Co-Founder & Head of Operations
This is part 2 of 2 with former CEO & Founder of Moz, Rand Fishkin. It’s hard to image Moz without Rand Fishkin. But even if you haven’t heard about Moz, or seen Rand with his unique hair dew and mustache this is a can’t miss conversation. We kick things off with Rand sharing the story of how he went from $500,000 in debt to growing Moz into a profitable company. This is a very heartfelt, real interview. We talk about topics ranging from Rands struggle with depression to how to navigate the difficult world of accepting venture capital from investors. It’s a far-ranging interview. It’s very real and very useful, please enjoy our conversation with Rand Fishkin. Also listen to part 1 of our interview here.
Quick disclaimer: these transcripts are auto-generated. They are best used in addition to the Podcast audio not instead of. We cannot guarantee 100% accuracy.
James Fratzke: [00:00:00] Rand thank you for being on the show today.
Rand Fishkin: [00:00:03] My pleasure James. Thank you for having me.
James Fratzke: [00:00:04] Yeah no it's all our pleasure. And I want to start this with a tough hard hitting question. How long does it take you to do your hair slash your mustache in the morning?
Rand Fishkin: [00:00:16] Mustache doesn't take any time anymore. Thankfully Moz now profitable has been for almost a year. So I got to shave off my mustache foolish facial growing not experiment but stunt. Yeah I wouldn't do that again. HERR I don't know the usual amount of time. The three minutes. Two or three minutes.
James F.: [00:00:40] OK. But you do have maybe the best looking hair on the internet and I find that hard to believe. Sir.
Rand Fishkin: [00:00:49] It is. Pretty fast. I mean I have my morning routine down to 25 minutes at this point right so I can hop in the shower. I can shave I can do my hair brush my teeth put on deodorant and everything. Twenty-five minutes so I know you know if I have a meeting at some time that's how long I need.
James Fratzke: [00:01:07] That makes sense and I want to talk about the mustache a little bit more later. But let's set the scene a little bit because you have a pretty amazing entrepreneur story and so set the scene a little bit and you can kind of fill in the blanks. But in 2001 you dropped out of college and started a Web design slash digital marketing company with your mom. By 2005 you had over 500000 dollars in debt. Your words not mine. You did a crap job of building a business. Fast forward though now. Moz do doing over 40 million dollars in revenue with five hundred thousand dollars in debt. I'm not sure I would have seen the light at the end of the tunnel. So tell us how did you not just throw up your hands and give up at that point.
Rand Fishkin: [00:01:48] Actually that probably would've been the smartest thing to do. Bankruptcy is actually a great sort of get out of jail relatively free in the United States. So that would have been the savvy move. The problem was we didn't tell my dad that we had any debt and we were basically in a rock and a hard place because if we had declared bankruptcy it's possible that the courts could have gone after like my parents’ house they owned a second house my grandmother's house in Connecticut. And so my grandmother would've lost her house and we weren't sure you know if my dad found out maybe probably he would get very upset with my mom and you know maybe that could lead to even worse things so we had to keep slogging through it and eventually pay back our creditors. That was a lie it was. It was a lie of admission that that forced us to t soldier on. Which is not exactly the greatest motivation but it is a strong one.
James Fratzke: [00:02:55] Sometimes when you're backed into a corner and the only thing you can do is move forward. Right. And that's what you did. And that's a theme throughout your entire career. That's why you started SCO Ma's back in 2004 because you were frustrated with how SCO world worked it was very secretive. So you decided to lean in and kind of shed some light into that industry.
