Today’s guest has disrupted the home security industry through a unique D2C model that started by targeting the apartment rental market. He is the Co-Founder and CEO of SimpliSafe, Chad Laurans.

Hailing from a long line of entrepreneurs including both grandfathers and his dad, it was always a high likelihood he’d become one as well.

From a very early age Chad loved to tinker with things, take them apart and re-build them, like remote control car engines to make them faster, or teaching himself to code at the age of 12 in order to build one of the first online forums back in the days of dial-up internet.

After college, he went into a career in finance that ultimately helped him build an understanding of what it takes to sustain a business, leading him to the decision to bootstrap SimpliSafe.

As he got off the ground, he had many learnings as entrepreneurs do, including the discovery that he could scale the business even quicker, by including home owners as part of his target market – and now SimpliSafe is on track to expand internationally.

We talk about some of his personal tactics for success, including how he focuses on delivering real value to his customers, growing a business with his wife as his founding partner and more.

Please welcome, Chad Laurans.

Daniel: Thank you so much for taking the time to join us. And I think there’s so many different things we could talk about but in some of the research leading up to this, I thought it was very interesting that your background as an engineer and an inventor is something that’s come throughout your family. And I want to start in an interesting place with your grandfather where I read he had built a radio for, you know, tanks in World War Two. And I’d love to know a little bit more about, you know, what you know about that, about the radio and the story behind that if there’s, you know, any more background on his journey?

Chad: Yeah, absolutely. Well, it’s really that I kind of grew up hearing the stories. Both my grandfathers were entrepreneurs in different fields and in different ways. But I grew up hearing the stories about them. And so the grandfather you’re referring to is my mother’s father who…yeah, he took a lot of pride. He was a German immigrant who came here when he was young with really nothing but the shirt on his back and the fact that he was a part of building kind of the radios that went into the tanks that were used in World War Two was…I heard the stories about it, was a main source of pride for him.

Daniel: And then you said your other grandfather was also an inventor or entrepreneur. What was his story?

Chad: Yeah, he was less of an inventor not an engineer. But he was a true salesperson and he and his brother started a wholesale food company. And it grew to be a pretty decent sized warehousing and logistics operation in New England. And so he ran this wholesale food company for a long time. But very different people. My mother’s father was more of the inventor/engineer and then finance person and my father’s father, from the stories I’ve heard, was a true salesperson.

Daniel: And ensuring the roots kind of grow in New England since back then.

Chad: That’s right.

Daniel: In Boston, New England base for a long time. And then how did that translate to your upbringing? So you may have heard the stories at the dinner table, did that impact your parents directly and kind of the careers they chose?

Chad: Certainly, it impacted my father who took over the family business from his father for a number of years before going into a second career on his own. For me, I mean, this really just impacted me in that I heard these stories and I started to take a lot of pride in hearing about what they built. And, you know, really as far back as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a technology entrepreneur.

I always loved technology, I wanted to study engineering and I was that that kid who loved tinkering from a very early age and was self-taught computer programming when I was, I don’t know, 10 years old, 12 years old, something like that. But I grew up hearing the stories about what they built and I saw my father, kind of, in action and hearing the stories of what his day was like and just kind of always wanted to do that.

Daniel: What was the first thing you programmed?

Chad: You know, a friend of mine and I, we put together an early piece of bulletin board software back before you hooked on to the internet. I don’t think that was the first thing we programmed but it was the first meaningful thing we put together. And I don’t think we had very many people who dialed up. We wrote our own software to basically host our own bulletin board service.

Daniel: That’s like the forums back in the day where we used online. So, good. And how would people sign up for it, I guess, because if there’s no…how would I connect to post on it?

Chad: It was dial up. Yeah. You had to dial up.

Daniel: Okay. Okay. Yeah. I thought you said it was pre-internet. I’m like, “Oh, well, how do I connect to some internet private network thing?”

Chad: That’s right.

Daniel: Okay, very cool. And then more from there, like, you know, where did that lead to? Is there any memorable things you either, you know, took apart or built, whether it was, you know, hardware stuff or software stuff as you grew up?

Chad: Yeah. You know, I did a number of engineering projects, you know, throughout my childhood from science fair projects where, you know, we were supposed to investigate, you know, something that was of interest to us. And I was into remote control cars, I remember. So I rebuilt motors to make them faster and stronger and sort of tested kind of hypotheses around what would make a motor more powerful.

So those are like the early ones and then, you know, in college I was on the rowing team, lightweight rowing team. And I did a project on…you know, it’s like almost an IoT project, not quite, not internet connected. But it was wirelessly connecting each rower to each other audibly so that you could hear the movement of the boat, the acceleration and deceleration of the boat to try to get people to be able to row in sync more intuitively. That was a pretty cool college project that I worked on.

