Podcast Transcript – Series One, Episode 19

Tim Salau Guide  September 2020


[00:00:00] Tim: decided to make home in Houston, Texas, which was Plymouth rock for us

[00:00:04]I was a walking ball of different

[00:00:05]I like to consider myself as a design technologist.

[00:00:08]I’ve always been fascinated by puzzle pieces

[00:00:10]I’ve seen how Google works. I’ve seen how Microsoft works.

[00:00:14]a Facebook community and has grown over 300,000 people strong.

[00:00:17]And it’s why many people refer to me as Mr. Future work

[00:00:20]as an entrepreneur. you should always be open to pivoting

[00:00:23] we pivoted around when COVID-19 happened

[00:00:25]The WHAT can look different but the WHY can never change.

[00:00:28]there’s a lot of founders and a lot of entrepreneurs give up too soon.

[00:00:31]it ensures that you’re looking proactively for diverse founders,

[00:00:35]you don’t live, where the world is, you live where the world is going.

[00:00:39] Dan: [00:00:39] What’s up Unfound Nation, Dan Kihanya here. Thanks so much for listening in to another episode of Founders Unfound. That was Tim Salau, co-founder and CEO of Guide, a platform for bitesize learning and talent development for enterprise remote teams. As you can tell, Tim is an exciting speaker and visionary on the future of work.

[00:00:56] Our episode is sponsored by The Plug. The Plug is a one of a kind [00:01:00] place to find research stories and data about and for the black tech landscape, they have unique reports and analysis and members-only calls with some of today’s premier thought leaders. Use the code unfound save $10 on an annual subscription at tpinsights.com, or find a link in the show notes.

[00:01:17]Now we’ve got something new going on here at founders unfound. If you are a black founder who is struggling to get recognition, there’s another way to get onto our podcast, absolutely for free, just leave a review and a five-star rating on Apple Podcasts or at  podchaser.com. If you do this and identify yourself as a black founder, I will read your review in an upcoming episode.

[00:01:37]So make sure to plug your company URL and all the relevant handles. The great thing about podcasts episodes they live on and on and on. So why not? You’re basically getting a free ad as a thank you for taking the time to give us a review and support our mission. So be sure to drop your review today. So with that in mind, I want to give a shout out and a big thank you to Lovern Gordon who gave us five stars and wrote:

[00:01:58] “Founders Unfound really hones in [00:02:00] on companies that are minority-led to show others who look like us. They are just as capable of doing the same or greater thank you for creating space.”

[00:02:08] Make sure to check out Lovern’s great work with Love Life Now Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of victims and survivors of domestic violence. Find out more at lovelifenow.org or on Twitter @lovelifenowfoun, that’s F O U N with no D.

[00:02:26] So thank you, Lovern for the kind words and extraordinary mission you are pursuing. Wasn’t that great? Now’s your chance. Head over to Apple or pod chaser and drop us a review.

[00:02:34] As always, you can find Founders Unfound anywhere podcasts live and you can I also follow us on Twitter and Instagram @foundersunfound.

[00:02:41] Yeah. And found, please follow, like and share to help us grow. Now on with the episode, stay safe and hope you enjoy. [00:03:00]

[00:03:01]Hello and welcome to Founders Unfound, spotlighting, the best startups you don’t know yet, we bring you stories of exceptional founders from underrepresented backgrounds. This is episode number 19 in our series on founders of African descent. I’m your host, Dan Kihanya. Let’s get on it.

[00:03:16]Today, we have Tim Salau. Tim is a dynamic speaker tech influencer innovator, and he’s known as mr. Future of work on top of all that. Tim is co-founder and CEO of Guide a platform for bite-sized learning and talent development for enterprise remote teams. Welcome to the show, Tim, we’re super excited to have you. 

[00:03:35] Tim: [00:03:35] Thank you so much, man. It’s an honor to be on your show, man. Super excited.

[00:03:39]Dan: [00:03:39] All right. Terrific. So let’s start off. Help the listeners understand exactly what Guide is all about.

[00:03:45] Tim: [00:03:45] Yeah. So Guide is the bite-size learning talent development platform for enterprise remote teams. Employers can actually upskill their workers on Guide by onboarding them.

[00:03:55] And, you know, we address use cases within the enterprise, such as [00:04:00] onboarding and new hire training. As well as marketing and sales enablement, and essentially your workers can learn and train each other on Guide. So if you have a new worker who wants to be successful in the first 90 days, you can create bite-sized courses on guide recorded on guide for them.

[00:04:17] And. Within that first day or that first week that they enter your office and workplace, they’ll learn all on Guide.

[00:04:24] Dan: [00:04:24] Awesome.  man. You should be called the future of learning and the future of work, yeah, but before we get more into Guide, let’s hear a little bit more about you. Can you tell us where you’re from and where you grew up?

[00:04:37]Tim: [00:04:37] Yeah, Dan so grew up actually in Nigeria, we moved here, my family and me in 2020 and not 2020 in 1999. In fact, the, one of the core reasons why, my dad moved my family and that’s to America was because, you know, he really was adamant about giving my sisters and me access to better education and, you know, growing up in Nigeria, around the [00:05:00] the nineties, the education system, wasn’t that great.

[00:05:02]So, you know, for them, they already had, my parents had already had their family, their friends, their community, they even got married in Nigeria. They already had a community there. So it was a huge risk and a huge opportunity as well for them to move us to the United States. But you know, when we first moved to the United States in 1999, You decided to make home in Houston, Texas, which was Plymouth rock for us and essentially man, we’ve really grown in Texas.

[00:05:30] So grew up in Texas as a Southerner. And that’s why, you’ll probably hear me say y’all a lot in this podcast, but I’ve lived in a few other areas such as Seattle, Austin, Texas, and now currently living in Oakland, California, where we’re building our company.

[00:05:44]Dan: [00:05:44] Nice. And so how old were you when you,  moved from Nigeria to the Houston area?

[00:05:48] Tim: [00:05:48] Well, six years old.

