Taylor Ryan is an American entrepreneur living in Copenhagen, Denmark. He is a 6x startup founder with 13+ years of marketing and startup experience across 10 industries in both large and small organizations.
Taylor is the current CEO of ArchitectureQuote, a Saas platform for architects, and the growth hacking agency Klint Marketing. He’s also an angel investor and advisor to numerous tech startups around Copenhagen.
Over the last 4 years, Taylor has built and run the marketing departments for some of the fastest-growing startups in Denmark.
Often described as the “best growth-hacker in Denmark,” Taylor runs workshops and keynotes on subjects ranging from marketing tech stacks to corporate innovation.
His latest venture is organizing Growth Secrets, a free growth hacking event series for Copenhagen’s startup community with online training courses.
His mantra? When there’s no budget or resources, you have to work smarter. You’re forced to teach yourself how to get results or get out of the way.
Connect with Taylor on LinkedIn here.
What you will learn
- That persistence is an important character trait for success
- Why learning isn’t just a school-based activity – it comes from “doing”
- Why action trumps ideas
- Why you should listen to your heart and tap into your intuition
- The importance of trying to find that “big” problem to solve for businesses
- Whether you need to sell your soul to succeed in business
- Whether success in life is a journey or a destination
Jeff Bullas: Hi, everyone, and welcome to The Jeff Bullas Show. Today, I have Taylor Ryan with me. Now Taylor escaped America four years ago and went to a beautiful part of the world called Scandinavia. Now, for those who don't know where Scandinavia is, it's not anywhere near America is actually in Denmark in Copenhagen.
Jeff Bullas: Now, Copenhagen and Denmark, well, Scandinavian countries, Denmark especially, are beautiful. The people are amazing and Taylor got tricked into appearing there apparently because Mike said, "Come over for three days," and he stayed four years so far. Now just a little bit about Taylor he is a six X startup founder with 13 plus years of marketing. So he's a man true to my heart. He knows how to make things move and get attention. He is the current CEO of ArchitectureQuote, which is a software as a service platform for architects and the reality is about now I'm gonna explain software as platforms, software as a service, which means that they can scale.
Jeff Bullas: Now, Taylor is an angel investor and advises numerous tech startups around Copenhagen. And for the last four years, he has built and run marketing departments, some of the fastest growing startups in Denmark. He is often described as the best growth hacker in Denmark. So he runs workshops and keynotes. His life's venture is organizing growth secrets of free growth hacking event series for Copenhagen's startup community online training courses. He has a little mantra which I rather like. When there's no budget or resources, you have to work smarter. You're forced to teach yourself how to get results or get out of the way. Welcome to the show, Taylor.
Taylor Ryan: Thank you. Thank you very much. That's a hell of an introduction. I liked it. Very cool. I'm excited. It's not often you get to sit by and listen to people talk about your highlight reel. So it's like, "Ooh, this is fun."
Jeff Bullas: Yeah. Well, see, in Australia we have trouble talking about ourselves, so it sounds much more impressive when someone talks about you and if you're actually talking about yourself, it's tooting your own horn as we say in Australia. And we have that tall poppy syndrome in Australia which is a real thing. So if you say anything about yourself and how well you're doing, people will just say, "You're just a wanker, Jeff." I don't know if you understand that in America or Copenhagen, but...
Taylor Ryan: Yeah.
Jeff Bullas: You do. Okay. That's good, but we're not, we're just actually having fun. So it's great to have you in this show. So Taylor, let's start a little bit towards the beginning, what got you into this whole digital startup space that you obviously love and enjoy it because you're doing very well at it?
Taylor Ryan: Well, yeah. I'll start by saying, again, thanks for having me, I'm super excited to kind of chew the startup scene crazy kind of adventure, I guess you would call it, by getting into videography first. So I've always said good things happen when you stay late and that can be whether you're out at the bars or that can be when you're in school and you want to learn some things. So when I was in elementary school we had cameras that were laying around and I could stay late and then bike home afterwards. So I started to learn how to do videography, which then led to video editing, which then led to paying gigs and having to do weddings which I really would never want to do that kind of work again, it's terrible. But that also then led to getting into audio visual services and flown all throughout the country. And ultimately people are like, "Hey, I have this new company," before they were really throwing out the word startups, "Would you help me make a video for it?" And then that turned into, "What else can you do?"
Taylor Ryan: So that was a good 15, 16 years ago, but I started really getting into digital marketing as I kind of leaped across the creating content that was videography into all things marketing.
Jeff Bullas: Right. So when you're doing videography, what do you mean by that? I know that brides like to be recorded on video, I've got sort of pictures of a wedding planner type of guy and I can imagine that the weddings would not be fun because there's a lot of emotion. You got relatives, you got brides. So...
