Podkast
Kyle Burnett

All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence

Kyle Burnett, Founder of Little Taller, joins Clare Dobson to kick off the first episode of The Startup Sidekick podcast. And does he have a story to tell!

He dives into what it’s like being on the ground floor as a Co-Founder and if it’s all worth it. 

It takes a driven person to be as successful as Kyle has been throughout his career.

Listen or watch to hear more about Kyle’s experience.

 

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Intro (00:04):
Welcome to the startup sidekick podcast, where we like to talk to those unsung heroes, the Robin to the Batman, those early stage employees at startups who are in the trenches every day.

Clare Dobson (00:27):
Hello everyone. I’m Claire Dobson. And welcome to the first episode of the startup side kick. I am the on excited to get this podcast kicked off. We have an amazing guest today. This person is currently the founder and CEO of little taller, a marketing agency and venture studio, but his creative and sarcastic. So I’ve heard mind likes to really explore into so much more from CEO or co-founder of Allbound to professor, to founder, to venture studio and advisor, his passion for creating opportunities for others instead of himself is quite evident in everything he does. So please welcome Kyle Burnett, Kyle, please say hi.

Kyle Burnett (01:09):
Hello everyone.

Clare Dobson (01:12):
All right, Kyle. So let’s just someone Google searches. You, someone finds your LinkedIn profile. What’s something that they don’t find that you wanna tell ’em about.

Kyle Burnett (01:23):
they may not find pictures of me like with short hair and no beard. they do. They won’t recognize me.

Clare Dobson (01:29):
Those were the long gone days,

Kyle Burnett (01:31):
Huh? Yeah, exactly. That was before I really, really went down the rabbit hole of business building and just gave up all of my, uh, investment in myself. so just, I just let it all go at that point. Cause I like, well, no one has time for a haircut. Let’s just keep building things

Clare Dobson (01:51):
And then, and now we’re here

Kyle Burnett (01:53):
And listen, now we’re here. Well, and my goodness I’m the very first guess. Oh boy.

Clare Dobson (01:56):
Very first. Guess I know, get this kicked off, right? Right. Yeah. You like to go on tangents here.

Kyle Burnett (02:03):
It’s only uphill from here, so

Kyle Burnett (02:06):
We’ll set the bar nice and low.

Clare Dobson (02:08):
perfect. Well, let’s start. I mean, you originally co co-founded Allbound with Scott, like what made that decision why’d you decide to go that route?

Kyle Burnett (02:21):
Um, I think if you could probably back this up kind of career wise that like in college it was a journalism major. And my first job was because a roommate said, oh, my uncle works at a newspaper and you know, you’re heading outta college looking for a job. And I was like, sure, introduce me. And from that point forward, every single job, everything I’ve ever done has been from somebody that I’ve known, basically the value of the network. And there’s this like, you know, most people can draw dots of their, their chain. And my chain looks, you know, like was like newspapers to land in Phoenix to the, um, you know, random networking event to meet somebody that introduces me to a company to introduces me to somebody Samantha, this woman, Samantha Lang. Who’s a brilliant marketer here in Phoenix who introduces me to Scott Sulkin over coffee one day, you know, 12 years ago, 14 years ago.

Kyle Burnett (03:10):
And we literally, you know, Scott’s looking for somebody to help him build a little project and I’m like, sure, I build things. And you know, and all we did was just goof around for an hour having coffee. And he is like, cool, you wanna build this? I’m like, okay. And so, you know, $3,000 for some project for Oracle later, we have this little tool and, you know, we just hit it off and then stayed in touch about wanting to continue to build things. And at some point I was a little bored and called up Scott and said, I’m bored. Why don’t I come on board at the agency? Cause he was running an agency at the time and recruiting talent is always hard. And if you find anyone who’s even remotely available that you’re optimistic on you take ’em. So he had kind of pushed me on that.

Kyle Burnett (03:49):
And I was like, I don’t know, I’m gonna keep training for iron man and tried not to have a real job for a few minutes. and then, but I got bored. And so I joined him in a little bit with that vision of what, what we had started. Can we keep building more things off of it? And so we wound up doing that over the couple years of the agency, building more things off of this. Um, and which was, you know, eventually became all bound. It was just sort of more feature servicing the same audience. And it was purely out of sort of just luck of meeting somebody and of just timing that he ran a B2B tech marketing agency that started building portal things for, you know, channel driven companies and not, you know, it’s just random that he sort of fell into that line of marketing. And I happened to meet up with him and I also happened to be a child of the channel. It’s what my, my dad did. My dad ran an agency like mine as a kid. So here we are. But it just, the timing of that just sort of fell together. And then over the next couple of years of us building on this, we just kept seeing copies of copies and finding commonality and then just got the, the idea and the bug to spin it out and start a software company.

