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Podcast Episode 10 – Secrets Of An 8-Figure SaaS Exit | Alex Minicucci – RELENTLESS Venture Studio

podcast-episode-10-–-secrets-of-an-8-figure-saas-exit-|-alex-minicucci-–-relentless-venture-studio
Podcast Episode 10 – Secrets Of An 8-Figure SaaS Exit | Alex Minicucci – RELENTLESS Venture Studio

We’re thrilled to present the latest addition to Afluencer’s content lineup – our podcast series featuring insightful conversations with influential brand owners. In this inaugural article, we have the privilege of introducing Alex Minicucci, the visionary founder of RELENTLESS Venture Studio, as our esteemed guest.

Meet Alex Minicucci: The Mind Behind RELENTLESS Venture Studio

Alex Minicucci, the innovative mind driving RELENTLESS Venture Studio, takes center stage in the Afluencer podcast series. With a wealth of experience in the world of influencer marketing, Alex shares captivating insights, challenges, and triumphs that have shaped his brand’s journey.

Podcast Premiere: Delving into the RELENTLESS Venture Studio Universe

Join us in exploring the enchanting world of RELENTLESS Venture Studio through the eyes of Alex Minicucci himself. We’ve embedded the riveting YouTube podcast video below, offering an exclusive glimpse into the transformative power of influencer marketing.

Also, listen to the Afluencer Podcast on:

Transcription Insight: A Peek into the Conversation

Gain an insider’s perspective as we burrow into the transcription of our engaging conversation with Alex Minicucci. Discover the strategies, anecdotes, and wisdom that have fueled RELENTLESS Venture Studio’ success, all captured in this in-depth transcription.

In Conversation with Alex Minicucci, Founder of RELENTLESS Venture Studio:

Brett:

Welcome to the Influencer Podcast. Special guest today, Alex Ucci, who is basically what every software entrepreneur wants to be when they grow up. Alex buys companies, builds them, sells them, kind of living the dream for everyone who does SaaS or software as a service. So Alex, thanks for joining. We’re going to get to Relentless Management Group, your company in a moment. First, let’s give us that background. Where’d you start before you were doing the role that every Software Entrepreneur Dreams of?

Alex:

Oh yeah. First of all, thanks Ben for having me on here. Excited to go through and talk to you guys and be part of your network. Yeah, I guess I started out strangely enough, semi typical story in the tech business. Dropped out of college my first year in, learned what I was a chemical engineer, learned what a career in engineering looked like. Saw this internet thing starting to get popular back in 1996. I’m dating myself here and I said, man, I got to be a part of this. This is going to change the world. So went and bought a book on how to write code and came up with my first idea and I’ve never looked back. So just fell in love with everything about the internet, its capabilities, its strengths, and it’s power to create different business models around it.

Brett:

That’s great. Was that first company, the one that got you your critical trajectory? Did you have a few startups before you got the momentum building that you have today?

Alex:

The first one gave me a great start. It was actually an online Yellow Pages, so there weren’t really search engines yet. There were a bunch of early stage websites and back then you would see a site that said Alex’s favorite links and that’s how you found stuff. So I had an idea to create online Yellow Pages. I found a partner to invest a very small amount of money to help us get started, and then it grew very quickly and at 19 years old, I sold my half back to him for 150 grand. So for a 19 year old, have 150,000 in your pocket. That was, it’s pretty

Brett:

Good a taste. Yeah, that’s pretty good. The

Alex:

Opportunity and certainly with Springboard for the next project.

Brett:

Yeah, that’s great. So Alex, you’ve been promoted in Success Magazine, Deloitte’s fastest growing companies featured in Inc. 5,000 fastest growing companies. These are all great honors. What inspired you to kind of keep going from being that 19 year old with the cash in your pocket versus heading over to the beach and chilling out for a little while?

