As an entrepreneur, creating new paths and making mistakes are part of the expected journey and adventure that we can face. Taking risks, especially those that don’t pay off when launching a tech product, it can become a very rocky adventure for a startup. These rocky experiences can lead to problems, business mistakes, or even the common technical issues that surround the product you’re trying to produce. And this all ends up as a waste of the entrepreneur’s most valuable resources: time and money. So how can entrepreneurs turn those rocky entrepreneurial mistakes into a more significant learning opportunity?
Our guest on today’s episode of the Powderkeg podcast is one who has faced all the challenges when it comes to the common and rocky entrepreneur’s journey. PJ Taei, is the Founder and President of Washington DC-based Uscreen, a video-on-demand company that helps people launch their own apps and online video streaming service.
PJ is a serial entrepreneur and an expert in video streaming and monetization. PJ started his career as a network technician and founded a company called WebNet Hosting, that he built for 14 years until it was acquired back in 2016. PJ then shifted his focus over to Uscreen. Uscreen’s platform is home to over 5,000 video creators, enabling them to monetize their passions – from education to fitness, to yoga, and much more.
Throughout this episode, you’ll get to hear PJ discuss his role as an entrepreneur, his personal experiences with overcoming challenges of making mistakes and how he turned them into learning opportunities, and his current role as Founder and President of Uscreen. Find out more about how PJ and his team are disrupting the video-streaming service industry with their platform, Uscreen. Tune in for more!
In this episode with PJ Taei, you’ll learn:
- How to turn failures and mistakes into learning opportunities
- The challenges of creating successful video content
- How to grow your personal brand and become a thought leader in your niche
- The best ways to succeed in building useful and engaging software
- Get an inside look at Washington DC tech ecosystem
Figuring out your next career move doesn’t have to be so stressful. So why not try Powderkeg Matches?
By joining Matches, you’re joining a community of thousands of top professionals in the Powderkeg community to get connected with outstanding people at the hottest tech companies between the coasts. Get matched with great employers, land your next major opportunity, and get started today!
Please enjoy this conversation with PJ Taei!
- Listen to it on iTunes.
- Stream by clicking here.
- Download as an MP3 by right-clicking here and choosing “save as.”
If you like this episode, please subscribe and leave us a review on iTunes. You can also follow us on Soundcloud or Stitcher. We have an incredible lineup of interviews we’ll be releasing every Tuesday here on the Powderkeg Podcast.
PJ Taei quotes from this episode of Igniting Startups:
“So you just got to find the right people. That’s why we hire remotely. It’s really easy to find people really fast and good people so you can filter.” — @pjtaei on @Powderkeghq
“So I’m excited to really grow the company. We’ve built something really solid. Our software is pretty awesome. The users that are with competitors, they come and they’re like, this is amazing. So we like that, but we want to stay humble, and paranoid, to continue to build software that we’re proud of.” — @pjtaei on @Powderkeghq
“So imagine you spend all that money building that code and then ultimately is trashed. But I actually didn’t see it that way to be honest for a moment I thought about it. You know, that’s why I bring it up, but I didn’t see it like that. I looked at it as an education. I got an education. I spent 100K, I got an education. I got something to the market.” — @pjtaei on @Powderkeghq
“I’m excited about growth. I’m excited about health and all the other good stuff that’s happening and so much opportunity in tech. It’s awesome. I don’t think it’s ever going to be this prime to have this much opportunity and tech. Honestly, this is prime time for the next three to five years.” — @pjtaei on @Powderkeghq
Links and resources mentioned in this episode:
Companies and organizations:
Did you enjoy this conversation? Thank PJ on Twitter!
If you enjoyed this session and have 3 seconds to spare, let PJ Taei know via Twitter by clicking on the link below:
What stood out most to you about what PJ Taei shares in this podcast?
For me, it’s how to overcome challenges of making mistakes and how to turn them into learning opportunities.
You? Leave a comment below.
To subscribe to the podcast, please use the links below:
To download the PDF file for the full transcript of this podcast, please use the link below:
If you have a chance, please leave me an honest rating and review on iTunes by clicking here. It will help the show and its ranking in iTunes incredibly! Thank you so much!
PJ Taei 00:00
There’s so much opportunity in tech right now. It’s unbelievable. So if you know how to build a company, or you can figure it out which most people can you get in, it’s a puzzle, you don’t give up, you’re just hustle. Then in that aspect, there’s a lot of opportunity.
