In this Prime Talk Podcast Video Sponsored by GETIDA, Anthony Confranseco discusses working for Amazon and making an exit. Anthony is the Industry Liaison for PickFu, a leading consumer feedback service for Amazon sellers. Anthony shares his journey into e-commerce.
When you’re trying to launch a product, whether it’s your first or fifth, you always feel a bit of trepidation about your graphics and content. Worrying about the logo or color scheme can give you some anxiety for sure! Yoni Mazor of PrimeTalk discusses what you can do to ensure that you choose the right images and graphics or logos for you and your brand.
In today’s episode, PrimeTalk has teamed up with Anthony Confranseco, the Industry Liaison for PickFu, a handy little company that provides entrepreneurs with almost instantaneous feedback from their actual target groups about their market decisions. In fact, PickFu not only helps e-commerce businesses, but they also help people like authors and app developers too.
Anthony Confranseco shares his interesting journey from working at a small start-up called The Points Guy, to working at the giant Amazon in Loss Prevention, to the beaches of the Philippines and an Amazon graphics business, to his current position with PickFu. So if you’re an Amazon seller about to launch a new product or anyone with market decisions to make, then this episode is for you!
Learn more about Pickfu.
Learn more about GETIDA Amazon reimbursement solution software.
Yoni Mazor 0:06
Hi, everybody, welcome to another episode of PrimeTalk. Today I have a really cool guest. I have Anthony Cofranseco. He's the industry liaison for PickFu, which is a very interesting company. It's a leading consumer feedback service. We’re probably going to discuss and touch that more later but in the meantime, Anthony, welcome to the show.
Anthony Confranseco 0:25
Hey, Yoni. Thanks so much for having me on.
Yoni Mazor 0:27
A pleasure. I see that you are standing or sitting?
Anthony Confranseco 0:30
I'm standing. Usually whenever I do these, I prefer to stand Yeah.
Wow. You're the first one I think in my show that’s standing. That's awesome. Anyway, how you been? Where are you located right now?
Anthony Confranseco 0:40
So I mean, I've been pretty good as good I think as everyone can be with all this COVID craziness going on. Right now, I'm in Maryland, in a little town called Havre de Grace. I am normally based full-time in Manila, Philippines. But I got stuck traveling on the way to a conference and I've been here for the past few months...didn't think it would be so long.
Yoni Mazor 0:59
Manila, Philippines. Interesting. I bet it’s quite a story. And hopefully, we get there. So you're going to share with us. You know, your background? Who are you? Where are you from? Where did you grow up? Where do you go to school? How did you begin your career? You know, you're going to take us to the adventure of you. So I guess without further ado, shoot, go ahead.
Anthony Confranseco 1:17
Alrighty, so I mean, I guess my background just kind of just starting off is, you know, I grew up in a small town in Maryland, I grew up and went to a pretty small High School. And, you know, early on, I guess, I guess where my career really started was going into college. Right. So I went to the University of Florida. When I first went to college, I thought I was gonna be a doctor, which is kind of crazy to say out loud now.
Yoni Mazor 1:43
What kind of doctor, did you know what kind of doctor?
To be honest, I didn't really even know very much. I just knew that doctors made money. And I thought that's what I was going to do. So I went down to the University of Florida and sorely mistaken right off the bat that was not going to be a fit. Doing chemistry and biology and different things like that. So I ended up kind of switching into a business major in accounting and finance. And, you know, pretty much the thing that really hit me right off the bat is I was doing these different internships. And, you know, at the time, I thought I wanted to be the next big CFO of America. That was like, my big dream is to go and become a corporate exec. And, you know, I’d done these different internships when I was in college. And at some point, I started getting into the world of entrepreneurship and small business owners. While I was still in college, I was, you know, I had the opportunity to present in front of the CFO of Verizon and the entire financial executive team. And then I started to get into small businesses. And so the first real experience I had was with a company called The Points Guy, it’s a travel hacking website.
Yoni Mazor 2:47
And they're still around, they're pretty huge now. No?
Anthony Confranseco 2:49
Yeah, yeah. So you know, that was kind of my first jump into it. And you know, a lot of people ask me, like, how I was able to get into that role. And, you know, at the time, like, I was saying, I was doing the whole corporate thing, but I was also traveling a lot whenever I could, whenever I could skip class, I was getting on a plane and trying to find cheap flights, cheap hotels. And so I reached out to The Points Guy, and I sent them like, maybe 20 emails, just over and over, hey, I think your website's so cool. You don't even have to pay me, I just want to like, you know, I just want to help out any way I can. And eventually, I ended up getting in touch with someone who got me in touch to The Points Guy and actually ended up landing a job there. At the time they were based in New York, and this is...they were working out of a WeWork Office, this was still like when they were only maybe five or six employees.
Yoni Mazor 3:33
And what year was this?
Anthony Confranseco 3:35
Ah, man, this must have been maybe four or five years ago at this point.
Yoni Mazor 3:37
So around 2015 ish?
Anthony Confranseco 3:39
Yeah, that sounds about right.
Yoni Mazor 3:40
Okay, so you're in Florida, correct me if I'm wrong? Okay. They're in New York City. By nudging them you secure a job? What was your position there?
Anthony Confranseco 3:48
So I was just pretty much an intern, right? I was writing some articles, I was a, I guess they called me a strategy intern. So I was looking a little bit of article writing, doing reviews on airlines and hotels, but then I was also getting to do looking into our customer LTV and see the traffic on the website and kind of attributing that to...because it's just a credit card affiliate business, right. And so they make money when people sign up for their credit cards. So kind of looking at the content plan and seeing how we can go and increase the, you know, the affiliate commission's that we were getting for the site.
Yoni Mazor 4:22
And how’d it go? How long did you stay there?
Anthony Confranseco 4:24
It was really, really good. You know, that was my first experience going strong, something that was different from the corporate side of things. And you know, Verizon was a really cool experience, because it was such a big company. But The Points Guy was completely different. It was so much smaller.