Rand Fishkin: [00:03:17] Yeah I did. I think again I'm yeah something of a contrarian. And this being you know being told that a CEO was the secret world and that you know it's not supposed to be Grandparent and that the secrecy is how you know the SCO consulting world sort of makes its living by having this knowledge that no one else can access that frustrated me immensely. That made me I don't know pissed off. It made me and it made me want to open things up right. So I started running my own experiments and writing about things that no one else was writing about and I wouldn't sign confidentiality agreements with clients so that I could share. Yeah so that I could share stories and all of this kind of stuff which you know in at the time seemed purely like well you know their Rand goes again being his crazy self but it ended up paying off right in the long run and ended up paying off because Moz became this place that people knew and could trust to give them open and honest information and resources about this hard to learn field and because so few people were doing that. Moz had a much easier time standing out it wasn't crowded competitive landscape than it is today. And so you know by building up that educational resource by being a place that helped people by being grandparents we built up this massive community and that led to a lot of consulting clients in those early years between 2004 and 2007 and it led to no great number of people subscribing to our software. Between 2007 and today.
James Fratzke: [00:05:03] I have to tell you Rand that I actually started using Moz.com A very long time ago. Way back when I knew nothing about SEO and it's been this great tool to kind of do this trial by fire and learn and watch some of your videos from whiteboard Friday. So I just want to personally thank you so much for the wisdom that you've instilled in me.
Rand Fishkin: [00:05:27] I'm thrilled to hear. Yeah our pleasure. It's great.
James Fratzke: [00:05:30] So you once said in the interview that startups are like video games. What did you mean by that?
Rand Fishkin: [00:05:36] Well the first time you play a video game you're terrible at it. Right. You know you don't know how the level is going to go in and you're not familiar with the controls and probably mess up and you know lose points and you know die a bunch and all those kinds of things. But then the second placers third play to the fourth play through you sort of get into a groove with it right. You know how everything is structured you build up some muscle memory around it. The controls flow more freely and as a result you get better at playing the game you're able to advance or score more points or whatever it is whatever the objective of the game is you improve your skills and you get better and that is exactly how I feel about startups. I think that every time you face a new stage of the startup journey you're going to suck at it right. You have all these problems you experience things you've never seen before and challenges you never imagined. And it's very frustrating. And the unfamiliarity is extremely frustrating. And then the second time you do it the third time you do it you've seen this story play out before. Right. So you know the pitfalls to avoid and at least you cannot make the same mistakes you made last time. And I think that's where the analogy works is that becomes easier. But the problem with startups is that each new stage is like a new game right.
Rand Fishkin: [00:07:11] You carry over some skills from having played videogames games or having run your startup to this point. But the new ones that you face new challenges you face are daunting every time and that's I think why so life so hard to build a large business successfully.
James Fratzke: [00:07:33] Now I saw an interview one time that you said that it was never about when you started Moz it was never about wanting to get rich. Rather it was always about wanting to add a lot of value to the world. Do you think entrepreneurs that are going through that video game and playing the levels over and over again are missing that key objective that it's about providing value and it's not about creating something that doesn't necessarily need to exist in the first place.
Rand Fishkin: [00:07:58] So I think that happens sometimes but I say I may disagree with my own quote there. I think that I think that it is true. It is true. You know for me that early in my career it was like Hey how do we just dig out of debt and then hey let's keep doing all these fun things. But once they took venture capital you know my whole professional identity was tied to OK I've made a commitment to these investors that I'm going to return five to 10 times their money. You know before their fund expires and that obligation is one that I feel very strongly you know even though I'm leaving Moz I still feel very sad. I feel terrible about not being able to get our investors to the liquidity that you know that that we sort of promised we would deliver you know they'd be successful by many business standards but by venture standards it's kind of a failure. Right it has raised it raised 28 million dollars. And so unless it can double its revenue again and get to an IPO level exit it's going to be really tough to return you know 150 to 300 million dollars to our venture to the venture firms that have put money into Moz. So yeah I would say the financial side is a really big one especially when it's someone else's money and you have promised to deliver on that.
James Fratzke: [00:09:30] If you could go into a time machine and do it all over again would you still have taken the VC money. Or would you have taken a different path.