Matt Hunckler 00:28
This is episode 131 of the powder keg podcast, the show for entrepreneurs, leaders and innovators building remarkable tech companies in areas decidedly outside of Silicon Valley. I’m your host, Matt Hunckler. And today, I have a very special conversation that I had this past December with PJ tie who’s from Washington DC. PJ is the founder and president of Uscreen, a video on demand company that helps people launch their own apps and online video streaming service. This is a relevant conversation, it was relevant when I recorded it back in December, it might be even more relevant now. Because we talked a lot about video we talked about how businesses can be using video, and the future of all things video. I’m recording this video here on April 1 2020. So we’re almost three weeks into social distancing as part of this global pandemic, and the Coronavirus. I’ve spent hundreds of hours already on video, I’m sure you have as well. So you see the direction this is going so many companies are trying to figure it out video right now. And Pj is a serial entrepreneur and an expert in video streaming and monetization. And he started his career as a network technician, and founded a company called Web net hosting, which he built for 14 years until it was acquired in 2016. But that’s when he shifted his focus to use Screen he kind of uncovered a big opportunity. And we talked about it here on the show. Their platform is now home to over 5000 video creators and enables them to monetize their passions from education, to fitness, to yoga, and so much more. Hope you enjoy this conversation and you learn a lot out of it. Please feel free to share what you learn with me on Twitter, or on Instagram. I’m just at Hunckler Hu NCKL. Er would love to hear from you. And here’s PJ, how old were you when you moved to the DC area?
PJ Taei 02:19
Yeah, so I was originally so I grew up in Maryland, I was seven. And then I lived in Arlington for a while because we’re in a tri state area and our offices now in DC pretty central near Dupont Circle. I think we’ve had our Uscreen office here because most of our team is remote. It’s just me the CTO and our marketing leads or our management team. We’ve been here about three years now three and a half years. We’re in a we work.
Matt Hunckler 02:43
Nice, nice. Very cool. We we are also office out of a co working space here in Indianapolis called industrious. I think they’ve got some great locations that they’re in DC to.
PJ Taei 02:54
I’ll check that out. I’ve never heard of them. Yeah, that oh, they’re fantastic.
Matt Hunckler 02:57
We liked them a lot. But certainly we work has some great spaces do. But I’m eager to hear about your career and just learn a little bit more about how you navigated tech, and also the big opportunity you’re seeing right now in video. Can you tell me a little bit about your earliest memories of technology and, and even a lot of times I find that the entrepreneurs in particular, get bitten by that entrepreneurial bug early on, even before they start their career? Was that the case for you?
PJ Taei 03:26
Yeah, that’s interesting. They say that. Well, I absolutely have a pretty good experience with technology early on, primarily because my dad he was doing computer sales work for a company in Arlington doing computer sales. So I was about 1213 I think when I sold my first computer was an HP. Just big keyboard and just very heavy tower. It was actually a desktop tower. And then I was lucky because my dad was reselling computers. So he started to bring in because he would custom build machines, right? No one does custom build right now unless you have a gaming or something like that. But I would actually put together the motherboard hard drives, put them at RAM in and all that stuff. I did that with my dad, I probably built honestly no exaggeration, few 100 desktop machines over time towers and desktops. And this was in the 90s. So that gave me experience early on with computers.
Matt Hunckler 04:22
What did you like most about that experience? Or did you like doing it at the time?
PJ Taei 04:27
Yeah, since I didn’t actually like it. I was in my early teens, 1314 years old. And I always liked hardware. I’ve always been technical, but I didn’t like it too much because my dad’s office. And I was told myself that I would never want to be stuck in an office with like limited windows and stuff like that. It was just kind of a basement unit. Not many windows. Not a lot of light came in. I was very quiet and I was just like man, I would never want to work in somewhere like this. So I think I didn’t like the environment. But my dad was really cool. And he taught me a lot and then I obviously started in a bay Smit both my companies and I was like holy ground doing the same thing and basement type unit with no light and all that. I didn’t care. I wanted to build a company I it was the least of my concerns. After that, I actually went to Best Buy. And then I went to CompUSA, which went out of business and Best Buy. I was at Geek Squad. I was actually but it was called PC techs then. Okay, PC technicians, then Geek Squad was a brand and it really grew. So, obviously I took that experience, went to CompUSA and then did contracting for a while, like you said, As I got my MCSE I got my CCNA Cisco Certified network associate, worked for Verizon UU net, I worked for Robert Half, I jumped on many different contracts within those few years. And then my brother was doing freelance web design. And he was like, Hey, come host these websites. So I started hosting he gave me probably two dozen accounts, 2030 accounts. And I started right away, I got a server with a company in Texas called rack shack. They were in Houston. Nice. And then then I worked with a company in Baltimore called Allah bonds. So that was my first experience with an all in one provider. Because back in the day hosting was a panel, which was cPanel, there was a nickname called panel because it basically they used to joke and say cPanel is basically a panel. So basic, and then you had the server then yet someone had to manage the server, then you had to add a billing system. alabanza was the first company to come and say hosting all the billing, everything monetization, you know, everything’s built in, it was called domain System Manager DSM. So I paid good money for that server, but it got me off the ground. So I was doing all in one hosting in that case, right. Ultimately, I was reselling. But in 2000 to 2003, that was totally okay to do. Oh, yeah. And I launched web hosting in 2004. Honestly, sort of as an experiment, not as an experiment. I was like, I’m gonna do this, I’m gonna put a site up. But I put a site up and people started calling seriously just organically, early on, Google started sending me leads. Because I started putting the meta tags in and the title, yeah, was good enough for Google to say this site has the basics, and it started sending me some traffic before
Matt Hunckler 07:22
you started. But before I’m sorry, I was just going to ask, before we get too far down the first entrepreneurial journey. I always think it’s interesting to hear you went to a lot of different places. It sounds like, you know, Geek Squad before it was Geek Squad, you know, even working for dad’s company before that. Were there any kind of key lessons that you learned in those early careers that sort of helped shape? How you approached entrepreneurship?