Yoni Mazor 4:38
And you know, who is The Points Guy? Give him a shout-out. What's his name?
Anthony Confranseco 4:44
Brian Kelly. And the story of the company was amazing. So I got to meet Brian on a handful of different occasions. I got to, you know, get exposed to some pretty high names in the travel industry. And so at that point that was really Yoni where it clicked for me. It was a combination of doing that internship working for The Points Guy. And then at the time too, this kind of all gets into the story I was traveling a lot and I was part of the entrepreneurship club at the University of Florida. But I'd never really gone to any meetings and I was on the Facebook group, and they posted up that they had gotten these free tickets to the Lean Startup conference in San Francisco by Eric Ries. And they posted up in the Facebook group and said, Hey, we got these free tickets to this event. Anyone who can get out there, the tickets are free. And so I didn't know who Eric Ries was. I didn't know who the Lean Startup was. But I was like, This sounds awesome. Like I can get a free trip out to California, I had a bunch of airline miles saved up. So I knew probably no one would be able to afford the tickets. I knew I could at least get myself out there. So sure enough, I go out to the Lean Startup conference. There are four of us kids from UF all packed into a room at the Fairmont. And that was my first real exposure.
Yoni Mazor 5:51
Sorry, four kids from who? From UF? What’s that? The University of Florida? So obviously, you flew together from Florida to the place or you met them there?
Anthony Confranseco 5:59
We just met them there. I'd never met the people in my life and just show up in the hotel room. And this was my big first experience in anything in the startup world. And it was super interesting, because over that weekend, right? Going around, and you know, everyone's coming up to you and pitching you their ideas for this company, that startup that they're working on. And you know, it just clicked in my head for a minute, I was so very clear that my life was going in two different directions. Either I was going to double down and do this corporate thing. I had already been going through college, and I was having some trouble with actually showing up and going to classes. And then you know, where it really clicked for me is when I you know, I remember I was helping The Points Guy, and helping with some of their Facebook ad strategies. And I remember going to one of my marketing professors, and I said, Hey, you know, what's an acceptable cost per click on this kind of thing, right? And because I had never done anything with Facebook ads, and I very distinctly remember the marketing professor saying, I don't really have any idea. And you're not gonna learn that until grad school. So up until that point, I was pretty invested in I was actually doing quite well in the business school. But at that point, I was like, This is stupid. I'm not gonna go and sit here and spend all this time and effort. If I'm doing something in the real world, we were managing like millions of dollars. I mean, just like huge amounts in these ad spends for The Points Guy. And so that's kind of where...
Yoni Mazor 7:17
On Facebook? Or also other channels? Was it also Google LinkedIn? What were your channels you guys used to advertise The Points Guy?
Anthony Confranseco 7:23
Back then it was all Facebook. So I'm out there at the Lean Startup. And everyone is, you know, pitching me the ideas. I'm meeting all these other people. And I remember it clicking for me, I'm like, I feel like I'm at least as smart as these people. I feel like I'm at least as charming. The difference between these people that are going and chasing their dreams and going and doing all these things. And then there's me, there's...I wasn't really invested in my academic career, I caught some interest about what I wanted to do. And so that's kind of where it clicked. The other thing that really blew my mind Yoni is when we were there at the Fairmont. I have a very good memory of a guy who later became my business partner. So this is all gonna tie in. But I was sitting in the bed next to this guy, right? His name was Eric, and he was working on his laptop and I look over, it must be midnight or something. I'm like, Dude, what are you doing? He's got this huge excel sheet. And he said, Oh, this is a list of everyone at this conference. It’s their first name, their last name, their title. And because he was going, he was trying to find different people who would come and speak at the entrepreneurship club at the University of Florida. And so you know, this must be a list of like, 100 people with names, titles, and I was like, did you put that together? And he said, No, I didn't put it together, my VA put it together. And I said, What's the VA, right? And then so, it was a combination of like seeing other people that were going and living their lives and chasing their dreams. And then there was a combination of like, seeing that, wait, there's probably this whole world that I don't even understand all these tools and tips and tricks. And that's what turned out to be true. So after that, you know, learning out what a VA was, I started going crazy with reading the $100 Startup, reading The Four Hour Workweek, reading Rich Dad, Poor Dad. And then that's, that's really where things shifted for me. So kind of where the story goes from there is I pretty much stopped going to class completely. At the University of Florida, the only reason I stuck around, I told my parents, as I took like a semester off. I told them that I was still going to class. And you know, I really wasn't. The only reason I stuck around was that there is this business consulting team that the University of Florida had, where they had these international consulting competitions where they send you...they would pay for you to go and travel around this world, around the world and do these consulting competitions. So I stayed around as long as I possibly could. But when my GPA dropped, and then I got kicked out of business school, I wasn't allowed to stay on the team. That's when I completely stopped going to college. I said, I said to my mom and dad, I said, Look, I'm paying for this. I'm not going to finish. I know it's not what you guys want to hear, but this is what it is. So this must have been like maybe 2016-2017.
Yoni Mazor 9:49
Alright, so 2016-2017 You're still with The Points Guy. You're immersing yourself in the business world and the entrepreneurial bug is pounding you left and right, which ended up with you basically leaving your academics. What's the next station for you?
Anthony Confranseco 10:01
Yeah, so the next step was I was working remotely for The Points Guy, I was making some income, pretty much I wasn't going to class anymore. I had completely withdrawn from all my classes. And that's when I really started to travel a little bit. I was, you know, working remotely, getting a couple of different gigs. And then the last kind of step before, before things really shifted was I took a job with Amazon. I did, over the summer, I did a summer internship with Amazon, it went really, really well. It was in a loss prevention role, which kind of sounds like the craziest thing, but I worked as an intern inside a fulfillment center in Tampa, that's where I started off. And the internship went really well. In fact, while I was an intern, I was able to put together a white paper that got approved while I was an intern that put in X-ray screening into all the North American fulfillment centers. So a lot of people don't know this, but when FC workers are going in and out they are, actually, you know, they have to, you know, have their bags searched, because people do steal things from the fulfillment centers. So I put together a whole paper and pitched it and, you know, that was like my baby. Anyway, when after my internship was done, I ended up getting an offer from Amazon. And I told them straight off, I said, Look, guys, and I knew a little bit of Amazon's background and their policies...