Alex:

When I talk to people about being an entrepreneur, the first question I ask is why? And there are a lot of people that like to do something that don’t necessarily need to be an entrepreneur doing it. You love to make food, that doesn’t mean you need to own a restaurant. And so I look at entrepreneurism as a fire in your belly, something that you just can’t really describe what you just know you have to go do. And I didn’t have any particular income goals or revenue goals or some magic number I had to hit. I just knew that I love to innovate. I love to be part of the game and that I had ideas going crazy when, again, early stages of the internet of opportunities and I just had to be in the game and go do it. So it wasn’t a hesitation. And actually throughout my life I’ve had several exits and my wife told me one time I said, I’m going to take a year off, and I made it a three day weekend and started a business that following Tuesday. So I just like being in the game and I love what I do and it’s just something, it’s a lifestyle I have to live.

Brett:

That’s great. The three day weekend, the extra day off after. So in your, yeah, let’s talk about that one. That’s was going to be my next question about your biggest win. So you’re buying selling SaaS businesses, I assume that was the biggest win. Is that the case or what was, let’s say, biggest win and then tell me your most interesting business as well.

Alex:

The biggest win was a company I built called the S M S Masterminds. That was pretty exciting. That was the one that made the Inc 5,000 list. When I built that company, it was coming on the tail end of the financial crisis in 2008. If you can build a business at the tail end of a recession like that, I mean you’re going to build something that’s even stronger when the economy improves. Really. I felt like I had had a handful of great experiences under my belt and really felt dialed and organized when I put that business together. And it really showed the experience I had really showed in that one and that was an eight figure exit and that was pretty solid. No investors, no partners, and that was a great exit. So my most interesting exit, probably going back to my very first one, it was an exciting time. Everything was very new. It was my first time starting a business, very bootstrap, very Grindr. The business was an online yellow Pages and I actually typed in the entire county yellow pages by hand.

Brett:

Alex:

Way. That was long days and a lot of mountain Deon Doritos in the middle of the night typing yellow pages in. And so that was my start and it was very satisfying to see an exit on something like that and make that the springboard moving forward. So that was a very exciting opportunity for me.

Brett:

That’s great. That’s a great story. It’s a great lesson for everyone who, especially starting out, they, if you just read the press and sites and TechCrunch and all that, Hey, I want to raise money and I want to have someone else build my business for me. And you were what, 18 or 19? 18 maybe when you started. So nobody’s going to give you money and there you got, I mean you talk about the grind out and typing in the word by word, character by character.

Alex:

Oh yes, definitely. That’s kind the common strategy now is you’re come up with an idea and then find people to fund it. Naia, there are a lot of steps you can take to prove the model or start building revenue early in a model and you as an entrepreneur gives you more power the more you prove it out, the higher your evaluation is. But when you take that money really early, it just changes the dynamic a little bit. And maybe I call that a little old school now, but I love to see people that get in there and show a little grit and invest in themselves. Then there’s always a time to bring on money and scale their investors that are looking for those opportunities. But it’s always nice to prove as much as you can with your own efforts in market,

Brett:

You think about your big exit and that’s so much more money and impressive that you were able to take it coast to coast yourself versus if you’re raising early some of those exits, you’re getting a very small percentage of the pie right after you go through the seed series a, series B, series G. Right. And at the end of that, you’re lucky to come out with a slice on that. Yeah,

Alex:

That’s a great point is I’ve had people have a hundred million exit, but they own 2% of the company and I have a 3 million exit, but I own a hundred percent. And so you have to really look at the dynamics. I ask a lot of people, what would $3 million do to your world? You get 3 million in the bank right now, and so a lot of people trying to build a hundred million dollar companies, we don’t need to. And sometimes the dynamic, the effort, the complexity of taking a year to try to raise money when if you could build something to a $3 million exit and sell to a strategic, who’s going to take it from there? And now you’re empowered, you take a million, you buy a house cash, you’ve put another million in long-term savings, you’ve got a million to buy a couple toys with or put a half a million in X project, now you’ve got strength, you’ve got power, you’ve got a foundation to build off of. So I tell a lot of people hit the singles and doubles, be realistic in your expectations. Set yourself up for success instead of always unicorn building because it’s not realistic statistically to hit every time.

