Chris is driven by an obsession with problem solving, and deep seated frustration with every-day waste and inefficiency. Having spent his career listening to magical solutions that might solve problems “later,” you could say that Chris is a visionary with no time for vision, instead choosing to focus his life and his career on problems that can be solved right now. His passion is undergirded by a unique knowledge set ranging from the chemical to the regulatory to the technical, allowing Chris to see opportunities and imagine solutions invisible to many in the world of waste and recycling. When not obsessing over work, you’ll find Chris swimming or fishing in, near or on water.
John Shegerian: This edition of the Impact Podcast is brought to you by The Marketing Masters. The Marketing Masters is a boutique marketing agency offering website development and digital marketing services to small and medium businesses across America. For more information on how they can help you grow your business online. Please visit themarketingmasters.com.
John: Welcome to another edition of the Impact Podcast. I am John Shegerian and I am so excited to have my good friend Chris Ripley with us today. He is the Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of Smarter Sorting. Welcome to the Impact Podcast Chris.
Chris Ripley: Thanks John, I am really excited to be a part of this and have this conversation with you today.
John: Oh, well, this is a true honor for me because when junkies get together, when serial entrepreneurs junkie get together, we get to nerd out. So to me, this is a nerd out conversation where I get to have someone younger and smarter than me on the Impact Podcast talking about all things that you are doing to make the world a better place and I know your brand is. But before we get talking about Smarter Sorting, I want you to share with our listeners a little bit of the “Chris Ripley Journey” leading up to Smarter Sorting and all the success you have already had in your wake of great serial entrepreneurship businesses that you have created before Smarter Sorting.
Chris: Well, thank you for all of that. I remember the first time we talked, it was about two hours of nerding out. That was really cool. I remember that conversation.
John: Me too.
Chris: Smarter Sorting is the culmination of so many different weird journeys and I think that is a thing that all serial entrepreneurs have in common, where they are today and where they were twenty years ago. Most of them can not really trace back clearly with a straight line. They certainly did not know that they were going to be doing this thing. And that is for me too. So, you know, I started off my first venture-backed or college — sorry. My first venture-backed company was in college and that was a big data play, back when words like big data were not a thing and we were selling textbooks and it was pretty great. We raised a quite a bit of money and it was a lot of fun.
Chris: This guy, you may have heard of Jeff. He is also selling textbooks and you know, he became the richest man in the world. So he did a little bit better than we did but we learned a ton. We learned about really what happens when you take something. I think we can all remember back when we thought about the world as sort of an ordered place and that if it was a good idea, it had to work. And really then ran that into the big bureaucracy and we had to deal with government because there were all these regulations about shipping books. Believe it or not. Most favored nation status things came in and then stuff like, you know, just the data problems that are still plaguing companies today. Gosh, we see it today with the Taylor Still where they are having sort of 1990s issues with data. And so that was the first step.
Chris: Then I got into the chemical formulation business. Actually, I am lucky enough to have a couple patents granted to me. I manufactured some adhesives and some paints and what a weird part of the journey that was because, in terms of going from big math, big data, really complex high technology to making paint and adhesive the same way they were doing in 1950s and that was really a quality story about understanding how to source materials and that piece. I did not ever think that if you fast forward after maybe four or five other ventures, some of them venture-backed, that we would get Smarter Sorting and that Smarter Sorting would essentially be the marriage between big data and chemistry, the pieces and parts of what makes a thing. So I could not imagine a better training syllabus for the problem that we are solving right now and it is exhilarating every day.
John: So for our listeners out there, to learn more about Smarter Sorting go to the website which is just simply gorgeous. I am on it right now. You go to www.smartersorting.com. Chris, when did you start Smarter Sorting now that we know the backstory? When did you start it?