Taylor Ryan: Drunk people. I mean, it all kind of goes in there. One of the interesting things that I think people avoid especially when they're getting into a new career or a new venture is working for free. And so there's this wonderful platform that has pitfalls and all kinds of interesting opportunities called Craigslist. Craigslist is big in the States, it's non-existent on Scandinavia, but I would basically say, "Yeah, I'll be a plus one to do some video and photo work for a wedding or for a product shoot, whatever the case is. I have my own camera," and that led into being able to show a portfolio which ultimately led to me getting a job at a place called Audio Visual Experts and that meant I could basically start learning a craft. And that's kind of how I squeezed into a space that I had no experience in prior.
Jeff Bullas: So did you really enjoy the video aspect of it? Well, was it just because it was an opportunity you saw?
Taylor Ryan: I think it's the latter. I mean, I always have a soft spot for it. I certainly enjoyed doing a lot of the more creative stuff in school. I think the issue is that everybody wants to be creative. Everybody wants to have an outlet for visually stunning things, but the reality is not everybody's good at it and also that doesn't always pay the bills. And I found that if I was just a little better at some of the technical stuff, it put me into a much higher pay grade and also gave me a lot more opportunities.
Jeff Bullas: Right. So you were doing stuff for free initially?
Taylor Ryan: That's how it always works.
Jeff Bullas: That's true. The reality is that the best way to find out what you really want is to do stuff and sometimes you have to give it away for free to find out what works and what doesn't and I totally get that. So you put yourself out there, you started creating content and then you're going, "How can I monetize this?" Is that correct?
Taylor Ryan: I'm still working on that. I don't know. I mean, I look at your website and I'm like, "Man, this guy is impressive." I think we all have this kind of desire to put a lot of things out there and hope that it resonates with certain people. And I'm sure with the events that you do, most of them probably don't fill your pockets, it's more of a step that brings you in front of people that might provide an opportunity. I could be wrong.
Jeff Bullas: Well, I think you hit the nail on the head really. So I initially for the first 6 to 12 months didn't make a cent out of what I did, I just wrote about what I was passionately interested in and that was this intersection of social media and the mobile phone to obsessive technologies that have been taken to whole new levels over the last decade plus, and I then worked on how to monetize it because it was just fun. It was just fun. And when-
Taylor Ryan: I totally get that.
Jeff Bullas: Yeah. So I'm going, okay. So I had a day job, it was a side hustle and sounds a little bit like you did something very similar except on videography.
Taylor Ryan: Yeah. What was your day job? I'm curious.
Jeff Bullas: So my first day job was a school teacher.
Taylor Ryan: Oh, Okay.
Jeff Bullas: And then I got into digital because I didn't want to do teaching anymore, it just wasn't my thing. And so what happened was I went and tried three different jobs over my summer break and one of them was in a digital space when the PC revolution was taking off. And so I went, "Wow, this is something going on in this space." It just felt right. Now I think that sometimes you need to listen to your intuition as well. And we all try and use, I suppose, the rational side of our brain and try and work out what we should do, but we need to quite often listen to the heart and go, "This feels right. Let's experiment with it. Let's have some fun. Let's give away stuff for free for a little bit and let's see what unfolds," and that's exactly what happened for me.
Taylor Ryan: I totally get that. I think with me, there was an element of that, but also, I tried to kind of measure out what is the journey from this being the starting point because I figure most jobs that you get into when you're first kind of learning, the ropes are not the sexiest thing. They're not very rewarding. So if you're looking at a six month, 12-month, 18-month, what's a best case scenario? And I struggled so hard to kind of get into that. Some of my first jobs were the worst things ever. I would never wish upon anybody. I worked as a door to door salesman type jobs, selling windows and siding. That was terrible. You show up in somebody's house with a giant window on one hand, a glass kit in another, and you sit there for three hours until they throw you out. I sold barrels up and down the East coast.
Taylor Ryan: These are things that you kind of have to go through the rotations to figure out even in a perfect scenario, "What am I doing here? Am I here because there's great money? Probably not. What's the growth pattern?" And I think when I started kind of playing those Socratic method of why, why, why, why, you start to get to a point where you're like, "Okay, if this doesn't really have a trajectory that I like, I need to stop doing this or at least find the area in it that I enjoy the most."
Jeff Bullas: So we all think that we can do the research and know the perfect answer. The reality is you don't know what you don't know. And the other reality is you don't know until you do it. And so you can go, "Ah, teaching looks great. Being a doctor looks cool," and you go, "I hate the sign of blood. I didn't know that until I actually did it." So I went and tried three different jobs. Then I went, "Let's go for that one, that felt right." And it was a whole digital journey from there, and that was 35 years ago. So it's really fascinating to hear you saying you just did stuff you didn't want to do. But guess what? You need to find out what you don't like as well.