But then, you know, I took a slightly different turn coming out of college where I’d been doing a lot of engineering. And I did have this desire to become an entrepreneur and realized I didn’t know that much about business yet. And so I actually went into finance for not very long, but for the next four years or so, I worked in investment banking and finance and venture capital, which really wasn’t something that I knew I wouldn’t really want to do long term but I viewed it as really good training, and it did help me build some new skills.

Daniel: What was your biggest takeaway? Because I think you were a Goldman then a PE firm, if I understand correctly, before going to Harvard. Is there any particular lesson or thing that you kind of took away from those experiences that you feel like it’s still helping you today?

Chad: Well, there is a ton that I took away there. I mean, the sort of core skills around understanding of, you know, how a business works, how a P&L functions, an income statement, a balance sheet. How the different forms of financing to have access to…and all that was hugely helpful background that built up modeling skills that were super helpful when figuring out how to launch SimpliSafe. You know, I did tons of modeling to try to understand how this model would work and what capital we’d need and what the cash flow cycle of the business would be.

So all that was super helpful. I also took away some interesting lessons, I think, that were really born out of that particular time. This was kind of 2000 to 2004, kind of internet bubble, then post-bubble, rough times, and it definitely opened my eyes to the benefits and the downsides of having investors in your business. You know, I saw the help that they could provide but I also saw the challenge that when…there were a number of companies that I worked with at that time who raised a ton of capital and it definitely forced them to execute on their business model in a particular way. They had to go big quickly, and if they weren’t driving for large returns very quickly…you know, that was the mandate of the investors.

They would rather have failure quick or big success quick, but the sort of slow and steady building value was not typically in their playbook. And so that was really impactful to me as I thought about this business. And we chose to bootstrap the business for a number of years in part because of those learnings. It didn’t seem like the right way to build this business. I’m sure there are plenty of business where that is the right way to build it, but not this business, in my opinion when we’re getting started. And so it really informed some early choices we made and how we decided to finance the company.

Daniel: I mean, the next question I wanna ask is when I think from an outside perspective of, you know, it’s a somewhat hardware-intensive business and R&D, you know, intensive in terms of building the product that you’ve built, it would seem atypical to bootstrap a business like that. So kind of how did you do it? Well, how did that all work?

Chad: Yes. It was challenging, I will say, and I’d say it’s not right for every business and it’s probably not right for every entrepreneur. For me, I think it leverages the fact that I was an engineer and I did actually want to be hands on in the engineering. And so a lot of that, you know, early R&D and development cost was my sweat equity. And, you know, worked with, you know, at the kitchen counter in our apartment for a number of years to build all our early systems and the hardware. We did raise some angel capital for first rounds of inventory and whatnot to get started.

So it wasn’t like it could be entirely bootstrapped because there were definitely some real hard costs there to get started. And then the other factor was, you know, we definitely took our time in the early years in making sure that we understood the market and what we were saying. We didn’t throw money at anything. We definitely could have gone faster probably on some things if we were willing to waste money, but we weren’t at that point. And it was a sleepy industry that was moving relatively slowly.

And in many ways, I think it helped us to have the constraints of capital because it forced us to really serve our customers rather than the investors that, you know, our money was coming from our customers every month, and that was what was financing the business. And so, you know, they were the master, definitely, there was no serving an investor’s demand, it was only serving what the customer needed. So it allowed us and almost forced us to figure out exactly what the customer wanted and design the whole business around that from a very early stage as opposed to needing to meet some investors proof point or milestone or next funding round goal.

Daniel: And so, maybe there are other details around this but it looks like you had started SimpliSafe right after finishing your MBA. Were you just on that full time or were you working something else alongside the building at the kitchen table of the product?

Chad: Yeah, I went right into it full time. The other secret to bootstrapping a company is to have an amazing wife or partner. So my wife went into…she was a management consultant, and she worked hard and paid the bills and helped me write the business plan as well. So, you know, so nights and weekends were the two of us getting the business off the ground. And she had a day job to make sure we can pay the bills.

Daniel: What was that conversation like with her where, you know, you’re finishing your MBA and, you know, typically the past is like, “Well, this will lead to another great job, whether it’s engineering or consulting or something else.” You know, do you remember talking to her about this and what that conversation was like with her?

Chad: You know, so we joke that, you know, when I proposed to her I was a gainfully employed investment banker. And then, you know, the year after we got married, I was an unemployed entrepreneur. But, you know, in reality, there was no surprise. You know, as I said earlier this is kind of what I wanted to do, you know, as far back as I can remember. And so she knew this is what I wanted to do and so really, I think she was happy to help make that happen. So that was an easy conversation.

Daniel: And beyond working on the business plan together, and it seemed like she was also involved in the business as it grew.

Chad: Yeah, absolutely. She’s been involved throughout. So she’s never had a full-time job at the company, but she’s been on the board since the beginning. And as you can imagine, she spends time…you know, it ebbs and flows depending on the needs of the business, but she spends time here helping particularly with the bigger and strategic questions for the director of the company.

