserve to be part of Toptal, which is shocking.
People are doing this, some of the best developers all over the world do it and you say, “Why would they do it?” Because it’s fun. If you’re really good, you want to show how good you are. If you’re really good, you want to show that you actually deserve to be in this Toptal director of the best developers out there.
That’s what Toptal has created, this reputation backed by Andreessen Horowitz, which adds a lot of credibility, that developers know their friends were rejected. They want to see if they can get to be a part of it. Now anyone who’s listening can go hire developers on a part-time, full-time, even a full team basis from Toptal to do work. You guys have hired them. What did you guys hire Toptal to do?
Nick: We used Toptal thanks to Michael Alexis to help us with a special menu that was on our website. That menu, we needed to spruce it up a little bit. We needed something that looked nicer. We had the most basic menu in the whole world before Toptal. And then with Michael’s vision and hiring a developer that brought it to life, I think we now have a pretty good menu.
Andrew: You do. I like how it just takes over the screen in an interesting way and it has many options without feeling like it overwhelms me. Now that I click the menu, I can see bachelorette parties is one of the options. Marriage proposals is another option. I didn’t realize you did that.
I’m glad that you mentioned this because when I think of Toptal, because they’re the best of the best, I think of them as the team you hire when you’re looking for Google-level engineers to do something that’s never been done before. But you’re right. It’s also applicable for things like the right menu.
When you want to have someone do it, know that it’s going to get done right, know that it’s going to get done intelligently and you can’t walk them through step by step how to do it. You’re right. I actually would have needed to hear this when I first found out about Toptal. I thought, “I just have a WordPress site. Toptal is building these incredible websites, incredible web apps, incredible mobile apps. They don’t want to work with a WordPress website.”
I was completely wrong. Actually it’s on their website. They do work with WordPress sites. Yes, they do work with more sophisticated platforms. So, if you have a project and you want somebody to really get it done right and come up with a new idea, maybe one you wouldn’t be able to think of, challenge the people at Toptal.
If you’re listening to me, check them out. Don’t just tell them exactly what to do, challenge them. They love good challenges is. That’s what Toptal is about. The first thing you’re going to do when you to Toptal is you’re going to talk to a matcher at their company. They will understand what you’re trying to build. They will understand how your company works and then they will go into their network of developers and find you the right places.
Yes, of course, since I’ve started working with them, they’ve expanded to designers so you can hire the right designer from them. They’ve expanded to MBAs, so if you need help getting your finances together or your data together to go raise the next round, they’re a great team to go and do that. They want to be the place where you go for the best of the best talent.
So here’s a link where you can go or a page where you can go to actually get started with them. Go to this page and you will get 80 hours of Toptal developer credit when you pay for your first 80 hours and that’s in addition to a no risk trial period of up to two weeks and that page is Toptal.com/Mixergy, top as in top of the mountain, tal as in talent, Toptal.com/Mixergy.
I’ve now used them myself. I can introduce you to the person who’s my contact there if you want. Just email me, [email protected] and I’d be happy to make the intro, or use the URL, explore it and connect with them directly. I’m glad that they’re a sponsor.
As I was looking at your menu, I saw that you also offer corporate events. My sense is that that’s another reason why you were able to go from where you were to about $1 million in sales. Am I right?
Nick: That’s correct. That was a huge piece of it.
Andrew: How did you figure out that was going to be a big market and how did you court corporations and get them to do these team building exercises with you?
Nick: The first customer that came to us really came to me, somebody joined one of tours and they said, “Can we do our company holiday party with you?” And I had never thought about this before. I said, “Sure.”
We figured out–they had a blast and they told some of their friends. We’ve really been driven by our customers, whether it’s for the bachelorette parties or the company team building and storytelling training that we’ve started to do. So we’ve been very lucky that this idea of, “How do we do presentation skills? How do we talk about our business like they do about the museum?” It’s had currency in the business world.
Andrew: So are you teaching them too or is it just a fun activity for a team to do?
Nick: Most people come to us from businesses just looking for a fun activity.
Andrew: I see. That makes sense. I know as a company you’re always looking for interesting things to do. We used to have people do wine tasting for us. We used to do paintball experiences. You want something that feels a little bit more you and less like what they’ve done at every other company, something that is–I don’t know, just shakes things up a little bit.
