A Chat with Adam Broadway from Near Me

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Gen caught up with Adam Broadway , the CEO of Near Me.   

Near Me help entrepreneurs and brands all over the world turn their idea into a reality by powering their Peer-to-Peer and Business-to-Business marketplace.  Think of them as a Whitelabel Ebay / Whitelabel AirBnB / Whitelabel Upwork / Whitelabel LinkedIn  

Near Me are used by marketplaces around the work like: Spacer.com.au , DesksNear.Me , Share Shed Inc , etc.   

Watch the interview below or read the transcript: 

Gen George: It should do a three, two, one. Or it's not this time. So we're recording. Hey, gang. Thanks so much for tuning in again. Today I've got Adam who's done a few things. But today is here from Near Me. But, Adam, who the hell are you?

Adam Broadway: Hello, my name is Adam Broadway. My background, I guess, to start about who am I, has been a long, long journey in technology. Starting way, way, way back when the first PC compatible computer came out, the XT. Do you remember that, Gen? [inaudible 00:00:30]. I'm showing my age now. For those old people in the audience that might be watching. The bald and gray haired amongst us. The XT was the first eight bit processor that Intel brought out, that Intel licensed to ... to build the PC compatible. You had the XT which was eight bit. Then the 286 which was the 16 bit. Then the 386, the 32 bit. Then we had the Pentium and then we had the Xeon. We've moved forward of course and you got super fast computers. But 12 megahertz, think of that. That's how slow it was. You had floppy disks that you would put in and crank up. Had tapes before that of course. 

Adam Broadway: I cut my teeth my leaving school at 16. Dropping out of school, leaving home, running away to Adelaide to find my fortune. But a bit of a misspent youth. Ended up back in Melbourne and pushing trolleys at Safeway. In my lunch break I would go to the local computer store. Got offered a job there through some miracle and I never looked back. At 18 I was building my own computer hardware business and sold that at 25. Then the reason for that, margins on computer hardware went from 300% down to 3%. That's not a scalable business model. What can I build once and sell one trillion times for a dollar? Software. So got into software, moved to Sydney, started another business.

Adam Broadway: Then met Bardia Housman, my business, partner. We kick started Business Catalyst in 2004. We got acquired by Adobe in 2009. Stuck around at Adobe. Saw that the changing landscape of eCommerce and the web in general was heading from a one to many model to a many to many model. Market places, distributor systems, API's for everything. Started Near Me and we're actually rebranding to Platform OS so you heard it first hear. That Near Me is a market place engine which you can also build anything on it. Whether it's a website, an app, and IoT, hub, a market place, COM system, accounting, whatever. That's the journey so far. Very long, convoluted answer to your question. 

Gen George: No, it's perfect. Thank you. Would you hire your 18 year old self then?
Adam Broadway: Yes, absolutely. Looking back I would because I know just how unimportant a degree is in this industry. Sorry for all those folks that believe in degrees. I don't. The reason is I've met more people with hard work ethic, integrity, never say die, great learners who don't necessarily have a degree. Yes, the degree means nothing to me. That said, if you are getting an education fully and you go through the system, that's quite okay. It really comes down to what your work ethic is like and how you work with other teams and team members.

Gen George: That's awesome. Near Me, now Platform OS, what is the sort of [inaudible 00:03:41] that you guys are working with?