Yoni Mazor 11:15
And this was the summer of 2016, or 17?
Anthony Confranseco 11:17
This must be 17 I think, yeah. Okay. Amazon, give me a job offer. And I say, guys, I’m not at all planning on graduating, I want to know, can I still work for you guys, if I don't graduate and they said, We don't care at all, doesn't matter to us. You've done a great job on your internship. And so that was all I really needed. At that point, that was when I completely told my parents I leveled up and I said, Guys, I haven't been going to college for the past year and a half. There's no way I'm going to finish, I do have a full-time job offer with Amazon, they don't care if I graduate. And so this is what I'm going to do. And so they were fine at that. I mean, they knew that Amazon was a legit company. So there's not, you know, too much that can be done. And so I was gonna start full time and fall in the one last thing that I wanted to do before starting full time in the fall was I wanted to set up an Amazon FBA business and set it up to make some passive income. Because I’d learned a little bit about FBA, I'd seen other friends doing it. And I knew that once I started working full time at Amazon, I wasn't probably gonna have time to do much else. So before I started, I moved out to the summer, over the summer to the Philippines with that guy from college, Eric, and...
Yoni Mazor 12:24
Why did he move though? I know you have a passion for travel, it seems like you will...your ambition is to be a citizen of the world which is cool as I commend that but what was his angle leaving to..Did he take you along? What were the dynamics there?
Anthony Confranseco 12:37
Oh, no, it was just...we have a small group of e-com sellers that usually for about you know, maybe a two month period, we'll just take a time off and we'll just go and travel together. So he was just like, Hey, what do you want to do for three months? Like, let's go to Cebu, Philippines. Never had been there, just no idea, but let's go check it out.
Yoni Mazor 12:55
What was the name of the town? How do you…? Zibu?
Anthony Confranseco 12:58
Cebu, C E B U.
Yoni Mazor 13:00
C E B U? Cebu? Okay, shout out to Cebu, Philippines. Is that near the capital at all or no?
Anthony Confranseco 13:05
It's a quick flight. It's like the second largest city but it's the beach city. So you go there. It's like the equivalent of Phuket I guess for the Philippines.
Yoni Mazor 13:14
Probably phenomenal. Sounds phenomenal. Okay, so you and Eric, hit the Philippines. What happened over there?
Anthony Confranseco 13:20
Yeah. So it was super good. We’d go out. We’d, you know, I learned how to sell an Amazon FBA super great. Launched a product. And you know, we have a good summer kind of get things get ducks in a line. And then I moved back to the US to start a full-time job with Amazon in Houston. Things go really well in that first year. I really don't have anything bad at all to say about working at Amazon. I really did enjoy the job. I loved it.
Yoni Mazor 13:45
So 2017 September, you know, a year in, a whole full year you did in Houston, Texas? In the loss prevention, same roll? Or?
Anthony Confranseco 13:55
Yeah. Loss prevention and loss prevention is a really cool role. Because you've got this FC with like, 4000 workers, right. And so a lot of people ask, they say, like, do people do employees actually steal? Dor associates actually steal? And the answer is yes, they steal a lot. And in fact, some of one of the biggest cases I'd ever heard of was there is, and people get very clever with it. A guy actually Newark. What he did is over the course of two years, he stole a quarter-million dollars in iPhones. And how he did it is he had a lunch box. And every day on the way leaving the FC, your lunch boxes searched, but he was very smart because he created hidden compartments in his lunchbox. And so every day like clockwork one or two iPhones just walking out and over two years to a quarter-million dollars in iPhones.
Yoni Mazor 14:40
How'd you guys find that out? What was the trigger for you guys? What was the red flag that made you say, something's off here?
Anthony Confranseco 14:45
Yeah, so that one is, you know, the criteria you...
Yoni Mazor 14:49
But you’re in Houston, what I'm wondering if you're in Houston how’d you find out about it?
Anthony Confranseco 14:53
So that wasn't my FC. That was just the biggest one I've ever heard of.
Yoni Mazor 14:56
Ah, you heard of it. Okay
Anthony Confranseco 14:57
Inside my fulfillment center, we solved big ones, I've never seen anything a quarter-million dollars as big. But the cool thing was that not only did you get to actually do the theft investigation, so, imagine this Yoni, this fulfillment center is like 4000 workers, but it's also absolutely massive, it's just giant. And every single time that something moves in the FC, it's tracked. And so a lot of our job would be as we would have these investigations, we knew that something had been stolen, but we didn't know out of the 4000 people, we could see that there are inventory deviations, but we had to figure out who did it and what was the extent of the theft. And so it's pretty cool getting to do the investigation work, I got put through, like interrogation training. So like, it was like a multi-day course, learning how to interrogate people, I got to deal with some really cool scenarios, like we had these, like, even just at my site, we had a vendor fraud case where they were supposed to be selling, you know, a vendor, you know, because they get paid upfront for their inventory, right? And so they were, they were reselling Nvidia graphics cards that cost like 400 bucks a pop. And what the seller did, they were very smart, are they sent out all of these packages that were similar size and weight of these graphics cards, but they were putting just random items in it. So like lens caps, a deck of cards, whatever it might be. And by the time that they found out just at my FC alone was like $100,000 and company-wide was like $2 million. So some of the things would get really really bad.
Yoni Mazor 16:21
So Amazon paid $2 million for bogus inventory, basically. So they collect the bill, but they send you bogus product as a vendor to Amazon, not as a third-party seller.
Anthony Confranseco 16:32
Right. And the thing that they were doing that was even smarter is in sometimes this would happen is what a vendor would do is they would pre-load, they would send a bunch of useless inventory, but then they would raise their price so that they would lose the buy box, just with the intention of going until they get their payout. And then once they've been paid out, they don't care, they start releasing the inventory, and then it gets caught.