Nick: Exactly. Something that’s not bowling, right?
Andrew: Yeah, I didn’t think of that. Do you do anything to bring them in? I’ve been trying to figure out–I’m trying to login right now to SimilarWeb to put in your site to see is there something there where I can see where you’re getting your traffic, where you’re getting people to come and buy these museum experiences.
Nick: Yeah. We’ve certainly experimented with all types of lead funnels. Michael has done a huge part of that. He’s completely changed the way that we think about marketing and leads. I’d say that we’ve been very lucky and successful with our ratings on sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor that for us drives that word of mouth reliability on what we provide.
110% satisfaction guarantee
We also did something since day one because it’s a weird product, we have 110% satisfaction guarantee and a lot of people go to a page like Museum Hack–imagine you, “I don’t know if this is a business, this is a weird, I don’t know if I want to talk about it.” So we give that satisfaction guarantee to say, “If you have any reservations, just come. We promise that you’ll love it or you can have your money back.”
Andrew: What’s 110? Are you giving me 10% extra?
Nick: 110%, that’s a great question. We give you all of your money back and we make it so easy there’s like no questions asked. We give you the tax back. It’s a great experience to get your money back.
Andrew: I see. You’re basically saying keep the experience and keep the money if you’re not happy with this.
Andrew: I actually didn’t see that on your website. Where is that?
Nick: I think it’s probably on the tickets page or when you go for the checkout.
Andrew: I see. I’m going to go buy tickets. Why do you guys sell using this–are you involved at this level? I want to know why you guys use–what’s this service?
Nick: Oh my gosh. Andrew, this was a crazy story. Last year, July, the vendor we were using called Zerve completely cratered. Did you hear about this? They took on a bunch of money. I forgot from whom, maybe they got about $20 million. They were profitable beforehand and then they took on a bunch of AC. They tried to blow up the business. On July the 1st, we got a message from them saying, “We’ll be shutting down in three days.”
Andrew: Oh wow.
Nick: This was like the entire operating system of our business completely taken away from us. It was an absolute pandemonium in the tour guide world and it was just like buzzards feeding on carcasses, so many calls from all these different businesses. The one company who never called us was the one that we used now. They’re based in Toronto. They focus on food tours mostly, but we just like their vibe about what they do, how they provide tours, how they service the customers.
Andrew: Why don’t you just do it on your own website? Why does it take special software that you have to use from someone else to do it?
Nick: We’ve tried that before and things like processing refunds, doing the credit card transactions, scheduling, guide availability for all the different stuff, it’s much better for us to use a third party. When we’re running literally 20 to 30 tours a week, that’s over 100 tours per month, there would be no way that a custom built solution could scale to those levels.
Hitting $1 million, advertising, investing and profits
Andrew: Do you remember the day when you hit the $1 million?
Nick: I remember the day when we celebrated hitting the $1 million.
Andrew: What did you do to celebrate it?
Nick: We went to–one of our customers who hired us was a luxury hotel here in New York City. They hired us to train their front of house staff how to be tour guides of their hotel.
Andrew: Interesting. Okay.
Nick: Yeah. So they hired us and we had a deal with them where they were friendly, so we got to go to a party on their rooftop overlooking Times Square. It was really cool.
Andrew: We’re talking about the Knickerbocker Hotel.
Nick: The Knickerbocker. How did you know?
Andrew: I’ve got it here in my notes. I didn’t know they’re calling themselves The Knick.
Nick: Yes, The Knick.
Andrew: They’ve like cooled themselves up.
Nick: They have really cooled themselves up.
Andrew: Oh, wow. All right. I didn’t realize you guys were doing even that, that you went from doing tours one on one for free, then doing them for a fee, then doing company events, then training companies on how they could do their own tours? How did they know they could do that? That’s not on your site.
Nick: Once again, somebody came to me. They heard me speak at a travel conference, great travel conference called Skift. They heard me speak there and they just sort of asked if that was something we’d be interested in doing. I’d love your advice on how we could market this because just like you didn’t know we do any of these services, it’s kind of a hard sell, right? Nobody goes out searching for that, necessarily.
Andrew: Nobody goes out to say, “I need help training my people?”
Nick: I guess they do probably go and do employee training. We did a whole thing where we tried to do employee training for businesses. We really struggled with the quality of leads and just how we marketed ourselves.
