Your brand is the epitome of your business. It is what makes you unique and what attracts people to your product. So, what can you do to attract people? How do you amplify your brand? Victoria Wieck discusses this and more with the founder of PodMatch, Alex Sanfilippo. Alex discusses his early forays into entrepreneurship, keeping a day one mentality, and creating solutions for customer problems. Learn more about amplifying your brand and how the popular platform is connecting podcast host and guests.
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Amplify Your Brand With PodMatch With Alex Sanfilippo
I have Alex Sanfilippo, who started the PodMatch. It’s the service that I often use to find you these amazing guests. Once I started PodMatch, I’ve got addicted to it. I’m so excited to be interviewing Alex because, as crazy as it sounds, he’s built a whole platform. His backstory, how he came about creating PodMatch, and all that you are going to find that interesting, informative and encouraging. Without further ado, I would like to welcome Alex.
Alex, welcome to the show.
Victoria, thank you so much for having me here. I appreciate it.
In your bio, there’s something I didn’t think about before. You started your business at age ten. The entrepreneurship desire or blood runs through your veins. Tell me a little bit about your backstory. What did you do in your childhood? A lot of times, your early years shaped what you do later on in life. Do you want to share a little bit about yourself?
I completely agree with that statement. At one point in my life, I did some reflecting back to my childhood to rediscover who I was but that’s an important practice for anybody to do. For me, at ten years old and most people hear this, they were like, “What on Earth was this guy doing at ten?” I was selling used golf balls.
Across the street from the house that I grew up in, there was a golf course. What I did was I started collecting golf balls and selling them. It was interesting, though, because at ten years old, I was a very self-aware child, which may be strange for a ten-year-old. I had three younger brothers, and we had a bunch of neighborhood friends. A lot of them are good at sports and others are good at school. They are very smart. Most of them were good at video games at that point.
All these different kids were good at these different things. I realized that I wasn’t good at those things. It didn’t necessarily depress me. It made me wonder where I fit in. That’s super weird for a ten-year-old kid to be that self-aware but that’s how I felt. The first time I picked up a golf ball and a golfer offered to buy it from me for $3, it was Titleist Pro V1, which is an expensive ball. I’m not a golfer myself. I knew how to sell used golf balls as a kid. As soon as I did that, I realized, “Maybe I should find more of these.” What I realized I enjoyed wasn’t even making the money. It was the art of building some system that drives a profit.
I started recruiting my brothers and some of the friends in the neighborhood, saying, “Let’s go through the lakes, get some guys to clean the golf balls, get some to organize them into different bins, and then set up a time and day that we can sell these things back to the golfers.” That’s what I did for a couple of years, from 10 to 12. For the first time in my life, I know it was very young, I discovered something that I was good at. It was the art of business.
Blogging doesn’t capture the same essence as a podcast.
In that ten-year-old mind, you were doing what a modern entrepreneur has to do, which is find a product that has that in demand, figure out the price and find a bunch of people that’s going to help you. You were like a little boss of that thing that was going on. You were the CEO of the ten-year-old crowds. That’s astonishing.
In our schools, unfortunately, we teach Math, Science and all these things that have numbers. We don’t teach Entrepreneurship or relationship to money, Finances, and how much you have to work to buy something. I wish somebody would go and teach that in school. Fast forward a little bit. You are a ten-year-old child selling Titleist Pro V1 for $3. $3 to a 10-year-old kid is a lot of money. Once you get a little taste of that, you want to multiply that. You then found different systems in your life. Tell us what happened after that. What was your second venture?
You can only sell golf balls that are used back to the golfers that hit them in the lakes for so long until you are not cute anymore that they want to punch you for taking their golf ball to the lake. From about 10 to 12, I was doing that. The truth is some guy came through on his golf cart. He liked the collection of golf balls we had so much. He said he would buy them all if we would go ahead and close down. At that point, we had 600 or 700 golf balls. At the end of the day, he finished his round of golf. He came, picked them all up, paid me and the neighborhood guys for them. At that point, we were like, “It’s a good time to stop. We were done.” That was my first and only successful exit.
I was getting into high school or late middle school. As I’ve got into my late teens, I had an opportunity to do some work in real estate. I wasn’t good at video games but I was good at computers. There was a friend of my dad who was starting a company where they were trying to create these virtual tours of homes, which we all see them. You look home on Zillow or something like that. You can drag the mouse around, see the roof and the whole room.
