This episode was recorded in March 2020.
My guest today is Steve Kantscheidt, Founder & CEO at Humantel.
Founded in 2020, Humantel conducts large scale longitudinal studies designed to uncover hidden motivations of consumers including feedback from 100,000+ people across 50 countries, per channel, per year.
Prior to founding Humantel, Steve has held senior research positions at Latitude Research, Universal Music Group, Showtime Networks. Additionally, he founded THREE Group, an independent marketing and brand consultancy, and operated as its CEO for 11 years.
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Jamin Brazil: Hey everybody. Thanks very much for tuning in. You’re listening to the Happy Market Research podcast. My guest today is Steve Kantscheidt, founder and CEO of Humantel. Founded in 2020, Humantel conducts large scale longitudinal studies designed to uncover hidden motivations of consumers, including feedback from over 100,000 people across 50 countries per channel, per year. Prior to founding Humantel, Steve has held senior research positions at Latitude Research, Universal Music Group, Showtime Networks. Additionally, he has founded THREE Group, and independent marketing and brand consultancy leveraging research and has operated in that company as a CEO for 11 years. Thank you Steve for joining me on the Happy Market Research podcast today.
Steve Kantscheidt: Thank you Jamin, it’s a pleasure to be here.
Jamin Brazil: I’d like to start out with a little bit of context. Tell us about your parents and how they informed what you’re doing today.
Steve Kantscheidt: It’s funny that’s where you started. When I was mentioning to colleagues what we were going to talk about, they’ve heard this story from me many times. I have always said to my mother that whatever I do, they are my partners. And my parents are pretty interesting people in the sense that both of them were high school dropouts. Sort of prepared themselves for more difficult lives than they perhaps needed, but they were incredibly smart, incredibly hard working, and in a lot of ways they were hustlers long before their time. The thing that I think that is most impactful for me is, my father was a middle management guy in the 80s around the time here in the US when a lot of middle management got let go. And I remember how he had earned his way to a pretty good position where he could be proud of and then that got taken away in the blink of an eye. And a colleague of his moved away and opened a deli. And we were talking about it one day, I was a teenager at the time and my father said to me, you know, if I had any balls I’d open a business of my own. And for whatever reason that moment stuck with me and I think that’s what drives me a lot in what I do. How was that?
Jamin Brazil: That particular story about your father is huge especially as an adolescent processing your dad recognizing his failure which, in a lot of ways, we kind of think of our parents as sort of these infallible individuals. And then providing the specific guidance of what he wished he would have done or was doing at that particular point, and then associating the risk with actually having a job or the lack of control with actually having a job versus this perception of master of your own destiny that can exist as a startup or as an entrepreneur.
Steve Kantscheidt: Oh yeah, absolutely. This is now the third business that I’ve either built or scaled up and to be perfectly blunt, this is, without question, the single most difficult thing I’ve ever done in my life at an age, I just turned 50, so at an age when most people are starting to coast into their sunset. I decided to blow up an existing company, blow up an existing model and double down on an idea of myself in the future. And it’s been the longest, hardest uphill climb I’ve ever been on but every day recognizing that what I’m doing is demonstrating a mindset for my own children that I think my father would be proud is a huge driver in my journey.
Jamin Brazil: One of the people that I admire, a well-known investor at the Silicon Valley, has this famous quote, there are no failed companies, there’s only failed teams. How does that play into Humantel as you reformed or, I should say, kind of created this new entity? How much did the actual composition of the team go into what it is that you’re delivering or creating and then delivering into the market?
Steve Kantscheidt: The team itself is huge and I’d say over the past nine months of bringing this idea together and actually, closer even to a year, I’ve gone through a lot of different kinds of people. And I think that as we go through our own journeys as entrepreneurs and leaders, identify with different kinds of people. And I think early on in your journey you try and find people or you naturally find people who are cut from a similar cloth as you. But you learn as you go on what does and what does not work. The team that we’ve assembled now is very – Has very much defined who we are, and what we’ve become, and where we will go. But I had a completely different team nine months ago and part of the reason that I had to shut down the business that I had was we just needed different people. So who we are as a group and why we’re here absolutely defines who we are.
