Raw Data By P3 Adaptive
The Internet of Things Goes to the Museum, w/ Austin Senseman
Founder and CEO of ConservListen Now:
Austin Senseman is a former P3 Adaptive team member who went on to start his own business, Conserv, an internet of things startup company in the conservation space. Conserv does important work to help preserve historical artifacts in museums and private collections by using sensors and analytics. We talk about historical artifacts and the data that is used in preserving them, the infamous P3 Adaptive Interview Of Death, dealing with Investors, business ethics and so much more.
- 1:45 – Meeting Austin, a Talking Heads reference, and Austin nearly reveals his secret password!
- 5:15 – Sports-team allegiance is important, especially in the South
- 7:20 – Austin’s company, Conserv, won a huge pitch competition this week and Austin explains what Conserve does
- 9:00 – Sensors and IoT <Internet of Things> devices that Conserv uses, and how to handle the challenge of networking and collecting the massive amount data from these things
- 14:00 – To buy something or to build something, what’s a better path? The Black Market, and the hilarious story of The Backstroke Of The West
- 18:15 – Dealing with Investors in the startup space
- 20:40 – The analytics of Conserv, and how the physical world enters the equation
- 27:00 – Artifact care standards, how precise conditions must be to preserve these historical treasures, and the data that’s behind it
- 33:00 – Rob mentions the Vasa Museum and a running joke is born!
- 37:10 – The importance of preserving historical artifacts
- 46:00 – Rob asks Austin his least favorite question. What other applications can this tech be used for?
- 51:00 – The grossness of the predatory extraction business model
- 59:10 – The infamous P3 Adaptive Interview Of Death, and how it factors into how P3 Adaptive perfected remote hiring
- 1:12:35 – It’s not personal, it’s just business…is just garbage and the amusing applicant story
- 1:16:30 – How Conserv used Power BI embedded, and the challenges he had to overcome with using it
- 1:29:00 – Celebrating as a business owner, and Custom Emojis in our Slack channel <we even have an Austin Senseman emoji
Rob Collie (00:00:00): Welcome everyone to another edition of Raw Data by P3. Now I am really personally very happy with this one. Today's guest is Austin Senseman. Austin is kind of like a brother at this point. He was absolutely integral to a formative phase here at P3. He was here when things were quite a bit more chaotic than they are today, when we were figuring things out. So he and I have basically like shared a foxhole while under artillery fire and like any good brothers we've also turned artillery on each other on multiple occasions.
Rob Collie (00:00:33): And now Austin is, for the last year and a half, he's been the co-founder of a startup called Conserve an internet of things, analytics startup in the conservation space, preserving artifacts and museums and things of that nature. We cover a lot of ground in this episode. Among other things, we talk about hiring talk about the sequence of startups, we talk about the somewhat elusory line between business and personal, we talk about the somewhat predatory nature of the startup industry and industry in general and how hard it is to swim upstream against that current. We take a Renaissance era engineering failure and turn it into a running joke. And in general, I think we just had a very stimulating conversation. I personally enjoyed this one quite a bit and hope you do as well. So let's after it.
Announcer (00:01:24): Ladies and gentlemen, may I have your attention, please?
Announcer (00:01:28): This is the Raw Data by P3 podcast with your host Rob Collie and your co-host Thomas LaRock. Find out what the experts at P3 can do for your business. Go to powerpivotpro.com. Raw Data by P3 is data with the human element.
Rob Collie (00:01:46): Welcome to the show. Austin, stop making Senseman. Can we make Talking Heads jokes in 2020? Do people get those? I mean, I suppose we should probably... If we're going to do Talking Heads 2020 should be burning down the house. Yes?
Austin Senseman (00:02:00): Well, I'll say I'm sharing a bit of my own informational security here, but when you first set me up with a Power Pivot Pro account, you made a password for me that was talking heads inspired. And there's a version of that password that I still use to this day. Of course it's been, it's been augmented in some ways, so, but yeah...
Rob Collie (00:02:17): Oh yeah. I mean, we know how it, how it works, right? You just capitalize a letter. You swap a letter out for a symbol, a number, the E turns into a three. We know the drill and so does every hacker on the planet, but when you consider that the most commonly stolen password is still 12345 there's safety in numbers.
Austin Senseman (00:02:35): Is that not a good one? Is that a bad one?
Rob Collie (00:02:37): It is apparently the same thing that evil overlords have on their luggage.
Austin Senseman (00:02:40): I'm taking some notes here. Hold on one second.
Rob Collie (00:02:43): Yeah. We're definitely showing our age here. Although, if you don't know these references, you don't really know how old we are do you? So Austin, Austin, Austin, we've had an interesting journey together. Haven't we?
Austin Senseman (00:02:55): Oh my gosh. It's really been one of the highlights of my last five, 10 years of my life, for sure.
Rob Collie (00:03:00): Oh, wow. I'm really pleased considering that a big chunk of the last five, 10 years of your life was spent with us. I'm glad that it was a highlight. You were one of the elite first few to pass the interview of death back in 2015 and ended up being an integral part of the leadership team here at the company during a very formative and chaotic era. And then you left right before things calmed down and got really dialed in. You really picked a fine time to leave us, Lucille. You missed out on the smooth water, but boy, that was some interesting years in the beginning. Wasn't it?
Austin Senseman (00:03:35): I'm glad when I left things got calmer. I don't know what you were trying to communicate there.
Rob Collie (00:03:39): No, I really just think you, you just kind of missed out. I don't think there's any connection between your departure and it wasn't like things that immediately better, either. Things had to get even harder for a little bit, but I told you the other day that I feel like today, we really could do all the things that you were really eager to do back then. We just weren't big enough really to support yet. So we'd be a great place for you now.
Austin Senseman (00:04:05): Yeah. One thing I've come to appreciate more in starting my own business is sort of the sequence of things in a business. And if you haven't really lived through it, you don't have a good sense of what to do first, second, third, fourth, and fifth. And it can be kind of counterintuitive sometimes. Because a lot of it's about like, well, what do we not do now? What do we do later? And so, yeah, we were really early with Power Pivot Pro and sort of this transition to what it is today. And we jumped into it and tried to do a lot at once. And I think things got calmer when you recognized there was a little bit more of a sequence to it and there was some things we could wait to do and what was the priority? It just... It helps to know the recipe,
Rob Collie (00:04:46): Every two weeks there's a blowing off steam moment where we talk about thanks to Austin, we're still tied to this thing called Pardot. We've spent a lot of money on that thing now and any day, I'm sure it's going to pay off.
Austin Senseman (00:05:03): That's an Indianapolis company.
Rob Collie (00:05:05): I don't think so. I think sales... No Exact Target is the one that was in Indianapolis that was bought by Salesforce. Let's please, please, please, please. And it's just happened to be the place I live now anyway, it's not like I'm on that team.
Austin Senseman (00:05:18): Fair.
Rob Collie (00:05:20): We've talked about that before on the show, if you have a sports team that you root for and you use the word we to refer to the sports team, something a little off there. You're not on the field, you're not on the court.
Austin Senseman (00:05:33): Well, I think growing up in Alabama, II haven't heard a different way of doing it. I think there's...
Rob Collie (00:05:38): Yeah.
Austin Senseman (00:05:40): There's a fair bit of that going on between Alabama and Auburn. So...
Rob Collie (00:05:43): Well, it's really just the Southeastern corner of the United States, including Texas. I grew up in Florida and I moved elsewhere and I saw how other people viewed their college football team. And they would describe themselves as fans. They would say all the same things. Like, "Yeah, I'm a huge dyed in the wool rider..." But I was always like really disappointed in them because they never really took it seriously. For the first few years living in the Pacific Northwest, I was like, "Oh, you wimps, you think you take this seriously?" And even the big 10, the Midwest isn't as serious about it as they are down south. And which team you root for when you ask... It's sort of like when you're meeting someone new in the south....
Austin Senseman (00:06:27): Yeah.
Rob Collie (00:06:27): ... And you ask someone, "Whoa, so what college football team?" The answer you're about to receive is actually going to impact the future relationship. It is input into how your relationship is going to be. How friendly it's going to be. It's that serious.
Austin Senseman (00:06:41): It's a way to sort of exchange status for sure. So we won this pitch competition this week and I was talking to one of the judges afterwards and I said, "Look, that wasn't our best performance." And he said, "Well, look, look, look, an ugly loss is much better than a beautiful win." And I said, "You're an Auburn fan, aren't you?" And he said, "Yeah, I am." But we knew, it's just right there. So it's just woven into really every everything you talk about, for sure.
Rob Collie (00:07:10): While we're at it... So you used the word we there and that time I think the use of we is appropriate. Right? But I won't use the word we, it was your we. We'll circle back to the P3 experience, but you say you won a pitch competition this week. Congratulations.
Austin Senseman (00:07:24): Thanks.
Rob Collie (00:07:24): What kind of pitch? What kind of company? What are you up to these days?
Austin Senseman (00:07:26): Yeah, so the company's called Conserve. We've been at this two years. I say, we, this is me and my co-founder Nathan. And we build sensors and analytics to help people take care of art collections, but collections beyond that. So really cultural heritage. So things that we together have decided are worth keeping around for our children and grandchildren. And the way people do that is they take care of the environment in the right way. So the humidity can't get too high. The temperature can't fluctuate, too much. The lights can't be too bright. And if any of those things aren't quite right, then over time, things fall apart. So we collect data through sensors and we try to turn that into information for people so they can make good decisions around what to do. Yeah. So we won hundred thousand dollars this week, non dilutive capital, meaning they just a check and they're not on your cap table. It's just a huge piece of validation. And it's going to allow us to do some things growth wise this year that we wouldn't have done otherwise.
Rob Collie (00:08:29): Now you might not know this, but Tom works for monitoring Goliath, Solar Winds. You might be gaining the attention of the predator in the pond. They're like, "Wait a second. We've been monitoring databases and everything. We could be monitoring art collections?"
Austin Senseman (00:08:51): Yeah. Yeah. We love to try to compete against people that try to do everything. We just, we eat their lunch.
Thomas LaRock (00:08:57): The thing I'm intrigued though, is it's not the art collection. It's just the... It's the IOT.
Austin Senseman (00:09:03): Yeah.
Thomas LaRock (00:09:03): It's the IOT devices and their deployment and the challenge of monitoring that type thing. So how we think is we're like, "I don't know. The city of Jacksonville has deploying IOT to all of their streetlights and they need to know that these devices are online, up, down." And that's... It's a challenge. That's where sometimes let's say our gaze goes to because monitoring the server and this database, that's easy. We've been doing that stuff forever. IOT, that's a different ballgame right now.
Rob Collie (00:09:41): What is IOT? I mean, I know that it's objects, sensors connected to the internet, internet of things. Okay. I get that. But then I dig a little deeper with you guys and I discover, oh no, you got to have this special kind of hotspot. What's going on with that? And if the city of Jacksonville is deploying, IOT sensors in their streetlights, is there an antenna on each one? How are we networking these things? And why do we network them differently was really, really kind of fascinating to me.
