In this Prime Talk Podcast Video Sponsored by GETIDA – Adam Epstein an entrepreneurial lawyer who shifted into eCommerce- VP of Growth at Perpetua – an advertising optimization platform, shares his life story and his incredible shift from being a lawyer into an eCommerce entrepreneur.
Adam began his professional career as a lawyer in Toronto Canada. His love of basketball and dining along with his entrepreneurial spirit led him to launch 2 startups that he eventually sold. He then shifted into working for PayTM, which is a large eCommerce payment processing platform based in India and is backed by Alibaba and Softbank.
A casual lunch with a friend led Adam to discover and dive into the world of Amazon advertising and his current role as a VP of Growth.
Find out more about Adam & Perpetua.
Find out more about GETIDA.
Find the Full Transcript Below
Yoni Mazor 0:05
Hi, everybody, welcome to another episode of prime dog did I have a special guest? I have Adam Epstein. He’s the VP of growth at perpetual. perpetual is an Amazon advertising and optimization platform. And he’s right now located in Toronto, Canada. Adam, welcome to the show.
Adam Epstein 0:24
Thank you. Yani. A pleasure to be here.
Yoni Mazor 0:27
A pleasure to have you. We spoke earlier about the weather, we said, you guys are having nice weather lately, and you’re riding a bicycle, which is great. It may start to get nice out.
Adam Epstein 0:36
And Toronto, we don’t really have much of spring just goes right into this summer. So hopefully it continues to get nice and sunny,
Yoni Mazor 0:47
Hopefully. So um, so I’m in training. I’ll be honest, you know, this is kind of the first time we’re having our meeting is in a session. So today’s episode is really gonna do about you and your story. And how did you end up in the e-commerce space? So feel free to share, we can dive right into it. You know, where are you? Where are you from? Where do you go to school? How did you start your career? This is your show. Sure.
Adam Epstein 1:08
So I have a very circuitous path to running. The revenue operations for Perpetua started my career as a lawyer actually went to McGill in Canada and Queen’s law in Canada, and then went down the path of law as a kid of coming from a BA that’s moderately smart and has decent-ish marks, you don’t really know what to do, and you don’t know what job to get. So I tried to be somewhat of a smart guy with a law degree always knowing that I wasn’t going to get into law.
Yoni Mazor 1:46
Let me ask you something, though. In Canada, how long does it take to be a lawyer? Is it like the system here? nighted states, we have done three years, three, four-year college and law school.
Adam Epstein 1:54
It’s actually four years. So you have to do what’s called an articling, which is working as a lawyer after your three years at law school. So four years of undergrad, three years of law school, and then one year of articles. Before you can get called to the bar and get your paper as a lawyer.
Yoni Mazor 2:12
And you went through all that route?
Adam Epstein 2:14
Yeah, I did. It definitely wasn’t a very efficient route for what I’m doing right now. Again, as a 22-year-old in law school, I enjoyed being in school, I played a lot of basketball, I had a lot of fun, I did decent enough to get a good job. Good corporate law job. In retrospect, maybe it wasn’t the most efficient path, but I wouldn’t regret it. And the moment I began working on articling, in law, I knew it wasn’t the path for me. I definitely didn’t enjoy law at all. And the moment I got called to the bar, I said, All right, I’m good. I didn’t know what exactly I wanted to do. But I did play a lot of sports back then. And I was the prototypical guy organizing three to five sporting games with friends, whether that be basketball, primarily basketball, for me, baseball, some tennis matches, and sports, then we’re organized via who’s in who’s out reply all text messages or emails, and I thought that there needed to be a better way. And I figured we have these things called mobile phones that that can do some pretty powerful things. So we leveraged mobile technology to create a sports scheduling app for recreational athletes. So you create a game, people can opt in to the game, you have a location, you can have photos, you can have payment. And I pretty much crashed and burned for the first 18 months of that experience. Significant learnings, I never aspired to be an entrepreneur or start my own business. I just knew that there was this problem that I personally needed solving. I thought that there were a lot of other people in the world that also needed that problem solved. And so I just did it.