[00:05:50] Dan: [00:05:50] Do you remember it?

[00:05:51] Tim: [00:05:51] You know what, man. Hey, what I remember.  I remember being excited to be moving to America.  Don’t actually [00:06:00] remember too much. What, you know what life was like when I was younger in Nigeria. And that’s really the fact that you know, you’re so young at that age, you know, well, you can’t remember too much, but you know, have seen scrapbook pictures and was enjoying my life. You know, I had a pretty great group of friends.

[00:06:15] There was so much community around me at all times. And so I think for me, fundamentally, I always remember the community that is within our culture being Nigerian, specifically Yorba.

[00:06:25] Dan: [00:06:25] Can you recall growing up in Houston, sort of when you sort of realized that you were maybe different than other kids?

[00:06:35]Tim: [00:06:35] Man, you know, I was a walking ball of different, Dan, actually growing up as an immigrant.

[00:06:41] You know, you are, you’re just different man. Like it’s like there’s no, there are no qualms about it. Like people look at you differently. People can tell that you’re different. You kind of dress differently the early days. So, I mean, when we moved out here, My parents know my parents weren’t, they weren’t wealthy.

[00:06:55] They didn’t make it. They weren’t made of money.  In Nigeria, they were wealthy. Actually.  they were doing [00:07:00] incredibly well in Nigeria. Where if you were thinking about the class system that they were in, in Nigeria, my parents were doctors.

[00:07:05] And they were like, they work in hospitals and things of that nature. So they were incredibly, doing well for themselves. But when we moved to America, we have to start all over again. So my parents had to go back to school. They kind of relied on friends within our first few years moving to America. So we stayed with friends, but eventually, they were able to go back to school, get educated.

[00:07:23] Finding jobs to eventually find us a nice little apartment home in the hood of Houston, Texas. And then over time, you know, as they continue to grow in their careers, we eventually moved to the suburbs. But in the early days of when we were in Houston, man can remember, not really understanding how everything worked.

[00:07:41]You have to, you have to go through an acculturation process, right. Especially at that age. So some of my earliest memories were just walking down the streets of Houston and understanding that I lived in the hood. All I saw around me was, you know, a lot of, I saw a lot of crack heads around me.

[00:07:56] I saw a lot of, I saw a lot of violence around me. It wasn’t the [00:08:00] prettiest. I saw a lot of gang banging around me. That was my environment to a degree, but you know, it didn’t affect me too much because I was, I lived in a loving environment. I lived in a loving home, but that’s what I saw. Every time I step out of my home.

[00:08:12] And at the same time when I would go to school, you know, a lot of people would remind me that I’m different. You know you hear terms such as African booty scratcher. And that’s because, and that’s just a that’s a connotation that, to just showcase, indicate that you’re different. And at that time, I really fell in love with a lot of American customs.

[00:08:28] So loving basketball, like I really got into basketball and, you know, my favorite player early in the early days of when we moved here was Kobe Bryant. Cause Kobe Bryant was super hot back then arrived early 2000 Lakers. Right. And all of these different things that. our very, our American culture.

[00:08:46] I started to fall in love and be enamored by it. But over time, you know, you realize, and you start kind of like liking things that you like, and you’re not really associating your, your identity with, with American identity.

[00:08:56]Dan: [00:08:56] Right.  That’s interesting.

[00:08:57] Did you know what you wanted to be? [00:09:00] Did your parents sort of basically put this on you and your sisters about like, Hey, we came here, so you need to sort of pursue these sorts of opportunities or did you. Do you have any sort of sense of what direction you want it to go,

[00:09:11] Tim: [00:09:11] man? You know, it’s interesting  Dan, that in African culture, your parents either want you to be an engineer, some sort of rocket scientist or a doctor engineer, scientist, doctor, and yeah, that’s it of the things. I’ve always had an affinity for technology and design. So I like to consider myself as a design technologist before first and foremost, a designer. I love design. I love crafting. I love bringing things together. And for me, design was something that my parents knew. My parents, neither of my parents are designers, but at an early age, I’ve always been fascinated by puzzle pieces or how things work and the systems around things.

[00:09:54] So I, by default always think like a designer and a lot of the work that I did. And eventually [00:10:00] that led me to, you know, going to Texas tech university and getting my psychology degree and around my third year of my study and getting mine. Psychology degree. I decided that I really wanted to get into UX design and eventually went and got my masters at the University of Texas at Austin around information studies in design.

[00:10:17] Right. And eventually, that led me to working with Google eventually, and me working with Microsoft I’ve I’ve worked with Facebook and in the capacity as well. So like my entire life has been kind of like at this point, my entire career has been this kind of passion. Like how do I design things at the same time?

[00:10:32] How does it kind of come back to my core passion for building community? Know, but would love to hear your thoughts, Dan, you know, for your kind of like where your options already settled in terms of what you’re going to be your career map?

[00:10:42] Dan: [00:10:42] They’ve talked about this before. I mean, my parents were all about three things, really service, religion, and education.

[00:10:48] And as long as those, those three legs of the stool were getting the appropriate amount of attention, then they kind of left it to me. Although my dad,  my dad is from Africa. He’s from [00:11:00] Kenya and he was an engineer. And so yeah, there was, there was this inclination of, you know, I wasn’t going to be you know, sort of a nine to five, an uneducated person in terms of what I was going to have for opportunities. But yeah, I know, I know what you mean. I know what you mean, but tell us, did you, did you have a sense of what entrepreneurship was? Cause all the things that you just said, you know, design community puzzles.

[00:11:25] I mean these are the tenants of entrepreneurship and to some degree, did you, did you have a sense of that? Did you know people who were entrepreneurs when you were young and growing up?

[00:11:33] Tim: [00:11:33] Nope. Didn’t know people who are entrepreneurs. I mean, my closest and. My personal definition of entrepreneurship is being of service to a degree as to how are you serving your community?