Austin Senseman (00:10:13): Yeah. Because you know, 5G gets so much press when you think about wireless technologies and it's probably the most irrelevant piece of tech for IOT. Because IOT is generally large scaled deployments, lots of sensors. And most of those projects, those sensors are sending small amounts of data. Is this light on, is there a car in this parking spot? What's the temperature and what's the wind speed or air quality, things like that. And so this is not like streaming Netflix. And so the wireless and networking technologies that go into this are really different. They're kind of unsexy in a way we use something called lorawan. That's a popular or technology in the IOT space. But, you're not going to read about that in the Wall Street Journal, but it powers a lot of what goes on in this world.
Rob Collie (00:11:06): But are you going to switch to 5G when it's time for your museum sensors to light up and start the mind control project? I mean that's what... Or is it for distributing COVID? I get confused.
Austin Senseman (00:11:18): I thought we were... I was sure we weren't going to talk about that, but...
Rob Collie (00:11:23): Yeah. That's that's phase two.
Austin Senseman (00:11:28): But yeah, IOT, it is ultimately about sensors and lots of them. And so the real challenge isn't necessarily the sensors that part's sort of commoditized and figured out in a way it's just the sheer amount of data you have. I mean, it's just a noisy, noisy kind of problem. And then how do you take all of that and deliver something that's information that someone can look at and do something with. So IOT is really an analytics problem. But everyone talks about the sensors and all this, but it's really about humans trying to make this stuff work for humans. Now there's a whole other side of it, where the sensors are talking to each other and they're talking to machines and that's a different and important, but a different sort of problem. We don't do that as much. We're really trying to use the data to enable a human, to do something.
Rob Collie (00:12:15): You mentioned that the sensors sort of garner a lot of the gravity of attention. And I guess that kind of makes sense. Doesn't it? Human beings, we tend to sort of intuitively focus our attention on the thing. That's tangible that we can see that we can touch. You tell someone, "Oh, we work in business intelligence and analytics and data platform." And maybe they get that, maybe they don't. But if they don't and then you say, "We make dashboards." They go, "Oh, dashboards." Right? It's that thing. And they only... They have no idea what's powering it. They only weigh it in their mind by the count of pixels that they see on the screen. That's the whole existence of the whole thing to them. And we shouldn't expect differently, I guess. It's just, when you get too close to things, you start to lose the natural human perspective. But yeah, when I think of IOT, just real talk like, oh yeah. Sensors.
Austin Senseman (00:13:09): Yeah, absolutely. And try to position yourself as a solution provider in IOT. Meaning we don't show up and sell a sensor. We try to compete against people that that is what they do. They say, "Oh yeah, we sell sensors." And we say, "Oh no, no, no, no, no. We don't just sell a sensor. We have a solution to help you take better care of your art collection." And so you're really trying to position yourself, when you're really focused on a particular problem and a niche, away from being a sensor company. We don't just sell you this box. We're trying to empower you to do this job well and turns out that's hard because at the end of the day, people will say, "Yeah, but you're going to sell me this sensor, right? And we say "Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. That's part of it."
Rob Collie (00:13:49): Don't you worry.
Austin Senseman (00:13:50): Yeah.
Rob Collie (00:13:51): We've got sensors.
Austin Senseman (00:13:52): Yeah. We've got that covered.
Rob Collie (00:13:55): Let's beat the sensor thing to death first. Let's really grind it into the ground.
Austin Senseman (00:13:58): Okay.
Rob Collie (00:13:59): Didn't you invest some time in something custom at some point, like some custom hardware. I remember you talking about like a particular device, a particular board or something like that. Are you still on that custom thing with the hardware or did you end up kind of switching up?
Austin Senseman (00:14:16): Yeah. So if you're building IOT, you're pretty quickly looking at, do we buy something or build something, right? And we had a strong desire to buy instead of build. But we were very customer driven early. We were asking people what they needed and lorawan is this new technology, just as a side note, really a quick, lorawan's like a really long range technology. So your wifi doesn't make it to the end of your house, but this kind of stuff, you put one router in a very large museum and it covers the whole place. And it's very low power. The batteries last a long time.
Austin Senseman (00:14:50): So we wanted to build a lorawan device and there just wasn't anything out there that was up to spec. People wanted temperature, relative humidity, light, vibration at a pretty specific level of accuracy. And so we ended up building something and building hardware is difficult. I will say I'm really glad we're sort of on the other side of that. But yeah, hopefully that lorawan ecosystem will mature a little bit. At some point we will be buying stuff. I mean, Nathan always jokes that if we got this thing built in China and Alibaba stole the spec and then they just started making it for cheaper. That'd be great. We would just buy it from them.
Rob Collie (00:15:25): That's hilarious.
Austin Senseman (00:15:26): So maybe that's what we'll do.
Rob Collie (00:15:29): Please steal it.
Austin Senseman (00:15:30): Please steal.
Rob Collie (00:15:31): The black market version will be more cost effective for us.
Austin Senseman (00:15:33): That's right. That's right.
Rob Collie (00:15:37): As long as the quality is the same. Have you heard about the backstroke of the west?
Austin Senseman (00:15:43): Go on.
Rob Collie (00:15:44): So funny, this was a DVD that you could buy on the street in China. It was Star Wars, Episode Five, the Empire Strikes Back. Okay? But it had gone through a round trip of translation just for historical... So someone had created a version that was dubbed in Chinese. So they translated all the dialogue from English to Chinese. And that version had been circulating for a while. And then when someone wanted to produce a version that they could sell to English speaking people, they took that version and subtitled it in English. And so by the time the Empire Strikes Back made it through that round trip. It was the backstroke of the west. And there's all kinds of internet memes about this. They did this whole series. It wasn't just Empire Strikes Back. They did the whole thing. Right? And so like when Vader screams, "No." At the end of episode three, the screen says in giant letters "Do not want." So you don't want that version of your hardware now, do you?
Austin Senseman (00:16:57): I had some real life experiences with some of that. I lived in China and you'd get off the subway and people would have all these DVDs like out on a blanket and you see this in other markets too. So we would buy some of these. And I have to say the winner in this category was the Count of Monte Cristo. Someone had subtitled it with pornography. I'm not... Truly not kidding. It was just like an hour and a half of that. And it made it a lot more fun to watch, honestly, because yeah, it's not one of my favorites.
Thomas LaRock (00:17:27): I was going to say, it's interesting how you knew exactly how long it was. So you saw...
Austin Senseman (00:17:30): Yeah, yeah. An hour, one hour and 34 minutes. It was...
Rob Collie (00:17:34): Yeah. Not counting the credit.
Austin Senseman (00:17:36): It's hard to keep... That's a lot of attention. That's a long time.
Rob Collie (00:17:41): Oh yeah. I so badly want to explore this topic for...
Austin Senseman (00:17:49): This is not the sort of things we want to happen in our hardware.
Rob Collie (00:17:53): No, definitely not. So earlier we were talking about sensors being sort of commoditized, there's actually a little bit of originality in temporary intellectual property that you wish would be stolen even there, even at that layer so I think that's pretty cool. I understand the desire to buy in that situation. I totally do, but it's still pretty cool, right?
Austin Senseman (00:18:13): Oh, it's awesome. And...
Rob Collie (00:18:14): I know.
Austin Senseman (00:18:15): Investors are haters on this topic, right? You talk to everyone, they're like, "Oh don't do hardware. If you do hardware, we're not going to talk to you." It's like,... So there's this perception it's totally knee jerk, right? That they just don't want to be involved in that. Because it's kind of knee jerk, you sort of get the sense that if you do go and get involved and you do it well that you have this moat around you because it is hard, but it's not that hard. Right? And if you structure your business model in the right way, you can still earn the margins you want and build a good business around it. But man, you listen to a lot of knee jerk negativity around it, early from a certain group of people.
Rob Collie (00:18:54): Wow. I would not expect that. I would think completely differently. As an investor, which I'm not, if I were, I'd be into the people that were so driven that they weren't going to accept what was off the shelf. They didn't set out to be our hardware company, but like look for customer satisfaction reasons we just can't do it otherwise. And we're not going to be stopped by the lack of... I'd admire that. Maybe we'll get into this, but I do think there's a lot wrong with the investor mindset in the startup space. So it doesn't shock me to find that there's yet another thing that I would disagree with there.
Austin Senseman (00:19:34): Yeah. You sort of think that investors are showing up with a very unique perspective about the world, they know some secrets maybe that other people don't and that allows them to see things other people don't and certainly the best investors show up like that. But it is largely a herd. And I hope none of my investors are listening to this now, but they're the specialists. They're the special ones.
Rob Collie (00:19:56): They're not part of that group thing.
Austin Senseman (00:19:58): Yeah. No, that's absolutely true. I mean, I do want to say if anyone is listening, just you do become really grateful for the people that early, they are sort of betting on you. It's like because early it's like, well I've got an idea. You got any customers? No. Do you have a product? No. Right? So you are very grateful for the people that show up early and kind of walk alongside you as you do this hard stuff.
Rob Collie (00:20:21): So let's talk about the analytics side.
Austin Senseman (00:20:23): Okay. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I've yeah... Do you know something about this?
Rob Collie (00:20:25): I might know a thing or two about that area. Recognizing that you are at your core, a hardware company let's...
Austin Senseman (00:20:35): Yeah. We'll see if we can transition this topic.
Rob Collie (00:20:37): Yeah. Let me see if you can figure it out. I mean like, you know...
Austin Senseman (00:20:40): Okay.
Rob Collie (00:20:42): Let's talk about that. What do analytics look like for this? You guys have a software product that goes with it actually kind of a suite of them, don't you?
Austin Senseman (00:20:50): Yeah. I mean the software is where the value... That's where the human sort of interacts with the product and that's where we drive value. So the core of it, it's just real time data coming off these things, which, we know how useful really that is for people.
Rob Collie (00:21:06): Yeah. I mean, I'm really, really keenly interested in sensor number seven on Tuesday at 7:35 AM. Can we get the temperature every two seconds? Because I really need to know that.
Austin Senseman (00:21:19): You wouldn't be the first person that had asked that. Right? And it's like, okay, well how quickly can your building manage system respond to things? You press the button... I mean, think about your house. These are much larger buildings. The granularity kind of your control system is every 15 minutes, that kind of thing. So people also ask for really precise things. Can you give me a temperature number that's a 10th of a degree? And it's like, well, we can, but again, your control system doesn't even have that level of granularity. So yeah, there aren't levers you can pull where that would be helpful. So...
Rob Collie (00:21:55): Meaning like the HVAC controls that would adjust the temperature?
Austin Senseman (00:21:59): Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah.
Rob Collie (00:21:59): They only accept new input at 15 minute intervals. They're like, sorry, you got to wait until the next train.
Austin Senseman (00:22:04): Well they accept it in real time. Right? But sort of how quickly it can actually... Like think about your house.
Rob Collie (00:22:09): Oh you mean real world...
Austin Senseman (00:22:10): Think about your air conditioner and it takes a while go. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Rob Collie (00:22:13): Oh physical constraint.
