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Before turning 30, Jerry Ting started a company that upended one of the largest sectors of the legal industry. The company, Evisort, uses AI to read contracts automatically, saving household-name brands like Jelly Belly, Fujitsu and Cox Automotive millions of dollars per year on legal fees, earning Jerry the distinction as one of the founders of modern contract management.
Evisort’s AI is revolutionizing the contract management industry, and the technology is impressive in its own right. The software can read a 30-page contract in 15 seconds, extracting relevant legal and business terms, recognize key expiration dates and organize the information in a central repository. It can read 230+ contracts and 50+ provisions and metadata “out-of-the box.” Evisort is one of very few enterprise AI companies with its own R&D lab, building proprietary models to help legal, sales and procurement professionals more efficiently manage their contract workflows.
Today Jerry leads a full team of 70+ employees in Silicon Valley, Boston, Toronto, and the Philippines, helping clients manage and analyze over a billion dollars in contract value around the world. He’s been recognized in Forbes 30 under 30 and Silicon Valley Business Journals’ 40 under 40.
Please check out our Patreon at @asianhustlenetwork. We want AHN to continue to be meaningful and give back to the Asian community. If you enjoy our podcast and would like to contribute to our future, we hope you’ll consider becoming a patron.
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Intro: (00:00:00) Hey guys, welcome to Asian Hustle Network Podcast, My name is Bryan.
And my name is Maggie
And we interview Asian entrepreneurs around the world to amplify their voices and empower Asians to pursue their dreams and goals.
We believe that each person has a message and a unique story from their entrepreneurial journey that they can share with all of us.
Maggie: (00:00:23) Hi, Everyone welcome to the Asian Hustle Network Podcast. My name is Maggie
Bryan: (00:00:28) My name is Brian.
Maggie: (00:00:29) Hi everyone. Welcome to the Asian Hustle Network podcast. My name is Maggie Bryan, and today we have a very special guest. His name is Jerry Ting and he is the founder and CEO of Evisort. Evisort is an AI powered contract management system, and it's on a mission to change how companies interact with their legal documents. Founded out of Harvard Law and MIT, the sword has been backed by leading early age venture funds. Jerry, welcome to the show.
Jerry: (00:00:54) Thanks for having me.
Bryan: (00:00:55) Of course, it's super excited to have you, Jerry, can you start off by introducing yourself and telling us about who you are, where you grew up and. Well, I know, learn a lot more about you.
Jerry: (00:01:03) Yeah. Awesome. So I'm originally from the Bay area born and raised in Fremont. Uh, grew up in a very Asian, uh, high school called mission San Jose, which I'm sure some other Asian hustle networks people are from, uh, and then went to USC for undergrad, where I studied political science and marketing. And so went to law school thinking that I'll be a startup lawyer.
I've always loved working in tech. And so my first 10 clients were all entrepreneurs and founders and I realized that I had a quarter life crisis. Just at 25 years old, you know, busting my ass to go, Oh, take the LSI, go to Harvard for law school. I realized three months on campus that I didn't want to be a lawyer anymore.
And, uh, for Asian parents, that's a very disappointing piece of news. And so for me, I was wondering, you know, gee, like I worked this hard to go to law school. You know, it's a, it's a white collar career. You know, the pay is really good. I was going to go work at a big law firm in New York, you know, so, well, what can I do instead?
And that's actually, when I met my co founder, who actually was a graduate researcher at MIT focusing on AI. And I was thinking, gee, if I really don't like law, there's much. You know, maybe there's a way to automate it. And so that's how we came up with the idea for other suites.
Bryan: (00:02:16) Well, that's awesome. And I think you bring up a really good point too.
I mean, you're brave enough to admit that law wasn't for you when you're almost at the finish line. Not a lot of people can make that pivot so directly, like a lot of people that are a minute too deep or more than two years, see what happens, but. You know, you had that mindset where you want to see what else is out there.And I feel like in this type of situation, like the universe is like helping you out. You know, you're like, Hey, I want to do this. I'm not quite happy and loaded me holding you. You met your co founder when you started know your company, which is awesome to hear. And we want to hear more about your company.How do you guys start? Like at the very early stages?
Jerry: (00:02:57) Yeah. So I was sitting there in grad school. Right. And, um, literally questioning like, what am I going to do for the rest of my life? And I think a lot of people in their twenties, early thirties, you know, especially during COVID, you know, I have a lot of friends who are like, maybe I don't want to work in finance.
Maybe I want to be an artist. Maybe I want to open a bakery. Right. So I think a lot of us can relate with that, with that message, because I was sitting in law school having the same thoughts, um, and. What happened was in grad school. They had a lot of speakers come in and the speakers were like, C-level ads, you know, big banks, fortune 500.
And they're talking about their jobs. Hey, if you worked really, really hard at this path, 20 years later, here's where you're going to be. And I was like, that's not what I want to be. I don't want to be there now or in 20 years, but I was listening to their stuff, stories and I, and I thought, wow, like, um, one of the things I did do in Moscow, actually, I worked at BCG as a consultant.
And so I pride myself on understanding business challenges and problems. And these guys are talking about. Hey, every day we have to open a contract, we have to read it. We have to manually do this. You know, accountants do similar stuff, finance professionals do similar things. And so everyone's kind of doing manual work and then glorifying you as, um, professional in practice.
It's always like, wow, that sounds odd that you can basically control. And then charge people with $600 an hour to do that. Right. And so I was, the idea was like, I'm from the Bay, I've always loved tech. If I could figure out a way to automate that, or I can use automation or AI to basically do what a lawyer or an accountant is doing, then here's a huge opportunity here, because if you can charge $650 an hour, if I just charge 20% of that, but I do it with a system with the automated system.
Hey, we're off to the races. Right? So that's, that's where the idea came from. And also was my personal frustration of my gosh. I don't, I don't want to be doing that.
Bryan: (00:04:52) Yeah. I mean, that's a really cool to hear about that and, you know, you turn a pain point to business and. That's really innovative, you know, this, I feel like he kind of understood what it took in order to start your business.
And I really liked what you mentioned before, too career progression. You know, I feel like a lot of people go through three stages, right? They go to, I graduated college, I'm working in my, my first job. That's my career lights. This is what I'm going to do. And you find out a couple of years later that you are incredibly unfulfilled and that you need more purpose in life.