Adam Broadway: Firstly, to build a different eCommerce engine. While I was at Adobe, one thing I noticed across the board, was the old SAS business that were in the eCommerce space like Shopify, Big Commerce, Volution, Magento, Business Catalyst and others. One Shopping Cart, etcetera. They are fundamentally architected as a one to many model. My store, lots of customers come and buy from me. While at Adobe I saw that there was a lot of validation around market places as a, not fad, but a trend. You had obviously eBay, one of the big ones. You got craigslist and you've got GumTree and you've got TaskRabbit and Airtasker. You've then got Airbnb and Uber and Lyft. Suddenly all these peer to peer market places springing up. Match.com, OkCupid, Odisk, Upwork, Elance, Freelancer, et cetera. The underlying architecture of those solutions are all many to many. Whether it's a person, many people connecting with other people. Products, lots of sellers, lots of buyers. Places, "I need to rent a desk here or a house there." Then projects, more community focused market places. Your Facebook, LinkedIn, Made Up type approach.
Adam Broadway: The architecture is the same for all of them. If you can get that architecture right then you can satisfy a one to many model and a many to many model and a multi-franchise model, and et cetera. It's very flexible. That's when I decided, "Okay. We're going to build this engine." We're going to build a better mousetrap. First thing to do is understand how a market place works. To do that you need to not just build the tech but also build a solution that solves a problem that that tech is out to solve. That's where we started with Desks Near Me. Desks Near Me was an Airbnb of office space. It's thriving right now. It's gangbusters in terms of SEO organic people listing, people renting. We spend zero dollars on marketing on that. The reason is that we learnt the hard way by building a market place. Learning not just the technology but the rest of the customer experience, customer support, answering a phone, having a phone number, going out and researching the market. Drinking your own champagne as I like to say rather than eat your own dog food. Who'd eat their own dog food, really? 
Adam Broadway: But drink your own champagne and go off and use the product. We traveled around the world and visited spaces and interviewed people. Built the product out all the while understanding that we're building a platform. Another long winded answer to your question. We got into it by identifying a trend in the market, a platform approach. But firstly, can we build something that works on it as a market place before we go off and tell other people that they can build their market place on our platform. That's absolutely happened. We've validated that. We have Intel, Hallmark, [inaudible 00:06:47], LogMeIn Clients. Big Fortune 500 companies as well as a lot of very successful start ups have built on our platform and continued to do so. 
Gen George: That's really exciting. One of the biggest questions we get asked from two sided market places is ... the usual. It's the chicken and the egg. Is supply come first or demand? What do you tell startups?
Adam Broadway: Well, it's going to depend on what problem that market place is solving. Often you've got plenty of demand and not enough supply. I need an expert to give me advice on this problem, for example in the legal space. Lawyers are looking for expert witnesses who can testify or write some kind of expert testimony pre-trial on a particular matter. Now that's a lot of demand for a limited supply. The demand is already there. How do you get the supply side? How do you get the experts? Well, you'd work with associations. You'd work with other people who have experts in various industry niches. Then go on and tackle the supply side by building relationships there. Products, you might have lots of products and not enough demand. The supply side is taking care of, plenty of supply. I've got a million widgets I imported from China. In fact there's 20,000 other people who have just done the same thing. There's an over supply. How do I create a point of difference and [niche-ify 00:08:12] that product? Then create demand around it. That's a real hard problem. 
Adam Broadway: If I had the answer to that question I'd be a [skrillionaire 00:08:22] right now. For me, it's sell picks and shovels. Let's work with industry experts, associations, subject matter experts in very specific niches. Empower those people because they already have a community of practice. Those practitioners and the people that use those practitioners. That can pretty much solve the supply, demand side. Now if you're going into [inaudible 00:08:49] industry. My advice has always been to, "Well you better understand it really well." Become a taxi driver if you want to build an Uber. Work in a taxi dispatch system and understand how broken the processes might be. If you want to disrupt Airbnb for vegetarians and have a vegetarian Airbnb experience. Of which there is a market place called Vegvisits. Hey, Vegvisits people. They built on our platform. You need to be a subject matter expert. As a matter of fact that family are vegetarians who understand the needs of vegetarians. Saw a problem and understood supply, demand. They were already subject matter experts in that niche. 
Adam Broadway: An entrepreneur who wants to go out and disrupt, get involved in that particular industry, segment, specialization. Learn it back to front. Learn the old way so you can make it better and don't make assumptions. 
Gen George: That's fantastic. Once you get that early traction then, it's then about how do you scale that. A lot of people talk about [unit 00:09:50] economics. What sort of metrics do you look at to drive the business? 
