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Sam Norton

Devin Miller

The Inventive Journey

Podcast for Entrepreneurs

12/5/2020

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There isn't necessarily a right way to do it. I would say that if you are trying to figure out what to do as a start up and where to start the most important thing to do is start. If you can get 80% of the way there then often times that remaining 20%, let's say that remaining 20% is the gap between where your at and a perfect answer, a perfect product, a perfect sales pitch. Often times that 20% is more of a nice to have then the 80% of actually having something there.

 


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The Inventive Journey

Starting and growing a business is a journey. On The Inventive Journey, your host, Devin Miller walks with startups along their different journeys startups take to success (or failure). You also get to hear from featured guests, such as venture firms and angel investors, that provide insight on the paths to a successful inventive journey.

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say that there isn't necessarily a right way to do it i would say that you know if you're trying to figure out what to do as a startup and and where to start the most important thing you can do is start and if you can get eighty percent of the way there then oftentimes that remaining twenty percent like let's say that that remaining twenty percent is uh the gap between where you're at and a perfect answer a perfect product a perfect sales pitch oftentimes that 20 percent is more of a nice to have than the 80 of actually having something there hey everyone this is devin miller here with another episode of the inventive journey i'm your host devin miller the serial entrepreneur that has built several business startups into seven and eight figure businesses as well as the founder and ceo of miller ip law where we help startups and small businesses with their patents and trademarks and today we have another great guest on the podcast sam norton um to give you a bit of an introduction to him so sam has always kind of been an entrepreneur um he was you know never had the courage to make the leap on his own until his brother and some other co-founders kind of reached out to him the timing was right and so after he graduated from byu and go cougars and examined uh looked at some of the digital slide decks and billboards and other things out there i think he mentioned and we'll get into it that it started out as something to do with the capstone project graduated dived in and then has been doing the startup life ever since and so with that much as an introduction welcome on to the podcast sam hey thanks devin it's good to be here with you so i gave kind of a brief introduction but taking us now back in time to when you uh got going you know give us a bit of that uh that backstory of how things got going for you yeah okay great devin so um as you mentioned things for slide tech really started when my brother and our third co-founder kevin were in their last semester at byu during their masters of information systems program and they started kind of fiddling around with this idea and my brother who was a student at the time was kind of up in front of a classroom and giving his his presentation to the class and he just kind of looked out and he saw laptop after laptop after laptop is just a sea of you know apples looking at him and he just realized that nobody was paying attention you know nobody was listening and kind of felt like you know what most professors i think feel like in a classroom setting where it's really tough to understand whether or not somebody is paying attention and you know in today's digital age there's really no reason why that laptop that second screen can't be used to help somebody wander deeper into the presenter's content and enhance the presentation rather than be a distraction or a deterrent and that's kind of where the idea of slide tech was born my brother called me and told me what he thought about the idea and i thought it was a great idea and we kind of poked around for a couple of months setting so now what were you doing at the time so your brother was he was doing his capstone he was in school where were you at or what were you doing yeah i was working for a company called pluralsight they're a technology company based out of utah that helps technology teams upskill their workforces and so i was already a little bit familiar with kind of the remote learning use case and so we've kind of tried to leverage some of that background in building out slide tech i've been graduated for about three years from byu by the time so what did what and just as a back story so what did you graduate in at byu or what did you study yeah i was a marketing major at byu in the marriott school of business so so if i were to summarize so you were you'd been graduate you went to byu got your marketing major graduated i've been working for a plural site for about three years and during that you know as you're working in pluralsight your brother does this presentation for capstone has a realization that nobody pays attention to the slide decks unless they're really cool or presentations and how to make that more interactive he reaches out to you and was that a hey this is a great idea let me quit my job tomorrow and we're going to go all in or how did you know how did that conversation go or how did it start to evolve from there well it's funny because if you know me and my brother you know we have an idea probably a week where we just kind of talk about things we just kind of you know explore different concepts and different business cases and use cases it's kind of like what we do for fun honestly it's you know i don't know deprived childhood or something but uh we basically just would kind of spit ball back and forth uh on various ideas so it wasn't like it was uncommon or like something out of the blue for him to call me and say hey i got this idea you know that was kind of a weekly cadence for us and it didn't really start to take shape or take form until we started getting some of that initial validation and traction from people who said that they would actually use something like this um so now so he pitches you you know almost on a weekly basis of your ideas kind of what you have what he has you know the idea of the week so to speak and you know it sounds like you know you you toss it around you kind of mull it over but you know you you continue to work at your job obviously during that time in pluralsight so what was different about this idea or how did you start to say okay this has some momentum to it or we'd like to actually start to do