Angie Hicks is the Co-Founder of Angie’s List, a company that helps you connect with vetted pros, read verified reviews, and get fair pricing for all home projects and services.
She was raised in Fort Wayne, Indiana and attended DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana for undergrad. She then went on to get her MBA from Harvard Business School.
Angie has been with Angie’s List—now called Angi—for almost 28 years. She has been a catalyst for change in the Indiana tech community and in 2017 won TechPoint’s Trailblazer Award, which recognizes visionaries whose contributions have had lasting and significant impact on Indiana’s technology ecosystem.
Be sure to check out these great clips from the show:
- [4:43] Taking calculated risks in your career
- [16:30] The transition to the internet
- [22:29] Angie’s marketing strategy after Harvard Business School
- [30:59] The importance of office hours for customers
- [32:30] Angie’s List goes public
- [41:15] The birth of Orr Fellowship
In our conversation with Angie, you will learn about:
- How process fuels perseverance
- Lessons for finding the right people for small teams
- The importance of offering a personal touch in a digital world
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Links and resources mentioned in this episode:
Companies and organizations:
- Unified Neighbors
- DePauw University
- CID Equity Partners
- Wayback Machine
- The Corner Office for The New York Times
- Orr Fellowship
- The Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving
- Brown County
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From America’s Heartland in Indianapolis, Indiana. This is Get IN. The podcast, focused on the unfolding stories and extraordinary innovations happening right now in software, hard tech, ag tech, sports tech, med tech, all the techs. And today’s guest is Angie Hicks.
Like, no one answers their doors today. They still, they didn’t answer their doors in 1995, either. I, let’s be honest. You know, so for me it was, it was a numbers game. I had to commit myself that I was going to knock on so many doors. I was like, I was a believer in process. So I was like, I think if I knock on 20 doors, I might sell one. So if I just keep my script, knock on the door I might sell one.
You know, and so that’s how I would get through it, you know, and it was but it was, it was much more character building than sales generating.
Angie Hicks is the co-founder of Angie’s List, which is a company that helps you connect with vetted pros read verified reviews, and get fair pricing for all home projects and services.
She was raised in Fort Wayne, Indiana and attended DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana for under. Then went on to get her MBA from Harvard Business School, and Angie has been with Angie’s List now called Angie for almost 28 years. She’s been a catalyst for change in the Indiana tech community. And in 2017 won the Trail Blazer Award, which recognizes visionaries, whose contributions have had lasting and significant impact on our technology ecosystem.
It is my pleasure to sit down here today with Angie Hicks.
Angie, thanks so much for being here with me in Toph. Oh, I thank you for having me. This is very fun, very exciting. It’s really exciting for me too. I would not be in Indiana today probably, if not for you. Angie’s List is a big reason why I stayed in Indiana after graduating. And we can get into that later, but figured I would I would start with how did you end up kind of staying in Indiana after.
After graduating, because I, I know you went to DePauw University, but [00:02:00] then did leave the state for some period of time.
Yeah, there is a little secret. I actually did leave right after graduation, so But I always you know, my, my heart was always in Indiana, so I started Angie’s List in Columbus, Ohio. My co-founder, Bill Osterley, was living there at the time and was trying to rehab a house, and he was, Familiar with a company that he used in Indianapolis called Unified Neighbors that had been around since the early seventies. And for those folks that lived in Carmel at that time, they might recall Bill Corbin going door to door selling unified neighbors memberships. And it was just a newsletter that kept track of who were good contractors and who worked. Bill thought, you know, bill owned his first house here in Indianapolis and was like, Hey, this is, this makes it so much. And then when he moved to Ohio, realized there was nothing there and had a real fixer up or, and some bad experiences.
And then we started looking around and there wasn’t anything like unified neighbors anywhere. So we decided to, to start our own in Ohio. And then a year later acquired unified neighbors in Indy.
How did, how did you meet Bill originally? How’d you become co-founders?
Yeah, so Bill and I met when I was in undergrad at DePaul. I was a management fellow and as part of that program we do a semester long internship. So I ended up interning for Bill at c I D Equity Partners here in Indie. . And then and then when I was getting ready to graduate, I wanted, I was an econ major. I was a math minor. I thought I was probably going to be a consultant of some kind.
In fact, had a job offer to go be a consultant in Washington, dc. But I really wanted to work for a small company. I’m pretty quiet and shy, and I just thought a small company would be a better fit for me. . So I was so Bill’s giving me suggestions. I was sending out resumes in the mail and not hearing back
And then, you know, one day he comes to me and says, Hey, I’ve got a crazy idea. Why don’t we start a business? And it, you know, at that point it was just a business. It wasn’t even that we were going to start what became Angie’s List. It was just a business. He’s like, it’s a crazy idea. Your parents are gonna hate the.
You know, but I’ll, I’ll raise enough money to, to pay you for a year. And the worst thing that happens is you you know, we fail and you have a good resume for business school.
Was that a hard, was that a hard pitch?
It, it was a horrible, hard pitch. I am like, so risk averse, Matt. I mean, it was like, there was like, there was no, there was no convincing me.
At the time I I had interned after I interned for Bill, I actually interned for Bob Orr. He had a small consulting company. After he was back from being ambassador, I called him up to ask him whether he thought it was a good idea, and then I finally asked, you know, my parents were like, I don’t know, Angie I, and then I had talked to my grandfather who who was a very conservative guy.