PJ Taei 07:48
Yeah, good question, man. I got carried away.
Matt Hunckler 07:51
Now it’s okay. It’s okay. It’s easy to do. And it’s easy for me to do too, because I obviously I love the entrepreneurial journey. But it’s always interesting to see what kinds of tools you can add to your backpack before you go on that entrepreneurial quest.
PJ Taei 08:05
Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. So I’ll tell you my whole life story. Okay. But yeah, I got excited about that. I appreciate that. I did learn a few key things to be honest. And one of them actually, I have a really good memory of so at my dad’s office, he when you put a motherboard and the motherboard sits on the actual base of the tower. Okay, so just the tower, box metal box. Basically, it has, you put in the motherboard on but it needs a washer underneath a washer on the top, then it screws in. So these washers because you’re putting in like 1618 screws per, you know, per tower, and I was doing you know, a few a night per se, I would go help my dad on a school night I was tired. So we’re not in the mood per se. Not all the time. I wasn’t that bad. But you know what I mean, it wasn’t the funnest job. So I would just skip on putting these washers in sometimes. And my dad would actually go after I built the whole mother where he would take it all apart. And make sure they all had the screwed. He did that a few times. Then I learned I was like, I don’t want to make him do that. So I’m going to put all the washers in. But that was a very good lesson for me because for him delivering that final product to his customer. He didn’t want a single washer missing. He wanted that thing to be perfect, even though to be honest, it would have never had an electronic short. It nothing would have went wrong. It wouldn’t have been anything wrong. He couldn’t hear any vibrations or anything like that because it was mounted in 14 other screws. So the few that were missing, but he didn’t want to risk it. He wanted to deliver a perfect, perfect product. So I still follow that model. I would say I’m not a perfectionist. There’s certain things that I’m very specific on the way the website works. Its responsiveness, certain important things, but I’m also logical with time because I’m limited with that. So we all are right. So in that case, I am more particular about giving someone a say all that experience, I want them to experience the good. So that’s what we do. Well, honestly, we did that at web hosting, we do it at you screen well, too. We do a good job giving you an all in one service. And what I what I mean by that is it’s not just web hosting, billing, website, apps and a few other things and marketing tools. It’s not just those things. It’s that we offer good service, I give good onboarding, I have good sales, I try and cover multiple aspects of the spectrum or the whole thing to A to Z. Of course, there’s a lot of gaps, you know, that we’re still like learning and there’s a lot that happens that falls apart. But I try and offer that full experience because you want to give something complete to someone. You know, it’s the whole experience.
Matt Hunckler 10:45
Did you ever have an experience in those early jobs where that kind of like, a was a ball that got dropped? And you had to kind of recover from that?
PJ Taei 10:58
Yeah, let’s think well, CompUSA had a tough boss gear and was his name. I don’t remember his last name. He was a tough guy. He was just big guy. And he was a smoker. She had a really thick voice. He was probably in his early 40s. He was a tough guy. He really wasn’t I don’t think any of us being young at the tech, you know, in the technical space of compensated, liked working with him. So I probably dropped the ball a few times. But he was quick to react and there was nothing missing. He was an awesome manager. So I learned a lot from him. I remember when he first I think what made him awesome is he was strict. He was he was strict in a way that wasn’t intrusive, per se. Like, he wasn’t annoying, but he was on point. I think that’s what made them good. He was on point with everything that he did. Yeah, he’s a go getter. He was fast. He worked hard. He hustled and it was clear to see that he hustled. And as soon as he came in, there was a lot of slowpokes and people that should have been removed a while back. He removed him. You know, and I was early on. I was like, why is he removing people and stuff like that, but sometimes managers that come in, they want to reshape stuff. And ultimately, it’s a business. It’s not a charity. Right? And honestly, CompUSA went out of business 10 years later, and it was still bleeding money then too. So they had no choice to do that. But he was just he was a hustler.
Matt Hunckler 12:20
Yeah. Yeah. That’s interesting. It it sounds like in the moment, maybe it was a little bit annoying, quote, unquote, but long term. It sounds like you kind of grew to respect that sort of OnPoint ness and hustle that he had and brought to the culture there.
PJ Taei 12:36
Yeah, absolutely. Exactly. It was awesome. I learned a lot from it.