Brett:

Yeah, that’s a great way of putting it, getting that early lead is saying the first million’s the hardest, but when we account for inflation, it’s probably like you said, the two or 3 million that you want to get that first. But like you said, you get that under your belt and then you can kind of play offense and you don’t have to necessarily go and raise money in subsequent efforts either. You can if you want to or you can sell strategically again, like you said to somebody relentless. So on that note, you’re not done in terms of business building. You guys still, my impression is you still operate a lot of the companies that you buy, you’re still growing them sometimes. Do you leave the current management in place sometimes or are you bringing in your own? How does that look from your relentless portfolio standpoint terms of the companies that you’ve bought, how many are you running and growing? How many are you, I guess I don’t want to say outsourcing, but the management is being handled by someone else?

Alex:

Hey, we’ve got a couple of different models we work with, we’ve got a dozen companies in our portfolio now. Nine of them we own are own wholly. So our shared management team operates those companies and we build them with our internal staff. Three of them were existing partners or founders who built companies who came to us for help. And I always thought it was empathetic to have an early stage company come to you and then charge them a whole bunch of cash to help ’em out because they don’t have cash. That’s one thing they don’t have. So what we do is we will actually, if we like the project to trade equity for our services, so we’ve had companies say if usually they’re going to use the cash for engineering and sales, maybe some leadership, some strategic guidance or support. So we’ll say, Hey, give us a piece to your company, we become a partner and you can access my engineering team, you can access my sales team. We’ll meet with you once a week and provide strategic guidance and support, help you with budgeting, forecasting. We even helped our companies raise money if they need to. So yeah, we’ve got a hybrid model where we oftentimes work with founders and try to support them, give them the resources they need a little bit of guidance based on our experience to try to be successful. I love an opportunity to mentor a strong founder and help them get over that hump and successful.

Brett:

Yeah, that’s great. That’s very founder friendly model here. But that is exactly usually what these small lean teams that are bootstrap, self-funded need is. We’ve all been there and there today. You need, like you said at times, the engineering help and then you need to sell it, right? And you’ve got those two things and those take money and can’t necessarily charge for it. But it sounds like you’ve got a lot of scale internally on the relentless team and we know that from the influencer work that we’re doing together where you’ve got seems to be economies of operational scale, should we say, where you can have someone doing a certain marketing role and they could do that for five companies instead of just one. Is that fair to say?

Alex:

Yeah, absolutely. If you think about the structure, it’s almost like a services company, but we’re servicing ourselves. So we’ve got a full stack engineering team that’s managing a dozen platforms, and you’re right at that point, I can afford to hire better people than a single company I could typically do. I can afford to put processes in place and leverage software for project management, things like that that a startup can’t afford. On the support team, we have great support software and systems because we’re managing support on a dozen companies, so we try to leverage that and create some economy to scale to be able to have better software, better processes and better people. And that gives us great economy to scale internally and allows customers to have a better experience in our projects to have a higher quality platform and go to market strategy.

Brett:

Yeah, it makes sense. It is funny with startups, how many jobs are part-time jobs, but you have a million of them, but they’re all, it’s a little slice and it’d be overkill maybe to hire a full-time person, but you want the care of a full-time person. And that kind of strikes me as a pretty ideal where you can have a full-time person touch multiple companies or maybe all nine, right? Because the same thing I know from starting these, this is my third SaaS company and every time I start one, you do the same thing and you know this, right? You’re doing the same thing every time. So it is a repeatable model, so for you to have your portfolio makes perfect sense. Let’s get into mobile advertising, Alex, because one of the first guys to notice the advantages of mobile and now I mean everyone’s on the phones, the sites are more mobile than desktop in terms of access. Where do you see mobile going? Do you see any huge gaps that you are filling with your relentless teams that others aren’t out there?

