There’s been a shift happening in the creative industry. Maybe you’ve noticed.
Less and less people are interested in courses and online workshops.
It might be because they’re overdone, or it might be because people believe they can find the information for free through blogs and other resources. But whatever the case, courses are dying down. So where does that leave us?
Software as a service (SaaS) is the new wave of passive income, and many people have already gotten on board. Including Sai Hossain, the CEO & Founder of Crowdcast.
In this week’s Ellechat episode, Sai is joining me to share how he came up with Crowdcast, how he brought this platform to life, and where his business is headed in the future.
Episode 16 Livestream Replay
Episode 16 Podcast
Ellechat is available on iTunes! Listen to the episode by clicking the link below and be sure to subscribe to stay up to date on new episodes.
Lauren Hooker: Well, hello, everyone, and welcome to Ellechat. It's been a while since we've done a webinar, an Ellechat webinar, so I'm so excited that you are able to tune in live today.
I'm especially excited that Sai is joining me. Sai built the platform that we are using right now, Crowdcast. It is my favorite webinar platform. I've been using it for two years now, and I stumbled upon it from the recommendation of a friend, Jamie Starcevich from Spruce Rd., and it was after I had tried three or four other platforms and had been so disappointed. I couldn't find one that really fit what I was trying to do with these weekly webinars. Stumbled upon Crowdcast and fell in love right away and have never looked back.
I love all the features, how easy to use it is, but I know that when things look easy and are easy to use there's often a lot of work that went into creating it and building it. And so, I'm thrilled that Sai is joining me today and sharing his story about how he built Crowdcast and what went into building software as a system and getting it off the ground. And so, I'm excited that you all are tuning in. A few things before we dive in. If you are new to Crowdcast, I want to show you some of my favorite features. The first is the chat section, and it looks like you all have already found it. If you haven't said hello already and said hey to Sai, just go ahead and say hello there.
Tell us where you're tuning in from. I'd love to see where you're tuning in from. It's always fun, because people tune in from all over the world, another thing that's really awesome about webinars. So, I would love to see where you're tuning in from and I'm sure Sai would too.
Sharon from L.A., awesome. Monica from Germany. See? This is so much fun. So, go ahead and say hello there if you haven't already. And then there's an Ask a Question section at the bottom. It looks like Grace has already gone and asked a really great question, which I'm excited to ask in just a little while. But if you have any questions already, feel free to drop them there.
And if you come up with questions along the way that you want to ask Sai, we're going to leave about 15 minutes at the end to ask him your questions. So, feel free to leave them there. You can also ... A really cool feature, vote questions up, so if you really want to see one answered you can vote it up. And I usually go in order of the number of votes. So, that's there for you too. But like I said, Sai is the founder and CEO of Crowdcast, and I'm so excited to have him joining us today. So, I'm going to invite Sai on. Again, love this platform. So easy to use. Here we go. We want both of us here. There we go. Hello, Sai. There we go. So, thank you for joining me.
Sai Hossain: Yeah, for sure. I'm really excited. I've been a big fan of Ellechat from a while ago, from when you first started using Crowdcast. I'm going to silence my phone. And it's really exciting to actually be now on it for the first time, so I appreciate the invite.
Lauren Hooker: Yeah. And so, tell everybody where you are tuning in from today.
Sai Hossain: Yeah. So, I am in a eco village in Guatemala. So, if the wifi or anything like that cuts out, you may have to just bear with us for a little bit while we get that sorted. But we get into the habit of it happening in a moment, but it's been really fun.
Lauren Hooker: That's awesome. So, tell us a little bit about yourself, a short little intro.
Sai Hossain: Oh, man. Like, historically or like a Twitter one-liner?
Lauren Hooker: Historically. Yeah.
Sai Hossain: I would say the simplest, quickest way to explain my life is, born in a village in Bangladesh. Went to U.S.C. There's a Trojan in the audience, I definitely have to mention that, in California, and then started Crowdcast in San Francisco after being inspired by a trip to Costa Rica. That's it.
Lauren Hooker: I want to hear about that trip. What were you-
Sai Hossain: Right now?
Lauren Hooker: Yeah. I do. I'm just going to jump right in.
Sai Hossain: Well, let's go right into it. So, this was 2014. Yeah, 2014 when I…There's a festival called Envision Festival. I don't know if you guys have heard about it. It's similar to a less crazy version of Burning Man in Costa Rica. And so, I was down there by myself. I just bought a one-way ticket to go check it, to go to Costa Rica. And at the end of that festival I heard about a retreat in the jungles of Costa Rica. And I ended up going, and it was on a permaculture farm. I don't know if you what a permaculture is, but it's basically a form of farming/social design. But at the time I thought it was actually moss. I thought it was like a culture of moss was what this thing was.
But in that retreat I was just surrounded by the masters of yoga, the masters of meditation, artists, musicians. And I was just like, "Wow! I'm just like a tight guy from San Francisco. How did I end up here?" And I realized that I really wanted to help ... There's all this knowledge and wisdom there, and I really wanted to help them share that because what I realized was no one knew how to use the Internet. They're masters in all these things but they didn't know how to use technology really well. So, that actually was the seed of basically, like, "Okay. How can I start helping these folks who are teaching amazing things share their knowledge over the Internet?"
And a few months later that evolved and grew into the first version of Crowdcast. And at the time I was actually using Google Hangouts. I don't know if, Lauren, you ... I think you might have actually been using us back then in the Hangout space.
Lauren Hooker: I was.
Sai Hossain: Yeah. That was like our prototype, basically. And what happened was I built this prototype and a friend of mine in San Francisco said, "Hey, Sai, I wanna use Crowdcast to host an online summit." And at the time the largest seminar I had held or the largest event I had held was 200 people. And he was like, "We want at least 10,000 people in this thing." And I'm like, "Okay. Well, if you, like, invest in us and, you know, invest in me and pay my bills for the next few months I'll, I'll work on scaling it." And that's what we did. From September that year to December I was just heads down in my apartment working on Crowdcast. And it was still just me at the time.