We were building those tours. He brought me on as a contractor, saying, “Let’s work together.” I had my company, he had his. I started hiring photographers and editors. We started building these virtual tours for the MLS directly. We were posting on the MLS every single day because we became in high demand fast. That was a fun thing for me. I was seventeen when I started that.
It was cool because when I looked at it, I also had a remote team. None of us worked in an office like everyone worked in their places. We were using AIM back then to instant message back and forth. That’s how we were communicating throughout the day. That was another fun experience for me to learn the business and see how something could run, operate and grow. At this point, I was also paying taxes.
At ten years old, you started your company, then you had a successful exit. What I find astonishing about the whole story that you have told is the MLS having the virtual tours and all of that, we take it for granted. I sold my home in Las Vegas at a very substantial price, and the person never saw it. They felt comfortable enough. They were able to go up to the roof, do all that, and be able to see the whole house without being there.
With COVID, they couldn’t travel, so they bought the house unseen. When you did that technology, the idea of touring a home at any price, $200,000, $300,000, $1 million, that would be unthinkable. You did it because you believed in it, and you felt that the world was going to have to go that way at some point. You had a pulse on what was going on, and you were a few steps ahead of the rest of the world.
That’s important. I’m going to fast forward a little bit more because you have done other things in between compared to what you are doing, which I’m excited about. I’m an avid user of PodMatch. You created a platform for podcasters. I have to tell you that the podcasting industry is exploding. Back in 1998, when HSN first called me and they said, “We are the home shopping network,” I was like, “You are what? Is that some kind of a club?” I had no clue what was going on.” Remember, in ’98, they had a 1-800 number at the catalogs. I thought that would be the next revolution.
With you, podcasting is exploding. It makes complete sense that there are more people at home listening. We all want to educate ourselves. It’s only a twenty-minute investment. Everything is free out there like most podcasts are free to listen to. If you are going to be a successful podcaster, it takes an enormous amount of time to find the right guest for your show. I know a lot of famous people but they are not necessarily right for my show.
My show is about transformation stories. A lot of times, it’s the lesser-known people that have done some extraordinary things. You created a platform, so people like us can go find somebody easily at my fingertips at night. After everybody has gone to bed, I can do this in twenty minutes at a time. Tell me a little bit about how and why you created all of this. How long did it take for you to do this?
Thank you for being a member of PodMatch. You are a great supporter. My day has been made talking to you. I appreciate that. I’ve got into podcasting years before I started PodMatch, me as an individual, with my show. I saw that was an industry that was taking off. I didn’t do it, so I could become famous or anything like that. I wanted to have conversations with people and record them somehow. Before that, I did a bit of blogging. As much as I love blogging, it didn’t capture the same essence. When you do a written interview back and forth, it’s not the same.
I was like, “This audio platform has been great for me. I have been listening for years. While I’m in the gym or running, I listen to podcasts.” I decided, “I want to start my show.” Right when I started, I noticed something interesting. People that are in podcasting are very kind. A lot of other show hosts that I meet are so nice. That made me want to get even more into the industry. When I was starting to take off, that’s when I decided, “I’m going to do anything I can to support this industry.” It’s going to grow. If there was a business starting in here, it’s not going to crash in a year or two. Someday, podcasting might be a thing of the past but it’s still on the up and up.
I made it a devotion at that point to find something that could do to help the industry. The way I did it is a simple framework. I’m passionate about podcasting. I found the people that made up the ecosystem of it. I asked the hosts, “What are you struggling with?” It can be tough going in looking for guests when you are not sure if people even want to be on shows.
It can be tough going in looking for guests when you’re not sure if people even want to be on shows.
We’ve all got a cousin or a friend that started a business that could jump on our shows, maybe but finding those people who are saying, “I’m looking for shows. I have a message that will resonate well with your listeners.” That’s not easy to find. I identified that problem and decided to create a solution for it. That’s where PodMatch came from.
Like your golf ball story, you found a need that could be in high demand and a friction point. I love PodMatch because it is so simple, the diversity of the people that are there, and the shows as well. I agree with you on the caliber of people within the podcast industry. The TV industry is completely different. It is so catty and the most cutthroat business. People always ask me, “How do you ever survive twenty years of TV?” It’s either you do not have a pulse, have to be so numb or don’t see anything.
When I’ve got into podcasting, people were so nice. They were offering me everything. My microphone was all set up by people that didn’t charge me a penny. They gave me their heart and soul. “You understand video but in audio, you’ve got to do this and that.” Everything was free. I love that community of people that give their all.