Alex:

Well, I think mobile is exciting, but a lot of people use it incorrectly. When we started getting on the phones, the first logic was take my platform or take my site and get it to fit on a phone. People are looking for a different experience on mobile than they are at a desktop. And so the functions, the information, the way I interact with it, what I want to see, what I want to do is typically very different than what somebody would do sitting down in a machine and at a full desktop achievement and operating. So I think it is a logic shift and we’re starting to build many of our platforms mobile first and then building the PC or desktop component of it where that can be more robust, take advantage of the landscape of larger screens and things like that, better input devices with traditional keyboards and things.

But starting with a mobile experience because it’s a psychological difference, what are people going to want to do with this thing and getting better at building that mobile first because seeing, of course, many people spend much more time on their phones than they do on desktops nowadays. I mean, I can run 98% of my business now on mobile, and so I only use computer day to day. I’m still old school, I still like a mouse very sadly. I don’t like trackpad when I need a keyboard, so I prefer those things an input device. But my 21 year old kid, they don’t like, I mean they never use computers except for school. Everything else is their entire lives are on mobile. So it is very, very different. As far as gaps, I still think S M SS technology is underutilized. If you think about you go like WhatsApp and a lot of those, that two-way communication, it is personal and transactional.

So when you think about that, we love that it’s simple, it’s low bandwidth on creative. So you’re not having to design really compelling graphics or write tons of copy or have an edited video, but you could still convey information, you can create a valuable call to action and you can solve people’s problems. That’s what we do when you text people, Hey, what are you doing for lunch? Let’s be here. Great to see you there at noon. I mean, transactions are happening every day and I think that people are not connected enough with each other in an organized way as well as with businesses that are an important part of their lives. So I still think there’s a lot of runway for using text messaging in a predictive and interactive way to do business. I think that there’s a lot of room to evolve and cultivate that over time. And that’s where some of our platforms really what we’re going to talk about today really focuses on SS M Ss technology and its cornerstone.

Brett:

That’s a great point that backs up our experience. We do these calls with new customers who are not as tech savvy as your team and we walk ’em through the influencer app and when we were email only on reminders, decent amount of no-shows. And now that we allow SS m s reminders almost know everyone shows up, right? Becauses buzzing your phone and it’s hitting you from all angles, right? But there’s something about that phone buzzing that, oh, okay, I’ve got a call now I’ve got to go on or email. Maybe you see it, maybe you don’t. Maybe it’s on your phone maybe so you don’t know where you’re at there. So let’s talk about your portfolio companies there, Alex, on the s m s side. Yeah, hit us with a couple examples there, what we want to talk about.

Alex:

Yeah. Well I mentioned my big exit, the eight figure exit was focused on S M S texting technology. It was a loyalty program of small businesses connecting consumers. That was SS m s based. We had 12 million people on it that did very well and we would see response rates that were really out of this world. So we’ve taken that concept and those technologies and are adapting it to a lot of our different platforms. One is a health and wellness c R M type tool where it helps fitness professionals and coaches connect with leads, active clients and former clients stay in touch but also provide accountability. It’s called Off day trainer. And so if you think about most of your personal trainers or coaches, we usually text you, Hey, see you today, or don’t forget to work out, but it’s a lot of work on the part of the trainer and so it’s an automated tool that actually stays in touch with their client base using text, but it comes from the trainer, it feels like the trainer’s sending them and the message to personalized that trainer.