Clare Dobson (04:55):
So was there a risk initially or because the kind of you guys, the relationship developed and you just kept going, was it more of like the reward side of you’re excited for something new

Kyle Burnett (05:09):
Reward side is most definitely what drove it. And I could probably speak for Scott Salkin on that one too. That the reason why we started was there’s this opportunity. And two, you know, in 2014 in Phoenix, the startup scene was pretty young. Mm-hmm , you know, couple of years behind a lot of other markets, but it was pretty young in 2014. And so, but we did see the pattern, Scott’s friends with some, you know, Silicon valley driven companies and people who run those companies and, and said, I see a pattern. Can we follow that pattern? Uh, you know, and was chief success there? Yeah. And the, the thing really all came together made amazingly quickly, cuz Scott is just a great leader and super connected and a visionary and it all came together fairly quickly. But the risk that you mentioned was all Scott’s, it was his agency. I was running it with him. So, you know, yeah. I was fully invested in, you know, overworking myself. Like I always do mm-hmm but it was not my job. And it wasn’t, the risk to me was no more than it’s just a job that I was risking to him. It was, he was essentially taking 10 years or more of a successful business and saying, I’m going to then spin this off and get this outta here and start this whole new venture. It was a tremendous amount of risk on his part.

Clare Dobson (06:22):
Okay. So you got lucky there a little bit and not having to take the same type of risk, but you have, we’ll talk about it later, but you have taken the risk of your own as well, going forward. Well, taking that step back. So putting yourself in those shoes, like what hit you right in the face that, you know, for anybody just starting at a startup employee, number two through five, like what’s something that you’re like, holy cow, all right. This is the startup life.

Kyle Burnett (06:48):
Um, I think probably like most ventures there’s the, you don’t know what you don’t know mm-hmm and I’m a big fan of they against ignorance to paraphrase mark Twain. That’s how, why you’re successful. Um, and so there’s, you know, just plowing forward without knowing everything is, is totally okay. and so yeah, what I would, I think at the, I really wish that, and if I could go back, what I would do differently is I would actually spend more of my own time and money to be more educated about the legal and structural setup of businesses. Um, and about having somebody who’s also an advocate for me, for my ownership, stake positions and things that I, what I can do in the future. It’s almost like we all just need our own agent. So that throughout your career, you have somebody else who negotiates for you cause most people are bad at that. I mean fall stereotypes. I think women don’t advocate enough and men over advocate so

Clare Dobson (07:46):
Absolutely that’s a, it is a stereotype for a reason, you know, we’re all, we all need to be professional athletes, have our own agent and be able to work through that stuff and just learn. Cuz I think that’s the biggest part, right. Is you’re just sucked into something so new that the ignorance part, you have no idea what you don’t know. So,

Kyle Burnett (08:04):
And you know, and two, what you’re, what you’re doing is you’re hustling, working really hard. And, and, and I, you know, I’m an 80 hour a week moron on, on a good, I just was two weeks on vacation and I only worked 12 hour days. And to me and my family, we were like, wow, you really are taking time off. That’s, that’s ridiculous. That’s a problem. And so, but nonetheless, um, you know, you are putting all of your effort and your time in there and then kind of putting your own finances and other things at risk to build this mm-hmm and you know, and so you can either take that bootstrap route, or of course you can kind of go for the funded route at the time where funding is, is proper. We got funding literally like right outta the gate. So like just all, all the praise to Scott talking on that.

Kyle Burnett (08:48):
And the people who knew that the idea was good, the timing was good. The market was good, his vision, and the way he could show it and sell it, it we’re good that we could sort of couple, a bit of his resources he already had at his existing company with a handful of people, knowledge, background, things already sort of built that we could, uh, we could launch off of, along with some capital from investors. Yeah. At the same time that we could just make this clean break, the downside was is that we were then immediately working for the investors that we were immediately working underneath the shot underneath the gun and the timeframe of the burn down, uh, of the money because we were spending to the level of the re of the investor game, you know, and that’s a very different cycle to be on versus the bootstrap side.

Clare Dobson (09:34):
It’s very different.

Kyle Burnett (09:35):
Yeah. We cut that short and went straight to the investor side. I can speak at length about the bootstrap side. I’m four years into that, with what I do now, pros and cons all all around. But I think that was two things that I would, where I would, what I learned from there is one is the understanding what’s in front of you, paperwork structure, what’s in your best interest advocating for what is frankly, in your best interest first and foremost is crucial. And then, uh, second to that would actually be that, uh, understanding where and when funding should come in and the impact it’s gonna have on your mission and your culture.

Clare Dobson (10:10):
And so do you like, so going about that, did you think that changed the culture at all? Like going right into the gate with investors versus more of the bootstrap version?

Kyle Burnett (10:21):
Well, I think we were, yeah, I would say it changed it because there was four or five of us that were already sort of bought in and hustling that we could self that Scott could kind of, self-fund a couple of us, um, to get it going. And so it was a handful of us working basically a closet of an office space and there was this cool us against whatever imaginary, you know, giant we’re going after that felt pretty good, the money as it would come in to kind of fund it, to get going was neat. And you go, wow, that cuz it’s validation. It’s, you know, it feels great for all the right reasons, but then it changes your metrics. So suddenly you were hyperfocused on the metrics that investors like to see and what, what metrics are gonna be sexy to the next investors.