He lived during the depression. He, you know, he, he paid cash for everything, but you know, lived very frugally and he’s like, Angie, what’s the worst thing that happens here? You know, it’s like, what’s the difference between being 21 and looking for a job, or being 22 or being 23 and [00:05:00] looking for a job? So so I went ahead and.
Yes. Not knowing what I was getting into, that was kind of a theme of my early career. It’s just like you don’t know what you don’t know, and I encourage young people to remember that. Sometimes doors open and you don’t know, and maybe you should, maybe your, your bias should be toward Yes, because you’ll miss opportunities.
I think all too often we have this kind of, I have my, I have my seven year plan. I have my three year. and we’re so focused on the plan that we forget the moments that happen within everyday life that could change that plan. Speaking of Doris, can you tell us how you got your first couple customers? Well, we, well, you know, we didn’t, so when we looked at Unified Neighbors, unified Neighbors was a great model.
It, you know, we, we understood the entire model, but by the time we were exposed to Unified Neighbors, it was basically an annu. , they had enough people joining and word of mouth [00:06:00] that it was ki and people just stuck around. The renewal rates were so high that it was just like there was no marketing for unified neighbors, so their only marketing was back when Bill Corbin went door to door.
So so we decided that, I guess that was the model we had to try. So I off, I went door to door in Ohio as a incredibly shy person. That was very introverted, so sales was not my strong zup. But yes, we went door to door or I went door to door and I would measure my sales in one or two sales a day and that would be a lot.
That’s amazing. When, when you first launched, cuz Unified Neighbors, then they didn’t even have a website right when they were launched? Oh no, we didn’t have a. So think about it was 1995. Our first email address was an AOL email address. . That’s, and now Steve, more likely I was like, people either called in and talked to me or I would fax them the list.
I love it. Unified Neighbors used to print [00:07:00] out, they would do a printout once a month of the, of the, of the list back then back, you know once a month on a dot matrix printer. and then, you know, Jean, who was one of the gals that worked in the office, she’d sit there and she’d have this dog yeared, you know, kind of dot matrix big pile of a ream of paper that she would, okay.
You want plumbers? All right, here’s the plumbers . That’s amazing. We’re, we’ll definitely have to get some like B-roll footage. Oh, a dot matrix printer. So all the Gen Zers know know exactly what we’re talking about. Yeah. . Exactly. That’s incredible. Do you remember how you talked yourself? going door to door.
Were there any kind of things that you learned in knocking on all of those doors and making those sales? Because I, I imagine you had to knock on more than one or two doors to get one or two sales. Oh, it was horrible. No one, like, no one, like no one answers their doors today. They still, they didn’t answer their doors in 1995, either.
I, let’s be honest. You know, so for me it was, it was a numbers game. I had to commit myself that I was going to knock on so many doors. I [00:08:00] was like, I was a believer in. So I was like, I think if I knock on 20 doors, I might sell one. So if I just keep my script knock on the door, I might sell one. You know, and so that’s how I would get through it, you know?
And it was but it was, it was much more character building than sales generating. How do you think that served you later on in the company’s higher? , here he is. And I think it just teaches you, I mean, you’re always gonna do things that you don’t enjoy or that’s maybe not your strongest suit. And I would always encourage us to think about, you know, not, not toiling away at the things that we’re maybe not good at, and maybe find people that are for those tasks.
But I think there’s value in being able to say, yes, I’ve done it. Yes, I know how, and yes, I, I can figure it out because you don’t know what the next thing is that you may not be that great at, or you may not. . I mean, I tell people, I was like, I usually do things that I don’t enjoy early in the morning because that’s a good idea.
It’s easy to get distracted, right? It’s easy to like, oh. I’m like, oh, I’m gonna just check email, or I’m [00:09:00] gonna do this. I’m like, okay, if I just get up and jump in and do the stuff that I got, my least favorite things, and then I’m gonna save the fun things for later in the day. It’s kind of a reward. I love that.
It’s like downhill. Downhill to-do lists, right? Yeah. . That’s great. Well, so the early days were actually kind of in Columbus, Ohio. Yeah. So here in the Midwest, but the acquisition of unified neighbors in Indianapolis, is that kind of what brought you back to Eventually So I came back. Yeah. So I’m trying to think, what did I do?
So I, I was in Columbus for a year and then maybe I was in Columbus two years, and then I was back and forth between Indie and Columbus a year before I then went off to business. , did you listen to anything on those drives back and forth? It’s like a three hour drive, right? It is a three hour drive, and it was pre cell phone times.
Matt . I don’t even know what, what that’s like. I didn’t stop at the rest area, at the state line and call into the office and with a payphone. You didn’t, Angie, you didn’t have a bag phone back [00:10:00] then? Then I did not have a bag, button you a back to like a, like, I’m like too frugal. I was driving my Ford escort, you know, I was
I love it. So, yeah, no, I was like, great. I actually. I, there are ti I love technology, but I also, I have a love hate relationship with technology. Right. You know, it’s like there are a few times in life that you get to kind of like just be, and like maybe those car rides, those early car rides between like, you know, Ohio and Indiana and those early days where I’m like, I can just listen to the radio and sing along.
And it was just me where maybe some of my favorite times I still, I’m still kind of sad that we have wifi on air. I’m like, swear, I do some of my best. There’s few moments that you can actually unplug that. I just was just like, okay, let’s, let’s not kill them all. I, I find myself today, even driving around between meetings, et cetera, a lot of times in silence.