Daniel: And this is a question I imagine a lot of people that would listen to this would have is…you know, I had some good friends who are also building businesses, you know, whether it’s full time or, you know, part time, full time with their life partners. You know, looking back on your experience over, you know, however many years you’ve been doing this with SimpliSafe. You know, is there any kind of takeaways you found in how you manage both of those where, obviously, it’s great that you spend a lot of time together, but then your life, you know, has a risk of being all consuming for this as well, which is either good or bad, but, you know, each to their own? I’m just curious, you know, looking back, is there things you’ve taken away or learned of, like, here’s why this is really great, or here are the things that I’ve learned to avoid doing to preserve, you know, the business partnership and the life partnership?

Chad: Yeah. I mean, I think for the most part, we’ve just embraced the fact that it’s a little all-consuming and it’s fun. You know, we enjoy what we do, we’re proud of what we’re building. I’d say that’s maybe one of the important lessons I think for both of us is not only was this an all-consuming choice for me, it was an all-consuming choice for my wife and my family in a lot of ways. And, you know, this was the key criteria as I was writing business plans. When I was in business school, I must have written six or seven different business plans.

And one of the key criteria was I wanted to be something that I would feel proud of having built. But I had this sense that this was not a small thing, this is not going to be just a year or two. And if I did this, and then, you know, looked back 10 years later, would I be proud of what I built? And I think there were some businesses that could have been good businesses, but maybe wouldn’t have been something that I would have been super proud of. And I look back here and, you know, I’ve got stacks of letters from customers who tell me that they hadn’t slept a good night in years.

You know, a woman with a stalker ex-boyfriend and who’s a single mother who couldn’t sleep at night. There’s people who, you know, we’ve saved their homes from fires, saved their lives and their families lives. Hugely rewarding to hear those stories and think that, you know, these are people who wouldn’t have had a security system, they wouldn’t have been protected if we hadn’t built what we built. And that makes it really fun to have put in all the long hours that have built something meaningful.

Daniel: And did you recall of the…if it wasn’t SimpliSafe, what was the, you know, next item on the list that you were thinking of building that, you know, maybe didn’t have the pride element to it, but otherwise could have been an interesting financial opportunity?

Chad: Yeah, that’s a good question. Probably this isn’t quite the pride angle, but slightly different angles. I spent a bunch of time on a business plan around video content distribution, you know, which is not quite the Hulu business model, but somewhat similar to that. And I really liked the plan. I came away with…the key consideration that I came away with, it just wasn’t the right plan for me. There wasn’t a particularly good reason that I should succeed at doing that as…like to think of it as…I think I probably was something that had product market fit that maybe not product entrepreneurship. And so I didn’t end up pursuing that one, although I think it was a good plan. I just don’t think I would have necessarily succeeded at doing it.

Daniel: And do you think it’s from…I guess, when you weighed that against the other plans you were building, what are the elements that made you say SimpliSafe was kind of the number one from that perspective? Or were there other plans in that stack of six or seven that also, you felt like had founder market fit that were also, you know, ideas that you were thinking about?

Chad: Yeah, I think SimpliSafe rose to the top really. At the end of having written a lot, it rose to the top pretty clearly. There wasn’t like a second one that I was kind of, “Maybe I should do this one.” It really was pretty clear at the end there. And a big part of the reason was, you know, a couple of factors. One, just where we were talking about that I’d be proud to have built it. And two, I was a doubly engineer who took a lot of pride in kind of building something physical in the world and I had also just learned these lessons about sort of the downside to raising too much capital.

And I thought, you know, I actually think I can…given everything I know, I think I can effectively bootstrap this company for a while. And a lot of people at the time advised me against that. And so it was a little bit of a crazy first-time entrepreneur thing to do. But when you’re young and have tons of energy and can throw yourself into something, I kind of did. And so this one really spoke to me and I was just most passionate about doing it.

Daniel: And so, you know, the early days, it sounds like you’re kind of building this product on your own in your house. Do you remember, what was the kind of first version of the product that you actually sold to a customer? What did that look like and what did you have to do to get there?

Chad: Yeah. The first version was a much smaller version of what kind of our old system looked like. So you can still see it and kind of the refurb section of our website, what the industrial design looked like. The insides were different then though. So a couple of things that we did…so I knew nothing about…I was strong on the kind of electrical engineering and decent on software but knew nothing about industrial design or mechanical engineering. So one of the things I did have to do was hire industrial design help to get it designed. 

And so that’s like a huge decision at the time. I remember spending months deciding on which firm to pick and when I look back on that I think, you know, “Man, I should have made that decision a lot faster.” It was an important one but, you know, I look back and a lot of those early decisions and think, “Man, I took way too much time making those decisions.” So I had to hire industrial designers and I had to find a contract manufacturer. And so I qualified a bunch of folks and flew over to China and met with a number of contract manufacturers, selected a good partner. And yeah, so pulled all the pieces together to get that first product built.