Matt Hunckler 12:39
Yeah, sounds like it. Well, and it’s cool to hear your recounting of the early days, at least earlier days of web hosting, and sort of that explosion of, I mean, really sounds like you were right place right time and a lot of ways of just being one of the companies that has a website on Google that has meta tags. And because you’re one of just a few, and you’ve got a good product and service with a focus on customer service. I imagine the the orders just kind of kept rolling in. Yeah, that’s
PJ Taei 13:11
a really good point. So I’m going to clarify on that a little bit. It’s actually a really good point, the first six months, I probably getting 3040 accounts, not a lot, but they were 10 $20 a month, and I was a 23 year old kid. So I was pretty excited. A lot of people might hear that now, including the way we run our company. That’s not a lot of money for a SAS but I was 2324. There was I don’t think people realize how lucky they are now because everyone the youth trying to get into startup or software or SAS, there’s so much free information on how to do marketing, how to run a company, there’s so many different incubators, there was not a single incubator in DC. Right when I started in 2002 2003 2004. In fact, people were like, how old are you? So you know, there was a lack of resources, there’s no doubt about that the table’s turned for sure. Completely different 180 degrees now. But with that being said, I got my first 3040 accounts pretty easily. But I will tell you the next 1012 years after that, I really worked hard I didn’t, I was never given a single account. In fact, we definitely hit a hardship towards the end of web net where I decided I want to go in another company and I want to get growth that you know, it was getting harder and harder because hosting was starting to die from a small company standpoint, GoDaddy was there their pain, you know, right now, if you Google Web Hosting pay per clicks, you know, 40 7080 bucks per click, so we couldn’t compete. We still got you know, got into different niches and stuff that helped us grow but it was never a handout. Honestly, it was a grind. I grind it the first few years got the business to six 700,000 A year ARR right. So it was doing as doing about 50 60k of MRR and I run it really lean the first five, six years, I did support myself for the first four or five years. And I made good money with it. But I also learned that I was very immature to not be able to scale it, if I had, you know, the maturity that I have now are the way that I see running a company, it could have been 20 times 30 times bigger than what it was because ultimately, when I sold it, I think we had 30 504,000 accounts, something like that. And a lot of them were shared small accounts. So or actually might have been four or 5000. Yeah. But a lot of them are four or five $6 accounts,
Matt Hunckler 15:37
if you were able to go back in time and do it again, with the knowledge that you have now. What are one or two key things that you would have done differently to maximize the value of that business?
PJ Taei 15:49
Yeah, that that’s it almost hurts thinking about that. Because the it was complete land grab the first three, three years of web hosting, it was a land grab, there’s no doubt about it. I definitely captured some business pretty easily. But it was a complete land grab. What I would have done differently is number one, I would have moved to scale it very simple. I would have hired someone to do sales, at least outreach because that’s the way I did b2b outreach to other resellers and web designers like my brother to get them on board as a reseller. And then the other thing I would have done is hired another support person, so I wasn’t there answering tickets all the time. Yes, I would get I would delegate that’s the two things I would have done instantly.
Matt Hunckler 16:33
Would you have raised money?
PJ Taei 16:35
No, I wouldn’t have raised money. I just don’t think like that. It’s just the way I was brought up. I was brought up not to loan money, you know, not even from my parents. We didn’t raise money. And you screen right now. And we have an awesome profit margin. And we’re growing too. So I don’t believe you have to raise money to make money. I think there’s enough opportunity. I just think raising money for some various reasons. It’s clear, got really cool and popular really fast. Almost raising money is like a race itself. It is can you imagine spending those first one two years of your really most important time trying to raise money rather than running the company? So no, I don’t I wouldn’t raise money.
Matt Hunckler 17:14
Yeah, it’s a real chat, it can be a real challenge for sure. I so tell me about Uscreen. Hot, why did you decide to start that company? Where did the big idea come from? You know, maybe even take me back there. You know, you’re seeing that the web hosting space is getting really, really crowded. How did you make the decision to leave that business and look for a bigger opportunity?
PJ Taei 17:35
Yeah, good question. So web net hosting, I had it for about 12 years. Okay. 2004. And I sold it on 17 2017. So there’s no doubt in hosting when I was getting a bit older in my early 30s or late 20s 2930 years old. I was like, Okay, I gotta move this company forward. You know, we’re flatline or a million bucks. Arr. We got to move it forward. So I hired this really smart marketing guy named Barney, who I’m still friends with. He came in, we started doing a lot of thinking and looking at pricing. And we had these three big whiteboards in our office. And we really sat down for a good two years together a year and a half and worked really hard. And we gained some accounts. And we actually got into niches because I got most of my accounts from E commerce hosting. I connected a shopping cart to the web hosting and allowed people to sell. So just think Shopify but on a web hosting level Shopify SAS, we were more like, alright, connect these two components and call it a SAS per se. So I got into that with video, I connected video I connected other shopping carts, I got a really good customer called poker strategy. They’re still around, actually. And they are in Gabrielle Tarr, right south of Spain. So they’re still around. So they came and we they use our streaming server, I worked with a streaming media server that’s still around, it’s called Wowza. And it encodes videos and delivers via CDN. So they was doing video on demand in life. And I was like, You know what, I wonder if there’s
Matt Hunckler 19:04
so can you slow down just for a minute to for those who don’t know the acronym CDN? Maybe just to explain what that is the 22nd version?
