Assessing our past to inform our future.
Assessing our past to inform our future.
Dear EE Members, Partners, Clients & Friends,
What a year. I feel I’ve lived a lifetime in the last 12 months.
2022 wasn’t the year I thought it’d be, but on reflection, it’s the year I and the business needed. Here’s my recap from start to finish. Please enjoy.
Landing Page: EE Membership for professionals.
Q1: EE Membership
2022 began with the launch of our membership for professionals. I’d spent the latter parts of 2021 building out the bundle, so my focus coming into the new year was to grow our base. I felt the optimal way to do this was to double down on what we were best at – curating bespoke experiences that people would never forget.
Our retreats were such a smash hit in 2021. People couldn’t believe what we could do, where we could go and who we could meet in places we’d never stepped foot in.
We’d proven we were the best weekend in town in 9 different cities – Austin, Charleston, Savannah, Phoenix, Atlanta, Chicago, Providence, D.C. and Denver.
I lost count of the locals who told me we made them feel like guests in their own city—a huge compliment, especially given the times. Nobody else was convening, period. Let alone doing it well.
However, the nature of the retreats – 1-2x per quarter at $X,000/PP – meant they weren’t suited to new member acquisition.
‘Free’ weekends post-pandemic were like gold dust. It was a perpetual wedding season. Plus, it was a tougher sell to get locals to stump up thousands of dollars to ‘experience’ the city they already lived in, even if it was a life-changing time.
In a sense, I understood. But it grew frustrating, akin to performing the best concert of your life every night in an empty stadium, except for the group of travelling hardcore fans (our members) who already loved you.
After nine cities, enough was enough.
It was time for a new approach.
A stunning pour from our tasting in New York City.
Saturday Monday Club
I realized I didn’t need an entire weekend to show prospective members how good we were. I just needed one night.
So, I started curating monthly experiences (e.g. chef’s table dinners, natural wine tastings) in the home cities of our members. In short: take what had always worked for us – experiences – but make them more accessible in time, cost and frequency.
The Saturday Club was born and quickly renamed the Monday Club – the night of the week we hosted these experiences.
The thesis was to create something unique to which people couldn’t say no. Excellent wine, food, charcuterie, people and conversation were hard to turn down, especially on a Monday evening.
We wanted to create a shared experience on both a local and national level, so each city received the same six bottles of wine, and we worked through the tasting in real time together.
Chris would hear reactions, field questions and educate us on the world of natural vino for 30-60 minutes. Then, we’d close the laptops and get into an off-the-record conversation.
We used conversation menus from the School of Life to select questions and drain the rest of the wine as we listened to each other’s answers. By bottle #3, the best ideas and stories were flowing.
Existing EE members hosted these tastings, sometimes literally at their homes but mostly figuratively in terms of taking the lead on sending out invitations to their network.
I’d choose a different city to travel to each week, which meant I spent most of Q1 bouncing between New York, Memphis, Chicago, Rhode Island, Boston, Nashville and Miami.
This was immensely valuable. I could simultaneously deepen my relationship with members whom I typically only saw a few times a year and build new ones with prospects who were desperately curious to meet “the man behind all this”. We had all the ingredients we needed.
Natural wine got people’s attention. People quickly fell in love after their first sip. It was (relatively) easy to ship. Delicious. It brought people’s guard down and enabled me to quickly meet an immense number of cool new people. And regardless of where I flew, I was always back home in Chicago in plenty of time for Tuesday night dinner.
Above all, the tastings proved that EE could broaden people’s horizons on something as fundamental to daily life as wine.
My point to prospective members was: if we could do that on a Monday in a few minutes with wine, what could we do in a few years with your career?
The StartCo Tent at World Championship of BBQ.
Q2: BBQ Fest
Our tastings continued to get bigger and better, with the natural crescendo coming to its peak in May at The World Championship of BBQ in Memphis, TN.
Having completed tastings at the homes of two Memphians in January and April, we were invited to do a third tasting at The World Championships (BBQ Fest) by Chairman & CEO of StartCo Eric Matthews and his partner Jillian Friot.
This tasting wasn’t at a home or hotel but atop a $60,000 scaffold structure that served as StartCo’s corporate hospitality tent for the weekend. I put 12 bottles of natural wine in a borrowed wine suitcase (thanks, Bryan), and we completed a 27-person tasting on the top floor of the tent.
The sun was shining. EE member Othman O’Malley and I were slinging delicious natural and ancient vino to some disco tracks.