Lauren Hooker: Wow!
Sai Hossain: And then in December, I think it was the second, came along and they ended up marketing the event so well that we ended up getting 30,000 people to show up to this thing.
Lauren Hooker: Wow! Oh, my ...
Sai Hossain: And it brought the CTO of the U.S. Government, the inventor of CNSS, the ex ... I think the vice president of Microsoft, the inventor of Google Glass. It was a long list of 36 different speakers that-
Lauren Hooker: No pressure.
Sai Hossain: Yeah. Exactly. And it actually worked. So, that is what actually launched us, launched what was my pet project to become a company, and I eventually got some investors and started building out a team since then. So, that's how it all started.
Lauren Hooker: Wow! That's amazing, and such a turning point in Crowdcast too, to go from Google Hangouts to 30,000 people tuning in. That's wild. So...
Sai Hossain: Yeah. I mean... Go ahead.
Lauren Hooker: Go ahead. Sorry. I didn't meant to cut you off.
Sai Hossain: I was just going to say that ultimately...Yeah, we built it on Hangouts knowing that at some point technology is going to get to the point where we could start swapping it out with better tools that lets us just build and experience. And then basically later, the next year, the APIs that we were using, they showed up. And so, technology started to evolve to allow for what we're doing right now. It's all in the browser, nothing to download to gather people over live video.
Lauren Hooker: That's amazing. So, when you first came up with the idea for Crowdcast after that trip to Costa Rica, it sounds like you already had a background in software development or coding. Is that what you majored in at U.S.C.?
Sai Hossain: So, it's a little secret and I hope Lauren doesn't get mad at me, but I dropped out two years in at U.S.C., and what happened was I was just like ... I didn't want to study engineering. I was way too social at the time to do that. I was just like, "I just don't wanna ... I wanna, like, make friends and have all the college experience." And I studied everything but engineering. To kind of rewind a little bit, my family is pretty poor. We literally were born in a village. So, with that starting ground early on I had to figure out ways to make money. So, by the time ... Basically I was in Patterson, New Jersey, growing up and I was looking for ways to get out.
Sai Hossain: This is, like, inner-city. If you guys are aware of Patterson, it's a really hard city to get out of. And I found a program called N.J. Seeds that selects 100 kids every year, and that program really was one of the first big forks of my life. It allowed me to basically learn from them at the education level of a private school. And then they actually help you get into a private high school. So, then from there I ended up going to the Boston area to a place called Concord. I went from inner-city, giant public school, to a private boarding school with 400 kids, and I was one of the five brown people there.
Sai Hossain: And there I started learning more and more about web development, design particularly. And I started doing gigs online. Craigslist was my first stop. I went to Craigslist and I would just, like, look for anything that I could find because I needed a way now to pay for private school. Luckily, financial aid covered a lot of that, but there was still a gap that I needed to fill. So, while I was in high school I just went really hard into learning how to build things and design things. And by the time I was in college I knew enough to realize that my professors in the engineering world was really outdated.
Sai Hossain: And this is just standard with all big universities. Technology moves so fast that ultimately I didn't feel like I was able to learn anything from those teachers. So, I studied anthropology, I studied psychology, I studied anything but engineering. And two years in a friend of mine was starting a company, and he was trying to recruit me to be his lead designer. And so, I had to ask myself, "Wow. Okay. Do I leave college to pursue this in L.A.? Do I go half-time? Do I go full-time?" I had a whole spreadsheet of every possible decision matrix that I could make, and ultimately I decided that I've already gotten all the value that I could get from college.
Sai Hossain: Ultimately the main value of U.S.C. and the university is the networking. It's the people that you meet, and I had met a lot of people. So, two years in I decided to just do an experiment. Let me take one year off and join this company. So, what happened is I joined that company and ended up leading their design for a whole year. And I learned so much. I learned a lot about design, building a company, building a product. And I loved most of the team. Ultimately what happened was that the CEO of that company was just ... He was also the same age as me, a college student. It was his first company. He just didn't really know how to lead a team, and it was just a very toxic environment for all of us.
Sai Hossain: So, basically 12 months after I joined I quit, and all the other engineers quit, and we basically all left together and we moved to San Francisco. And since then I basically kind of dropped it and just started doing a lot of freelance work, working with people one-to-one, dropping into companies and designing things, rebuilding their site and leading, until I ... Trip to Costa Rica.
Lauren Hooker: Wow! That's amazing. For those who are tuning in who do not have a background in web design, or this is totally new to them but they have an idea that they know would be great as software as a service, how do you recommend even getting your foot in the door or wrapping your mind around starting a project like that?
Sai Hossain: It's a really good question. There's a lot of problems that still need to be solved. And with the way that technology is evolving, it's getting easier and easier to pick up the tools and start using them, so that you don't necessarily need to know complicated programming things. Even programming is becoming so easy that it's becoming visual and you can really drag and drop things on an interface now. The language itself is becoming so legible, it's almost like English. So, it's a little like if I wanted to make a line of code I could say, "If, you know, a person is greater ... Is older than, ah, let's say 18, then, you know, send them this, this item," or something like that.
Sai Hossain: You can almost just write that out in English, and that's how the technology is evolving. Yeah, it's easier now than ever to first pick up the tools. But, and this is something that I say a lot, it's really hard to pick up tools and technology and learn things for the sake of just learning it. What's actually more fun and useful is to find a goal and find something that's really bothering you, and try to solve that problem. And you'll learn the things you need to learn. Like, if you want to build a house, you're going to learn math, and physics, and architecture to build that house.