Kyle Burnett (11:04):
Cause the first investors are in there to help you get to the next level and getting to the next level has to look a certain way in their minds. So they’re guiding you and coaching you and pushing you on, on metrics that look a certain way. So that you’re now an attractive property to the person with the thesis, the investors whose thesis aligns to that next level. Yeah. And so we wound up being, I think, a little too focused on that and not, and it creates, it created some disconnect of the team. Who’s like, look, I’m just trying to build stuff and I’m just trying to sell and I’m playing the sales engineer. So I’m trying to sell the stuff that’s not built and make sure we can build it and in a hurry. And I’m like, we can’t serve all of these masters at one time.

Kyle Burnett (11:43):
We can’t serve investor metrics at the same time as serving whatever we can get out of a client who’s trying to buy when we’re so early stage that we’re showing JPEGs on a screen, telling them it’s a product. And knowing that now I’m signing up to make sure that we have it built and working before they’re ready for it. Cuz it’s not real yet. Like it was too many masters at one time. And, and I think over the next year or two, what was really this still this ongoing struggle of the team is what were we, who were we really trying to serve? Were we really trying to serve the customers or are we trying to pigeonhole a customer into a story and a contract that fits our limited capabil capabilities, but aligns to our metrics to help us get the next money that we need. Yeah, absolutely. It’s, it’s too much to serve at one time

Clare Dobson (12:27):
And that’s a good point. So like, I mean with abstract right now, we’re, you know, working through the seed round, we’re trying to close on that soon. So there’s, it’s all these different things that are coming in as we will start having investors, um, dictating, Hey, you need to hit these metrics and these, but we also are building the team and, and we like, Greg has this amazing vision for what he wants to build in a company. And I think we’re all aligned with it. So we need to keep that in place cuz that’s like the sacred part of working for this company, what you get out of it, but also how do we hit these metrics that we have to hit? So there’s that fine line that you’re, you know, you’re really talking about there when you’re going into that.

Kyle Burnett (13:07):
Yeah. And into two and part of that is you’re also making this assumption of who you’re gonna meet in the future. Who’s gonna find you to be this attractive company. Um, I think Jim Armstrong, um, you know, huge fan of him and JDA investments and he was with canal partners. Yeah. And um, I think, you know, the way he tells us stories, you know, he built his company probably starting in the eighties, you know, to JDA software, which is a multi-billion dollar company. Like he rode that thing all the way up. He’s got a really great story on it, but it was bootstrap. It wasn’t an investor driven. So it was bootstrapped cash, customer money, probably plenty of debt and some other vehicles along the way. I don’t, you know, I don’t know their full finances, but they, it was a different time and you know, and he clearly it paid out, uh, for him to like probably the, I don’t know, tunes of billions of dollars.

Kyle Burnett (13:53):
Right? Yeah. So it’s a, it’s an old school unicorn that grew over 15 years, um, to his eventual, uh, exit that then he can turn around and fund, you know, hundreds of other companies easily and I’ll do great charitable work, but he told us when we were starting this, he said his advice was, I don’t care about the sexy metrics. He says, revenues, revenue is revenue. He says, you build that good company with the good culture, great pro great customers. And the other things will take care of themselves. Yeah. But that is that’s great was, but it’s completely contrary to other investors cause he wasn’t and two, but his, his thesis is kind of different of, he could keep funding it for his, you know, indefinitely if he wants to. So yeah, absolutely. Yes. He wants to grow it and get to the next level exit, make a multiple and keep playing the game. But his objective is completely different, which is, and off of his experience and you know, is do that. And that’s what I’m trying to do now with this company is, you know, and other ventures that we launch and people that I, you know, consult with is, you know, don’t, don’t have too many masters that you have to serve, especially an imaginary figure in the future who might appear on the horizon and you don’t know what it is that they really wanna know at that point.

Clare Dobson (15:03):
Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. That’s you know, it’s so insightful cuz I think, especially for my side of, I worked, uh, an agency was a small company, but not necessarily a wasn’t one of the first employees starting it. So going down this route with abstract has really allowed me to kind of see that side of it. And there’s so much education that just for, I think, any early stage of place learning the different steps, how all of that works with investment opportunities, I think, or really helps provide a little bit clearer picture, but let’s take a step back. So you talked about, you just love to work 80 hour weeks and all that fun stuff. How, I mean, when you’re a early stage employee, do you think that, I mean that type of ownership mindset, let’s say you’re not the co-founder you’re employee number four or five. Do you think that ownership type mindset is needed? Or what do you feel like really separates those successful early stage employees?

Kyle Burnett (16:03):
Um, ownership is everything we’re going through a kind of a revisit here at a little taller of our, you know, mission, vision values. Yeah. And how we align to this because I’m the, probably the worst at establishing that process of putting everything on a bit of a cadence there mm-hmm in instead. Cause I’m just a hustler and so yeah. Yeah. Um, so I’m like sell a bunch of stuff, get people in place, let’s build, keep feeding this. And so, um, uh, so I think I’m kinda losing my train of thought there a little bit. Sorry. All

Clare Dobson (16:34):
Good. It’s all good.