Yoni Mazor 16:54
So it's very interesting. And no, what's interesting is that they gave you the life experience to interrogate people on delicate matters. It's never a fun, pleasant thing to suspect anybody. And you have to play that role. And you did it. And I guess you did it successfully. Because you guys, the loss prevention, you prevented more loss for Amazon. Probably millions of dollars out throughout the cycle of a year, which is something I'm sure they appreciated, which is good. Okay, what was your next station? What was the next adventure?
Anthony Confranseco 17:22
Yeah. So what was next is, you know, I loved my job at Amazon really, really loved it. The only thing that I didn't love was obviously you, you know, you don't get unlimited vacation, right? And so...
Yoni Mazor 17:32
Ahh the travel bug.
Anthony Confranseco 17:34
That was what really hit it for me. I remember I had come back, I traveled a bunch just in that first year, I took a trip out to Egypt. And then I had gotten back from that. And then I took another trip out with my girlfriend at the time and some friends out to Bali. And I remember flying back on the plane from Bali, we were only there for about a week or so. And Eric, the guy I was talking about earlier was actually on that trip. So we went out, a small group of us, went and stayed in Bali. And I remember thinking on the flight back home, shoot, I'm not gonna be able to take another serious vacation for another probably six months until I could accumulate my PTO. And given I had like a good amount of paid time off with Amazon. But it's just nowhere near to what I was looking for. Anyway, long story short, though, is that was the only thing that I didn't like about Amazon. And so actually, at the time, I was even looking, because my friend Eric, the guy who had taught me how to sell on Amazon, was living in the Philippines. I had lived there. I was like, I mean, Houston was a great city, but I wanted to go and see the world. I wanted to travel. And so I was actually applying to...I wanted to do something International. And so I was actually applying to internal transfers within Amazon, I was trying to get out to Singapore, I was literally going anywhere. I was like you guys can put me anywhere, I just want to be somewhere International. And I got a call one day from Eric, the guy, and he had this graphics company called Virtuous Graphics. And I had actually helped to hire some of their original employees when I was living out in the Philippines with him over the summer. And so I was very well familiarized with the business. At the time, they had about eight employees, and they just did photography and graphic design for Amazon sellers. And so the real story is I was dating a girl at the time and we broke updating and then I texted that guy Eric, who had met her about a week ago when she was in Bali. And I was like Hey dude, I just want to let you know Hannah and I broke up and so he's like Hey, give me a call and so I think he's like ready to console me you know make me feel better and so we get on the phone 20 seconds and he's like yeah, well I just want to let you know I didn't really like her anyway but now that there's nothing tying you down, why don't you come out here to the Philippines and help me scale Virtuous Graphics? And I thought this is absolutely insane. I was gonna have to repay a huge signing bonus, a big signing bonus, a big relocation, also I, you know, they gave me starting off 64 shares of stock which obviously had invested. So pretty much walking away from it all and but...
Yoni Mazor 19:52
Yeah, they call it a cushion job. Yeah, cushion position, a cushion job. You bit the fruit of..the forbidden fruit of becoming an entrepreneur. Yeah?
Anthony Confranseco 20:02
Exactly right Yoni. And so I knew, if I didn't do this, this was something that I was gonna end up regretting for the rest of my life. And the really cool thing I liked the most about traveling, which really took a lot of the risk off for me, is I knew deep down, if absolute worst comes to worst, I'm just gonna come back and get another job. Unlike, because I lived in third world countries like I didn't have to go back to a house that had a metal roof or a dirt floor like I was going to be just fine. And so I told my parents, I said, Hey, guys, I'm gonna put in my two weeks notice at Amazon, I talked to my boss, and, you know, I was like, hey, if I totally screw up, can I come back and work for you guys if I totally mess up? They’re like no problem at all. You're definitely re-hireable. And so I put in my two weeks notice and about a month later moved out to the Philippines.
Yoni Mazor 20:44
Wow. That's certainly wow... Amazon lost you for the moment, right? Are you coming back in your own version of our own version of ways we're gonna get to that very, very shortly, hopefully? Okay, so out of a cushion job. New world, Philippines. This time. I guess you're still there because you, technically speaking, you really live in the Philippines even though you got stuck here because of the COVID. Okay, this is 2018. Towards the end of the year. Oh, not too long ago. It's pretty recent, about two years ago. So now we're touching the past two years. take us into Virto Graphics you said?
Anthony Confranseco 21:22
Virtuous Graphics. Yeah.
Yoni Mazor 21:23
Anthony Confranseco 21:25
Yeah. So I got out there, you know, and I remember, I had so little money. I actually didn't have any money when I first moved out there because I had to leave, you know, just as you can imagine expenses for leaving, I didn't have the cash. I had to repay back certain things. So I remember literally getting on the plane, maybe like a few $100 in my bank account, and fly to Manila. And you know, I remember it was like, the first night we were there. We go out to dinner. And I remember I don't know if you've ever heard of the company Empire Flippers. But I had traveled to a couple different Amazon conferences, I think Global Sources. And I remember I had heard of Empire Flippers and their CMO, Justin I'd seen him speak before. And that first night in Manila, Eric's like hey, let's get, you know, let's meet up and we'll go out to dinner. There's some local econ guys in town. And so we go out and I remember nudging him. I'm like, dude, is this Justin from Empire Flippers. He's like, Yeah, man, just you know, people that hang out all the time. And they're their director of marketing, Greg Elfrink, who's become a good friend at this point.
Yoni Mazor 22:25
They live in the Philippines or they happened to be visiting?
Anthony Confranseco 22:27
They're based in Ho Chi Minh City, but I think they were just visiting through.
Yoni Mazor 22:31
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam?
Anthony Confranseco 22:32
Yeah, in Saigon.
Yoni Mazor 22:34
So the ex-pats, Americans living in Asia as well. Yeah. The whole trend I see. I've uncovered some sort of agent community out there. It's pretty interesting to go check you guys out. But uh, the world has to settle with COVID first.