Sai Hossain: Because there's ultimately an infinite number of things you could constantly be learning, so don't try to be learning those things. Don't just learn programming to learn programming. Don't learn design to learn design, but try to find something that you actually care about, and you'll learn whatever you need to learn, which is always changing and developing, to solve that problem.
Lauren Hooker: That's amazing advice and I love that you said that, because it's like with anything. For me it was starting a business. I had no clue what I was doing, but I love design. And so, I worked out the kinks, and marketing, and all that stuff as I went along. We're renovating a house right now. I know nothing about refinishing hardwood floors or any of that, but the best way to learn is to just dive in because you have a goal in mind. I love that. So, I hope that's encouraging to those of you who are tuning in and you have this idea for a great platform. It pushes you to work.
Sai Hossain: Yeah. And I would add that, you not knowing marketing for example when you're first getting into all this is an advantage, because you don't have the limiting beliefs of the folks who've been in it for so long. And for you particularly, a creative person who does design, you can think creatively about new ways of solving that same old problem.
Lauren Hooker: Right.
Sai Hossain: New ways that ... Just saying that actually it's more valuable than anyone else who would have done it if they're deep in that world. So, there is that ... There's an edge to being the newcomer. So, take advantage of that, if you're in the audience and you're like, "Man, that's a field that I don't know too much about," great, because that means you're going to think about solving things in ways that no one has even you thought of before.
Lauren Hooker: Yeah. And that's so true with ... Even just looking at the platform that you built and how different it looks from similar outdated webinar platforms that people are used to using. So, when you first got started, I'm sure other webinar platforms were out there. Did you look at those and think of ways that you could do it better? How did you ... Did you talk to people to ask for feedback? How did you get the ball rolling with the design of Crowdcast?
Sai Hossain: I want to say I didn't really look at other webinar platforms too much, and we still don't really look at those platforms too much. But what we did was we just started from ground one, from ground zero. Like, if we were to start today, what we would imagine would be the best experience that we can create with the technology that's available today. So, that way you're not limited and kind of going in trying to replicate something that's already been done and improving it a little bit.
Sai Hossain: And so, when you start from just, like, scratch you're really to be able to imagine whole new experiences, and there are so many micro-decisions that go into that, that each of those micro-decisions are considered mind-blowing to the person who has been in this world for a long time. For example, one of our most simple features that isn't really technically difficult to build, is our time-stamping feature in a question. So, when Lauren answers a question from an audience member it time-stamps it, and then when the replay is available you can jump to that question. To this day that's still the most impressive feature to everyone.
Lauren Hooker: I was very impressed with it.
Sai Hossain: Whenever someone sees it it's like, "Wow! Like, wow! I've never seen that before." And webinar platforms still don't do that. But it's a really sell kind of thing, which I didn't actually think was that amazing at the time, because that was just one of many other decisions that we were making. But, when you're starting from scratch, you're just starting from now, you're able to really, really rethink things and improve the whole experience at an order of magnitude as opposed to an incremental change.
Lauren Hooker: Yeah. And it's so true, because when you're first starting out ... And I feel like my business grew when I stopped looking at what other designers were doing to market their business, and instead I just started from scratch, and a lot of it was trial and error. But I feel like, just like what you said, it gave me an advantage because I wasn't ... I didn't have these ideas already stuck in my head that I was trying to replicate. So, even the times-stamping, it probably came up like, "Wouldn't it be cool if it would just jump to that part in the replay?" And then just making it happen instead of just trying to replicate what you saw other platforms doing. So, I love that you said that.
Sai Hossain: And I'm really curious from the audience, what kinds of things are you working on? What kind of businesses are you trying to start? Or rather, maybe one question is just like, what's an idea that you've been thinking about that you haven't hit the go on, you haven't pressed the gas line? And no judgment. I was just curious. I just dropped that in to the chat.
Lauren Hooker: Yeah. I would love to hear about that too, and I'll share one of my own. Project management software, I know there is a ton out there but I have an idea for something a little bit different. It's just the way that my brain works that combines the client end side of things. So, that's what I'm going to go ahead and throw out there and share with you all. But I'd love to hear your question. Yeah, what's an idea that you've been thinking about that you have yet to try to accomplish? Monica says, "I'm thinking about bringing up the mentorship for designers, just a very small group." Very cool. Love that.
Sai Hossain: That's awesome. I would join…
Lauren Hooker: For real. In the meantime, what were some of your biggest challenges when you started to get the ball rolling and act on your idea for Crowdcast?
Sai Hossain: The hardest one is just, when you're first starting something you're alone. And it's definitely easier to have people that you're starting things with. So, what happened for me was, that big event happened. And it was still just me and I had raised a little bit of money from a couple of investors to just pay my bills for the year so that I could just focus on Crowdcast. But I didn't have enough to really pay anyone else. And then I ended up making a bet. There was an event called Launch Festival, so, one month after this big event, this big online summit that we did ... Oh, Kimberly, good to see you here.
Sai Hossain: One month after that I decided to go through this process of launching Crowdcast on stage at this festival. And it had 3000 people in the audience, I'm super nervous going up on there. As a part of the presentation I had to hire my roommate to pretend like he's part of my team to press the slides, so it doesn't look like the team. And I was really hoping I could get a lot out of it. Maybe I would get press coverage or have people hear about Crowdcast. But nothing happened. No investors came from that, no press happened. And then all there was was like a networking party after the event.