Daniel: And then in terms of like going to market, this would have, I guess, been in…would it have been in, I imagine, 2007 or so when you probably would have launched?

Chad: 2008. Yeah, end of 2008. Yep. Yeah, I’d like to say I built the product on budget, but way over time. I originally thought it’d take a year, maybe a year-and-a-half, and it took two-and-a-half years to put the first one together.

Daniel: As long as you get one of the two right.

Chad: That’s right.

Daniel: I mean, I’m interested in that point because, I guess, the marketing environment, which is the important…the second half of like you have to have a great product but you also have a great distribution. You know, it’s very different then than it is today where you have, you know, almost like ad nauseum choices of how you’d get a product into market. You know, what did you do back then to drive demand for the product that, you know, worked particularly well?

Chad: Yeah. You know, from the early days, I thought that the direct to consumer model was the right one for this business. So we did choose direct marketing activities. I started with some of the things that you might imagine. We were cash constrained and so word of mouth and some early PR were super impactful. And it did set the stage for word of mouth being one of our most important drivers throughout the business’ life.

And so it was this kind of reinforcing idea for us to build a great product with great service, treat customers really well, make sure you create a lot of value for the end user and give a lot of value to that end user, both in kind of the benefits they get from it, but also the cost. It’s just this great value proposition and that just leads to a great word of mouth sales cycle, which is super powerful.

So in the early days, it really was a lot about word of mouth. But then we started layering in some of the digital marketing strategies. Certainly search marketing was very early, it was very impactful in the early days. Had a number failed experiments. Our first offline and initiatives were a total failure. But…

Daniel: Did you guys test with, like, TV or out of home or…?

Chad: We tried radio first. And we really, I don’t think, understood our customer or the messaging well enough at that point. And so it really didn’t resonate and was a total waste of money. But it’s a good lesson in that, you know, everything has to come together and you shouldn’t create sacred cows, you know. It’s not like we learned that radio doesn’t work, we learned that what we did didn’t work and we came back and tested again later and we were able to make offline marketing work quite effectively. But so it’s good to not write that off entirely just because of one failed test. 

Daniel: It’s interesting, one of my most favorite podcasts is my steady dose of SimpliSafe whenever I listen to the ringer. It seems like something radio-like must be working for you guys given every other month I learn about a new thing that SimpliSafe has launched.

Chad: It’s great. That’s great. 

Daniel: And, I mean, around…this would have been, I guess, after launch, you know, there’s another pivotal moment in the company when you had to make an important decision on, you know, is it something wrong with the product or the customer I’ve chosen and the consumer you’ve chosen, where it was a renter focused product, and you know, you had to decide, do I make a switch away from this or not? And to the outside viewer, it’d be like, “Okay, how is that a big deal? It’s like everyone has homes, like, why can’t I just sell to someone else?” But for you guys, like, why was that a tough choice to make to shift customers? Like what was the challenge in making that pivot?

Chad: Yeah, the challenge really was that we’d constructed everything around this being an apartment customer. The thesis was that we’d start with the apartment customer and then eventually we might move up into the homeowner but it would take some time. The surprise for us was that even as we were marketing almost exclusively to apartment renters, over half our customers turned out to be homeowners. So that was this great insight, super useful and impactful. And it was pretty clear that we should make the choice to broaden our market and to start welcoming homeowners, frankly.

Like, we were doing everything we could almost to push them away at that point. The marketing all said apartment renter…you know, we did everything but turn them away. So it was a lot of work on marketing and positioning, all of our early PR emphasized the apartment nature of the product. So everything kind of…every piece of messaging out there was suddenly off-message for broadening the market that we were addressing. And the product itself, it was designed in that very first version…you know, this is going back. We were making it 12 years ago, launched about 10 years ago.

That very first product, it was fewer sensors, it wasn’t meant for a big home. The range was good, but not huge. And the number of components you could have wasn’t huge. We didn’t have smoke detectors at the time or carbon monoxide or water sensors or freeze detectors or temperature sensors or extra sirens, there was so much we were missing to cover of big home and really be a fulsome solution. So it launched us on years of work expanding the platform.

You know, it took a long time and a lot of work and a lot of investment, a lot more sweat to get that platform up to the scale that it is today. And today, I can confidently say we serve homes better than anyone else. The range we have for the sensor is over 1000 feet. The number of components, you know, you have 100 components in your system, you can have keypads at every door if you want. You know, in those days, we only let you have one keypad. It only we could work with one keypad.

Daniel: [crosstalk 00:25:48] another one.

Chad: Yeah, right? So, yeah, so there was a lot to do, so it was really not a hard choice analytically, it was just a hard choice from an execution standpoint.