Anthony Confranseco 22:48
Yeah, man, I'm so...I'll tell you that that first night having dinner sitting with the group. I was like, it just clicked me. I was like, Okay, I definitely made the right decision. This was good. Now, given I didn't have any money, I literally came out there to make $2,000 a month, which was like, you know, no money at all, but I knew it was going to be enough to live on.
Yoni Mazor 23:05
But your partner, you guys became partners?
Anthony Confranseco 23:08
Uh, yeah. So I came on, we agreed on a salary, and then you know, small equity, equity-based on time and based on hitting different performance metrics. And so yeah, so you know, that first month, man, I remember, I lived on his couch for the first month, because I didn't have enough money to get a place. And sure enough, we worked really, really hard. And, you know, the first year...
Yoni Mazor 23:31
What was your role? What was your position?
Anthony Confranseco 23:33
So I was just director of operations, right, that, you know, Eric was very much focused on his FBA business, and he said, Look, this, this, you know, come in here and scale this business.
Yoni Mazor 23:44
What do you guys do? Well, what's the business? What's the offering? What's the value?
Anthony Confranseco 23:48
So the whole thing with Virtuous Graphics, what it was, was specifically images and graphic design specifically for Amazon sellers. So unlike just a typical photo agency, or graphic design company, this was like, okay, there's going to be certain things in your images or in your infographics that on the Amazon platform A) have to be compliant with TLS. But then on the other side of the equation, there's certain things that ecommerce that are actually going to drive clicks and drive conversions and actually get more add to carts. And so that was the whole angle. Shortly after I got on, we added on video and copywriting. We wanted to be able to do absolutely everything for the listing. So if someone were to come to us, we could knock it all out. And yeah, that's what we really worked hard on. And for two years, like, really built it out, grew the team from eight employees to more than 30 full time creatives. And in a span of two years, took our ARV from about $600 when I got there, to about $1400 when we left and yeah, just worked really hard.
Yoni Mazor 24:49
AOV is what?
Anthony Confranseco 24:50
LIke Average Order Value. Yeah.
Yoni Mazor 24:52
So what was the multiple there?
Anthony Confranseco 24:54
So going from 600 to about 1400.
Yoni Mazor 24:57
More than double, that's great. Um, I guess like you mentioned that which I find that interesting is your claim for fame was, you know, images optimized to the Amazon Marketplace for third party sellers, which is innovative, you know, it said, This Is this our niche, this is what we specialize in, you hit the iron while it’s hot because the growth has been hyper and it still is. So I guess it was a good decision to be at the right place at the right time. And you made an impact. So you grew it about two and a half X on the average order value, but and also on the physical level, you guys, you said five or six people to 30 people?
Anthony Confranseco 25:34
You know, it was things too...like we started off in the studio we had was, you know, pretty crappy. And then, you know, we upgraded to a much nicer studio where we had backdrops for, you know, different lifestyle shots like Bedroom, Bathroom, things like that. At that time, I think I guess, you know, between 24 to 25 years old, to actually have that opportunity to build a team that was that big and to be responsible for revenue, not like...I never in my life thought, you know, I would see a single month with sales numbers of $75,000. Like it blew my mind. But it was a super good experience. Because Eric was very gracious to be very hands-off running the company. So I got to learn a lot, I got to make a lot of mistakes. And so it was like, I got to build this thing as an intrapreneur. But not you know, completely like it was my thing, which was just a great opportunity.
Yoni Mazor 26:22
You didn't take the Full Exposure or the liability. But listen, I'm connecting a small dot here. I don't know if you remember this, but not too long ago, you told me you saw yourself at some point in time, as the CFO of the world. So those numbers should not have been too foreign or too shocking for you once you hit them. You know, from that perspective, but you didn't, you know, you saw these numbers as an intrapreneur, as you said, but in the back of your mind, you did have a position as a CFO. So wondering, you know, you made some sort of closure there, you were sought out as actually the guy who owned the numbers, you stand behind them, because you generated them, which is unusual. So you're much more connected and affected by it. But I congratulate you on that. It's a pretty awesome experience to feel. I'm coming with a few 100 bucks to a foreign country, as an entrepreneur, we're trying to do something innovative. But by all, it seems like all the KPIs or key performance indicators, of your story, have been positive. And they, you know, directly show growth or hyper-growth. And you know, in the form of two years, these multiples are great, they're awesome. And what triggered, I guess, the purchasing or the exit move which is, I guess, the next station in the story. But I want to touch before that a little bit. You mentioned that you know, you find yourself 24-25 years old. You know handling all these numbers, but how did you make you feel being responsible for the livelihood of this team? You know, five, six people to around 30 people? And was this team mostly a global team? Or is it more local in the Philippines? What were the dynamics of the actual team?
Anthony Confranseco 27:53
Yeah, that that was by far the biggest thing for me, right? Because, you know, first off, over the two years, it definitely wasn't all smooth. There were a lot of hiccups. And a lot of points of getting really close to service-based business. Obviously, the margin is not as big as a product-based business, you know, would be typical. And so the livelihood was definitely the big one, right? We had people on our team, our creative directors, and just, you know, everyone on our team, right, we had, we had people that were parents, single moms, like every potential makeup. People that were supporting their parents, people that had, you know, a family member or loved ones with disabilities. And it was like, if we, for some reason, didn't make that amount of money that we needed to cover payroll or something like that, like, you know, Filipinos, on average, don't have a ton of extra savings, right? It's not like they're gonna fall back, it is like, to be completely honest, you know, the difference of eating or not eating or their family eating or not eating. So that was definitely the big thing. That was definitely the thing that keeps you up at night. Of like, did we hire too much? Did we make the wrong mistake? But at the same time, too, I was really fortunate to have my business partner Eric, who was a very frugal guy, and he had been running businesses for four years. So
Yoni Mazor 29:02
Are you guys almost the same age or no? But he is more than to the business experience. And he's more into making sure there's a tunnel vision, especially on the cost level, keeping a good handle on it. And make sure everything's aligned. So you guys are our steering in steady waters.
