Noah Brier
August 2, 2019

The Unlikely Path of Percolate’s Founder

Guest: Noah Brier - Co-Founder, Percolate

Percolate, a software company, has received north of $100M in funding. Not a number to be scoffed at. In this episode—a fairly atypical one—Noah Brier, the founder, recalls and examines the path he followed to get to this point. Noah started with job at American Demographics, a now-defunct marketing and advertising magazine, moved into a copywriting position (despite not knowing what ‘copywriting’ was) at a familiar agency, and wound his way through a few other roles, side projects, twists, turns, ups and downs before reaching the point he’s at today. Now, Percolate is making a name as a leading enterprise content marketing platform, and he can lay claim to a true wealth of experience.

Noah’s journey is, in many ways, extraordinary. It follows unconventional routes, shows moments of peerless creative intuition and spark, and can ideally help guide each and every aspiring marketing leader out there. Listen in to hear about Noah’s entry into marketing, how he advises developing and managing your career, and how he approached starting his own, now massively successful, company. Being an entrepreneur isn’t easy, but Noah’s model can offer some insights into how it can happen. As he says, “you can’t go through the experience of being an entrepreneur and not make a bunch of mistakes. You just hope to make fewer of them the next time around.”

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Connect with Drew

Drew Neisser in Conversations with Noah Brier

Drew Neisser: Hey, it’s Drew and I’m with Noah Brier. Noah and I have known each other since 2004—that was 15 years ago. This episode is about all that can happen in 15 years, and it’s amazing. Noah, welcome to the show!

Noah Brier: Thank you very much for having me.

Drew Neisser: Back in 2004, I get a call from someone who I thought was a reporter for American Demographics, I didn’t know that you were a student at the time. I get a call and you tell me that you’re doing a story on Shepard Fairey, who was of the Obey Giant fame. At that time, Renegade was known as a guerrilla marketing agency. Tell me, how did you become a reporter for American Demographics as a college student?

Noah Brier: I was at NYU and I somehow got to meet the editor of American Demographics, I think it was through my dad. He said, “What are you interested in?” and I pitched him a story. I said, “Well, I’ve been tracking this guy, Shepard Fairey. I’ve been tracking Obey Giant and I’m interested in how brands can emerge from weird cultural things.” He said, “OK, cool. Well, that sounds pretty interesting. I want you to write me 2500 words and I’ll pay you for it. If it’s good enough, I’ll hire you. If it’s bad enough, I’ll give you the money and then you’ll go find a different job, and you probably won’t be a writer”. So I wrote my 2500 words. It was an amazing experience. I called Shepard Fairey, I spoke to KAWS who is now a big artist, you see him on all the Uniqlo shirts and everywhere else. Then I spoke to you, and I spoke to a bunch of other people. One, it was just amazing because everybody will answer your call when you’re writing a story. Two, I got to write this amazing story and it got accepted, it got into the magazine. I met you and I wrote for American Demographics for a while. Eventually our paths merged again when American Demographics went out of business.

Drew Neisser: Oh, that’s how it happened. I remember, Fanny, who was a creative director at Renegade at the time, said, “Remember that kid who interviewed you? Well, he’s actually a pretty talented writer.” I said, “Wait, what?” And she said, “You gotta bring him in,” so I went, “OK.” That was a pretty amazing thing. First of all, the fact that you as a college student could write something that well written is impressive. We knew there was something there early on. When you got to Renegade, you said in your note that you didn’t know what a copywriter was? Talk to me.

Noah Brier: I didn’t know what a copywriter was. I didn’t know much about the marketing or advertising industry other than what I had reported on. I figured I knew how to write, and everybody seemed to think that I could do the job, so I was comfortable with it. But no, I didn’t know exactly what a copywriter did. I didn’t know what I would be doing precisely. But it felt like a good place. It had a good vibe and I liked all the people. I figured, “Writing is writing at the end of the day. If you can do it, you can do it.”