Austin Senseman (00:22:15): Yeah. Yeah. The real world.
Rob Collie (00:22:16): Oh how quaint.
Austin Senseman (00:22:17): I know.
Rob Collie (00:22:19): I thought you were a software company. You mean you can't heat the air instantaneously?
Austin Senseman (00:22:27): It is nice to be a software company that is forced to be touching the real world so continuously.
Rob Collie (00:22:33): Yeah.
Austin Senseman (00:22:34): It does inform a sort of discipline.
Rob Collie (00:22:37): Yeah. I mean even the day that I got to witness the first edition of my book being printed...
Austin Senseman (00:22:44): Oh yeah.
Rob Collie (00:22:44): And I got to walk along the assembly line and follow, and this is on YouTube, the video of... I'm like this little kid, running along the assembly line with my phone. Something changed to see, like you've been talking about these formulas and all this virtual stuff. Right? And then like, oh, it's being printed on a real thing. I dig it.
Austin Senseman (00:23:06): Yeah.
Rob Collie (00:23:07): Turns out until you intersect the physical plane, you actually really aren't doing anything are you? Even analytics, eventually product needs to move from warehouse A to warehouse B or something. Right?
Austin Senseman (00:23:19): Yeah. F.
Rob Collie (00:23:20): Or it to have made any difference at all. People need to eat, people need HVAC. There's going to be molecules.
Austin Senseman (00:23:28): But yeah, at P3, we're sort of going in these situations with practical intent. The goal was never, oh man, let's give them a dashboard. I mean, that was part of it. Right? But it was sort of understanding... We spent a lot of time with why, and then is this thing sort of opening a decision loop for you and closing it effectively. And I think all those reps I had doing training and doing jump starts with people, it's made this work I'm doing now... It's made me a lot more effective in this work. It's the same problem, but instead of going to different clients and doing the work, I'm just sort of in the same kind of challenge every day. But it's very much about actionable, valuable information.
Rob Collie (00:24:10): One of the things that we do talk about a lot at P3 is you need dashboards, you need reports, you need things that, that allow you to explore whatever your question is at that particular moment. But you also need alerts that notify you of things that you wouldn't have thought to ask. You wouldn't have thought to drill down. So there's interactive drill down and then there's bubble up. And you need both. As an outsider to your business, and to be clear, we're talking about valuable cultural artifacts that need to be held in a particular range of temperature, humidity, light. I'd never heard about vibration before from you. I think that's fascinating. You get like accelerometers in the hardware too. It would strike me that the balance of ad hoc...
Rob Collie (00:25:03): It would strike me that the balance of ad hoc drill down necessary in your business would be quite a bit less. The pendulum would swing quite a bit more towards the alert side in your analytics, even relative to a normal traditional business. Is that correct? Is it heavy on alerts?
Austin Senseman (00:25:20): It is. And when we first got into this, one of the first things we noticed is the market leader in our space is not a wireless product. Most people have things that they call them data loggers and they're just recording things, but they're not transmitting any data. So when we show up and say, "Oh yeah, last summer the HVAC went out in that storage room, you didn't know for three days, yeah we can absolutely help you with that." I would say that's probably been at least half of the business that we've generated the last year is around use cases like, help me identify a small problem before it becomes a big one. So, that's a lot of it. Yeah.
Rob Collie (00:26:01): So data loggers, that means it's writing to a flash drive or something?
Austin Senseman (00:26:06): Yeah.
Rob Collie (00:26:07): And then you go around and you collect the flash drives.
Austin Senseman (00:26:09): Yeah.
Rob Collie (00:26:09): And then, maybe you're standing in a storage room that is now knee deep in water, taking the flash drive out. That's going to tell you that the humidity is spiked in here.
Austin Senseman (00:26:21): Yeah. It turns out humans are pretty good sensors. You just pay someone to walk around.
Rob Collie (00:26:24): Yeah. I would say that a good half of the problems would probably be noticeable by the person picking up the hard drive.
Austin Senseman (00:26:34): Yeah exactly. It's funny. People who work in collections who do this kind of work they do because they look at these readings a lot and they're in these spaces a lot, they do sort of become pretty accurate humidity monitors. Someone could walk into a room and say, "Oh, I think it's 68% in here." And you look, "Oh yeah, it's pretty close. It's kind of wild."
Rob Collie (00:26:57): We're talking about that, the different kinds of artifacts, different ranges. Or is everything the same? I've got a hunk of wood from the middle ages versus a painting versus a statue. Or is there a sort of a sweet spot that basically everything stays preserved in?
Austin Senseman (00:27:20): Yeah. This is the question in this space. You put your finger on it, right? So historically, there wasn't a lot of evidence for this. And so, you see a lot of stuff from the fifties on. Your humidity should be between 50 and 70 and your temperature should be between 60 and 72 degrees.
Rob Collie (00:27:42): It's a pretty wide range.
Austin Senseman (00:27:44): It's pretty simple. Yeah. But then there's some other little nuances in there, like humidity between 50 and 70, but it really shouldn't move more than 10% in a day or some little things. And there was this sense of a standard, that is slowly being dismantled. The nice thing about it is, very simple to understand. Someone can look at it and say, "Okay." But it doesn't, it's not very reflective of reality, but then how do you say, these metal objects versus this lacquered wood furniture, there hasn't been enough investment in that kind of research. And, because the way that research is happening is people will go and do experiments kind of, "Let's take a piece of furniture and run it." And that's very, there's so many different types of materials that's a really expensive way to solve this problem because you have to test everything one at a time and ...
Rob Collie (00:28:40): I'm also imagining this lottery where you're going along just picking the historical artifacts that are going to be subjected to this AB testing. We're just going to see if the Mona Lisa deteriorates faster or slower.
Austin Senseman (00:28:53): Well, there's some interesting historical pass because of that. So, Eastman, Kodak, and Rochester, there's a university there, the Rochester Institute of Technology, and there's a group there called the Image Permanence Institute and they're focused on the conservation of photographs in film and they do lots of other things outside of that. They do a lot of consulting on conservation. And so, they built one of the early damage models using a pretty specific type of nitrate film. And then, you see that model being used across the whole industry to look at really any type of object, because it's one of the only kind of damage rate models that's out there and used widely, but it's actually not necessarily a good approximation for all these different things, but it just happened to come out of that area where they were focused on it. They had funding to look at it because of all the stuff they had in their collection. So, most collections in the US are benchmarked in themselves against the way a particular type of nitrate film to degrade over time. And ...
Rob Collie (00:30:05): Oh, that sounds so typical, doesn't it? You ever heard the thing about, I mean, I have no idea if this is actually true or not, but I read back in the days when the internet was just a place to forward emails around. It was no social media yet. It stuck with me forever, which is why are train tracks the width that they are? Why are they spaced so many inches apart? And this says, well it's because this other thing before it was spaced the same way and well, why is that one that way? So, it's because this thing before, this thing before, this thing before. It goes back 15 steps and gets back to Roman chariots. Their wheels were that width and they wore ruts in the dirt paths. And so, everything had to conform to those ruts 2000 years later. You were hoping to find out, "Oh no, it's because it's the optimal weight distribution, blah blah, blah."
Rob Collie (00:30:54): Nope. The Romans. There's also a little bit of a chicken and egg here too. If you're not able to really do anything with a standard, with a differing standard, if you're not able to act on it, maybe the precise standards won't even coalesce. There's no reason to develop them until you have the ability to do things like monitoring, really accurate monitoring. It was all that the human beings could do was to keep the whole museum in one state. But I think, with advances and with companies like yours-
Austin Senseman (00:31:29): And with data.
Rob Collie (00:31:30): Yeah. I say companies like yours, but there's really only one of you, maybe that will help accelerate the development of more tailored, precise standards.
Austin Senseman (00:31:42): Well, yeah. I mean, if you look at the reality of having to do experiments and all these different material types and the cost, you're right. How do you prioritize what to do first? The alternative to that is to collect these large data sets to environment and collect data sets around the condition of objects over time and then to come at it more empirically. We have this experiment already running. It's running in every collection around the world. They have a particular environment. They have all these different types of objects. It's already happening. We're just not really collecting the data.
Austin Senseman (00:32:16): And so, we have a natural lab and so conserve can step in. And this is a long term project because this to draw conclusions out, this requires a lot of data, but we think we can come at it empirically without having to go spend enormous amounts of time and money, trying to look at it. And because we're measuring things in collections, we're sort of naturally reflecting people's, the priorities of their collections. Do you have a lot of furniture? Do you have a lot of paintings? These kinds of things. So for a number of reasons, this is a more sensible approach, but you're right. Before people were doing monitoring like this, that just wasn't going to happen.
Rob Collie (00:32:53): Tom, you're a bit of a world traveler. You've probably been to quite a few more countries than I have. Ever been to Stockholm, Tom?
Thomas LaRock (00:33:01): I have not.
Rob Collie (00:33:03): Well, I gave the worst talk of my entire career for the SQL Saturday type organization in Stockholm in 2010. It was terrible. We can talk about maybe some other time, but I guess go to Stockholm and for anyone listening to this and going museum monitoring, blah, blah, blah, blah, you've got to see the Vasa museum in Stockholm. This has really changed the way that I look at your company, Austin, is having had this experience.
Thomas LaRock (00:33:35): The Vasa museum, you said?
Rob Collie (00:33:36): Yeah, the Vasa museum.
Thomas LaRock (00:33:38): Is that where all they have the ABBA collection.
Rob Collie (00:33:41): That's next door. Yeah. The outfits. Yeah. The Vasa is its own really, really interesting engineering story to begin with. But the Vasa museum, imagine one of those giant warship galleons from mastering commander, there's a whole ship like that from that era in this museum. It is insane. And, the light is very low. It is very, very dim in there. If you went from being inside there straight out into the sunlight, you would not be able to see. Your eyes have to really adjust to be in there. It ends up just causing everybody to be quiet in there as well. It's like, you're just kind of walking around and you also know that this thing was the grave for a hundred plus people. This thing sank the pride of the Swedish Navy. It was going to go and really mess up their arrivals. It was like the super battleship of its era.
Rob Collie (00:34:46): It was going to kick ass. And it sank within sight of the Harbor because of poor engineering. It just capsized and sank. Some people survived, but it took a bunch of them to the bottom with it. I forget, it was in the seventies or the eighties. They went and they raised this from the mud. So, when you're seeing this gigantic, you're not looking at a painting, you're looking at this gigantic structure, this warship. And they're telling you, "Look, this thing is trying to fall apart." It is an ongoing day to day war to keep this thing intact. They certainly don't let you walk on it. You get to walk around it as much as you want, but it really brought it home in a visceral way, for me. It's one artifact, but I'm sure they have data loggers all over it. Someday, they will have conserved sensors. They need it. Because who knows? Different parts of that ship are probably decaying at different rates. There's metal parts, there's wooden parts. Who knows? Even the finish on it, I have no idea. It's not one big problem, is it?