Taylor Ryan: Yes. I always say that it's like having a very stubborn girlfriend, not that my current one is but when you're trying to figure out where to go to get dinner, if you're recommending nice things that you would like, you're immediately getting nos. It's like, "Okay, fine. Tell me what you don't want and then we can narrow down where we should go." And I think careers aren't too far off from a stubborn girlfriend that's hungry but can't give you a good answer.
Jeff Bullas: Yeah. And then you might need to go and do an experiment for the next few weeks, finding out what she does and doesn't like and then you can nail it. All right. So you tried to do door to door selling. I did cold calling. I really tried. What I did do was I worked for a very fundamental Christian organization and we had to knock on doors to ask for money for them to contribute to mystery opportunities, which is not unlike the moment's who send them, there are guys all around the world knocking on doors two by two. That's why Mormons are such good salespeople.
Taylor Ryan: That's an interesting way of looking at it. I've never actually considered it would be a natural next step to be like, "Look, you've gotten into so many uncomfortable conversations and you have to get through that first 10 seconds before they slam the door." Totally makes sense, I haven't thought of hiring Mormons. That's actually really quite interesting.
Jeff Bullas: Mormons are the most amazing sales people on the planet and I'm going to tell you why, because I've been in a very similar position because I come from a very fundamental Christian background myself. If you can sell religion, you can sell anything.
Taylor Ryan: Interesting. I like that. It's actually really well put. I never thought of that. Okay.
Jeff Bullas: So you know what? I think the Mormons are bloody awesome in terms of selling. So you've done door to door selling, you discovered you like videography, so what was the first serious business that you got involved in?
Taylor Ryan: Yeah. Well, the door to door selling was hard, but it was something that I figured I could understand. And I don't know, I had always kind of had little side hustles as a kid, whether it was mowing lawns, raking leaves, umpiring, whatever. But then you kind of get into a situation where you're working for people that are significantly older than you and you're trying to kind of figure out what they're doing in order to get to that point. And so when I work for somebody who is wildly incompetent, it starts to kind of turn on light bulbs where it's like, "This guy's an idiot. I can do that job with my eyes closed."
Taylor Ryan: So what are the odds that if this guy's making unreasonable sums of money selling home remodeling, and I have to give two thirds of what I make to him, then why can't I do the same thing? I just need to contact my own set of salespeople, my own set of manufacturers, and go out and do the exact same thing. And instead of all the money going into this guy's absurd lifestyle, maybe it could go into building a business. So I started my own home remodeling company and that came with very poor timing. It was 2008 and so the height of the economic recession hit right after which then I spun out with one of the other guys. Then we actually created our own teeth whitening business by contacting manufacturers in China before Alibaba was a thing.
Taylor Ryan: And so we would sit in his living room just calling up these manufacturers in English and it was this whole crazy thing, but yeah, we got a bunch of suppliers and then wound up and down the East coast selling to gyms, tanning salons, beauty salons as well. And yeah, we made a decent little living off of that for a period of time.
Jeff Bullas: Okay. So that was stage one, teeth whitening. Awesome. I used to sell subliminal suggestion types of stop smoking. That was my first sales job.
Taylor Ryan: Man, that's crazy. I learned hypnosis at the age of 16, so I love this. Yeah. People think I'm crazy for saying that, but yeah, that's a real thing. Amazing.
Jeff Bullas: Yeah. And I made more money working two or three nights a week than my teacher’s wage. And I went, gee, so the insight for me from that was performance based revenue. It was not the only thing, but if I said, well, it looks like I can sell. So this company organized appointments, I showed up and I sold $50 suggestion tapes during the mid '80s and I really believed in them. I hoped they worked because I wasn't smoking at the time because I haven't smoked since and the fact I'd never started. But I sincerely believe that stopping smoking was a good idea and I provided a tool. So yeah, my first job was... you did teeth whitening. I did a spin with suggestion tapes, so.
Taylor Ryan: We got there together though, huh.
Jeff Bullas: Yeah. Okay. So what happened after teeth whitening?
Taylor Ryan: Yeah. Teeth whitening didn't pan out. I had a business partner that employed his girlfriend to do the finances, money went missing and I pulled out my stake in the company and moved on. I met a guy that was selling barrels to wineries and distilleries and found it to be fascinating. So I started a drop-shipping operation inside of his barrel, smaller American white oak barrels at festivals and carnivals and all these other things. This was in 2009, 2010, and nobody was hiring somebody with minimal or zero marketing experience. So I would be basically on the road 24/7 sewing these crazy barrels. Just couldn't get a chance anywhere.
Jeff Bullas: Okay. So...
Taylor Ryan: Yeah, I know.
Jeff Bullas: No, that's-
Taylor Ryan: Super random.