And. The last thing that, you know, people went through their stages, like it's passion. It's like you're at the passion stage now where, you know, you're really successful your company. Like we're looking you up earlier before the podcast. Congratulations on your six series, a like amazing job. And you're at the point where I feel like you can definitely take a step back and sort of help others to get to their dreams and goals sooner.
Maggie: (00:05:52) It's also interesting that, you know, every business has a systems of agreement, right. And every business has to deal with contracts. Um, and it just, it's just a part of business, but a lot of businesses don't even know how to read or review contracts and they, I think they get intimidated about it. Right. And it starts to. It starts to get to them because there's just so much text and so much language and verbiage that they don't understand. And you were able to figure out, you know, that pin point and figure out a solution for them. So I think that's really important to point out, um, just for you to, you know, recognize that problem.
Bryan: (00:06:27) Yeah, but we also want to take a step back too, and I want to hear what your, your parents' point of view when you decided that, you know, USC gone to Hartford and then at the finish line, you're like, mom, this is not for me. How do your parents now?
Jerry: (00:06:41) Um, crickets. So Thanksgiving. Um, and it's funny cause I did the typical Asian thing.
I was like, Hey, how do I like, how do I like make something out of this? So I worked at BCG and consulting my first summer and then the second summer I worked at credit Suisse and investment banking. I was like, Hey, what are all the things now are pay like a law firm and it's prestigious like a law firm, but it's not a law firm.
Uh, and I realized, I just didn't like any of them to be honest. And so I was like, Hey, maybe as a millennial, it has a lot of creative thoughts. Like I'm not really good at these entry level sort of white collar jobs. I remember when I went to BCG and they're like, Hey, Jerry, your entire, like two weeks was like looking at an Excel spreadsheet and doing.
Sales comp forecast. I was like, gosh, that's somebody else will be really good at that, but not, not me. Right. Um, and so when I, when I talked to my parents, uh, I think I didn't really even socialize the idea with them until we had our first couple of customers because my parents are really tough Like. They they're actually tougher than mine investors.
My husband husbands in the beginning were like, Hey, it's early stage. You guys are working on the product. You're looking for product market fit. Because the perspective that the investors have is that this is a longterm company. My parents were like, Hey, you paid this much money for tuition. Right. And you're losing the starting salary for a entry lawyer is 190K a year. Right. You're you're losing 190 K. And you're down with the whole 200K for Harvard law. What are you going to make the engine 90 K? That was the question. So very different perspective. I, and I had to tell them, Hey, mom and dad, I'm not an idiot. This is not like a, I want to go off and do something. That's not going to be profitable. Right. We luckily our third customer was Cox communications, which is one of the largest telecoms. And so I was able to. Build proof points around my idea, the team that I recruited my co founder, he was the lead data scientist behind Uber pool express. So the walking algorithm, he invented that and said, Hey, you guys have heard of Uber. Right? So either find all these social proof points, you go to my Asian parents and tell them, Hey, I'm not sure. I'm not crazy.
Maggie: (00:08:46) Was that the point where they started to believe in you or was it still, were they still in a little bit hesitant?
Jerry: (00:08:51) No, they, they, uh, I'm the younger of two siblings. And so in Mandarin I'm like DD, which had a little brother.
So they said DD is like off to his shit again. Um, ideas. Um, and so it wasn't until really, um, we hired our like 50th employee. Came to my office. My dad said, wow, you're like a real company. Yeah. What do you think I've been doing for four years?
Bryan: (00:09:22) Yeah. I love the proof points too. Cause I think that, I think all Asian parents like that, you know, cause they're so conditioned to follow the traditional path of having a job.
Being stable, being comfortable that this idea of hustle and creating your own legacy is not, it's not like they're not fully accepted by them. And when you, from their point of view as well, but they sacrifice a lot for us to get to where we are. I know, and their ideas of success is for you to have a very comfortable job, you know, very good life.
And most people in their generation, our parents' generation got into starting their own business because they have no other choice.
Jerry: (00:10:00) That's right. That's right. Any of you. So I was, I was an LA as a journalist. Um, I studied, uh, the Rodney King riots and, you know, there was a big conflict between, you know, Korean store owners and then the rides and the injustice that was there.
Um, but if you look at why there are so many Korean store owners in Koreatown, um, it's because they couldn't get out of jobs because of racism and otherwise. And so entrepreneurship has been a way in our communities as a way to uplift us. And my dad's the same way. That's actually why I went to Law School is where my dad came from. Taiwan, went to Oklahoma, got a master's in civil engineering. So he builds, he helps people design foundations, and because of the racism that he faced in the workplace, he went off and started his own company. A small three person company, and they were hit with a frivolous lawsuit, uh, when I was in high school.
And so, you know, his English is fine, but it's not go to court kind of fine. Right. It's more like right business email's kind of fine. So the first time I ever bought a suit, uh, was actually the hell. My guy translates with his mediator and eventually got out of the lawsuit for pennies. Reagan was a completely.
A frivolous lawsuit, but that's actually why I went to law school is to help business owners, uh, fight back against these sort of BS lawsuits. And so when I went to law school and I realized that I wasn't gonna be doing that, I wasn't even working for a, you know, big banks on wall street representing a credit and debtors. I said, Oh, this is not, this is not what I wanted to be doing.
Bryan: (00:11:27) Yeah, definitely a retrospect too. I feel like your company nods more in line with your values and you're helping more. Keep one on a larger scale then. Yeah, it is. It's funny how the universe works that way.
Jerry: (00:11:39) And I share a story with you guys of what motivated me to be an entrepreneur.
I worked at Yelp for a year between undergrad and law school. Uh, and I, I lived in Fremont, which is about an hour and a half by train that into San Francisco. But Yelp was so I'll wake up at five 30 in the morning. I'll. Eating my avocado toast, getting to the party ricotta toast. And it was like super a dollar it's like freaking six o'clock in the morning.
And I'll see my friend's parents actually, who I look up to and I go to their houses and I call them auntie and uncle rate. I'll see them parking with me in the parking lot, running the bar. They try to catch the train. Yeah, it's unlike 24, you know, I'm not here to isolate I'm, I'm making just above minimum wage at a sales job.
And then I see my friends, families, or friends, parents, like running with me to go to Bart, but they're in their fifties. And I, and I wonder if myself, when I saw that image. Um, that's what the bamboo ceiling is, right? Yeah. And I think that when, you know, the first generation, uh, our pensioners from that came over, or you have a generation before them, you know, for them becoming an engineer, a doctor, a lawyer that's, you know, income, and that's a huge achievement as immigrants before.