Austin Senseman (00:35:59): That's right. Yeah. People that do this work, who are involved in this [inaudible 00:36:03] are fascinating. I mean, they show up with all sorts of backgrounds. I mean, you have to understand chemistry. Well, you have to understand the ethics of what you keep and how you keep it. Some of them are scientist. A lot of people who do this work are also doing restoration work. You have to have good hand skills to maybe retouch a painting or repair something on the ship. So, these are just really interesting people who like a very eclectic range of knowledge about a lot of different things. And Nathan, my business partner, his parents, our museum conservators. So, he's sort of grown up around this. To me, it was just a really pleasant surprise. We looked it and said, "This is a really interesting business." But now that we're in it, it's like, "Yeah." Interesting business. But also, we really, really just like the people we work with, which is a pleasant surprise.
Thomas LaRock (00:36:55): So Rob, quick question for you though. Have you been to Amsterdam?
Rob Collie (00:36:59): I spent an afternoon in Amsterdam as a layover. [Jocelyn 00:37:04] and I went, ran around town. We looked for Vincent Vega. We didn't find him. And then, we went back to the airport and got on another plane. But, did I miss something in Amsterdam?
Thomas LaRock (00:37:15): One of my trips there was an extended one. So, I had time one day and my wife was with me and we went to the Rijksmuseum. Now the Rijksmuseum is really home to a lot of Rembrandt's work. And I learned all sorts of fascinating stuff about Rembrandt, but we were just talking about the appreciation you have when you are physically there. It's the physical world you had mentioned earlier. And we're there, and we're not just seeing the paintings. And, it's also what Rembrandt did. He invented lighting in a certain way, but I'm looking at this painting one day. We're there and it's taking up this entire wall. It's just huge. It's massive. And of course, you were mentioning in the Vasa, that ship, things decay at different rates. And you're looking at this thing, there's just something a little bit different about it.
Thomas LaRock (00:38:09): And then the guide is talking about and they go so. This painting was actually in somebody's house. Somebody had purchased this Rembrandt, this thing that takes up this entire wall, and they had put it in their house, but they didn't quite fit. So, it was too big for where they put it in their house. So, what they did is, they simply chopped off parts on each side of it and just threw that shit away because I didn't need it in order to make it fit. And then when they get it back, they're like, so it's been lost. This painting was bigger at one point and this human, somebody on this earth, just discard the shitty part of this Rembrandt. And, I'm just fascinated that ... So, we talk about the people that you work with, Austin, that are into the conservation. They want to protect all this. And I'm sitting here thinking about this jerk hundreds of years ago that conservation of it, "I own it. I'll do what I want. I don't care. Just chop it up. I'm going to make it fit that wall."
Rob Collie (00:39:17): Yeah. It's not going to leave my possession until I die. And when I'm gone, who cares?
Thomas LaRock (00:39:23): Protect it.
Austin Senseman (00:39:24): So, I don't want this to be a generalization, but it is a little piece of context that you might find interesting. It's exactly this kind of mindset. So some private collectors have this mindset about things. Most don't. It's overwhelmingly, people are very conscientious about this, but there are a lot of people who say, "Yep, I bought this thing and I'm going to enjoy it. If it falls apart, my kids don't get to enjoy it. Well, it's not really for them. It's for me." So, you do see this a little bit. But overwhelmingly, people are more conscientious in a way that they weren't necessarily five or 600 years ago, but you do still see some of that.
Rob Collie (00:40:04): I want to buy one of those really famous pointillism pieces and have myself pointillism air brushed into it, just have myself added. I'm there that day at the park at French park or whatever. I'm just sitting there just kind of, "Hi, how you doing?" because I bought it. I guess, do what I want.
Austin Senseman (00:40:27): Well, now that I'm in this business, I do strongly encourage people to become wealthy and develop art collections.
Rob Collie (00:40:35): Yes, yes. We will base our economy on this.
Austin Senseman (00:40:38): Yeah. So, I would offer that same, same suggestion to everyone on the call.
Rob Collie (00:40:44): And I mentioned the Vasa because it has such a visceral impact on me. And sometimes you just need your gateway drug, so caring about something. In my first marriage, I got dragged through on the honeymoon, every single museum in Rome. And, it was just a big whiff for me. I just did not care. Just didn't do a thing for me, not a bit of it, but then something like the Vasa, I'm just standing there in awe. Everyone's different in terms of what gets their attention. And I'm really into subtlety. Subtlety is something that I really appreciate. And yet, oh yeah. I needed to be hit over the head with a gigantic warship that had been rescued hole from the bottom of the ocean, with a killer story behind it, an engineering failure. That's what it took for me to tune into this.
Austin Senseman (00:41:41): It's like quantity having a quality all of its own. Just needs to be very large.
Rob Collie (00:41:45): Yeah. Very [inaudible 00:41:48] type of thing, completely off topic but similar. Years ago, our family, we went to this Smithsonian Museum of Flight in DC. I've been hearing about predator drones forever. This was 2011, 2012. We went and you've been hearing about this and it's just sort of some cool thing that we have as a country that we can use to keep freedom sqafe. But they had one hanging from the ceiling and I stood there and I looked up at that thing and it is huge. It is so much bigger than you think. And something about seeing it overhead at that size, I turned and looked at my family and said, "This is not a good thing. We did not need this as humans. This is not good."
Rob Collie (00:42:40): My whole perspective changed instantly. It wasn't like I was pro drone, like that. But, I'd sort of, in a way I was kind of numb to it, but then you see it. You're like, "Oh my God, not good." Another one of those life changing experiences. So even me, I'm generally not a museum fan. Every now and then something really grabs me. So, we really need to preserve that predator drone in DC.
Austin Senseman (00:43:13): So people can can have that same shit your pants experience that [crosstalk 00:43:18]. That's good. That's important.
Rob Collie (00:43:18): It is a part of our heritage.
Austin Senseman (00:43:20): Unfortunately, it is. [crosstalk 00:43:21]
Rob Collie (00:43:22): This is how we reign death from on high.
Austin Senseman (00:43:25): This will be sort of over the next few centuries. This will be part of our colonial guilt and we need to keep it front and center.
Rob Collie (00:43:33): We're not even particularly good at colonialism, really. We're not extracting the resources from our colonies in the way that the old powers used to. It's like, we're doing all, paying all the costs and none of the benefit. I just ...
Thomas LaRock (00:43:46): No, I thought it was reverse. We didn't extract, we push things there, for example, nuclear testing in the [inaudible 00:43:53] and all those islands we own.
Rob Collie (00:43:56): Well, I mean, you didn't want that done in Boston, did you?
Thomas LaRock (00:43:58): That's right. That's what I'm saying.
Rob Collie (00:44:00): Apparently, there's a theory that [John Wayne 00:44:02] got his cancer from the nuclear tests out west. It was upstream up wind from where they were filming.
Thomas LaRock (00:44:10): Yeah. And not his six pack a day smoking habit?
Rob Collie (00:44:14): Well, I'm sure that didn't help either. But I mean, imagine the irony of the John Wayne archetype, cultural icon, succumbing to a nuclear test. We were at least equal opportunity. The fascinating thing about some of those nuclear tests is how poor estimated some of the yields were. Both the US and the Soviets had bombs that went off way bigger than they expected. And when they were first testing the thermonuclear fusion weapons, they didn't really think about the fact that ... I don't know too much about it, but there's this less enriched uranium tamper that's used to sort of contain the explosion for just a millisecond so that it can actually go off big. They didn't really think about the fact that that thing was also going to go critical, the whole tamper. And it's like, "Whoa."
Thomas LaRock (00:45:03): So, just the thought of the nuclear though actually makes me think of that as the another [IOT 00:45:12] and an analytics problem. The idea of-
Rob Collie (00:45:16): Yeah. Building hardware is tough.
Thomas LaRock (00:45:17): Knowing that country is doing an underground test just through a center on the other side of the world.
Rob Collie (00:45:22): You can't use the data loggers for the nuclear test because the hard drive is incinerated before you can go collect it. You definitely need a wireless signal for that, but it needs to have a really, really high frequency.
Austin Senseman (00:45:40): We haven't been asked for that particular use case yet.
Rob Collie (00:45:43): Oh, you will be. You will be.
Austin Senseman (00:45:46): Yeah. We do talk about disaster planning and recovery with people, but it's rarely in the context of if the museum gets nuked. We're not going to really be helpful in that situation.
Rob Collie (00:45:58): I read a really Fisher Price business book a long time ago, which is really kind of the only non-fiction book that I'm capable of holding my attention on to finish it. These chapters were one page chapters. It was awesome. It's basically a book for startups. And one of the chapters, one of the one page chapters said, you can never make just one thing. So, on your way to building the thing that you meant to build, you actually end up building a bunch of other things that ended up being useful. And so, there's all kinds of famous pivot stories. Instagram wasn't Instagram, it was something else. And, they had one feature, this one photo sharing feature that had some filters on it that everyone was using to death. And they're like, "Well, let's just throw away the rest of the product and become just that."
Rob Collie (00:46:43): I think Airbnb might have started a similar way. I'm not saying that you're going to get out of the conservation business, but what are some of the other things that you might have accidentally made along the way, like agriculture? Or there other places where your tech could be used, do you think?
Austin Senseman (00:47:00): Thank you for asking my least favorite question.
Rob Collie (00:47:02): Really? This is the least favorite?
Austin Senseman (00:47:05): It's funny, it is because you feel a lot. And I appreciate you asking a question and what you normally feel. I tell someone about my business then about, then they think about it for about five seconds, and then they say, "Oh, you should do all these other things." And so, I appreciate you sort of opening up the dialogue. But, yeah. I mean, we absolutely will find ourselves doing other things once we've earned the right to do those things. The expertise we're generating is around applying IOT to a domain specific type of decision making. And to do that, you can't start off wide. You have to start narrow. And so, I'm like beating people off with a stick. "You should be doing these other things." No, leave us alone. We're going to do this.
Austin Senseman (00:47:57): But yeah, it's sort of limitless, what the opportunities in the startup world though. It's important to be able to distinguish an opportunity from a distraction. And so, we would approach that. It's just another customer discovery problem. I mean, when we were first starting our business, I think we had one of these calls. Initially I just called everyone I knew and I said, "What's an interesting problem." "What do you mean? What's an interesting problem?" Well, I don't know. What's something that's an interesting problem people should be working on? And we did a lot of that just to listen.
Rob Collie (00:48:29): I told you one of mine but let's not disclose it here because sooner or later we need to go do that. We still need to go do that idea. But I'll tell you, I was borderline mortally wounded when you didn't choose my idea. This one's good though. I like this one.
Austin Senseman (00:48:44): It was a good one. And, we heard lots of good ones. So, it really comes down to really our own interest and our ability to be effective. I love markets that people overlook. So all the obvious things we probably aren't interested in. There's a lot going on in agriculture right now. Probably [crosstalk 00:49:05].
Rob Collie (00:49:05): They're not going to become a cannabis monitoring startup. There's a little too much interest there these days.