Daniel : Well, we know clearly that decision was the right decision given where the company is today. But I imagine, so first challenges, you know, how do we pivot this product in offering and messaging to service this? You know, at some point you did that and it caught fire and it works and now all of a sudden the company, I imagine, is scaling a lot faster. At that stage, what was like the next challenge you ran into? Like when you think back to that hypergrowth phase, whether it’s from a finance perspective or a team building perspective, you know, the skills you know how to deploy as a leader are very different. You’re no longer the engineer to move the product, but you’re a leader of a pretty large organization of different people and personalities.

Chad: Yeah, you know, I think that that’s where we entered classic scaling challenges where there were things that had worked really well for us that we had to be willing to let go of. You know, the kind of…you know, an example would be all-hands nature, like everyone’s doing everything, nothing’s small, you know, super scrappy, you know, basically hiring all individual contributors, you know, just doesn’t scale.

And you have to be willing to put in real management structures, you have to put in decision making processes, you have to put in goal setting processes for the whole company so that larger and larger groups of people can all understand what they’re aligned behind and what they should be doing and make good decisions without one person being the bottleneck for every piece of decision making. So we had to learn how to do all that stuff.

But, you know, at the same time try to hold on to what was good, what kind of culture we created, which, I’m obviously hugely biased, this is an amazing place to work. It’s amazing because of so many great people and it’s amazing because of the culture that we’ve created. So we had to navigate figuring out how to let go of the stuff that we shouldn’t be holding on to, but make sure to hold on to the stuff that was good.

Daniel : And if you were to give, you know, advice to yourself knowing what you know now, back when you’re in this, you know, first stages of, “Holy crap, I have to hire a bunch of people and grow the business,” is there any advice you’d give, you know, that version of yourself looking back?

Chad: Yeah, I would say, you know, go bigger faster on the organization building and scaling. And I think, when you’ve been in a…particularly like we were, we were in a fairly scrappy, bootstrap mode for a long time with everyone doing everything, you know, when you got a role that one person is doing and you think we’re going to double that and now we have two people doing it, right? And that feels like such a big change.

And, you know, if I could go back, I’d look ahead and say, “You know what, think it had a couple years, it’s actually going to be 10 people doing that. And this is fine now for that.” You know, that, of course, does presuppose success. And so with hindsight, that’s very easy to say. But, you know, if I could, that’s probably the biggest change I’d make is to…I’d try to look a little further ahead now than I did back then.

Daniel : Was there anything else you’d say has changed in your management style? You know, above and beyond you evolving from an individual engineer and contributor, you know, outside of that, but in terms of the way you lead and communicate with people. You know, what would you say has been the biggest personal development for you, you know, back from the early days until today?

Chad: Yeah, I think…you know, in the early days, I think probably a lot of my management style and leadership was really around diving in and doing everything with the team, being very hands-on, which I think worked well when we were smaller. And I loved being in all the details of the business and understanding everything, but again, that doesn’t scale. And so I think, you know, one of the big evolutions is learning how to share the division, the strategy, and the goals of the company while learning but understanding that I will also be less in touch with all the details on the ground, not in it, doing everything.

And so making sure that I have sort of feedback coming to me and to the management team on what everyone in the company is experiencing. So there’s kind of goal setting that’s just kind of bubbling up from everyone in the company and there’s a strategy that is kind of cascading down from the management team. Navigating that, I think is probably the big shift over the last five or so years.

Daniel: Is there a certain system you set up or kind of inspiration you drew in terms of how you build that line of communication? And especially, you know, feedback coming from the front lines or, you know, people who may be very, very far removed from the, you know, senior leadership team that, you know, you feel like is being effective to…that others could replicate if they’re in a similar situation?

Chad: Yeah. So this relatively recent for us, I’ve liked the OKR framework as a tool to get visibility into goal setting for everyone in the company. So we’ve been using that more recently here. Before that, I think it was more informally done. And, you know, and so we used processes that were more reliant on individuals and, you know, I’ll call them kind of heroics rather than systems.

So the heroics are, you know, and I think still really good things that we do and should be doing, it’s, you know, having your desk out in the floor, surrounded by everyone on the team and spending a lot of time, very accessible to everyone and hearing all the conversations. You know, we do a lot of that here, you know, as rather than having kind of management in closed offices all day. So, I think that those informal kind of…those informal activities are great and that some of the heroics are fine, but as we think about scaling the company, we increasingly look to use frameworks and tools and systems that will work without the heroics.

Daniel: Yeah, especially as you’re kind of expanding going to different countries and markets and not having tried to run multiple offices in the past. Once you are no longer in the same physical space, even if it’s different floors, it like already becomes more difficult to do that, right?

Chad: That’s exactly right. You just can’t be everywhere and you can’t rely on those informal processes anymore.