It just gives me a moment to, to decompress and think. [00:11:00] Yep. Yeah. Yeah. It’s, it. Are there things you do, Angie, today that help you kind of find, make that silent space? Yes. Knowing that your phone and your computer are probably not gonna allow that. I, I mean, I made a decision a while back ago, and some days I’m better at it than others, but I basically set a time in the evening that I put my phone away and I keep it, you know, like, well, a lot of people think like, oh, my phone’s my alarm clock, oh, my phone’s.
Then like, my phone stays in the kitchen after a certain point at. because I would get to the point that I could even hear it vibrate. Like even if it was on silent, you’d like that would wake me up. So you have to be able to kind of put it down otherwise, you know, you end up thinking you’re living, you know, running the ER and that you can’t run the ER forever.
Yeah, yeah. Absolutely. Well, I have to ask, just cuz I’m curious, in those sing along days when you’re singing along the tunes between Columbus and Indian, What [00:12:00] songs do you think you were singing back then? Are there any ones that you remember in particular? I’m trying to picture it, so this is kinda funny.
So I, I would guess that during the time that we were driving between Columbus, Which I thought that I was driving between Columbus and, and Indianapolis. We had just started advertising on radio and so I was a stickler that we looked, we, we, we looked at, or heard or saw every ad that we were running. So I am going to, and, and so we each divided up in the office.
You know, there were like three of us. So one got the talk radio. The, the, the, the current hits. I got the country station and I had no, I was never a country fan, but I have to admit now I’m a country radio fan, so I was probably listening to country music at the time. I love that. Probably some Garth Brooks.
Probably . That’s wonderful. Make sure to mark your calendars for August 29th through 31st for rally the world’s largest cross-sector innovation conference, featuring pitch competitions, demo arena, [00:13:00] interactive experiences, and a whole lot more. Join us on August 29th through the 31st in Indianapolis, and visit rally innovation.com to secure your tickets.
Today. So with the acquisition of Unified Neighbors, how did that change the business in its early years? How did it change? I mean, you know, it, it just fundamentally changed the fact that we had to figure out, I had to figure out how to run multiple locations. So we believe that understanding local home service required being, that you had to know that, you know, the plumbing company was located down this road and all this kind of stuff, and it, and so we, we looked for people, you know, so we, so we ran little call centers in each of our cities and we did that for the first, probably six cities, I think it might have been, where, you know, we’d have part-timers, we’d advertise in our little magazine, our little newsletter for, and we a lot of times had, you know, [00:14:00] Stay at home moms or, or, or folks that would work part-time in our call centers.
They’d come in at the call centers, you know, they worked by themselves. I kind of think back on this and I was just like, I don’t know that too many people do do this today. I had two part-timers in each city. One worked in the morning, one worked the afternoon, and they would trade off, you know, like they’d pass the baton.
I would only be in one of the two cities. So effectively the city would be closed if one of the part TAs failed to show up. Needless to say, I had some really good folks that worked for me that were that were amazing. You know, Maggie Mahoney, which is a, was a gal here in Indianapolis that worked for us, like she was one of my first interviews.
So think about Angie is is 22 or 23. Maggie was semi. Oh, wow. Yeah. And she, and Maggie is a, is a, is a very straightforward gal, and I love her to this day. And she, you know, I was talking to her and I, I didn’t really know how [00:15:00] the interview should go. And so I get to the end and I was like, okay, well I’ll let you know if I’m, you know, if we’re interested.
And she’s like, and she looks at me in the eye, she’s. Well, you’re gonna need my phone number if you’re gonna call me back. , . And nothing has changed. Maggie worked for me for, gosh, I’m trying to think. She probably, so that she pro I, we probably hired her in 96 and she, she might have officially retired. In 2016 maybe, or something like that.
2015, I don’t know, forever. So she she was awesome and you know, it’s fun to, it’s fun to think about her especially her birthday is St. Patrick’s Day, so this is always a week, I think. Oh, coming up. Yep. . So how did it, amazing. How did it work out? I think you mentioned that you, so you went, you came back to Indy for a year and then you went to get your mba.
but then at some point you also had to transition onto the web, onto the www, yeah. Yeah. And so how, which came [00:16:00] first? Or how did that work? And when you went to the NBA school, were you So I, I left, so when I left for school, bill came into the businesses c o at that time. Prior to that, he was still at C I D and then
Scott Breton here in Indie was a year ahead of me at business school. His wife had worked for me, worked at Angie’s List for a long time. Scott Scott had interned or done a fellowship with Bill at c i d after I interned. So we’re also connected. Right? Right. So when Scott graduated from business school, he came back and came in as the Chief Operating Officer, and he was the one tasked with doing two things, putting, putting up a website as well as the only, and he looked at us, he looked at Bill, and I was like, the only way I could put up a website is if we consolidate our databases.
We were actually running a database in each city back to the, we have little call centers, so Oh wow. Yeah. Cleveland was its own little thing. Indie was, its, yeah, and it’s like I can’t build a website. all this data distributed. So so he’s like, we [00:17:00] need to bring the call center together too. So I, I think Scott got maybe two weeks to test putting a call center together.
We before we were like, we’ll give, I think it was two weeks , and we got, and you know, we get, there was no investment in any great, you know telephone system or anything. And it was, it was touch and go. But we did realize finally that we were able to consolidate the call center and be able to replicate it.