Chris: So actually how it got started is really weird. I had a business, an adhesive business. You see me in Austin, Texas and I just moved. I just moved the business here and this is in 2010 and I ran into a woman covered in paint in Walmart. It kind of looks funny a little bit. I said, “Hey, did you get any on the wall?” And she looked at me with these laser eyes like, “What do you do for a living?”. “I manufacture paint. What do you do for a living?” And she said, “I manufacture paint.” Now we are both looking at each other and we are both a hundred percent certain that the other is lying. So I say to her, you know, “Who do you manufacture paint for?” and she goes, “The city of Austin.” Now, I am a hundred percent sure she lied. What the heck is a city doing manufacturing paint? and she could tell that I am having none of it. She said, “You want to see?” and I said, “Yeah, I want to see.” So we went literally across the street or more of a highway, but you get the idea, really close by.
Chris: I see them unloading the backs of cars and I do not know who these cars belong to but there is a line of them and they keep taking out all of these chemicals which end up being a lot of paint and then they put them in these big cardboard containers. And then she takes me to another piece where there is another part of the facility. Where they are dumping that paint in the drums and trying to reconstitute into usable product and I was like, this is the coolest thing ever. And so I did a pro bono project for a few months at the city of Austin trying to help them turn that into a viable operation, which I am really excited to say we have and you can visit it here at Austin. They have got a great recycled paint facility and a great recycle paint product which I am really proud to be part of that.
Chris: One day I am trying to clean this big paint disperser. I think about it like a KitchenAid mixer that is about 10 feet tall and I am you know, they are on one of my days off trying to help them do it and they got all these bins with chemicals and I have not really figured out what all has about. Yeah, the big focused on the paint and I walked over and I went to go pick up a gallon of brand-new acetone because I had seen it there earlier in the day and I stepped across a painted yellow line on the concrete. I really mean this, this is not figurative, and as I stepped across it, three people immediately reacted. One person actually started crying, another person started yelling and another person started walking in tight circles. And what I had done is I crossed the line. Now I am in the Hazardous Waste Zone. That is not what it is regularly called, but that is literally what is happening.
Chris: Now I am picking up this brand-new gallon of acetone and they are yelling, “That is hazardous waste! You can not touch that!” I am like, “What do you mean? It is brand-new!” and that person comes down, begs me to put it down and they are sweating. There is fear in their eyes to put the thing down. I said, “What is going on? I just need this so I am going to go clean the paint in this.” They said, “No, no, no. Go in the office, get the credit card, you can expense it, but you can not use this.” I said, “Why?” They said, “Well, we sold it.” I said, “Who did? What did you? Oh, I do not want to steal from someone. Excuse me, who did you sell it to?” And then they named a national waste hauler, one of the largest public trade waste haulers in the country and I said, “What do they do with it? I thought about it a little bit and I am like, “Oh, they incinerate it. They pay you to incinerate it. How much do they pay you?” and then the guy looks a little sheepish. “No, no, that is just the words we use. We actually pay them six dollars a gallon.” So I said, “Oh never mind.” So I go and reach in there and pick it up again. And then the screaming starts again. And so long story short. I do not know. It was all you all. Sorry, really long story.
Chris: I found out that that yellow line, once things past that yellow line in all fifty states, is waste and has to be lit on fire amongst other horrendous things. You have this brand new stuff or this thing that has incredible value to the environment, incredible value to someone who otherwise could not afford to buy it new. I mean all kinds of beneficiaries of this product but it is not a product. It has got to be shipped to Ohio and be incinerated and you are like, “Oh this is awful.” So that is where the Smartest Sorting journey started and what I basically learned is something you are very familiar with, John, in your own business. Man, the regulations are so, so, so complicated and so you have two problems. One, this regulation problem, and the other is this product’s problem. And so how do you define both of them or we define both the roman math? And math is a pretty cool thing because once you can resolve sum to a number you could do it. But anyway, I got ahead of myself. That is when Smarter Storing started. We did not actually kick-off as an official company until 2015.
Chris: So it took me a while to wade through all of the different bureaucracies. I mean, California is its own giant bureaucracy, and then it is totally different in Massachusetts. It is just totally different than Iowa. I really had to start understanding that before we could credibly represent ourselves as the experts that can do this computation only for all products across the nation.