Daniel: I mean, I’m sure there are many stories you can point to when I ask this question but I’m curious if there’s any particular ones that stand out to you. You know, in building a company there are, you know, maybe hours in the day, you know, in the same day of a great moment and a horrible moment. Is there, you know, a moment in the kind of history of SimpliSafe that stands out you where you thought like, “Holy crap, this was like the worst decision of my life. This is all going to explode and crumble in front of me.” And, you know, obviously, ended up not happening, but is there a kind of a moment where you thought like, “Oh my god, this is a key going sideways,” that stands out to you?

Chad: You know, I’m not sure I could point to a moment exactly as you described that. You know, I think, feel fortunate to have felt like we have been in a good, strong position for a long time now. What I’d probably say that the thing that really scared me, you know, going back kind of 10 years, just as we were getting off the ground, just finishing the first product, just getting off the ground, the thing that really worried me was actually the middling outcome. Not the one you’re describing of kind of blowing up. 

In a lot of ways I thought, okay, you know, blowing up, if I spent two, three years building a company and it blows up, I mean, that happens to everyone, right? It’s a great learning experience. Maybe I’ll try it again, maybe I’d go off and get a job like, no big deal. The thing that actually terrified me was, you know, building something that was good enough to keep doing it for 5 or 10 years, sink a ton of my life into and the team’s life and everybody’s, you know, working hard and building and at the end of the day, it’s just kind of, you know, it fails after 10 years or something like that. 

That was the thing that scared me and it may have come a bit from having made that choice early on to go more of the bootstrapping path rather than the financing. So I was explicitly choosing this longer path of a little bit slower learning, not putting a lot of gas on the fire in the early years and moving really quickly. But I think it was great for the business and it turned out really well but it led to this fear of, you know, what if I spent a lot of time on this and I only learn 10 years in that it’s not gonna be anything?

Daniel: The slow death is much scarier than the quick and obviously, you know, great success, right?

Chad: Yeah.

Daniel: And just kind of jumping back to that early start when you were building that initial product, you’d mentioned you kind of raised some angel money. You know, what were those conversations like, who…you know, it’s getting people to part with their money of any check size is always a stressful time. You know, what was the vision you had painted to them and, you know, who are some of your early supporters?

Chad: Yeah. So a bunch of it was friends and family, which, you know, it’s great to have people in your life who believe in you and are supportive. And in so many ways, I couldn’t have done this business without them. But it’s also usually stressful because you are accepting money from people you have relationships with and so you do feel this responsibility for shepherding their capital and this kind of personal connection. So I did feel that responsibility, the downside of it. And then there were a few angel investors who I was introduced to. 

You know, like any entrepreneur, I think I networked in and worked my way around from everyone I could meet to try to find good potential partners, whether it was actually kind of vendor partners for the business and I felt like I had to sell them too because I had nothing, it was just me. So it was a sales job of convincing a contract manufacturer or an industrial designer or whoever to spend their time with me, or whether it was actually getting checks written and certainly had my share of kind of doors slammed in my face. But I think that happens to everyone when raising money and this was certainly no exception.

Daniel: Yeah, yeah. No, that makes sense. And so now kind of projecting forward, I know, you know, SimpliSafe is going international in a bunch of different markets, but obviously, your mission continues to be the same of how do we just protect more people and more homes, you know, as many places as possible? You know, what gets you most excited about, you know, the next…you know, in the next 12 months for the business and where you hope it gets at that point?

Chad: Yeah. There’s a ton of growth in the next 12 months, in the next few years. So I think it is a particularly exciting time for us. We’re making a ton of big investments. One, as you mentioned, is international where I’m very excited and optimistic that we will…we just launched our U.K. sales team, sales office, and marketing team, and they’re off to a great start and over in the United Kingdom. And our goal is to learn in that first launch, but to quickly follow it on with Pan-European expansion. So we’re excited about that growth.

And also, I’m really excited about continuing innovation in home security. I continue to see a lot of opportunity to keep doing more for customers, to bring innovation to the service, the product and the service that we provide to people. So we’re investing a lot in ongoing product development and I think that we’ll continue to move the needle a lot in an industry that was fairly stagnant for a very long time. And then on the marketing side too, I actually…you know, we have done a great job of efficiently acquiring customers and have become, you know, by some measures, the largest home security company in the country.

But the challenge for us is, we actually still have relatively low brand awareness because we’re still a new player and compared to the folks who’ve been in the industry for decades or more, you know, we don’t have the same kind of brand awareness. So there’s a huge amount of opportunity for us to continue to raise the awareness for the category of really what is modern, better home security, but also to raise awareness for our brand, which there’s a lot of headroom there for us to keep growing.

Daniel: So, you know, for other companies in a similar position for you and other industries, is there any channels or, you know, marketing capabilities that you’ve been most excited to test whether that’s, you know, traditional TV or out of home or, you know, more modern kind of things like voice or, you know, there’s infinite number of places you can spend your dollars? Like, what has caught your attention most recently that you feel like either has been working or you feel like will do well for you guys?