[00:11:45] it’s how you creating things for others. Like what are you doing to be of service? And the best example of that for me early on in my career has always been my dad. Who built a church because he was so passionate about the work that he does as a pastor, he built a [00:12:00] church around  2007 and yeah.

[00:12:02] I would always remember growing up, seeing him being so diligent, and building that community within our church. And I think for me, that was an example of entrepreneurship and it’s really a matter of how are you building community, how you bringing people together, how are you being of service to your fellow man?

[00:12:20] And what kind of value are you creating for people? For my dad who was, he was creating a FA value of fellowship and community. And kind of purpose, right? Like, and he, but it was in the vehicle of a church. Right. And as anyone knows, who’s ever built a church building a church is also building a business too at the same time.

[00:12:37] But my dad, you know, he’s a very mild-mannered guy. You know, our church is still very, very small. But for me, that was like the best example I had of an entrepreneur growing up. But, you know, and as I grow old and now I’m an, I’m an entrepreneur, you know, I’m kind of defining what that looks like for me.

[00:12:53] And, you know, and a lot of the people that kind of like look to me as an inspiration for a leader. And by default, to your point, [00:13:00] Dan, you know, Entrepreneurship is simply put, you know, designing and, being able to adapt and build something of value for people. Right? Like fundamentally it’s not as complex as some people somehow sometimes make it out to be in my opinion.

[00:13:12]Dan: [00:13:12] That’s true. Yeah. I mean, at the end of the day, can you build something that adds values to people’s lives that doesn’t exist today, or at least nobody’s doing it the way that you want to do it?

[00:13:21] Tim: [00:13:21] Yeah,

[00:13:21] Dan: [00:13:21] you graduate with this, this awesome combination of psychology and sort of the world of design and UX.

[00:13:28]And so you work with these companies, how did it, the entrepreneurial spark get lit? It was the, what were the things or the events or sort of the background around. Okay. I got to go build a company. How did that come about?

[00:13:42]Tim: [00:13:42] Yeah. You know, definitely denial from the not just set out one day, woke up, said I have to build a company.

[00:13:47] In fact, I don’t think anyone should ever even think like that. I would just wake them up. I want to build a company because being a founder and there’s a difference and I actually just should have posted on my LinkedIn. There’s a difference between being a [00:14:00] founder and being a serial entrepreneur. Right.

[00:14:03] I’m personally a serial entrepreneur and a founder, right. Founders build things because they want to build movements. They really have a very clear vision for the world and they won’t give up until that vision is a reality, right? Serial entrepreneurs, you know, they build things, they can sell it, they train it, you know, they can, they can capitalize on it.

[00:14:20]But they’re always building things. And even for me, outside of the work that I do, as our CEO of Guide, I dabbled in a lot of other things. I have like my own tea line that I’m currently working on. Like I’m always building or kind of interested in something as an entrepreneur, but for me, For our, what we’re building with Guide, it’s a venture.

[00:14:37] It’s something that’s very, very long term. So you have to treat them with a lot of patients. And for me, it was kind of spark to be an entrepreneur, but more importantly, a founder really began when, you know, I’ve worked with, I’ve seen how we work works. I’ve seen how Google works. I’ve seen how Microsoft works.

[00:14:54] I’ve had a lot of those experiences and fundamentally I’ve been like building, you know, we’ve been building [00:15:00] this movement that we call Guide for years now, I started with building the community into 2017, which was a Facebook community and has grown over 300,000 people strong worldwide. And then, you know, I met my cofounder Taban Cosmos while I was working with Microsoft.

[00:15:15] And, you know, he really brought that technology CTO, mind to what we’re doing, and the passion that we both share in terms of educating and inspiring people. And all of that has kind of cycled into what we now have as Guide. So there was a cascading. Of multiple different things that actually led to us building this venture that is like our company, but us as entrepreneurs, you know, we were always like, we’re always looking to create, we’re always looking to create solutions, add value.

[00:15:44] And I think that for me, entrepreneurship fundamentally goes back to what we’re talking about. Dan. How can we add value to people, right? In a way where you’re bringing them more joy than you are pain, or maybe more importantly, you’re solving a fundamental problem that they’re [00:16:00] looking for a solution for.

[00:16:01] And I think there’s always going to be room for that. If you, as an individual, you’re looking to be of service, right. We would love to get your thoughts on this man.

[00:16:10] Dan: [00:16:10] You really hit on this really interesting word movement, right? Which I think if you look at some of the here successful startups, especially the ones that sort of appeal or go directly to consumers, it really is about a movement.

[00:16:22] It’s about sort of the status quo that hasn’t served us in a certain way. I feel it, I sense it, I experienced it alongside you, you know, Mr. or Ms. Customer. And they ran away to make the world better and we’ll do it with products. We’ll do it with service. We’ll do the experiences and focusing, you know, certain aspects of life.

[00:16:43] But, but I love that term movement. And. Having a service mindset. So, you know, I, I think that’s where success comes from. It’s not just about, can I make a widget or a tool, you know, they’ll get you to pay $10 a month or something like that.

[00:17:00] [00:16:59] So we’re going to take a short break and we’ll be right back with Tim Salau from Guide.

[00:17:03] Tim: [00:17:03] Woo.

[00:17:05] The PLUG: [00:17:05] Who gets to be called innovative or genius? If we look at the current media landscape today, we often don’t see people of color dominating the business or tech news headlines. I’m Sherrell Dorsey, data journalist and founder of The Plug. Our work and reporting has been and used by top names like Vice, the Information the casting director was at ABC Shark Tank.

[00:17:24] The Plug cuts out the noise to bring you news insights and analysis of trends, shaping venture capital startups, policy, and ecosystems within black innovation communities. Join our annual pro membership and get exclusive access to our weekly long-form reporting and monthly member calls, which puts you directly at the table with leading innovators and firms around the country.