Andrew: What worked for bringing people in?
Nick: We ultimately were not able to get a profitable successful lead funnel from the internet around company and corporate training. We even setup like separate micro sites because you can imagine, you’re like an HR professional looking for like diversity training and you’re like, “Oh, I could either go with Corporate Training Group or Museum Hack.”
Nick: “I’ll go with the training group.” So we experimented with like micro sites with new branding.
Andrew: Were you doing any training online to do it?
Nick: We were not doing any training online, no.
Andrew: I see. I feel like that helps a lot, that if you build up a reputation training online for free. The other thing is do you guys market to people who bought one of your events and say, “By the way, if you bought one of our events, we also do this other thing?” to bring it into companies. It feels like that’s where people bring it into their companies and say, “You should do this travel hack here.”
Nick: That’s a good idea. I haven’t thought that yeah, we could do a similar audience on people who have bought from us already. I tell you, this is a problem I deal with. If a corporate group comes on a tour with us, that’s 25 people that come on a team building. We only have the email address for one person.
Andrew: Interesting. So, we’re just brainstorming ideas here, but one thing that would be interesting is to say, “I want to give you guys something to look at on your phone as we’re doing this,” or, “I want to give you guys a guide for afterwards with your notes. Where do I send it?” And that kind of interaction would be helpful. Could you do that? Would they let you do that? Is that something you’ve tried?
Nick: We’ve experimented with collecting people’s email addresses from our tour guides during the tour to like enter a contest or we’ll take a group photo, ultimately without going into too many details, we abandoned it because it just wasn’t really working out, hard to describe but there’s so much stuff that our tour guides are focused on to create this amazing experience.
And suddenly the guides were like, “You’re trying to like. . .” They didn’t like it. They were like, “You’re trying to use me to market. Let me do my thing,” versus like collect email addresses. We started measuring them on it and they were like, “Can I just be a tour guide and do an awesome fucking experience?” We’re like, “All right. I guess you’re right.”
Andrew: Do you guys do Facebook advertising?
Nick: We do Facebook advertising.
Andrew: That’s been helpful for you, right?
Nick: Yeah. Facebook ads have been very helpful for us. I can tell you that it’s been one–first of all, Facebook has a really good small business support team. They have helped us learn about the ads and what works and what doesn’t. I can also tell you we have wasted a lot of money on Facebook, definitely my fault for not knowing how to measure returns, but we have definitely blown thousands of dollars on there.
Andrew: Yeah. I get it. Is it now a profitable channel for you?
Nick: Michael’s done a really good job with it. It is a profitable channel for us.
Andrew: It seems like it really does take a long time. Everyone who I’ve seen who’s done well has really been willing to spend a lot of time on it. As a founder often they spend a lot of time on it and they spend a lot of money on it too going through months of iteration, it seems like.
Nick: We were spending so much on Facebook I bought some Facebook stock because I was like, “We’re so invested in this I better. . .”
Andrew: Yeah. I remember a few years ago where everyone made such a big deal that Ford wasn’t buying anymore ads. It means that Facebook doesn’t work. Man, were they so wrong. Where are you now with revenue? How has the company grown since that original goal?
Nick: Last year we did just shy of $2.3 million.
Andrew: Wow. How much of that is profit?
Nick: We don’t disclose profit numbers. We’re less than 10%. We’re very heavy on our labor costs. For me, this business is about creating jobs in the museum space to really shake up the museum field. We’re completely bootstrapped. We have no outside investment. We have no debt. I’m proud of that fact that we’ve been able to grow organically and not–I’d like to grow exponentially, right? I wish we were stacking more money. I wish we were so much bigger, but slow and steady.
Andrew: We asked you in the pre-interview what didn’t we ask you? What are you good at teaching? You said storytelling. Storytelling techniques are something you’re really passionate about. What are some techniques you can teach us? I’m really big on that too.
Nick: I like to start with a bang. I like to kind of capture people. You may have heard me say at the beginning of the show that if you’re listening to this right now, if you’re watching us on the Mixergy website and you don’t like museums–I’m trying to address people’s filter right off the bat.
Andrew: I see.
Nick: I think that with storytelling, for me, the other trick we teach people if you’ve got to finish with a bang. You need to finish to drop the mic. It’s that like drop the mic moment that when you’re a tour guide helps people say, “Wow.”