Kyle Burnett (16:35):
But I think, um, yep, totally gone now.

Clare Dobson (16:40):
well like, so for those early stage employees, do you think, oh sorry. Like yeah. Like the mindset, like what do you think has at least the people let’s say at little taller or even at Allbound um, cause you’ve mentioned Jenen and all that, like what’s made them successful.


Kyle Burnett (16:56):
Right. So Doug, thank you. I totally lost a train of thought there. Oh good. but no, it’s, it’s the same thing. It is ownership. And like, this is like I had this conversation yesterday of do we have only one core value, which is we take ownership of everything we do. Yeah. It’s like, is that our only core value? Okay. There’s probably a couple more that we should put in there, but I actually, and this is, and I’m having, I’m seeking honest feedback on this because I don’t know it any other way. Mm-hmm I mean, I’m an obsessive junkie. Like if one beer’s good, 27 must be fantastic. Right. so yeah like hell make it 28. What do I care more is better. Yeah. Um, and so I’m the absolute worst people should look at me, my work ethic, my, the way that I take things on and stuff and go that’s, that’s an edge case.
Kyle Burnett (17:40):
That’s an extreme back it off and they’re be smarter. Um, but I also, and I’m seeking this guidance from my team, cuz I don’t know how to tell them other than I’m biased towards this, but yet this is the pattern that probably with bias. I see out of people who are successful is that, you know, Jen Spencer came into Allbound early on and there was nobody that had more ownership, not she didn’t, you know, she didn’t have the equity stake, she didn’t have, uh, that level of ownership. She could get fired like the rest of, you know, like anyone else could, but she took actual ownership of this because you know, and she made an okay salary, but is not what she could have been making mm-hmm but she said, I’m gonna be all in on this all the time because she was investing herself.

Clare Dobson (18:22):

Yeah.

Kyle Burnett (18:23):
She sees that as like, yes, I’m investing in Allbound but I’m investing in my practice as mark is a voice of a company and as a future CRO and a future CEO, she looked at it and I can’t fully speak for her, but from the outside, I see that in hindsight, as she was investing in herself via investing in this company with that level of ownership. Cause I gotta tell you that the first people there in the morning and the last people out way, late at night and still on slack talking through the weekends, those are the people that were taking ownership. Se obviously there was the founder, there was me the co-founder the CTO mm-hmm sure it makes sense. We were doing that. Then it was Jen Spencer, the CMO. And then when Greg came on, he was a bit to that as the, you know, lead sales guy, it was Ryan Sherman, VP of product had Allbound he’s still there and still running the whole thing. Yeah. There was like, you know, Matt hens are on the customer success. There was a handful of us that were just all in as much as humanly possible at all time because you know, yeah, it was cool. It was neat. But I dare say that most people were like, they understood that what they did and invested could achieve this outcome for the company, but for them and for them, if not here at the next place.

Clare Dobson (19:29):
Yeah, exactly. Bob, all the time,

Kyle Burnett (19:32):
Even the current CEO, Daniel, and when he came in, it was the same thing. He leaves a, you know, a bigger job at a bigger company, cuts the salary in half to come take this gamble on this thing because he’s like, I see the vision for this company and the cool things you were doing for great customers and the great opportunity in the market. But also part two of that is that ridiculous career move is in, is the gamble in himself. And he’s like, I have to prove that I can go do this. So I’m investing in, Allbound nonstop all the time to my own detriment cuz I’m also investing in myself because yeah, what’s the story that works out. I mean, your resume’s just your resume. But the experience of what you do is when those jobs come to those jobs, come to you when you’re successful and you’re yeah. Be successful. However you think that you need to be successful, but I only know effort and time. That’s all I know.

Clare Dobson (20:22):
Well, it’s the controllables, right? You, you can’t necessarily control the outcome of the company, but you could control how much you put in. You can control the time you put in, in the quality. Like those are the controllables that I think that at least, I mean, we’ve seen too, like that’s, what’s made people successful here and we’re hoping it continues at, at abstract and the people we’re bringing on, we have employee number four and five starting in the next couple weeks. So we hope that continues with them as well. And we all kind of build, um, this team together.

Kyle Burnett (20:53):
Yeah. And that’s the, the hiring part is tough, um, of looking for able to come do this because I’ve all, we’ve all been on the other side of this too, where you’re like a job’s job, a job and you know, and you, and you’ve got your life balance and things that you’re looking to do. And sure. You’re looking for a good job where you’re a good fit, makes a good pay and all of that. And you balance that out. But I think in the end, most humans are, you know, on their Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the job fits in there to fuel the hierarchy of needs, which is cute in neat. If the job is actually self-actualizing over time. Yeah. But in most cases it’s not it you want to be told you’re smart and good and you’re doing a good job, but also you’d rather just have the money and not be there.