Drew Neisser: And you did do it. Were there some things that you remember from your experience at Renegade? Any stories that you should share with the audience?

Noah Brier: Yeah. There’s a bunch of things I remember. There are people I met at Renegade who I still see often. I was just out in California and I saw Charles who we worked with back in 2005. There were some amazing people there, many of whom I still keep in touch with. What was really amazing about the place was the variety of work that we were doing at that time. It’s a lot more common now to think multi-modally, but I don’t think it was actually happening that much then. We were doing digital work, we were doing experimental work, we were doing video work, we were doing all of these different things and we were melding them together without worrying about it. It wasn’t like we needed to call it something else. It was just, “Of course you should do all these things if you’re doing marketing.”

Drew Neisser: Well, it was fun to not be constrained. I always thought, however, in retrospect, that focus is your friend. I always wondered, what if we had just done one thing? Right? That was the problem. My problem was I have extreme ADD and I’m too interested in too many parts of marketing to settle on just one. It’s too hard because if you see a solution for a client that doesn’t include exactly what you do, what do you do? Say, “You ought to do this, but let someone else do it”? Anyway, we figured it out. Along the way, you had a bunch of other experiences before you founded Percolate. Talk a little bit about some of the things that each of those places taught you before you started Percolate.

Noah Brier: Let’s stay at Renegade for one second, because there were two other big things before I left. One, I was starting to experiment with doing side projects. I started a thing called Likemind while I was at Renegade, which was a coffee meetup. I just invited some folks, I did it along with peers from PSFK, and it was an amazing experience because all these amazing people came. Eventually, it was in 40 or 50 cities around the world and it was in The New York Times. It gave me a taste of trying to do things and just seeing what happens.

The other thing that happened at Renegade, which set me on my next path, was that it was a place where I could explore a lot of things. I wrote copy, but I also got to do a little bit of creative direction, I got to work on new businesses, and I got to work on some strategy. In doing that and working with Ted, who we both remember well from Renegade, I got to experience strategy and I got really interested in the ideas around marketing strategy. I left Renegade to go to a place called Naked Communications, which was focused on strategy. It solved that problem that we were just talking about, about what should you do by saying that strategy should exist as an independent piece that works across all channels that doesn’t produce any of the work and works with all of these agencies. I can tell you from experience that model has a whole bunch of flaws in and of itself, but it was also great fun and it was super interesting. 

The biggest thing I learned there was about what strategy does and how it works. The idea that strategy is an attempt to codify ways of working. One of the things we used to produce was a thing we called the Communications Architecture, which looked at a customer journey and it aligned messages against the journey. It was an important way to communicate what strategy should do within an organization. More importantly, it did it in a way that people could actually use it. One of my big pet peeves is that strategy is often just words on a page, and people forget that the whole point of strategy in any organization, but especially in marketing, is to help people make better marketing and make better content. And making that actionable, connecting it back, putting it in a place where you can see it, and codifying it in a way that is easy for everyone to use; that was the single biggest lesson I took away from there. It’s something that I definitely brought to Percolate as I built it out.

Drew Neisser: I want to jump on that because I was just reading about that. In fact, I wrote down that quote that you said, “If strategy doesn’t inform action, that’s probably not strategy.” I would almost call it branding malpractice when a branding firm gives you a positioning but doesn’t give you an articulation of it that you can use externally. And the reason why I focus on the external expression of this strategy is that it is easier for people to wrap their minds around. I did a podcast recently where I mentioned where family comes first. That idea expressed that way would have been very easy for Family Circle to understand that, okay, these are our marching orders for everything we do. Now, they didn’t do it because we didn’t have a process behind it that showed them why this was so substantial. But this is where, and I know many smarter people than I can distinguish between strategy and execution, that missing part of articulating a strategy is almost as important. The strategy can fall apart when the execution is bland.