something with it as opposed to hey that's a cool idea and now i'm gonna go back to my job type of a thing yeah good question i think really what set this one apart is it gave us a little bit of uh inspiration the fact that people were actually getting excited about the idea with us so i i would you know talk to my colleagues at pluralsight about it and you know i would say yeah what do you think about this what do you think about this kind of idea is this a problem that you see too and people i mean i've i got to be honest with you devin and i'm not i mean it wasn't my idea it was matt's idea so i can boast about him but i've literally never had anybody tell me that it's a bad idea i mean if you if you think about what a slide deck is right now it is maybe the most under utilized and under-resourced um presentation or business tool that we have especially for how ubiquitous they are you know what i mean and so every time that we talk to somebody about look like we can make the slide decks interactive so it's actually like a two-way feedback type channel where you can interact with it you can do what you want with it and then we track those interactions and send them back to the presenter in real time so that the presenter knows what content actually matters what content really resonates that is something that i think a lot of people understood really quickly and i think that's probably what what made the idea a little bit different i will say that there's still always that kind of leap of faith component to it you know even though we had people telling us it was a good idea even though we had people who said that they wanted to use it and you know agreed to be beta users and things like that there's still that you know feeling in your stomach where you're like all right if we're gonna do this we gotta we gotta do this and uh so to dive in so let's so now he comes and say okay finally i found an idea that i can get behind with my brother and it's a good idea and i think it's one that we should put some time and effort behind did you you know how did that transition work did you continue to work at pluralsight and do this as a side gig for a period of time did you say okay i'm quitting my job tomorrow and i'm going to be doing this full-time and we'll figure out how to you know move back in with the parents and we won't we'll live on you know live on passion not on money and those type of things or how did you make that transition from i'm working working at pluralsight to hey i'm going to go or do this as a startup with my brother yeah that's a great question so we i continued to work at pluralsight for a little while while we kind of tested the idea and vetted the idea but as soon as we decided to actually make it a company i quit i felt like it would be um kind of disingenuous to pluralsight and to slide tech if i were trying to do both at the same time i know that's a viable thing that people do and they have the side hustle and things like that but i'm a very um single track kind of minded person like very focused where if i'm doing multiple things i feel like i can't do them as well and so i just decided um you know for me personally it made more sense to just have one thing pursue one thing or the other and i felt like slide tech was a big enough opportunity uh that it would be worth it and we definitely did the uh live on passion not money type of thing we actually did move back in with my parents it was a bit of a lifestyle change um fortunately my wife uh got a big promotion uh at her work and that kind of helped um on the personal financing side but yeah we've we've definitely been in the uh passion not money mode and fortunately you're starting to see things start to turn a little bit so no no and i think that there is absolutely nothing wrong with that you know that's always the hard thing when you're at a startup you know or any business is you know how do we afford this do we try and do this as a side gig if you do it you have split attention and you never have enough time to really get it going and the opposite if we dive all in and we don't have the you know if it doesn't work out or you know doesn't make the money then what do we do next and so i always think that that's a balance so so now you dive in you said okay we're going to go back to the parents you convince the wife that you know hey we're going to do a bit of a lifestyle change i think in the long run this will be i'll be happier we'll be more financially sad or you know the different motivations of going to a startup so how is that you know how's that gone since then is that was it all you thought it would be and you know you got in you dived in you built something and it took off like wildfire and you're making lots of money has it been a difficult up and down roller coaster has it been still too early to tell or kind of where are you guys at yeah great question i should mention too that there were a couple of different um factors that also allowed us to kind of make that jump and those were provided by byu and the university of utah so i've never started a company in silicon valley i'm sure it's wonderful but i genuinely can't see how it gets better than starting a company in utah between those two universities we had entrance into two incubators two incubator programs they gave us money they gave us resources they gave us mentorship i mean it really was uh kind of stacked in our favor i think because of the resources that this uh community um has kind of collectively agreed to put back into budding startups so uh i would say that that definitely helped kind of push us over the edge and kind of help push us into this this journey um so to answer your question about whether or not it's you know everything we thought or anything like that it's definitely different than uh what i what i thought when i was in high school i played two different sports so i played football and then i wrestled and um i would say like if if you're a football player and you're you know one of 11 people on the field on your team then you can miss a tackle and somebody else can come in and kind of you know clean things up um wrestling is a little different right it's it's just you and and one other person and if you you know mess up or do the wrong move or you know flip the wrong way or whatever um it's kind of on you and it's on you to get that back um a startup is a lot more like wrestling a lot more like wrestling where if if you you know forget to reach out to a prospect or you you know slips something slips your mind in the product or something like that um it's on you to go fix it and and to go to go make it happen again um and i i would say that that is something that was a little bit of a transition going from