Jamin Brazil: That’s emotionally a difficult process for all parties. I don’t think that people really appreciate either side of that but, in truth unless you’ve going through it. But as a founder CEO, fellow founder CEO, changing your team materially, especially at the executive level is – It’s like brain surgery, I mean, it’s really hard. And then identifying talent and then bringing them in, it’s almost like the devil you know scenario is better than what you might actually – The angel you might get. There’s just a lot of risk. What sort of went into your thesis as you were thinking about who to bring on to Humantel?
Steve Kantscheidt: Well, it is really hard and you always have these moments where you say, OK. That’s the missing piece of the puzzle. Right? And you feel like, OK. Now I have what I need. And then six weeks later you identify, OK. Here’s the next gap or maybe this person didn’t meet that expectation. And I think that’s actually part of the fun. I think as an entrepreneur, the challenge that you have is, you are so, as an individual, so individually invested in what you’re doing that you can’t process that the people around you aren’t as invested. And I think when you’re younger and you’re coming out on this journey it feels very much like, hey, we’re all in this together. And everybody is – Has as much investment as I do. But that’s just not at all true. And part of the journey of maturation that I’ve gone through over the last year in particular launching Humantel, is understanding that people are here for different reasons. They have different motivations and they’re not going to share the same intensity as you do. And that, in and of itself, is a massive learning that I think we all individually need to learn.
Jamin Brazil: So, give us some context. Tell us – Give us kind of the elevator pitch of Humantel and then I’d like to back into the origin story.
Steve Kantscheidt: Absolutely. The elevator pitch is a long one, I hope it’s a long ride but I’m going to do my best to make it tight for our conversation here. Effectively what Humantel is, is a sharing economy approach to primary research. We made a great living for a long time conducting tons of explorations into why people do things, the challenge that the industry faces and the challenge, frankly, decision makers face is that decisions are made so quickly now that you often don’t have time to look around at the why. So, what we’ve done is we’ve taken an exploration into why people do all different things in their lives, fielded it on a massive level, and then we share that information with our subscribers. So it’s effectively conducting the world’s largest research studies into why people do things and then sharing that in much the same way that a sharing economy does with all sorts of other things. The easiest example is this is, Humantel is to market research as Airbnb is to travel.
Jamin Brazil: So give us a glimpse into some of the insights that you’re garnering. Obviously the base size or the sample frame provides this breadth of richness so that you’re able to really, I’d imagine, drill down to very niche segments that otherwise maybe not have a large enough base size to actually have a quantifiable or measurable point of view on getting into the why. But can you describe or give us an example of some hidden truth that is coming out of the data?
Steve Kantscheidt: I’ll give you a few answers to that. One of the hidden truth that’s coming out of our data, if you look at the sport channel, it explores all the dynamics of being a fan. The why behind the sport experience in terms of why you connect with an athlete, why you connect with a sport. How social media activities impacting barriers, et cetera. We’ve currently fielded that study with 26,000 people in 11 countries. And one of the biggest challenges that we have as we look at the data, and you’re right, there’s an enormous depth and possibility of stories in this. We have 250 variables times 100,000 people, you’re talking about 25 million data points can manipulate in any way. But one of the most comforting, I think, yet frustrating truths is that there is more that unites us than divides us. In many ways the motivations for somebody in South Korea are fundamentally the same as they are here. What’s fun is that, and this sort of gives the data face validity, you see ideologies bubble that are sort of consistent with our perceptions of different cultures. But fundamentally I think the greatest thing that I’ve seen is that there’s more that unites us than divides us.
Jamin Brazil: So that’s encouraging from a human perspective and from a simplicity perspective but I kind of go back to, it feels to me like one of the big value props here is that, I can get granular level insights, whereas if I do a base size of 1000 or 10,000 I might not be able to get that same – Have that same level of discoverability inside of how to market to that particular niche. Is that sort of the, one of the compelling reasons why you felt like it was important to get such a large base across your 250 some odd variables?