The other thing about the podcasting platform is that it’s true that video has a lot more impact. If I was watching a YouTube video, I can’t be driving. If I’m driving to San Diego, that’s 2 hours that I can listen to 4 different podcasts but I can’t watch a single video because you are going to get into a car accident if you were watching that.
The platform is great. As far as creating this platform, without giving away your preparatory sequence, was it hard to come up with a technology piece? You’ve got the technology piece in terms of how the software works behind the scenes. You’ve got to go find all these podcasters, and then you have to find all the potential guests. All these other pieces have to come in. How difficult was that to coordinate all that? How much time did it take? Is it 2 years, 2 months, 20 years?
The timing in business is so important. It’s the number one factor if you ask Bill Gross. He’s the unicorn billionaire. He started seven multibillion-dollar companies or something like that. He says that timing is the most important factor. We happened to be at the right time. I’m not saying we couldn’t do it again. I say we because I have a Cofounder.
For me, I am more on the sales side of things. I’m customer service. I can build systems. I understand how the industry works. I have a friend that is someone that I knew for years. He and I had always planned on working together at some point. As matter of fact, we did one other project together years prior, and it was cool. We had good synergy.
When I had this idea, it was right after PodFest 2020. It was the last in-person conference ever. I spoke at that conference, and that’s where I’ve got the idea for it. Identified the problem. I said, “I’m going to build a solution for us.” I came home that next week. On March 10th, 2020, I wrote it all out on three whiteboards. I immediately picked up my phone and called that friend. I said, “Jesse, I don’t know if you can work part-time on a project but I would love to do something with you.” It was crazy. That was a Tuesday. That Sunday night, he finished a multi-year project that he had been working on. He was like, “I’ve got capacity.”
What we did is we drafted up documentation saying we are 50/50 partners and decided to run with it. March 10th, 2020, is when we started working on it and launched an early beta on June 10th, 2020. It’s a few short months from start to finish. He is brilliant. He was able to save us a lot of money by doing that. We bootstrapped with $5,000 each of us, put $2,500 into account, and we went for it.
I wish you and your friend, Jesse, all the luck in the world. Let me give you some encouragement, not that you need it but I was at a Harvard Business School Reunion. Harvard Business School makes you go back to class once you have been there all that time. They had a panel of graduates that have been out of school for years. They talked about what are your challenges and so forth.
They had Harvard alumni from Google, Apple, Facebook, and all these different companies that are running our world seemingly. They asked them, “What keeps you up at night?” The answer was that we all work for a founder that started their company with under $5,000 in their garage. I didn’t think about it that way but it’s true. Apple started with less than $5,000 as well. You fit that bill exactly.
That’s good to know. That encouragement goes a long way. Thank you.
I thought that you might find that comparison very timely. When it comes to how you and Jesse and how you feel like you were at the right place at the right time, I also feel that way a lot of times about my little successes. Every time I hit a milestone, I would think, “I lucked out.” I like to also believe that it’s a preparation meeting opportunity because we are all here at the same time at the same place but you had the ideas, which not all of us had. You took action on that. It could be a divine alignment of some sort of a preparation meeting opportunity.
Kudos to you and Jesse. You have created a brand called Creating a Brand. You want it to make it simple. I love that you are a customer-centric company. That’s how Amazon made this very simple for their customers. You are rebranding into PodPros. It’s PodPros.com. What’s next for PodMatch and PodPros?
Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.
You are the first person to ever announce that company name. I have never said it to anyone other than you, so thank you for being that person. There’s something that I want to mention real quick. It goes back to something that Leonardo da Vinci said. “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” It’s something that many of us need to remember because PodMatch is a complex system.
If you look through the backend code like me, it made my head explode seeing all that. In a day, we had one problem to solve, which is can we get the right guests in front of the right host and vice versa? At the end of the day, could we simply do that and continuously improve that process to make it faster and more streamlined? I look at the different things that I’m doing. I had to have a real “come to Jesus moment,” as I call it. For me, it was a time in prayer. “God, I’m doing too much. I’ve got my podcast. I have podcasts, PodMatch, and these other companies that we are reaching out and starting.”
I did that deep self-reflection and realized, “This is going to get complicated and cumbersome for other people to try to understand what I even do.” That’s why we decided to rebrand under PodPros. The idea was to bring it back to a simplistic form. What’s adding the most value to the people that we care about the most? Let’s focus on that one thing. PodcastSOP is a new company that we are launching. It’s project management software specifically for podcasters.