Yeah, yeah. And as well too, offering some counsel where sometimes, I mean, there was definitely a couple of periods over a two-year period where it's just like, I was completely overwhelmed and exhausted and was like, I don't know what we're gonna do about this man. And he's like, dude, calm down. It's gonna be fine. But you know, if you haven't been there that, you know, haven't been there before personally, I mean, you know how stressful this stuff can be. It can be really crazy. It's absolutely nuts.
Yoni Mazor 29:43
Yeah, this is the game of entrepreneurship is one crisis after the other, endless and constant decision making. Fatiguing on it sometimes but once you have the right balance of especially having the right partner where you can have a good shoulder on it and when you complement each other on the highs and lows, I think that's awesome. That's a great thing to have. And I salute you, man. This is, uh, you know you're doing at a young age. I'm not that old. I'm only 36. But you started What? 24-25? That's a good, that's a good age. And you've seen our lives. You know, I've seen things around a little bit. You saw The Points Guy, which is a scrappy company that became something that is worth mentioning around the world right now, or at least in America. I've heard about them. And I know they're doing it, they're up to interesting things on the credit card level. You were for Amazon, you know, fortune 500 company. Loss prevention, which is a very unique position to be in inside Amazon, I'm sure you garnered a lot of experience. And it's your lifecycle is pretty versatile at this point, as far as I can, I can see. And you have interesting angles, where sometimes you see yourself, sometimes you see yourself as a doctor, as a CFO. As a detective, right? And also that this guy that's, you know, the whole world, you know, you have a whole world on your shoulders in terms of livelihood, and people and as I understand from your words is that most of the team members were local in the Philippines. Yeah?
Anthony Confranseco 31:02
Yep. Everyone. Everyone is local. Yep.
Yoni Mazor 31:04
Yeah, you should probably get a medal from Duterte. What's his name?
Anthony Confranseco 31:07
Yoni Mazor 31:09
Duterte, yeah. Yeah, I heard he has a nice airline. I mean, airplane. So he might take you for a ride back once you're ready to go to the Philippines. Okay. Talk to me about the exit. What was the trigger there? What were the dynamics? What was that experience like for you guys?
Anthony Confranseco 31:22
Yeah. So at that point, you know, we had been really scaling and we had really been growing a lot. And we're kind of at this point of, like, critical, you know, critical thing, where it's like, we're gonna go to the next level, right? And so my business partner, Eric, like I said earlier, was really focused on his FBA brands. He had been doing that, I'd say, like, probably 90% of his time is spent on that, and just, you know, really helping out with Virtuous Graphics from an administrative perspective, and, you know, making sure the bills got paid and things like that. And I said, hey, look, you know, Eric, quite honestly, I really need someone else to come in here and help this right? Because, like, it was just very quickly, it was going to become like, way too much for me to do by myself.
Yoni Mazor 32:02
Were you the COO, CEO? What was the title? COO and he was CEO?
Anthony Confranseco 32:07
Yoni Mazor 32:09
Yeah. But yeah, it's just if you thought about it. He also owns a business. But he said at 10% of the time, he was kind of with you guys. 90% he's running his brands on Amazon, or he does also outside of Amazon?
Anthony Confranseco 32:18
Yeah, he was just an Amazon FBA seller. And, and so I said, at the time, there was this private equity company that actually had some local members in Manila. And they actually offered, you know, they said, Hey, this could be a really good thing that Tony can get the help that he needs to go and scale the business. The other thing too is we were about to inject some serious capital into the business so around, like building out the even better studio and bringing on like some serious level talent in the FBA space.
Yoni Mazor 32:48
From which funding? Was it self-funded or?
Anthony Confranseco 32:51
We were all self-funded. Yes. So this would be the first time that we were going to, to actually take funding. And we had also had a time the previous year where we almost took investor money, but we ended up not doing it. And I look back, and I almost regretted it, because I was thinking what could I have done in that year, if I actually had more resources, you know, to go and scale the business. So yeah, it was just kind of the right place, right time for this because the buyer offered to buy us and it was very good for Eric because there were very little, very little requirements on his end in terms of his earnout. So like he could still focus, it was going to be a very smooth and easy transition. And so yeah, then he would be able to kind of double down on his FBA business and I’d get the help that I needed to help keep running and scaling Virtuous Graphics.
Yoni Mazor 33:37
So this is a private equity group that came in. The dynamics as they're about to give you some funding, but instead of just bought the whole company out completely?
Anthony Confranseco 33:45
I think originally we were going around some different options, but I the one that we ended up doing was they bought us completely and for them the thought was partially for gains that could be made with Virtuous Graphics, but then the other half as well as because they focused on acquiring other Amazon FBA brands. And you know, making them better, improving them. And so the other benefit to them was now they were gonna have access to the entire team for all of their brands to get..
Yoni Mazor 34:12
It's what I call strategic purchase, where you obviously get a thriving business so that has its own merit and its own upside potentially. And also, if it complements your other, I guess core business, which is for them is buying brands who sell on Amazon and optimizing them, so it falls into the wheel. So this is definitely a strategic purchase for them. So you sold out, your equity has been you know, cashed out into a liquidity event, and more funding is in the organization. What happened next?
Anthony Confranseco 34:44
So it was good. I helped over a period of about six months to transition out and you know, things went well from certain circumstances. Like you know, I think it was a pretty smooth handoff in terms of keeping the trajectory of things going, we helped through the transition. And then around January, it wasn't like...
Yoni Mazor 35:07
January what? 2019 or 2020?
This January. Yeah.
Yoni Mazor 35:11
So end of last year was the purchase?
Anthony Confranseco 35:15
Yeah in September. And then by January, I had helped with the transition. And they were in the spot that they needed to keep going. And so it wasn't like I had enough money to not work anymore. And so I take about a month off just kind of relaxed. And then I was like...