Sai Hossain: So then, several months went by and I was just like, "Man, did I waste my time and energy there?" And I'm all about following what excites you and just going for that even if it's not logical. We could get into that. That's a whole 'nother piece. But in my excitement I was like, "Yeah, go launch on stage at this festival." And then I was kind of disappointed. I was like, "Wow! Nothing came out of that." Well, about four or five months later a guy messages me, who I had met that festival, at this business festival. And he's like, "Hey, Sai. I don't know if you remember me. We met at the party. I remember you were still looking for people to team up with at the time, and I was really impressed that you built the whole thing by yourself. Well, I'm considering ... doing a chat."
Sai Hossain: And so, that person and I met up and we started considering working together. And three years later, that's my co-founder Dillon. At the time, during that time, and from going on stage to finding and working with Dillon, I just ... There were so many times I was like, "Man, like I ... people who I can team up with." And it was a lot of, like, a lonely journey, but what kept it ... What ended up working was just persistence, and knowing that what you're doing you really believe in it. And eventually, the further you push it, it's going to get to the point where you're going to attract the right people to you and to the company to start building off of. So, that was one of the hardest pieces at the beginning.
Lauren Hooker: Yeah. Being alone in it. And even ... I just found when I started Elle & Company, having my husband even just to bounce ideas off of, and start a conversation with someone instead of it all being on you is super helpful. It looks like people are starting to give their responses to Sai's question about what projects have you yet to start on. Michael says, "A dating site with no scammers." Kimberly, "A framework that helps lawyers better serve clients with the need to bill by the hour." That sounds awesome too. Tara says, "I keep thinking about a gift registry for experiences geared to families. I'm using parks, shows, movies, etc."
Lauren Hooker: So, these are all really fun to see. Keep sharing them. Sometimes the first step is just sharing what you have on your mind to get the courage to just go after it. I want to hear more about-
Sai Hossain: Lauren-
Lauren Hooker: ...what you said, Sai, of even if it isn't logical to go for it.
Sai Hossain: Yeah. Totally. You hear some form of this from a lot of people, which is, at the end of your life when you look at it, most of the decisions that you make that actually led to your successes don't make any logical sense. But rather, those are decisions that you made out of excitement. And think of a time, if you're in the audience, think of a time that you were like, "Man, I really want to go on that trip," or, "I really want to go to that school," or, "I really want to start this project." And, "I know it doesn't make ... Maybe I don't have the money, maybe I don't have the space or time, but I'm just really excited about it."
Sai Hossain: And when you took action, didn't you ... Or maybe that you met someone coincidentally that was exactly who you needed to meet, or you got the lesson that you really needed to learn, or you ended up ... Something happened that's perfectly synchronistic or coincidental that really was completely ... Not what you expected and was really very helpful. And so, right before that trip I was really like going ... And started to believe in an idea that it's really important to just first pause and tune into what are the things that you're really excited about? What are the things that can nourish you that you could see yourself working on for a really, really long time and that are exciting?
Sai Hossain: So, as part of it ... There's a particular, I guess, rule that I follow. There's two parts to it. The first is what I mentioned, like, follow your ... and highest excitement to the best of your ability. And what I mean by excitement, by the way, isn't like ... You might be really excited about maybe drugs or something like that, but that's a momentary excitement. Right?
Lauren Hooker: Right.
Sai Hossain: When you actually dig into, like, what's deep ... Maybe a better term is, like, follow your deepest excitement. The other part of that is to have no expectations, because whenever you follow one of those threads of excitement, and you go to start that project, or you join that company, or you meet ... Go to that country or you visit a city, you might have one expectation of why you're doing it and where it's going, but what usually happens is something else completely different. Something completely to the right field that you wouldn't have expected that's even better, or helps build you, I know, step by step to that ultimate goal. So, this is really, really important, just to follow that deepest excitement but to not have any expectations about where exactly that's going to lead you to.
Lauren Hooker: That's awesome advice, and holding it loosely, because one thing that I've learned is that everything is subject to change, and I'm sure you feel this way especially in this field where there's just something new every single day, it seems like, coming out that you feel like you have to sort of course-correct. Or not even course-correct, but just be open to change and changing the platform and updates, and that sort of thing.
Sai Hossain: Yeah. Mmhmm. 100%.
Lauren Hooker: And on that note, how do you keep up with it all, or how do you decide what to do when ... Like, I guess with Hangouts and upgrading that was a pretty clear choice that you needed to do that to support 30,000 people tuning in, but how do you keep up with all these changes and know what to do next with Crowdcast?
Sai Hossain: It's something that I've been thinking a lot about this summer particularly, is what are the coming changes that are happening in society, on our planet, in business, and marketing, and how can we not be following but rather leading in that space? I definitely agree. Everything is always changing. That's one of the fundamental rules of the universe. Everything is always changing. And at the same time there are certain things that are never changing. And one of those things is that people appreciate human connection and authenticity. And so, we've been using that as a guiding idea to help guide what are the different product and feature decisions that we make on Crowdcast.
Sai Hossain: So, for example, we first launched the ability to follow you on Crowdcast about two years ago. So, you can follow Lauren. And you've got a lot of followers. What is it? 1.7 thousand people get notified when you go live. That's pretty crazy. So, that was unique to Crowdcast because we were just like, "Well, we're thinking about how do we help people build the audience and actually have a relationship with the audience?"
Lauren Hooker: Yeah.
Sai Hossain: If you take that even further ... Like, Michael joined the group.
Lauren Hooker: Yeah. I just saw that.
Sai Hossain: If you take that idea even further, then it's us really focusing on essentially helping you create strong relationships with your audience, because the quality of that relationship dictates everything. It doesn't matter if you have 10 people that care about your work or are interested in your work, or a thousand. All that matters is how quality is that relationship. And so, there's other platforms that invite you to fake webinars, and automated webinars and all these other things, and we don't care about that. We know that that's just a short-term strategy.