Clare Dobson (21:37):
That’s so, you know, it’s the pros and cons of it.

Kyle Burnett (21:40):
yeah. Jim Spencer used to say, uh, she said one time after we were struggling on the early hires, trying to bring people in at Allbound she says, man, people say they wanna be at a startup. They’re miserable where they are and they can’t stand it, but they wanna be over here to make a change to an impact. She goes, but in the end, I think they just wanna be able to wear sandals to work. Yeah. She’s like, that’s really what it is is they just want this, what they think is a sexier, neater, more interesting vision. But I cannot tell you how many humans we’ve interviewed over the years, who they’re sure as hell not gonna take the pay cut from where they are. Yeah. Then they’re wanna try to bring in a competitive thing. I’m like, I’m not in a competitive cell with you. I’m like a startup here with this tremendous opportunity. Mm-hmm , you’re, it’s on you to gamble the math and gamble on yourself that this, that something can work from this. Um, and so it’s, it’s definitely a bit of a mindset and I know the word startup’s a bit loaded too, because I think just saw yesterday, like the CEO of WeWork has a new startup, right. At a billion dollars. You can kiss my if you think that that’s a startup

Clare Dobson (22:40):
That’s no,

Kyle Burnett (22:41):
It’s, it’s not a startup. I mean there’s okay. So it’s a broad category, but I think you’ve got a really subdivide it down of, are you bootstrap? Pre-revenue, you know, are you investor funded and where are you? Because honestly, I got a better salary once we had investors than I was given paid before we had investors. And even then like that salary was nothing compared to what the market would pay. I would be if I was purely chasing the, the money in the salary right now, then I wouldn’t have done that because even my higher salary with investor money, the highest personal salary I’ve ever made, you know, just on pure salary, even then, like that sucked compared to what the market was. And there’s no chance I could find a replacement for myself. There’s no chance I could barely hire engineers, anyone to match that because why would they, they can literally go to GoDaddy or any old company and make way more and do way less. Why would they? Yeah.

Clare Dobson (23:33):
Well, and it’s the challenge I think. And you know, that was one big thing before I started Greg really emphasized that. He’s like, you know what, we could run outta money in a year. Like, that’s where we’re at. Like, do you, do you want, are you ready for that? And I think a lot of people hear that and they’re like, oh, we’ll be fine. We’ll be this. But literally every action that I take impacts whether we get to that point or not. And so it’s really like this, this risk, I didn’t really know I was taking because it’s like, I believe so much in Greg. And I think that’s so important for people who are evaluating startups and like a star, an actual startup, right. Not a billion dollar evaluation startup, but like believing in the, the founder and those leaders that are currently there. Like, do you see yourself? Like, are they creating a vision that you wanna be a part of? And I think that’s the bigger question people need to ask themselves.

Kyle Burnett (24:29):
Yeah. You’re kind of joining a bit of a cult

Clare Dobson (24:32):
Yeah. Yeah. In a sense, yes.

Kyle Burnett (24:34):
Signing over your worldly possessions. Well, I can, and I’m transparent on to a fall, so yeah. Um, by the time when I, you know, so we grew Allbound and when I left it to spin out to start this thing, I was at say 120 grand a year in salary, a very reasonable number for a, you know, a married, married man with not high. I don’t have expensive taste and I have no children so like, you know, I drive a beater old car, like on used tires. Like it’s just a, a thrifty person it’s in my nature. Yeah. So even still, that’s a very comfortable living now why salary? Everything’s great. And I make this choice to quit that to instantly go to $0 income. So I go to zero to start this new vision in this thing that I have. And, um, you know, and it’s, it’s work itself out four years later, I’m still only at $60,000 a year in salary because all I’ve done all along the way was just get to a spot in the first year where I gave made $40,000.

Kyle Burnett (25:30):
I didn’t lose any money other than the opportunity cost of having a higher paying job. So nothing went upside down, then COVID hit, but we got even busier. So we weren’t spending any personal money cuz we weren’t going anywhere. And then like things kind of could keep ticking up and it’s work itself out. But people ask all the time about starting something and what they should do in their life. And I’m like, it boils down to this type of finances that you can sustain and that you wanna sustain. Cuz you know, it’s, it’s very real, you know, to actually experience that, to go cut your salary to zero or cut your salary in half feel what that feels like. And then, and by the way, most of us can get by unless yes. You know, do we want to,

Clare Dobson (26:11):
You just don’t want to yeah. yeah, exactly.

Kyle Burnett (26:14):
Do you want to know? Cause I remember very distinctly like that Christmas on 2018, my wife and I drove up to target. We were Decker in the house. I wasn’t feeling super feted cuz I’m super stressed about my life decisions, but I’m trying to not be emotive mm-hmm um, cuz I’m clearly an open book. And so I’m trying to kind of like, no, no celebrate this, but as we’re walking through target, looking at lights and stuff, I was like, we don’t need to buy $6 lights to hang I’m. Like why? Like all I saw was dollar signs from that point forward and questioned every single thing that was happening in our lives. Mm-hmm and that’s a whole new level of point and stress cuz I haven’t, you know, very fortunate, but I have it probably in 15, 20 years cared about a dollar sign attached to something, unless it was a really massive item, you know, refrigerator breaks.