Rand Fishkin: [00:09:38] I would have taken the VC money for this company and the reason why is because I know how I felt before which was basically it was one of those. Grass is always greener things right where I felt like Oh I'm not a real entrepreneur because I'm not venture backs right. I'm not I'm not a real player. I'm like this fake you know want to be sort of oh I'm a lifestyle business which is always used as a pejorative in Silicon Valley speak. And. I think it took me going through the venture experience to realize how deep a load of bullshit that is right. How. Totally mind numbingly dumb that mindset is. And I think without the experience I would I would never have had that. I would always have been looking from you know from the outside in and thinking well I never took a stab at a real one or you know I'm not nearly as good an entrepreneur you know not that we should be comparing ourselves right but it is all these other people who have raised money and you know I don't to these parties in Silicon Valley and I've never been to you know Zuckerberg houses. Dumb stuff. Totally dumb stuff right. Right. But it's things that question that you know that eat away at you until I'm glad I did it for this one. I think I learned an incredible amount. And I think that next time I'm going to be you know a lot better a lot smarter. Play again game.
James Fratzke: [00:11:16] I've said it before and I'll say it again if you want to be a photographer go work for a photographer break their camera and you've said something very similar Rand which is if you want to build a startup go work at two or three different startups to learn on their dime. And that's kind of in a sense what you've done with Moz's you've built this great company. Now as you get ready to go into your second act you can take your learnings from that startup and kind of propel yourself to success. Maybe a little bit faster?
Rand Fishkin: [00:11:47] I'm going to be starting another business. Not exactly sure what that is yet but I'll be starting another one in. Well not like definitely not raising venture for this one. Probably raising money of some kind. The angel money or crowdfunding or something like that or even debt but hey yeah. Did alright with that last time.
James Fratzke: [00:12:12] Your kind of kicked its ass Rand.
Rand Fishkin: [00:12:17] First they kicked my ass then. Yeah but yeah I think that I think that was a learning process and going through it. Will Yeah it will make me better at it for next time. I don't intend to become a sort of a practitioner of SCO or something like that. If that's what you mean but I do intend to build another business.
James Fratzke: [00:12:39] So let's talk a little bit more about your life and you personally Rand. From 2007 to 2013 you were the CEO of Moz. Before that obviously you were the founder but in 2014 you stepped down as CEO. Can you explain to us and you've talked about this before in the past? Can you explain to us why you decided to step down as CEO?
Rand Fishkin: [00:13:04] I stepped down because I had an episode with depression and because of that you know I think that my judgment was compromised in a lot of bad ways and I was not emotionally or mentally the leader that Moz needed at the time.
Rand Fishkin: [00:13:23] And I think that was I think that was the right decision but you know it was a very hard period for me and it was a very I would say it felt like a low friction decision. But afterward it's been a painful one too right. I think it's always tough to lose control of something you've built that feels like it's yours and should be yours. Yeah. That was a really hard thing. Spent a lot of time going through the Why did I build this company. Why? What were purpose to serve them. And do I really regret that. I wish I'd done something different with my first four sort of 15 years of my professional life. So that's been it's been difficult.
James Fratzke: [00:14:10] Yeah well you know this isn't unique to you Rand I mean you hear a lot of stories of different CEOs or entrepreneurs that struggle with depression and on the surface level. It's kind of counter-intuitive like oh these outgoing super driven people you know how can they suffer from depression. What do you think the connection is between high performers and CEOs in this condition?
Rand Fishkin: [00:14:35] So I think that there are two things that are almost certainly true. One is that people who are likely to pursue entrepreneurship are also people who are more likely than average to have anxiety depression you know mental and emotional issues. And I don't know which way the causation runs I don't know if there's a third factor there but there is definitely a strong correlation. In my experience I think the second thing that is true is that the pressures of entrepreneurship you know remember especially in a venture backed technology world the failure rates are staggeringly high. You know survival rates are miserable. So almost everyone who pursues this path is going to fail out and that means losing their job and you know sacrificing years of their career and usually incredibly stressful hard years of their career and usually not making any money from that. So that's that is a very stress inducing thing. And I think also people management people leadership is very stressful especially for people who are empathetic and kind and sort of you know feel the feelings of others. Yeah you take a lot of shit and you don't get a lot of love in return. I've often said that that CEO is a terrible job. And no not a frontline not a cakewalk by any means. if you manage to get your company into a nice place I mean it's great that you have a you know a nice salary or a nice income but that's small comfort I think for a lot of people they were they would trade it for software engineering. You know you can work 40 hours to make real nice salary there.