Sai Hossain: I've been in in a place ... I've been in an automated webinar, and as soon as I found that the person on the screen wasn't actually on screen, I threw them out of the ... Out of my list of people that I didn't care about. So, we really focus on, like, how do we help you have authentic, basically a strong relationship with your audience. And so, given that, there's a lot of things that's coming. Like, live video, we see it in terms of the evolution of communication. Live video is just the next thing, and naturally, we started with ... If you look at human sort of conversation, it starts with a one-to-one in person. That's the best way to communicate an idea.
Sai Hossain: And the next way if you want to get that idea even further is to go to one ... To many, in a group, sitting in a fire ... Around a fire, in an auditorium, in an amphitheater, and we've done that for thousands of years. And then we invented writing, with the Gutenberg Press, and then we were able to take those ideas, put it in a book, and suddenly we had an asynchronous way of scaling our ideas. And that was hugely successful. And then we invented videos, where asynchronously we are capturing your full body's language and putting that out there.
Sai Hossain: And then, if you follow the progress of the internet, it follow the exact same progression. It first started with writing. Blogs blew up, Wordpress blew up, and that was the first level of the internet because that's all that it could support. And then the second phase was really around video, and we're kind of in it right now. YouTube has become the second largest search engines in the world. Facebook is now really going into video. Everyone's like, "Wow! Video is big." Right? And you're just Instagram videoing. So, video is obviously just much better at communicating because with the full body language, full being that it captured.
Sai Hossain: And then the next way, and this is for the first time ever, where we have technologies aligned for live video at scale. This was never possible before. We had television sets for ... That the president could do it, but now, Lauren, you can do it. You can be onscreen over real time communicating with tens of thousands of people. So, it's just the next progression. So, we just see it as, "Okay. What can we do to allow you to use the most scalable and direct way of communicating to build a relationship with your audience?" So, there's a lot of things coming beyond just following that we're going to be rolling out over the next years. We're thinking very long term here.
Lauren Hooker: That's awesome.
Sai Hossain: That's going to continue helping, cultivating that relationship with your audience. Whether you're selling a book, of course, or just want to have a TV show, have a live chat like this. A live video, there's a lot of flexibility because it's just facilitating communication and there's a lot of variability in communication. So, that's some of the things that I'm constantly thinking about as ways to guide our product decisions moving forward.
Lauren Hooker: I love it. And one thing that I really loved too on the creative side of things is that you are always asking for feedback and taking it to heart too. So, it's not only through your Facebook group for Crowdcast creators or broadcasters, but also for ... You have your Crowdcast for people to tune into and give feedback every week. Right? Is it weekly? Ask questions ...
Sai Hossain: Every week. Yeah. I was just live right before this.
Lauren Hooker: That's what I thought. Yeah, I get the notifications too. I think that that's amazing that you all do that and you're so in tune to what we want to see and what we need, and that you do care about us connecting with the people who are following along with us. I'm obviously a huge fan. I rave about you every Ellechat, but that's in a webinar format. I'm just really grateful for all the work that you put into it.
Sai Hossain: I appreciate that.
Lauren Hooker: I also have a question for resources that helped you along the way. Where do you look for inspiration? For advice? Who are some of the people and resources that have influenced you the most in this journey of Crowdcast?
Sai Hossain: That's a good question. Like I mentioned earlier, I'm an immigrant. So, my family knows a lot about how to be an amazing family and how to be good human beings, but not necessarily like, what school to go to in the U.S., or what job to take, or anything about just being an American and being in the modern age. So, when I was in high school TED Talks started coming out, and I remember with one of my first Craigslist gigs I bought my first iPhone, and I was so proud of that. And so, every night I would go to sleep and I'd watch a TED Talk, because at the time they were really good. It's changed a lot.
Lauren Hooker: It has.
Sai Hossain: But at the time I was just blown away. I was like, "Wow! I can use video to learn from other people who've gone through it," and have gone through different experiences to learn different lessons. And I can really accelerate my own growth by deeply trusting their lessons so I don't go through that same process. And so, I really took that to heart and it started out with YouTube and TED-X and TED Talks, where I was just constantly absorbing ... I probably watched that first year every TED Talk that came out.
Lauren Hooker: Are there any that stick out to you in particular?
Sai Hossain: Right now? Just some of the ones that are really, really popular that I'm sure a lot of folks have already seen. One of them is from Tony Robbins where he really goes in there and under 15 minutes he really inspires and shows you how you can change your state. Other ones from Tim Paris that I really appreciated, how to be superhuman in his process of learning to swim. Yeah, there's so many at this point. This is, like, years ago that I really was into this. Then fast-forwarding, as I went through different phases of my life, it's really finding people who believe in you and basically communicating with them and kind of using them as mentors.
Sai Hossain: Admittedly, over the last year I've done a terrible job doing that. I did a lot more communication with my mentors before I started Crowdcast, and then being deep in it and running a business you tend to put all your time into the business, and not about a lot of the things that helped you stay grounded and stay aligned as you're going through life. So, I had to thank the internet, YouTube, and some of the mentors that I've had back in my college and early San Francisco times.
Lauren Hooker: Yeah. I've struggled with the very same thing. People have asked me, "Who do you enjoy following along with the most?" Or, "What books have you read recently?" And I feel like when I first started Elle & Company I was soaking up all of those resources and the wisdom from people who had gone before me. And then, I don't know if it was some pride started to creep in, or just the busyness of running a business that I stopped looking to other people important to me. And so, yeah, I've been guilty of that too.
Sai Hossain: I think it's a really important habit to maintain, and for your mental sanity ... And at the end of the day, when you're looking back at your lifetime ... And I'm constantly thinking about when I'm dead or when I'm 80 if I get there, how will I look back at my time? Ultimately it really helps you figure out what's important now. That's why I'm in Guatemala. I don't want to spend my years being the CEO of a company and burning out, and then learning in my 40s or 50s, "Oh, I should have done this thing. I should have traveled more." And by that point my joints aren't working.