It was badass. Guests said it was the best thing to happen all weekend at BBQ Fest. Entrepreneurs came up to me and said: “can you do this for my investors and my VIP clients?”
I walked away proud. But also profoundly unsettled. After all, this was not the reaction I was expecting. I decided to curate experiences to drive memberships. Instead, I was being asked to bring EE experiences into the community said person cared most about, be that work, family or life.
As I looked at hundreds of similar hospitality tents and structures – costing anywhere from $10-$100,000+ – I realized this was no mean feat.
However, it was clear that we were on the wrong end of things. Creating experiences for individuals was fun.
But it meant we were priced and therefore paid against what consumers thought wine tastings cost, rather than the value of what we delivered – the best experience at BBQ Fest – which was priceless.
The opportunity of what we created was far greater than I’d ever imagined. It certainly eclipsed the ceiling of my proposed membership drive.
If this one scaffold structure at BBQ Fest cost $60,000, and we were the best thing on it all weekend, that meant we were worth at least the cost of the structure.
A snap of the Great Scotland Yard Hotel in London.
With our second retreat of the year rapidly approaching in June, my attention quickly shifted gears post-BBQ Fest.
We’d ventured to Miami in March but were off to London this time. This was a big deal, not just because it was a return to my hometown nine years after I’d moved to the USA. But more so because it was our first international retreat.
Getting people on a domestic flight for a weekend in Charleston is one thing. It’s another to take them across the Atlantic.
On the surface, this retreat had everything. We sold out and had 12 Americans fly over. We stayed at the Great Scotland Yard Hotel – the only 5* Hyatt Unbound Collection property in London.
Our time was punctuated with hidden whiskey bars, chef’s table dinners at The Laughing Heart, Noble Rot and Portland, insane natural wines from Kent to Greece, incredible plays at the National Theatre and even a guided bike tour from yours truly around the city.
The weekend ended with a delicious Sunday lunch at my childhood home courtesy of my mother. Most attendees had departing flights to catch, but a few folks didn’t fly out until Monday, so we sat in my garden and reflected on the weekend.
Each person said that the time at my home on Sunday was, by far and away, their favourite moment of the entire retreat.
Similar to BBQ Fest, I was chuffed. But also profoundly unsettled. Again, guests did not have the takeaways I thought they would. Like I can’t wait for the next one or let me invite all my friends.
The disconnect told me that something was still missing. I just didn’t know what.
The essentials of my thought week.
Q3: The Pivot
Once everybody departed on Monday, I finally had the chance to decompress and reflect on the year thus far.
I had a clear calendar until Friday and vowed to have my own Bill Gates thought week. No meetings. Just me, myself and I in my garden, journal in hand, basking in the glorious sunshine.
The perfect way to do some soul-searching.
It wasn’t long before those same Memphis thoughts began to bubble up. But I didn’t know what to do with them. And I felt hopelessly stuck.
The week rolled by quickly, and I made seemingly little progress. Friday arrived, and duty called, so I hopped on the bus to Highgate for a coffee with Williams Lewis – Former CEO of the Dow Jones & Publisher of the Wall Street Journal.
I recapped Will on EE’s year thus far.
Before I could even get to Memphis, he said: “my immediate reaction is there’s a huge B2B play here.”
Will explained that he felt nobody had yet figured out hybrid work. He’d observed employees desperate to travel the world after being trapped inside for so long, juxtaposed against employers who were desperate to get their people back in the office after being out of their purview for so long.
Add to that a looming recession plus a recoil in the stock market; organisations had to start focusing on bringing their people together in cost-effective and non-traditional ways.
Given we’d spent the last 3 years convening top professionals in unique transient ways across the globe, Will felt we had a compelling pitch to do this for corporations, executive teams and even traditional conference conveners.
The hour flew by. Will asked me to prepare an Amazon-esque press release that he could send to a few executives he knew needed my help.
A pivot was on.
The view from my desk. The place I spent countless hours at for the makeover.
Things moved fast after that coffee with Will on Friday, June 24.
I flew back to the USA the following Monday and immediately got to work on the press release. It was brutal, but I could feel myself getting unstuck.
While I’d read copious articles and tweetstorms about Bezo’s detest for PowerPoint and his thesis behind the power of the written memo, I’d never created one for myself.
I leaned hard on our core members for feedback, got a final draft complete within 2 weeks and received the green light from Will during our follow-up call on July 26.
With the press release complete, it was time to redesign the EE website and finalize the B2B product mix.