Noah Brier: Yeah. I think one of the bridges for that, which I think is a really easy way to make it easier for everyone to understand, is to include some self-assessment criteria as part of your strategy. If you’re writing a strategy and you’re trying to inform content, if you’re trying to inform creative, then include some questions that whoever is actually producing the final work can ask themselves to help them know whether they’re in line with your strategy or not. I think it’s actually a really simple way to think about bridging that gap between strategy and execution. Maybe you don’t have to go all the way to the execution point, but if you at least give the executors a way to understand whether they’re in line with you or not, it takes away a lot of the fuzzy edges that can exist in the brand positioning that just gets handed over to you. If you didn’t get it explained to you by the people who wrote it, you’re just crossing your fingers and hoping that you’ve interpreted it in the right way.

Drew Neisser: Interesting. I’m going to put a little coda on that, and this sort of undermines my earlier argument, my favorite of those positionings that I remember from Gain Detergent is “Smell as proof of clean.” All they have to do at some point in the commercial is just show someone sniffing it and going “Ah!” and that’s a magical moment. It’s based on an insight that, somehow or other, smell equals clean, even though it’s almost ridiculous. That’s a great articulation of strategy versus execution. I don’t think most people are smart enough to get there. I’m not. I need the language, the consumer facing language, the employee facing language that helps everybody focus. Those questions that you ask are probably good, too. Maybe that would solve the problem that I have. 

So, we talked about the past, I think we should take a break and get to a little bit of the present, but not too much. We’ll be right back.

BREAK

Drew Neisser: We’re back. My guest is Noah Brier, who was the founder and CEO and CTO of Percolate. We talked about your experience at Naked. By the way, I have a little Naked story. They called us a couple of years after you had been there and said, “Hey, would you execute something for us?” This is when it really hit home that the difference between strategy and execution is that if you haven’t executed something, you really don’t know whether it can be done or not. They asked us to do one thing, and we had done something like it, but it really wasn’t practical. It wasn’t doable, but they had it on the plan! So anyway, after Naked, you went to…?

Noah Brier: The Barbarian Group. 

Drew Neisser: Right, the Barbarian Group. What did you learn there?

Noah Brier: After Naked, after doing the strategy thing, I wanted to get my hands dirty again. I was coming from working at an agency where we made lots of stuff, to working at an agency where we made nothing. I wanted to find something in the middle. I started at their strategy firm. They were a digital agency focused on lots of really interesting creative digital work. They are most famous for doing Subservient Chicken, which is obviously a seminal piece of digital marketing.

Drew Neisser: It was.

Noah Brier: I was there around 2008, 2009, when content was really starting to pick up. I think my two biggest experiences there were working with two very different kinds of companies, Red Bull and GE. On one side, I spent probably a month in Austria with Red Bull. We were rebuilding RedBull.com. I came to realize that Red Bull is not really a soda company, they’re a media company that sells soda. I also came to realize that one of the biggest conversations I’ve had with people about Red Bull when people ask, is to say, “I don’t know that there’s anything anyone can learn from that company.” They’re so unique and so strange that, unless you’re owned by a billionaire, you’re private, and the billionaire really, really likes fast cars and skydiving, then there just aren’t so many lessons in there to take away. They’re a really unique organization, fascinating and obviously incredibly successful.

Drew Neisser: Let’s talk about that for a second, I was thinking about this notion of best practices. And I was realizing it’s the stupidest notion in the world. If you’re trying to be unique, you have to do stuff that other people aren’t. If you look at the best practices, you might as well understand them and then just forget them and say, “This is who we are, this is how we operate.” I remember a story from one of my interviews for the book with a Knight in the English court, and he said that it wasn’t until he stopped looking at his competition that he started to succeed. I thought that was really interesting. He just started to be unique. So with Barbarian Group, you did Red Bull and you also did GE. You did amazing things!