Lauren Hooker: Right.
Sai Hossain: So, it's really important to do those things, but I definitely ... I love reading and using any sort of resources, primarily video and then books, to find people that I really appreciate. The latest book that I really ... If you guys are curious, that I-
Lauren Hooker: Yeah. Go ahead.
Sai Hossain: ...that I've really been appreciated ... I don't read too many sort of technology startup books much. The most recent one is called, "Brading Sweetgrass." It's basically from a Native-American botanist scientist from, I think, Michigan or that area around the Great Lakes, and she talks in .. She's got this interesting indigenous wisdom mixed in with scientific understanding. She's a professor. She's a science professor teaching botany. And so, she does a really great job just talking about the world, society, financial systems, everything you can imagine, but just through the perspective of plants and our relationship with the plant world.
Sai Hossain: For example, this has actually informed Crowdcast and our plans. One idea she shares is how ... And she shares it in a really poetic way, and if you can get the audible I would get that because it's her own voice reading it. She talks about how when ... She was at a little marketplace where you can buy fruits, and vegetables, and things. And that day, it was a day where you bring food and you're selling it. So, you go up there and you get an apple, and you pay your money, and you get the apple and you leave.
Sai Hossain: Another day, instead of having ... It would be a marketplace where you're selling, it was more of a gift exchange, with people just bringing what they had. And it was for free, essentially. And so, she noticed that at that ... When it was free, and she were to give an apple, what happened was she would take that thing that the other person is giving her, and recognize it as a gift. And because it's a gift, there is now a relationship being built. So, she's talking about when you have money being transacted it creates this transactional relationship, this transactional economy that we're in. And what it does is it cuts the relationship. "I pay you for your album and then I'm done."
Sai Hossain: But when you look at the direction that is more of our natural direction, it's to actually get a gift from something and then give it back. And you can give it back in a different form, and it maintains the relationship where there's no money involved. And so, if you actually look at the progress of the economy, that's where it's going. It's moving towards a relational ... She calls it a relational economy.
Sai Hossain: But if you're to ask people in Silicon Valley, they call it a subscription-need economy, where you're paying a monthly price to have a relationship with a service, or a person, or an expert, so that you can continually be getting a relationship with them, learning from them, and getting an experience as opposed to just a one-time transaction. That's just one of the million things that she talks about, but I really recommend checking out and reading "Braiding Sweetgrass" by Robin Wall Kimmerer.
Lauren Hooker: That's awesome. And it's, I guess, to show you too how sometimes the biggest influences aren't the business books or the wisdom from this industry, but looking even outside of it can be a base of inspiration. So, I love that you said that.
Sai Hossain: Yeah. I would just say most business books here ... Most books in general are extrapolating on someone else's ideas, extrapolating on someone else's ideas, and so on. If you can get to the root of things, you don't have to actually read that many books. You can just read a couple that talk about the more fundamental ideas about our natural relationship with the universe, and our natural relationship with the plants and the world. And those things can actually inform you in a much, much better way than some academic paper that's talking about where things are at right now. So, if you really want to be thinking about the future, constantly be peeling back to the root of things.
Lauren Hooker: I think that's great advice. I want to go ahead and jump into some of these questions. I feel like it might take a little longer to talk about, and I want to pick your brain on them too. The first is from Grace, and she said, "I would love to know more about the process of distinguishing one software product. Considering that there are already other webinar platforms out there, did you maybe feel discouraged or have to fight doubts along the way, how did you find a way to distinguish your software and what was your product development journey like?" So, you've kind of touched on that a little bit already, but was there any fear there of, "What do I have to offer where ... How can I compete with what's already out there?"
Sai Hossain: You know, it's funny. I haven't really thought about that too much. When you think about, like, comparing yourself to another webinar platform, then you're thinking about how to distinguish. But because we never really thought about that, we just decided, "We're just want to create a new experience." But then when we looked at the other folks, we just started using language that was more natural to us. We didn't call it a webinar, we called it a live event. We didn't call it a presentation, we called it a workshop. We just used languages that are more humane and human. So, we did that naturally.
Sai Hossain: In retrospect, we're looking at this now like, "Oh, wow. We should really lean into this even more." And actually I have a strategy around that. So, we're actually going to be leaning into the fact that the concept of webinar is really dead, and no one really gets excited about joining a webinar. And what we're seeing is the roles of live streaming, those are really good at community-building, and quick hangouts with your people, merging with ... business worlds. And so, that's, for example, it actually informed our decision to launch our TP Studio earlier this year.
Sai Hossain: It's a way to swap out our video feeds with a live-streaming app ... plays, and animations, and lower thirds, and content, and really level up your live video experience. And that came from looking at YouTubers and Patreon users, and Facebookers who are not using live video for webinars, but rather to connect and grow their audience. They really wanted to control that video experience. We're just not looking at the webinar platforms that are out there and thinking about how do we distinguish ourselves from them as much, but we're really thinking about how do we really drive home what we're about.
Sai Hossain: And then we can look at those guys and say, "Okay. I guess they're doing it this way." And then we can kind of show, "This is what a webinar is, this is what a Crowdcast is." And naturally, the differences will show up.
Lauren Hooker: What I've learned too about people like yourself who are so successful in this industry and really have a stand-alone product that they're offering is that they didn't look at other things. You just didn't look around at other people and try to build something similar. You started with a problem at hand that you wanted to connect people with their audience, that you wanted to improve the live video experience, and started with those issues instead of thinking about similar products out there.
Lauren Hooker: That's what it sounds like, and I found that to be the case with a lot of other successful people. They didn't look around or compare themselves very often, and so they tried to pave the way so that other people can try to follow them and what they're doing.