Kyle Burnett (26:59):
You go, okay, go buy another one. Yeah. All right. Like I don’t, you don’t think about it when you’re, you know, when money is okay. Mm-hmm and you know, you just don’t and that level of like thought process was very different that my wife could never quit the job that or our insurance was on her insurance. And again, we are with no kids, it was just the two of us navigating this that’s really hard. And so yeah, I think, I, I think that’s interesting that this is the first episode of the startup sidekick and basically my message to people is don’t do it, go get a normal job. Don’t be dumb. But,

Clare Dobson (27:33):
But

Kyle Burnett (27:33):
However, if you are definitely think of it from that level of, of how much can you cut down and get by on for how long for this vision, that, and again, back to what I said at the beginning of advocating for yourself, what’s your payout gonna be from this? And by the way, you cannot control if and when that might happen, but just making sure that you’re set up so that if, and when you do get there and you can take something off the table that you go, okay, this makes sense. And also understanding that so that as the company grows and as some of those things come into focus, you understand how that could positively impact you. So as with abstract, did you guys start to raise, you know, you and the team get to start looking at what’s my stake, what am I accruing? Where’s my ownership coming from? What could that actually mean to me so that you can constantly reevaluate how much longer you keep doing that. Because then as looking with that ownership methodology, you still need to advocate for yourself, your salary and your current things, cuz it’s gonna, it’s a real punch by the way, Claire, when you go to hire your next marketing person and you’re gonna pay them more than you pay yourself

Kyle Burnett (28:36):
And they’re gonna work

Clare Dobson (28:36):
Now forward to that part,

Kyle Burnett (28:38):
They’re gonna work less hours. They’re gonna do less stuff. They’re gonna barely make your life better, but they’re gonna make it better in ways that you need it to be better, but you’re gonna have to swallow that pill of they make more salary than you do because you’re looking for this longer term payout, you know? Yeah. Like, you’re look, you want the vision to happen. If you died tomorrow, you can’t take any of it with you anyways. So was it a more interesting ride along the way? Is there something that will sustain and if you do survive and it gets going somewhere, when will that, will that payout work for you? That that stuff does come into focus, but be ready for that. That’s the message for this. The salient takeaway is like cut it down. Figure out how long you can get by on nothing making that gamble.

Clare Dobson (29:18):
Yeah. And I think, I mean, I’ve always been, I mean I grew up, my parents had always taught me, you know, if you work hard, good things will come. Like that just was always kind of ingrained in me. But it’s, it’s the environment’s changed so much now that you have to have, I think a little bit more than just work hard. Right? You have to have that vision and you have to see that opportunity to have that hard work, pay off. Otherwise you’re just working hard for, for maybe no growth or no reason.

Kyle Burnett (29:48):
Yeah. I’d be lying if I said that it didn’t costly reevaluate, um, what we’re doing here. And I there’s three distinct times where I said I walked into my life and I go, I’m I’m, I’m done. You know? And she’s like, I know, you know, or to my business partner or someone else. And we’ve had multiple points where we’re like, something fundamentally has to change for us to keep doing this. And in fact, maybe that was said this past, you know, this week on Monday, but, uh, but something, but it is because we can, can, we can take these periodic check-ins and evaluate on a personal and professional level of what’s still working. What’s not working because this is a really tough one. Because as a founder, as a co-founder, as you know, as a service minded oriented person, who’s coming in to commit to a vision and do stuff, you will sacrifice yourself for the mission.

Kyle Burnett (30:36):
And you know, we just, it start up a Z this summer, we, you know, the, the retreat, it was focused all on mental health and it’s a perfect time for everybody, for a lot of reasons in, you know, global situations and whatnot. But, but it’s really important cuz we’ve now seen so much of us who are really similar minded who will much like our fearless leader, Greg at abstract. Yep. Win at all costs. Okay. That’s a great attribute, but also it needs to have a check and balance need to be reeled back in because he, we can’t have abstract when at all costs, we can’t have abstract. When at the cost of, you know, your, your health, happiness, your marriage, Greg’s health, happiness, his marriage, his kids’ health, happiness and growth. This, this has to support it. They have to be in equilibrium or balance or don’t do it.

Kyle Burnett (31:21):
And money is though, if you can’t figure out how to do it with less money and get by and that you do it for too long and that puts the family at risk, then don’t do it. That’s fine. Yeah. You’ll hear every clay go listen to podcast. Clay mass talked about Infusionsoft in their early days. Mm-hmm uh, multiple founders here in town have talked about that. The guy, the brothers who started insight, they’ve all talked about that with their spouses of like, how did they survive this along the way? What did they need to be doing to understand the risk is bigger than just, oh, it’s a job and some money. It’s like, no, it’s actually a much bigger risk to your health, happiness, your marriage and your family.