James Fratzke: [00:16:41] Yes you can.
Rand Fishkin: [00:16:43] So yeah I think I think those three things right. All combine to make to make it more likely than most that that a lot of entrepreneurs will experience these severe episodes.
James Fratzke: [00:16:55] I'm sure there's plenty of people in a very similar position to yours Rand that suffer from depression. So what are the one or two tactics that you use today that help you counteract some of those feelings you have. I
Rand Fishkin: [00:17:09] I mean for me a lot of it so early on I did a lot of therapy and counseling they tried about all sorts of other things as well. You know everything from acupuncture and massage to physical therapy to mindfulness meditation and probably some others that I'm forgetting. So it was you know trying to discover those things. And certainly I have found that there's a pretty big you know mind body connection at least for me meaning that if I can stay physically healthy if I can hold myself very strictly to getting eight hours of sleep a night and not waver too much on that. Certainly not for long. That helps a lot to the lack of sleep which entrepreneurs suffer pretty horribly is very good the research very connected to anxiety and depression and all sorts of disorders and yet you know this is one of the things that I just hate I hate how Silicon Valley culture takes pride in working 80 hour weeks right. It's like oh I'm so important. I'm such a hard worker. I so deserve my success. Look at me working so hard and not sleeping all the data and research says Actually that's terrible for you it's terrible for your company. Terrible for your performance. Less than 3% percent of all human beings can function even remotely above you know 80% percent of capacity. After a night with less than seven hours of sleep it's done right. Like what you're doing is hurting yourself and your company and all the people around you and your venture investors will be pissed that you're getting not getting enough sleep. But tragically that's not how the culture goes. So yeah those things those things are really healthy.
James Fratzke: [00:19:07] I feel like that ties back to a story you shared earlier about a lifestyle business versus what some would consider a quote unquote real business for entrepreneurs that want to follow in your path. What's your recommendation? Lifestyle Business or real business. How would you attack that today?
Rand Fishkin: [00:19:25] No I mean I think that what I would recommend is just knowing exactly what you want into it and why you want to do it knowing the odds and the risks that you face by embracing that choice and then choosing the right capital source for no capital source to pursue it right. So if your goal is hey you know what I'd like to be my own boss. I want to be independent and I want to build something. The thing that I want to build can be built with you know a few hundred thousand dollars or a million dollars of investment. But I don't I don't think I want to be forced into a world where I need to make it a hundred million dollars a year business in order to be considered even minimal. You know that's the lowest bar for success then venture is probably not right for you and you should look at Angel or crowd funding or debt funding or revenue loans or you know a bunch of other options that exist in the market today. However, or micro VCs right there are a few major VCs who have funds small enough to where you know a million-dollar investment in a 30-million-dollar exit can be meaningful returns for them. But the vast majority of venture that's not the case if on the other hand what you realize is like you know what I want to change. I want to change the way energy is stored and delivered around the planet and it's going to take a few hundred million dollars of investment. And I realize the odds of success are 1 percent or less but that's what I want to do and I think I have a way to get there. Venture is definitely for you right. That is that is the model they want to invest in. Ninety-nine companies that are going to die and one that's going to be a multibillion dollar success. And if you believe that you know that's what you want to pursue and you have a model that matches there's excellent just go in with your eyes open.
James Fratzke: [00:21:22] You've talked in the past about understanding your strengths and weaknesses in doing the things that you do really well the best that you can in hiring people that do your weaknesses really well to do the best they can. Can you tell us a little bit more about that idea?