Chad: Yeah. You know…

we continue to push on all of those (marketing) media channels that we can find. We really take a test, measure, learn approach. So there’s almost nothing we won’t test. If we can make sense of it and put together a good test, we’ll do the test.

And so we have a whole team of folks who are constantly looking for great acquisition channels, and whether it’s offline or online or partnership, channel partner, we’re excited to test all those kinds of opportunities. We are very data-driven about it and so we make sure to construct a good hypothesis and make sure we can measure everything and then we can make a decision.

Daniel: Was there anything that you came across your desk that you may have thought, like, “Hey, I don’t know if this is actually going to work, but let’s see what the data says,” and actually has proven to be, you know, unexpectedly very positive for you guys?

Chad: I’m sure there’s been something. I’m not going to say off the top my head, but I’m sure there’s been some crazy idea that ended up working and [inaudible 00:41:48] we’re always testing something.

Daniel: Yeah. I imagine. And that’s why you figure out what works. I’d love to shift to some more of,, kind of your personal side of things. I’m curious for you as, you know, leading a company of this size, you have to, you know, manage family, you have to manage the company, like, what is your morning or evening routine look like? You know, if you have a routine, I’m not sure. Some people do, some people don’t but, you know, what does it typically look like on a regular day when you wake up and then go to bed?

Chad: Yeah. I suppose I do have something of a routine. I generally try to wake up a little bit before my kids so that I can try to clear out my email before they wake up. That way I can really be present when they are there. Otherwise, you know I might have checked my phone quickly and then I’m distracted thinking about an email when I should be with them. So, yeah, try to get up a little bit before them, clear out my email, and then take them to school. Then most days I try to run to work actually. I don’t live too far from work, it’s just a couple miles down the road.

So I love, you know, rain or shine or snow, just jogging into work and feels like it gives me some fresh air, some exercise, a little bit of time to think, gets me started in the right way. And then, you know, lately I’ve been trying to divide up my week into days where I focus on different activities with the team. So one day I might focus on marketing, the next day on product and engineering. You know, I’ve found that this helps me to go a little bit deeper and focus more and hopefully be more helpful to those teams because I’ve given them more of my attention than when I get pulled in, you know, 10 different directions during the day, then I feel like I wasn’t able to really focus enough on any one thing.

So I found that to have been a good change and have been doing that more lately. Then the evening routine is, you know, talking about the all-consuming nature of it, you know, I’m generally home for dinner with my family and then…but, you know more often than not, probably taking the laptop back out for a little bit of work after dinner.

Daniel: Yeah. And are you normally a night owl or…I guess you have to wake up early now with family. So you can’t be up too late.

Chad: Yeah, not as much. That has varied over the years. But, yes, because with kids now, not staying up too late anymore.

Daniel: Another question on kids, my business partner, he has a first daughter and I’m just curious for you, what was some of the major changes you remember from when you progressed from, you know, not having kids to having kids in terms of how you had to change your schedule for running the business?

Chad: Yeah, there were definitely some different phases. I mean, I think the pre-kids was…you know, I look back at those days and think, “What? Man, I had so much more time.” And I am sure I use most of it for…in the first couple years of starting the company, I used most of it for getting work done for the company and, you know, worked all weekend. And both my wife and I, we were just throwing ourselves into it.

And then I think there’s a phase when the kids were babies and I have these memories of, you know, holding my daughter in one arm while she’s taking a bottle in the middle of the night and, you know, working on my laptop with the other hand at 3:00 in the morning, you know, the middle of the night feeding and I’d be online. I’d use that time to be online with China, with our team over there. And, you know, that would become my schedule for a couple years basically. And then, yeah, I think, you know, a bunch of things have changed in the last few years where the team is a lot bigger, the scheduled is more predictable, and my kids are older. And we have very kind of regular, you know, more normal schedule.

Daniel: I guess, in the early days you mastered typing with one hand.

Chad: I did. I was very good at chatting one-handed in the middle of the night with folks.

Daniel: On kind of an off-topic side, I’m always very curious about, you know, what people do. And obviously, the company’s quite all consuming, so I’m sure there’s not a ton of different hobbies you have time to explore. But, you know, the best way I’ve heard to frame this question is if you were to, you know, give a keynote talk on the TED stage, as an example, on something that has nothing to do with building a company, or raising a family, or home security, is there something that comes to mind that you feel like you would be excited to talk about?

Chad: Yeah. You know, so I think that the sad answer to this question is right now, there’s just not that much that comes to mind. Like, I think my TED Talk would be on setting your priorities. It’s be on, you know, figure out what’s most important to you. And, you know, for me, that’s with my family and, you know, building this company, and I’ve put so much of my life into that. You know, I do look forward to the day when I give myself some room to breathe and think about other things. But these days, you know, those are my priorities. That’s where I spend my time.