Steve Kantscheidt: Well, part of the driver for that was, it comes from a conversation I had without friend BV Pradeep over at Unilever. Brands are tasked with thinking globally and acting locally so the need to understand how an individual in New Zealand feels is just as important as it is to understand how an individual in the US feels. I sort of, I go back to that moment in Pulp Fiction where Sam Jackson and John Travolta are talking about Amsterdam. And John Travolta says, you know, the funny thing is, it’s the little differences. Those little differences are the different – Are what can change a relationship with a consumer from feeling canned or forced to authentic. Right? And as we shift into this world where brands have a pretty high responsibility to create genuine relationships with consumers, understand nuance is critical. And having the ability to explore that nuance at your fingertips so you can act and you can bring this into the DNA of your own organization is really important. So there are differences. There are differences. Oftentimes they’re dramatic, I don’t want to understate that. But in a lot of ways they’re that little bit of an edge that’s going to give a brand some leverage over their competitor.
Jamin Brazil: And of course, the Pulp Fiction reference was the difference between La Whopper, I think. Is that right?
Steve Kantscheidt: The quarter pounder.
Jamin Brazil: I’m trying to remember the quote.
Steve Kantscheidt: The quarter pounder and the Whopper. Yeah, I don’t know.
Jamin Brazil: That’s right.
Steve Kantscheidt: I ain’t going to Burger King.
Jamin Brazil: That was a great quote. So why did you decide to start Humantel? You had THREE Group, you ran that successfully for 11 years. Why the personal disruption?
Steve Kantscheidt: There are a myriad of forces that drive that decision. Right? One is very personal. You hit the age of 50 and you look around and you go, is this all I was meant to do? Did I do something that matters? And for better or for worse, I care deeply about our craft, what we do, the value of it. The value of giving a voice to people. And I, on the one hand, didn’t feel like I was done contributing to that. THREE was successful. We changed a lot from a methodological standpoint, we changed even more from a delivery standpoint of making market research accessible to a wider audience. We accomplished a lot of really good things that got copied by a lot of the big firms. But I wasn’t quite done yet. Pair that with seeing myself, the increased anxiety among my client partners, the changes in the way decisions were made, and a recognition that the model that we’ve had, which really is not different from the way it was done in the 50s, right? We’ve moved from a clipboard, to the phone, to the phone. But the model is fundamentally the same and it just didn’t make the pace of decision making today. So, could I continue to make a nice living doing good work for good people? Probably. Could I take an industry and try and give it a bit of a kick in the pants and push it forward? It would seem as if we’ve done that with Humantel based on some of the early responses that we were getting from folks.
Jamin Brazil: That’s great. So you used your existing customers as a sounding board for, obviously, identifying the market need and then seeing if they were willing to subsequently pay for it. Right? And now, I believe it’s April 4th, you’re releasing – You’re actually opening the doors, is that, for subscribers. Is that sort of the sequencing?
Steve Kantscheidt: Yeah, we spent about nine months figuring out what meets the market. And I can tell you that, as an entrepreneur, you tend to fall in love with your ideas and people around you will tell you how brilliant you are and it creates its own echo chamber. So getting out there and having those conversations is really your own version of market research. And there been some adjustments to who we are, and how it’s delivered, and how we’re doing what we do that better meets, perhaps not the way that people are going to work tomorrow, but meets the way people work today. So in a lot of ways, the last nine months of our journey has been a bit of a compromise with the existing market and the market that we’re trying to create. So, yes, we’ve iterated, iterated, iterated, spoke, talked, met to try and build something that is interesting, forward looking, progressive but also gives people something that is in line with their KPIs today. And yes, we’re opening the doors in April. Pretty excited about that, to finally be there. Certainly not as quick as we would have liked to have to have gotten there, that I would have liked to have gotten there, but it’s an exciting time for us.
Jamin Brazil: It always takes longer.
Steve Kantscheidt: Oh my God.
Jamin Brazil: It’s really interesting.
Steve Kantscheidt: It’s, yeah, crazy.