PJ Taei 19:13
Yeah, yeah. So CDN is content delivery network, all the Netflix, YouTube, everyone pretty much use a CDN nowadays, but primarily video my server in Virginia for you, we use AWS now, but at the time, you know, it’s hard for that server to deliver video transported from Virginia all the way to Japan. So what happens is a CDN like Akamai or fastly will store that video in their 1000s of servers and then deliver it to the you know, so if someone’s in Japan, it goes to the Tokyo data center. So content delivery now it’s ultimately caching. So what happens right now Netflix, the people that watch House of Cards a lot, for example, will that one series gets stored in cache all around the server and then when someone in Japan Um, you know, goes it goes to the Tokyo data center rather than literally coming all the way to Virginia and pulling that one file. So that’s what a CDN does.
Matt Hunckler 20:07
So that’s the magic behind the scenes. Okay, now, take us back to Poker strategies. And what what made them a good client?
PJ Taei 20:15
Yeah, poker strike? Well, one, they had money, they were making money, right? They are making money and they paid well. And they basically needed a reliable Video on Demand live streaming service. And they use this piece of like, basic dashboard that we gave them with Wowza to be able to kind of upload their videos. And then they did everything on their WordPress site. And they even embedded the player themselves. So they had enough knowledge to do that they were early on early adopters, for sure have just streaming in general. Yeah, what I thought to myself is, there’s really no good way to sell videos, monetize, build a catalog, apps came later, and be able to sell subscriptions, one time courses and all that stuff. There really wasn’t there was a Vimeo on demand, which is still around, they take 10%, but it’s shared, they hold your money. So I looked around and all that stuff. There was a few basic services, one of them was around, it’s called pivot share, and they sold and they took a 30% rev share 30%. And it was a very basic software. But they did a good job. Initially, I gave him a lot of respect early on. So I basically was like, There’s not many opportunities out there. So let me build something basic. And I actually got really excited. Because I had cash flow coming from web net. And I hired a local guy in DC at another we work the first we work in Chinatown, actually, and hired him and he started building stuff. And I put it out there six months, I had a proof of concept. Six months, early 2015.
Matt Hunckler 21:46
How much less than that original proof of concept?
PJ Taei 21:49
Yeah, that’s good question. We invested actually a good amount and I made a mistake, what happened is my first, the first proof of concept was probably about $80,000. Okay, within the first 18 months of me only no other employee, we spent about $240,000 of cash that was funneled in from web net, obviously, some of it I even took from the savings account, and follow that in and built it. So in that case, if I didn’t have that money, I would have needed funding because I got to mark it six to eight months with a basic Alpha product that I sold to this lady that still works with us, Christine Bullock, this la based fitness lady. And another swimming Academy joined us in our first year called Total immersion. He was selling DVDs, he had a very basic embeddable Wistia player, and he’s like, hey, I want the apps I want to do subscription. And I put them on a very basic, almost broken platform. So think about that. I got a proof of concept built within six to eight months, pretty much selling it on the phone myself, really fast. From the time I had the idea, that speed to market. Remember, speed is a market advantage. There’s no doubt I got to market quickly. I heard it. I listened. I kept innovating. And I just moved forward. There was a few competitors that absolutely came and went out. Yes, initially, it’s very difficult. And also, this, I learned for the first time that you screen was an early adopter, in the technology of what they call now OTT over the top, which is the apps and video monetization because YouTube has a lot of free content. People five years ago, like I don’t need to pay for content. It’s on YouTube. Now. They’re like, okay, so I go one place I pay I have all my videos, and I don’t see any ads. It’s not even a question. So in that aspect, we were early adopters. So there was a lot of people that were like, well, do I really need that? What’s the advantage? I could just sell a course on something like teachable, you know, we’re completely different than that setup. So it you had to have thick skin to get through that. But now that the markets caught up, and we have the product and we’ve listened for the last five years, we’ve really gained some traction.