Adam Broadway: Well, one thing that's really unique to Australians, especially in Silicon Valley, is revenue. People actually paying for the service. Now there's a metric that is ignored mostly because there's two strategies that I've found that mostly work in Silicon Valley. That is the spray and pray method and the pump and dump method. What they do is they look at metrics. If you're a start up that's getting lots of user acquisition. So your user acquisitions like this. Wow, how are you doing that? I don't care. All I know is that if we put money into this little slot machine Series A, then B, and then C; we're going to get a return on that. We're going to pump it up and dump it. You'll get acquired. We'll make lots of money as the early investors. Great. In fact, we'll have follow on investors because when we do it, other people do it. We'll just keep pumping money in. If the cost of acquisition is high, it doesn't matter. We don't mind that you don't have an acquisition strategy. It's all about user acquisition metrics. 
Adam Broadway: Then the spray and pray is like I'm a fund. I'm going to spray all this money across a whole bunch of places. Hopefully ones just going to pop and be the next unicorn. That's my return on investment. Put a bunch of money here, here, here, here, here. Or follow and invest with all these other VC's. It's creating a bit of a ... Well, that's why I think there's a bit of a bubble, right? Because the fundamentals that you were talking about, unit economics and spend a dollar and I get two back. Cash flow related business models don't necessarily get the attention over here that maybe in Australia they do. We, as Aussies, tend to say, "Is this a problem where people are willing to pay for it?" Early on, if you're getting cash flow, even if it's not break even. But you can see how you can get your margins or cost of goods down through efficiencies, and people are willing to pay for it. The total [inaudible 00:11:52] market if not in Australia, Asia Pacific or in the US is big enough. You can definitely either bootstrap, which is my preference. That's what we've done always previously because no one would give us money. Not bitter. [crosstalk 00:12:08]. 
Adam Broadway: We had this weird business model where we had cash flow. You could either raise money or not. You could bootstrap yourself. A lot of overnight successes have spent seven years building up those overnight successes on a bootstrap mentality of cashflow and reinvestment of customer money into the product. Yeah. I look for a business model that somebody's willing to pay for it. If you can get one or two paying for it. Okay, how do we find more like that? 
Gen George: That's great. You must see lots of different market places around the world. What are the ones that you see are doing really interesting things? Have maybe an interesting team behind them. What makes them successful? 
Adam Broadway: Well the team is absolutely critical to success. Great co-founder. Great team. It's the sum of all the parts that make a great solution. Obviously a CEO that has vision and drive and can lead from the front makes a big difference. But the team is critical. The team is the key to success. Obviously then you've got to have focus on an industry niche. I find ... what are the ones that succeed? So market places are an interesting mixed bag. You've got a lot of people who go, "We can be the next Airbnb of 'x'." Or, "Next Uber of 'y'." They don't realize that margins are slim. You find that the payment gateways are going to make more money than use market place. The market place is out there trying to get supply, get demand, build a market place technology stack, execute on that. Be able to execute for growth, not only staff head count. Customer support, sales, marketing, coders, et cetera. But also your back end infrastructure. Many people get that wrong to begin with. 
Adam Broadway: You're doing all this stuff. You're getting supply. You're getting demand. Then you're taking all these little margins in the middle. Those that are greedy and say, "We're going to take 45% of the transaction." Well, if they're offering is so unique they can get away with it, good on them. But someone's going to find out and take it away. They better offer a lot of value inside the market place to justify someone giving away 45% otherwise people are going to take it off the market. 
Adam Broadway: Subscription models. That's becoming a popular approach. You've got other models where it's recurring revenue through a rental of an asset or a space or a persons time on a recurring basis. Again if the market place is offering huge value to both supply and demand side. Better accounting services, handling tax, giving great mentoring and training, how-to's, helping their career progress. Building a community both on the supply and the demand side. That then leverages good will. Especially on the community side and people are prepared to pay for that at some point. They might be in the community area at the top of the funnel where they're not ready to transact within the market place. But they're seeing so much interaction and value. As that happens they're more inclined to then, "Oh I am ready to rent" or "I'm ready to buy or sell" or whatever. They're part of a community already. That is something that people are also prepared to subscribe to. 
Gen George: Have you got any ... Are there startups or market places, specific ones, that use your platform that you are seeing that are doing these things well?
Adam Broadway: Well, of course all of our clients are. [crosstalk 00:15:42]. Look, we've got such a diverse spread [inaudible 00:15:48] I mean look, we've got ... I think you've probably had Mike Rosenbaum on a previous episode and Spacer for example. They have Spacer.com.iu and Spacer.com. Spacer.com is still on our platform. They joint ventured and ended up acquiring Parkhound. They also acquired Roost in the US. One of the things there, which is a standout, built on our platform. Very fast go to market. Acquired their big well funded competitor. Roost got a lot of funding upfront. Acquired them and then just imported all their inventory straight into Spacer.com. The reason for that is that Spacer had a holistic approach to their success. It wasn't just let's build a site, get some inventory, do really good SEO which our platform is renowned for. But also they had great customer support, follow through. 