Jamin Brazil: The – There’s four questions I think. I think it was Clay Christensen, I might be wrong, in one of his books it might have been. Anyway, one of the B school books, that you need to answer as an entrepreneur if you’re creating something. One is, is there pain? Do they know there’s pain. Let me check those boxes. Are they willing to pay for the solution? And then, will they buy it from you? And it’s a funny – It’s funny how all four of those questions need to individually be answered because if you operate on the assumption that, let’s say, the first – You check the first three boxes, there’s pain, they know there’s pain, and they’re willing to pay for it. I’ve seen a lot of entrepreneurs make the assertion that, they’re going to obviously buy it from me and them not be – And then the customer, the market, not be willing to buy them from that – Buy the solution. It isn’t necessarily the best mouse trap, right? There’s a lot of trust in this digital age that I believe is being undervalued or underappreciated when it comes to enterprise relationships. As it relates with your journey, how did you frame out your answers to those four questions? I’m sure you didn’t designate them like I just did out of a book but how did it play out in real life?
Steve Kantscheidt: Really sloppily. I think the answer is that, is there pain? I think we all know that there’s pain in the market research community. The understanding the why is slow, it’s narrow, it’s expensive. Market researchers are having their roles compromised every day. Organizations are hair cutting things like this every day. So many of our clients are really not functioning in ways that are satisfying to them. So, there’s pain and they know that there’s pain. The solution that we’ve offered, I think provides – It checks off a lot of boxes that businesses are hoping to achieve today. Right? It allows you to be more agile, it allows research folks to have more of a voice in the conversation at their fingertips. Right? We can contribute and drive conversations much more readily with our insights and our data. It allows teams to think more customer centric because you have this understanding available to you because you’re getting daily content about what it means to be a human being. We all read the trades every day, what we’re asking folks to do is spend two or three minutes reading about their customers. That little gesture will hopefully grow to something that is – Allows teams to be more customer centric which is a huge priority today. And then the last bit is I think we’ve effectively, we’re closing the gap between insight and action. So often as researchers, we do studies and by the time we finish the study, it’s probably not even relevant anymore and it’s certainly fundamentally different than what we set out to do. By fielding these studies, by providing this information proactively and allowing teams in our environment to ideate in real time, to break down all those walls, we’re closing the gap between insight and action. The last bit of whether or not they’re going to – So we know that there’s pain – they know there’s pain and we have a solution for a lot of that pain. The last bit of whether or not they’re going to buy it from us is a really fascinating one because I can tell you that when I shut down three, it’s a bit like attending your own wake, right. I literally sent an email to all of our clients and say on January 2nd, I love you guys but it’s time for us to do something new. And you get good luck. You get I can’t wait to see where you’re going to lead. You get, oh my god, what the hell am I going to do now? And that leads you to think OK, whatever I do next these folks are gonna buy it from me. And that is just categorically not the way it works. You know we’re still in the market research space. We’ve built a new model that requires a great deal of education, but we pivoted 45 degrees from where we were. We have credibility in the space, but the biggest question that I keep getting along the journey is this is really ambitious. Can you pull this off? And every time we hit a hurdle, we keep pushing forward. And we’re here and we’re actually pulling it off. So I think we have the credibility in the space and now it’s about believing that a small company can, with a small team, can pull off something as massive as what we’re trying to do. And we prove ourself.
Jamin Brazil: I’m excited about seeing that press release that you guys drop. It’s going to be huge. We’ll certainly get behind it the best that we can. You know I’ve been thinking that there’s this opportunity especially as it relates with longitudinal studies for leveraging audio as an insights distribution mechanism. I haven’t seen another company actually do that that’s in the longitudinal space, but it feels like – because this is happening on a – you know it’s an ongoing research and subscribers may want to consume that content in more a passive medium like in their car or whatever, mowing their lawn or what have you as opposed to in the traditional report. I’m not saying it would replace it, but maybe somewhat of an augment. Anyway, sorry. There you go.