Then I think we might have spent a thousand dollars and hired some a couple of guys in Broad Ripple, maybe some fresh college grads to build the website. . That’s awesome. Head tracks. Yeah. And then and, and it was a, it was a marketing based email. I mean, if you go back on the way back machine, you can kind of, you can see that first website.
It was, it was, it was good. And it was email based. because it would’ve been in what, 20 in 1999 probably. And and so, you know, I was probably a couple of months in Bill asked Scott, Hey, how, how’s that website working out? And Scott said, , [00:18:00] well, let me go look. Well, it looks like about half of our members sign up via the.
I was like, wow, . It was like, maybe we need to build a website. Wow. But then it became, you know, so, and then I, I came back and we were like working on the website and I think one of the biggest challenges we had was kind of figuring out how, how to share the information and how to think about the website.
You know, it’s like, do we want people, do we want people to be able to do all their searches and not be. You know, can never interact with the team and things like that. It was, you know, it’s interesting. Back in, at that point in time, you know, we viewed the website as another way to access the content, not the way.
And I think that helped us a lot culturally because it made the business, it, it kept the business very human. , you know, which is like, yes, you can go online and look at the stuff, but there’s always someone here willing to help you. You can call in, you can ask questions, you can do things. And it just kept it, that human [00:19:00] connection, which I think served us really well, even to this day.
Right. You, you have a whole team of people on the phones. You can, yeah. You can still call. You absolutely still can call in today because sometimes, you know, I think about this, it’s like home improvements are a lot of times projects that are. , a lot of times our projects that aren’t necessarily something that you as a homeowner are terribly experienced in.
I mean, I just, I remodeled my kitchen recently, you know, I hadn’t done a full remodel before. I, you know, it’s like, and as much as I knew and I knew a lot, you know, until you kind of walk the walk, you don’t really, there’s, there’s something about living in it. There’s something about having a major project done at your.
the, you know, sometimes you just need a little, you need a little extra support and advice and support in that process you know, to make sure that your project goes as you’re hoping. So, in those first kind of six years, are there any, are you having any flashbacks today? We, we have some macroeconomic [00:20:00] trends happening right in the recent news with SDB and Signature Bank and others.
were there any, you know, in, in the life of an entrepreneur as ebbs and flows, peaks and valleys, right? You’re on top of the world. Oh shit, what I do, our credit card processor stopped working. , right? . What are, what are some things that, that, that maybe some flashbacks of, of in those first three to five, six years moments where you’re like, oh my gosh, we are gonna conquer the world.
And, and maybe moments where you’re like, what did we get ourselves into? How are we going to. actually make this happen? Yeah, I mean, I think one of my favorites, what have we done kind of moments was probably when we decided to open in Cleveland. And you know, for us our biggest expense to open a market was to was to advertise.
And we had found that the daily newspaper was a place we would advertise. We had this lovely little clip art ad that we ran that said, tired of Lousy service. It was a [00:21:00] little two by three ad. And we didn’t. We didn’t have our office. Maybe we did. I think we were actually taking the calls in Columbus for that when we first started.
But I remember going to pick up the plane dealer back to my rule. I have to see the ad every time. So I was in Columbus at the time. So I went down to the, the bagel shop to look for the to look for the the paper I run into Bill there cuz he, and it was before he was working full-time there. And I like, I’m like, yeah, I’m just picking up the plane dealer.
I’m like, look, here’s our ad. And we both looked at each other like, what are we doing ? You’re like, here we go. We’ve, you know, we’ve, this is our second from scratch market. And I think, I think you have that. And I think, you know, I think we danced around opening big cities. I mean, Cleveland’s a big city, but we danced around coastal cities.
We danced around Chicago for a long. Because we knew it was gonna be expensive to open. But you know, there’s a reason that companies, you know, back in the day, open on the coast because there were a lot of people there. Yep. , you know. Absolutely. But, but on the flip side, we were like, Hey, we figured out [00:22:00] how to open Middle America, which is sometimes where companies would stumble at that time.
It was like, you know, you’d have ideas that would work on the coast, but you couldn’t get ’em to work in middle America. Well, we figured out how to get it to work in middle America, and then we could take it to the coast. You know, we always knew that, you know, Columbus was the 50th largest city at the time.
If it’s hard to find a plumber there, it’s much harder to find a plumber in a bigger city. And you know, that was, and that was the logic that carried our strategy. When you came back, Angie, you came back to run marketing. Yeah. What were some, what were some of the things that you are most excited about going from your two by three ad strategy to much more complex marketing campaigns as.
You know, proliferated the us Well, it’s, it’s kind of funny. So I, I, I came back as market man. I didn’t specialize in marketing and business school. You know, I took a couple of marketing classes, of course, but I was very much kind of general management. So I would not say that my chops were like, Hey, it’s marketing.
And I was incredibly frugal about how we spent our money. You know, I mean, it was just [00:23:00] one of those, like, I was, I didn’t have a passion. I mean, I’m, I’m not a creative soul, so it wasn’t, it wasn’t driven by, I have this long-term creative brand strategy that’s going to drive us to this point if we invest, you know, this many millions dollars.
It was like every dollar was a hardworking dollar. Every dollar was measured on what it would delivered, and it had to deliver every single day. . So so when I came back, I’m trying to think. I mean, we were still advertising absolutely in daily newspapers buying local NPR stations. We were still buying local.