So with any good marketing, the target and personalization is absolutely key. And so we build a lot of technology that really feel like they’re coming from that individual that you have a relationship with and have a call to action that’s very specific to the recipient. That’s why we get great response rates. Our other one that’s one that we’re working with influencer on is our challenge engine tool, and that’s a variation of that where we help empower coaches of all sorts. Anybody that’s an influencer or trainer that wants to convey information to their trusted audience via text message, it cuts through the chatter, cuts through. We don’t care what operating system you’re on, you don’t have to download the app, you don’t have to do anything. Everybody gets the text message and 98% of ’em are read within five minutes. So we know to your point a second ago about appointment reminders. That’s the thing that stops people in their tracks. People will sit there in meetings, checking text messages, so it cuts through everything and inspires action immediately. So that’s why we love using that tech for a lot of our stuff.

Brett:

This is great, and we’ll get the link to the collab below this video, wherever people are watching on Challenge Engine we’ve got and you’ve got an 80% commission share. Is that correct? Can we talk about the partner opportunity then from the influencer side in terms of working with Challenge Engine and specifically to our influencers who are us based in the sports, fitness, wellness and so on world?

Alex:

Yeah, absolutely. So the reason why we call it Challenge Engine is there are a lot of people that love a finite engagement and think of it in the fitness world, and most Fit Pros will know this 30 day belly buster challenge or 21 day pushup challenge or 75 day Beast mode challenge. And so that’s something that people can commit to psychologically. It’s got to start and stop and you have a prescriptive engagement during a certain period of time. But the challenge with that is always creating a curriculum, creating a delivery method and how do you manage and scale an opportunity to do that. But that’s why we built the challenge engine. So influencers can log into our system at zero cost upfront to create an account and create a challenge. So we do this because we want to be performance oriented and really great partners for our influencers.

So you log into the account and we have a handful of curriculum already in there, believe it or not, we’ve got 30 days to optimize your LinkedIn profile or I mentioned the 30 day fitness challenge. So we’ve got some in there if you don’t want to write your own curriculum, but you do want to promote something that’s effective to your audience. So you can just use one of ours and literally in 60 seconds can have a challenge set up and something that you can circulate, promote, and earn revenue from immediately. And yes, it’s an 80% split for the influencer. So that’s what they get on everything that’s sold. So the average challenge we put together is going to sell for 30, $40 as a 30 day challenge. We suggest about a dollar a day. If you build your own content, which you absolutely can, you can set each day with a text and a corresponding page of information.

So it could have an inspirational quote or today I’m going to give you a recipe for my favorite soup and then to click the link and you have the recipe for the soup in that link. Again, all mobile enabled, so text and mobile web, so it loads right up and you can have every morning that text go out, you have one go in the evening saying, Hey, did you do your run today? Or what did you think of the soup? And then solicit feedback. The beautiful thing about our system, people can respond and you create a dialogue with your customer base. So you can create your own curriculum, you could charge whatever you want for it, and we simply do revenue share as you promote it. When you create a challenge, it automatically creates a registration page. So very simply it gives you a link that you can promote to your audience.

And there’s two ways to set challenges up. One is everybody starts at the same time. So hey, I’m going to do a September challenge. It starts on September 1st, sign up now, and then on the first it begins your 30 day sequence, or it could start the day after somebody registers. And so if you say, Hey, I’ve got a 30 day weight loss challenge, as soon as somebody signs up, they’ll receive a text or a confirmation the next day they get day one of the challenge and begin their own journey on their own. So you just promote the registration link and say, Hey, I’ve got this great program put together. People can click sign up. We do the billing. And that’s the other part. We’ve done some challenges, some things like this before in the past with tech, we had a lot of influence say, I don’t want to deal with registration page, I don’t want to make landing pages, I don’t want to deal with billing, I don’t want to deal with Venmo. I just want something simple. So now literally in 60 seconds you can create a challenge. It creates a landing page, you promote it, we bill it, we send you your 20% identity each day or remember your 80% identity of each day, and then you just continue to promote it and it becomes a great revenue stream for you.

Brett:

That’s a great influencer product. Let me ask you, where do you think in general, the influencer marketing world is going from here? You were early in on mobile. What’s next over the next few years for the influencer creator world here in terms of marketing partnerships and so on?