[00:17:42] Also access our data libraries of indexes, such as our black-owned VC firms index, or the top 100 black researchers in artificial intelligence and machine learning. Use code UNFOUND to save $10 on our annual subscription at tpinsights.com that’s T as in the, and P as in plug insights.com. [00:18:00]

[00:18:05]Dan: [00:18:05] So we’re back with Tim.

[00:18:06] And so Tim, we just started on the backside of the break, talking about the beginning of the journey for Guide. Tell us more about sort of when you and, your co-founder decided to ratchet this thing up and really just sort of launch it and say, this is what we’re going to do.

[00:18:23]Tim: [00:18:23] Yeah, man. So it was literally about a year and a half ago that Taban and me decided to start building Guide and literally a friend of ours called Chad ODA connected us. Right. Chad was like, Hey, Taban, you’re really passionate about building something in the area of mentorship and education and skills training.

[00:18:42] You know, I know another guy named Tim Salau, who’s passionate about the same thing and Chad introduced us together. And, the next thing, you know, you know, a few days later I told him I would love to meet up with you at a coffee shop. From the first time, we met Taban and me really just hit it off very, very well.

[00:18:59]it’s due to the fact [00:19:00] that we’re both immigrants. We’re both incredibly, incredibly passionate about technology was super we’re always. And then we’re both highly entrepreneurial we’re creatives, right? In that regard, we’re always looking for like, what can we create? How can we serve people? Very service-oriented.

[00:19:14] So fundamentally we share that we share the same values. And, you know, at that time I was actually building this product that was kind of a LinkedIn look-alike called Jereff. It wasn’t really a product that we could like go to market with, or really build a venture around. So eventually we just kind of, we started looking for what are some of the problems we can solve in the education space in terms of helping people with upskilling and skills training.

[00:19:38] And eventually we met our former operator and still a cofounder because once you’re a founder, you’re forever a founder, in my opinion, our co-founder, Mike Yates, who’s no longer operationally with the company, but he really kind of helped us say, Hey, maybe you all should focus on addressing the problem around life skills and Edtech and at high school education.

[00:19:57] So we dabbled in that market for quite some time. And then [00:20:00] eventually, you know, we pivoted around when COVID-19 happened and really most of Marshall are not focused on enterprise. Well, it really started with mammy, leading somebody and really like being loving his spirit, loving his art, his heart for building things.

[00:20:14] And ever since then, man, it’s been a year and a half. We’ve been on our journey and we are building our incredibly powerful movement and community. I think one of the things personally, that we’re grateful for us that we’re seeing it. And, you know, since we’ve launched, we continue to see a lot of great testimonials and reactions around the product. 

[00:20:32] Dan: [00:20:32] Nice. We’re in this pandemic and obviously at a personal level and a societal level where we’re seeing lots of impacts. But tell us more about how you sort of adjusted how Guide would address the opportunities that may have gone away or the new ones that may have come about because of COVID-19.

[00:20:51]Tim: [00:20:51] Yeah. So we were already building enterprise-grade infrastructure. And when COVID-19 happened, you know, it just kind of fast track to [00:21:00] shift towards remote work and more importantly, enabling a decentralized workforce. And for us. the way we’re designing Guide was always kind of a fit for this trend of the future of work.

[00:21:11] And, you know, for me personally, have been studying the future, for a few years now. And it’s why many people refer to me as Mr. Future work which was kind of a, a title that I saw a few years ago because I was so passionate about this space. So, you know, being kind of a practitioner at the same time, realizing what we were building and how the Edtech market really wasn’t in the market question of sustainable business in. It was really kind of, we saw that the market opportunity actually opened up for us in a greater scope. So, you know, to a degree, you know, we still allow people to individually buy a subscription to Guide, but now our focus is more of how do we empower like the entire and enterprise workforce. And I think for us, the opportunity to open up is that now everyone is learning, working, and at [00:22:00] the end, fundamentally living their life from home. All right. Taking care of your family. Yeah. You know, taking your kids to school. I mean ordering in driverless and fundamentally also, learning, and kind of like taking control of your career from home.

[00:22:14] So, you know, we literally wrapped COVID-19. We pivoted the company to say, okay, we’ll build the web app and we’re going to be, but we have a mobile app that’s coming out soon, but fundamentally, you know, it’s funny that we pivoted the company when we pivoted nothing really changed about our core mission.

[00:22:32] At the end of the day, kind of like the, what changes, but our why never changed. And I think it goes to our point in this conversation that we’re having Daniel was that like, it takes a movement to like really change things. When you’re building a company or you’re, or you’re up star, you’re a startup. You really have to leave with the movement, but you should never change that.

[00:22:48] Why. The what can look different but the WHY can never change. So for us, you know, what opened up was like a bigger market. And what didn’t change really was, you know, our core reason for why we exist [00:23:00] as a company and kind of about the venture and the movement we’re building.

[00:23:03] Dan: [00:23:03] That’s so important. And Hey, Unfound Nation out there, there’s a little nugget from Tim.

[00:23:08] A lot of people think about startups. Like you’re inventing something. And it’s about the idea. It is about saying, Hey, The world needs to change at a certain way, or there’s a problem that needs to be fixed. And I’m going to try to do it a certain way based upon what the world has told me and where the opportunity lies, but it may change.

[00:23:26] And so this is a great testament to that, but take us, I’m really interested in this. Because I’ve talked to other companies that have gone through this, take us back to, to the point where you sort of, you and Taban said, Hey, this is something we need to think about doing differently.

[00:23:41] I mean, was it like one of those Friday afternoon? Like what are we going to do? Or like, was it a series of conversations or when was sort of that decision and how did that come about of saying, okay, yes, let’s try this other opportunity or let’s try this other direction. I should say.

[00:23:56]Tim: [00:23:56] Yeah, absolutely. I can take you back to this moment because it was a very [00:24:00] interesting move.

[00:24:00] And literally, you know, when we decided to pivot right before then our former COO and our co-founder Mike Yates decided to leave the company, which it was understandable why he was leaving. It was COVID-19 like you had to read it. So Mike actually had a family and he had other responsibilities and other things going on outside of the company we were building. So, you know, he had to really focus on everything else he had going on. So he decided to leave the company. So right before then, around that time as well, we were also thinking about like, How are we building a sustainable business model because we didn’t really have a business model that fit the product that we were trying to build in a sense.