From my generation. How do we find them? Yes. And I think that that's when I talk a lot about the founders is, um, whether, whether it's founder of, uh, at high tech company, I'd go with second name like mine, or have a Boba shop. Right. You know, we're both my opinion and you're hustling, you know, why do we do what we do?
And how do we build network and community around that? So I think what you guys are doing is awesome.
Bryan: (00:13:13) Yeah. We love what you're doing too. We're a huge fan, you know, and what you mentioned for is it's sort of a disconnect with you, our generation or parents, you know, like for us, like we worry less about survival, more of a happiness. Yeah, our cranes are more about survival and happiness comes later.
Maggie: (00:13:29) I think it's hard for them to understand, right? Because like, like Brian said, they sacrificed so much and they gave up everything that they had back at home to provide us with a better future. And they expect us to have a stable job. Right. And for us to go through the entrepreneurial route, a lot of people, a lot of parents that are actually afraid to ounce that their son or daughter is an entrepreneur. Right. Because there's that stigma too. You're like, Oh, we don't know, you know, how much money money they're making. I feel like a lot of Asian parents, they see success as like, as long as you're making money and I'm seeing that money come in that, okay, then I can trust you. Right.
Bryan: (00:14:03) Asian people love money.
Jerry: (00:14:07) for sure. And so it's actually funny on that point. My, my first investor was like, Hey, how do we, you know, how do we put governance around your guys' spending budget? I was like, have you seen what I look like? Like half yours? Without any VC money, our first two and a half years in the Bush wrecked.
So that is, I think, you know, too, for me to your question earlier about how do I convince my parents where they start believing me, I put 60K of my own money in, right. So it wasn't like DD has an idea. Like it was like, I'm working on this thing. Right. And then I got engineers, I got data scientists, I got salespeople and slowly I bootstrapped the company two and a half years before we eventually raised our first, you know, coincidentally, a million dollars.
Um, and, and now we've raised over $21 million, you know, we've crossed a hundred, uh, customers. Uh, we have almost a hundred employees, uh, and so now we're hitting a certain scale. Um, but it's been, it happened really quickly, almost two years from, Hey, our first check-in to now. You know, we're becoming the category leader in our space.
And so now, now they believe in makers. We're the news. So it was different. Yeah.
Maggie: (00:15:10) I'm very curious to know when you were bootstrapping for those two years, how many people did you have on your team and how are you compensating people? Where people, you know, working for free at a certain period, or were you making sure you're not everyone was getting paid?
Jerry: (00:15:25) Yeah, it's such a good question. And I think it's a question that people are scared to talk about. I'm very transparent. Um, I paid the engineers more in the beginning because they didn't have any other form of compensation. Right. You write code and then it goes and they get out and becomes a product. Um, but my, my sales team, uh, I actually, this is really the definition of Asian Hustle Network Um, I actually hired friends from law schools who have parents who are lawyers, and I was like, just go study your parents. Right. And then if you, if you close the deal, I'll give you X percentage commission. Uh, so I took a page out of Herbalife to be honest. Is it what you kill, what type of model. Right. Um, and, and luckily I w we actually did very well. So, uh, almost all my employees in the early days are still with me and now they're directors or senior managers or VPs, but, um, it was actually really fun cause no one believed in us. You know, we had this crazy idea to your point earlier about contracts.
You know, every time a company buys something, sell something, hire somebody takes out a lease or takes out a loan. There's a, there's a contract that goes into that. And so for us, you know, we thought, Hey, contracting, hasn't been changed in 2000 years. Right. If you think about when writing first began, um, you know, you were saying, Hey, I'm going to give you a plot of land for a guilt.
There was a contract there, right? How do we use AI and automation to transform how we think about that? Yeah. Um, and so for us, the vision was big enough where. Uh, I call my first employees, volunteers, not everybody was paid including myself. Um, but we, we thought it was for a bigger purpose. And I think that for any founder in the early days, you have to have that North star mission Steemit.
Cause things are gonna suck for a little bit, but it didn't feel like it sucked. It felt like we were just in grad school, we were young, we're taking a risk We like hanging out with each other. Um, we would stay late in the. Uh, in the working space that we're in order, um, chicken nuggets from McDonald's right.
You get 24 or five bucks or whatever, and what we'll literally be working, you know, 2:00 AM 3:00 AM. Uh, but we all became friends and I think that's, um, if you don't have the right culture, then that feels like terrible. It, one of those at 2:00 AM at a bank, I was like, why am I here for this? And I was getting paid a lot and so it's all about culture at the end of the day.
Bryan: (00:17:44) Yeah, absolutely. Out of curiosity, I know you mentioned. You know, um, you know, going back to like the Asian hustle theme, right? Yeah. Was your company like a side hustle while you had a full time job? Yeah, I was like, okay, this is how ms. Boy am I basically, this means I can hustle for what I believe in or did you just hop cold Turkey? Right. I believe in this we'll figure things out.
Maggie: (00:18:06) And if it is the former, when did you decide to make that switch? Because I think a lot of people in Asian hustle network, they have that fear. Like I don't, I'm too afraid to make that jump, to become an entrepreneur entrepreneur full time. And I'm very curious, you know, back to Bryan's question, if it is the former, when did you decide to make that job?
Jerry: (00:18:25) It was definitely the former, uh, cause I think the latter is kind of scary. Um, And maybe not, um, maybe not the recommended path for most, for most founders. I think that the typical story is, you know, I'm already working out Facebook
I have this idea, you know, a pain that I've had at work, and I'm going to spin off something to fix the rate. But, um, you, you, you milk out the salary as long as you can because. That's your seed round. It's a, for us, we we're lucky to be in grad school. And so, um, we, we used the school as a platform where we may not be working, but instead of going out in bars, uh, every Thursday night, which I did still most Thursday nights.
You can sacrifice some of the sort of free time to explore and see if you have something right. And I think for us, we did that for the first full year. The first full year was, Hey, let me just go call on random customers and, and tell them that, Hey, I have this thing I'm working on. Would you pay for it?
Maybe because I think for me, you know, hard word is not necessarily just good for you. You need to be paid at the end of the day. And so what I did was I called customers and asked them, Hey, if I have this product, how much would you pay for that? Right. And I start to understand, okay, there is value here.