John: You know, let me just read this for our listeners out there. This is really one of the best mission statements I have ever seen in the waste or recycling or sustainability spaces. Smarter Sorting is a purpose-driven company committed to increasing sustainable options for unsold or damaged products. Our cutting-edge machine learning technology enables cost-effective compliant decisions for all unsold products and our process advances our partners zero-waste goals. Can you unpack that for us, Chris? Because there are so much there in terms of futuristic machine learning technology, but also zero-waste goals. You and I both know, and for our listeners out there, the world is moving to a circular economy and you are pushing us all there and helping us get there. Explain what that all means so our listeners can really understand that great mission statement.
Chris: Well, I think we start at the highest level and the highest level is that waste costs money. And so I understand that might not properly capture the mother earth piece of it, but it kind of in a very real way also does. This idea that if I take a thing and I have a thing and the thing does not do what the thing was intended to do and now I got to take that thing and I got to throw it away and fill on you know, what sometimes happens, it gets in a river or that I do not want to incinerate it. Like none of those things are good outcomes for the business. That is a real simple and absolutely correct view of it. At least for all of the major retailers and smaller retailers that we work with across the country in Canada.
Chris: And so the first thing is like they are wasting a lot of money. Okay, great. Well, the money thing probably was not enough and what ended up happening as you know, in the last twenty years we have grown a conscience about the real reason why it is not about money. It is about doing the right thing but is it not nice that you could also do the right thing and potentially or actually in our case always, save tens of millions of dollars. Alright, great. So now we do the right thing, we could save a bunch of money, but how are you actually going to do that? What is in your way? Well, what is in the way is a lot of well-intentioned people starting in the 70s have put tons of laws in place to stop the not-so-nice folks that are part of society from doing bad things with those products. So, you know, what are we talking about? We are talking about somebody charging to dispose of hazardous waste and then putting it in an unsafe landfill that ends up in the water supply. We are talking about people that instead of disposing of something properly or using it the way it should they use it irresponsibly and it pollutes something, some public land that it should not have. Those things are real problems. They happen a lot in the 80s. So a lot of well-intentioned people wrote these really excruciatingly complex laws.
Chris: Right now John, If you are a consumer product, a few of you dress up as a Clorox bottle for Halloween, you are under about sixty-two hundred different regulations that you would want to go through. If you are a retailer, you would want to have about fifty-two hundred in place. So as an example, Vermont has their own waste state toxic law. It is completely different with completely different calculations and understanding them, been watching the state, which is completely and totally different than California. And what is cool about California is they actually have over ninety waste districts that are all their own set of laws. And so now if you are a retailer and you say, “Okay, you know what, I want to do the right thing. I do not want to just do it because I want to make money off of it. Hey, you know what? I do not even care about making money. We have got some of those retailers that are customers of both Smarter Sorting and ERI that you know are going to do the right thing at almost any cost.” But now they can not figure out how to actually do it. They do not even know how to actually get it done because it is so complicated.
Chris: So the machine learning piece comes in. How do you make the absolute right decision if there are fifty-two hundred different decisions that need to be made and then after you make those fifty-two hundred different decisions, you still have to make the right decision? If you just picked the right one, then you have to track that so you can prove to a regulator that you did the right thing. That is a big burden. And so imagine we work with a small franchise to giant franchise, everybody knows it is a hardware store franchise then think of the one blank hardware. You probably can think of the one I am talking about.
Chris: And they are an average franchisee. They are not a big multinational corporation, they are a mom-and-pop who bought a franchise and run it in their hometown. They can not be burdened with hundreds or thousands of hours per product to make that decision. They just want to know what they are doing is right and want to be able to prove it to anybody who asks. So we use the machine learning piece to break down all the regulations into math. We use the machine learning piece to break down all the products into math. So we actually represent a bottle of bleach as a very, very complicated equation, and then we put those two equations against each other or we basically solved for one another and we ask, “This equation, let us say the California 311 rule, is it a pharmaceutical waste? Well, that rule has features to it. Do those features match up with the equation of this product? And if they do, maybe it is a California 311. If they do not, probably not.
Chris: So those are the types of pieces we do and then we have to prove all that to a regulator. So they will bless what we are doing. That is the road we walked down to get to where we are today, which I am really excited about. We were doing some big things with giant household names
John: Chris, I just want to go back to the complexity issue. So what you are saying is not only do we have national regulations, simply put, monitoring and guiding us on appropriate transport and disposal of these items, but then we have state regulation of the same set items and in some states, county regulations as a layover. So it is literally country versus state versus county laying all over each other the various regulations in each of those, which some of them can come across hairs and some could align and you do not know where you even fall out on those alignments and crossovers. So you are managing that triple layer of complex regulations that we see in America.