Austin Senseman (00:49:09): There is. Those are really interesting, by the way, the way that they tune the models in a grow operation. They just put a camera on it and they just optimize it toward a particular color of green and they give it control over everything, the temperature or the water, the nutrients. And it's just trying to drive toward the color of a healthy plant. And that's all they do. That's all they do to optimize the model. It's really interesting.
Rob Collie (00:49:44): You seem to know a lot about this industry.
Austin Senseman (00:49:47): I do. I have friends. I have friends who do that kind of work. I mean, we don't know. We don't know what we're going to do next, but certainly we will have built the muscles right, to go into another fairly narrow problem and be incredibly helpful.
Austin Senseman (00:50:02): Problem. And be incredibly helpful. And man, I just, I love the narrow problems. Because a lot of people are looking at, that's part of the reason I hate this question, they're looking at the size of your market.
Rob Collie (00:50:10): Yeah.
Austin Senseman (00:50:11): And so they're trying to figure out, "Oh, how can the market get as big as possible?" And as the market grows, your ability to focus and serve a particular type of person really becomes diluted. So having a narrow market means we know who our customer is, we can really get deep into their problem. And it's just a lot more fun. We're not in the middle of a $10 billion company right now, right? But that doesn't mean that we can't take the ceiling off as we grow and look at other things.
Rob Collie (00:50:41): I love that, again, it's a business principle from a business book that I never read the whole thing, but I read the synopsis. That the tyranny of, ore... When someone's pressuring you, here's what you should be doing instead. Even if you eventually do get into one of those things, that's mean you have to stop doing the original thing either. When you're a kid, I don't know, maybe not all kids think about this. But when I was a kid, I would think about, "Oh, I understand companies. They get really good at something, they perform a service that the rest of society needs and exchange for that they're able to provide employment to their people."
Rob Collie (00:51:15): And you take this holistic view from a society standpoint and that's what companies are, right? And you grow up and you get exposed to the reality and you get exposed to this thing where, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no money is chasing return. And if you need money for your idea, then your idea better be able to turn into a billion dollar win or it's just not worthy, is it? And there's something really, really sick about that. My dental that the office... And I haven't been to the dentist since COVID because, right? But my dental practice just got bought by private equity. Private equity sees, "Ooh, dental." You got to go twice a year.
Rob Collie (00:52:00): It's a subscription model and you can't avoid it. It's a captive audience. Guess we've done the research and found people don't really like to change the dental practice. Even if the dentist changed, they still like to go to the same building over and over again, it's routine. So this is a place where we can extract cash from the population. And it's like, come on, this is a long ways away from my naive views of what a company should be. Anyway, at P3 we have the benefit and the obstacle that we've never taken any money from any investors. And so we can be more of that other thing, if we want to be.
Rob Collie (00:52:40): The thing that exchanges a service, a valuable, really a valuable service for the world and provides great employment for a really cool kind of person. We still need to view it as a business, but we don't have to be viewing it as this max extract thing. I think as soon as you go max extract, it's when you start to lose your taste for it. Unless extraction is your thing.
Austin Senseman (00:53:05): Yeah. And this is so important for our market, right? Because in our market, we work with nonprofits mostly, right? There's just this background hum, mistrust of private enterprise. And so I've had to wrestle this personally. Because, I'm showing up like, "Yeah, we want to build a valuable business, but we're going to do that by creating value for people. And if we can't do that, then we don't deserve to have a business." So that's, how we think about it. So then you bump into this and it can be a little jarring, you know? And so we've had to really think through then reframe some things about how we talk about our business. And we're doing it in an authentic way. But if I'm raising investment, let's say I raise a million dollars to go work on conservation tools.
Austin Senseman (00:53:53): This other group just got NEH grant of a million dollars to go work on conservation tools and that is celebrated. But over here, it's a little different. And so we are trying to frame up and I think it's true, right? That we are bringing investment dollars into an area to build better tools. And we have a higher bar. Because we have to get people to pay for things. And so we really have to build things that are of a certain quality or else we don't get to play anymore. And the mechanics of private business really force you into focusing on your customers and really being dialed in, especially early.
Austin Senseman (00:54:33): And that kind of energy is really good for the space we're in. But that's not necessarily the initial instinct people have. So we really want to be a partner in this space and we just say things move at the speed of trust, is where we are.
Rob Collie (00:54:51): Ooh. And that's-
Austin Senseman (00:54:51): It is good-
Rob Collie (00:54:52): That's slow.
Austin Senseman (00:54:53): It is slow but-
Rob Collie (00:54:54): Isn't it?
Austin Senseman (00:54:55): We've put an advisory board around the company, right? So these are folks who've worked at MoMA or from conservation programs. They've worked at the Smithsonian, they've worked at other places. Who really believe in what we're doing, who are standing next to us and helping us bridge some of these gaps early. But that's a little bit of our unfair advantage, I think over the next couple years. Is having those people walk alongside us and help us get over some of those barriers.
Rob Collie (00:55:24): We were talking about the investing attitude around this, but there was something else that struck me there, was that the conservation world distrusts private business. And well, yeah. Because private business, especially lately is funded primarily within an extraction.
Austin Senseman (00:55:42): Yeah.
Rob Collie (00:55:42): Mindset.
Austin Senseman (00:55:43): Yeah, yeah, yeah. Absolutely. Absolutely.
Rob Collie (00:55:45): And so there's a parallel here with our business at P3. Which is, how do you tell a prospective customer, partner or client, "We're not predatory"?
Austin Senseman (00:55:56): Right.
Rob Collie (00:55:57): In a way that they will believe you. Because for good reason, they have been conditioned in the BI space. I mean, seriously, I sat around and listened to other executives at other BI firms laughing about how they talk about getting clients pregnant. And there's nothing that they can do. Once we're in there, once we've gotten at first purchase order, we've got them. I was like, "Oh this is gross. Yuck!" So our perspective clients that were evaluating us, I mean they have been burned by that kind of mindset before. Or if they haven't themselves, they certainly have a friend that has.
Rob Collie (00:56:38): How do you say we're not predators and be believed? This is a tricky question, isn't it?
Austin Senseman (00:56:44): Yeah, it is. And it comes down to authenticity on some level. Right. And sort of staying in the game long enough, right? If you can show up and be authentic and you're around long enough where people really can experience that, then you can win. But it can be slow.
Rob Collie (00:57:01): By the way, if you ever need me to join your board of advisors, I'm available. And if your other advisors ask what my qualifications are, "What does this guy know?" You say, "Well, ladies, gentlemen, he's been to the Vasa."
Austin Senseman (00:57:14): Yeah. He has stared into the abyss.
Rob Collie (00:57:17): That's right. He's been to the Vasa, okay? Have you been to the Vasa?
Austin Senseman (00:57:25): 13 years in MoMA, 10 years of the Smithsonian. Visited a museum.
Rob Collie (00:57:29): But I've never made it to Stockholm, which you couldn't have been bothered to go see the Vasa. Could you?
Thomas LaRock (00:57:37): Anybody can visit MoMA, geez.
Rob Collie (00:57:39): Yeah.
Austin Senseman (00:57:39): That's right, that's right.
Rob Collie (00:57:43): Go visit the Vasa, then come back and let's talk.
Thomas LaRock (00:57:48): Now would that work for me? Could I then also say my qualifications are, I know someone who went to the Vasa?
Rob Collie (00:57:56): It's like how for a while, they're like anyone that had anything to do with Sean McVay, the coach of the Rams, right? Was getting a coaching offer.
Thomas LaRock (00:58:03): Yeah.
Austin Senseman (00:58:04): You're right.
Rob Collie (00:58:04): I at one time had lunch with Sean McVay's brother. So I'll be offensive coordinator now for you. Except in that story, Sean McVay is actually qualified. In this story, I've been to the Vasa.
Austin Senseman (00:58:27): You may see if they want to sponsor this episode, Rob.
Rob Collie (00:58:33): That's $50 of mention, Vasa.
Thomas LaRock (00:58:39): They're probably a nonprofit. So they're going to tell you they don't have any money for it.
Rob Collie (00:58:43): That's right, that's right. That's why I set the dollar figure at 50. Some commercial enterprise, we're not going to sell mentions for 50 bucks.
Thomas LaRock (00:58:51): I don't think they're on the Euro. You're going to get paid in like krone or whatever.
Rob Collie (00:58:54): Yeah, Krone. And Swedish Krone at that. Not Danish Krone, Swedish krone.
Thomas LaRock (00:59:00): That's right.
Rob Collie (00:59:00): Yeah. It's Krone everywhere. Tom, you've been stacking them up, let's...
Austin Senseman (00:59:06): I've seen that. You were taking notes?
Thomas LaRock (00:59:07): I've got a few things here.
Austin Senseman (00:59:09): Yeah.
Thomas LaRock (00:59:09): I would love to hear about this interview of death.
Austin Senseman (00:59:13): Yeah.
Rob Collie (00:59:13): The interview of death. Yes. I would love to talk about the interview of death. And Austin was actually one of the first victims, period. But also one of the first successful victims. If, you can have such a thing. This year, we've hired a PR firm to help us get our message out. And one of the stories that we've ended up telling to multiple different media outlets is related to this. It's, how do you hire remotely? How do you effectively hire remotely? And the world's adjusting to this because of COVID. But we were a remote company before it was cool. We've been a remote company from the beginning.
Rob Collie (00:59:50): So one of the many things that Microsoft did for me was, allowed me the opportunity to interview many, many, many, many candidates over the year. Definitely triple digits of interviews. And they also gave you plenty of leeway, no instruction really, there's just certain check boxes you had to check. And so you could go about it however you wanted. I had the opportunity to do it the wrong way for many, many, many years before eventually figuring out a right way that actually worked. Two things that I learned from that process that I will tell anyone, anyone that's starting a business, anyone that's running a business.
Rob Collie (01:00:23): That these are crucial to interviewing, to finding the right people. One of them is, dispense with all of the fluffy stuff. That's like, asking people which Rolling Stone their most like or where do they draw inspiration from, what color defines their person? I mean, I know there's some psychological assessment batteries, these 100 question tests that actually can tell you something relatively useful. But it's qualitative, they don't tell you the yes, no, whether this person can do the job. So then one thing is your interview needs to simulate as closely as possible, the actual job.
Rob Collie (01:00:57): Don't look for secondary indicators of whether they can do the job, go straight at whether they can do the job. And this requires you to do some work. You have to design a test that simulates the job. I'm not sure this works for every job, but for all the jobs I've ever hired for, it turns out it's feasible. And right now we're hiring a copywriter, a web dev and a graphic designer. And we're applying the same philosophy, even though I'm none of those things, I'm kind of a copywriter. So simulate the job. That's number one, number two, set a really, really, really high bar, make it hard. Make it really hard.
Rob Collie (01:01:40): I guess there's a third thing, which is in the course of the test, don't make it just pass, fail. You want to have many, many, many possible grades on it. You want to have a wide range of performance on the test. So there needs to be a lot of layers to the test. If it's just pass, fail, odds are it's either too hard or too easy. You're going to get a lot of either false negatives or false positives. And you have to be willing to let good people that actually, would've been very, very good at the job, you have to accept the fact that some of them aren't going to pass it just by chance. That is hard. That's hard to do as a human being.