[00:24:39] Right. So initially our business model was ad-based, was focused on ad-based revenue. If you were thinking about like, let’s go back to a few months ago when COVID-19 really made waves in America, you know, Every ad-based businesses right now are all struggling. Even if some of them aren’t struggling from a revenue standpoint, a lot of them are struggling from a public scrutiny standpoint, right. [00:25:00]

[00:25:00]So great test case example would be Twitter recently got hacked. Facebook continues to struggle with moderation and quality and kind of like, you know, how are they really vetting the people who post ads on their platform, right? There’s a lot of scrutiny involved there. I, so ad-based businesses have been struggling and they’re fundamentally an ad-based business model. Based on the way we were trying to build the product, didn’t really make sense for the market. We were formerly in, in terms of Edtech. And it didn’t make sense because we would have been trying to do too much.

[00:25:29] I’m trying to build enough of an audience. And at the same time, trying to. Build enough of a supply-side, right. To kind of continue keeping us going. The Edtech market is just super volatile, right? Every school is different. Every teacher has different needs. Every state has different kinds of ordinances around education.

[00:25:46]Really a clear path to predictability. If you want to build a sustainable business in that, in that space. So you have to be in it for a, quite a fight, but it’s just, it’s just a very volatile market. So it’s not, it’s not the best markets to build an actual [00:26:00] business in.

[00:26:00] So around the time when Mike. You know, decided to leave, you know, we already reconsidering, what do we need to do better? So we can continue to sustain it as a business. And, you know, for me, it was, you know, the writing was on the wall, the way we were building Guide how we were already thinking about the product and then what our vision was.

[00:26:16] And our mission was, I was like, let’s just go to enterprise, right? Because we had the capacity and we have the capability of, we could just everything we were building, we didn’t have to throw it away. We can actually just kind of repurpose it. For a different world, right? to your point. And it was a matter of like saying, Oh, well, we’re already building a social learning platform, but maybe it’s, maybe it’s a better opportunity and it’s much better for our business that we build it in a market where there’s actually a more, more of a need and demand versus an Edtech.

[00:26:46] And then, more importantly, we can build actually a predictable and sustainable business, especially when you’re in enterprise. There’s much more of a  consistent kind of expectation on what the sales motion could be or who your target buyer can be, right. In terms of their [00:27:00] size and I mean, the fact that every company overnight shifted to being a remote company, the market is huge, right.

[00:27:07]There’s no kind of like there’s no ceiling, even in terms of what your market cap can be. Right? So you can build as big of a business as possible and, you know, learning and development right now, which is a healthy and growing market. So, you know, we just see all of those signals as an entrepreneur and as a  business person and you make that pivot.

[00:27:26] And that’s another thing, Dan, that I think we should probably talk about it. It’s like how. As a founder, you shouldn’t give up also as an entrepreneur. Like you should always be open to pivoting because the reality is that if you’re building a business, like, and you care about the business, you care about the mission.

[00:27:38] Like there’s always possibilities. There’s always an opportunity out there. But one of the things that, you know, it’s kind of sad to me that there’s a lot of founders and a lot of entrepreneurs give up too soon. Right. And for example, as we all went through COVID-19. I went through COVID-19 Dan’s gone through COVID-19, you know, anyone that went through COVID-19, but for us, that wasn’t. Kind of the death of our business or our company or our [00:28:00] movement. It was more like, Oh, this is a blessing in disguise, right. And I think one of the things I often encourage entrepreneurs and founders should think about is like, you know, why not?

[00:28:09]how can you see your business from a different lens? And how do you see, how do you see kind of whatever you’re building. From an opportunistic standpoint, not a pessimistic.

[00:28:18] Dan: [00:28:18] I love that. And you’re right. I think that’s part of the resilience that needs to be kind of core to your constituency, so to speak, or you’re a constitution, I guess, is the word I’m looking for because it is, is about, yeah.

[00:28:31] This, you know, I liken it to, you know, sort of, we would probably be. Some of those explorers back in the 14 and 15 hundreds, right. It’s like, yeah, somebody said India is over there on the other side of this big ocean. And I don’t know how to get there. Right. But I’m going to go try and see if I can find it.

[00:28:47] And. I’m going to sail North for a while and then figure out, you know, no it’s getting cold. Then it’s not cold. I don’t think that’s the right way. We need to go back to the other direction. And, but you’re right. It’s like keeping this, this large vision, this mission in mind. [00:29:00] And just knowing that the steps that are going to take you there, the.

[00:29:03] The twists and turns are going to be a meandering journey potentially. And so, yeah, I love that. So tell us a little bit more about the business itself. I mean, do you sell to, to companies or individuals and companies it’s a subscription-based or how does that work?

[00:29:19]Tim: [00:29:19] Yeah, man. So it’s subscription-based.

[00:29:21]So there’s been a bit BDC, but primarily B2B. B2B’s our key revenue driver, right? So us selling subscriptions to businesses who have their workers, whether it be a hundred to up to 10 thousands, kind of onboard them to Guide. And we charge businesses $30 per individual head. So that allows us to really, really kind of like scale and at the same time, be able to have quality on the platform because they’re using it for their own internal use cases, such as, you know, new hire onboarding sales, enablement, leadership training.

[00:29:53] Right. And the real powerful thing about us as a, as a business is the fact that we end to end integrated in [00:30:00] terms of like on Guide. There’s a camera you can use to record and create the courses. That you can immediately post on the platform. And then there’s a feed where, you know, your, your people can learn and kind of get the latest bite-sized training content that anyone within your, employee base has a has created.

[00:30:17] And, you know, for us, our vision is that we see every creator within the enterprise as a creator, right? Like every, any worker, if you’re a subject matter expert, you’re a creator. We want you to create an on Guide, every single one. So we have like this very powerful vision of like every single creative within an enterprise.