Matt Hunckler 24:01
So talk to me about that. What did you hear when you initially took that product to market and said it like you listen before you built it, then you launched it? And you continue to listen for the next five years? What were some of those initial things, biggest learnings that you had when you first took the product to market? Yeah,
PJ Taei 24:19
we made a lot of mistakes, not big time. So you know what’s interesting is I’ll tell you, like, we made a lot of mistakes. One of them. When I spent that 100 150,000, the first six, eight months one year building that proof of concept in my 20th month, second year, so I hired my CTO, who’s my CTO, and I hired a full time developer in house because I was consulting it before. And he came in and within a week, we trashed the first version. So imagine you spent all that money building that code and that ultimately is trashed. But I actually didn’t see it that way. To be honest for a moment I thought about it. You know, that’s why I bring it up, but I didn’t see it like that I looked at as an education. I got it. Education I spent 100k I got an education. I got something to the market. I made a few $100 1000 a month from it. MRR. I was that grand or so? 20 More than that easily. It was more than that. I think. Yeah, I think 20th month we were at 13 1400 bucks. Mr. So I was making 13 $1,400 MRR 20 months and I got an education. So what was the mistake that I made? I think one mistake that I made that helped me but also hurt me is I got really excited. I got excited I built really fast. Building fast is a mistake, because you don’t hear what people are saying. Software, I’ll tell you is really complicated to build. Because it’s software is made for a specific purpose. Yes, they’re Salesforce, it’s very customizable, all this stuff API, they don’t have a lot of direct competitors. They do but not at that level. In that case, what happens is, if you a software has a purpose, so if you don’t build for that specific market and purpose, it’s going to be hard to use. So for us the easy example on the Uscreen website, the first two years, if you went it says online courses, membership subscription sites, employee training, we don’t advertise them. We’re not for employee training. Okay, so we’re for a membership site, you can absolutely build a membership site, sell your courses, one time sales, teacher training, all that stuff, you can do that. And there’s a few customers that even do internal employee training, but we’re not the best fit for that. Yep. Yeah, membership platform. So how you build it, who you build it for? And exactly every feature, if it works for your ideal customers? The number one answer, or question you should ask yourself when you’re building a software.
Matt Hunckler 26:48
That’s great. Who is your number one customer? And what was the big aha, that made you realize like, this was the market, you needed to go and serve? Because I’m trying to think like, it was clear that software as a service was a great model. By this point, you know, I’m thinking five, four or five years ago, but how did you start to see the opportunity in membership sites, and to be that platform that enables those membership sites to charge? And, and host? Great video content?
PJ Taei 27:24
Yeah, that’s good question. Few indicators. Well, the customers absolutely, we’re going the route of subscriptions, the membership economy, so that’s definitely one of them. Okay, and we knew everything’s going membership. Yeah, two, we knew video was on the rise, right? Video first comes out, it’s YouTube, it’s free, then people are going to want to make money for it. I got a camera set up right back there. It’s hard shooting and creating videos, you got to get paid for it. Yes, there’s, you know, YouTube, AdSense and stuff, there’s not a lot of money in that you need a lot of views to make 358 10 grand a month, it’s like 1% of YouTubers reached that point, maybe a few percent, but it’s not high. Yeah. So you know, it’s hard work. So that that was the other indicator that I knew people were looking to make money with video, I know, recurring was the way I also knew that the competition was coming in that aspect as well. And you could see that you could see that there was other names, playing with the content, trying to rank for it and all that. So, you know, I knew that the competition was looking to come this route, because videos always been expensive, right? And when you help someone launch a business, you’re not just a tool, you are their business. So in that aspect, we’re an all in one. And that’s one thing I did early on that is I wanted to build something all in one because when I looked at the market in 2015, late 14, I saw that there was tools that did one or the other one tool does analytics. The other tool does the apps. The other tool gives you a website. The other tool, you connect, and it does billing, right? Yeah. But I knew the average customer I came from E commerce hosting has no idea how to set it up, set up a storefront. So if this was going to go mainstream people needed an all in one solution. You know, it’s like
Matt Hunckler 29:16
the same concept as Shopify. For E commerce. You’re kind of given the all in one. Here’s how to run a video subscription business.
PJ Taei 29:25
Yeah, so see, that’s a good example. Shopify, I learned a lot from to this day. We want to be the Shopify for video streaming, distribution and monetization. And honestly, I think we’re going there. Yeah, markets trying to prove that it’s starting to prove the obvious, well, and Shopify as a universe, but you know, hey, we aim for the stars to
Matt Hunckler 29:43
absolutely well, and you’ve got a bunch of customers. I’m just looking at your, your website now. Who are some of the kind of key customers or clients that at least you’re able to talk about, at Ustream?
PJ Taei 29:58
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. So Yeah, a few good ones. For example, like Yoga with Adriene. She has a channel called Find what feels good. She’s the biggest fitness YouTuber. I think she’s second biggest. So she’s five and a half million. The biggest, I think is another channel. That’s
Matt Hunckler 30:11
like, I’ve definitely six months. Definitely done some Yoga with Adriene classes with my girlfriend. Nice. Nice. See? Yeah, sorry, fiance. I just proposed the other week with Montserrat’s. Thank you. Congrats. Okay, so Yoga with Adriene is on your screen. Cool.