Steve Kantscheidt: So here’s the thing, Jamin. What you’re saying is exactly right, right. And what we set out to do, in addition of fielding this massive study, is deliver the insights in new ways. We’re trying to meet people at on their terms. We’re trying to offer insights in a way that content is consumed today. So there will be white papers. There will be slide shows. But they’re also shorter form journalistic pieces. We’re hiring – we brought in journalists. You know we just had a guy from Vegas do a piece on gambling. Audio, video, a complete multi-media environment is what we’re building so we can deliver content in ways that both meet people on their terms and engage them and make just the experience of consuming research fun which frankly hasn’t existed for quite some time. So 100% free.
Jamin Brazil: It really hasn’t existed. And what’s funny is I’m seeing the innovation happening not in the agency side, but in the brand site. So I think it’s all – I heard a talk by All State. And they have an agent’s, an agent’s website. So you have to be an agent and you get access to the website. And then in the website it’s basically an FAQ on the pain points that their customers are going through it by region. So this is like, it’s a very big study that they’re doing an ongoing basis among their current customers and potential customers. And that website then is informing through video and interactive experience how this, the agent, the person who’s doing the sales for the company is able to relate to their constituents. And I had thought that was such an interesting – an interesting innovation especially in context of this pulled school report writing industry or framework and I think that there’s so much that can happen in the way of adding value to the actual executors or the people that are taking action inside of the organizations that kind of – that breathes life into the research and that and humanizes the numbers in a way that really results in action.
Steve Kantscheidt: Yeah I think for a long we just try to humanize with video clips. If you go back to THREE group – I remember doing a project on trying to understand the horror drama. And we challenge ourselves from a methodological standpoint to not just go someplace. But we rented a house and we brought in experts and we brought in hardcore fans and soft core – casual fans. And we actually had the clients stay in the house with us. So we locked ourselves in a house for several days and then brought in people. And that was kind of from a methodical standpoint fun. And I think we done a really good job with an industry of making the collection fun. But then we sat everybody down and we thought what could we do next. And we delivered the insights as a graphic novel. A physical hard coffee table book that I can recall walking into the CEO’s office and our research was on his bookshelf. I doubt he ever read it, but he was showing it up there.
Jamin Brazil: So there are people that I know that are in jobs inside of the market research industry or customer experience industry or user experience industry and they’re thinking should I step out and start my own consultancy whether it’s a single person shop or get some funding and build the next Google for insights. What are three tips that you would give aspiring entrepreneurs?
Steve Kantscheidt: Don’t do it. Look, don’t do it is obviously live, I’m in an interesting vortex in my career right now. When I started a primary research consultancy it was a guy and I and it was super, super easy. We walked into a meeting. We walked out with two projects. My partner looked at me and he said, this is amazing. And I said yeah, you know what this means. And he says yeah, this is going to be easy. And I said no. It’s all up hill from here. It’s never going to be that easy again.
Jamin Brazil: It’s true.
Steve Kantscheidt: And but that business grew and scaled up quickly. And this turning into a data plus media plus subscription as a software model has been an incredible, incredible challenge. So I think if you’re going to go setup, put out a shingle, that probably is gonna go as expected. I’ve seen a lot of people come and go, but. It’s – there’s not a lot of challenges in making it happen. I think when you get into what we – whether it’s from an MR consultancy or you start drifting into new technology or changing people’s mind sets or trying to, I mean we’re fundamentally breaking the economic model in the market research community. I think that there are some better lessons, some bigger lessons that people can take away from there. And sometimes I feel like they’re things you hear all the time, but they’re things that nobody really wants to say to you, like sit you down and go this is it, right. The first thing is you got to – you got to be willing – I mean I have literally spent everything I have over the last year to build this, to build a team, to get us to this place. You’ve got to believe in it. The people who succeed are the people who wake up 3:00 in the morning and they can’t go back to sleep because they’re paranoid with – you know they’re paralyzed with anxiety, right. You have to be willing to leave it all on the field. It’s a level of work and commitment like I have never experienced. The second thing I think is you’ve got to sensor your own press. We live in this culture of everybody being super nice, whether you’re a four year old playing soccer or a 12 year old in school or a 40 year old starting out a new business. Everybody’s going to tell you that your idea is brilliant. Everybody is gonna love what you do. And if you believe that, you’re setting yourself up for failure. You’ve got to sit down and just call BS on the world and figure out what’s going to go wrong next. And then the third thing I think is you just got to get ready to be hugged and kicked in the teeth multiple times every single day. Now admittedly the bigger the thing that you’re trying to pull off, the harder you’re going to get hugged, the harder you’re gonna get punched in the face. But that’s part of the journey. Every time you feel something good, something is going to creep up and just smack you in the teeth when you’re not looking. You’ve got to be ready for that. And I think you can call yourself out on your BS if you believe in what you’re doing, like it’s the only thing that matters. You know one thing I hear from and as I’m tinkering with the investment crowd and people love the fact that I’m all in on this. Because and they say well what’s your plan B? And I say I don’t have one, right. You’ve got to believe in it that hard because building things is really F’ing hard.