Chris: Yep, and then we are proving our decision and soaked up. The way it worked before Smarter Sorting is that you hired this extremely smart, massively credentialed person, let us call him Bob. Bob is fifty-six years old. Bob, has been in the waste world forever. He worked for the state for a little while. He has worked for this company, that company. Now, he is a consultant that makes five hundred dollars an hour. And you ask Bob, “Bob, what do you think? Is this California 307 or not?” I am making that example up. “Is this California 307 or not? And he says, “Well, yeah, I think we would say it is 307. I think the reason is that the specs on the blah blah blah …” And he just you know, he talks for about five minutes and you nod your head because he said a bunch of things that you did not understand.
Chris: You know, I am a de facto chemist and I can barely follow what they are talking about. And then you go, “Okay, so it must be a California 307, write that down.” Well, then what happens is Bob’s nemesis, Linda, comes in and Linda is a little bit younger than Bob. He knows she worked for a better agency and she displays into Bob and said that Bob is the dumbest person in the world [crosstalk] this meeting last fifty times. Bob and her, then argue and now the compliance director of that company looks at both of them like [crosstalk] and then has to decide whether he is going to make this product a 307 or not. And guess what? Neither one of those approaches can possibly ever, just by human nature, be unwound as traceable. We do not know how Bob got his answer or Linda got her answer. The human brain does not work that way.
Chris: So now Bob comes in and he yells at us because you know, we are dumb and we do not understand, we did not work at the places he worked. We hand him an equation and we had it broken down into arithmetic. We hand him the source of all the data that we used. We hand him a methodology report that shows exactly how we went about this particular code and then we showed him an overlying methodology portion that shows how we do all of our codes. Now we have handed about three inches of proof we used. You should weigh it. It is not like, you know, here is 14 pounds of paper and we said, “Okay, this is how we came up with it.” And what ends up happening is that Bob does not know what to do now because Bob is used to arguing with Linda and now he can not argue with these pieces of paper and it has just been great.
Chris: I mean hats off to some state retail regulators who have seen this as the opportunity to have that single source of truth because really, John, we are thinking about changing our mission statement. Let me see what you think. I would be interested to know your personal view. If you want to connect with me, connect with me personally on LinkedIn, or follow Smarter Sorting on LinkedIn. We would love to hear from you. But we think that safety is all right. We think that everybody has the right to be safe and we say everybody I do not just mean every man, woman, and child. I think every company has the right to be safe. I think that we have the obligation to be safe for the Earth that when I say safe, I also mean, from an environmental perspective, I do not just need help if you can not drink it, you know, but I also mean, “Is this the right thing?” and I think having that data out there as completely transparent for all to see is a way that you solve the problem. And so we think safety should be a right and we are working with some great companies, you know again, and so the biggest retailers in the world that agree with us and we think that this is going to be the new normal.
John: I hope so. You know Chris, I know you long enough now and I know your successes and I know how complex and difficult this product is, you know this problem really is and you are known as a problem solver. And now you know, the time has come, your company, some companies are born early. Some are born late. Your company is right on time in terms of where we are going as a society and I think we all deserve to have the chance to be safe and not be put in harm’s way.
John: That being said, Talk a little bit about solve and for our listeners out there who just joined us, we have got Chris Ripley with us. He is the Chief Executive Officer and the co-founder of Smarter Sorting. You can find them at www.smartersorting.com. Chris, what is the solve now? How does Smart –? Yeah, please walk us through.