A lot of new ones are using sticky notes and word documents. They are trying to keep it organized. We want to help people do that easily because I feel the same way about this. We believe that podcasting is a great medium for people to get their independent voices out there. Unfortunately, 90% of podcasts don’t make it past their first year. It’s only 10% that make it. I wanted to help and see more people through that first year, so they can continue adding that value to people’s lives. Our big focus is we continue helping more podcasters get their message out there to the world.
I’m 1 of the 50 beta testing people. Before PodMatch, I was using 4 or 5 different software. You are using scheduling software, organization software, and all of the bios. It’s a whole amount of work. A lot of podcasts start as a side hustle. They don’t start as monetizing it. Most podcasters start because they are passionate about something and want to help people. Ninety percent of them don’t make it. I’m with you on that. I like to see that percentage go higher. If you think about it, 90% is almost the same as any other small business. It takes a lot of discipline and understanding the basics, who are your target audience, and all that stuff as well.
You have been in the industry for a while, and you are also seeing some of the mistakes that podcasters make. Going back to what you, Leonardo da Vinci said about simplicity is the ultimate sophistication, I agree with that but I also want to tell you one thing. One of my favorite quotes is by Winston Churchill. He said something to the effect that, “Success is not final, and failure is not fatal.” A lot of people think that failure is not fatal is what they focus on. I like to think about success is not final because you had a very successful platform. There was nothing like PodMatch a year ago.
You continue to evolve because success is not final. A lot of times, when people are successful, they are so busy protecting that success or using that success to live their life however they want to live that they forget to evolve. One thing I noticed about PodMatch almost every time I’m on vacation or something, I come back and shut my brain off for a little bit, you have improved the site, again and again, everything from visual to how it operates, how we upload our bios and link our calendar. Since I became a PodMatch member in maybe April or May 2021, you have gone through many different upgrades already. Kudos to there as well.
That has been something that we wanted to always do. We asked the members that use it, “What works? What doesn’t?” We let them help us with the roadmap but the idea is to focus on continuous improvement. Jeff Bezos made this famous. We didn’t come up with it but his whole concept is, “Always day one.” We can’t ever let people decide. We can’t ever decide internally like, “We have made it. We have arrived. It’s day two.” It’s always day one, which means we are always on the ground floor getting started, and that’s always the mentality that we are going to keep.
What is your advice to a brand-new podcaster starting out facing that 90% failure rate?
The very first thing you have to do is develop a strong why for yourself. “Why are you podcasting?” If it’s something like, “I want to make money. I want 1,000 or 10 million downloads,” or whatever it might be, those reasons might be a little bit too shallow. They are not bad. They can be part of it but you need to begin with, “Who are you serving? Who’s going to be that person listening?” That comes in form of identifying what I call an avatar, which is your most ideal listener. Come up with one person. This is someone who would listen and anybody like them. Develop a strong why around that.
What I would recommend doing is if you have unspecific goals, you are going to have specific results. That has always been true. If it’s day one you are starting, determine that why. Decide what you want the avatar to have learned twelve months from now. Think 365 days in advance. Let’s say they are with you from day one until then. Where do you want them to have gone on their journey as a direct result of listening to you? If you continuously have that mindset of, “I’m doing this for that ideal listener,” and you find that narrow niche to focus in, you are going to do well in podcasting.
If people want to find you, other than PodPros.com, is there any other place that they can connect you with?
Thankfully, that’s it. I commend you for how organized you are. Another thing that helps podcasters is the organization. You are the most organized host I have ever had the opportunity to be a guest with. Also, you do a great job with the show. I’m a reader myself. You had an episode with Nathan Bynum about how to build a website to test your products. It’s a brilliant conversation. I recommend the readers go check that one out if they haven’t read it. I appreciate you having me here and what you are doing with the show.
Thank you so much. Good luck to you. If you ever need feedback from some of the podcasters, make sure to reach out to me. I’ve got a lot to say.
It’s always day one, which means we’re always on the ground floor getting started. That’s the mentality that we’re going to keep.
You’ve got very valid feedback. I appreciate it. Thank you so much.
Thank you for reading this episode. If you haven’t rated and reviewed my show, please go ahead and do so. Please stay happy, healthy. Remember, happiness is your choice. I hope you make optimistic choices.
About Alex Sanfilippo
Alex Sanfilippo is the host of the top-rated entrepreneurship podcast, Creating a Brand, and the founder of two podcasting software’s, PodMatch.com, a service that matches podcast guests and hosts together for interviews and PodcastSOP, a project management software that is specifically for podcasters to help them keep episode releases on track!