Clare Dobson (31:57):
Yeah. So on that, was it worth it? Is it worth it? Everything you’re doing like right now, looking back like

Kyle Burnett (32:05):

Clare Dobson (32:05):
Like, would you say it’s worth it in 10 years? Are you gonna say it’s worth it?

Kyle Burnett (32:12):
Um, I that’s it’s that’s a really nuanced probably there’s gotta be a bit of a nuanced answer for that. Mm-hmm I think that it’s worth it in that it’s job creation. So is it worth it for a lot of other people? Sure. Because we’ve created jobs. I mean we’ve launched Allbound and you know, and immediately created eight, 15 jobs over time. Yeah. Some of those jobs are stressful, painful. Didn’t work out. Things came and went ebb and flow of the scale up and down of startup life. But the company now just getting past the B round, which is a great time for me asking me if it was worth it getting past the B round, the company is, you know, debt free, well funded in growing really well. And they’re like 75 or a hundred employees. I mean, they have a whole engineering team in India, like trying to get to 40 people.

Kyle Burnett (32:57):
There that’s 40 families that, you know, their rent and their mortgages and their food and their kids’ educations are paid for by their effort at this company that we put together. Hell yeah, it was worth it. Absolutely sure. Could they get jobs somewhere else I guess, but it is a zero sum game. If we didn’t create this, those jobs don’t exist. That’s 40, that’s 70 less jobs. If I didn’t start a little taller. And then with again, the help of everyone who’s followed along, bought into my crazy Cultus vision and have shown up and just worked their asses off. We wouldn’t be at 40 employ, you know, 40 jobs here. And these are 40 jobs that are basically, I’m watching this. Now. We just had our first baby on the team. I’m a grand boss for the first time we had our first baby on the team she’s on maternity to leave and I’m like, wow, I’m, I’ve built a company that can sustain a maternity leave for God’s sakes.

Kyle Burnett (33:46):
How weird is that? I can pay people to not be here and have the baby split. That what, you know, we’ll have benefits kicking in January 1st because I’ve got a really young team, but haven’t needed it. But I’m like, we actually, we’ve built a company now that people can show up and their effort can be rewarded. Right. And so again, it’s them, not me, they’re the ones doing it, but yeah, that’s rewarding that. And I think about this on a quiet moment on a Sunday where I’m out digging in the yard, trying, trying to do something that’s not work and thinking, you know, like, is this still worth it? And I’m like, it’s worth it to the 40 people whose lives, you know, depend on it and that are driven by it. And then in the selfish moments, I’m like, what’s in it for me.

Kyle Burnett (34:26):
Okay. So I got, you know, Allbound God to be round and you know, I was fortunate to get, to pull some money off the table. Great. You go, oh, okay. There’s some, there’s some zeros in the bank account. Yeah. Pay. Guess what? So a bunch of that goes to 401k that I haven’t been paying, paying into for the past 10 years. Right. so it’s personal financial, like, you know, debt to myself going check retirement all. Yeah. So, but you know, a little reward to do something for yourself and you go, okay, neat. But that’s just. I mean, so I just, I work my off to get some money to acquire some. So what, like, I don’t derive pleasure from that. Maybe other people do, maybe you’ll go that Ferrari sitting out the driveway. Oh my God. It’s totally worth it. it is a, to me that is a completely pointless little endeavor.

Kyle Burnett (35:14):
I money solves problems and that’s about it. And, but I, like I say, for me, is it worth it? Yeah. Because it’s what I wanna do of launch things and see them happen and be successful and give people the opportunity to be successful. And so since that did work out at, Allbound absolutely worth it since it’s working out a little taller, absolutely holistically worth it day to day out, I questioned it. But you know, and my wife questions it where it’s in it for us. Absolutely. And I’m like, no. So I think that from that perspective, yes. If from the perspective of, was there an easier path for my life, this was not the easier path

Clare Dobson (35:50):
Mm-hmm so that’s a great way to put it the easiest path, you know, but you look at what you learned along the way and what you’ve been able to do. So something would’ve had to give right. If it was easier, cuz that’s just kind of how life works.

Kyle Burnett (36:04):
Yep.

Clare Dobson (36:04):
So what’s next. I mean, what’s next for a little taller for you. I mean, where do you, what do you wanna do?

Kyle Burnett (36:13):
Um, more schemes. So yeah,

Clare Dobson (36:16):

Kyle Burnett (36:17):
One of this, one of the, the vision that kind of had is always scaffolded. I mean, and, and I’m not that original, I’m just, you know, looking at other people’s patterns and seeing what might apply with what I’m doing. Mm-hmm but, um, the vision that we, that I personally had for Allbound is we were starting, it was that, that we would build up basically a MarTech platform. I mean, it’s channel part it’s, you know, channel basically it’s PRM partner relationship management, but it fits into MarTech stack. And so was because I’d seen the rise of a lot of other MarTech companies, which was, well, if you build a software and then you have services that are next to it, then a lot of people win mm-hmm . And I thought, well, if we build a platform and it’s got attack services, that means that it’s supporting the platform, then clearly the platform has been successful.