Rand Fishkin: [00:21:38] Yeah. I think you framed it pretty well the only caveat I'd add to that is you know my suggestion that would be sometimes you just don't have to build a muscle and you can avoid engaging with it entirely by building your company or your organization or your product in such a way that it doesn't lean on this weakness. I'll give you an example so I'm not you know I hate sales I don't I'm not sure if I'm not good at it but sort of morally I don't like it. You know I just hate the process. It always feels inauthentic to me. Yeah that's right. So Consulting was always a big sales process. But the first part of it is of course selling the client and then closing the deal and then a lot of consulting is keeping the client around which means ongoing selling to them. And part of that is relationship building and that means that you have a somewhat inauthentic relationship because part of it is based on your financial concerns raised and so that you know that was not tenable for me. So pivoting Moz into a company that was product based and self-service and self-service SAS was very uncommon especially when we started it is still uncommon today. Now most SAS still enterprise and enterprise sales driven that worked really well for me being able to say you know what I don't need a sales person I don't need a sales director we don't have any sales people here in MOZ. If you want to be sold the product visit the website and that you know that enabled us to get to know a very large revenue number without w investing in sales without having to build that muscle.
Rand Fishkin: [00:23:28] A friend of mine Terry Reed runs this apps without code business out in Detroit. And you know s she has built businesses and helped other people build businesses without having to learn software engineering despite the fact that they are fundamentally tech businesses. And yeah it's super cool right. Like you c you can find a way around nearly any weakness without necessarily meaning to just hire for that weakness. And also you know shortcut it.
James Fratzke: [00:23:56] I think that's a strong takeaway. I think a lot of entrepreneurs who are getting started want to put everything on their shoulders and they're almost scared to involve other people because they have a feeling of like I'm the only one that can accomplish this the way that it needs to be done. So to your point bring other people into the mix and that will help you from burning out and it will allow you to actually see the project grow into something that down the road could be successful.
Rand Fishkin: [00:24:22] Yeah. totally possible
James Fratzke: [00:24:23] I promised that I was going to bring the mustache back up and I'm going to do that right now. And by the way with your white board Friday videos you're always wearing funny and colorful shirts. So if you could just send me your stylists number I'd really appreciate that. So can you talk a little bit about the importance of personal Rand. You know you used to wear yellow shoes to conferences you have the mustache. Is it important to establish a personal Rand. Can you unpack that for us?
Rand Fishkin: [00:24:54] In sort of a weird topic for me because the yellow shoes were you know initially just this tactic that Geraldine was my girlfriend at the time. She's now she's my wife Geraldine recommended. She was like well you know you're going to miss your first conference and nobody knows what you look like because you've been using an avatar that you know isn't actually your face and so she was like well just by these bright yellow shoes and tell him you'll be wearing them and then we'll recognize all your friends from the forums and chat rooms. And I did that and yeah it was great it was not a personal branding thing it was more like Oh man I want people to say hi to me and I want to like know someone and not be totally alone at this big conference in New York. And then it sort of stuck right it was like Oh yeah Rand he's the guy with the yellow shoes you occasionally wear them onstage. And I still do maybe once a year. I'll pull them out and wear them at an event. But yeah it's just sort of a fun thing. The mustache was also not a personal branding thing that was just you know before I stepped down as CEO. I told everyone it was that hey I'm making a commitment I believe that it's incredibly important despite the fact that we're Venture backed company for us to be profitable again I think that will let us control our own destiny. And you know we won't be forced to do layoffs. And I think that will be really healthy for the business. So I I committed I'm going to grow out my mustache until we're profitable again this is the end of 2013. So for it I stepped down stepped down from the CEO role in 2014 and my successor decided actually that important we're not going to pursue profitability. And so yeah for three and a half years I had a ridiculous mustache.
James Fratzke: [00:26:45] you know you talk like you don't like it but I feel like it's so iconic.
Rand Fishkin: [00:26:51] Well thank God.
