SHOTS FIRED w/ Ryan Gill

By 2020, over 40 million Americans are predicted to be part the GIG ECONOMY. As such, platforms whose goal it is to support freelancers and solopreneurs are hotter than ever. However, not all platforms are created equal. The boys sat down with Communo CEO and co-founder Ryan Gill to dig into this smokin' hot trend.

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Announcer: Hide your kids. Lock the doors. You're listening to HR's most dangerous podcast. Chad Sowash and Joel Cheesman are here to punch the recruiting industry right where it hurts. Complete with with breaking news, brash opinion, and loads of snark, buckle up boys and girls, it's time for the Chad and Cheese Podcast.

Joel: Che, che, che, che, check it. We just can't get away from the Canadians. That's all I'm saying.

Chad: Can't. Can't.

Joel: Guys, special show today. We have Ryan Gill co-founder of Communo, co-founder of The Gathering?

Ryan: Yup.

Joel: The number one marketing conference in the world according to multiple reputable sources.

Chad: According to Chad Sowash, that's for damn sure.

Joel: Who are reputable, yeah. Ryan, welcome to the show, man. It's an honor to have you on.

Ryan: Hey guys, thanks for having me. I'm pumped for this. Let's get into it.

Joel: It is technically your second appearance, although the first appearance we were all a little bit inebriated I guess you could say? So hopefully you remember the first interview.

Ryan: You guys were I wasn't.

Chad: Yeah, uh huh.

Joel: I was being nice.

Chad: Just again, for the audience, for listeners, we met Ryan at the gathering last year and just blown away by what was going on. And then we learned about Communo, which is a marketplace. Joel and I are totally geeked out, we love marketplaces. We're seeing a lot going on out there, and we thought, hell, let's bring Ryan on, he's CEO co-founder of Communo, have an expert who's in this every day and talk about marketplaces, gig economy, the now, the tomorrow, kind of the evolution. So that's kind of the setup.

Joel: By the way, the only thing we love more than marketplaces, is Ryan Gill. So how appropriate that he's on the show today.

Ryan: Yeah, that's what I like to hear.

Joel: So, few of our listeners know who you are, so give us a brief on what you do and what sort of gives you energy, and then we'll go into Communo because a lot of our audience has never heard of Communo, but they probably should.

Ryan: Yeah. Really, the Coles Notes version is, I think from a high level for those that want to get to know me just as a human, is I've been in businesses 21 years, that'll be coming up, of running businesses, starting them. But I think in the last decade I became a bit more self-aware to know that I'm a true entrepreneur founder CEO, not an operating CEO. So that's a little weird background to start. But I basically became more self-aware about who I am and what I'm good at the last 10 years, and more closely the last five years that I'm really good at starting businesses, building the culture, building the core founding team, and then getting the hell out of the way because I'm an awful operator. So, that's who I am as a person. Everyone says serial entrepreneur. I hate that word. I have multiple companies but one vocation and it's building communities.

Joel: And I'm going to give you a little shout out in that if you don't follow Ryan on LinkedIn, the videos that you produce on a regular basis are fantastic.

Chad: Dabs.

Ryan: Dabs.

Joel: I just love the vibe and sort of the off the cuff. I feel like you say like, "Hey man, roll the camera," and then you just have thoughts just spin off your head. It's great.

Ryan: Yeah. Thanks for the shout out. And on Instagram it's @RyanGillShares or Twitter or Facebook it's Ryan Gill Shares. Follow, and why it's important, and for me it's not a plug because it's actually, most of its embarrassing or some might think, "Why are you sharing that?" But the premise of Ryan Gill Shares and why we started doing it about 18 months ago, it's very, very new, is I built many companies and had lots of success and lots of failures, and I chose to do this new startup Communo in the marketplace business, which we're going to get to today, in the ad tech space, and when I did it I said, "You know what, I love podcasts, I love watching content on social, I think social can be great, but it's often waxing poetic about what happened after they'd been successful or they'd been a failure."

Ryan: I was like, "What if we could document the journey of the whole thing from the startup, the idea, to fundraising, to building your company, and then almost like a movie, play it back in a couple of years, three years, and then people can actually learn as we go." So it is off the cuff and it isn't scripted. It's whatever we feel is important to show about that journey of being an entrepreneur, which a lot of people don't show the good and the bad and the ugly. And, you know, we only put out about 30 seconds a day or a minute a day, and then we do 10 minute vlogs on Monday. Dabs films for like 12 hours. If we can't get 30 seconds, we're pretty horrible. So [crosstalk 00:06:04], but Dabs makes magic out of 12 hours of film.