I dove deep into the world of B2B2C and B2B SaaS subscription models. It was so much fun. I found it so energizing and clarifying.
The website less so. One of the hardest things about being a solopreneur is maintaining your website. It’s a lot of work, especially when you’re pivoting, as it is constantly a lagging indicator of everything you’ve done and takes time.
However, I’ve always believed that if something is not on your website, people do not know it exists. For right or wrong, I treat it as a digital ledger and enjoy the challenge of taking an idea that is written and finding ways to display it digitally in a compelling way.
EE had been in business for 3.5 years at this point. Yet I’d never constructed a formal social media post or announcement that let people know 1) that we were in business and 2) who we were, and 3) what services and products we sold.
Partly because the work so consumed me.
EE’s always had clients from Day #1, and as a bootstrapped founder, I’m often laser-focused on educating and delighting customers over the world at large.
But really, it was because I didn’t know what we wanted to be when we grew up. It’s a lot of effort to tell people you’re one thing and then become another. And I was perpetually fearful of being put in a box early on.
What’s funny is this time felt different. I didn’t harbour any of those feelings.
This pivot felt right and provided a concrete way for us to simultaneously delight professionals and corporations. It would have been easy to push out the final version of the press release on our website, social and via email.
How could I do both effortlessly?
My State of the Union address.
After some thought, I decided this was the perfect moment for EE to “go public”.
This meant more work than designing a few website pages around the new press release. But it felt right. Coincidentally, the day one of our members suggested I make a launch video was the day I got off the waitlist for the Opal C1 webcam.
My apartment shifted into a makeshift daytime studio. And the rest was history. Launch videos in hand, we went public as the world’s first workplace concierge on Sept 1st. Just 69 days after that first coffee with Will and 110 days since BBQ Fest.
Our marketing collateral explained that while we’d traditionally made our money B2C from professionals via course fees, event tickets, membership fees, and affiliate revenue, we’d now built a B2B subscription product for corporations.
The B2B subscription had two components.
The first was the number of experiences a business wanted EE to curate per annum. This could be anything from an all-company off-site to an executive team retreat or VIP client dinner.
The second piece was the number of seats businesses wanted for their staff on EE’s platform. Each seat came with unlimited use of our talent collective, travel platform, concierge, and our broader suite of professional development tools.
The goal was to thread the needle between professional development, experiences and convening, which we felt made up the bulk of the blueprint for the modern-day workplace.
We could simultaneously act as a professional concierge for organisations and individuals, providing access to the cutting-edge experiences, talent, tools and services they need to thrive in the new world of work.
It was the foundation of a new operating system companies could use to thrive in the modern era.
3x Bib Gourmand Chef Mark Steuer receives an ovation at EE x Funkenhausen’s Chef’s Table.
I knew if we built something sought-after by professionals, our success with the corporations they represent was inevitable.
My hunch proved to be true. 10 weeks after going public, we signed our first B2B partner for 2023.
That first yes is everything. And I was delighted it came from a Chicago-based hospitality group that was proliferating and thinking differently about the future of their industry.
They signed on for us to curate 3 experiences for them in 2023—one for top staff, one for top customers and one for a hybrid of the two.
They looked at EE’s experiences as a way to simultaneously invest and reward their team – which is proving even more critical in such a fickle labour market – while increasing their bond with and lifetime value (LTV) of their top customers.
In addition, they purchased 6 seats on the EE platform for the highest-performing members of their team.
The group is aware that hospitality is not perceived as a lifelong workplace where you can expect to receive the same opportunities for development that would be table stakes at a startup or corporate America.
They saw a chance to buck that trend by partnering with EE, and we’re thrilled to have the opportunity to redefine what success in hospitality looks like.
To sum, instead of creating B2C experiences solely for the benefit of our members, our B2B product enabled us to take the infrastructure (expertise, services, technology) we’ve created to build the EE community and lend it to our clients to make an impact on the health of their business.
It’s a win-win for all.
The launch of our investment arm.
Ever since EE began in 2019, I’ve aspired to build an investment arm.
It’s a natural extension of the business we’ve built and the infrastructure we provide to innovators worldwide.
Therefore, when approached by the Head Chef & Founder of the hospitality group to raise the remaining $250,000 of capital required to launch his latest concept, it felt like the perfect moment to actualize the final piece of the vision board.
The universe spoke. I listened.
Everyday Capital was born.