Jamin Brazil: Yeah. It’s so hard. It’s a hard road. It’s a hard road. The second point is the one I want to really dive into. Don’t believe the press. It took me 10 years at Decipher to figure that out. I was – it was remarkable that every demo I did, people were smiling and telling me how great everything is that I built. And then they didn’t convert. And there’s just such a truth to in, especially in the US, people want to be kind and they want to – they want you to feel good, even if they don’t like what you’ve done or they’re not – they have no intention of using what you’ve done. And that can create these false signals that convert to over indexing on a, maybe a flawed platform or a flawed solution that you’re bringing to the market. And you really have to surround yourself with people that are willing to give you the hard truths irrespective of how it might make you feel because it never is good. And that will save you a lot of – it could save your life in all earnest. How did you get that truth lens on what you’re building?
Steve Kantscheidt: I have a colleague who tells me what’s going to go wrong every single day. Every time I walk out of something exciting, she will say it’s not gonna work out that way. Which is a great, incredibly valuable thing to have on your team. Somebody who understands what you’re doing and understands how to knock you down a peg. Do me a favor and repeat the question for me, Jamin?
Jamin Brazil: Yeah. So how did you get the truth lens? In other words, how were you able to – because everybody around you usually wants you to feel good.
Steve Kantscheidt: Right.
Jamin Brazil: That’s the problem. Even if they’re – even if they’re adversaries. And so they’ll tell you that things are good. So how did you wind up getting people to give you honest feedback?
Steve Kantscheidt: I can’t remember who it was but I think it’s one of the heads of innovation, or former heads of innovation at Google. He’s got a great little video on YouTube. And I’m sure it’s a recurrent talk about don’t believe anybody – don’t believe anybody’s words, just believe their wallet, right. I have literally been – and we’ve only done a few true sales meetings. We’ve only really gone down that right. But I have been in meetings where people have spent the first 10 minutes talking about the importance of why. And how they’re frustrated in their role because they don’t have the why. And how they need the why to do what they do. And then when it comes time to say yes, they will then say, well how does it help me do this thing that has nothing to do with why, but is related to my KPI’s? And I think that that’s a recurring pattern if it gets back to that idea of being out in the market, doing your own market research. When you ask people to give you money, that is really where the rubber meets the road. Everything that they told you in that moment prior is wonderful, makes you feel good, but it doesn’t do you any good. And when you ask them to give you money, that’s the test. And I also think that in this world that we live in today, where venture capitalists are running around giving everybody money, it almost creates – it’s almost like it’s an elevation overnight, right. You believe it’s going to work because this guy with a gajillion dollars gave you five – five, $50,000, right. So we keep – it’s a sort of self-perpetuating cycle. But when you get somebody and you ask them to stand up for something different and put their own budget and their own signature on it, well that’s really where you get the truth lens. And then if you’re smart, you say OK, tell me more, tell me why not. You learn from that. You walk away. You fine tune and you give up.
Jamin Brazil: What do you see as the biggest challenge, or one of the biggest challenges that’s facing start-ups today?