James Fratzke: [00:26:52] It's interesting to hear that its back y
Rand Fishkin: [00:26:54] It's been gone almost a year now and I don't miss it. It was. It was a nightmare on humid days. And you know it was this constant reminder every time I looked in the mirror I just think to myself we're still not profitable. I like this company still not profitable and unfortunately the way that we got there you know this was last August was the worst way possible which is we did have to do big lost. Since we lost about 60 people in my office which was which was terrible I mean there were friends you know people who were close friends with General David Wright who won't talk to us anymore. Right. That just I mean brutal. Yeah terrible totally terrible. It worked out well for the business. Like we ended up you know being able to grow a little faster. There was more focus the marketing team you know performed a little better the product team I think performed better and engineering did too. So there were a lot of good things from the business side of things so I think it was I think it was the right move and it's great to be you know to know that Moz is profitable and doesn't have this risk but just the worst way to get there.
James Fratzke: [00:28:02] You mention your wife Geraldine and in the research that I've done for this podcast interview I've seen your guy’s relationship. And from what I've read online it just seems like you guys have such a strong bond and you've even used the words that she loves you unconditionally. I think for entrepreneurs or even people in the business world that are trying to climb the corporate ladder you know it's so hard to have the best of both worlds. It's incredibly difficult to try and progress your career or build the business and have a successful relationship. So how do you and your wife do it. What's the secret?
Rand Fishkin: [00:28:40] Gosh I’m trying to remember who wrote this great blog post I think it was called you can do two things but not three. And I thought that was actually excellent advice so you know it was basically you can be you know incredibly devoted and focused on your work. And also have you know a very powerful close relationship with your significant other partner. But you can't do those things and also be you know passionate hobbyists about something or you know and also be an incredibly devoted parent. Right. And so m many people that I know you know make those choices. There's sort of like hey my work is work. I clock in my 40 hours. Then I have my hobby and I have my kids or I have my kids and I have my spouse or you know I have my whatever passion right whatever big thing they have a better life I have some for some people it's a independent right. I have my aging parents that I need to take care of. Not that sucks up all the rest of my time and stuff like that. That's my that's one of my two things. And you know so these those voices sometimes there are things that are forced on us. But I think that in my case I'm very lucky. You know we've chosen not have kids and I've chosen not to do anything else and so I've just been focused on moms and Geraldine and that's I think which enabled me to have a close relationship. Obviously a big part of that is choosing the right person.
Rand Fishkin: [00:30:17] But a big part of it too is just choosing to invest in that in that person. You know I think that people say something like oh you know they think of love the wrong way they think of oh I'm deeply in love with this person. Almost like an infatuation.
Rand Fishkin: [00:30:37] Right. Just like I do. I admire them and I like the way they look and I liked the way they make you feel as opposed to love the active verb of. I am willing to make all sorts of sacrifices so that our relationship benefits. I am willing to lose arguments that I think I'm right about I am willing to sacrifice time and things that I want to do. I am willing to make changes in my behavior that I don't really want to make. I'm willing to overlook things about the other person's behavior that I don't really like. So that we can have a closer and more loving relationship and that takes you know that takes effort like that. But it is active cognitive and emotional and physical work. But I think that's what love is not you know not the sort of objectification of o love as a passive thing right.
James Fratzke: [00:31:36] Love is. Stephen Covey says that seven habits a highly effective people which is like love is something you do. Let me shift gears really quick though. In the past you've talked about the importance of understanding your business not just from the perspective of running the business but understanding actually the products and the services that you provide. So for example in your business you weren't an expert coder but you learned how to code so that when your coders came and talked to you and said hey this is a project stalling or it's taking long because of X Y and Z you could basically empathize with them or call them out on their B.S. So can you just share with us the importance of a leader who actually knows their stuff.
Rand Fishkin: [00:32:20] Right. Yeah I mean I think I think one of the biggest one of the biggest problems many non-technical I'll use this as an example it could be non-marketing savvy founders will find this all the time with their marketing team and recruits right they don't know much about marketing they haven't invested much in the practice.