Sai Hossain: Ultimately it's just about knowing what's your mission, what's your end goal, and how do you get there. And for us, we're ... One of four phases of our mission, at least. And phase one is to really just build a much, much better way of connecting with people over live video. I'll actually hint a little bit about what our phase two is about. So, we are going to be ... And we haven't shown much of this publicly, obviously, so you get ... Your audience are some of the first here to hear this. Phase two is really allowing us to lean in to this concept of building community, and the community of Crowdcasters.
Sai Hossain: So, one of the most immediate things we're going to do is actually change some of our language, so that your profile page is actually your channel, not your profile page. So, you can actually say, "Hey, follow my channel on Crowdcast." And as a part of that you can start building out your channel subscribers, your channel followers. And we'll add some tools to embed that channel, and embed the followup by another channel and things like that, which is expected when you go that way. But then, probably the biggest piece of phase two is to allow the creators to discover other creators, and allow the creators, like you, to collaborate with other creators.
Lauren Hooker: Awesome.
Sai Hossain: So, that way your audience can find other events that are similar types of events as yours that they're interested in, and other folks in other communities can find you. And so, we really like a lot of community-building streams. So, we have a little bit of that with this following feature that you can flag and it follows you in Crowdcast. And if you go to my profile or your profile, you can see who we're following and you can find other people that way. We're really going to lean in on this concept of discovering and exploring other folks on the platform.
Lauren Hooker: I love that. I love the channel too, and just how changing the word can make such a big difference, instead of a profile. That's awesome. I'm so looking forward.
Sai Hossain: Yeah. Language is everything. It's really like ... And this is the lesson that I'm constantly being reminded of. We should really think more clearly about our language. And subtle things like, instead of calling it a Crowdcaster we're just going to start calling a Crowdcast. And that was the original idea behind the name, it's pick a name that's both a noun and a verb, so that you can say, "Hey, are you going to Crowdcast that?" Or, "Hey, is this in Crowdcast?" But the thing is, with everything there's always a path. And we needed to start with the word webinar, because that's what people are used to.
Sai Hossain: And so, we needed to hook into the existing ecosystem of webinars and we can say, "Okay. You can do webinars here but it's really a lot more than just the way you're used to with webinar." But we'll say, we use that word because you're familiar with it. And we're going to continue using that word for awhile, but we have to slowly transition people beyond that, because ultimately it's way more than just a traditional webinar platform.
Lauren Hooker: Yeah. And I've been dealing with that too about how to describe an Ellechat webinar, because that's what people are familiar with. But you're right. It's so much more than just the boring, sales-sy, pitchy, icky webinar. This experience that you follow is not a webinar, but it's hard when people are already familiar with it.
Sai Hossain: The closest language that I would call this is an Ellechat Show. Like, the Ellechat Show. Like, "Come follow my channel here and we're going to go live every month or every other week or something like that, and follow us to get notified when we're going to go live." But it's a whole different thing than a series of webinars. And it's really about something that's more engaging and fun. And anything about, is that the [inaudible 00:49:53]? It's not just you interviewing me in a podcast. But there's ... that is affecting our own conversation, and so there's more of a reason for doing the chat live.
Lauren Hooker: Right. Absolutely. And we've been taking the audio and putting it into a podcast, but it's never the same as people who take the time to tune in live and to have that conversation. Because it could just be, like you said, a conversation between the two of us, or when I'm on here by myself it's just a one-way ... It's like a presentation, but the live component and having you all tune in week after week adds a whole other dimension to these live videos.
Sai Hossain: Yeah. And I'll just say one other thing, which is that it's really hard to get people to show up live. Right? Think about all of Facebook, and all of YouTube, and all these websites are all focused on getting your attention. Just to have a couple of minutes of your eyes on that page, so that they can sell that attention to a company that's buying ads.
Lauren Hooker: Right.
Sai Hossain: Right? Like all of the ... Google is built on this space because it's built on this, it's add a revenue. And so, just to have people up here in real time spending 15 minutes regularly in a conversation, it's actually pretty mind-blowing when I think about it. And so, it's just like a really authentic and real way of having people give your attention. So, it's like, "Wow! Like, you're giving me all this attention, I really want to make sure I'm giving you the right value." Right?
Lauren Hooker: Absolutely.
Sai Hossain: Because if you're going to spend your time here with me, with me and 130 other people, let's have high-quality content as opposed to just low-quality quick things that other folks are doing in the webinar world.
Lauren Hooker: Absolutely. That's an awesome perspective on it too. And something I wanted to ask you and you kind of touched on it, one thing that I get a ton of questions about from people who follow Elle & Company, is how to name their business or their products. So, can you give us a little bit of insight on how you chose Crowdcast? How did you land on that and what was the process for coming up with it? What did it look like?
Sai Hossain: It's kind of funny. Not many people know this, but Crowdcast was called Crowdsound before.
Lauren Hooker: Really?
Sai Hossain: So, what happened was in 2013 I and a friend of mine in San Francisco, we just wanted to start a company. We didn't really know what company. We just wanted to start a company because we just didn't want to work for other people, and we recognized that building a platform that's paying you monthly is a much more long-term better place to be, than exchanging your time for money.
Lauren Hooker: Absolutely.
Sai Hossain: And so, at the time we had no idea what we were going to start, and I actually don't recommend anyone do this. Don't start a company because you just want to start a company. You don't have any idea about the problems you're trying to solve. Right?
Lauren Hooker: Yeah.
Sai Hossain: But that's what I did. And this guy, an amazing human being, this guy John, he had an idea for a platform where you can be literally onstage, and this is an idea that he was working on at the time, and it's a way to kind of pull the audience in times. And, "Hey, guys. Here is our presentation. If you want to ask me questions, go to this URL, Crowdsound.io/mytalk, and that people could open it up on their phones. And they'll see the interface, they can upload the questions, they could submit their questions, and then as I'm talking, when I get to the Q&A and people are ... "All right. So, I learned your questions is number one, with 32 votes. Here is my answer. Do you want to come up on stage and share it?"