you know pluralsight a company with thousands of employees to you know just being me and my brother and kevin and uh it's really on us no and i think you know there's a that's the bittersweet thing of right of doing your own thing in the one sense you're able to say hey i can finally make the decisions i don't have to go through all of the bureaucracy i don't have to go through months of waiting and budgets and time and getting approvals and i can just we you know we think of something we can implement it and we can get going on it but on the other side says there isn't a shield there is anybody to duck behind her there isn't a team or anything else if you do it or you as your point if you miss it either way you it's on you and you know you you you bear that responsibility which can be exciting and horrifying all at the same time yeah yeah you get it that's that's exactly right so you so now you've jumped in you've been doing this for a period of time you've had some good luck with the universities around here you've been working on it you've been getting going so now where do you see kind of the next six to 12 months taking you guys is that hey we're pivoting for coven and we're you know waiting for schools to reopen or hey now because schools are closed and they're doing more zoo meetings and slide decks and that then in person it's picking up and we're going to focus on that and really hit the market hard or kind of where do you see the next next phase going for you guys yeah it's definitely picking up um because of kovid i think um you know there are a lot of professors who have taught the same way for a long period of time and now this pandemic happens and either they're doing things remotely or they're doing things in a hybrid setting where you've got a third of the class or smaller that's in person and everybody else is on zoom and it kind of creates this this interesting thing uh where most professors have zoom and then they share their screen and that's kind of it and we've started to see that uh professors and not only i should say not just universities but also high schools and you know k through 12. engagement is really dropping in in a lot of classrooms and and it's tougher to get kids to class and it's tougher to get them engaged when they're actually in class and so we've actually seen that our solution is really adept at solving these issues because the not only because it improves the audience experience where they can you know take notes and ask questions and add you know other people's comments and questions to their notes and kind of just makes it a little bit more collaborative of a of a class but on the other hand the professors can also see you know if students are able to really understand certain concepts if they're really engaged in the class at all and so that's been really really valuable for professors who have been hit hard by this pandemic and are using slides no i think that makes complete sense i mean i think it is a paradigm shift and it'll be interesting at you know at some point at least my personal belief covid will die down or it will end we'll either get a vaccine or people will get it enough eventually a normal sea will return don't know when that exactly will be but you know it'll be interesting to see how that now whether the dynamic sticks and whether they continue to do more online or whether that is a you know a phased approach or if they go back to just what they knew and how that how that will all play out i'm sure is a bit of an uncertainty you know make for an opportunity is to to play a role in that as to what that might look like now that we've kind of been you know forced into a different dynamic and how that you know how that can maybe improve and remain better yeah it's funny because the idea for slide tech actually started before the pandemic really really picked up i mean i think it was kind of happening in china a little bit and you kind of hear some some whisperings of it but i mean nothing like the you know full force gale winds that are going on right now so um you know originally we thought this was going to be kind of an in-person tool um and then we just happened to find that the use case uh really exploded as a result of remote learning no i and sometimes hey that that makes the most sense some things are fortuitous and some things you know what was interesting is a little bit you know i always get asked you know with the law firm you know hey are things slowing down are they picking up where you guys at you know and unfortunately i i my typical answer is no we're you know we're doing versus march april and that we've actually picked up and we're busier than before that you know before march and april but it was really more because we set it up that you know we're a internet you know nationals or a firm that we can meet with clients from anywhere and we really set that up well ahead not anticipating covent but just saying hey we'd like to not just be a local firm or not just do you know the people right in our area and then it's worked out well that now as people are doing covid as they're as they're not going to their local law firm and going downtown they're looking to say hey what is the best provider regardless of where they're located because i'm not going to meet them in person anyway so it's interesting how sometimes the unforeseen pivots or unforeseen occurrences if you're if you're smart and take advantage of them can actually be a blessing or at least provide for a good pivot yeah yeah that makes a lot of sense it's headwinds and tailwinds uh yeah a lot of the times and you know these these macroeconomic forces really do have um an effect on the smaller startups yeah no definitely so now as we start to wrap up the podcast or reach towards the end of it i always have two questions i ask at the end so we'll jump to those now so the first question i always ask is so throughout your journey what's been your worst business decision and what have you learned from it yeah great question and i've been kind of thinking about this dev and ever since you know you told me um that you're going to ask this and i've really tried to think through what that would be and i've come to the conclusion that a non-decision is still a decision right i couldn't think of a decision that we made that you know ended up being a big mistake or anything like that but i can't think of things that we didn't do that would have been you know a tremendous boon for our company and one of those things um has to do with spending money and it sounds a little crazy right because you know you're starting this company you're bootstrapping um you know you're you're taking a personal financial risk and things like that but i think that startup