Yoni Mazor 35:31
Hold on, you knew the moment you guys sold out, you guys, you knew you're gonna leave or you planned to stay? What was your mindset?
Anthony Confranseco 35:39
Yeah, my plan originally was to stay. Absolutely. That was definitely the thought, um, what ended up happening, in reality, is, I think, a little bit more of a complicated situation, as you can imagine. But it just didn't end up working out in the end. In terms of me staying on there. I think we had very different ideas on the direction to take the company and especially from, you know, in regards to really focusing on Amazon sellers, on Amazon third-party sellers, and like really honing that in. But it just didn't end up working out. And so...No, it wasn't decided that from the beginning it just it wasn't...Yeah, just didn't work out that I wouldn't be staying there.
Yoni Mazor 36:16
Got it. Okay, so three months passed by, everybody settles, you had and I guess a liquidity event. Wasn't a, you know, not that you won the lottery. But you know, you're okay, you're comfortable. You took a month off and what bit you?
Anthony Confranseco 36:29
So the big thing is, I had felt a little bit with the business, selling the business that I was a little bit too short-sighted. And I wish you know, if I had to go back and do it again, I would have kept it longer. Because I did really believe in the trajectory that we were going on. And now that I really see it, like two years is no time at all, like I could have done another two years. And it's like not, it's just a blip. So I was really looking for I was like, Okay, I want the next big thing. But I want something that I can do for the next five years, right? I really want something...I didn't feel comfortable at that point in time starting my own business. I knew I wanted to stay in the FBA space, I had gone to all these conferences, I'd spoken, I'd made all these connections. I talked to a few mentors, and they were like you would be crazy to leave the FBA space, you'd be nuts. And so I put together a list of all of the companies that I would potentially want to work at. And like everyone was on that list, like Helium 10 was on, like every major company in the FBA space. But the one that was always at the top of my list was PickFu. I had known John and Justin, just briefly, we had met at Prosper Show in Vegas, we had done some collaborations at Virtuous Graphics. And in fact, we had incorporated PickFu as a pretty big component of our business at Virtuous Graphics as one of our service offerings. And PickFu always, you know, struck me as this really, a really valuable tool that not too many people...that was still kind of like a secret in the FBA community, like people almost wouldn't really want to talk about it. Because it's such a powerful tool.
Yoni Mazor 37:58
I’ll be honest, up til, you know, I met you, which is pretty recently, it was I saw the name around a lot, don't get me wrong, but I didn't really kind of put the dots together. But once you did put it together for me, I thought it was brilliant. So let's take a moment here. Take a fresh breath. And tell us what you guys do. And if I feel for the common seller that it's a little bit too rich, I'll sum it up in a few words. So they get the, like an iron, what’s the value here. But go ahead.
Anthony Confranseco 38:27
Yeah, sure. So PickFu essentially just giving you access to customer feedback in just a matter of minutes. So essentially,
Yoni Mazor 38:37
But especially for creative right? For visuals, especially the images?
Anthony Confranseco 38:41
Yeah, yeah. So you can do anything from testing. Like if you're publishing a book, for example, you can test the cover of your book cover, right? Because if the cover is not good, no one's ever even going to get into reading the book, similar use cases for mobile game development. So you can like you could pick like, between two different avatars for a character and say which one is better? For advertising, obviously, e-commerce is a huge one. So before you know your product packaging, your logo, your branding, your images. And so what PickFu allows you to do is it allows you to show these creative assets to a panel, that's more than 10,000 people in the US. And you not only...They not only vote as to Hey, I like option A or like option B, but they also give you detailed feedback as to why they chose that. So the use cases are pretty great, pretty big. The reason that PickFu really stuck out to me, and it was number one on that list is because exactly like you were saying, not that many people have really heard of it. If you think about how big all these verticals and use cases are. And so also I had met Justin and John when I was in Vegas, and it was very clear that Justin and John were crazy smart guys, but when it came to presentation and delivery, that wasn't their strong...it wasn't their strong side, you know, and they would tell you that themselves or they're definitely a bit nerdy. You know, nerdy engineers. But in a very positive way. So yeah, I thought there's huge potential in PickFu because the same, like it's just getting more and more competitive, and eCommerce and Amazon, right, and the brands that will win in the end. And we're seeing this happen already, but the brands that will win in the end are brands that ran their Amazon FBA business like it's a legit business. And that includes product development, marketing, and strategy. But also, like Adidas or Nike or Under Armour, when they launch a product, they spend anywhere from $45,000 to $75,000 per product just in getting customer feedback. Right? Now, the thing is, for most Amazon FBA sellers, right, you're not going to go and get a focus group, you're not going to go and do, you know, go with these big companies, you need something that's accessible. And so I thought the potential of where PickFu is going in the future, this...more brands, it's going to be like an essential part of every FBA seller, the ones that are successful is customer feedback, it's got to be a line item. And it doesn't matter if it's PickFu, or someone else, but you shouldn't be going with your gut, you shouldn't be going and asking your spouse or your partner, you shouldn't be going and asking a random stranger at Starbucks, hey, what do you think of my logo, you should actually have a more data-driven approach. And so
Yoni Mazor 41:08
Yeah, data-driven where you as much as possible optimize into asking your target audience. So that's where you guys are making a difference. And the thing here is that you make a turnkey for sellers to test their creativity on the target market. So you get, you know, actual data from the target market, what's gonna work for them, what's gonna work best for them, and then you make an educated decision where to go. And that saves you a tremendous amount of agony and optimizes you to a level where you just launch it one launch after the other, you're just more successful. So I think it's a brilliant tool, and I think you guys are scrapping the tip of the iceberg in terms of potential because, you know, it's a whole revolution out there, 10s of 1000s, or hundreds of 1000s of entrepreneurs diving in every year to this marketplace and launching new products. And like I mentioned, using their gut feeling, which is cool. But if you realize there are affordable solutions out there, like PickFu, that can help you, you know, make it scientific, that's the way to go. That's, you know, the right dosage is there. And you made it and that's another view you mark and then you know, if you mark a few more fundamental vision, you're on your way for success, hopefully, you convert much, much better, and you’ll taste the taste of success much faster because I think a big chunk of them fail. And, this picture can be the difference between failure or not. Think about it. You did everything right, but the images are just off, and you have a different better option. And we're just there ready for you to know about it. PickFu is there for, you know, for you at your disposal. So, you do recommend PickFu for the similar to, for the sellers to become almost like a master mandatory when you launch your products and setting the routes for your creative.