Jeff Bullas: I think that's awesome because you're doing stuff and that's one way you learn. So what happened after barrels?
Taylor Ryan: Yeah. After barrels, I decided you know what? I really want something that I can sink my teeth into. I need a change of scenery. I moved to San Diego. It was a mistake, but I've always said, and if there's anybody watching from California, you'll love this, I always thought California was great except for the people. So it's just one of those things that I always had this kind of hustler mindset, but I ended up working for a fore-profit university doing telesales and was begging the people in marketing to give me a shot. I never got it and so moved back and started a company called Prepare To Be Hired with a guy that I had known from my network and helped out with some video projects.
Taylor Ryan: That ultimately led to us winning a $4.3 million government contract and he had 20 years of head hunting experience recruiting. And that allowed us to then start playing with different projects which spun out into a company called Giggs Fire where we were trying to sell how to go about finding a job to schools and kids getting out of school. But ultimately, people don't spend a lot of money on trying to learn how to find a job when they don't have a job.
Jeff Bullas: Yeah, because they've got no money.
Taylor Ryan: Right. And that was an eight month lesson so I'm glad we figured it out, but it's just one of those silly things that you go on a suspicion and you test all routes and realize there's nothing there or nothing immediately there.
Jeff Bullas: So what was next?
Taylor Ryan: After that, I was really big into networking and the DC startup scene was really to come together and Washington DC and so I met a handful of guys that were doing mobile app developments and wanted to form a company. So I came in as kind of the CMO/co-founder of a company that had originally tried to create a payment system using QR codes. For those adults, nobody in the history of QR codes has ever actually scanned one but it sounds like a really good idea. No, I'm kidding. I just don't see the viability, but yeah. So we basically were making money by selling mobile app development and creating an app on the side.
Taylor Ryan: We made the mistake of building an app for a very narrow niche. This was at the height of the gluten-free craze. So a terrible name, terrible idea. It was called the Gluten-Free VIP. Yeah. I know a lot of late nights thinking of that one. So that didn't pan out which ultimately led me to decide to take a break from the startup scene and I joined up with the Washington Post and did about two years over there.
Jeff Bullas: The Washington Post?
Taylor Ryan: Yes.
Jeff Bullas: Wow.
Taylor Ryan: Well, it wasn't the sexy side of The Post, so I wasn't a journalist. I was helping with the apartment section. So there's only so much in the form of innovation within apartments and it was right after Bezos had bought it. I thought it was going to be super unique and interesting and, yeah, far from it.
Jeff Bullas: So what's the apartment aspect then, what do you mean by apartment?
Taylor Ryan: So every major newspaper has listings and so there's a job section, there's editorial, there's listings for apartments and yeah, that was basically the section that I was the only marketer in there for. So yeah, that was very regional.
Jeff Bullas: All right. So Washington Post, what's next?
Taylor Ryan: Yeah. After that I decided I really wanted to get back into the startup scene. I was going to two or three events a week because I don't know, I'm not sure if it's ever happened to you, but it's happened to me more than once where you're so desperate to get into something genuine and really cut your teeth on something new and you're struggling to get this job. And then you get the job. And within the first week you go, "Oh, this is terrible. I don't want this job," but then you have to stick it out because you already committed to it. So I was definitely trying to fight my way out of it and that's when I started a Drupal development firm, found out very quickly that I joined up with the wrong guy and that's when I took the longest vacation of my 20s, which was all of 10 days because Americans don't get holidays, we don't take off of work. And that's when I ended up in Copenhagen for a total of three days and that was enough for me to look around and be like, "I can do this."
Jeff Bullas: So you were in Copenhagen, who did you catch up with?
Taylor Ryan: Well, I had a friend that I had gone to school with two dropped out of school to join up with the Merchant Marines, which is this really kind of unique situation. People that sail the big cargo ships all over the world, you have to go to school in order to do that. And so he had really taken that route and yeah, there's some delightful stuff that happens when you get to travel, but it's mostly seeing ports and not really the luxurious lifestyle that I think some people might assume travel kind of gives you. So he had just found a desk job as opposed to sitting on these big container ships. And yeah, it was kind of a little slice of life getting to chat with somebody that understood that.
Taylor Ryan: I ended up at a barbecue and I started talking with some people that I felt knew what they were talking about within the startup scene. And I was like, "Whoa, you guys have your own little startup scene here," and that put on some light bulbs. And so as soon as I got back to the States, I went into hardcore job search mode and yeah, I had an offer here in Denmark and one and Vienna, Austria, and leveraged the two in order to get a decent offer.
Jeff Bullas: Great. So was that a marketing role within the organization?