Every sort of is a good idea. Most startups that my opinion on are not good ideas. Right. And so if you don't have a monetization strategy, then I think. Jumping head first then is very scary and maybe not the best of us and strategy, but for us, it was two and a half years of bootstrapping. You know, we're paying every dollar we got from clients.
We put back into the business for AWS hosting costs and otherwise. And then to answer your question, the time that we went full sort of Turkey, It was when we raised our first round of funding. Now you have outside investors now. It's not just a bunch of dudes hanging out. Yeah. That was the first time.
But to be honest, I actually, uh, I was actually going to go to investment banking. I had actually signed an offer letter and had this backup set up a warming cause our first round of funding, I had to call the VP and tell them, okay, wasn't showing up
Maggie: (00:20:29) Before you started the job?
Jerry: (00:20:31) I entered there. I got a return on it and there's only six people in the group.
And so I was like, that was a big hit to them. Um, and I called him and I said, I was like, Hey, look, um, I'm sorry, this is kind of unusual, but I'm actually CEO of a company that just raised money and I'm not going to be there for the, for the fall cohort. And he paused and he said, I've never heard that before.
Having worked at a bank for 20 years. Well, I'm sorry. I don't, it's not a personal right. I appreciate the opportunity you guys gave us an XYZ. And then he eventually became friends with me and he follows me on LinkedIn and a lot of the folks at the company now, like my posts and shit, hopefully we'll share this when it comes out. And so, you know, higher credit Suisse group, Pat, my team to New York.
Maggie: (00:21:16) I think the great thing about that is that he could see that you were being super transparent and honest about it too, because I feel like a lot of people juggling their full time job and their side hustle. They they're, they tend to hide their side hustle. Right. And they don't say anything about it. So they lift this up.
Jerry: (00:21:29) I hit it, I hit it until it was a real thing. I did it. Wasn't a side hustle and I had to go out the dirty laundry, but the whole time I was working, I was like, You show me in the conference rooms at night, like, Hey, how's it going? How's the coding.
It was a side hustle for a long time until we raise outside funding.
Bryan: (00:21:47) Yeah. That's amazing. And you know, you brought up the topic of culture, it's you? And that's extremely important. I feel like it's extremely underrated. As you're starting or talk to me because all you really have is a strong morale, but North star is a group of crazy people who believe in your vision.
Jerry: (00:22:01) Yeah, it was honestly like, I know, like, you know, you guys are founders as well and does other founders or listen to this. And when we were six months in, uh, my, my quote, unquote employees, or I call them volunteers, um, they would show up on time to work every day. Wow. And they'll pay for their own Uber's and I, and I thought, wow.
And honestly, this is, you know, this actually gives me goosebumps even talking about it now, but I'll sit there and I'll see these guys who paid for their own Uber came to the free office that I put together. I'm working on time now without a salary. I'm not saying they're losing money by being here. Right? I mean, if you think about that, how do you, that's not a job. That's a volunteer. Yeah. You know, 11 bucks getting here and gonna lose eleven bucks going back. I mean, for me, it was not treated actually the best. Kind of motivation was to help my guys actually make it meaningful. It wasn't actually about me or my parents or otherwise, but it was for Riley and Mamie and Jacob and me and Derek.
And those guys would pay for their own Uber's to come work on my vision, which is, um, I'm, I'm very grateful for that.
Maggie: (00:23:04) That's that's really amazing. Yeah. I think, uh, you know, I'm very curious to know, we were talking about the North star and the mission. And, you know, your volunteers are, so we call them, they were very passionate about your mission.Right.
Do you have any other points to make where, you know, it's important to point out in terms of like having your employees and volunteers are aware about, because you know, it's very hard to have volunteers. Stay committed to a company if they're not getting paid. Right. What other factors besides, you know, making a very clear statement on what your mission statement is, um, are important in terms of making sure your, your workers and your employees are committed to your company?
Jerry: (00:23:46) I think this is where my New York background is actually helpful. I'm very direct. I was like, Hey, you lost $11 on the way here. Did you know that? What's $11. Um, but, uh, I really appreciate it. So, you know, I I'm pretty good at sales. And so I was helping them with their sales as a sort of a sales manager.Um, and whenever the dollars came in, the commission went to them. And so I was very clear, Hey, you're you are making an investment into your business, into your practice. And here is the model payouts, you know, here's how much your stock's going to be worth based on current growth rates in one year, three years, four years, five years, here's the vision.
And you can attach a dollar amount to that. You know, we knew that we couldn't guarantee that. But what we wanted to do was we wanted to quantify, Hey, there's going to be a reason why you do this. There's going to be a reason why you're away from your wife and your kids, and you're doing these things. Right. And so I was extremely direct about that. And I think that that level of transparency and trust that is why they stayed with me. And you know why they're still with me today.
Bryan: (00:24:48) I love that. I love that.
Jerry: (00:24:52) And I did a day. Yeah. We're all. Motivated by something, right? Yeah. I think in the early days when you were in your early twenties and you're trying to work in a startup, you know, you want to be an equity holder and you want to have a piece of a Rocky ship. Right. And so, uh, for me, I knew that was the motivation and I, I called it out. Right.
Bryan: (00:25:10) Yeah. I love that too. And one more question to follow up on that. Point, did you start converting them over to full time? And did you cover all of all their volunteers the whole time? Or do you have to be like, alright, I've only taken five of you guys right now.
Jerry: (00:25:25) Yeah, it's a great question. So, um, eventually the term volunteer was no longer cute cause they worked with me for two years and I was like, okay. So when we raised our first round, we converted everybody. I think that was really cool. Um, because they were basically employees just not getting paid. Right. And we acted like employees. Um, we had slug, you know, we had an internal notion page. We had a website with our bottle was on it. So, uh, I think when you, when you said to go public and you like, you know, you guys can have Bibles in your, in your slides, but when you start to formalize the roles and say, Hey, you're going to do product, you're going to be an engineer.
You're going to be a sales person. You're going to be in marketing when you sort of formalize. I think that's when you go from a ideal or like a garage startup to like, Okay. This is an early stage company, right? I remember the first time we got to call the company, I was like, we talk about, Oh, us. Right.
And I remember the first time we got called a vendor, should we offended me a little bit? I was like, I'm not a vendor. We're like the, we're like the people like push and change your industry. But a client, we called this a vendor because there you're paying us. And I realized, Hey, that's a good thing to be called a vendor.