Yeah, exactly. That's 100% right, Yoni and I yeah, you know, to that point, as well, like most people who are selling on Amazon, they're already selling in a really specific niche. And so most of the people selling products, like I know, some of the products I've sold, I am not that target audience at all. So it is a really great way to get a different perspective and to reduce those risks, and you know, to kind of avoid those errors. And so that was like the reason Pick Fu was at the top of my list, I thought that there's the serious potential of what can be done in the next, you know, few years about really taking this thing and getting it in front of not just ecom, but our other verticals as well, which are expanding. So I put together, you know, at the time, they had a marketing assistant position opened up on their website. And, you know, for me, I don't care about a title, I just, I just wanted to get my hands in the game. And so I applied for that. And then I ended up having a meeting with Justin and John and then another one and another one and then making a whole presentation to them about what I thought I could do. And I've been doing it for about six months. And it looks like some of it's starting to go in a really positive direction. So I hope to have some more exciting updates maybe a year from now.
Yoni Mazor 43:57
That's awesome. Very cool. I want to touch quickly just I guess what are the main challenges for you guys, you know, or for you may be at the current position before we kind of wrap it up towards the conclusion of this episode. So what are the main kind of challenges for you guys?
Anthony Confranseco 44:11
The big thing I think we're really working on a lot right now is figuring out what content marketing strategy really makes the most sense and trying to hash that out and build it out. I think a big thing that I know I want to go look more at is video, right? All of this content that is being put out and you know putting it out there is the highest level possible. Just what's the most effective way to really do the best outreach possible.
Yoni Mazor 44:38
Outreach for PickFu to basically put the awareness out that you guys are available for the seller so they pick up on it?
Anthony Confranseco 44:43
Yeah, getting the word out there and yeah, that's the big one.
Yoni Mazor 44:47
Yeah, basically you guys can't get enough. You guys are hungry for more and it's just a good positive outlook for the sellers who use you guys. So how you know we need to grow faster. That's a very good problem for most businesses, Okay, very good. So I'm going to recap a little bit what we got, you know, around 2015, you kind of the University of Florida, you are trying to discover yourself, in the meantime, you score a job with The Points Guy, you get experienced with working for a startup doing it remotely with an emerging company and you pick up a lot over the years with that, over time with that. You are able to go to this event in California, it kind of changed your life. You meet Eric, which later on you had the whole partnership with, with the design company. Essentially, you score a job with Amazon, right. And once you do that, you say That's it, I'm out of school, you show your parents that, you know, you can live a successful business life or professional life without education, because you simply see a target, see that something needs to be done, you go and do it. You do pretty well with Amazon, but you do have the passion to explore and taste the world. And because of that, that took you over to the Philippines, bundling up with Eric, running two years growing a startup, and experiencing an exit, which is pretty awesome. And then saying you know what? I still have the entrepreneurial bug, I still want to you know, live around the world. And I want to be a part of an emerging company. So you, I guess, PickFu this position you are now, there’s kind of like a couple of components and layers from your past companies because you have the industry, which is Amazon, which you worked for. You know, a company that is fresh and young, like you used to be with The Points Guy. Okay? And you have the visual that you're working with, which was like the graphics company. So you have a myriad of all the other components that you have with all these other companies? It's all bundled up to PickFu. Hopefully with the next three to five years. You do well with all the points of success that you have with other companies. So I wish you much luck with that. Okay, two last things, if somebody wants to reach out to you and connect with you, you know, give them a handle. And the last thing we'll be what is your message of hope and inspiration for entrepreneurs out there listening?
Anthony Confranseco 46:59
Yeah, I think first off, if anyone wants to get in contact with me, feel free to reach out: email@example.com. Or if you want to hit me up on Instagram, it's just @anthonycofran. Inspiration, motivation? I guess the big thing that I would say is really, you know, really thinking about time and regards to the process, right, really respecting the process. And so I guess the big thing that I would say is like if you want to go from point A to point Z, and you have these big lofty goals and these big ambitions for what you want to accomplish, what you should probably realize is that it's actually probably way less complicated to get from point A to point Z, there's just a lot of really small steps along the way. But you can look at anyone else who's done something and you can follow their exact process on how to get there. And you'll be able to accomplish it. The one thing that I would say, though, is it's probably just going to take a lot longer than you expect and to have realistic timeframes. I think a really good quote that I hear a lot is like people underestimate what they can do in a...they underestimate what they can do in a week, but overestimate what...you know, I think you get the point. But you're pretty much, people don't tend to think long enough term on things. And so if you just admit to yourself that, hey, this thing that I want to do, it's not going to happen in six months, it's going to take two years. And this is a plan of how to get there over two years, you'll find that all a lot of these little, you know, ups and downs are smoothed out over a long enough time frame. And if you're feeling stressed or you're feeling anxious about that, then probably just push out your time frame or change the plan because there's probably an issue with one of those two things.
Yoni Mazor 48:39
Either change the plan or give yourself an extension. So you know, take it one step at a time, but have patience. And that's your, I guess, a message of hope and inspiration. Awesome. I like it. All right, Anthony. It's been a pleasure. It's been a very vibrant, energetic ride. So I thank you for that. I wish you the best of luck. You know, hopefully, you'll get back to the Philippines safely. It'll be very interesting to see how you develop over the years. I'm going to put an eye out for you and also for PickFu. Thanks again, anybody watching or listening. Thank you for participating. All the best. Stay safe, stay healthy. Until next time.
Anthony Confranseco 49:14
Thanks so much, Yoni. Bye-bye.