Noah Brier: Yeah. That was a really amazing project. We worked directly with Beth Comstock, who was the CMO at the time, and then Linda Boff, who’s now the CMO. We really worked on finding their voice, and I got to do one of the most fun projects in my entire career, which was that I went around GE and I was a roving reporter. I basically blogged as a way to help them find their voice. I visited a bunch of locations, I talked to a bunch of people. My rule was, don’t tell me anything secret because I’m going to say it all publicly. The point of the blog was not actually to get attention to it. It was to help them find the voice that they had, and it really worked. It was fascinating. It was amazing. Then we started producing a lot of content for GE, and the experience I had was, they said, “This is awesome. Let’s do like four times more of it next year.” Wwe said, “That’s awesome. That’s gonna be four times the price because that’s sort of how it works.” And they were like “Hmm… not so much.”

That was one of those moments for me where I thought, well, this is just not going to work over the long term. All these brands are very focused on finding new ways to communicate that the amount of content they are producing is increasing. We can have a conversation about whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing; but it’s just a fact. It certainly was a fact in 2008, when they were producing basically nothing. And there are no tools available that really help you in the upfront part of creative marketing. All of the technology that exists even now, and certainly existed when we started Percolate in 2011, was really focused on what I call the last mile. It was like CMSs, email marketing, all these things where they assume that the hardest part of marketing is just, “How do I deliver this to someone?” not, “What am I saying? How do I produce it?”

Drew Neisser: Right. Tthere is an emphasis on quantity, which had become a big issue in the business. All right, we’re jumping to Percolate. I remember you and James talking about starting this company. I was at one of those Likemind breakfasts. You introduced me to James and he seemed like the anti-Noah. He was the opposite of you in so many ways, which I credit you. When you think about forming a company, you don’t want to form it with somebody like yourself. He’s super—not that you’re not—outgoing and a salesperson, and you’re cerebral and think about things really deeply. How important was that initial connection with someone who was so different from you?

Noah Brier: Well, I think we have a lot more in common than most people realize. I think sometimes James and I like to play those roles because it goes over well, but I think that there are a lot of situations where I’m actually very outgoing, and then there’s some situations where I actually prefer to be more outgoing. You know, I love to get up in front of people and talk. On the flip side, he’s very cerebral and we have a lot of really interesting conversations, so I think that there’s a funny thing there which is—

Drew Neisser: So I’m making up this difference.

Noah Brier: No. I think that there are two important things there. One is that, yes, it was really important that we have very different skill sets, and we’re focused in different places. I think in starting a company, you want to have as little operational overlap as possible because you want to have clear lines of delineation between what you do. And really, our overlap is marketing. He’s been focused in sales and go to market and all those things. I had been focused, at that point, very much in product. I built the initial version of Percolate. But our overlap was marketing and thinking about marketing and thinking about marketers and thinking about the problems of marketers. I think that’s the first thing.

The second is, sometimes it’s good to play the roles that you’re given. There are some situations where that’s really valuable. On the flip side, I have this memory, and this is a little bit of a tangent, but I think it’s worthwhile. I got invited to GE one time to have this amazing meeting. They were talking about the future of employment. They invited like 10 of us. There was historian Doris Kearns Goodwin and there was a business professor. I was the millennial. We were having this conversation about the future of the workforce, employees, and how to connect better with new types of people. About two hours in, someone from GE stood up and said, “Hey, everybody, just pause for a second. Everybody stop playing their roles. Stop being the historian, stop being the business professor, stop being the millennial, and just like, be a smart person. That’s what you are. Bring your experiences, but everybody quit being the thing that they’re supposed to be.” That is something I think about a lot. I think about it in running workshops. I think about it in doing brainstorming. I think about it in any of those things. Sometimes you do have to break those roles. Sometimes it’s good to play them, and you play them to make everybody more comfortable and feel better, and sometimes, it’s really helpful to flip out of that.

Drew Neisser: All right. Next, brainstorming I’m playing the intern. Here’s the one thing you just sort of blew right by—you wrote the first product version of Percolate. You did the code. Did you teach yourself to learn to code?