Maggie: (00:26:34) So while you were in the early stages of building your company, what advice do you have in terms of like, how to position and title your employees? Because I think a lot of, um, early startups and early companies, they titled their own plays a certain way. And let's say like you title someone director of something, right.
And then you find out that their skillset is not aligned with, you know, that certain role. Um, I think that happens a lot because. Like, okay. This is the only person that I have in that field. So let's shift, like name them partner or named them director. Right. So how did you determine, like, you know, how you were going to title your employees?
Jerry: (00:27:11) It's a, it's a really, really good question. I can tell you guys been around the block, cause that's not a question that other interviewers asked me. It's a really good one. It's a really good one. Um, for us, we have certain growth assumptions about where we were going to be as a company, to my point earlier, about how much do I think your equity is going to be worth?
And for years we had certain growth plans, right? So, um, some employees, if you give them an inflated title, they'll actually rise up to that. Some employees are, and I've seen, luckily this didn't happen to my committee too much. Cause we didn't inflate. The title was too much, but I saw other companies that were next to me, who I will give, like.
You know, really young engineering as a CTO title. And then, and then the person has no architectural background whatsoever. Right? Like, and so then you have to build multi person afterwards and put in a real, a real CTO. And so for us, you know, we were, we are clear like, Hey, we're going to eventually have to hire a VP of engineering.
We're going to eventually have to hire a VP of yeah. Sales and what these people look like is like maybe 20 years of experience. Right. So maybe you're not there yet. Maybe you're. Yeah, two clicks below. Here's a career plan for eventually where you can maybe eventually go into that whole buy. And so we, I put together career plans for my teams.
Bryan: (00:28:21) I love it. Yeah. That's that's, that's the true leader right there.
Jerry: (00:28:28) Yeah, because I read a lot of books as well. Cause I was, I was a young founder. Right. And so I read a lot of books because yeah. A title inflation is one of the easiest things. You can get people outside of monetary comp, but if your company is going to grow like really, really quickly, and you're going to put in a real CFO, a real, uh, VP of sales marketing, you've got to be careful of doing that because if you, if you start fudging around with titles, you can create SVPs SVPs meeting squared like there's just nothing, right.
Bryan: (00:28:58) Yeah. Yeah. I want us to take a step back to understand your mindset and you know, your routines and how you develop such grit to start your company. Cause listen to your story, your explanations made it sound like it's extremely easy, but we know from an entrepreneurial perspective, nothing's ever easy in life. So we want to understand why God and your struggle then?
Jerry: (00:29:20) Oh, w w it wasn't easy. I didn't mean to make it sound like it was easy because it was, well, I wouldn't say it's like, it's hard either. I think it's, I think those are the wrong words to describe the entrepreneurial journey. I think it's like your perspective of how to be happy and fulfilled as you go through it.
Like, if, if we said, Hey, our goal is in Q one of launching the product, we're going to book half a million dollars in revenue. We failed. We will be failures by that definition. That wasn't the goal, because I think we, we tried to understand, you know, using frameworks, like the lean startup model where, Hey, you know, in that book, they talk about it's driving, it's driving a nimble, like a car, not like a, not like a big cruise ship.
Right. But how do we learn? How do we improve? What does success look like as small wins? And so for us, because we're all became friends with each other and because we were patients with the process, it eventually worked out. Um, but I have so many stories and I'm sure every founder does where my co founder is.
You know, he's, he's a penny venture. Uh, so we're, we're in Boston. I had a meeting with a. With a large client in New York, he books me. I am ready with a Greyhound. I kind of have a tight back from, uh, just, just my posh and all that. And so it was the backseat of the Greyhound next to the toilet, leaned the chair back.
I have an 8:00 AM meeting before they get to work. Cause that's, that's the only time we can get. So I'm sitting in the back of the bus. Um, you know, I was telling him, Hey, you know, somebody agree hunk of their head cut off before. Uh, that was a story that happened a couple years ago. I'm telling him that story.
He's like, shoot, we can't yeah. Sleep now. Cause you know, we gotta be alert. And so, you know, there is the ticket was like, it was penny spray. And so we threw those days, you know, two and a half years of no funding know every dollar was actually, I'll take my team out to Starbucks. That was my credit card that I swiped with. Right. And so when you do that, you learn like, Hey, every dollar matters. And so for us, if we didn't have. The belief that this is going to be a billion dollar company. And we didn't know that, you know, we're going to be successful if we build the product, um, it wouldn't have worked, but it was, I wouldn't say it was hard when we're going through it.
We, we kind of laughed at the situation that was in front of us. And we always said, Hey, one day, we're going to write a book. Now, when did we're gonna write a book and. Um, this is one chapter in the book when Jake put in the back of the goddamn Greyhound and almost killed me after the book. And so we had this perspective of it's a process, and we're going to just go along the journey.
I think that kept us alive. A lot of companies died that we started with next to us, product market fit issues, pricing issues, team members got recruited by Facebook, blah, blah, blah. You name the reasons, right? We survived like the Valley of dust.
Maggie: (00:32:00) That's really amazing. I love that perspective. Just kind of going off of Bryan's question in terms of your mindset, were there any failures that you had along the way, and were there any moments where you felt like just crumbling inside with your cofounder and you know, how were you able to present yourself in front of your employees? I know as a leader, you have to, you know, make sure that everyone knows that you're confident, you know, your company and your mission. But I'm sure there were struggles and speed bumps and roadblocks along the way. So how were you able to deal with those?
Jerry: (00:32:36) Yeah, one of the hardest moments in my career, to be honest to this day, because back then everything was personal.It was not business. Everything was personal was one of our early employees, uh, had immigration issues and we hadn't raised our first funding round yet. And so he came to me. He said, I've been working with you for a year and a half. You know, you pay me, I think a fair wage. Um, but I was offering an interview on Facebook and I am asking for your blessing and for me to take it, that Facebook example was real.
That was my example. Right. Um, and I, and I, and I looked at him and I said, it kind of caught me off guard because we were in this sort of. God whole early-stage phase, but then he said, I need a place for each one be right. I can't afford a lawyer XYZ. And so these are real reasons. And I said, I support you in taking the interview because as your founder and as our CEO, I can't guarantee I can take care of those things.Right.