Yoni Mazor 4:04
And, so right here. So you’re giving up eight years of a process, right? You know, you’re finishing law school, after four years of college and after, excuse me four years of law school, and your passion for basketball, I guess, created some sort of an understanding that there’s a need out there for some sort of solution. So essentially, you decided to make some sort of a calendly, if I may, right, which is an app to book booking, you know, sporting events between people, which is an interesting concept. And that was your first take on business. But let’s talk about the funding right now. How’d you find this little adventure?
Adam Epstein 4:39
Yeah, so as a lawyer, I saved up some of my own money. We raise a little bit of family and friend’s money.
Yoni Mazor 4:45
And how long did you do legal? Like, how long did you work as a lawyer for just one year?
Adam Epstein 4:48
Yoni Mazor 4:49
One year? Got it. So that one year of working some family friends funding 18 months, he said a crushing burden. What does that mean?
Adam Epstein 4:55
It means not really having a product with customers. But very quickly, we started to refine the scope, and we got some wins. And by that I mean, we launched a product, it was very well received, specifically within basketball communities globally, we had roughly 25,000 users, we were featured by Apple in seven different countries in the sports category. And as a mobile app, let’s call it founder, there’s nothing more rewarding than getting the email from Apple saying, hey, we’d like to feature your app, can you send us some artwork, because they used to have those banners that you would create your own artwork for the featured category and apple. So it’s pretty awesome. We are a FREE, it was a free app, the monetization means would have been people pay a lot for sports and collecting payment is an issue. I know that that’s a very dubious monetization strategy. But again, solving a passion not necessarily a profitability problem. Yeah. And so we stopped working on it, ultimately sold it for a very small amount of money, and, and then consider what to do next.
Yoni Mazor 6:12
Let me ask you what yours is roughly right now, you know, the year you started the app, and then do you say that was probably around eight years ago?
Adam Epstein 6:16
So I would say I started the company about 10 years ago. So it’s 2020 2010 2011. And it stopped working around 2013 2014. And, and I then started to think about other ways that people were using their phones. And this is around the time that Apple Pay started. And, and there was this notion of the smartphone as a wallet, paradigm becoming a reality. So so people were paying for Ubers, people were paying with Apple Pay, and everyone thought everyone was gonna be paying with Apple Pay and credit cards wouldn’t even exist in the not too distant future. And then. And so if you think about the use cases and experiences that people have, and how people pay for things, one of the things that would have been falling through the cracks would have been payments and full-service dining restaurants. And it’s actually a pretty massive pain point, waiting for the bill splitting bills with friends. So myself, my co-founder, I raised a little bit of angel capital. And we built a company that was called tab, which was like Uber-style payments and full-service restaurants.
Yoni Mazor 7:30
So you would just get up and go, that’s a good man. That’s a very good night.
Adam Epstein 7:31
Yeah, thank you tab payments, CO. You just get up and go. Like you would an Uber, you would get your bills sent back to you, you’re able to split bills really easily with friends. And it was pretty awesome. The moment that we launched, we had some really good momentum, we started in Toronto with 12 restaurants, we quickly scaled that up to like over 150 restaurants spread across Toronto and Montreal. But we realized very quickly that even in the best situations, mobile payments were a very early adopter behavior. Again, think this was 2014 2015. So it was a very early adopter behavior. And Asides from a few restaurants or a few people that would go to the same restaurant every single day. It just wasn’t. It wasn’t widely adopted. So we realized that payments were just part of the experience. And really, reservations were the end-to-end customer experience. You begin at the beginning and you begin at the end. And I’m not sure if you’ve been following Open Table, but Open Table has restaurants that hate Open Table, their business model is very predatory to restaurants. And we
Yoni Mazor 8:43
thought me in a nutshell, what’s the model there? If you think it’s Yeah, sir.
Adam Epstein 8:46
What do you think that business model is for Open Table?
Yoni Mazor 8:49
to help you get a reservation? I’m not too sure.
Adam Epstein 8:52
But what is restaurants’ pay? What do you think restaurants go?
Yoni Mazor 8:55
Well, 30% plus?