Chris: Let’s walk us through. I’m so excited. He asked that question. So currently if there are a number of registers of Bob’s. There is a number of Bob’s that retailers require you to register with and so if you are a manufacturer, so let us just say I really like Clorox. So it is just today, I am dressed up as a chorus bottle and I have got to go register because I want to sell it on over a supermarket in California, or maybe I want to sell it Walmart, you know any big retailer. I am not picking on them that everything running all big Republic Wireless. And so now I am Mr. Quoc, that I have got to go pay the first toll at Bob and Bob’s like three hundred dollars per year that for me to register a product but it takes me 10 to 15 hours to register potentially. If I am a little brand maybe if I am Clorox. You do it really fast because I have got experts, you know, I have got people that are experts in talking to Bob but if I am a little brand like Tim’s beard oil, I am making that brand up, but here I can imagine, you got five SKUs and they just moved from making it in their garage. So now the contract manufacturing facility.
Chris: It is a lot of manufacturer like that America. What a great manufacturer started that way. For them, it might cost them fifty a hundred thousand dollars to go through the Bob process because they have got to hire experts to understand that process. So that is the current state and then we talked about Bob and Linda’s argument at the retailer that is the current state and then the last current state I want to throw out there is what the actual person that is working in the retail environment needs to do. So this is actually a real story. So this is public knowledge that is covered in the LA Times Home Depot. A great company does a lot of good things had an employee who put some empty spray paint cans in a trash can now I think if we went to a mall in America and asked a hundred people what you do with empty spray paint, can they might say, you know, you throw it away. I do not think that that person was trying to be an affair has to do anything bad. Well, but it turns out that there are some hazards going away and empty spray paint cans namely what happens is that not really all the way empty and there can be some problems.
Chris: They are both from an environmental perspective and a safety perspective from the fact that if that gets too hot they can actually explode or if they get processed it a certain type of facility and you do not know they do not know what is there, you can cause a fire that facility. So it is all real dangers. Home Depot paid like a twenty-six or twenty-seven million dollars fine for that. And again, these are great people at Home Depot, and that guy who made that mistake possibly a great person too. So he made the mistake because he thought he was doing the right thing. I imagine. I am not the guy, I was not there but you know, I imagine though he is doing the right thing. And so what is the solution now? Well, let us say your Tim’s beard oil, you come to smarter sorting, you are working with a vendor who uses smart a retailer. Excuse me, who uses smarter sorting the end when we were one of the biggest in my mind and if you are thinking about four minutes to register his product because we are not going to ask him specs on the rotor girders are you know something he does not understand.
Chris: We are going to ask him very simple questions about his product. What is really cool about these simple questions is he did not know the answer, the task that he would have to get done at a local laboratory are a thousand bucks. So very simple questions, then we are going to ask him to upload a few pieces of documentation. He is going to hit submit and within milliseconds he is going to have those fifty-two hundred regulations classifications back to him and not only that, we can show them exactly how we derived each one the other question. So now Tim’s [inaudible] three and a half units in, instead of it costing tens of thousands. Plus those three hundred dollars a year. We are going to trim a hundred dollars a year and that is just the beginning benefit for him because now that retailer has all the information they need immediately, now Tim can get his product on the shelves faster because that is what Tim wants to do. We do not sell the product, that is what the retailer wants to do. Say, decide to sell Tim’s product, they would like to make that easier but the best part in my mind is what we can do actually for the operator of the retail level.
Chris: So at the retail level, that operator, that guy in the back who made that mistake, they simply scan the product they already had to do that to get it out the inventory and the Smarter Sorting system tells them exactly what to do with it. And what is really cool is we were able to divert so much of those products to donation and recycling, so it is not just that we are compliant in handling it. That would be a good story. You know, but be careful not to blow up the sorting facility at the municipality. If you have it please do not put this facility of mine under there. That is a good story and you do that …
John: And you are also keeping us safe, which is also part of the great story.
Chris: Also a good story, but the part that I am most proud of is the amount that we move to donation. So we were working with Canada’s largest retailer and they had an award-winning donation program. We increase donations by seventy-three percent. So where did that go? That went through the Habitat for Humanity that they ended up re-selling those products in the Restore. If you have not been to a Restore, please go. There is one little in your local town. It is a great organization. And now that retailer, instead of paying, this is a true number John, fifty-two dollars, so light a gallon of bleach on fire they donated it to the Habitat for Humanity Restore, sold it for 2 bucks, who use those funds to build a house for someone who otherwise could not afford it. Who loses there? Who is the guy that is like, “You know, this stinks. I am really mad that a family who needed some bleach got a discount on some bleach. That family who needs the home got a home built for them.”?