Steve Kantscheidt: I think that culturally we value the entrepreneur. We value the American dream frankly, right. And you get an enormous amount of input from people in the media that tells you there’s a lot of money out there, you’re going to be the next Zuckerberg and it encourages people to take moon shots which is great, right. You know in this culture, like yeah, fail fast, et cetera. I think that we’re on the – we’re at the press of this of the market shifting, starting to shift away from speculation and getting to substance, right. And I think that that’s – I think we’re going to start seeing the herd trimming pretty quickly. And the making money simply to make more money or raising money to raise more money is going to become less and less. And when you’re in that environment I think it creates a greater degree of skepticism, right. I think the sales pitch for a long time was hey, we’re going to be the next WeWork. And even when I say – you know one of things that I’ve said a few times is we are to automobiles is what Uber – excuse me – we are a market researcher what Uber is to automobiles. Well guess what, Uber hasn’t made a dime. I don’t want to be attached to Uber or Airbnb, or any of these other unicorns that don’t make any money. And I think that more and more you’re gonna see people pushing back on that idea. I think the other part too is that getting back to the idea that people want to be nice to you, well when you’re working with people, suppliers et cetera, sometimes contractors, maybe even employees, you want to believe that they’re here to help you. But really most people just have their hands in your pocket, right. And finding the people who don’t want to just take advantage of your idea – and I’m not just talking about the VC folks. I’m talking about every contractor you have who tells you how brilliant it is and they’re just gonna do their part to move down the line because they believe in you, but they’re still getting paid. Finding the people – and I have been fortunate enough over this past year to find some people who are amazingly smart and amazingly in on what we’re doing, but there was a lot of going through everybody else trying to just take advantage of the idea. So I think that that’s – that’s a huge challenge. Finding genuine people who believe in you, believe in your idea enough that they’re going to put themselves in it too. They’re out there. I found them, but there’s a lot of learning to sift through the BS to find those folks.
Jamin Brazil: Yeah. And there’s a – you know the reason why is – well it’s obvious I’ll state it – is that if you have a corporate job you like your corporate job, right. I mean you might complain about it that’s part of the – that’s part of the joys, but you don’t want to lose it. And anytime you go out on a new supplier with a different, some variant of difference, like the famous quote nobody ever got fired for hiring IBM, so. Ten times more expensive, 10 times slower, sorry listeners from IBM, compared to the start-up that might even have a much better technology solution. But I mean you have a bunch of Ph. D’s, et cetera, et cetera. So I mean it is the safe bet. You’ve really got to align yourself with who are those early adopters or those visionaries inside of the corporations that want to actually move the needle and find joy and fun in exercising those kind of innovative or entrepreneurial internally, entrepreneurial, I think they called entrepreneur’s muscles.
Steve Kantscheidt: Yeah, absolutely. Because I think, OK. Go ahead please.
Jamin Brazil: So what was – how were you able to identify some of those early adopters?
Steve Kantscheidt: I think as it relates to customers, clients, members of our community, we’re at the beginning at that journey. There is absolutely a mindset here. What we’re trying to do is not build a product. There are a lot of companies out there who are doing research of this kind, but it’s really about driving custom research sales, right. What we’re trying to do is build a community of like minded individuals. So you’re looking for people who want to be part of something different. There’s an enormous amount of that culture in the advertising agency world for instance. It’s a lot of trial and error. I don’t think that was a particularly good answer to your question though.
Jamin Brazil: Well maybe a – maybe framed a little bit differently. And sure you can just cut that part out. The, I guess the real question for me is like – so let me ask you this first. Have you found some early adopters at the corporate assistant buyers?
Steve Kantscheidt: We’ve got a lot of folks who are interested and ready to go when we launch, yes.
Jamin Brazil: So you’ve got some like – they might not have signed a term sheet, but they said yes, we’re going to sign.
Steve Kantscheidt: Yes. And that’s why – what I get is a lot of this is really interesting, let me know when you’re ready to go. So that’s why we’ll do that part in a little bit because I don’t [INAUDIBLE].
Jamin Brazil: Did you get some nos?
Steve Kantscheidt: No. No. No.