So it was a pretty, and we, and we continued that for probably, hmm, five years, I think after I got back from business school. It wasn’t until we got to about 20 cities that we finally. past the point where we could actually start advertising nationally, because still even then, I mean, if you think about 2005, even then digital marketing wasn’t, wasn’t anything as it is today.
[00:24:00] Yep. So, I mean, it was a all, all, you know, vast majority offline marketing. And so I was getting ready to buy our NPR contract. Mm-hmm. . And, you know, I was talking, you know, bill and I were chatting about it. I was like, yeah, it’s gonna be, Yeah. You know, I gave him the amount and he’s like, you know what, why don’t you, why don’t you just go see what NPR is nationally?
And they’re like, all right, I’ll go figure that out. So I go out, I, you know, I talk to him, I come back and I was like, well, good news. You know, it’s, it’s, it’s 20% less to buy it nationally. And he is like, gosh, I bet you get a lot more. I bet you get a lot more markets. And I was like, yeah, we get, we get seven.
Wow. So all of a sudden, the thing that was our constraint became became our our motivator. So we went from 20 markets to a hundred markets in about 18 months because the cost to open those markets had been marketing. And when we could fund the marketing off of 20 cities, all of a sudden it was just a race to open.
Was that your first growth spurt in terms of growing the. ? [00:25:00] Yeah. I mean, we, we were pretty steady at opening markets, you know, one or two kind of every year. I mean, we were always kind of growing markets, but yeah, it probably was, I mean, that’s probably when we kind of, we were probably at around 200 people at that point, and then kind of went up from there.
Well, when I moved to town a decade ago, over a decade ago now Angies List had an entire campus in Indianapolis and some of the smartest people I met in. Worked at Angie’s List. So you had to have done something right. In terms of attracting the right talent in those early stages, what were some of those early lessons that you learned in finding those right people early on?
Yeah, and I think it, I think it is about, you know, spending time investing and making sure you’re, you’re finding great people to begin with. I mean, you’re. , you are never gonna be perfect at hiring. But I think a lot of times we are quicker to hire than we are to fire . We take more time to fire and, you know, and it’s like, I, I, I think those are maybe [00:26:00] mistakes and I think investing and spending time, getting to know people really matters.
And we were you know, we. We were, we spent a lot of time recruiting and networking in the city and trying to find that talent. I think we were here at a time where, you know, it was us, an exact target, right? I mean it was, you know, there were two, you know, and we’d duke it out with them over talent.
tried to have a little agreement like, come on, Scott, quit hiring our people away. Right. . But you know, that just makes it fun. It’s our job to make sure we keep ’em attracted and entertained and like what they’re doing. So that’s our job. I think it’s a, it’s about building a culture as well of, of people that want to work hard together because, you know, there are times you need people that are gonna kind of really go the extra mile.
And I think that’s that’s what we, that’s what we worked to form. What were some of your favorite aspects of the Angels List culture early on that have kind of stayed with the. Till today? Yeah. I mean, I think there is, [00:27:00] there is a there is a flatness about the organization. You know, there’s not, there’s not a lot of tears.
You know, they, you know, I, I think one of the hardest things for me was when we got to a point that I didn’t know everyone by name when we had to go to key cards. And I was like, okay. It made me sad when I had to look at the picture that, that, that was hard. And I had to figure out how I was gonna get to know people.
And so I had, I was, I had read a book by Adam Bryant about he had written the, he wrote the corner office for the New York Times, and he and he wrote a book then of a, of a bunch of stories about some of those columns he had written. And one of the things that I really liked was one of the executives had office.
And in, in the office hours, it was just like, yeah, come and visit me. The person had been a professor before and they thought that was interesting. So I introduced that. I was like, I dedicated an hour each Friday and anyone could sign up for a 15 minute slot to talk about anything. And, you know, and I, what I learned was like, Hey, [00:28:00] I got more out of those than they did for sure.
I mean, , it was like, it was, it was incredibly rewarding. . I think the offer is just as valuable as the interactions and, you know, and I always left people with something. So if you came to me and wanted advice, I’d introduce you to someone. If you had a business idea, we’d talk it through. If you had a complaint, I’d go run it down and figure out what was going on.
And I think that accessibility is an important part in an organization because I think people. You know, people don’t, people work for people. People don’t work for brands. So if they believe in the people and they can hear the passion, then that’s going to matter. I had a sales rep one time and and she’s, and she came up and, and she was relatively new and she’s like, Hey, can I talk to you for a few minutes?
And I was like, sure. And she’s like, I just, I need you to sell me. I need you to sell me on what I’m. . Yeah. [00:29:00] So I’m like, okay, I’ll give you the spiel and . And it was, you know, and she, and she walked away and she’s like, that’s all I needed. I can sell this. I just had to hear it directly from you. I had to hear it directly from you.
And she turned out to be one of our best sales reps. Wow. That’s incredible. So, so I think it’s one of those where, and it’s something that I probably didn’t always figure out myself, was that. as the organization got bigger, kind of how I spent my time was important that it changed and I needed to make it change.
But it wa I had to kind of figure it out. Like I was still a doer. I was probably still, you know, running all the day-to-day marketing at that point. But it was like, you forget that time spent with the team can actually be more valuable than what you were, you know, give someone else the tasks that you were doing and go and go spend time with the team because you’re gonna leverage a.