Chris: You know, you are an investor in one of these big, you know retailers. You won if you are the person working behind the store. You won because you did the right thing. Oh, and by the way, we report back to them on the good that [inaudible]. They get a little lift in their job. It is a great job.
John: Wait. So Chris, when I first got involved with ERI and was co-founder and started on our sustainability journey, it was all the rage to talk about triple bottom line businesses. You have in essence turned that model upside down and inside out. What you just gave as an example has six, seven, eight bottom lines in terms of the re — first of all, Smarter Sorting wins as an innovator and disruptor and literally creative company that has created a new and better solution. So Smarter Sorting wins. The retailer wins. The nonprofit wins. Okay. Now, everybody along that ecosystem also wins. The people who live in the community of the nonprofit wins. The environment as a whole wins. Everybody in that ecosystem stays safer because now you have kept that hazardous product out from exploding either at the retail level or at the nonprofit level or just somewhere in some landfill or waste bin somewhere. So everybody wins and they are seven, eight, nine bottom lines from what you have done here.
John: So triple bottom line really is almost a legacy terminology that is outdated and companies like yours that are going to be innovative and creative and truly disrupt. The old paradigms are going to create bottom lines that are way beyond three and probably closer to ten.
Chris: Yeah, and I think that you asked that question about circularity. So I think that we do not know for a factor of ten better than the triple bottom line. But whatever, word evolution above the triple bottom line and one thing I want to make sure that is clear to everyone. You can see this on our video it is on LinkedIn. Every single part of this is tracked. So when you get a lot of companies telling you about how great they are, you know? They that they are going to do this, they are going to do that, all the people that they help and I hope that they are all telling the truth, but you have to take their word for it. With us, the part that is awesome is that software that device that runs in the back of the retailer or at a processing facility like at ERI has done something like that is tracking all of this.
Chris: So, you know, I like the Reagan quote, you know “Trust but verify.” So how do I know? Well, you know because it is all there. It is recorded down to the millisecond. You got pictures. It actually takes a picture of the item, and then the receiving folks who end up getting this machine on their end and it is just like FedEx when you send something, you got a tracking number. You do not just send it, get the tracking number, and hope it gets there. You get the confirmation that it got there on the other end. Those types of pieces are really important. But going back to the circularity piece. So I think you know, this is an evolution that is one hundred times better.
Chris: The next evolution of circularity in the next piece that we are working on and when I say we, I know John you are working on it. It is your passion. My passion in the next piece is how do we get the parts of those products? So it can not bleed or it would be the actual gallon or pewter. How do we get the whole of that computer that is now a brick? How do we get that thing back into the chain? So it is going to become a computer again. And that is true circularity and here is my hypothesis and I am a scientist. So the hypothesis does not always have to be right but I am pretty good this one is right is that in order to be able to do that, we have to know what a thing is. And once we know what a thing is, we can do something with the thing. But if you know when you started ERI, you know, you were lucky to say that this was a laptop and this was a desktop. That was the only definition. That is not going to be good enough to get us to the point of being able to recycle every bit in part.
Chris: And so as we continue to break down what a thing is, not what a marketer says it is, but what really is we are going to be able to get closer and closer to that goal of circularity. And I know that actually, you guys are a lot closer to it than we are because you have so many uses for the parts of computer’s electronics. Where they can literally be plugged back into a new computer whereas, you know, a gallon of bleach little bit farther along but we think we are on our way.
John: No truer words can be said Chris and for younger listeners out there, young entrepreneurs that are working on new solutions as Chris pointed out. One of the major pillars of sustainability and the circular economy is transparency and that is not going away and what you have offered here your solution is truly the transparent solution in terms of tracking these materials.
Chris: Well, I appreciate the kind words on I think that we are relying on a life mission here. I am really proud to be on it with you. And let us continue to soldier on.
John: Chris, before I let you go today, we have got always a whole slew of young entrepreneurs around the world that listen to the podcast and send me emails all the time. And since you have started so many ventures and raised money, which is sort of the necessary evil of being the creatives that we fall into. Can you share some of your tips of wisdom to them so they can go out and make their dreams a reality?