You know, right now. Right. And so, um, great engineer. I knew that when I said you can interview that he wasn't going to get the job and he did. And so he did and resigned and we went to dinner and I thank them for the year and a half. Um, that was really difficult because we're only nine people. So we, we lost one out of nine employees, uh, to a guide.
I actually was a reference called for, for his next job. Oh, the next day into the office. And we wondered, are we going to lose two more right now? No, this like mythical. Hey Ronan, unicorn. That bubble has been bursted because somebody just left that to a company that is a fantastic company and I'm happy for, for him in his career.
Um, but that was really humbling because I knew that at that point, if we didn't hit certain milestones, like a funding round or a certain number of customer revenue, that it's just a matter of time before my team falls apart. And so, um, yeah, I was really, it was a really tough time for me.
Bryan: (00:34:29) Yeah. We definitely we can relate to in that sense as well.
You know, like as a leader, like, so much of your perspective is reflected through your organization. That's crazy. Like how connected the two are, you know, you're feeling immature, bustling. You're. Organization would be immature in that way too. We'll look to you as an example, like how has Jerry handled the situation? You know, what is his mindset like? Is he a strong leader to, we still follow him? Those are things out here are huge factors at the very beginning, because all you have is a dream and a vision and you, you know,
Jerry: (00:35:04) yeah. Yeah, it's it's and it was, I think a lot of founders fight imposter syndrome where it's like, how do I know that I should be the CEO?
How do I know that the division that we have, because it's so big, it's actually realistic and not wrong. And I think that sometimes it's hard to know. Um, but that's why having like, um, this is where the consulting background, I think helps we have assumptions that you can test and you can iterate and you can validate what the market rate.You start to get proof points that over time out of, into a larger story, I think that's how we kept ourselves sane. Um, and then one more note about like leadership and culture. So that guy went to work at Facebook, but we still invited him there, uh, that we have monthly. So because he was appointed a family.Right. And so, yeah. You may not be coding for us where we still hung out together on the weekends. And for me, that was a way to build that continuity to let my team know. You know, we're not just here temporarily, we're here building something real.
Maggie: (00:35:57) That's amazing. I love the family culture that you built and you know, that fear is relevant with a lot of entrepreneurs. I think because, you know, we always look for young professionals to join our companies, right. Because they hold all the talent and they are our future. But the scary thing with young entrepreneurs or young professionals is that like, if one of them leaves. Other young professionals will see that too. And they get easily influenced like, Oh, that person leaving to a bigger, better company. Like maybe I should leave too. Right? Yeah. That's like the scary thing about it, but it sounds like no for you to create that family culture and for your other, uh, employees to see that you were able to create that culture, bringing that person back into your, you know, company dinners, company outings, and stuff like that, they were able to trust your leadership, you know, Seeing that.
And seeing, knowing that you able to create that culture, then they're like, okay, like, you know, Jerry knows what he's doing and I trust him and I trust this family that I'm part of. So I'll stay too.
Jerry: (00:36:54) Yeah. And then that guy at the dinners will be like, I actually don't want to work at Facebook. I need to, for my H1B, it's all, it's a reason that's you need to me. Right. But if you think I'm hanging out with you guys, just cause I want to, like, I really like you guys like it's. Um, and so I think that helped me sort of containerize that exposure point for the
Bryan: (00:37:14) Yeah. That's awesome. And I have follow up question with that point too. It's like, how do you handle team disagreements? Right. It's inevitable. They were family. Sometimes I argue my siblings feel better in a day. Like I love them as a family. Um, how do you have them disagreements that get really heated among key team members?
Jerry: (00:37:35) That's where having the, the North star is important. Um, I think that's where a little bit of formality, um, for even released which companies is important because like product decisions are really hard. That's, that's one of the hardest things is like, should we build this feature? Should we build that feature? And both features are good features. I'm not saying don't build that feature, but what's the, the order that we build them in. Right. And that's an area that even today we have a lot of heated debate about, Hey, how do we prioritize?
And I think having like a Northern star of, Hey, how do we tie this one decision? That you and I both are right about, we're just in different ways. How does it tie to our bigger goals? And if we, if we can agree to the higher level goals and set that at the beginning of the year, then it helps us create a framework where every, you know, the baby could be answered for.
And I think that that was one way that we did it also, um, just like trust, you know, like respect for the other person. Um, I remember from our first funding round, my co founder was actually in his sister's wedding and I needed him to actually approve one clause. And in a documents we can sign, right. I had to call them and say, Hey, can you step out of the wedding for just 10 minutes and do a call with an investor?And he did. And I never forget how that made me feel. I thought, wow, we better, we better become big. We're all like his sister's going to hit me. Right. But there was that underlying trust and familiarity and friendship that, that bonds us. And so sometimes you have to make. These weird, ridiculous tasks that you would never ask a nine to five employee to do.
Um, but we had that background. And so that was good for us.
Bryan: (00:39:06) Yeah. Yeah. I mean, it's so inspirational to hear about your journey and your struggles and keeping things together. Cause we can relate to in an Asian Hustle Network, very much the same things. It's very similar story. Like we have our set of volunteers as well.
It's similar to you. What you mentioned before. Like, you know, we have people mentioned to us that there's other opportunities out there and we're at the point where it's like, okay, like how can we keep the team and tax before? Self-destructs know
Jerry: (00:39:37) What I would say to those, uh, early employees is that, uh, especially in the Bay area, There's always going to be a shiny object.
There's, you know, growing up here, I've been living here for 25 plus years, right there in the beginning days, it was like sun Microsystems was the hot company. Then it was like Cisco and you're in the next generation is like, what the hell are these companies? But our parents weren't there. Right? These are, these are the companies of the generation.
Then there was, you know, Apple and then Google. And now Facebook is old. I remember when Facebook was new, right. There's always going to be the next shiny thing, but what motivates you do, do you want to be one cognitive? I've got a friend who graduated Harvard, who literally just works on the size of the button in like a Yelp, like this, the color of the button.
It's changing the color of the button. He's a really good engineer, but that's what he's been reduced down to. Right. So yes. If you, if you just want to do that, good for you. Right? Dry cleaning is taking care of dental is covered free lunch or your free lunch kind of guy. And you're not a hustler. The only work there. It's good for you. It's good for somebody else. But what motivates you? What's your impact? What's your lasting legacy? How do you make a difference so that when you're dead? People say, Hey, that person did this. And if, if you have that vision, then I think Asian Hustle Network is the place to be. I have to start someplace that's that's the way I see it.