finances and personal finances are different you know they're different kinds of things and uh in personal finances you wouldn't necessarily say okay spend more spend more because it'll help you in the future right but from a startup side when you're thinking about what you can do with your money really the only thing that your money is there for is for you to make more money with it later that's it you know you're not buying uh you know plush offices or anything like that like when you're in startup world like you are trying to figure out okay what's the return that i can get for this dollar and i think if you approach it with that frame of mind you'll spend your money a little bit faster and a little bit earlier and a little bit more methodically um and so i would actually say the thing that we could have done better was spend our money earlier and spend our money faster and spend our money more deliberately um i think that that actually you know we we kind of were approaching it with the personal finance lens a little too much still where we were thinking you know about preservation and cash preservation and things like that and uh truthfully if you want a slice you gotta roll the dice and i would say spending more money up front is a good way to make sure that you're going to have money to spend later no and i think that that's you know that one's a good it's a hard thing to find the right balance because if you spend all your money right out of the shoot and you're saying hey we've got to spend money to make money and you spend it all and then you don't have enough runway to ever get the product out then you can you know then your business never takes off and then on the opposite side if you miser it so much you can actually hinder the growth of the business because you're saying hey we're so conservative we're passing over opportunities or otherwise not taking advantage of opportunities or growing or exploring new markets or reaching new customers and you're actually foregoing that and so i think to your point sometimes by not making the decision or by holding offer by not doing things it can be as detrimental to a business or can hold it back as much as anything else so i like that yeah and just to be clear i'm not saying spend recklessly by any means i'm saying spend deliberately be really methodical about how you do it but understand that if you pull the trigger earlier rather than later you'll have the results of that spend earlier rather than later yeah no and i i think that i think i think that that is the balance right don't spend recklessly but don't hold on to your cash such that now you're you're not going to be able to grow the business and i think that's a balance that everybody makes and you know either typically you you learn the lesson one way or the other right either you learn the lesson because you spend all the money and you run out of money and now you're trying to have them to figure out how to fund things or you hold on to it or too tightly and then you're saying i could have done more things and i wish we'd done that started this earlier and so it's usually it's a hard lesson to learn everybody almost has to learn that balance well as we now jump to the second question which is now if you're talking to someone that's just getting into a startup or a small business what would be the one piece of advice you'd give them yeah the piece of advice that i would give somebody who is doing a startup is i would say that there isn't necessarily a right way to do it i would say that you know if you're trying to figure out what to do as a startup and and where to start the most important thing you can do is start and if you can get 80 of the way there then oftentimes that remaining 20 like let's say that that remaining 20 is uh the gap between where you're at and a perfect answer a perfect product a perfect sales pitch oftentimes that 20 is more of a nice to have than the 80 of actually having something there so if you're if you're trying to decide between um you know building a feature and not building a feature and you can do it in a relatively frisk risk-free way where you're not you know mortgaging your entire business to actually do it i would say ship the feature you know and if you're trying to figure out should i talk to this person about my product or should i talk to this person about my product you should just talk to both people about your product you know so i think that there is uh more that then can be done they say 70 of uh success is showing up and i think that that's absolutely true in the startup space no and i think that's great advice and i think that certainly makes sense well as we wrap up if people want to reach out to you they want to find out more about you know slide tech they want to be a customer they want to be an investor they want to be an employee they want to be your next best friend any or all of the above what is the best way to connect up with you or find out more yeah find me on linkedin my name is samuel norton the company is called slidetech and you can also shoot me an email it's slide kick s-l-i-d-e k-i-c-k sam gmail.com feel free to shoot me an email or connect with me on linkedin perfect well i think that that's a great way to certainly invite people to connect up with you and find out more use your product and uh and and get to er and get to know the get get to know you guys better at slide tech so and i appreciate sam i appreciate you coming on now as uh now is for anybody else that's a listener if you have your own journey to tell and you'd like to be a guest on the podcast feel free to reach out to us at inventivejourneyguest.com and apply to be on the podcast love to hear your story if you are a listener make sure to click subscribe so you hear their get notifications as all the new austin episodes come out and last but not least if you ever need help with patents and trademarks feel free to reach out to us at miller ip law we are always here to help thanks again sam appreciate you coming on thanks devin thanks for having me hey if you enjoyed this episode of the inventive journey make sure to go and check out startups magazine they're an awesome magazine and podcast centered over in the uk and if the magazine is a digital and print magazine where they focus on tech startups and entrepreneurs and they also have a focus on female founders and women in tech so if you want to check out their magazine neither digital or print it's startups magazine startups with an s magazine.co.uk and you can also look up their podcast which is called the serial entrepreneur so go check them out they're awesome and definitely if you like this episode you'll like them you

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