Adam Epstein 8:56
No. So restaurants pay $1 per cover. Okay, that covers ahead. So if it is restaurant margins are very bad. And if restaurants doing 60,000 covers in it in an in a month, which is a very high volume restaurant, you’re paying $60,000 when there’s no incremental benefit that open tables really providing you and invariably a lot of people are actually booking going to the same restaurants over and over again like that. People aren’t using this open table for
Yoni Mazor 9:24
Licata. So because yeah, so it doesn’t create new business though repeat business, you’re already getting essentially some of it is a big chunk of it is just that you’re giving that away.
Adam Epstein 9:33
Correct. You’re cannibalizing anywhere between $1 for if it’s a larger party $10. To Open Table, which doesn’t need to happen.
Yoni Mazor 9:41
The reason I said about 30% is because I’m used to like Apple I know they, that they have been crazy.
Adam Epstein 9:46
That would be crazy if it was 30%. And so we started building a reservation product and we started to have some really good traction but in the world of venture capital, you VCs only Want to back the number one player in the space. And, by way, in fact of venture capital being raised, we have a competitor in the US a company called reserve that was raised $20 million, when we were raising $2 million with similar traction. And, and we weren’t a profitable company, our revenue was limited, we are making payment processing revenue, which is basis points on every single transaction. And unless you’re making you’re moving hundreds of millions of dollars, there’s not a significant amount of revenue. So on account of that, we were in the precarious start startup position of raising more money get bought or die, we couldn’t raise more money, and we didn’t want to die. So we tried to get bought. And we did. We got bought by our UK competitor, a company called velocity. So velocity raised a lot of money. They did a little bit, I think they’re…
Yoni Mazor 10:49
A global player, right? These guys play on the globe like a GrubHub, almost right.
Adam Epstein 10:54
So no, they’ve actually now pivoted into a black card for like a mobile version of a black card. So, they were initially doing what we were doing. And basically now if you’re a rich Prince from Dubai, and you want to get into a VIP of Coachella, you’d have a $10,000 a year of velocity membership. And you’d be able to have a mobile message with someone from velocity to get you in as an example, or that awesome table at Carbone in New York, you’d be able to get that really simply as well. So we sold to them. I definitely was not, it was it wasn’t a massive win. But it was a nice validation of a lot of hard work for both myself and our team. Were for velocity for about a year expanding their product to New York. And, and unfortunately, they said we’re not really interested in Canada, and I said, I’m in Canada, and so my next journey was with a company called PTM. So PTM
Yoni Mazor 11:50
before you dive into PTM, so you started while you’re you started the tab.
Adam Epstein 11:56
Tab was I want to say 20 1420 1514. And then what was six years ago?
Yoni Mazor 12:01
And what did you sell it a year or two later?
Adam Epstein 12:03
What was the year about a little more than two years later? Yeah.
Yoni Mazor 12:05
By 2017 ish.
Adam Epstein 12:07
Yoni Mazor 12:08
And then you said another year additional year to help them settle? Yes. All right. Very good. So now you were in P. What was it called?
Adam Epstein 12:15
Yeah, so so it’s funny, I was on a digital payments panel with this guy. And from this co-founder of a company called PTM, which is a billion-dollar FinTech company in India, that’s bigger than credit cards and debit cards combined in India. And I told you, I was trying to raise money for my other company. And here’s a founder of a billion-dollar company. Hey, like, maybe we should get we can get some funding from you guys. And so we had lunch. And this is while I was operating the tab. We never had lunch, he was on the phone for about 15 minutes of our 60-minute lunch. I never thought anything of it. Never thought I’d hear from him. And as I started to stop working at velocity, I got a message from him being like, hey, I’d like to know what you’re up to.
Yoni Mazor 13:04
And so your first conversation was about you raising funds from him? Yes. Got it for tab. Velocity was, was it? Was it tab alone or tab in velocity? No, no, it was just a tab before? acquire. Okay, before you make him break him, Oh, my God. And then the follow-up. That’s interesting. That’s a thing go circle back around. And just yeah, that’s
Adam Epstein 13:23
if that’s the way the world works, man. That’s the way the world works. And so he reached out to me and said, like, hey, we’d love to know what you’re up to. And I said to myself, like, busy people, cofounders billion-dollar companies don’t just want to reach out and see what’s going on. And so PTM, again, India’s largest mobile commerce ecosystem, over 250 million users in India.