Rob Collie (01:02:16): It's especially hard for me. When people get this test from us, it comes with all kinds of disclaimers. Like, please, please, please, please, please, if you don't pass it, please don't take it as a sign that you're not good at Power BI because you're probably awesome. You're probably awesome at Power BI. I do not want anyone to get discouraged as a result of this.
Austin Senseman (01:02:38): I've got to chuckle at that a little bit. I mean-
Rob Collie (01:02:40): Really? You think I want to discourage people?
Austin Senseman (01:02:43): What's the name of this thing?
Rob Collie (01:02:44): Well, we only call it that internally.
Austin Senseman (01:02:46): Oh, I see. I'm not saying you want people to get discouraged by it.
Rob Collie (01:02:53): It's not a predator drone of an interview test. We're not sending it out there to hurt people.
Austin Senseman (01:02:58): Yeah.
Thomas LaRock (01:02:58): Kind of sounds that way.
Rob Collie (01:03:00): Seriously. That's something that... I'm not happy about that part of it. Right?
Austin Senseman (01:03:04): Well, let's call the PR company.
Rob Collie (01:03:07): All right, folks. So let's get back on task now, shall we? It's been one of the three best things that I've done for my own company, is this test. I set the bar very high, I simulated the job, I did all the things that Microsoft taught me to do. It's okay to administer this test remotely, open book, on your own time. Cheat, I don't care. Actually, we design it in a way that you can cheat kind of, but not really. Because it's real, right? In real life, if you were going to be solving a Power BI problem, you are not going to be cut off from Google.
Rob Collie (01:03:41): But if you rely on it, you're not going to do well. It's that way. Do you even remember, Austin? Have you blocked it out?
Austin Senseman (01:03:48): I remember it really well. I mean, remember I didn't just take it, but I was using it to hire people as well. So I was-
Rob Collie (01:03:53): That's right.
Austin Senseman (01:03:54): I probably put 20 people through it myself.
Rob Collie (01:03:58): So you're like the first guy that stands on the doorstep in the movie, Fight Club and endures two days of screaming in your face and everything, right? And abuse and everything. And then as soon as we let you in the house, now you're out there screaming at the next guy.
Austin Senseman (01:04:15): Yeah. I never joined a fraternity, I guess maybe I did, retrospect.
Rob Collie (01:04:21): Kind of did.
Austin Senseman (01:04:22): I remember it very well. And I agree with you. It is probably one of the best things that you did early. Because, what is a consulting company? It's like the talent of the people that you put out in the field and it's a tough job. You have to be able to show up really on day one without a ton of instruction and just be excellent. And that's really what you want, right? You just want to just show up and be excellent immediately. And this exam or this process, it produced that. And man, that sure does make it easier to focus on all the other things about a business if you just solve that problem.
Rob Collie (01:05:04): Yeah. And this folks is actually a huge advantage of hiring remotely. Is that because you're not filtering to a particular geography, you can get a much, much, much greater number of candidates at the opening of the funnel. So if you want to hold the bar super, super high and we have a 2% pass rate, think about that. We've had to screen 50 candidates to find one yes. Well, you're not going to be able to call your shot, you can't even say, "We need to hire someone in Chicago." You can't even name a major metropolitan area because it might just turn out that there actually...
Rob Collie (01:05:40): When you can really get down to it, there just isn't someone in Chicago right now, perhaps.
Austin Senseman (01:05:44): Especially five years ago.
Rob Collie (01:05:46): Especially five years ago.
Austin Senseman (01:05:47): Especially five.
Rob Collie (01:05:50): You can think of hiring remotely and remote work as an obstacle and in some ways it absolutely is. But you can't just fight those obstacles, you've also got to lean into the advantages that it provides you. And our ability to be geographically distributed from the beginning, if we hadn't been, we would've not been able to have the same quality bar.
Austin Senseman (01:06:09): Yeah. And this is not meant to compare myself or anyone who works at P3 to Michael Jordan. But if you watch the last dance, you really got this sense that he always wanted to compete against the best people because that's the only way he knew if he was good. And so I think for people who were really good and are really good at these tools, when you confront this process, you really respond to it positively. Because, you come out of it knowing that you really earned this and that you really are probably one of the best people doing this kind of work in the world.
Austin Senseman (01:06:45): And so there's the poll aspect to it as well. And top performers want to experience that.
Rob Collie (01:06:52): Yeah. I don't want to compare us to Michael Jordan either. Maybe on the court, but he's got a hole in his soul that nothing can ever fill. I think we a little healthier than that.
Austin Senseman (01:07:07): Yeah. I don't know. I mean, I really enjoyed-
Rob Collie (01:07:10): Oh, it's a great documentary.
Austin Senseman (01:07:11): That story. Yeah.
Rob Collie (01:07:12): It's great documentary. But he's both the protagonist and the villain, simultaneously.
Austin Senseman (01:07:16): Oh yeah. And as much as he's the villain in that story, remember he also produced it.
Rob Collie (01:07:21): I know.
Austin Senseman (01:07:21): It's like-
Rob Collie (01:07:22): This is after he filtered out all-
Austin Senseman (01:07:25): Yeah.
Rob Collie (01:07:25): The stuff he didn't want me.
Austin Senseman (01:07:25): That's right.
Rob Collie (01:07:26): To see
Austin Senseman (01:07:27): That's right. But just that sentiment of, unless you're competing against the absolute best person, you don't really know how good you are. I took that away from that. And I really enjoyed that sentiment.
Rob Collie (01:07:40): No, no, no. Don't be silly, I didn't keep Isaiah Thomas off of that team. I mean I hate the guy. I really, really don't like him.
Austin Senseman (01:07:47): Yeah.
Rob Collie (01:07:48): He didn't belong there, but I had nothing to do with it.
Austin Senseman (01:07:52): The other thing I took away from that is his ability to get himself in a peak competitive state, creating these fictional things.
Rob Collie (01:08:08): Yeah.
Austin Senseman (01:08:08): Just to get himself there.
Rob Collie (01:08:10): The fictional bogie man. We have a joke at my house that has now become a joke at our company as well. And I got this from Adam Corolla years ago on his radio show. He was laughing about someone had just won the super bowl and they're in the locker room afterwards. And they're screaming, "Nobody believed in us. Nobody of gave us a chance." They're all angry in the camera, right? And he is like, when did winning become a bad thing? When did winning become a negative thing? You're supposed to get excited and cheer, now you're just screaming.
Rob Collie (01:08:40): But that's one of the ways that has proven to work for sports teams, right? Is to invent and focus on a disrespect.
Thomas LaRock (01:08:50): Always been that way.
Rob Collie (01:08:52): At our house, we do all kinds of silly stuff. We go to the store, we buy a loaf of bread, we bring it back to the car and we throw it in the car and we're like, "Nobody gave us a chance to get that bread. Nobody believed in us."
Thomas LaRock (01:09:10): With pandemic shopping, that actually makes more... Nobody believed we could get this toilet paper.
Rob Collie (01:09:15): That's right.
Austin Senseman (01:09:15): That's right.
Rob Collie (01:09:15): Last toilet paper on earth and is ours.
Austin Senseman (01:09:19): All 50,000 rolls you bought?
Rob Collie (01:09:20): That's right. We're wheeling the pallet out. Giving everyone the finger and saying, "Oh, I wouldn't go in there. They're sold out."
Austin Senseman (01:09:33): Real underdog story.
Rob Collie (01:09:36): Yeah. There is a little bit of that for sure at our business. Because of how many times I was told that our business, the whole way we wanted to approach things, wasn't going to work. And here we are years later it definitely works.
Austin Senseman (01:09:50): Yeah.
Rob Collie (01:09:51): And I do want to circle back with some of those naysayers and do that thing, "You didn't give us a chance, did you?" I mean, and all we really wanted to do was just work the right way.
Austin Senseman (01:10:04): Yeah.
Rob Collie (01:10:05): We didn't want to do something that was bad. We just wanted to do something good. And to people that it would never work.
Austin Senseman (01:10:13): But I think that bubbles up too, in the people that you've hired over the years too. Is you are bringing people into the company who've lived in the shitty parts of the experience, right? They're not only great technically at what they do, but they show up understanding, they've been in an organization and they've tried to affect change and they've struggled with the constraints of how things work. And so they show up really sensitive to the same problems that your customers have and they want to do it in the right way. And something about this interview and hiring process, seemed to capture that as well. Even though, that really wasn't-
Rob Collie (01:10:54): Yeah.
Austin Senseman (01:10:55): Part of the test. You got the right cultural fit too.
Rob Collie (01:10:59): It's weird.
Austin Senseman (01:11:00): It's pretty wild.
Rob Collie (01:11:01): It was completely unintentional. I literally designed the test to just find that the people who could do the job. And yet, the people who pass it are all just phenomenally good people. And I mean well above average, in terms of how much you enjoy interacting with them, there are levels of integrity. It's so strange that things correlate so strongly with success on the test that isn't looking for that stuff at all. I don't think I could do that again. I don't think I could luck into that. I mean, I did luck into that. I still don't understand why that is. I certainly appreciate and welcome it and love it.
Rob Collie (01:11:45): Some of us, we do like to say that even though we don't have a central office, if we had one, it'd be a good place to hang out. We would like to go there, it'd be fun. Maybe someday.
Austin Senseman (01:11:54): Productivity would go down 20%.
Rob Collie (01:11:57): Probably. Mostly because of me walking around saying, "Hey, have you been to the Vasa?"
Austin Senseman (01:12:06): Rob.
Thomas LaRock (01:12:10): "Oh shit, here comes Rob again. We're going to talk about the Vasa."
Rob Collie (01:12:13): Quick, hide!
Austin Senseman (01:12:14): Show that Vasa fake tattoo you got just to get him out of here.
Rob Collie (01:12:20): Yes, Rob, we know. We know they made it too top heavy. They didn't make the keel wide enough. Yes, you've told us.
Thomas LaRock (01:12:27): Yeah, people died. Yeah, we know.
Rob Collie (01:12:29): It was an engineering failure. Yes, we know.
Thomas LaRock (01:12:34): I really did things move at the speed of trust. And I know Rob commented saying that's slow, but I don't think that's a bad thing. And you know what happens fast? You can lose trust really fast.
Austin Senseman (01:12:46): Yeah.
Thomas LaRock (01:12:47): It takes a long time to build that at trust, but it's so worth the journey to get there. And I don't think that's a bad thing that it's so slow. But you can lose it all in the minute.
Rob Collie (01:12:58): I completely agree. Distrust is damn near instantaneous, it travels very quickly.
Thomas LaRock (01:13:03): And you were just talking about your business and hiring all those good people. And I remember the times that we've talked about the phrase, "It's not personal, it's just business." And how much it's always personal.
Rob Collie (01:13:16): Yeah.