Noah Brier: Yes. While I was at Naked, I taught myself to code. I just was interested. I was tired of asking people to build things for me, so I became a pretty crappy coder, to be honest. While I was there, I built a little experiment that actually came from a conversation I had with a friend who had invited me to come talk to his company. He asked me to come talk about brand versus utility. And I was like, “Sure, I’ll come talk about brand versus utility. I don’t really know what that means, but let me spend some time thinking about it, and I’ll come talk.” I think about this lot. Sometimes, you learn the most when you’re given a brief that is just totally outside of the area that you would otherwise explore. So, I went in and I did all this research. I learned about utility theory and economics. I basically came back to him and I said, “Well, I don’t actually think there’s a distinction.” They were big media company and they were trying to figure out, is the brand more important or is the product more important? And I said, “Utility is a measure of the relative satisfaction somebody has from the consumption of goods.” That’s utility in economic terms. So that’s kind of interesting, but what is satisfaction? Satisfaction is actually a function of expectations. Your satisfaction level is partly a function of what you expected to receive out of it. If you have low expectations, your satisfaction might be higher. If you have really high expectations, something can be amazing, a product can be absolutely extraordinary, but it didn’t reach expectations; therefore, it’s disappointing.

Drew Neisser: It’s like going to a movie that everybody’s hyped about how this is the best movie ever. You go, “Oh, it wasn’t that good.”

Noah Brier: Right, because it was the second best movie ever. What is the point of marketing and branding but to set expectations? And so I said to them, “I don’t really think you can draw a hard line between those things.” This is still something I think about a lot, I think that people love to draw that distinction. They love to talk about it, and I think that’s part of what makes measuring marketing so hard—it’s really hard to say where the brand begins and the products end.

Drew Neisser: It is. Although if you talk to the folks at Wells Fargo, they can tell you very much what happens when you lose brand.

Noah Brier: Yes.

Drew Neisser: Brand equals trust and with a bank or financial institution, if you lose trust, you lose pretty much everything. Frankly, almost every brand, when you lose trust, you lose everything. But the difference between pre-crisis and post-crisis in terms of the value of the stock and the perception of the brand is huge. Nothing really changed from a utility standpoint, but everything changed in terms of a brand standpoint. 

Noah Brier: I was working on this presentation, and one night, I had this idea that popped in my head: if you believe all these things about how brands ultimately are about setting expectations, then what if I just flash up a random logo and people typed in the first thing that popped in their head, and then made a tag cloud out of it? That would be a snapshot of brand perception. So, I got up at two in the morning and I just made it. I put it out in the world the next day. Some people started to like it, and then some people started to write about it, and then it was in The Wall Street Journal. And then it was in Ad Age, and it was in all these things. I got to be on NPR, which was probably the most amazing of all the experiences because NPR cuts all your “Ums” and “Ahs.”

Drew Neisser: Oh, isn’t that nice? We don’t do that on the show, I’m sorry.

Noah Brier: It’s okay. You sound absolutely brilliant when you come off NPR. So, I built Brand Tags, and Brand Tags was this super fun experiment and it caught a lot of attention. I collected something like 15 million tags, and I also caught the bug for building products. I saw this thing go and I taught myself to write code, and then I had to maintain. Then people were breaking it and I had find ways fix it. You learn a lot when you’re forced to, and I was forced to learn a lot. I built Brand Tags; I ended up selling it I think two years after that. That also gave me a little bit of seed money to not be paid for a bit while we started Percolate.

Drew Neisser: I got it. All right. We’re gonna take a break. When we come back, we’re going to talk about a number of things that you’re going to want to listen to. Stay with us.