Taylor Ryan: Yeah, that was for the head of SEO and optimization within a small startup out here, 30 or 40 people. Actually, a medium size startup. But throughout the process of continuing to learn by doing these different jobs, I was constantly teaching myself different things and one of them was App Store optimization, SCL, content writing. These are things that nobody necessarily asks you to do inside of a job, but I think if you have a twinge of curiosity, it can carry you a really long way. And so I think that gave me a lot more of the confidence behind it, gave me the projects to be able to show during my application that I had done real work and so it was a pretty easy natural next step to jump into a place and then you realize like, "Wow, I actually have a genuinely decent skill set, it just took forever to get there."
Jeff Bullas: Well, you learned that along the way by the school of hard knocks didn't you?
Taylor Ryan: Yeah. Well, I mean, that's the funny thing, it's like nobody gets to at least the point of what they deem to be success with kind of a straight path. I don't know anybody who's like, "Yeah, my plan A worked out, everything's great." I've never seen that. I don't know. I mean, what did you originally set out to do when you kind of formed these ideas of what you wanted in high school or beyond in college?
Jeff Bullas: Well, I wanted to be a doctor initially because I had a girlfriend or a neighbor, a girl that I was keen on, that was a doctor and, wow, they got money. That's cool. Then I discovered that I hated the sight of blood so that's not gonna work. Then I decided that I want to be an accountant because I'm dealing with money. So I did a first year accounting degree and at the end of that, I'm going, this is going to kill me slowly.
Jeff Bullas: So I then segwayed into so how can I make sure I don't waste any time because I'm an optimization guy in terms of optimizing life. And I went, "How can I finish my degree without wasting another year?" And I switched to teaching, kept my accounting major and I became a high school teacher and I graduated and I did that for six years and I realized from day one that I really hated it.
Taylor Ryan: I totally get that. Yeah.
Jeff Bullas: But I hung in there, I persisted. And then along the way I discovered some stuff that I was good at. So I doubled down on my strengths which is sales and selling. And then I tried selling them through different industries, life insurance, real estate and digital and I went which one felt right. I didn't do a spreadsheet, I didn't do anything like that, I just did so.
Jeff Bullas: So I think you've really got to listen to your intuition, your heart. So I left teaching despite my parents protestations because they were going, "Oh, you've got a wonderful career as a teacher which is traditional," but I was desperately unhappy and I needed to make a change. So it was a very convoluted path and then we've dived into and out of different aspects of digital ever since and I would be bored in a traditional industry, I would just slash my wrists if I had to. Yeah, so...
Taylor Ryan: I get it. I totally get it. I think some people need the... for me, it always comes down to the variation. No single day looks the same. The variety of getting to uncover unique problems that require different solutions every day is a little different. And the idea of just the repetition day after day after day, it scared the hell out of me. I don't know. Was it the same for you?
Jeff Bullas: Yeah. Well, I think routine is good, but routine doing something that you love doing. So the choice is always security or adventure. Adventure, that's true to yourself and I think if you really are true to yourself, you're going, "I just can't walk into that high rise building every day and work for the man." And typically entrepreneurs get to a point where they go, I just can't do this, it's just doing my heart and soul and heading. So I was very much listening to my parents' advice, but at the end I decided that I needed to listen to my own heart and it only took me 50 years to work that out.
Jeff Bullas: Well, not 50, it's maybe... I made a move out of teaching, but I really needed to get into an industry that I loved and work on how to make it happen.
Taylor Ryan: Oh, I understand. Yeah.
Jeff Bullas: So let's get back to Copenhagen and Denmark. You got this job, it takes all the skills you learned over the last 10, 15 years of hard knocks from wedding videography through to door knocking sightings to selling barrels. So you worked for them, so what happened next after you got this role in this startup?
Taylor Ryan: It's one of those really strange things. I think the change in ecosystems going from US East Coast which is incredibly competitive, I did a touch of public speaking over there and showing some of the earliest hacks that I had put together in terms of being able to figure out how to do mail merges, dynamic emails that were pulling in, HTML feeds to show regular updates of apartments. And that was a little bit of razzle-dazzle and interesting showing how I took wedding wire, which is this really another wedding thing, it was an app in the States. It's huge now, but basically optimizing their keywords to push them up to number one within their niches. So I don't know, I'm having a tough week so I've been basically giving myself probably a harder time than I actually am, but I realized when I got here that I was one of maybe 500 people that did what I did in Denmark given that it was so much smaller of an ecosystem, I was one of five.
Taylor Ryan: So you start sitting down with people and it's like, "Jesus," like, "I learned this stuff three, four, five years ago, what are you guys doing?" And it was really earth-shattering because there is this work-life balance and this whole ideology of 37 hour work weeks, spend time with your friends and your family, don't kill yourself with work. And I come from a very opposite background which is your job is your life. Fall in love with whatever it is that you do, or at least fall in love with the end result which is making money so that you can support yourself and the people in your inner circle. Otherwise, what's the point? And so you meet a bunch of people that don't share that mentality and people thought I was stupid which was the craziest thing. They're like, "I get all my work done in six hours, why are you still here and it's almost midnight?"