Yeah. You know, and I, and I’m actually, it’s, it’s kind of fun. I, I introduced I introduced effectively office hours for, so I’m the chief customer officer at Angie [00:30:00] now. And so I have introduced office hours effectively for our pros. How so Now there’s an open offer to the pros where they can, you know, sign up and we’ll just talk one-on-one.
And, you know, it’s, and it, and it. Again, I would say the exact same things about those conversations with those pros, as I did with the conversations about with the team, it’s like I get . I get so much out of those get ideas, you understand nuance of things that we may not have, you know, at a hundred percent.
And, and it gives me a, and it gives them a chance to feel like they have the accessibility. They’re like, that’s, you don’t have that. You know, like, especially as a customer, you don’t always have that in this day and age. So to have that offer is valuable. How often, often do you do office hours? So, I dedicate time each week.
So, you know, some weeks I might talk to 10 pros. Some weeks I might talk to 20 pros. , it just kind of depends and ebbs and flows on. Are there [00:31:00] some favorite things that you’ve learned in those conversations? Even specific examples or maybe more kind of trends that you’ve seen over time that have actually been implemented, those learnings into the business?
Yeah. I’m trying to think. So I’ve, I’ve the introducing kind of a formalized kind of pro conversation is, is newer. I’ve, you know, I’ve always been accessible and, you know, I think, I think it’s been one of the luxuries of being, you know, kind of the namesake is that people would seek me out. So I would get a ton of feedback over the years, but, , you know, now it’s just, you know, understanding, you know, kind of what’s going on in the trades, understanding what’s going on in companies, businesses, what things can we, what things can we help with?
Where’s, where are there pain points? You know, it’s like, it’s not necessarily stuff that we will, that, that, that you pivot and kind of resolve necessarily today, but it helps to, it helps to kind of fill our, our product roadmap, right? So when we think about like, Hey, here’s an opportunity, here’s a little opportunity for differentiation that we can slide.
It’s useful and then [00:32:00] we can point back to it and then, you know, it just kind of, it can, becomes a re reinforcing activity. I love that. How, what, talk a little bit about the, so I, I find it awesome that you’re collaborating with your co-founders and you’re like, well, let’s go back and ask the question, you know, what would national look like?
Right. And you find out it’s actually more economical, so, and then that entered your hypergrowth years. Mm-hmm. , you ultimately went public, you ultimately exited. Talk a little bit about that part of your journey. What were the different types of, of pains and challenges or, or organizational changes, et cetera, that you, that you experienced and what was that part of the.
Yeah. Yeah. I, I say this, I’m like, I’ve, I’ve seen, you know, probably every type of business kind of cycle at this point. Every type. I mean, I’ve been around doing this long enough, right? You know, we were able to, you know, we [00:33:00] were able to raise capital for the business for a long time. Privately. I mean, if, so, if you think about that, we ended up taking the business public in 2011.
So we were whatever, 14 years into the business, right? Am I doing my math right? So, which was awesome, which is awesome. And, you know, and then we, we never necessarily thought that we would go public. You know, but it, it turned out it was one of those where we realized that we could scale marketing more than we ever thought we could.
I remember when we were pitching to one of the VC firms at one point to raise money. You know, we were like, Hey, if we could just spend 25 million in marketing, that just like, that is awesome. You know, , you know, and over the years we far exceeded that and then we realized was like, Hey, let’s go, let’s go continue this growth trajectory and took the company public.
Which is, which is fascinating. I mean, it’s fascinating To be a public company was fascinating, you know, especially a high growth public company. And , there’s a lot of what you realize is, you know, kind of people would ask me like how the [00:34:00] business changed when we went public. I think, you know, I think the ultimate goal is that you managed to.
keep the team focused on what they’re doing, keep the team focused on their growth. Don’t, you know, kind of don’t get, you know, it’s because you hear it all the time. Like you don’t wanna manage to the street. You’ve gotta manage to what you’re actually trying to accomplish. Otherwise you will be chasing your tail, managing to a 90 day cycle or whatever it is.
You know, so, so we, so I think we, we were successfully, you know, we were successfully doing that. . You know, it’s like, I think, you know, there were some things changed in the environment. I mean, you know, kind of, it came to a point where people were unwilling to pay, consumers were unwilling to pay for information.
That was a, that was like a, a primary thing for us over the years. And so we shifted and we went to a a freemium model. , which is great. We were, we were toying around with kind of how consumers just buy services directly online. Like we buy a lot of things. [00:35:00] You know, Groupon had come onto the scene, we’re like, well, if I can buy a nails getting my nails done, why can’t I buy having my gutters cleaned?
You know? So then it was just like, how do we figure that one out? That one seems really interesting and I think that, you know, when we look at the, the industry as a whole, I still think that the home services industry is, you know, a nearly 600 billion industry and still, you know, a small fraction of it is online at this point.
There’s still a lot to go. You, we know it’s gonna go there. We know it’s going to end up there, but still, there’s still so much opportunity and kind of figuring out, and it’s probably, you know, this is what gets me excited about being, you know, kind of on your 28 is that, you know, there, there, figuring that out will be pretty.
You know, kind of helping people cuz helping people care for their home. There’s nothing more special to people, right? It’s like, it’s where you live, it’s where you raise your family and like making, and it’s, for most Americans, it’s our largest investment, you know, so how do you take care of it and how do we help them take [00:36:00] care of it in the best way possible?