Alex:

I think the influencer world just gets bigger, better, and more important. I’m a big e-commerce guy. I’ve been involved in e-commerce for a long time. Reviews and social proof have been at the cornerstone of buying decisions. Those are the first things you look for, recommendations from people like you reviews that prove that the product has worked and that the seller is reputable. So that creates trust. And I think the influencer side of the industry is really the next level of that is I want to look for someone that I can relate to, someone that’s demonstrated themselves as an industry expert that I can trust and that’s the operative word, to give me guidance, recommendations and support on the things that I need in my life. So I think that it just gets even more and more prevalent. What it really needs is to be more organized. And that’s why I think the platform here is really special because it helps people who have products and services like me connect with the influencers that have built the trust that are industry experts that can vet out and prove that I’ve built something good and then help guide the people that are looking for this to the product. So it’s really about relationships and trust. I think the influencer industry is really important and will just become more so.

Brett:

That’s great to hear. And we love hosting your collabs, and I think you made a great point on the product reviews. That’s something that we probably don’t talk about enough as a benefit of this where, I mean, people want reviews and this is a great way to get them, right. Whether you’re shipping your e-commerce product to influencers and you want, that’s a great call to action. Leave a review, right? Five star reviews. Those are out there forever and that’s something we’re playing around with on the platform. Hopefully we’ll have some more features in there to make that easier to ship something and get that review and all that good stuff. I must say, I think you’ve got my favorite background of our podcast series to date on. Be relentless.com, talk about the wine and sushi get togethers that you host. Would love to do this over wine and sushi next time that way get together if that works for you.

Alex:

I’d love it. I love it. It would be my pleasure.

Brett:

That’s awesome. Yeah, looks like a lot of fun on the shelf behind you there. It’s a lot of potential for lots of creative talk. So thanks again, Alex. Let us know where can our listeners, influencers, viewers, where can they find you, where can they follow you online?

Alex:

Yeah, the website is be relentless.com. Be relentless.com. The best way to get there, you can see a little bit more about our team, our services and our portfolio companies. And of course, on your platform you can search Challenge Engine. That’s the current, and we’re going to be launching multiple offerings on the side, but that’s the one that we’re promoting right now that I described the Challenge Engine. So search Challenge Engine on there and to get more information about the collab on that one.

Brett:

That’s great. Thanks again, and we will get the challenge engine link and all your future collabs in there as we get the podcast out there. So we’ll make sure to get the links under so people can click, make it convenient. Thanks again, Alex. So yeah, like I mentioned, this is the dream. Every software, everyone wants to be Alex when they grow up. They want to buy, build, and sell. Not as glamorous at the start of typing stuff in, but this has been a great interview as all stuff people need to hear in terms of how to roll up your sleeves and get moving here on the entrepreneurship side. Yeah,

Alex:

Man, I really appreciate that. It’s been a great journey. I wouldn’t have any other way anybody out there that’s going down this path. If you want to reach out, I’m always happy to help mentor, give any guidance or support and keep hanging in there. That’s why I named my company Relentless, was I thought what was the one characteristic that most influenced my success? And it’s not genius and it would almost be lucky, but really the perseverance and the hard work and sticking with it that Brit really is key. So those of you watching that are going through the journey, stick with it because it’s worth it.

Brett:

That’s a great way to describe it. I mean, luck’s a part of it, but you give yourself more chances, right? By being relentless, right? You stay in the game and you stay after it and you put yourself in position. So at that point, it’s not necessarily luck, it’s more probability, I guess, than luck, per se. Right? You’re staying in there and it’s of your hustle.

Alex:

Brett:

Cool. All right, well thanks again, Alex. Appreciate it. It was fun conversation.

Alex:

Yeah, Brett, appreciate a lot. It was my pleasure to be on the podcast today.

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