Taylor Ryan: And I'm like, "Well, do you genuinely think, Franz, that you're six hours compares to my 12? Is that possible?" And so you start to kind of realize I'm not a perfect fit for the particular place that I went into. And so within a six month period I was out and it wasn't my choice. So I was very quickly five days later picked up by a company that did construction project management software which disrupting the way that a very old school industry works and basically putting everything digitalized instead of having a bunch of spreadsheets on a clipboard, which is how still the construction industry operates, this was all digital. So that was kind of the next journey for a year and eight months.
Jeff Bullas: So was that part of the journey to launch the architecture business?
Taylor Ryan: Yeah. Well, if you remember, I was talking about how I experienced incompetencies within this home remodeling business. If you can look upwards and see somebody that is clearly making moves and their trajectory is an upward path, and you're not necessarily getting the impression that they are doing as good of a job as you potentially could, then the idea is like, "Cool, what do I need to do in order to take his spot?" And so that was the beginning of the journey mixed in with I met a bunch of architects out here. I'd never met an architect in the States prior. So through a couple of conversations I'm like, "Wait, you guys only do work or find projects via word of mouth?" And at that point it was 2018 and they were like, "What else would you use?" I'm like, "Well, the internet, what do you mean?" So it kind of opened up some interesting scenarios. And yeah, I started working on nights and weekends to be able to build something that I thought would be really interesting to an industry that had very low digitalization.
Jeff Bullas: So you decided to change the game for architects by going beyond word of mouth marketing to digital marketing plus word of mouth, is that correct?
Taylor Ryan: Essentially, yeah. Think of it like building an aggregator. So scraping was something that I stumbled into pretty quickly. And I think the first tools was Webscraper.io so the idea of being able to pull together leads very quickly, it was something I was familiar with. So why would it be any different if you're trying to knock on doors or make phone calls? Why not just send out emails to all these potential people that are posting projects? Or even better, why not put them all in one platform? So right now we scrape up to 15 different sources to provide leads for architects that are interested in growing their company.
Jeff Bullas: So when did you start that?
Taylor Ryan: That was in November of 2018.
Jeff Bullas: Okay. How's it working at the moment?
Taylor Ryan: Terrible. I think it's one of those really interesting things that I learned from this whole gluten-free VIP venture. We worked via this company secure pay as the mobile app development firm. We were working with Kellogg's, Great Courses, some of these really large brands. And it was so funny because I remember sitting down after meeting with Kellogg's and like, "It's a cereal brand, Why do they need an app? And it's like, "I don't know, we'll take their money," and that was just the end of the conversation, let's go. So it's one of those things I did some user testing very early on when we were asking people that were with Celiac disease, it was an entire app made for people with food allergies and we asked the question, "Would you use this app?" And they were like," Yeah, sure. Why not?"
Taylor Ryan: There was a lot of priming that kind of led up to that. We found that when we started asking a little bit more, I don't know, difficult questions or used the word actually, it changed the conversation. So when I'd ask somebody, "Would you use this app?" They were like, "Sure." And I said, "Oh no, no. Hold on, would you actually use this app and when do you think you would be using it?" And they were like, "No, it's a silly idea. I would never use it. I don't see myself ever buying food on my phone." It's like, "Oh, how ridiculous, thank you," that would have been nice to know eight months ago, but these are things that you learn and so it's the same thing with architects, where there is a certain type of person that gets into a field, really enjoys working by themselves and building something that's aesthetically beautiful, but has no desire to grow a company.
Taylor Ryan: And so it's really finding, within this niche, a super narrow field of people that understand something in the way of digital platforms, understand how to grow a business. And these folks are artists first. So yeah, we're still in this growing pains process of building this. And that's why my marketing agency has been kind of holding down the fort for a little while, it's how I make money these days. It's been a tough ride.
Jeff Bullas: Yeah. So that's the big challenge, isn't it for startups trying to identify what problem are you solving? I recently interviewed the guy behind Uber Lawns and he said that they thought that people wanted the cheapest price for mowing their lawns, but that wasn't a problem they wanted solved because typically, when you ask someone to mow your lawn, they don't show up, you spend all your time chasing them. So guess the problem he was trying to solve. The problem he was trying to solve was convenience.
Taylor Ryan: Interesting. One order of magnitude away. Really Smart.
Jeff Bullas: And this is the challenge, isn't it? What problem are you trying to solve? And it comes down to Uber as well. So Uber of Lawns in America, Mr. Clayton just worked out that that was what he needed to do and it was a real challenge for him in that he thought he was solving a problem of price, but it wasn't that it was a problem of convenience. So people get their time wasted because they're chasing all these contractors and it happens all the time. You're at home, you go, "I want my carpet cleaned." You ring around, "I want my house painted." You ring around, number of times you call. So price isn't the issue at the end of the day. It's like, "Just get this shit done, I really want it done."