Yoni Mazor 13:49
And we really say that sort of like the people of India,
Adam Epstein 13:52
sort of, I would say it’s more like the Alipay of India. So Alibaba has its main investor as SoftBank and Berkshire Hathaway. And if you believe that India will be the new China, that there are certain winners, that that can be very replicable from China to India, and Alibaba made a very concentrated bet to believe that PTM could be what they created with Alipay and ant financial in India. So that’s a company in India that was doing really well. And, and the company has plans for global ambitions. And PTM had a research and development office on machine learning in AI in Toronto, that was led by this co-founder, and his former co-founder, who’s the current CEO said, Hey, like, why don’t we expand to Canada and give it a shot there. And so this guy’s name surrender reached out to me and said, Hey, we’d love to have you join and lead Canadian operations where the name of the game was her render Got it? Yeah. And, and so PTM expanded in Canada initially as a bill payments app, and it’s quickly expanded scope to the loyalty gift card marketplace. I don’t want to go too far into it. But it wasn’t the most fun I’ve had in two years. And it definitely, despite the fact that there was a lot of capital behind it, there, there weren’t very many wins for PTM in Canada, tried my best to make it work didn’t and and in the fall of 2018, I had lunch with a friend of mine named Joe Rideout, who’s the president of Perpetua and I had known that Joe was working on Perpetua and one of the founders
Adam Epstein 15:36
Yeah, and he and I had always looked at ways to work together. I tried to hire him at PTM. He said, No, I want to join this guy named Roscoe, who has done really well. And he’s building this thing for Amazon, and I’m gonna..
Yoni Mazor 15:49
Right, the name is Roger Ailes.
Adam Epstein 15:51
Correct. And Roscoe is our founder and CEO. And then in the fall of 2018, we had lunch, and they’ve been working on the perpetual product for about 18 months to two years. And, but it was primarily just a team of engineers and product people, not really anyone focused on growing the business. And around that time, they had about 12 customers with a very small amount of revenue. And Joe said to me, hey, like, we just need someone to grow this side of our business. Are you interested? And I said, Where do I sign up? And so the next two were, well, what?
Yoni Mazor 16:29
What was the appeal for you? I mean, yeah, because now we’re jumping into I guess, the e-commerce, you were in e-commerce before but more on, I guess, in the payment side, and in the application side, but now we’re talking about, you know, the gorilla in the room of e-commerce, which is Amazon, every dollar that goes at least the United States to online retail, more than 50 cents goes to Amazon. It was that part of the appeal, what was that? What was yours? So for, at least for our show?
Adam Epstein 16:54
Yeah, let like look like many, many people in the world, I’m an Amazon shareholder, and have been for a few years now. Any, any company that I own stock, and I nerd out and listen to all their earnings calls and find out what’s going on and try to be as educated as possible. And by way of following Amazon, I was realizing that their advertising business was clearly the fastest growing business unit inside the company. And so when Roscoe, the founder said to me, like why, why is this interest you? And I said, think about it? I don’t think in the history of The world has there ever been a double-digit billion, a double-digit billion-dollar category? So plus $10 billion growing 100% year on year, at one of the world’s most valuable companies, I genuinely don’t know if that’s ever happened to you, right?
Yoni Mazor 17:42
These are historical moments.
Adam Epstein 17:44
Oh, yeah, I think there’s something there. I think that’s something that I want to be a part of. And I trusted Joe, I knew that you Joe is a really smart guy that built some pretty incredible products. Joe had previously worked at Google, he built a GIF messenger app that was acquired by another messenger app called Kik. And I trusted him and I just
Yoni Mazor 18:07
Did you hear that Facebook just bought a Jiff company, right? correctly, it was like Jiffy or giffy, however, you want to pronounce it.
Adam Epstein 18:10
So gifts are, I guess, are a big business.
Yoni Mazor 18:16
I know, as, you know, sort of position himself especially.
Adam Epstein 18:21
And, after chatting with Roscoe, who was able to raise $10 million, very early on for this company, it was clear that not only was this a really exciting opportunity, but I thought it was a really good fit for me to help the team grow the business. And it’s been pretty awesome ever since.
Yoni Mazor 18:39
So how do you I mean, explain to me the How do you I mean, you’re there for what, a year or two now, and the process a little over a year and a half?