Andrew: What’s an example of a drop the mic moment?
Nick: At the Metropolitan Museum of Art, there is this Egyptian temple that was built I think in the year like 100 A.D. It’s on the banks of the Nile River. We tell the story about how it was donated to the United States by the Egyptian government and they were in love with Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. The end of the story as we built it up and we tell the story about Jackie O, how it was saved, the end of the story physically has us tell the guests, “Now, turn around,” and right behind them they can see through the windows of the museum was Jackie O’s apartment that looked directly into the temple.
Andrew: I see.
Nick: It’s this huge mental and physical reveal that is the drop the mic moment that like seals it and grounds the story.
Andrew: The reason I love storytelling is because–I was so against it for a long time. I said, “This isn’t kindergarten. I don’t need a story. Give me the facts.” What I found was that people weren’t being persuaded by facts. They really were being persuaded by stories, especially like if there’s something you resist, hearing a story that shows the other side of it opens you up to paying attention to what you’re resisting.
Since we mentioned Yelp and that’s been helpful for you–I looked at your ratings, your ratings on fantastic on Yelp. I had one of the founding members of Yelp over at my house and I asked him, “What do you lead? What do you do because you deal with a lot of engineers?” He said the exact same thing. He said storytelling. “I think about what story I can tell the team that would explain to them why they should care about what I’m about to tell them to do.”
It’s so interesting because I always used to think you’re the CEO, the CTO, you’re running the show. You don’t need to persuade them. You’re paying them. They hired you. They’re bought in. But you do. People, first of all, they may not do what you want them to do just because you’re paying, but also you want them to do it with alacrity, with cheerful willingness, right? You want them to really give it that extra 10% that makes them excited to do it. That comes from storytelling.
Nick: Stories are how we make sense of the world, right? They’re how we take all these random facts and coagulate them in our mind. I love stories. We would do something on our tours. We would do these surveys at the end. I think I’m the only person to use Net Promoter Scores for their hobby. I would pass our surveys to my friends, “How likely are you to recommend this to a friend? How could I improve the tour? What was your favorite part?”
Every single tour I’d pass these out and I’d read them after the tour by myself eating dinner at this Vietnamese place in Chinatown. What people said again and again was more than the excitement, more than the games or the gossip, what they connected with was the stories. For me, that’s what’s helped us ground all of our tour guides in that. There’s the flashy stuff, but people love the stories. That’s what they remember.
Museum Hack in New York, San Francisco, Washington and Chicago
Andrew: I know we’re going to tell people that your website is Museum Hack. For a big portion of the audience, that’s going to be great. The vast majority aren’t anywhere near the four cities that you guys service right now, New York, San Francisco, Washington and Chicago. What do they do?
Nick: We have an awesome Facebook page that I’m really proud of. Search for Museum Hack. We’re on all social media. You know what we share is we share funny art memes, whether it’s on Instagram or my colleague Dustin runs our Instagram account. His name is the Dinosaur Whisperer. He leads our science tours. We share really fun stuff on social and that’s a great way to start to engage with some of the art and here the juicy backstories.
Andrew: All right. And this is like a personal problem, but I’d like to go to a tour, but I’d want to do it at night as like a date with my wife. Everything is during the day when I’m freaking managing these kids or hanging out with them. It’s hard, right? There’s nothing in San Francisco that’s night yet.
Nick: That’s correct. In San Francisco, we have experimented with some night tours but we haven’t found that product market fit. We’re talking to some new museums where this could be a reality.
Andrew: People don’t want to go out at night to museums, is that the thing?
Nick: No, to be honest, it’s been finding the right audience and at the right price point and getting the right museum partner. Like you know, most museums are not open at night. Let’s take the de Young, for example, which I believe used to have like summer Fridays or some other special.
Andrew: Something like that, yes.
Nick: I think it might not be happening right now.
Andrew: I think those guys are making a big mistake. The answer is alcohol and music, right? Find a space, have some music, bring people in, they come in at night for the club experience and then they want to come back later during the week to experience it to see what they missed when the lights were off.
Nick: I like that. From a deeper level, we’re trying to get museum visitors to think more patronage and less party. So, when we work and actually consult with museums–more than 50 museums hired us last year to help train their staff, that’s another piece of our business–we say, “Okay, we can do the party and the music and the wine, but how do we get them to connect to your institution?”