Daniel: Well, I think on setting priorities though, you know, for someone who obviously has two pretty all-consuming things with family and the business, it’s pretty clear what your priorities are, but is there anything you’ve maybe in a more micro way where you’re making decisions on what you need to do that day or that week have you found effective, you know, mental frameworks that you’ve used or gone to to understand, you know, am I setting the right priorities for, you know, whatever it is you’re trying to accomplish that others might be able to learn from?

Chad: You know, I think the lesson for me there has been making sure to get perspective because I think that in a lot of our day-to-day decisions, it’s very easy to get so sucked into the details and to over-index one decision that’s kind of the decision that you’re making in that moment, the most urgent decision. That whether it’s a business decision or family or anything, I find it really helpful to try to pull back and get perspective.

This is one of the reasons why I like running to work is, I guess, it’s in those moments where I feel like I’m able to have that perspective and to kind of pull back from the immediate decision I’m making and think bigger. And I’ve found that helpful. I think, you know, anyone who’s running a startup or works in a startup is probably familiar with the fact that, you know, particularly in those early days, it always feels like there’s a disaster around every corner, there’s always a fire burning, there’s always some immediate thing that’s, you know, about to crush you.

And, you know, I feel like a lot of my early mentors were folks who just…it always just felt like they had a very steady hand, very measured and thoughtful people and I’ve modeled some of my management on that as well. And I think one of the keys to be a little bit of a steady hand is to have that perspective, to have thought through that, you know, how this decision fits into the bigger decisions and why it’s important, but it’s not the only decision you’re making. And, you know, this development that you just read about, it’s good to be aware of, but let’s not be rash and react immediately without thinking everything through. So, you know, whether it’s in business or in life, I think perspective is really important.

Daniel: I think one thing that also helps, and maybe you have more thoughts on this is, you know, around really making decisions on what to do, there’s also a lot of, you know, biases that we’re all subject to. And I know in like in one interview I was listening to before we jumped on the phone, we were talking about, you know, how to avoid the sunk cost bias of like, “Well, I invested in this person or I invested in this, you know, partnership and it’s like, not working but like, you know, it’s probably, you know, still it’s better to keep it going than to kill it and start again.” Is there any kind of other landmines that you’ve come across from a mental framework perspective that you’re trying to be conscious to avoid?

Chad: For sure. I think those are some of the most interesting things to think about and some of the most interesting ways that I feel like, as a leader or a manager, you can help your team is to figure out where of our biases are and try to make sure we’re not falling victim to them. So, you know, I think sunk cost bias is a really interesting one, there’s the recency effect, which I see all the time is, you know, somebody on the team just heard about a particular problem or customer complaint or customer need.

And so, you know, like, we’re way over-indexing it. And the data doesn’t show…if you look more closely, the data doesn’t show that it’s actually a big problem, but there was one voice asking for it very recently and so that recency effect can affect people in lots of different ways. Recent failure can affect folks and make them gun shy about trying it again. So I think that affects it. Cognitive dissonance is interesting too. I see that all the time where once someone’s made a decision, they become very committed to it in a way they weren’t before. And just it’s good to be aware of how these psychological factors affect all of our decision making.

Daniel: I feel like you could do a talk on…I think any founder really can do a talk on psychology in some way or the other.

Chad: That’s right. That’s really what we all need training in is psychology.

Daniel: Yeah. I know we’re running up on time, so I really have, you know, one last question which, you know, kind of ties it to your earlier point about, you know, life is very all-consuming right now on a few things. Is there anything left on your on your bucket list that you hope to, you know, get to one day, whether it’s 5 years or 50 years from now, that’s on your bucket list, whether it’s professionally or personally or anywhere in between?

Chad: Yeah. So, you know, just before starting SimpliSafe, my wife and I both started getting into travel, you know. We both traveled a little bit in our lives but the two…you know, we took some big trips together and just loved it. And then, you know, we probably started the company, had a couple of kids and never…have not had the opportunity. So, you know, we’re just starting to travel a little bit more as a family, which I’m excited about and would love to…I’d just love to travel the world. The more remote, the better, someday.

Daniel: Well, it’s a good time to go international then, too. It’s [crosstalk 00:52:40]…

Chad: Well, that’s true, actually. I’m kind of excited about that.

Daniel: So hope you guys love the U.K. and Europe and it seems like you’ll spend lots of time there for multiple reasons.

Chad: That’s right. I think we will.

Daniel: Awesome. Well, thank you so much, again, for taking the time to speak today. I think this will be really interesting for everyone to listen to. And I just want to say, you know, thank you and I look forward to staying in touch and hopefully running into you at another conference soon.

Chad: That sounds great. Well, yeah, thank you. You’re very welcome. And thank you, I enjoyed the conversation.

Daniel: Same here. Well, thank you. Have a wonderful day and end to your week.

Chad: You too. Bye.