Adam Epstein 18:47
So I started in November 2018. And we’re now at may 2020. So
Yoni Mazor 18:54
20 months? Got it. So now, you’re you know, you’re fairly deep in the game now. And what was your experience like to discover the Amazon landscape from within? That’s what I call with him because today, I think the third-party selling on Amazon is like 60% plus of the actual marketplace, and it’s still growing. And what is your mindset? Now? It was a shift in mindset or understanding of the scope, the intensity, or what was yours? What was like the revelation that did you have any revelation at all?
Adam Epstein 19:21
Yeah, I think my revelation really occurred in the first two weeks of working at this company where, you know, I, whether it was partnering with restaurants partnering with sports leagues, are partnering with banks at KTM. Like, processes for business development and sales were very much Hey, let’s talk in two weeks. So let’s set this up in a little bit. And then in my first couple of weeks at Perpetua, I’d have some initial conversations with people and they’d be like, okay, like, let’s get started right away. And they’re telling me like I and these aren’t like small people. These are people managing 10s of 1000s to $100,000 a month and ads. being like, I want this right now. Not two weeks, not whatever, like, give me the agreements, I want to go immediately. And I was like, wow, like, I’ve never been a part of anything like this. There’s something, there’s something going on here, and
Yoni Mazor 20:15
it’s on fire, the whole industry is on fire. This is a time of evolution. That’s it, you know that the game is on, you know, it’s off to the races, everybody’s on it, you know, everybody has a
Adam Epstein 20:26
very, it is very much on fire. And it has created a little bit of a wild wild west mentality. And that if there’s, there’s like every in every major city, you’ll see four smart, smart software engineers being like, I’ll build Amazon PPC software. And I don’t necessarily think there’s been necessarily a winner yet. But I think that we’re certainly emerging as the category leader by way of our product adoption and the size of our customer base. And so that’s the funny thing is that there’s been just so much opportunity that so many people are funneling business to, to many software providers, but it just speaks to the fact that look like there’s so much to be gained with Amazon advertising specifically. And the tools that Amazon’s created, do not do anyone any favors, it is very challenging for people to win on Amazon advertising on their own without the use of the software. And then, and I think a lot of the people that are building software on Amazon are thinking like, hey, what would help me if I was a seller, and we produce, we put a very different perspective on it. So if you consider advertising, like buying stocks, what’s the best way to buy stocks or create long term wealth, it’s not to actually pick individual stocks, Warren Buffett, or any sort of financial index will tell you that it’s investing in the s&p 500 passive income with low-cost ETFs that are automatically rebalancing and retreating. And so effectively, we built a lot of powerful automation and optimization around the ability to purchase Amazon ads, which are effectively assets for people to grow their business. With this in mind, so we almost wanted it to be like the wealth front. So wealth front, massive, massive wealth management company in the US.
Yoni Mazor 22:19
We want to go on I want to touch Well, from what we just saw the people incentive perspective wealth front, as far as I know, it’s a financial institution. Usually you people use it as an app. What it does, is it kind of democratize investing into index funds, right? It’s the very, very low cost of investing in the stock market and or the capital markets, right?
Adam Epstein 22:38
Correct. And moreover, it’s a really, it’s a low cost and very easy way to create long term wealth specifically. And so we built some tools around that. And I’m Roscoe, our founder is an ex-hedge fund trader, worked with Peter Thiel, and was very became obsessed with this idea of how can you model CAC cost to acquire a customer as efficiently as possible. And that’s what our initial product was, it was very, very simple, rudimentary optimization and automation to get the best possible performance on ads. And then we realize that it adds can’t just be set it and forget it, even for larger sellers or larger businesses, there needs to be a significant amount of human direction to execute on strategies. So that’s what we’ve evolved with is we’ve evolved with allowing ways for humans to guide strategies within the products, sophisticated Amazon strategies because if you’re a seller, you have all these things that you want to try out and theories that you want to do about how to push organic rank and improve sales and profits. And, and absolutely, everyone wants a healthy dose of automation and optimization. But people definitely want to get their hands dirty a little bit and needed to execute our strategies. And start products evolved a lot by allowing people to execute these stra