This is my actual honest opinion. My, my sister, you know, I was working corporate jobs. Uh, most of her career. Right. And she's just happy, but she's also curious what's out there, right? So I think this is green on the other side, when I, at a certain age, mid twenties, late twenties, maybe have, maybe it became a manager engineering lead at a company, and now you're looking at your thirties, you know, saying, Hey, what does it mean to have a less lasting legacy?
We spend 80% of our waking hours at work. What do you want to be doing with those waking hours? You know, cog in the wheel then, um, it's different than who I want to work with.
Maggie: (00:41:28) Yeah. Yeah. I think it's different for everyone. You know, our, our group for Asian Hustle Network gets mainly entrepreneurs. Right. But we're all about this like hustle mentality, but there are also professionals in the workforce who also consider. You know, their nine to five that are hustle. Right. They're very passionate about what, who knows, like maybe they want to climb the ranks to become CEO of a company one day, right there just really depends. You know, like you said, Jerry, and what you're passionate about and what you want to do. And so I'm also very curious, you know, when you were at Yelp, for example. Yeah. Did you know that you wanted to become an entrepreneur? Were you working on other like freelance stuff too? Or were you. Just doing Yelp at the time as an entry level job.
Jerry: (00:42:09) Yeah. Um, I was pretty young when I was at yoke, so it was like go to happy hour on Fridays. Like if I can make it happy hour, that was pretty good. But my first hustle actually, um, how I even became an entrepreneur, it wasn't ever, sorry. I'm actually a professional photographer. Yeah.
I was like, Hey, these lenses are really expensive because when people don't know this, you have to buy the camera and they went separately. It's expensive. Always the worst. That's right. So I was like, Hey, I have to buy all these lenses. And they're like really expensive. And for me it was a hobby, but again, for me, it was a hobby and I was a journalism major.
And so I realized that I was in LA and there was like a lot of pretty girls and guys that want to be models and musicians and. But everyone's working in entertainment. It's not like, Hey, if I chose, if I charged them, like for photo shoots, I can take the money, invest it the back of my RV. And maybe I can go to Chipotle with that. Right. So, um, that was the first thing that I did as well when I was at Yale play. Yeah. I continued being a photographer. A funny story here is my, my website's name was Jerry, Tim photography.com. You know, so Sam GoDaddy is when we started ever sort of my co founder. Jacob is Jake is your fault. Um, he, he went and created everson.com on the same.
You want to pass. As my photography what's they lead to my website. And so I was, Oh my God, you deleted like 10 years of portfolio. I have a new company. Right. So that was our transition forced upon me.
Bryan: (00:43:34) Wow. Yeah. I mean, I really love the side hustle, mentality and hospitality. It's such a, so ingrained with our community as well. And hearing that you're a success story. I think it'll be very inspirational for others to listen to.
Maggie: (00:43:54) Yeah. Um, so I mean, we'd love to know, you know, like what plans do you have for the next 10 years, 20 years, 30 years, you know, I think Eversource is on a really good path right now and the specialty, because you know, just a lot of contracts is going back and forth right now, due to COVID. And I think a lot of people are looking into contract management systems. And so I'm sure you guys have a lot of plans in place right now, due to what's been happening with, you know, social climate and COVID. You know, um, just what, what you guys are planning for this work.
Jerry: (00:44:28) Yeah. So I think I've just, we're, you know, we've tripled our revenue through COVID and so we're one of the companies where not only were we not negatively impacted, we were actually accelerated. Right. And so I think. Based on that growth trajectory, we were on path to become a unicorn in a way I would say before 2030, but that's a long time from now, but I think in the next couple of years and that we can tell it really good growth story. Um, and so I'm really excited about that. Um, on a more personal note, uh, I like working with founders.
I like, um, Making friends where I think for a lot of people who are hustlers, they spend 80 hours a week hustling. But then I think what's really important is actually meeting people because for me, my first client was actually a professor at Harvard who also was a lawyer at a company. Right. And so I think expanding your network, uh, and especially something like AI.
Asian Hustle network, where it's people who have liked my interests and backgrounds. Uh, I'm looking to expand my network and see if I can help other entrepreneurs as well. Cause when we first started, we started at a cohort out of Harvard. There was 20 companies that started together. We still stay in contact. So if your hustle or hustle with other hustlers, cause you know, we all, we all sort of think kind of similarly yeah.
Maggie: (00:45:38) I would love to know, you know, if you were to go back in time, because I feel like just talking to you, it's like really amazing because you have this like confident aura in you and like, you know, asking you questions, like, um, were there any times where you felt like you were crumbling inside, but it seems like you were confident throughout your whole journey, but I'm very curious to know, like, if you were to go back. To a certain time. Would there be anything that you would have done differently, uh, at any point in your life? It could be with Apple store, it could be with, you know, any of your other hustles.
Jerry: (00:46:15) You know, I wish I had a better answer, but I think it was such a, like a. In the early days, it was such a shit show as he went through it.
I think like it was just, I guess one thing was like, there was a lot of things that we made our mistakes. We've had to pivot. We've had to go to clients and say, Hey, we're going to be, you know, one week later, two weeks late. Yeah. Um, there were just so many challenges when you add them all up and it's like, Oh my God, how do you, how do you not have a heart attack?
Um, and so I think, you know, one thing that we could have done better is, uh, we're going to take some more pictures that might've not been the answer you're thinking, but it's actually kind of fun now where we are today to look back and be like, Hey Jake, that was the, a Greyhound. Yeah, no, it was a toilet that I was sitting next to me. And those are now memories, right? I think when you're a first time founder, you're going through the experience, you're just trying to survive. And for us, we, it took more pictures. I think today, you know, we are, I'm passing on hundreds of employee. Right? I have no idea what it's like in the, in the early days.Yeah. If we show them pictures that we have some pictures and they would say, well, now one of the things that's a common thread is your law. Well, it's skinnier back then. Cause I know this has been a ride, right. And so I think cherishing the memories as you're kind of going through them. Um, even if you are, even if it's hard, I think that would have been a perspective.
Maggie: (00:47:37) I would have stop that. That was not an answer I was expecting, but I really like it.
Bryan: (00:47:40) Yeah. I really liked that too, because it's always great to remember roots in your history. Especially as you grow bigger and bigger, it's going to be harder to use, touch out, you know, why are you starting? You know, and you want your employees to know that too? That wasn't easy at the beginning.