Adam Broadway: Mike's done this before and understands that it's not just a website. It's also the call center support and how do you build that? Operations and press, marketing. All of the facets of building a business. We found that most of our market place owners have had that breadth of knowledge to realize that it's not just 'build it, they will come.' It takes time and they've had a very well thought through plan to execute. We've just been kind of the back end technology to do that. Intel is an example of a large enterprise client that wanted to build their own Intel branded Facebook. A lot of enterprises are doing this. They're sick of having to go cap in hand to Facebook to get a little bit of data on their customers in the groups. So they build their own Facebook and they own all of it. They provide better user experience. They've seen huge results in stickiness on the community site they've built for Intel developers. 
Adam Broadway: Now you might say, "Well, Intel's got big pockets and they can invest a lot." That's not the case. A lot of enterprise clients have start ups within their organizations. They have very limited budgets. Smaller budgets than many startups can get from going off and getting an A-round or a seed round. They don't necessarily ... They have brand clout. We'll agree to that. They can't move as fast. It's interesting to see that big brands that do this ... just because they're a big brand doesn't mean they will succeed because they got a lot of money behind them. They still have to be strategic. 
Gen George: Be nimble and test things out. A lot of talk at the moment about user data. Obviously with Facebook, Cambridge Analytica, GDPR's coming into effect May 25. What are your thoughts on what's happening and how people are reacting?
Adam Broadway: It's fantastic for us. We love it because it's the exact problem that that has caused is because a lot of enterprise, a lot of community type organizations want to get out of those monopolies. How can we take back our power over our data as a community? Our platform facilitates that. A, I'm glad it's happening. We're seeing a lot of inbound and big companies going, "How can we build that on you?" We've got proof points with our case studies with Hallmark and Intel and others. I love it that it's happened. Obviously the whole question around what then happens with the data inside those communities is also important. But this is the distinction between communities of practice and communities of interest. Communities of interest are your Facebook's, your hobbyists. You're not a practitioner. A community of practice is where the practitioners hang out. It's the associations. It's the unions. It's the group of people that got dirt under their finger nails having clawed their way and worked hard to be good at their craft. 
Adam Broadway: Usually the communities of practice, associations, unions, et cetera. If they take care of and run a market place or their own branded Facebook. There's implicit and explicit trust within a community of practice because if somebody stuffs up, they're likely to be black band by the association, the union, et cetera. Whereas a community of interest where it's a bunch of hobbyists. They're not verified or validated necessarily. Where you have ideologies by the specific organizations that own the data and use predictive analytics over the data to seed the right sorts of ads in the feeds. Shock! Horror! Facebook commercialized their data. Oh my goodness. Well, it was done by Obama. He spear headed it anyway. It's not a new thing. Politicians on both sides have been doing it. Suddenly it doesn't suit one ideology or another and it's a crazy thing. Guess what? They're making money. That's their business model. If you don't like it, get off it and build on our platform. 
Adam Broadway: That way you can control access to the data. GDPR it's really actually not that big a complex problem. PCI compliance and data protection laws have been around for a long time. As long as the platform you build it on provides the mechanism for an individual user to define how and where and why their data is used, problem solved. Yeah. The more you can [niche-ify 00:21:39] these market places, the better. Sorry, I interrupted Gen.
Gen George: Sorry. Does Platform OS actually allow you to do that now? [crosstalk 00:21:47]
Adam Broadway: Yeah. You have control over all of that. Developers can develop any compliant type of user interactions on the data that they wish. 
Gen George: Great. That's awesome. Something in start ups that doesn't get spoken a lot about is mental health. How do you see it playing out in San Fran versus Australia? Yourself and your team. How do you manage that?
Adam Broadway: That's such a very good question because you're right. They don't talk about it. Here's the problem. In Silicon Valley which I call "Silly-con Valley." It's a silly con really. It's a great place don't get me wrong. I've just seen the soul being sucked out of it in the last few years. But it's a great place and you don't bite the hand that feeds you, right? I'm here. Should I be here? If my customers are here, I should be here. If I'm raising money, I should be here. If I want to talk to somebody who's going to just give me incredible advice and I want to throw a stone and hit an expert in any one field. Yes, be here. But mental health in Silicon Valley, the under belly, is not healthy at all. Mental health ... They're insane! Because a lot of people ... and when I say that, I'm not being disrespectful for the mentally ill. But people are driving themselves mentally ill because they're popping pills to get through crazy schedules to develop. Because they're under a lot of pressure. 