Taylor Ryan: Yeah. It is fascinating to kind of peel back those layers and kind of understand. I think a lot of businesses would benefit from that and I'm certainly still figuring things out as I go, not only with my ArchitectureQuote company, but my marketing agency and my online classes. It's always figuring out kind of these different angles and putting yourself in somebody else's mindset.
Jeff Bullas: Yeah. It was fascinating to talk to him. And he moved from an analog business where he built a landscaping business that he sold, which is hard to scale because it was at a local to how can you scale something nationally and connect demand and supply and yeah, it was a fascinating conversation. And that is a challenge for all of us trying to work out what big problem are you solving? And I've had conversations with repurposing content like you've got all this content, but hey, cut it up into snippets, hey, you can put up on different platforms. Trying to do all of that becomes a challenge. It's almost, you create a huge monster to build versus what's one small problem I can solve today and that becomes a real big challenge. But discovering the problem you're solving I think is really important.
Taylor Ryan: Yeah, I absolutely agree. And I think the more that you blend that with your daily tasks and especially in the route of content, I've struggled to kind of relay that to whether it's founders or clients are understanding that you're not directly attacking this one bright kind of element here, what's behind that? And I think that's very difficult for people to graft onto at times.
Jeff Bullas: Yeah. So you've been in Denmark for four years now. Are you enjoying the country?
Taylor Ryan: It's funny because I've had a bunch of conversations with other people that run agencies, other startup founders. When things are great, everybody's in a good mood, and also they're, they're looking around like, "Oh, what a great life this is." When things are more challenging. I think people go through a bit of existential kind of self-questioning and crises. I've certainly started to look at things under a different set of lenses because I'm constantly running into barriers that I'm sure you're experiencing as well, that prior to February or March of this year, things were not as difficult. And so you start to kind of reevaluate, "Why am I here?" And that's been quite an interesting journey over the last couple of months.
Taylor Ryan: So I wish I could be more upbeat, but I think it's just the matter of fact, and it doesn't mean that I'm just going to throw up my hands and be done, it's just incredibly grueling and I think that's part of the entrepreneur journey, it's peaks and valleys and I've been around this type of circumstance before, and you try to think back of what you did right and wrong back in the last recession or back when things weren't so easy.
Jeff Bullas: I just want to go a little bit back to one of the points you raised when you moved to Denmark, is that the values between American culture and the Danish culture were quite different in that work defines American culture very much and the Danish go, "Why are you working 12 hours a day?" It's very interesting and that's what I love about travel in that you get to see every culture. You get to see each culture as you dive into it and you've spent four years in Denmark so you've got to see it a lot closer, up close and personal. So how are you dealing with the difference between American culture and Danish culture in terms of work culture four years later? Because American culture is very much about sales, get it done, get it done. Work late, work defines you, whereas the Danish culture, and I've experienced myself, this kind of culture is very much about work-life balance in a much different way to American culture. So four years later, how is that working for you now?
Taylor Ryan: Yeah. To be fair, it's almost five, but I don't know if they all blended together, the five years, but yeah. It's interesting I tried to articulate this to different people. When I explain it to folks back in the States, they get it. When I explain it out here, I think it comes off pompous or arrogance. But there is something that I recognize when I sit down with somebody who's absolutely brilliant and every once in a while you sit down with somebody and you're like, "Jesus," like, "This person has light-speed growth or they are eons ahead of me. I'll never be that good. I'll never be as good as this person in that one area. I don't recognize signs of brilliance out here very often because in order to be that level of amazing at a specific thing, you have to give your life to it. You have to give your time, your energy, your essence. Everything that you wake up and do is related to that thing.
Taylor Ryan: If your life also is, "Well, I enjoy my crossFit and I want to make sure that I get out to see the friends," and it's like, "Dude, that's great. Go for it." But in terms of you being somebody that I can look over and be like, "This is the most brilliant person I've ever met in this space, and it's an art form, they're so good at it." Those are the people that I want to surround myself with. I want to be around people that have such a drive and passion to be amazing and excelling in one particular area that I just start my hands on everything this person says is it and I don't find that out here.
Jeff Bullas: Okay.
Taylor Ryan: I don't know. Is that crazy? I feel like I'm crazy when I say that stuff.
Jeff Bullas: Look, there's no judgment from me on that at all. It's just I'm just intrigued by different cultures and how they approach life. And I think maybe American culture is much more a warrior culture where they just take no prisoners whether it's you haven't hit your sales targets for three months so off you go. I admire it. I've been to the States a lot. My blog was very much targeted Americans. I've been in and out, dipped in and out of American culture a lot. I suppose it's also up to your own attitude as a human in terms of what you're comfortable with.