Chris: Yeah, I have got a bookshelf that is full of the books of the day for entrepreneurship and some are really great. Like The Lean Startup’s amazing. There is some really great sales book Amy Schwartz, Barb of Techstars just probably wrote the greatest sales book ever written for tech or any sort of technology startup, but also just a start-up in general and sell faster than his nemesis’ book and that is great. And those are super foundational reads. And if I am going to invest a little because I do not have very much right now. But if I were to bet a little bit, you know, I am not sharked yet. But when I do, I really make sure that they have read those but the person that I am most in tune with and I do not know him personally, but Reid Hoffman.
Chris: Reid Hoffman says things that I have never heard anything truer than the things he said and the two that I think are the most important and this one is the one that I think most younger entrepreneurs fail with; You have to do things that do not scale in order to do things that massively scale. Again, that is Reid Hoffman’s words, not mine. And that is so true. You know, you end up with folks that sort of onto, we call it bimodal in the data industry. They are on two sorts of pillars apart from each other, polarly opposed. One is, they are only going to do things that do not scale for their whole life. That is okay. There is nothing wrong with that. It is just probably not going to be an earth-shattering business. Then on the other side, they are so religiously devout to this idea that they are only going to focus on this idea that massively scales without ever distracting themselves from it.
Chris: And the fact of the matter is that in order to get something launched in the world, you first have to take a step into the way the world is doing it currently. Very rarely and if ever has there been an opportunity to immediately change the way everybody is doing everything without having some understanding of how they are doing it now or participation in that process. So I love that quote and then the next quote from Reid Hoffman is have a lot of plan B’s and what he means there, he does not mean like here is my plan A: world domination, because my plan B is I will make the state taxes. He needs to have fifty plan B’s and make that your constant daily opportunity to explore what you are doing and this podcast is just amazing for that purpose. It is not on as often as I would like but it is a really good resource.
Chris: So those are the pieces, you know, those two books and Reid Hoffman are our sorts of the folks that I have decided to distill down into my world as being the most useful to me but I think that if we said, “Okay do not read any books. You are not going to listen to a podcast.” What is one piece of advice? It is you have to actually do something? Well, it sounds really weird but I help teach a class at university grad students for entrepreneurship this year and they were all interested in planning and writing and planning and thinking and writing pad. I do a lot of planning, thinking, writing, I know you do too. But you actually have to go out there and do stuff and you have to really embrace the idea that when you are going to do something, you are going to do it completely wrong, fall flat on your face and some people are gonna laugh at you. You start to be totally okay with that and it is not even just totally okay with that. You have got to embrace that and that is the piece that I wish I had a better way to teach that because people are like, “Well, you do not like to read another book I can think about it a little bit more then I would not have to do that.” It is like no man. That is the reason you want to do it. You want to do it so you go out there and get that bruise and learn from it.
Chris: That is the point. I think that is part of little bit I am seeing that more and more of the people that are not willing to make that choice. They want to have complete certainty of it going to work first and it is like, that is not my reality. Nothing that I have done is more something that I was completely certain to succeed.
John: I love it because you are so right. I see so many young entrepreneurs that hand ring and are on their fourth or fifth draft of a business plan and it is like, hey, put the business plan down, and just like you just said Chris, no greater advice than what you just said do, do, do. Just do it. Do not read it again, do not hand ring it again and change a T or change a DOT on and I. Make it happen, and like you said failure is not really a failure. If something does not work it is just a lesson in the journey if you are going to really go make it to the finish line one day and so I am with you. You are so right. And that is why you are Chris Ripley and you are so successful. For our listeners out there that want to find Chris or his great company Smarter Sorting, as he said earlier go to the LinkedIn page for Smarter Sorting and join the LinkedIn Smarter Sorting page or to his website www.smartersorting.com
John: Chris, you are the reason. You exemplify the reason why I have the Impact Podcast. It is about people like you coming up with innovative and creative solutions to real-life problems that we all face and you are truly making the world a better place. Thank you Chris Ripley, for being with us today.
Chris: Thanks John.