Thomas LaRock (01:13:17): It's always personal. If you give me that line, that means you prefer money over my relationship with you. And that might be good for you, but I thought we had something special.
Rob Collie (01:13:30): Yeah. In the episode that we recorded with Paul, he said, "What is a company, other than the people?" I complete... It is, right? What is there other than personal? You take the people away, what you got? Interesting. A lot of nothing, right? So usually when someone says it's not personal, it's just business. They're just trying to justify and sidestep responsibility for something. It might be that you still needed to do the same thing. Strange, I got into an argument with an applicant for the copywriter over email the other day. It was hilarious.
Rob Collie (01:14:06): I've actually been thinking about trying to like screenshot it and make it shareable. It's hilarious.
Austin Senseman (01:14:10): Is this about simulating the job?
Rob Collie (01:14:13): Well, no. He picked it up on this, on the job board. And I sent him a note saying, and it was a templatized note saying, 'Hey, would you mind heading over to this link and filling out the actual application?" Because, he just picked up on a job board right? And he replied back and said, "Yeah, actually I do mind." And that was it. So I sent him a note saying, "LOL, have a good day", whatever, right? But then someone else pointed out that it might be a scam, that they weren't going to click the link. And I was like, "Oh, okay." So I'll circle back to the person and showed them that we're real and it's not a scam, right?
Rob Collie (01:14:44): So I circled back to guy and said, "Hey, listen. I've been pointing out some people might think it's a scam. But look me up, I'm real. This is real." Whatever, right? And he still insists that it might... He's like, "No, I'm not going to do that", right? I'm not going to click the link, whatever, right? Of course if you clicked links before to get to this job site, whatever. Again, I just...
Rob Collie (01:15:03): Of course, he clicked links before to get to this job site, whatever. Again, I just kind of wrote him off. But then I realized he actually had applied the day before he had clicked. I looked and he's in my system. He had clicked the link and filled out the application and he was telling me that he wouldn't click links. I couldn't resist. Replied back and said, "Hey, check it out. It turns out you do click links." I pasted one of his answers back to him and it was an obnoxious answer. He was so arrogant and abrasive, and he used the wrong version of it's in a copywriter application. So I said, "Look, you do click links. And I disqualified you for being abrasive and arrogant and using the wrong version of it's." And then he came back and said, "I'm still not going to click the link."
Thomas LaRock (01:15:46): That's awesome.
Rob Collie (01:15:46): And he said, "It's nothing personal." I reply back, "It's always personal. Have a good day."
Austin Senseman (01:15:58): It's that level of engagement in the hiring process. You're not going to get that. You're not going to get just left in the dark, right? You're going to hear it.
Rob Collie (01:16:09): We want you to have a good experience with this. We want you to know that we care.
Austin Senseman (01:16:13): What you need to hear is we want you to have an experience.
Rob Collie (01:16:18): We've had a lot of great candidates and applicants to that position and we really do. But it's just like every now and then you run into someone out there just like, "Oh right. Humans, very diverse. Wide range." So one thing we didn't talk about, I want to make sure we do, is you are a Power BI guy at our company.
Austin Senseman (01:16:37): Yeah, yeah. Definitely.
Rob Collie (01:16:37): And so of course it would be natural for Power BI to be part of your... You mentioned the analytics is really what you do. What the values created, and I agree. Except that I love those sensors. I know the answer to this. You tried to use Power BI for this. There were some constraints that you ran into that people might not expect. Can we talk about that a little bit?
Austin Senseman (01:16:58): Yeah, absolutely. So let's say this was last summer 2019. So at this point we didn't have paying customers, right? It was early in the product development. But the analytics experiences, the central experience of our application, right? We had sensors giving us data. We were building the application. We had users we were getting feedback from. And so at this point, it's just me and Nathan. Nathan's our only developer. And it just seemed faster in that moment to embed Power BI in our application, because then I could move quickly. Because a lot of it's testing stuff is like, "Is this the kind of chart you want to see? Oh you wanted to see a year over year. You mean like this?" it was a lot of these kind of problems. And so it was just easier for me to crank through those things.
Austin Senseman (01:17:42): And so Nathan agreed, right? This would help us do product discovery faster. And so we got it all set up and it was quite a process. I don't know what's happened in the interim, but at that point, most of the documentation wasn't correct, right? So it was like read the Microsoft documentation, try it, go to stack overflow, find the actual answer.
Rob Collie (01:18:06): And this is specifically for Power BI embedded, right?
Austin Senseman (01:18:08): Power BI embedded. Yeah, yeah. I mean all the other pieces of it I'm extremely comfortable with, but how do we embed this into a cloud application? So what do you have to figure out? You have to figure out the security model, right? And how our users who are already authenticated in our application, how that gets passed through. And we were using a Postgres database in Amazon. And importantly we were presenting relatively real time data to people, right? So refreshing every hour, that wouldn't work. So we sort of ran into a number of constraints around having authenticated real time data in front of people. We got most of that sorted out. I ran into some modeling challenges around time, right? Because for a lot of the BI work we do, I've done historically. Time doesn't deeply enter into things. But for us it's just right at the forefront.
Austin Senseman (01:19:03): So it's relatively hard to model time well and power behind the data model, especially when you're talking about a bunch of different time zones and getting it all lined up correctly. It was hard. And it was hard at a level of detail, right? It's like, "Do you handle this in the Dax? Or do you handle it like in power query as it's coming to through?" That'll make sense that people understand that. But we got sorted through all that stuff. I guess from last summer, through the end of last year, we were using power behind the application and it went reasonably well. At some point it was just too expensive is what I would say. And then at that point, the buy and build decision changes and it got a little expensive. And we also ran in some features that customers wanted that weren't going to make sense for us to build them in Power BI.
Austin Senseman (01:19:59): And so we made a decision early this year, which feels like about 10 years ago at this point, too sort of build our own. But that was an easy transition. And I guess the short story is we used Power BI embedded as a product and customer discovery tool early. Cause we could iterate so fast. Someone could ask for a feature while I'm talking them on the phone and 10 minute later we're looking at it. Which is what we would do at P3 when we were building things for people. It's very natural. In our case, it doesn't seem like the kind of thing for an early stage startup to use.
Rob Collie (01:20:36): Well, it kind of depends on how you're using it. Of course, right? Like you mentioned, I want to say one of, maybe the absolute strength of Power BI is that it's ready for anything essentially. In most business environments tomorrow's questions are not remotely anticipatable. You have no idea what you're going to need to know tomorrow. And that's just reality and the system is ready for that. But once your needs stabilize, if you've got a predictable set of needs, the flexible system isn't necessarily going to deliver that same last 1% of polish on that dedicated set of need that a completely custom set of software will do. Like when we talk with like Brad and Kai from Agree, one of their problems forever was that they had software developers lying around.
Rob Collie (01:21:28): They just had software developers at their beck and call at all times. And so they never really understood in those days what the advantage of Power BI was because like, "What do you mean I can't answer these questions? I can just go ask one of 50 developers to go do it for me." But it does kind of flip, it flips back. Without pigeonholing your business, I can absolutely imagine that the needs of your customers become very, very, very specific and well known after a while. As opposed to random ad hoc. It's not like my questions are going to really change tomorrow so much. Right? I might add to my collection, but I have the same questions, the same things I need to know about that wing of the museum. I just opened as I did the other wing. But the cost that's really interesting, right? That Power BI embedded, it sounds like ultimately cost was the number one. Maybe you would eventually gone a hundred percent custom anyway, but like the monthly expense kind of forced your hand before anything else.
Austin Senseman (01:22:31): Yeah. I mean the way the tiers are set up. I think people who've worked with Microsoft for any period of time sort of understand how the pricing models are put together. It starts with a fairly expensive product for relatively large enterprises and then they work their way back into how to serve smaller companies. And I think that's a good model. You have people paying quite a bit more upfront as you develop the product and then you democratize a little bit more. That lowest tier hasn't made it far enough down I think in my opinion. There's a bit of a immediate step up to whatever it was $10,000 a month, or whatever it was. And so that's not a price point. I mean, when I say startup, right? If you're like a VC back startup, but that doesn't feel like a lot. But if you're kind of bootstrapping it early, I'm going to go and get Power Pivot out at that point, right? And just make some stuff and show it to people. And we'll just try to sort out the software separately.
Austin Senseman (01:23:29): I would recommend that they have a look at that. I mean, there are high step ups in a lot of cloud services. Like AWS certainly has them, but AWS showed up and said, "Hey Conserve, here's $50,000 of AWS credit." Great. Keep the price whatever you want. Great. And Microsoft had a program like that for a long time. They've really restricted that program now, you have to be part of a particular accelerator, this and that. If we could have accessed funds like that, it would've extended our runway with that product considerably. Which is good because then by the time we had revenue or further along and we could afford it at that point, maybe we would just transition and keep using it. But they've sort of taken that model away from startups, unfortunately. But that's a powerful way to get people to adopt.
Rob Collie (01:24:21): There's a really interesting twilight zone that they've created in their pricing. I often will say that because they price for the enterprise, they accidentally under price for the small and mid-market. The pro license, like $10 a month per user. When you've got a relatively small organization in terms of decision makers, like five people that need access to this? $50 a month. Like Microsoft is losing money on that. They have to be. I actually think that it's a screaming deal for the mid market. It's just that with embedded, right? You've got to step up to the multi-thousand dollar minimum a month. That changes things.
Austin Senseman (01:25:04): And to be clear, we use Power BI in the operations of our business every day. Like all of our system health metrics, our sensors online. We are looking at that constantly and it just really works well in the tempo of running our business.
Rob Collie (01:25:18): I'm not surprised. How many pro licenses does it require?
Austin Senseman (01:25:24): I think we have three.
Rob Collie (01:25:26): Three, yeah. Three, that's $30. $30 a month.
Austin Senseman (01:25:31): There's plenty of software that we pay for that delivers a 10th of the value that is five times as much.
Thomas LaRock (01:25:38): So the way pricing sometimes shakes out, it always has me scratching my head and I think there's another angle to it. So the first thing I would ask is, "How much is tab, low cost?" So if they're trying to get market share for companies of Austin size and just a few users, they just want to make sure are not turning to Tableau for anything in your business. But with the embedded stuff, well is that even an option for Tableau? Like what does that end up costing? So that's one aspect. And what I compare it to is that time when SQL server changed its licensing and they went from basically server and they said, "We just charge you for the server. That's it." And then they went to core licensing. And at that moment, the price for SQL server kind of got jacked a little bit.
Thomas LaRock (01:26:23): And it was all people waving their hands, "Oh my god, my god." Now they were like half as much as Oracle, instead of being like 10 or 20% of an Oracle. They were like half as much. So the analyst and everybody's like now the SQL server seems to be a real player in the database where I'm like, "All they did was raise their price." It's the idea. You can bake a pie and if you sell it for two bucks, it's a piece of shit. But if you sell it for 20 bucks, this is a gourmet pie. It's just weird to me how that sometimes has that effect on people in the back of their mind like, "Oh, look at the price of this thing. It's got to be worth it."