Jeff Bullas: I tell you what I really admire is the American entrepreneurial spirit. It takes no prisoners. If you don't win, you're a loser. But I suppose I got a little bit older and going, "How important is it to earn an extra 10 bucks or 100 bucks or $1,000?" I'm going, "Will that change my life?" And I'll go, "No." So what's happiness about? What's joy? What is your definition of success? And I think different cultures have different definitions of success. And guess what? There's no right or wrong on that.
Taylor Ryan: Yes. Oh, I absolutely agree. And I think ultimately, that that type of currency is something that you can't really replace somebody else's mindset or dream with what it is that you're driven by. And if your goal is to relax and allow for things to fall into place or to be inspired by a calm mind, then that is just as evenly accessible and also fine for somebody else. I would say the further you kind of break down, what is the reasoning and rationale behind that American mindset? I don't know. I mean, there's so many different directions that could take. It could be insecurity. It could be something in the way of just pure unabashed capitalism and greed. It could be somewhere in between.
Taylor Ryan: For me, I want to work on some of the hardest stuff to touch that nobody gets to get in front of because I am never satisfied with the technology that I get to work with or the people that I'm sometimes surrounded with. I want to be surrounded by brilliant people that care. I think “giving a shit” factors a big part of purpose, and if you're surrounded by people, it's like just a job. To me, it's not, I spend more time at work than I do around family or anything else. I want to make sure that it's the right thing that I'm aligning with.
Jeff Bullas: Yeah, and that really sums up quite nicely. It's life and that is a combination of life, family, friends, and we're all getting different aspect of that. And also we've got different phases of life.
Taylor Ryan: Yeah. I think the young eager version of ourselves would probably have very little in common with the thirty-something and then beyond.
Jeff Bullas: Yeah. And for me, force versus flow. In other words, what I have discovered over the years, when I've come up against something, I've tried to force it and I call that a red light, I've tried to push through it and it's typically turned into a disaster. If I get a green light and it's flowing, I think that's another aspect of life. And there's no right or wrong on this, everyone's got their own perspective on it. Different cultures have different perspectives on it. And it's fascinating to see you moving from one culture to another culture and then experiencing the clash of those culture experiences. One is much more, "Well, let's just work six hours, go home, work nine hours, take a five week holiday." One's going, "I'll do whatever it takes." There's no right or wrong on that.
Taylor Ryan: Yeah. But when you are the outlier, I think it's a fish out of water scenario. And if it doesn't gel with the folks that are around you then obviously it's probably not a great fit.
Jeff Bullas: I agree. And it's like I need to have values aligning.
Taylor Ryan: Absolutely. Yes.
Jeff Bullas: So if your values align with your customers, then I think that gets pretty interesting and pretty amazing. So Taylor, thank you very much for your time. It's been great to hear from an American in Denmark.
Taylor Ryan: Yeah. Thank you for having me. I hope I didn't ramble too much, I have a tendency to do that.
Jeff Bullas: No, no, no. You've got a fascinating story and I think that was great to hear. There's no right or wrong on this. I think that's what's important for people to understand is to make your own way on this planet. And don't let friends, family define who you are. And listen to your own intuition at heart and navigate that and being true to yourself. I think if you can do that, and it sounds like you're on that journey, Taylor, so life is an adventure. You never arrive.
Taylor Ryan: Well put, Jeff. Yeah.
Jeff Bullas: You're not wasting any time and you're trying different stuff. You're throwing stuff against the wall. And look, you can look back on life, maybe a few years time and go, "I gave it up, I keep giving it my best shot." and I think what's really good is one thing you talked about which I really agree with a lot is hang out with people that inspire you, that can help you be a better version of yourself and that comes down to not only your business partners, but life partners. And you've got to be very careful who you hang out with.
Taylor Ryan: Yeah. Well, luckily these days you're not really allowed to hang out with anybody!.
Jeff Bullas: Well I'm hanging out with myself, so that's okay.
Taylor Ryan: There you go, yeah. And no one's going to run from me but me.
Jeff Bullas: So, Taylor, thank you very much for your time. It's been a pleasure to talk to you and hear your transcontinental experience.
Taylor Ryan: Well, I really appreciate your time as well. Thank you for having me, Jeff.
Jeff Bullas: And enjoy your day which is just starting in Denmark. And I was just finishing here. Someone might have seen the sun be setting on my face because the sun was setting just in front of me here. I should have drawn the curtains, but it doesn't really matter. I don't like living in a cave. I like enjoying nature. So thanks, Taylor, and have a great day and we'll look forward to sharing some more stories soon.
Taylor Ryan: Thanks a lot, Jeff.
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