Jerry: (00:47:55) Yeah. And I think as a startup, every six months, the company changes, we literally, every other person we're just new. Uh, between our series a and now every other person that left look left that person's new way. Who the heck is that first? What department are they in? Um, and so because of COVIDwe haven't been in the office and I think 7 months.
Right. And I went back recently to go and steal a monitor. Uh, cause I wanted a home. I looked the whiteboards we have in our conference rooms and it was like delivery delay March 31st. Wow. It was like, Almost like the office was frozen in time when it kind of felt like, ah, I am legend. I don't know it was Willis Smith and my dog. Walking around everything was Exondys. Right. But you see the whiteboard and you see the handwritings of your employees frozen from seven months ago. And for me, that was a really, really weird experience because the company has changed even since then. Right. And so the one thing that I'll just kind of share as a tidbit. Yeah. If you will, is if you're going to be building a successful hustle, Um, celebrate the little wins, cherish them as they come. Cause you'll overnight, you're behind with your employees and you have an HR department, a marketing department, uh, when the had all these people come here. Right. You'll you'll miss when you're a six people and all eating M and M's and chicken McNuggets.
Maggie: (00:49:10) Yeah. That's really important to celebrate the little milestones. And I think that's also important for your team as well, because you know, if they don't get to celebrate the milestones, then it's like, where are we really going? Right. And in speaking of, you know, Um, as Bryan said, you know, going back to why you start it in the first place, you know, why did you start in the first place?
And what is your, why? Like, why did you start all of this to begin with?
Jerry: (00:49:34) It's a great question. Um, I think for me, I'm like, A problem solver. I'm always the guy and this could be an annoying one of my personality actually. But when I something is inefficient, I always want to make it more efficient. So like my, my mom, like she'll, she'll be cooking.
And then like, her stove would be like over the fire. I'd be like, no, no, no. From a process perspective, you should put the stove on the left hand side, because as you cook and you bring the vegetables from the left to the right, it's more efficient. Across her body, just the way that my, my mind is. And so when I went to law school and they were like, Jerrry, sit down and read hundreds of pages manually.
Like there was a violent, emotional hell, no type of reaction that I had a lot of us have had in your work. But for me it was not just hell no blood. I think I can fix that problem. Right. And then the next question is, if I think I can fix that problem, how much money can I make? And if you have those two things, then you have a company, so you have a product, you have a go to market motion.
Right? So for me, I just think that just the way that I think about it, I'm not a hugely personally when it comes to repeating things over and over and over again. And so I just came across a problem that I absolutely hated and it was gonna be my job. And I was like, definitely not.
Maggie: (00:50:54) That's well, it's really, um, awesome. Just like going into your mind, such as like, learning about, you know, like why you do certain things. Um, and on that note, you know, we'd love to know what is one advice that you would give to an aspiring entrepreneur? Because in AHN, we have, um, 65,000 numbers and a lot of them are aspiring entrepreneurs.
Um, there's a lot of Asian. Uh, focused on online communities, but they are mostly, you know, just well-established entrepreneurs. And we want to open this up to, you know, aspiring entrepreneurs who are interested in the topic, you know? And so what would be that one advice that you can give?
Jerry: (00:51:31) Yeah, I think it's really, really important when you look at your idea or your venture to know.Which of two buckets does it fall into? There are VC backed companies and then there's cash cows. And they literally could not be more different. And what I mean by that is if it's a VC backed company, profitability is not the main measurement, right? It's about total addressable market. It's about how do you scale?How do you get to a hundred customers quickly? Right. But if you're a cash cow company, then it's about. A free cashflow management. Right? Think for a lot of founders, they don't know which bucket they're in. Right. So I'll give an example. My company is a high growth company. We haven't made a dollar profit and we probably won't for the next couple of years.
Cause that's not what we're optimizing for. We're trying to win the market. Very different company and a very different personality for, you know, I have a board above me, for example, it was Jerry as much C so easy to work for yourself. I don't work for myself. I'm a board above me. I managed investors. I manage clients. Are you pointing off of my employees, maybe. So that's one kind of entrepreneurial. The other kind of entrepreneur is, um, you know, I want to open a Boba shop. I want to open a laundry mat. I want to open a hundred dentists office and become the dentist Margo. Right? I'm not saying one is better than the other, but you need to know which bucket does your business fall into because depending on that, If you get that decision wrong, you can do everything wrong.
When you can read all of these startup books, but you're not really a startup. You're a cashflow business, which is a great business, more profitable, quicker returns, but you should be doing your business completely differently. So think carefully about that. There's not a right answer. Not one is better than the other. Not everything has to be a startup. It's real estate, right? That's a great business, right? That's not a startup. From a business perspective. So I think it's knowing where you are.
Bryan: (00:53:21) Yeah. It definitely frees up my time Asians also network early stages.
Well, you know, struggles and left. Lots of volunteers. It gets, yeah.
Maggie: (00:53:38) All right. Well, it is at the top of the hour. Um, is there any closing statements that you have Jerry and how can our listeners find out more about you online?
Jerry: (00:53:47) Yeah, you can find me on LinkedIn. Um, if you Google Jerry Ting episode, there's a bunch of articles that come up and you can just, I mean, LinkedIn, I respond to most.
Uh, people that, that message for help or just want to network. Um, and one thing that sure. It's, I think Asian hustle network is a, is a very meaningful project. Uh, when I moved to the East coast, uh, I was exposed, uh, in my cofounders Jewish and I realized the network that the Jewish community has in New York and Boston and I, and I think about the Asian network.
And I think about how. Well, we think there's differences between Korean, Chinese, Taiwanese and Chinese is different. Hong Kong is different than China. Like we're competing against ourselves. Uh, but we don't unify, but in the reality, uh, in we're all aged well yellow, right? And so I think for something like Asian Hustle Network, the reason why I to LinkedIn messages is I want to be a part of a community that stands for something. And I think when you guys are doing is awesome and I encourage you guys to keep going and for everyone to get involved.
Bryan: (00:54:46) Awesome. They use the most really kind of words.
Maggie: (00:54:48) Yeah. Thank you so much sharing. Yeah. Yeah.
Bryan: (00:54:52) Great. And thank you so much being on the podcast.
Jerry: (00:54:53) Yeah, it was good to be an yeah. Thanks guys.
Maggie: (00:54:55) Thank you.
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