[00:30:35] And really probably the world can create courses on Guide. So if you can’t learn on Guide and buy an individual subscription for yourself, because you may not work for a big enterprise company, you can go into an enterprise that has Guide. And you can use it to learn from your fellow CEO or your, peer.

[00:30:52] Right. And even with, within guide internally, we use guide to train each other and for kind of things such as internal comps. So we’re getting a lot [00:31:00] of love around it. You know, where I was actually talking to a chief people officer the other day, and she was like, look, I don’t have the budget, but Hey, interested in growing with you.

[00:31:08] All right. And I told her like, you know, it’s cool where we’re a low-cost solution. Based on how we’re positioning the market, right? So like you, you may not have it. We don’t need that big of a budget, but we truly love partnering with great companies who believe in our mission and our vision. And, you know, it was just a, it was just so funny to hear her just be Frank about, Hey, I don’t have the budget, but would love to work with you and partner with you.

[00:31:29] I think it’s a, it’s a true Testament to kind of what we’re building.

[00:31:32]Dan: [00:31:32] That’s a great story. And as you think about sort of where you want to go, what’s, kind of the big vision for Guide or like a number or a market share or number of people learning.  

[00:31:46] Tim: [00:31:46] Yeah, the big vision is very simple. We believe in every creative. we want to empower every created with the skills, mindset and opportunities for a fulfilling career. We really fundamentally mean that. And you know, right now there are an estimated 7 billion [00:32:00] people on earth. By 2025 will be 8.1 billion people.

[00:32:04] And the big vision for me is, you know, we’ll know we’ve achieved our mission when we see every single person. With the necessary skills, opportunities to lead and design a career path that brings them fulfillment and allows them to take care of their families. I think we have a very unique strategy in terms of how we’re getting there as a business.

[00:32:25] And, you know, for me fundamental, when I think about the product and my philosophy around the product, there are very few winner-take-all markets, they’re even in a market such as L and D, where there’s a lot of different players. We have a very unique value prop, so I think I will be satisfied when all 8.1 soon to be billion people on earth have access to a Guide course. Right.

[00:32:48] And as a founder it has to be like that because it’s actually possible. It’s actually possible for us to do that. You know, it takes time and that’s why often, you know, and I love being on your, on your show, Dan, because it’s [00:33:00] founders, right? Like, is this about founders is like founders have to realize it takes time.

[00:33:04] Right? It doesn’t, it doesn’t happen. Right. Overnight. It doesn’t happen through a recession. It doesn’t happen within the chaos of the storm. That is a COVID-19 it takes time, but it will happen. And you know, the same can be said of Microsoft or Amazon. Those founders made it happen. Right. Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos made it happen.

[00:33:22] The Mark Zuckerberg, they made it happen, even if you don’t like the product too much. Right you know, whoever may CVS. He or she made it happen. Right. Founders make it happen. And it goes beyond them and that’s founder mentality. And I think that it was really happy. I’m happy that we’re talking about it because I don’t really get a chance to talk about this on a lot of different podcasts.

[00:33:40]Dan: [00:33:40] Nice.  we’re going to dive more into some of that for sure.

[00:33:43] We’re going to take a short break and we’ll be right back with Tim Salau from Guide.

[00:33:48] The PLUG: [00:33:48] Who gets to be called innovative or genius? You’ve got the current media landscape today. We often don’t see people of color dominating the business or tech news headlines.

[00:33:56] I’m Sherrell Dorsey, data journalist and founder of The Plug. [00:34:00] Our work in reporting has been featured in and used by top names like Vice, the Information, and casting directors at ABC Shark Tank. The Plug cuts out the noise to bring you news insights and analysis of trends, shaping venture capital startups, policy, and ecosystems within black innovation communities.

[00:34:15] Join our annual pro membership and get exclusive access to them. Weekly long-form reporting and monthly member calls, which puts you directly at the table with leading innovators and firms around the country. So access our data libraries of indexes, such as our black-owned VC firms index, one of the top 100 black researchers in artificial intelligence and machine learning.

[00:34:33] Use code UNFOUND to save $10 on our annual subscription tpinsights.com. That’s T as in the, P as in plug insights.com.

[00:34:47]Dan: [00:34:47] So we’re back with Tim Salau from Guide. So, Tim,  I’m fascinated by this. You’ve got a remote team, you’ve got the dynamics of COVID one of the cofounders moving out. how have you been [00:35:00] able to handle just every day getting up and trying to sort of build the business in this environment?

[00:35:07]Tim: [00:35:07] Man dude  I feel so fulfilled every day I work on Guide. Cause it’s progress over perfection. It’s progress over perfection.

[00:35:17] Dan: [00:35:17] I love that.

[00:35:18]Tim: [00:35:18] Founders think a certain type of way because you’ve talked to and there’s the world is your product slash business. And then there’s you, the founder, you actually live in a completely different reality.

[00:35:30] Dan: [00:35:30] That’s true. That is so true.

[00:35:32]Tim: [00:35:32] you don’t live, where the world is, you live where the world is going. More importantly, where you want to take the world. Right. And you want to take the people who are your customers, who you are in service to. Right. And so for me, every, you know, we were able to push you a COVID-19 with ease.

[00:35:48] And literally we pivoted the business within two to three days, and we actually were able to go to market within three months within that pivot. Right. Because we were building a mobile app, but then we had to build a web app. as a [00:36:00] supporting component to the mobile app and then position our, business entirely, we did that all within three months.

[00:36:04] Cause we’re a small lean team, which even if we were operating at us at that same at a vendor scale, it would have still been that fast cause we’re founders. Right. And I’m the founding operating CEO of the company. But for me, it was like building a business and leading a company or leading our team through a crisis like this.

[00:36:22] We’re in service to customers, we’re in service to our mission. So it wasn’t even a, I not once. Did we even think about, Oh, COVID-19 happened? We should shut up. We should stop. But I didn’t even think like that. Like not once. Cause it was a matter of like what can we do to ensure that we thrive through this.