BREAK

Drew Neisser: We’re back and my guest is Noah Brier, the founder of Percolate. I want to make a point for any of the students that are listening to this show: if you want to know whether or not you’re an entrepreneur, you probably will see it in your behavior early on. I wanted to share a few things that Noah has said or hasn’t said. Noah had a blog when he was in college for the Chicago Bears. He just mentioned the fact that he taught himself to program while he had another job and built this tag cloud thing. There was an entrepreneurial spark. In many ways, you are more Gen Z. You’re like the side gig kid, right? Which is what Gen Z is all about. Anyway, none of this is surprising to me because this is the Noah that I saw and that we wanted to hire. This was someone who went above and beyond because you were curious about so many things and you just pursued them. You did them. If you think you want to be an entrepreneur, start being an entrepreneur. It’s like, if you want to be a writer, you better be writing.

Noah Brier: Can I say one more thing about this? I teach a class every year at the University of Montana, and I’m generally wary of advice because I don’t love advice myself, but the one thing I always say, and this actually goes back to Renegade as well, and I’ve had the same experience running my own company—when you are in your first job, or any job, the thing to do is to do your job. Do the job that you were hired for. Get it done. And then go explore, because nobody is going to stop you from doing other things once you’ve finished the thing that you were supposed to do. I had copy to write. I got my copy written. And then I went around, I talked to Tripp and I started working on new business or I talked to Ted and I started working on strategy. I talked to Fanny and I started working on creative stuff. Nobody is going to turn you down for helping them as long as you finished the job that you were hired to do, which is the piece that I think a lot of people want to skip over. They want to skip the job they were hired to do and work on the other things. You can explore a lot of new parts of an organization, and you will get paid for it. It’s great, you can learn about a whole bunch of new things and try new directions.

Drew Neisser: Love it, great advice. We’re going to record that. Put that on the recruiting site for renegade.com. Do your job, then explore. I’m curious. You’ve left Percolate, and you had eight years. What do you wish you knew when you started the company that you know now?

Noah Brier: Wow. There’s any number of things. I think if I look back on my experience at Percolate, we did a lot of things right and we did a lot of things wrong. I think that’s what happens. You can’t go through the experience of being an entrepreneur and not make a bunch of mistakes. I think the hope is that you make fewer of them next time, but we also do a lot of things right. I think that there’s a lot of stuff around culture that we did right and we did wrong. I take that away and I think about, and I think as I go into starting a new company, I really want to make sure that we get right. Culture is incredibly powerful. That is sort of something I knew from the beginning. 

One of the things we did really well was we wrote a lot down. To me, part of it is that I am a writer, but part of it is that I think there’s nothing that scales better in an organization than writing because you can read it across space and time. You can’t tell stories verbally and expect them to always carry. I think investing in culture, especially early on, is really critical. One of the really hard things is that, as you’re growing, and especially as you’re growing fast, you bring in a lot of new people. They have a lot of ideas about your culture, and some of them are right and some of them are very wrong. Learning to understand which ones are right and which ones are wrong is really hard. And part of it is that you don’t always trust your gut. You think that these are people that are coming from really big, really successful companies, but you have to find the balance. 

It’s hard to say exactly where that balance is, but I think you have to know in your heart what your culture is, and you have to be able to nail that, because the thing about culture that is so powerful is that things that are embedded at the cultural level—I’ve been trying to articulate this as a set of layers—but things are embedded at the cultural level. It just means that it’s stuff you don’t have to do in other ways in the organization. It is process you don’t need to put in place because you’ve made it culture. And culture is so much more powerful than process. If you’ve embedded creativity, you’ve embedded experimentation, you’ve embedded agile—if you get it down to that cultural level where it’s just a part of the fabric of the organization, then you have to worry less about making sure that you have the agile process nailed because you have an agile culture.

Drew Neisser: Part of that then is hiring into that, right? Hiring people who are naturally inclined to those things and then training people who don’t. One of the things that I was surprised about when I interviewed Diana O’Brien, the global CMO of Deloitte, she talked about Deloitte University and how they could teach empathy. I thought that was something you had to hire for! She said, “No, we teach people that.” That’s fascinating. So, Part A is defining culture, and then hiring into culture, and then acculturating.