Chad: He does. He does. So let's jump into this. So we want to talk about marketplaces today. Tell us a little bit about Communo. It is more of a niche type of a marketplace. And then we'll start to spin off into kind of like what you're saying now in marketplaces and move from there.

Ryan: Well everyone that's listening, if you understand marketplaces and obviously HR and just talent, it goes like wide, narrow, wide, narrow. So Craigslist, one link on Craigslist was like bed and breakfast, you know, homes for rent, and Airbnb built a $100 billion company out of one list of Craigslist back in the day, one niche. And then it goes narrow, and then it goes wide again. You see like or Upwork goes wide. And I think, I'm betting on this, that it's going niche again. So although what I'm building with Communo was for advertising marketing professionals, that includes digital PR, everything that touch communications, it's a $35 billion industry when it comes to just the talent recruitment industry for this niche. So yeah, it's a small niche, but it's fucking massive.

Ryan: And so we started it about a year and a half ago. I stepped down from my other companies that I still own but don't operate anymore, and I took on the role about almost ... so we started a year and a half ago, about a year ago I took on the role as CEO and as a co-founder, and we're building a marketplace so people have real time access to the keywords, vetted talent, which is a managed marketplace. So millions of small and large agencies and solopreneurs can grow by getting and giving work more profitably. And the genesis of it is, it all comes from the top down. The clients' projects are not one, two year projects anymore. They're one month, six month projects, and you can't possibly staff for that. It's impossible from a model perspective. There's such a need for it and we built it for ourselves to start with, and then, you know, last year this time we had a hundred users, now we're up to 40,000 users. So the market has told us it's a good idea.

Chad: Holy shit dude. 40,000 users. Damn. So the cool part, and I mean this was really born out of your need through Cult, right, to be able to staff up and down quickly. So instead of going and building FTE shops, it just made sense to be able to be more fluid with the projects. So tell us a little bit about that and how the platform started to come together.

Ryan: It's a very important point here, I'm glad you asked that. The FTE shop and the agency model isn't going away and Communo is not a disruptor, we're an innovator. It's a layer on top. It's a new piece of operating like QuickBooks would be or like ... It's literally the plumbing and so we're not going to displace the agencies. They're definitely going to get a lot smaller. And when Chris and I merged ... So Chris bought my other company, I had a digital agency called Suitcase Interactive through really late 90s early 2000s, and Chris Kneeland, my co-founder in my other businesses, when we merged and he bought my company, his first thing he said to me is like, we are peanut butter jam. He's like, "We want to go from tons of employees down to as low as we can go as far as FTEs and let's try this continuing workforce model," which we managed on a spreadsheet back in the day, "And see if it can work and see if it affects our top line and our bottom line. Let's do an experiment."

Ryan: So from day one, this is 2011, we operated like that and started to narrow down our company, which was called Cult Collective. It's still is, it's a marketing engagement firm that does work for fortune 500 companies around North America. It's very successful and done well. But I would argue our biggest piece of success and why it was successful was our operating model. That's not sexy until it is, right? And so, people started asking questions, "How are you doing that? How are you growing with such a nimble small team?" And we're like, we used to have lots of people and we've narrowed down, but we had a bench of contingent workers, gig workers, that we knew were great and we could bring them in and they could do a project and then we didn't have to fire them afterwards because they didn't work for us. They were moving on to someone else.

Ryan: We started coining the term portfolio careers and I think it became popular by someone else. But Chris and I said, "Go out, we don't have a job for you for 1200, 1500 hours for the year, but we have like 300 hours. Go work for our competitors. It's fine. It's not a zero sum game." And not only did the talent love it, that worked for us, we loved it because it made us more profitable. So our top line continued to grow and our bottom line exploded because we didn't have this utilization problem that all agencies and most companies deal with when it comes to human capital.

Ryan: We're in the business in advertising and marketing that our product is people. We can't have products sitting on the shelf for six months and not being used. That causes a problem. So we solved it through ... At the time it was called The Collective and now it's morphed into Communo. The best startups, people that are listening, are usually ones that are built for yourself to fulfill a need. And we did that.

Chad: Yeah, Slack.

Joel: Yeah, Slack. A constant criticism of platforms is sort of the race to the bottom in terms of wages. How does Communo fight that and what are sort of your thoughts on how Upwork and Fiverr and whatnot are really driving down the cost for a lot of professionals?

Ryan: Yeah. I have friends at Upwork and Fiverr and Freelancer, so I love them. So that's a little asterisk beside what I'm about