[00:36:40] Well, our focus on our mission, but maybe we have to change how or the what, or, you know, kind of go through this process of saying, okay, is there a better way to do what we need to do given our current climate? Right. And I think that’s how you have to think as a founder is like, what’s possible, even though maybe this door’s shut.

[00:36:59] And for [00:37:00] us, it was realizing that, well, we aren’t going to grow a successful, sustainable business. Just focused on high school education because that just isn’t a big enough market. It’s way too volatile. It’s better that we focus on complete enterprise. And we really, you know, we, we position ourselves as an enterprise company.

[00:37:16] We did that in less than three months. Right. And for me as a founder, you know, it wasn’t like we made any sacrifices. We were adapting. You have to be able to adapt as a founder. You have to be able to like, understand, Oh, the world is saying this. All right. We’ll go this right. And you have to be able to understand when you’re receiving those signals because the context does matter as you adapt and make sure you’re adapting in the direction of your  WHY, not in the direction of what your competition was to take you or something that doesn’t align with you.

[00:37:44] And I think that’s my biggest tip to any founder listening. Is that like, understand that the WHY is your North star. Right. And you can always adapt your business to your why. And another great example I want to give for this is, you know, look at the Salesforce or Airbnb, right? Like Mark Benioff is one of the greatest founders of the world.

[00:37:59] I love that guy. [00:38:00] And that’s just because you could just see how he often can always make a business opportunity, out of anything, right? Like COVID-19 happens, salesforce.com, what they announced, work.com like work.co. And it’s essentially helping states local governments. And even enterprise businesses adapt to COVID-19 right.

[00:38:17] Boom, using Salesforce and their CRM, and as well as their kind of all the other things that Salesforce has going on. Right, right, right,

[00:38:24] Dan: [00:38:24] right, right.

[00:38:25] Tim: [00:38:25] I’ll just make a business opportunity out of this because I want to be in service to my customers, Airbnb, Brian Chesky. Right. They pivoted the business to say, okay, how do we offer online experiences that hosts.

[00:38:35] You can’t manage. Right. You have to think like that when you’re a founder and you know, for me, man, I think that COVID-19, you know, it, it didn’t, it actually really kind of bolstered our vision, you know? And, and I also have to be mindful of saying that because a lot of businesses died due to COVID-19, but our business, it hasn’t died at all.

[00:38:54] Dan: [00:38:54] But I think you’re right. It’s, it’s this combination of fortitude and attitude. Right.  go, I have the. [00:39:00] Resilience do I have sort of the glass half full of the viewpoint of, okay. how can we use this as a way for us to do something better or different or respond in a certain way? And that’s very entrepreneurial, very founder centric, for sure.

[00:39:15] Let’s switch gears a little bit. And we like to talk on the show a little bit about being a black founder. So,  you and your co-founder, both. Immigrants, African heritage.  are you reminded of that regularly in your entrepreneurial journey? Is it something that comes up either positively or more of a challenge through day to day and your interactions with the outside world?

[00:39:35]Tim: [00:39:35] You know, it’s funny, man.  First of all, I’m a privileged black founder. Even me as a black founder, I have to recognize privilege because I’ve worked with some of the top companies in the world, man, and Microsoft, Google, Facebook, like I’ve been there, done that, and now we’re building our own company.

[00:39:49] And I think that what I don’t like often is that. Well, you know, there is this thing when the world where you always have to remind every black founder that you’re black. So we should give you a [00:40:00] piecemeal. We should recognize the fact that black and not treat you as equal to any other founder, right with an idea or a vision and the charisma and the passion to make it happen. Right. And that’s why I’m very, very focused on, you know, even with building our company, we’re very focused on. Ethics and equity. Right. And you know, for me as I’ve been fundraising, I’m grateful enough to say that whenever I’ve talked to an investor, I have not received any disrespect as a black founder. it’s I mean, it’s fundraising is hard, no matter if you’re black or white.  For some people who are privileged and white and who come for the money, it’s quite easy. It’s not hard at all.

[00:40:31] Right. It’s absolutely not hard. And when you look at the stats of the fact that there’s only 1% of venture capital, black, and Brown and people in minorities, in minority on categories.  that fundamentally does a problem with that. But when you think about being a black founder in this climate and kind of seeing the tension, everything the last six months has brought to what the future of work with the future of venture capital looks like.

[00:40:55] I think I’m optimistic that things are changing, but fundamentally I’m grateful and I’m [00:41:00] saying this from a privileged stance because I’ve worked at tech and I know tech, and I know the lingo. I know how to do all of these things. Like I haven’t received any disrespect, but I always have to kind of come from a place of compassion when I’m meeting, other black founders who don’t have as big of a brand as I, or they hadn’t been privileged to do the things that I’ve done and they completely don’t get the opportunities or don’t get the respect that they deserve when they’re pitching or when they’re fundraising, right.  And it really goes back to, we need to do as an entire ecosystem and as leaders in building more equity within the fundraising process. And what I believe that looks like is not always having to remind the black founder that they’re black.

[00:41:39]In fact, we can actually take a more positive connotation, remind them that they themselves can actually build a sustainable business. Without needing venture capital because not every business needs venture capital, and recognizing and giving them the same fair access to capital. Right.

[00:41:55] So I’m very much so against a lot of funds or firms who kind of say, [00:42:00] we’ll just, you know, put aside 5 million just for black founders, right? Like that’s weird. And I think it’s actually very unethical because that’s not how you should treat especially in the fundraising process.

[00:42:10] When you tried to kind of use, tokenism, or, you try to just pull away a bit of what you have just for a small pool. That’s actually tokenism. It’s actually causing further marginalization and it’s actually not healthy at all because it makes it seem as if that same individual, that same black founder, whoever it’s the same idea who has the same potential or build an amazing billion dollar business isn’t equal to, it has the same level of potential as their white or their privileged counterpart. So I’m often very against, you know, firms and people who do that because that’s not the right way we should go about kind of empowering marginalized and underappreciated founders.