Rob Collie (01:26:58): Yeah. We should just add a zero to all of our pricing at P3.
Austin Senseman (01:27:02): You know this story, this happened with one of our customers. You may remember who this was. We don't have to say the name, but.
Rob Collie (01:27:07): Oh, I do vaguely. Yes, I do.
Austin Senseman (01:27:10): We quoted a deal for someone. It was a relatively big project, right? But we knew our tempo and what we could do. And so we came back and said, "We can do this for $30,000." And this guy just started laughing. He was like, "No, no. It's got to be at least $100,000 or they're not going to take it seriously." So I said, "I think it's going to cost us $100,000 to get this done." And he said, "Okay, good. That's what I'll tell him."
Rob Collie (01:27:40): Nuts, right?
Austin Senseman (01:27:40): It was an international project. And so he took a lot of that budget and he wasn't planning on doing this, but then he was like, "Well, I'll just travel to each one of these sites." Like Singapore, Melbourne, London. So he of visited all the teams, as part of the project. But that was actually good. It got a lot of buy-in from all the DBAs at all these places. And then when we were ready to work. But it was eye opening. People do think that way.
Rob Collie (01:28:07): Well, 100,000. That's an interesting number that just came up. That's exactly what you just won in that grant competition, right? And you know what I recommend you do in the age of COVID I think you should charter a private jet to Stockholm. And go see the Vasa.
Austin Senseman (01:28:26): What are you doing?
Rob Collie (01:28:27): I don't even take you seriously. You say you're in the conservation visit, but you haven't seen the Vasa yet.
Austin Senseman (01:28:32): What are you doing over the holidays?
Rob Collie (01:28:35): I could probably squeeze in a trip to Stockholm on a private jet. You think we could fit that into 100k budget? You said that the money came with no strings.
Austin Senseman (01:28:43): Yeah, that's right. That's right. The only string is you- And this is why it's an economic development program. But we do have to keep the company here in Alabama for five years I think.
Rob Collie (01:28:54): Oh, wow. You're not you weren't going anywhere.
Austin Senseman (01:28:57): Yeah.
Rob Collie (01:28:58): I mean, other than Stockholm.
Austin Senseman (01:29:01): Yeah. Yeah. Sure, sure. I have a hard time as a business owner celebrating appropriately, right? So I just always feel like there's more work to be done. Like we just had a great week. We won $100,000 and this pitch competition is a ton of work. And sometimes it's hard to take a victory lap because you're like, "Okay, great. I got this money time to go get to work." And sometimes it can be hard to like stop and say, "Wow, we've really done a lot." I did take a moment with my team because in filling out this competition application we were looking back at the last 18 months and it was really an incredible feeling. Because last August it was Nathan and I, we didn't have any paying customers. We didn't have a product that really worked. We certainly didn't have any revenue and this kind of stuff.
Austin Senseman (01:29:44): And you know, fast forward 12 months-ish we have about 20 paying customers. We have some recurring revenue. We don't just have customers, we have a lot of people who are really fans of our business. Our products evolved a lot. And if you don't pick your head up sometimes and just look at all that you kind of just get lost in just how much hard work it is. We've just made an incredible amount of progress.
Austin Senseman (01:30:07): I think that's why we won this pitch competition this week. It's the work we've put in. And we started off with a bunch of assumptions and now we've validated a lot of them. And then it's looking ahead at where we want to go. And these people feeling like we had a very realistic plan to do the things we want to do, but man. I don't pick my head up enough and sort of look at sort of the arc of things. But it's really powerful to every now and then. And certainly the team needs to hear that as well. That man we've just really done a lot of good work.
Rob Collie (01:30:45): You know how earlier we're talking about how trust is slow, but distrust is fast. I think it's kind of a parallel here, which is that like winds happen in slow motion. Losses can happen fast. There's almost never the moment, the split second where the wind happens. You'll go and you'll give the pitch and you'll feel like you did well. And then you'll sort of get some indications that you're okay. You're probably in the top two. And by the time you find out for real, that you actually won you've had enough signals that you're probably heading that direction. You don't even have the moment. Maybe with this particular competition is not like that. But so many business wins happen like that. The period of the victory itself gets dilated out over time. And so like there's never a point to go "Yay."
Austin Senseman (01:31:38): Yeah. In this competition there is a moment where they give you the big check and yeah, you did win. But even then, I mean you're right. That sense of this happened because of what I've done, and my team has done waking up every day for the last year and just sort of being in the middle of it.
Rob Collie (01:31:54): Yeah. Wins like that. Wins in general are only appreciable in hindsight. It is hard to feel them in the moment.
Austin Senseman (01:32:00): I think you need someone on your team. All of us, right? I'm just thinking about this. Someone whose job it is to like sort of stop you and say, "We should celebrate." When I say celebrate, it's not go out and have a party, but it's just to like take a minute.
Rob Collie (01:32:12): You need a hyper. You need some of the hypes.
Austin Senseman (01:32:15): Someone to appreciate what's happening.
Rob Collie (01:32:16): Yeah. And they probably could also use the cliche. Like "I told you, nobody believed in us. We did it anyway. Give us a chance to pull this off."
Austin Senseman (01:32:27): That is exactly what I'm talking about.
Rob Collie (01:32:30): Someday we'll be big enough we can hire that as a full-time job. For now we'll have to outsource it.
Austin Senseman (01:32:34): It sounds like someone's running your company that kind of does that, Rob.
Rob Collie (01:32:38): I might do that from time to time.
Austin Senseman (01:32:40): Yeah. I thought so.
Rob Collie (01:32:42): I might have added a nobody believed in us custom emoji to our slack.
Austin Senseman (01:32:50): I'm making a little note right now. That's fantastic.
Rob Collie (01:32:53): Yeah. You track it down. You just colon, nobody believed in us.
Austin Senseman (01:32:57): Is it a true story? That the picture of my face emoji is still on there.
Rob Collie (01:33:01): Yeah, it's still there. And of course, because the custom emojis are sort of by alphabetical order. Every time I go look at the custom emoji list, Austin is first.
Austin Senseman (01:33:09): Can I ask in what context that that is used?
Rob Collie (01:33:12): I don't think we've used it very often. I'm sorry.
Austin Senseman (01:33:14): That's great news. That's what I wanted to hear.
Rob Collie (01:33:17): No. I mean maybe when someone is complaining about Pardot, we'll slap an Austin on there. But when someone's appreciating our hiring process and the Breezy automation that you also set up, we'll slap the Austin emoji on that as well, just to keep things balanced. Because that is awesome.
Thomas LaRock (01:33:31): I just found it. That is awesome.
Austin Senseman (01:33:33): Oh yeah. Rob, for people that don't know this, he hates software.
Rob Collie (01:33:39): I do. I really do.
Austin Senseman (01:33:40): And so when you're trying to bring efficiency into a company... There's this one relationship between software and efficiency. But you can imagine more software comes into play. And I had like a relatively low hit rate with software, right? We would introduce something, right? And Rob would be like, "What is this?" And maybe Breezy could sponsor part of this episode as well. That hiring platform definitely was a win.
Rob Collie (01:34:10): Oh totally.
Austin Senseman (01:34:12): Yeah. I'll just do that a little more scale for sure.
Rob Collie (01:34:14): We did a case study with them.
Austin Senseman (01:34:16): Oh good. Okay.
Rob Collie (01:34:17): Yeah. That was one of the things that we did as part of our PR effort was we went back and we're on their website as a case study because we love it.
Austin Senseman (01:34:25): Yeah. Well it got it out of your inbox.
Rob Collie (01:34:28): Indeed. The mistake that an Austin will make is committing to Pardot too soon, right?
Austin Senseman (01:34:36): We didn't need that at all. Talk about a sequence of things, right? Knowing what I know now you're going back. I know in my business, I'm not going to need something like that for two more years.
Rob Collie (01:34:45): Yeah. But the mistake that I will make is not getting Breezy, right?
Austin Senseman (01:34:50): Yeah.
Rob Collie (01:34:53): You can try to cast these things with strengths or weaknesses, but they're really just traits. That lead you to places
Austin Senseman (01:34:59): Well, I'd like to say there's some learning that happens along the way too.
Rob Collie (01:35:02): Of course. Of course. Yeah, absolutely.
Rob Collie (01:35:05): Well, Austin, I have enjoyed the heck out of this. This has been great.
Austin Senseman (01:35:07): This has been great. Yeah. Thank you for having me.
Thomas LaRock (01:35:10): It was all right.
Rob Collie (01:35:12): Tom's here, he's the opposite of our hype man. He's like "Yeah, no one believed in us and they were right."
Thomas LaRock (01:35:19): And they still don't. They still don't, Rob.
Austin Senseman (01:35:21): Especially me.
Rob Collie (01:35:22): We suck, yeah. Worst podcast ever.
Thomas LaRock (01:35:28): All of this could have been an email.
Austin Senseman (01:35:31): You have had some great guest on. So my expectation with a lot of things in life is if I'm just the average quality guest, then that feels like a big success to me.
Rob Collie (01:35:42): I think we can safely say that you were at par.
Thomas LaRock (01:35:44): I'm going to say you affected the average.
Austin Senseman (01:35:46): Thanks Tom. Thanks Tom.
Thomas LaRock (01:35:47): You hae changed the average.
Rob Collie (01:35:51): Notice the lack of a directional component.
Austin Senseman (01:35:54): Incredibly ambiguous. Yeah. I'm an outlier in some way.
Rob Collie (01:35:58): The average before this is not the same anymore.
Austin Senseman (01:36:01): We'll let the listener decide.
Rob Collie (01:36:02): We will, we will. Let the market decide.
Austin Senseman (01:36:07): Yeah. Thanks for having me. This has been great. I've been really worked up this week with all the stuff we had going on and this was a fantastic way to spend the morning.
Rob Collie (01:36:16): All right.
Thomas LaRock (01:36:17): I agree.
Austin Senseman (01:36:19): When will I be getting my check for doing this?
Rob Collie (01:36:22): I don't know, man.
Thomas LaRock (01:36:23): Well, you're not getting anything until you visit the Vasa, apparently.
Austin Senseman (01:36:26): I see.
Rob Collie (01:36:28): I need a picture of you in front of the Vasa holding Stockholm's newspaper. Not from today, because you're not there, but I need it to be at some time in the next two days.
Thomas LaRock (01:36:37): And then the check is in the mail.
Rob Collie (01:36:38): A man with means such as you, you can be anywhere in the world. You want to be.
Austin Senseman (01:36:42): I can be on Upwork for a Photoshop person pretty quickly. That's what you're asking.
Rob Collie (01:36:52): All right, guys. This is great.
Thomas LaRock (01:36:53): Yeah.
Rob Collie (01:36:53): Thank you so much.
Announcer (01:36:54): Thanks for listening to the raw data by P3 podcast. Find out what the experts at P3 can do for your business. Go to powerpivotpro.com. Interested in becoming a guest on the show? Email Lukep L U K E P at powerpivotpro.com. Have a data day.
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