PJ Taei 30:27
Yeah, yup. And another audio mixing, producing type companies called fader Pro. They’re pretty cool fader Pro. Yep. And then wonder last is another fitness one. That’s big boy, that’s got a few 100,000 users on our platform. Now either cast is leadership videos, a lot of b2b. There’s a lot of stuff. There’s HR D leaders. That’s another b2b HR training type company, lots of online courses. Magic stream is a cool one. Magic scene.com. That’s the Netflix of magic, they do extremely well. A lot of fitness a lot of elearning there’s definitely some Netflix stuff. There’s like nothing else on TV, there’s indie film, hustle. There’s a good amount of like entertainment, I’d say it’s about 25% of our audience, but definitely elearning educational content, lots of fitness. And then there’s a lot of like, YouTube stuff that has a good following, that they want to build their own community. It could be a history, like real time, history just joined us really big history channel based on a lot of stuff World War Two in Germany, that they’re launching their own. Remember, you screen helps you build a community, you launch premium content for that community. That community right now on YouTube, you don’t own it’s just a subscriber box, you don’t know their email, YouTube can de monetize your lower your video at any moment that’s starting to happen. That’s when people are like, Oh, my God, this is all my revenue, all my money, I made a full time job I was I don’t even know their emails, that’s happening all the time, kids contents the same, right, they’re being D monetized, they need to go on the kids channel, all that stuff. So people want a community for a premium channel for their audience. Because Youtube, you’re gonna see all the related videos, competitors, and all that stuff.
Matt Hunckler 32:15
So talk to me about some of the traits of the most successful companies, the ones that you’ve named here that are the biggest ones in these categories that are using Ustream to monetize your audience. What are some of those similarities? Of the very best companies in each industry? What makes them successful at creating a video subscription business?
PJ Taei 32:36
Yeah, absolutely. With Uscreen, for example, some of the customers that do extremely well on our platform, I would say, don’t complicate it. So the ones that come right away, and they want to customize heavily. So they’re like, Hey, you screen, this is awesome. We really want to use you guys. But we want to customize the front end, we want to customize the backend, we want to use the API. Most of the time they fail. They put too much time. And they do stuff. They put the CTAs in different locations. They customize the look and feel. We’ve run heat maps, literally with over 1000 Live customers, we know where to put the buttons, we know what works. So they start customizing all that stuff. And then they get worse conversions. In that case, that happens all the time. Well,
Matt Hunckler 33:21
I’m they’re spending their time on they’re spending their time on things that aren’t core to their business. That’s a great insight.
PJ Taei 33:28
Yeah, exactly. So that too much. Yeah, they’re spending six months, they’re spending nine months and they’re spending a lot of money. Yeah, someone can come into a venture. They’re like, Okay, I’ve produced content, I know what I’m doing. I’m investing $1,000 To get started, or I’m spending 50 grand or 100 Grand i happens all the time. We have a lot of worship, faith based content. They have some deep pockets. There’s a lot of customers with deep pockets, but they spend that 2030 50k doing custom development initially, that happens actually a lot. We’re getting a lot of customers from WordPress, they use member fall or member mouse and they come they spent 10 20k. With a developer there are a lot of problems with finding on Upwork. Then they come to your screen and they’re like, Hey, this is too much work. We just found you guys. And this is a blessing. How does this work? So we’re like it’s all in one. You plug and play the plug and play people succeed? Because the formula we have works.
Matt Hunckler 34:23
It’s focusing on your differentiator, which is the content. Yeah,
PJ Taei 34:28
that’s absolutely right.
Matt Hunckler 34:29
That makes sense. Well talk to me a little bit about this ecosystem. I want to make sure we have some time to talk a little bit about DC area. I know it’s just exploded with opportunity in the tech space recently. Can you tell me a little bit about what you’ve seen, you know from living at age seven to selling your first company to now growing use screen?