Jamin Brazil: Did you get any nos yet? Not yet, OK. All right. Perfect. Well that answers my question then. Yeah it’s so funny I see that all the time where I’ll get a lot of high level of interest and then when it comes down – you know when it comes down to it, it’s like OK, well you know we’re not ready yet. Let us know how it goes. It’s kind of – I get that a lot in the investor community where –
Steve Kantscheidt: We just started raising money. I bootstrapped at this bar and have a – and now need to go raise some money to get us through launch [INAUDIBLE] third party.
Jamin Brazil: Yeah I mean it’s a big challenge. Raising like – raising capital today is way different than it was three years ago. Like the amount of traction that companies are wanting to see is in the order of half a million dollars of annual reoccurring revenue or ARR. And that’s hard to get to that especially if you’re in a like either tech – if you’re in a technology based. I mean think about the capital expenditure of creating a sample frame of 100,000 people in 50 countries, that’s really hard and really expensive. It’s so expensive. And so and then you got to do the analytic – then you actually have to do the man hours, right behind that and then come up with it, so. Yeah I mean there’s a lot of capital intensity when you create these businesses and I feel like at the early stage investors what was like a series A or even a seed round now it’s gotten a lot harder unless you have a proven track record to raise capital.
Steve Kantscheidt: And what’s nice for us is we’ve built an incredible leadership team, a proven leadership team and we’re operating in a space that we understand and we recognize as a market need for it, so. We’re at an advantage from that standpoint. But it is a challenge. And it’s – and frankly in many ways it’s a distraction, an unfortunate distraction.
Jamin Brazil: Right. Yeah, totally. Unnecessary distraction because you’re right. It’s not – it’s enabling the business, but it’s not adding value to the business in the way of like a new feature or more people or more customers, right. It is much more a – but yeah it’s a material part of the overhead if you’re in a situation where you need to raise – where you need to raise capital. All right let’s shift gears. Let’s get into our last question, what is your personal motto?
Steve Kantscheidt: So I wrestled for a while to come up with an answer to that question because the stock answer I’m sure you get is, I don’t really have one, I just live by be kind and et cetera. Or my motto now is, et cetera. So I actually asked a few folks around here what they thought my personal motto would be. And the response was I won’t do anything unless I believe in it and then I’m going to do it all the way. So if you ask me what my personal motto is, the easy words that come to mind are far behind a driven which were the metal heads in the room is the name of an old Pantera record. In the THREE group, we used to have a poster on the wall that said be fucking awesome. The logic was every – and this is 12 years ago, I think it’s been co-opted since, but the logic was everybody wants to be awesome. Well you know what you be fucking awesome. And here in this moment, I think everybody wants to believe they’re driven. Well we need to be far from beyond driven. We’re an independent company. We are scrappy. We’re trying to take on a model that is 70 years old and working with people who are in many ways anxious about their positions and motivated to, as you just pointed out, stay safe. We have to be far beyond driven in order to win. I always like enough to – you know we go through the – we just did our whole brand exercise. I’ll take a bit of a detour, but maybe it’ll be a nice place for you to land your conversation, this conversation. I like enough to sub-pop. I grew up in the music business, that’s where I started my professional career and sub-pop in the early 90’s, late 80’s, early 90’s was like a couple of guys in a garage and they launched a movement, a cultural movement that fundamentally shifted us from the 80’s to the 90’s. Those guys had no business pulling off what they pulled off. And in a lot of ways that’s how I feel about us. We have no business pulling this off, but damn it every day we’re doing it. Why? Because we want it more, we’re smarter, we believe in it and we’re far beyond driven.
Jamin Brazil: My guest today has been Steve Kantscheidt, founder and CEO of Humantel. Steve thank you so much for being on the Happy Market Research Podcast.
Steve Kantscheidt: So much fun. Thank you, Jamin.
Jamin Brazil: Everyone else if you found value in this episode like I know I did I hope you’ll take time, screen capture, share this on LinkedIn, Twitter, or wherever your social feeds are, tag us, and we’ll send you something special. Have a wonderful rest of your day.