Andrew: Interesting. So, when I’m saying, “Have a party and then that will connect,” you’re saying that’s not enough. That’s people using your place for a fun time, but it’s not experiencing it and knowing what makes it different.
Nick: Yes, exactly right. I think a lot of websites, think about that today, like, “What is your content marketing strategy, actually? Does it get people to engage with your brand and to come back?”
Andrew: All right. I dig the way you think about this. I would never have known. This is what I love about Mixergy. The truth is that I could really focus on nothing but tech startups, nothing but the venture backed companies that have succeeded. I know my numbers go up when I do that.
But I think that there’s a world of companies out there doing interesting things, growing big, founded by entrepreneurs who you don’t think about in the business world and I think that there’s a lot to learn from them and I think it’s exciting what they’ve built. I’d much rather know that you’re doing this then hear Yelp’s story again, as much as I love Yelp, or hear Mark Cuban tell his story for the billionth time.
Nick: I appreciate the charity interview.
Andrew: It’s not a charity interview, it’s just part of my mission. I was saying that I was wrong to say no to you because I didn’t realize how big the business was. If I knew the business was this big, I would have to do it because that is part of my mission.
My mission is not–I don’t want to just like talk bad about other podcasts, but what the hell. NPR or WNYC’s got a podcast called How I Built This. They have some of the best entrepreneurs out there tell their stories, but it’s like the billionth time that I’ve heard Tony Hsieh of Zappos talk about how he decided that customer service was super important.
There is nobody there who I’ve never heard of, which means they’re going to grow their because you know their names and people are going to search for Tony Hsieh or people are going to see Mark Cuban, want to hear what he has to say, but they’re not enlightening their audience in any way, they’re not bringing them any new ideas, they’re not showing them how the depth of how entrepreneur works. They’re not showing them the sense of mission that you have.
To me, that is just kind of candy. It’s candy that they’re offering. WNYC can do it and congratulations to them and at the same time, it’s disgusting to me and I just don’t feel as excited by it and I don’t feel as fulfilled by it. This is more fulfilling for me. That’s what I was saying, that this is the meaningful work and I want to highlight that for the audience.
Nick: I love that. I hope that somebody hears this and recognizes the story that this was a passion project for me, that I worked on it until I got so good at it that I was able to start a business. I think that a lot of the market today is digitally saturated. We’ve chosen to create a business that is neck deep in the life experience world and Museum Hack should be a great example to show you that it’s possible, we can do it. We’re bootstrapped. We’re profitable and we’re creating jobs in a space that I really love.
Andrew: Nick, do you think that something like this can work beyond museums, like City Hack, where we walk you around the city, we show you all the artwork existing in here or all the things that make your city special that you may not have experienced on your own, and then you can do it at night without asking for permission and do it your way fully and end it with drinks.
Nick: I absolutely do. Think about how much we struggle, whether we think to buy a $0.99 app on our phone compared to how willing we are to drop $50 at a bar with friends. People will pay for the live experience.
Andrew: All right. Let’s leave it there. The website is Museum Hack. For anyone who wants to check it out, please do go check it out, especially if you’re in the four cities that they service, which are–let me see if I can do it from memory–Washington D.C., Chicago, Illinois, San Francisco, California and New York, New York.
Nick: That’s right.
Andrew: And my two sponsors are the company that will help you hire your next great developer. They’ve hired it over at Nick’s company, Museum Hack. It is called Toptal. Go check them out at Toptal.com/Mixergy. And if you want to improve your email marketing, maybe start segmenting people, maybe after somebody buys from you, you want to follow up and tell them about a corporate package or something else, any of that can be done easily using ActiveCampaign and I emphasis easily–yes?
Nick: Sponsor shout out just from me too–we used Toptal. They helped us with our website when nobody else could. We were able to find somebody of very, very high quality. Number two sponsor shout out–ActiveCampaign, if you’re a business owner and you want to take your email list to the next level with easy tagging and targeting, I’m inspired to check them out, you should check them out right now at ActiveCampaign.com/Mixergy.
Andrew: I love that you remembered that. My early ads, I used to call myself out for doing a really crappy job of talking about the sponsors. Now I think I’m doing a better job and this is proof, the fact that you remembered it. Thank you so much for doing this. Thank you all for being a part of Mixergy. Bye, everyone.