PJ Taei 34:49
Yeah, absolutely. This is a cool place now. First, DC was never it wasn’t safe. It really wasn’t. There was a lot of crime here and stuff like that. I didn’t experience that too much. We grew up Maryland but I would come out to go out and hang out restaurants and stuff in DC. And the memory that I had of DC in the 90s. And early 2000s Was it was just dark, the lights were off everywhere. It was just dark, except for the DuPont Georgetown area has always been nice. But the more you went east, it was just dark place. But now it’s crazy. So this is changed completely. So the mayor started pumping in money. Literally, it was the year late 90s. Or I would say 2000 2001. For the last 20 years, this has been full blast been redeveloped. Right? So in that aspect is is extremely now tech friendly, right? And you got the government. So there’s a lot of money, there’s a lot of consulting, but then the tech scene is also icing on the cake. So more and more people are coming for the tech scene, for example. And there’s a lot of jobs around tech. With that being said salaries are very high. It’s very hard to find local talent, honestly, out there now, too, right? There’s Amazon. Yeah. And those things actually make it harder for the average company because they, you know, it just gets people excited. And they ask for a lot of money. You have a lot of job jumpers here in DC, when you look for local talent. They’re always jumping jumping jobs. Remember the government unfortunately, and I’ve worked in the government as a contractor gets ripped off a lot per se, from contractors in tech, because they don’t exactly know what they’re selling. They have these big contracts, there’s a day set asides, all these different set asides, and they charge a lot of money to offer seed services that are mediocre. So what that does is that the average employee, that youth employee that’s working in tech, is it gives them an ego that I can literally charge 40 5060 $80 an hour, do a mediocre job, jump around, go to Deloitte go to Accenture. So there’s that downside too. But then again, if you go to LA and you speak to some of the tech companies there, they say, yeah, people get up late here. They’re hanging out too late at night. So that happens everywhere. You know what I mean? So you just got to find the right people. That’s why we hire remote. It’s really easy to find people really fast and good people so you can filter. Right? But that doesn’t mean DC doesn’t have any good talent. So DC is moving forward. Right? A lot of tech happening here, there’s a really good incubator that I actually worked part time out of. And I’ve met some mentors there. And it was 1776, which you’re also familiar with, like Donna Harris, and a few other guys I’ve met there are ladies. So that there’s definitely some opportunity here as well. I actually left DC for about six weeks, and I went to New York and worked out of we work there. The one in Soho West, it’s called because I knew there was a lot of content creators and publishers in New York and I was like, God might be a better place for me to start in. This was 2015, October of 2015. So I went there, and I actually looked around, spent six weeks there and we work and I was like this place is not for me. There’s too much FinTech here, everything is expensive. Too much hype DC is actually better, because it’s the younger brother, and people pay attention more. So I came here join 1776 part time, met a few good people. And that really helped me move forward. So that was a good move.
Matt Hunckler 38:13
Nice. Nice. What are you most excited about right now? At Uscreen? Or in DC? Or just in technology as a whole?
PJ Taei 38:21
Yeah, absolutely. I think technology is absolutely at the beginning. There’s no doubt there’s opportunity everywhere there. It’s if there’s no doubt it is not easy to build software right now. Right? It will get easier in the future, but there’ll be a lot more competition. So there’s so much opportunity in tech right now. It’s unbelievable. So if you know how to build a company, or you can figure it out, which most people can you get in, it’s a puzzle, you don’t give up, you’re just hustle. Then in that aspect, there’s a lot of opportunity, you name it. In every single avenue of software, there’s opportunity, there’s more people coming online, to watch to listen to read. And there’s so many so much resources. So in that aspect, there’s so much opportunity and I invite people to try it out. But building good software is really difficult. We’ve had half a dozen competitors come in, not do a good job and leave or just stay small. Initially, everybody gains a little bit of business, right. But then the good ones really prosper with a good name. So I’m excited to really grow the company. We’ve built something really solid, our software is pretty awesome. And competitor, the users that are with competitors, they come in, they’re like this is amazing. So we like that. But we want to stay humble and paranoid to continue to build software that we’re proud of. So we can get ahead and grow in 2021 because the work that we’ve done so far is going to move us so far and we want to continue to move in that aspect. So I’m excited for growth. I’m excited for health and all the other good stuff that’s happening and so much opportunity in tech. It’s awesome. I don’t think it’s ever going to be this Prime to have this much opportunity in tech. Honestly, this is primetime the next three to five years.
Matt Hunckler 40:07
I like it, man I’m excited to and I appreciate you sharing some of your story with us here today. Hopefully we can have you back on the show sometime and get an update for everything at Uscreen.
PJ Taei 40:16
Awesome. I would love that, Matt. Yeah, really, really good. Pleasure. Thank you for having me.
Matt Hunckler 40:21
Yeah, thanks, PJ. That’s it for today’s show. Thank you so much for listening. A huge thank you to PJ tie for coming on the show. Be sure to check him out at email@example.com. And for links to his social profiles, and all the other people, companies and resources mentioned in this episode, head on over to powder keg.com and check out the show notes. While you’re there, maybe check out some of our other episodes coming up and join for one of our powder keg Live episodes. And you can ask your own questions. You can find all that information at powder keg.com/events, where we have so many great guests coming up from all over the world talking about topics that are hyper relevant right now. So check out powderkeg.com/events And go ahead and sign up. Make sure you reserve your spot so you can get your questions answered live on the show. And if you’re currently in the market for finding a new role and want to be connected to cutting edge companies, you can join the matches firstname.lastname@example.org slash jobs. As I mentioned, we’re recording this intro and outro during a global pandemic. We’ve had so many people coming into the powderkeg community saying that they just got laid off are referring their friend who just got laid off as part of what seems to be an economic downturn not seems to be it’s definitely an economic downturn. I am super passionate and our whole team is super passionate about helping these people get plugged into a job where they can really thrive as quickly as possible. So if you know someone or you yourself are looking for a new role, go on over to powderkeg.com/jobs and apply for the matches platform totally free and will connect you directly with decision makers to hopefully connect you with the job you love. And to be among the first to hear the stories about entrepreneurs, investors and other tech leaders in areas outside Silicon Valley. Please give us a subscribe on iTunes if you haven’t already. powderkeg.com/itunes We’ll catch you next time on The powderkeg podcast