And that’s about finding pros that can do a great job. And you know, and, and, and I think about the day when kind of caring for your home. Something you don’t even think about . Right. That it’s just like, oh, maybe, you know, maybe my smart thermostat tells my H V A C company through Angie that that it needs tuned up
Right? Right. Instead of me waking up one day, I was like, when was the last time I tuned the air conditioner? Right. Like right now it’s still very For this spring still. Yeah, it’s still very homeowner, . There’s still a lot of homeowner work and homeowner. You know, so I think there is a time when some of this stuff could just become really fascinating and, you know, and I think it’s, you know, it’ll be fun to watch it evolve.
Now, this, I agree, I’m not, not, don’t give away any secrets, but I’m just curious about like, expansion, like, so with your pros, are there, are there additional services that they’re asking for, such as, you know, [00:37:00] automated scheduling or some type of, you know, lightweight accounting for. Size pros you know, automated estimate, you know, scheduling, et cetera.
Like any of those types of things that that you’re already doing or thinking about. Yeah, you know, I think part of it is, so I think we’ve got a couple of things. So we do for pros, it’s really about how you can help them spend more time painting, less time, driving more time. . Yep. Yep. . And, and so is it, by the way, I had a painting company in college, so that struck a chord with me.
Yeah, exactly. Cuz when you’re painting, you’re earning money. When you’re driving around, you’re not earning money. Right? So how do we maximize the amount of time they’re doing their, their, their, their craft? That’s what we wanna do. And how do we make it as easy as possible? Cuz a lot of these companies are small.
There might be three or four people. You know, it’s like, I, when I do these calls with pros, it’s not unusual that they’re sitting in. My only [00:38:00] rules that they’re not driving , I was like, please don’t be driving. Please don’t be driving right now. You know, so, so it’s really about, that’s how we’re thinking about how do we make it easier to maximize the time that they’re spending.
So whether that is, how do we think about. Driving the best quality, you know, homeowners and most, you know, qualified homeowners to them, to and, and, and that could take on a number of fashions, whether it’s, you know, kind of like, Hey, I want a, a directory experience. Cause I’m exploring and figuring things out.
If you think about kind of the, the ESS list experience, whether it’s like, Hey, I’m ready to hire, match me up, or it’s like, you know, today we do offer an opportunity where you’re just. , it’s $300. I want my gutters cleaned. I’m buying it right on emg. The person’s gonna show up maybe even when I’m at work and they’re just gonna take care of it.
Yep. And so we’re, we’re exploring kind of that whole gamut. And you know, and there could be different points, different tasks, different pros that might fit in across any of those. And they might jump and they might run the entire. As well. Which is fun. Which is fun. So, so [00:39:00] really it’s about how do we think about maximizing kind of their biggest their biggest resource constraint is their time.
Yeah. Well, one of the things that, that strikes me, Angie, and having this conversation is that you and Angie, Angie has helped millions of people take care of and improve their home. And for decades Angie has called Indianapolis. . Yeah. And in a lot of ways, the business has taken care of this community and made this community a great place to live.
I, I mentioned earlier in the show, I would not be in Indianapolis if it weren’t for Angie’s List, and that’s because literally Scott Brenton and Mike Rutz came to my campus in Bloomington and said, you’re coming to Indianapolis . You should come check out the tech scene in Indianapolis. So I, I did.
They made a very compelling case to not move out to the Bay Area. Yeah. And I never would’ve done that. But I, I think it’s so cool just that this idea going door to door, starting with a little, literally a physical newsletter, [00:40:00] has turned into something that has compounded just amazing dividends for this entire community.
And of course all of your customers. But, you know, yeah, and I, it’s like the impact that we have, I mean, I love the impact we’re having on customers, and I spend vast portions of my time thinking about that. But when I think about over time, . It’s in many ways it’s the impacts we’ve had on kind of folks that we’ve touched kind of through working with them as well.
I remember coming in late into indie one time on a coming off an airplane and a young man stopped me and he was like, Hey, Angie, I just wanted to say hi. You know, I worked for you several years ago when I was fresh outta college and I’ve moved on. But, you know, because of that start, I’ve really had a great career and like, you know, that that is the biggest compli.
someone can give. You know, when I think about like all the or fellows that are out there today, you know, it’s just kind of like I sit in awe and I’m just like, wow. That little thing where we were like, Hey, if we start with 10, maybe someday , [00:41:00] maybe someday this will be a thing of some really smart folks that are sticking around Indiana, making it great and you know, that’s, you know, I’m in awe of kind of how it kind of took on and kind of got momentum on its own in that way.
It’s fantastic. Can, can you tell us the quick story of just how that idea kind of came to be, the, the Ora Fellowship and your earliest memories of Ora Fellows at Angie’s List? Yeah, and I think, and I think Angie, you mentioned Bob or earlier in the podcast, right? So tying that all together would be amazing.
Yeah. So so Bill worked for Bob, or when he was. and, and, and then, and then I interned for Bob bef during probably, I think it was my junior, between my junior and senior year in college. I think it was. You know, so had a lot of exposure to, to him. And then, you know, when we got out, I mean, it was always like, how do we kind of fight the, you know, it’s like, it’s the Quin, how do you fight the brain drain in Indiana?
And what we realized and what we, the [00:42:00] formula for which we thought was right was. , you make great contacts early in your career and you know, even if you go off and go, you know, even if you go out to Harvard or Stanford and go to school, you know those connections still are connections that might bring you back.