It’s important to note that we’re not a traditional venture firm like Sequoia or a venture company like a16z. We’re not a “Solo Capitalist” like Packy McCormick or a “Solo GP” like Nichole Wischoff.
EE is a globally networked community organized in a way that has transferable value to our end-users (e.g. clients, members, partners).
Like many communities, we are steeped in social, cultural and experiential capital. But unlike any, we’ve built a suite of products (e.g. retreats, courses), services (e.g. creative, coaching) and technology (e.g. travel, SSO) on top of our community that makes the accessibility of our capital flows effortless for our partners.
Everyday Capital is a venture community.
But we’re not chasing unicorn exits. Rather just focused on being an excellent source of holistic, multi-dimensional capital for innovators worldwide.
We can bring you great hires. Expose you to cutting-edge technology and expertise. Help you craft your story. Gather your people or convene your VIP clients with meaning and impact.
In short: we provide innovators with the holistic infrastructure and capital they need to level up in their professional and personal lives.
Journaling on our future by reflecting on our past.
2023: Looking Ahead
As I look ahead to next year, there’s one question, a story and a few quotes I’m leaning on for inspiration and guidance.
I’ll start first with the question.
What am I being given the chance to do?
In 2023, I’m being given the chance to get on the right side of things.
Doing so means letting go of the things that have kept me on the wrong side.
The good news is our activities don’t have to change (e.g. advising, convening, educating). Those are evergreen.
But what must and has already changed is the fundamental structure and end-users behind them.
To ensure I do this effectively, I’ve decided to wind down our cohort-based course (Breakouts), year-long fellowship (The School), conversation and dining society (The Saturday Club) and professional-facing membership (EE Membership)
I’ll still be working with a select group of our highest-performing professionals in an advisory capacity in 2023.
But the lion’s share of my focus will be growing our B2B business (e.g. curating offsites, VIP experiences), supporting innovators through Everyday Capital (e.g. funding people we believe in), and driving business to the partners in our EE Marketplace (e.g. travel with Spotnana, trip planning with Uproute Travel, brand design with GoodStuff Design Co. & real-estate with Compass’ The Scott Group).
The work doesn’t change at all. It’s just the aperture, the point of integration and, therefore, the focus of it all.
I’m still committed to the principles this business was founded on. But I’m getting on the right side and getting my value.
If we can get this right in 2023, it’ll give us more time, opportunity and resources to continue investing in the business and completing our unfinished projects.
Without giving away too much, I’m keen to do a proper build-out of our library, create our own version of Tribe of Mentors off the back of our outstanding members, the broader EE community, hard-hitting podcast guests, as well as finally develop a killer analogue presence (e.g. physical magazine) and a corresponding print capability that our clients can leverage as part of our ever-growing holistic infrastructure.
The story I’m leaning on is one a great mentor once told me about her interview with Guy Oseary.
Guy asked if she’d ever seen something before it happened. My mentor responded that she’d seen Dua Lipa perform years before her rise to fame at a small club in LA and knew she’d be a star.
Guy followed up bluntly with: “well, what did you do about it?”
What I took away is that it doesn’t matter if you can see the future. What matters is whether you act on it. And how can you do so at that moment.
You could go to Dua Lipa’s shows and buy all her albums. But what if you could invest in her before anybody else did? You’re doing something in both scenarios, but the latter has a drastically better outcome than the former, even though the “doing” is based on the same fundamental belief that you think Dua Lipa will make it.
With the launch of Everyday Capital, I finally feel we have the power to act on the future we’re seeing and creating and do so in a way that begets us the value we deserve.
I’m tired of saying, “I told you so”, or “we were on that years ago.” We may as well go and make something of it. Put our money where our mouth is. And bet on the people we believe in.
Now, for the quotes that will guide me.
The first is from Tolstoy. The second and third focus on growing your customer base and demand. And the fourth is about pursuing your ideas.
1. “It was only necessary for him to concentrate his attention for a few moments and the spirit moved him, and the best possible decision presented itself as though an inner voice had told him what to do.”
2. “The goal of your front-end offer is to acquire customers, not make a profit.”
― unknown, Twitter
3. “You can’t create demand. Only redirect it.”
― unknown, Twitter
4. “Any great idea is worth doing 5 years from the time you start thinking about it to the time you stop.”
These quotes are a reminder that EE is still in its early days. I feel good about our trajectory. I’m proud of our accomplishments thus far and excited for the new horizons 2023 will inevitably bring.
So with that, please sit down and strap in.
We’re ready to ride.