Kyle Burnett (37:03):
So I saw it as a bit of a vision and opportunity for that. And I’ve been fortunate to work with some of the early groups that spun out of life Infusionsoft now known as keep solve them, spin out, start services next to that, and how crucial the ecosystem was, but also how much of a broader impact it could actually make. So that was the vision was get Allbound to a certain spot, spin out, continue to perform services next to it. Let use that as sort of the cash flow to build up the agency, which we did and then bring on other services, keep growing the team. But then that was a stepping stone to what we really wanted to do with this, which is I wanted to build a shop that could design develop market, you know, design develop and market solutions, software, or even physical products were whatever we built scrub.

Kyle Burnett (37:46):
We design scrubs make scrubs. So, you know, that’s one of our investments, but I wanted to build a factory that I would have. So I would actually then have essentially my team that knows how to produce at cost to be able to invest in other ventures that we find interesting that we want to invest and start. So it was basically my way of bootstrapping, you know, being able to help bootstrap my funded software startup to my next company, to my next ventures. So that’s where we are now is that got it. The intro saying that we’re an agency and venture studio is because we’ve got three different products right now, and various stages of development that we’re funding to, to build, launch and sell pretty. And by the way, not super unique, plenty of most venture studios where agencies are wanna branch out. But, um, imagine the cool impact that that can have over time that we can help launch other companies. And that five years from now, we’re like, wow, there’s three companies out there all with 70 people approaching new rounds of funding and still growing or doing whatever their path is. You’re like, that’s a heck of an impact that you can, that you can make on the community.

Clare Dobson (38:51):
I would, I would say. So I think that’s awesome. And so keep looking out for that, cause I assume your, uh, three companies is not where we’re gonna leave off either. So , I assume it will grow. But what I mean, if our listeners audience, they wanna find you or learn about little taller, where should they go?

Kyle Burnett (39:10):
Um, obviously LinkedIn so they can find us right there. Finds me, find my partner Alexandra right there. Um, you know, and also Brandon Clark, our partner in the venture studio look him up as well. So he’s a heck of a person. So is Alex, um, they’re I, I’m surrounded by some very dynamic and smart people that are very community focused and I would absolutely encourage people to reach out to them, myself included. And um, but definitely those guys, obviously little taller.com, but um, otherwise now that C’s a bit of a thing we can get out and meet humans again. Yeah. You know that we might actually be fortunate to run into people around town as well. Um yeah. At various events.

Clare Dobson (39:53):
And if you could give, uh, any last pieces of advice or if there’s anything we didn’t talk about that you think is important for either people starting this journey or looking to start the journey, what would you tell them?

Kyle Burnett (40:05):
Boy, I think we’ve already thrown out most of the words on the topic. So perhaps is the, the light light endeavor is don’t do it. don’t

Clare Dobson (40:15):
Do it. That’s the gonna be the title. Don’t do it.

Kyle Burnett (40:18):
don’t do it, but, but mean you need that. You do need that honest, the honest pushback of, of that of immediately, like this is, it’s a really long struggle, hard path. Don’t do it. Second thing is probably look for patterns, look for strong mentorship, look for patterns of people who have done it. Look for people who can help you and also blow ideas up yours and give you the hard feedback and you know, and really question you, um, don’t just look for a thought, don’t look for a, a little bubble where you’re just an echo chamber that you’ve created. You know, everyone’s gonna tell you your stuff’s really, it’s a great idea. You should do that. They’re being polite. Everyone likes to be yes. And, and move stuff along. So find yourself some strong mentors, find yourself a good mentor network and, um, who will also blow things up, challenge your assumptions and hold you accountable to the things you need to do, um, in order for you to be successful at it and give yourself some timelines along the way and be super open and honest with your family about what you’re doing and give yourself the timelines for those things to work and know when to pull the rip cord when it’s not working.

Kyle Burnett (41:20):
Um, because whatever it is you’re thinking of starting, it is not more important than your faith than your family than your own personal health.

Clare Dobson (41:28):
I love it. What a way to end it. Kyle, thank you so much for joining us today. Uh, really appreciate it. And I, uh, I hope everyone got to that last part, cause I think, uh, that’s the key right there.

Kyle Burnett (41:39):
My pleasure. Thank you. And thanks for starting the podcast with me. I look forward to all the interesting episodes to follow and I also very much look forward to continuing to see you and Greg and the abstract team, uh, grow that and make a, the big impact in the sales community that you were making.

Clare Dobson (41:55):
Appreciate it. Thanks Kyle,

Outro (42:00):
Make sure to follow us on apple podcasts and Spotify or visit Abstrakt.aI to learn more, keep kicking, peace out.

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Author

Clare Dobson - VP of Marketing

With experience from SaaS to home services to non-profits, Clare has built proven marketing strategies for various customers. She is passionate about the customer’s success as well as empowering those around her each and everyday.