Adam Broadway: They're always smiling of course because it's 'fake it until you make it'. Underneath people are dying because the hear 'fake it until you make it' but if you were to dare say that "I'm just struggling. I really need help." Then you're not faking it that you're making it. You're being truthful and transparent and vulnerable. Okay, maybe we won't work with this group because they're not able to cope. Mental health, we've seen suicides. That's a major problem. It doesn't just effect the entrepreneur, it effects the families. The families are impacted by this. Just personally I've been effected by it myself. My own struggles through ... you have a breakdown every now and then because you just got so much pressure. You need to go and take a walk around the block and punch the punching bag and do some exercise. 
Adam Broadway: That's par for the course. But my ex wife did commit suicide and that was a mental health issue. I have to say that it's tough to talk about but you've got to get it out there. That part of the reason, I would say is, my own addiction to the start up success and entrepreneurialism. Had I spent less time on the business and more time looking out for her needs, it would be a different story, you know? That's a tragedy. Mental health is a major problem not just for the entrepreneur. It's not talked about. It totally isn't. I think one of the things I respect from one of the politicians back home ... Beyond Blue. Who was that guy? 
Gen George: There's a couple of different people involved with that now. But yes-
Adam Broadway: Okay. But the guy ... Back when I was in Australia he kicked off Beyond Blue or was at least the head figure for it. I thought, "Wow. Kudos." Because here's a very high profile, public person coming out to speak about depression and mental health issues. It isn't done in entrepreneurial circles. It's 'fake it until you make it'. Well, I've fortunately got a group of friends who are also entrepreneurs where we do get together. We have supported each other and probably prevented suicide in some cases. I can guarantee that that's been the case because of a closeness and a vulnerability that you cannot talk about outside that close knit circle because people won't fund you anymore. That's the fear. 
Adam Broadway: Suddenly, you get to breaking point. You got no one. Oh my goodness. That's a tragedy. 
Gen George: Definitely. Your recommendation to find people that are going through a similar journey too in start ups and creating that support network for both sides. 
Adam Broadway: Yeah. Exactly. Even if it's lunch once a week or once every other week. I've had people that all I've had to do is just text them. Just to check up. Grab a call. They're not able to cope. It's a dark thing. I haven't been there myself but I've seen so many people do it. As I said, I'll do exercise and punch something and scream and yell. But others don't. They need that [inaudible 00:26:16] almost like AA. Where you need a support group where everyone's anonymous. It should be entrepreneurs anonymous. Where's a group that does that? For men and women. A mixed group and you just come and you say, "What a week, you know? I've been telling my investors one thing but really we're leaking like a sieve. We've got no real strategy and I don't know what to do next." Okay. "Hey guess what? I'm the same." "Oh, I'm the same." All these people start sharing and suddenly there's that support. Okay, how can we work through this. I think that would be awesome. Definitely works because I've seen it work informally. 
Gen George: Yeah. That's fantastic. Along with these sort of techniques there's always ways that you've got to continually improve as a leader. You look at certain podcasts or books or mentors. Or how do you keep improving?
Adam Broadway: Oh, I don't know if I do. I'll tell you what makes me improve. Two main things in my business. That is my team. Definitely my team. They are inspirational. They believe in the vision. They're hard working. They ensure that I'm kept honest. They're absolutely inspirational I have to say. My customers absolutely keep me inspired because they believe in us. I believe in them after we've had a conversation and I've asked them hard questions around what their business model looks like. Our channel partners. They're also a big contributors. I see what our channel partners are building on our platform. These are web designers, digital marketing agencies, internet consultants. Because that's our primary focus now. They inspire me and mentor me and give feedback. 
Adam Broadway: I'm very blessed to have so many different inputs to help me get better. Of course, my amazing partner. She is a VP in a high position in a large organization. We're able to also lean on each other and talk about how hard the day was. That makes a big difference, huge difference. I've been a bit of a turn around for me personally in having someone who's a real partner and can share that. My kids, you know? They drive me to succeed. I think also, I have to admit, underneath it all for me there's a spiritual component to what gets me up in the morning and understanding that eternity is a one time and feeling safe about that. That actually probably is what is my biggest inspiration if I was really truthful. It's that part that I can lean on no matter what. What happens is I have no customers, no business partners, not a great partner to go home to and my kids have all abandoned me? I've got a rock that I stand on and I can absolutely testify that that's really what gets me through. 
Gen George: That's amazing. This is the lucky last. This is something we ask everyone so apologies for the randomness. If you can have a super power, what would it be and why?
Adam Broadway: Oh. Super power.
Gen George: It always stirs everyone. 
Adam Broadway: Oh wow. A super power. That's a great question ... You know, one of the things that is very difficult for entrepreneurs because ego is so huge. They lack empathy a lot of the time because there's a lot of narcissism. I think I'm guilty of that as well. I think having empathy as a super power would be awesome. Because then ... Yeah. I think that would be a really cool super power because it's really, really hard to develop when you're just non stop. I think that would be one that I could gladly pay money for if I could get it. 

Gen George: That's awesome. Well, thank you so much for your time. Really appreciate it. See you next time, gang.