James Fratzke: [00:32:39] You know maybe they have surface level knowledge and they feel like well it's relatively intuitive I'm sure I can just sort of figure it out and then you know they go through marketing leader after marketing leader and team after team member and poor result every time and you know and they find themselves in this in this space where they just can't effectively recruit can't effectively lead and manage because they just don't have enough you know base level knowledge to be able to do that. And I found that with myself and tougher engineering. So there are look I know enough about each team Ellen CSSA know enough about you know basic level you know very simplistic programming. I know a little bit about you know machine learning and I've played around with some friends with Tenter flow and that kind of stuff but like that I don't really get it. I am not a software engineer.
Rand Fishkin: [00:33:34] I have written a line of code since 2005 and as a result you know when I when I come up against these projects was that took months instead of weeks or years instead of months. I'd be constantly frustrated and I'd be questioning like wow is it. Is it me. Is it the leadership. Is it how the projects are being worked on. Is it the team insights that these people out and kept getting stymied right like every new person would be like No it's just really hard? It's too hard.
Rand Fishkin: [00:34:06] And then finally I you know recently on one of the biggest projects around this we we've got to two guys in. And they sort of took a project that had been languishing for seven years and they basically made it work in like eight months. And they had this like oh OK got you. That's what success looks like. I didn't understand it but these guys are dedicated and you know what they're doing and so they were able to do it and still even now reverse engineering what went wrong. So that I can prevent in the future. You know with my next company or with future companies that advise nightmarishly difficult. I don't I can't understand it right that is not evident to me. It had lots of conversations even with these guys who did solve the problem. They're not sure. I'm not sure sucks really sucks. It really it really is nightmarish. I think if I had had the savvy to be able to at least contribute mildly to the project or review you know the code review not review the code review the engineering architecture the schematics the approach. You know with savvy thoughtfulness and experience I think I could have prevented you know seven years of waste.
James Fratzke: [00:35:30] I think the main takeaway there is that as leader you always have to be thirsty to learn more to understand more and that's going to help propel your business forward. You just said oh that's what success looks like in your last comment talking about coders. What does success look like for you Rand. What is your guiding light?
Rand Fishkin: [00:35:50] I think success for me at this point is I need to I need to prove that I can build a great successful software business.
Rand Fishkin: [00:36:02] And I think that means you know starting from scratch again building something that is valuable and useful and helps a lot of people and creates a lot of value and also makes a lot of money and hopefully has either a successful exit or just continues to operate profitably for a long period of time with lots of happy employees and customers.
Rand Fishkin: [00:36:33] That is that is something that I'm very dedicated to. And I think I'll be I'll be pursuing that for a long time. I hope this next one will be the one but we'll see.
James Fratzke: [00:36:47] Rand as we get to the end of our time together today this is what I like to go into what I call rapid fire question mode. So I'm going to throw some questions at you and you just give me the first things that jumped to mind. Question number one if you could write a postcard to anyone on this planet could be an icon past or present a family member whoever. Who would you write that postcard to. And what would it say.
Rand Fishkin: [00:37:11] I think that people who would appreciate it most and the most joy that I would get from it is writing it to my grandmother. I know they love to get mail. I really should do that. That would be what I do to write a postcard to my grandparents. Tell them I love them. They're in their 90s now. They still live on their own in New Jersey. And yeah they have big supporters and caregivers to me for my whole life. so
James Fratzke: [00:37:39] next question do you like to read?
Rand Fishkin: [00:37:43] Yeah I do. I read incredible amount.
James Fratzke: [00:37:46] So what are those top three books that you recommend can be fiction nonfiction. Business whatever.
Rand Fishkin: [00:37:51] Oh yeah. Let's see. I'll give you some recent ones that might that might help. I'm mostly a fiction reader. I do read some nonfiction but primarily fiction either. I really like special topics in calamity physics. That was a great book that I enjoyed tremendously. I read a few years ago but really good one. I loved Sherman Alexie. I love a lot of his stuff but Teshima Lexie's absolutely true Diary of a part time Indian because I was a great one. If you're looking for something more in the business realm there was a great biography of the founder of duty free shops. CHUCK FEENEY OK it was called the billionaire who wasn't. And that is a great biography really fascinating. He was that became a billionaire and then basically gave all his money away and started the giving pledge with now which now Warren Buffett and Bill Gates a lot of other very wealthy people in the U.S. are part of.