[00:42:50]Dan: [00:42:50] That’s  quite an interesting viewpoint. So what do you think,  are some of the ways that we can overcome that?

[00:42:55]Tim: [00:42:55] Yeah, I love that you asked this. I love companies and founders now, like [00:43:00] shout out to ms. Arlan Hamilton, you know, who doesn’t know her, she’s building the amazing, amazing legacy and movement and what she’s doing with Backstage Capital investing, diverse founders.

[00:43:10] And if you look at our portfolio, Like diverse founders for her is LGBTQIA plus, you know, black Brown. It doesn’t mean that you can’t be white cause she’s invested in some white founders as well, who are a part of her portfolio people who come literally from diverse nontraditional backgrounds, like literally diverse, like it’s a wide variety.

[00:43:28] And you literally see it on her site. It’s very evident, very visible. That’s brilliant. That’s brilliant.  so that’s one angle,  so for, let’s say for all of the traditional firms and VCs who maybe can’t build their own, like just diverse, focused fund, there are actually things that you can do from how you, recruit potential associates, partners, GPs, MPs into your fund to ensure that they’re all thinking about your portfolio, as well as your firms.

[00:43:53] Portfolio management structure from a place of equity. Right. So essentially, so I’m an investor I invest. So I know a lot of, what goes on behind the [00:44:00] scenes, essentially, what’s really wrong is that there’s too many. How do I say this?  a lot of firms operate based on the kind of like this insider network, model, right?

[00:44:09] Where. I know that you know, where, where a friend of mine, who’s the, you know, why enterprise CEO of this company refers to me to this company and the founder fits the same stereotype of, of a founder, which is Caucasian. Male went to Stanford or has this very privileged background that I recognize I can relate with.

[00:44:30] And for me it signals that they might be building a high margin business in seven to 10 years. Right. The way to think about one investing. It actually really, it actually cast rises you from the bunch of other opportunities from people who may not fit that same model. And it’s, it’s just, it’s the worst way to scout, right?

[00:44:48] So the best investment method that you can actually build within your investment firm is actually more importantly thinking about one. It starts with hiring, just hire diverse people or [00:45:00] associates who didn’t just go to Stanford, higher, higher people who want to be associates that maybe went to West Governors University or Texas Tech University.

[00:45:08] Right? Like do all of those different things, but also have a very nontraditional path themselves. Right. One. Or maybe having a focused thesis and then, make sure you’re proactively scouting. And when you’re, when you’re maybe looking for Scouts, try to make sure that you have a diverse ecosystem of Scouts that maybe are at universities or at part of accelerators and make sure that they’re diverse as well.

[00:45:28] Right. So make sure that you have this insider network, but also outside the outsider network. To match it and to kind of ensure that you’re not a part of what we consider network bias, right? So you’re not biased to only choose a certain type of founder and there no specific business that fits your thesis.

[00:45:45] Right? So within whatever thesis that you found for your company and your investment portfolio thesis, even as you select the selection criteria needs to change and it changes when you start actually making sure that you one, are nurturing diversity [00:46:00] within your firm structure, but more importantly, you’re actually, you’re using a scouting method that completely is objective it ensures that you’re looking proactively for diverse founders, right? Founders who not fit the traditional stereotype and mold and only very few firms who are a part of that traditional VC model do that.

[00:46:19] Dan: [00:46:19] And that’s a great playbook. I love it. This idea of an insight network and an outside network and reaching out.

[00:46:25] And I totally agree. I think diversity is really the ultimate norm we want to get to and diversity means many different aspects, right? It can be thought of heritage, of background, of experience, of perspective, right. And. You know, I’ve said this before, but it’s, it’s pretty common, you know, academic research now that diversity of input creates a better outcome.

[00:46:48] And so I love what you’re saying there. So I want to be conscious of your time, and this is a great conversation. But before we go, I just want to make sure to let you give a shout out for if people want to find out more [00:47:00] about Guide about Mr. Future work about anything, any, any social handles, or ways that you’d recommend people find out more or get in touch with you.

[00:47:08] Tim: [00:47:08] Yeah. If you want to learn more about Guide and the movement that we’re building, please check us out. guideapp.co. Sign up for early access to our beta we’re in beta. Always in beta forever in beta, we’re building quite the movement. We’re really excited, you know, my co-founder and me we’re black founders.

[00:47:24] We own a majority of our company, which a lot of founders can say I think for anyone that’s listening right now, no, never let anyone tell you that you can’t do it. Never let anyone tell you that you can’t build software. You can’t build a company, you can’t build a venture.

[00:47:37] You can’t lead your movement. Never let anyone like put any kind of doubt in your mind to tell you that you can’t do something because we’re doing. And you know, when you, when we look at the stats, we look at the odds, none of that phases us, right? Because we already know what we’re building  it’s so powerful and more importantly, the world needs it.

[00:47:54] So if you ever are building something that the world needs, keep going, keep pushing. And check out guideapp.co cause we’re [00:48:00] building something that the world needs.

[00:48:02] Dan: [00:48:02] I love it. You’re a superhero. Well, thanks again, Tim. Really appreciate you taking the time. This has been great.

[00:48:08]Tim: [00:48:08] Thank you, Dan. Appreciate it,

[00:48:09] Dan: [00:48:10] we’d like to thank our guests, Tim Salau and our sponsor, The Plug. Don’t forget to subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts. Or simply go to foundersunfound.com/listento, that’s listen T-O. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram  @foundersunfound.

[00:48:25] This podcast was produced by Dan Kihanya.

[00:48:27] Editing and production by Internet Radio Corporation.

[00:48:30] Social media, and other promotion by Omama Marzuq.

[00:48:33] Our music was composed and arranged by Michael Kihanya.

[00:48:36] I am Dan Kihanya and you’ve been listening to Founders Unfound.


Return to previous