Sai Hossain: And so, that was Crowdsound. I did that the year before, and it was just really a struggle to get it going. The speakers that we were trying to sell it to, they're just like, "Well, I already have a set presentation. I don't really need the audience feedback to change my presentation, and I'd rather just have people raise their hands. Sure, it's annoying where there's that guy who is pitching himself, but it's not like it's a big enough pain for me to think about this."
Sai Hossain: And then we went to the conference creators and they're like, "Yeah, I guess if we were to host this summit in a physical conference this would make it a nicer experience for the attendees, but we just don't think it's valuable enough. What's valuable for us I to sell tickets. Is this going to help us sell tickets?" Yeah, maybe the next year because they liked it the previous year but not right now. And then we know the attendees, they don't really have much to say. They could just say, "Hey, Lauren, we'll use this app for Crowdsound. It will help us ask you questions better." So, that just didn't go anywhere, and I just kind of let it go on the back burner and didn't really do much with it, until the idea for Crowdcast came along.
Sai Hossain: And then, literally all I did was ... I was like, "Well, you know ..." At this point my friend was like, "Okay, I'm going to get a job and actually get money and get paid because I have real bills to pay." He had credit card bills and things like that, so he actually had real bills. I was at the time 23 years old and I didn't have any expenses. I was just like, "Well, I'm just going to keep on going." And what happened was, I figured out a way to use Google Hangouts where there's, like, two little puzzle pieces where you can have a little button on your screen. That's the one puzzle piece, and when you flick on that button it opens up a hangout, and from the hangout you can bring in a YouTube video again back into the Crowdcast.
Sai Hossain: And I just literally had a thought one night. I was ready to fall asleep and I was like, "Wait. I wonder if that's possible." And the next morning I tested it out. "Oh, wow! It is." And so, that's what led me to start building video into it. And all I did was I took the Crowdsound code and just added a section for a video.
Lauren Hooker: So simple.
Sai Hossain: It was the ... The polling system that you guys see is actually the same exact design from Crowdsound. So, we just took that experience that was meant for in-person live events and then I just added a video for virtual live events. And I remember ... So, that happened. And that thing was Crowdsound. And I just really ... I definitely wanted to find a new name, and Crowdcast, that also just came out of nowhere. The only thing I really thought of was I wanted a name that was both a noun and a verb, and for us that ... It was just a natural progression to go to Crowdcast. And Crowdcast.com was already taken by a company that doesn't exist anymore, but that I.O. was available, which is the more techie URL to use.
Sai Hossain: So, I just picked that and I started rolling with it. So, I don't think that's the best way to pick a name. If I were to give someone else advice on picking a name, I would probably say, pick a name that's memorable and is easy to type, and if you can use it as a noun or a verb, that would be a great plus.
Lauren Hooker: Great piece of advice.
Sai Hossain: But the first thing is, make sure it's legible, easy to spell. If I'm saying it out-loud are you going to be able to say it back? Crowdcast is actually hard to say a lot of the times. Like, Comcast, Groundcast, and people say weird things. It's just kind of a hard thing to say with your mouth twice. It can be... Those particular sounds. So, I would start with that. Work backwards. Something that sounds like a name that's memorable and easy to spell and things like that, and then start there.
Lauren Hooker: Yeah. The good thing too is, people know how to spell crowd and they know how to spell cast. So, if you say it verbally people can go and look it up. Whereas, with Elle & Company, people think Elle & Company. I'm like, "Come on!"
Sai Hossain: Yeah. That's hard. That's a hard one. Yeah.
Lauren Hooker: But in hindsight ... So, do your due diligence, say it a bunch of times. Ask other people to say it, ask other people to spell it. But I love the noun and a verb. I hadn't heard anybody say that, but that is so helpful especially for software as a service, if those of you who are tuning in are thinking about going that route, that's especially helpful. I wish we had time to answer one more question, but that was so helpful. Thank you so much, Sai, for joining us and just sharing the back story of Crowdcast. I'm leaving so encouraged. I know those of you are too. So, thank you.
Sai Hossain: Yeah. Thank you for having me. I can't believe it's already the end of the hour.
Lauren Hooker: I know. Those go by so fast.
Sai Hossain: I guess some last words is just like you mentioned earlier, if anyone has an idea that you're pondering, like, "Should I take action on it?" I would just ask yourself, is this something that you're deeply excited about? And if so, what if you just started it? And just give yourself permission to spend a month or spend a week just testing it out. And it may not go anywhere, and you shouldn't have any expectations of it going anywhere. But just try it out and see where it goes. Just stay curious, is I think the best thing that I could say.
Lauren Hooker: Stay curious. I love that. Thank you, Sai, and thank you for taking the time to join us all the way from Guatemala too. This was awesome. And so, for people who want to follow along with you and with your business, where can they find you?
Sai Hossain: I would actually recommend going to our Facebook community. That's probably the best place. Let me just drop a link to that.
Lauren Hooker: Perfect.
Sai Hossain: Coming in September there's gong to be a lot more activity there. So, yeah, join us in there, and if you have any ideas or anything like that, let us know in the group.
Lauren Hooker: Awesome. And I will add that to the call to action on this page as well, so that people can easily find it. But thank you, Sai. I hope you enjoy the next couple of months in Guatemala, and thank you guys for taking the time to join in. I hope to see you on another Ellechat very soon. Thanks, Sai.
Sai Hossain: Thank you for inviting me. Catch you guys later.
Lauren Hooker: All right. Bye, all.