James Fratzke: [00:38:56] That is such a great cause I've definitely heard of that.
James Fratzke: [00:38:59] You said you dropped out of college and some people think that the college system is broken in America. If you could do it all over again would you went to school or would you've just skipped that entirely.
Rand Fishkin: [00:39:10] I think college mostly is a socialization process. I think the really frustrating thing. Well it's also tragically it's also a status symbol it's a way of sort of signaling to future people that you are part of their class and world. And unfortunately that still has a lot of benefits at least in American society. The I'm pretty sure I would have still gone to college. Granted it's so much more expensive today and the brutality of student loans and student debt is just just a nightmare. Right. Like when I was in college this was before her George W. Bush had passed the legislation saying that you couldn't declare bankruptcy to get out of your student loans and that legislation essentially led to the inflation of college prices. Rates have been growing at about 1 member 1 percent 2 percent year over year prior 20 years. And then they started growing at 4 or 5 percent. And so you got you know 10x growth since s I left college and that has meant that many people who go to school and graduate can't do anything with their financial lives because college debt takes up all of it and predatory lenders have taken huge advantage of that loss. So I'm not sure we're going to forgive him for that. I think he ruined a generation. But you know that being said I would I would probably still go to college especially if my parents could afford to pay for it or if I could get a scholarship or find a very cheap institution because I think there is value in the socialization. I think there's value in the signal.
James Fratzke: [00:41:00] All right next questions you're sitting in a bar. It's raining outside you're in Seattle and you have an option beer or scotch which when are you drinking tonight.
Rand Fishkin: [00:41:09] It's before dinner I'm probably getting beer after dinner I'm almost definitely getting scotch.
James Fratzke: [00:41:15] Nice. Now tell me what kind of Scotch getting it.
Rand Fishkin: [00:41:19] So I'm a single malt. I only blended. I don't like American whiskey either. It's rare occasions I go like bourbon. Yeah mostly single malt Scottish or Scottish style. You know the Japanese and the Tasmanians and there there's some good distillers I think there's a great distiller in Taiwan now so I'll drink something from that world.
James Fratzke: [00:41:46] Lovely that sounds delicious. Here's the last question Rand. If there is one message that you could share with our listeners that you were unable to do so far in this interview I haven't given the opportunity to share it. What does that one takes away that you would want to share.
Rand Fishkin: [00:42:01] If lots of people and society and culture tend to believe one thing and to buy us toward that thing I would I would question that. I think that's true of just about everything. I think that's true. You know when it comes to something like college I think it's true when it comes to investing. It's true when it comes to entrepreneurship when it comes to gender roles when it comes to relationships work careers. If there's something everybody else is doing there is probably a good reason to question it.
James Fratzke: [00:42:39] That is a good point and you've said that before. If you're starting a business and a lot of people are running away from the area because it's too complicated, you like to run towards those things.
Rand Fishkin: [00:42:50] Yeah well especially I especially like to go towards that if it's sort of not sexy right. Like everyone thinks it's a scam. You're like you know more or it's Kovar like that term is over. Not really all that exciting anymore. Great. Excellent. That's about the time. That's the time you know Bitcoin. I'm not interested. Like I know it's just it's super high right now everybody's talking about it. That means no interest rate I just don't care. You know something like I feel like maybe social media marketing sort of feels like it was very hot four five years ago and it sort of died down. I'm interested in that again right. I'm interested because no one's talking about it anymore. It's not like the hot buzz that it was years ago. That makes me interesting.
James Fratzke: [00:43:41] That makes sense. Rand where is the best place for people to follow you and see what your next act is.
Rand Fishkin: [00:43:48] So I'm most active on Twitter and I'm @randfish.
James Fratzke: [00:43:53] Rand thank you so much for your time today we really appreciate it.
Rand Fishkin: [00:43:56] Yeah my pleasure. Thanks for having me.