And, and you know, and you know what you wanna do when you’re 25 and what you wanna do when you’re 35 and have kids might look very different. And if you don’t have those connect. , we were seeing even people wanting to come back when they were thirties and forties who were like, I don’t know how to break back in.
So we were like, Hey, let’s start to, to create some tethers early on. So that’s why it was a two year experience in Indiana. We knew we were gonna send them potentially off in the world at some point, but some of ’em might, may very likely stick around the whole time and we’re gonna create a be better cr opportunity for people to come back.
You know, because of those early relationships with Bob bore his focus on entrepreneurialism. I mean, we named the, the [00:43:00] fellowship after him. I mean, he was still living at the time. The first, I think the first couple of finalist days he came to finalist day. Wow. . Wow. That’s so cool. That’s, I, I really appreciate you telling that story.
Obviously personal for me, be being an Orff fellow and having Orff Fellows now on my team. , you know, the program has just paid huge dividends for this entire tech ecosystem. Yeah. It’s amazing. What if you take, you know, kind of an ambitious, smart person? That’s right. Yeah. And give ’em some guardrails what they can accomplish.
And I think that’s, that’s exactly, I think that’s what Bill and I say. We had the, you know, the luxury Scott had the luxury of having, and that’s what we wanna to instill in the fellow. and it, and that program’s doing what a hu is there roughly a hundred, a hundred fellows a year now? Yes. It’s, that’s what I’m saying.
I’m like, I am in awe of how it has grown. It has really, really grown. I, I think I was a class of 12 and that was a decade, you know, a little over a decade ago. Yeah. Yeah. So it, [00:44:00] it is really compounded. And of course tons of, or fellows running tech companies now. Right. Everyone I meet, I mean, I have, we have one, we have one at Angie now, and I’m like, everyone I meet, I’m like, they’re just as sharp as the last, I’m just like, oh gosh.
Well Angie, I, I would love to just. Say one more time. Thank you for everything that you have done to contribute to Indiana, and thank you for sharing your, your story here today. We’re at my favorite part of the podcast, which is called The Lightning Round. Are, are you down to do a two three minute lightning round?
All. All right. All right. . None. None of none of these are gotchas, . So first of three questions. Outside of the amazing entrepreneurial ecosystem, what is Indiana? No wrong answers. The racing. Racing, I love racing. What’s your favorite racing memory? I took race car driving lesson. What? Yeah. That’s awesome.
I did, I grew up like going to the races when I was a kid and then and then when I was in college I did the bonderant [00:45:00] school when it came to indie during during May one year. You know, so, so maybe, maybe I should have gone through that door
But I’m have to admit that like then years later I was out of the track. Johnny Rutherford was was there and I got to ride in the Pace car with. And I got in the car and realized it might have been the dumbest thing I had ever done because I was the mother of three, and this is totally irresponsible.
I literally screamed the entire way around the track. I saw Johnny a year later or two years later, and he’s like, I will always remember you. I’ve never had someone scream like that, . That’s pretty funny. So what I realize, it’s like, it’s all about control for me. If I’m driving the car, I’m good. If I’m not, I’m not good.
I’m not good. . That’s awesome. That’s amazing. All those hours in that Ford focus between Columbus and Indianapolis, , all rights. Second of the three, three, the lightning round questions. What is a hidden gem in Indiana? A hidden gem in Indiana? I always love brown. . [00:46:00] Ooh, that’s a really good, gorgeous.
We’ve not had that one yet, surprisingly. That is a good hidden gem. Last one. Who is someone that we need to keep on our radar? Someone who is doing big things here in Indiana? Oh gosh, that is a good question. No, you’re gonna stop me. Besides Angie. Angie Hicks. I like Max Yoder. Yeah, me too. Yeah. Great.
Cool. But I, but I love all the fellows, so let’s not, let’s not say I just played favorites. Okay. . Absolutely. Absolutely. I I think that’s a great answer. He’s one of my favorite people one of my best friends and very grateful that the OR Fellowship brought us together. He was my recruit from iu.
Oh, that’s funny. That’s awesome. When I, when I turned around and recruited him in. So it’s, it’s really cool just the network that, that has built. Yeah. Angie thank you again for everything that you’ve done for Indianapolis, for Indiana and for homeowners everywhere, . It’s, it’s really being a homeowner now the last, you know, [00:47:00] five, 10 years.
It has been awesome to have Angie’s List as a resource and to have had just like so many opportunities to have trusted. Work on our house and know that it’s actual reviews and not something that’s being gamified. Yeah, that’s great. I’m glad to hear it. I’m glad to hear it. Yeah. Well, thank you.
Well, thank you so much. Thanks for having me on the show. Thank you, Angie. Thanks. We’ll see you later. Thank you so much. This has been Get in a Powderkeg Production in partnership with Elevate Ventures, and we wanna hear from you. If you have suggestions for a guest or a segment, reach out to Matt or Nate on LinkedIn or on email to discover top tier tech companies outside of Silicon Valley in hubs like Indiana.
Check out our firstname.lastname@example.org slash newsletter and to apply for membership to the Powderkeg executive community, check out powderkeg.com/premium. We’ll catch you next time and next week as we [00:48:00] continue to help the world get in. Since you just listened to this podcast, you might be thinking about starting one for your company.
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