Noah Brier: Yeah, I’ve always struggled with the hiring to culture thing, actually. To some extent, my worry with talking about culture fit is that it ends up meaning a lot of the same people. It sort of moves you away from diversity. If you’ve defined the culture well enough, then people can adapt to it and you want different views and you want different opinions. I actually was very purposeful in not making culture fit a part of it. I think you hire smart people who want to be there. 

Startups are nice because there’s a certain amount of self-selection. Somebody has to be willing to take a risk to join a 20, 50, 100-person company in a way that they don’t when they go to join Deloitte. You get rid of a whole bunch of people who don’t want to be there. From there, people figure it out. And if your culture is strong enough, then it is ideally able to take those people in, and the culture should adapt over time. One of the really important things is that culture can’t stay stagnant. One of the things we did is we revisited our values yearly. I think a lot of companies think about values being set in stone. But why? Why should anything be set in stone? Why shouldn’t you look at your values and question whether they’re still something you’re living? Because, again, culture is the things that you actually do. Your values are the things you say you do. Making sure those two things are connected is really critical. Revisiting them is a powerful mechanism for making that happen.

Drew Neisser: Culture was one big thing in values you mentioned. What was one other thing that you wish you knew at the beginning of starting Percolate?

Noah Brier: I think that, on hiring, one of the big important things is, as you’re growing a company really quickly, especially as you’re a first time entrepreneur, everybody says you’ve got to hire people who have been there before. So, you go you talk to all these people from all these really big companies, and ideally you hire a couple of them, but when you hire people from really big successful companies, they often have misinterpreted what the company did to be successful. It’s a correlation causation problem. This is famous for people hired from Google, where people have come to believe, especially if you have worked at Google for a long time, that the way Google operates is what makes it successful. And that might be true, but it’s really hard to tell because Google has a money printing press.

Drew Neisser: Exactly. Yes. And we should all have that. Where you have a monopoly on something, where you don’t have to create really anything other than the search, and you’re living off of the world of content. I mean, it’s a brilliant model.

Noah Brier: You have to be really careful when you say Google is successful because they offer really good lunch and that’s how they attract talent or Google is successful because it has 20% time, which I think a lot of people took away as an innovative idea for how companies should operate. But there’s just a real question of, can you do that if you’re not Google? I think there’s a whole generation of startups that collapsed under their own weight because they took the wrong things away from these really successful companies.

Drew Neisser: I love that you pointed that out. And I think what we’re gonna do is a part two of this episode and we’re going to wrap this up. There’s a couple of things. One, Google is printing money so they could afford to do something like 20%. Most companies aren’t in that position, so, the notion of copying it is kind of silly. Famous fund manager of the Magellan Fund at Fidelity, Peter…what’s his name? Anyway, he said “Beware of the next anything.” Beware the next Wal-Mart. Beware the next anything because anybody who was copying that model is going to fail. The last thing I want to say on that is I remember when I was at an account executive at JWT and we were working on the Warner-Lambert business. We had Listerine, which was the only product that actually was number one in the category that PNG competed in. Scope was number two. Well, they hired a guy from PNG, and it was the worst thing ever because, “This is the way we did it at PNG.” Well, by the way, Listerine is number one in the category. We don’t care what Scope did, it’s not relevant. He was sort of a virus that got expelled from the organization because it wasn’t about PNG.

Noah Brier: Yeah, well, we can get into this in part two. This is very much in line with Byron Sharp’s ideas about how brands grow around market share and being top in the category, really being the biggest driver of success.

Drew Neisser: We’re going to stop and wrap this one up. I think this is really the entrepreneur episode. I wanted to let you hear what a true entrepreneur sounds like and the behavior of such an individual is really important here. You don’t just accidentally come into these things. You work at them, and you develop them through a through a career. Anyway, that’s 15 years of experience. Noah, thank you for this part. We’ll continue in the next episode.

Noah Brier: Thank you very much.

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