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The VentureFizz Podcast: Carlos Cashman - Co-CEO & Co-Founder of Thrasio

May 11, 2020

The VentureFizz Podcast: Carlos Cashman - Co-CEO & Co-Founder of Thrasio

For the 173rd episode of The VentureFizz Podcast, I interviewed Carlos Cashman, Co-CEO & Co-Founder of Thrasio.

Carlos is the definition of a serial entrepreneur. He has started over ten companies and many of which have exited. I first learned about Carlos back around the year 1999, as I was still cutting my teeth as a recruiter during the internet 1.0 era. He was the founder of a company called Opus360, a professional services automation software company that went public.

After numerous startups later like CourseAdvisor, APT, OrionCKB, and others… his latest venture is Thrasio, which could be the biggest opportunity yet. 

Thrasio is the fastest-growing acquirer of Amazon FBA (Fulfillment by Amazon) businesses. The company recently closed $110M in financing at a valuation of almost $800M and it's just a couple of years old. As you’ll hear from our discussion, it is a business that just makes sense in terms of how they are leveraging their knowledge from previous companies to build this consumer company at such a rapid pace.

In this episode of our podcast, we cover:

  • Carlos’ background and his unique major at MIT.
  • The story of Opus360 and why he decided to travel cross country on a motorcycle afterward.
  • A journey through lots of the companies that Carlos has started.
  • A deep dive into Thrasio and its business model.
  • Advice for founders during the acquisition process.
  • And so much more.

Interview Transcript

Keith Cline, VentureFizz  

Carlos, thanks so much for joining us.

Carlos Cashman, Thrasio 

Thanks for having me. Great to be here.

Keith Cline, VentureFizz

So we've got a lot to talk about your, you know what I consider the definition of a serial entrepreneur, you've started multiple companies. I mean, 10,15, maybe even more than that.

Carlos Cashman, Thrasio

I sent you a long list.

Keith Cline, VentureFizz  

Carlos, thanks so much for joining us.

Carlos Cashman, Thrasio 

Thanks for having me. Great to be here.

Keith Cline, VentureFizz

So we've got a lot to talk about your, you know what I consider the definition of a serial entrepreneur, you've started multiple companies. I mean, 10,15, maybe even more than that.

Carlos Cashman, Thrasio

I sent you a long list.

Keith Cline, VentureFizz

Yeah. And I was like, wow, and, you know, many of which have exited. So it's a tremendous track record. And your latest company Thrasio you know, recently raised a major round of financing at a tremendous valuation. So we're going to talk a lot about that. But you know, the first time I think I heard your name, like you didn't know me, but I think the first time I heard your name was Opus360. So I started, yeah, so my recruiting career. I started in 98. And I you know, was just cold calling people and, you know, one of the one of the people that I was cold calling at PricewaterhouseCoopers was this woman phew Me Condo, and she ended up joining Opus360.

Carlos Cashman, Thrasio

Yes, Phew Me was great. I loved Phew Me, she was awesome.

Keith Cline, VentureFizz

She joined Opus360 called me I was like, hey, I need to hire people for this team that I'm building for this professional services automation company. And that was kind of like, how I heard about your name and you know, CEO of Opus360, and the company went public, so, so I just thought that was gonna

Carlos Cashman, Thrasio

You should have come and joined us, man. That would have been awesome.

Keith Cline, VentureFizz

So, well, let's let's talk about your background, kind of a background story of you and your upbringing. So where did you grow up? You know, what were you like as a child?

Carlos Cashman, Thrasio

Well, first seven years in St. Louis, little town outside of St. Louis called Kirkwood and then moved so most of my growth, you know, after that was in Tulsa, Oklahoma. So it was an interesting place to be so it was it. This is kind of funny story I like to tell that I was born in Peoria, and then moved to Tulsa. I did most of my growing up. And I don't know if you remember, but there's a phrase in advertising they used to say, will it play in Peoria? Because Peoria was the most average city in America. All metrics just totally average. And then after a few years, you know, became the most average city in America, Tulsa. Somehow I have like this Confluence I've been in the most average. So I always tell my friends when I'm getting into something, it's going to be the next big fad because I just have average tastes and interests, I guess. But uh, well, like I was, I was, you know, entrepreneurial as a kid. People always asked that I always, you know, I tried to make a buck whether it was always preferably on my own rather than like, I had a job. You know, we all had to be a busboy at one point or a waiter or something like that, right? I worked at a restaurant at a Steak and Ale and I hated that. And so most of the time, like I would mow lawns or I tutored SAT services, stuff like that, but um, yeah, like I've been into it's it's funny. I've been in the business since I was very young because my dad was a banker, he would leave Businessweek and Forbes laying around. So I've been reading those since I could read and the Wall Street Journal right and just you know, as most in I guess, over time.

Keith Cline, VentureFizz

How'd you get into like technology? Like, what was your first computer and you ended up at MIT?

Carlos Cashman, Thrasio

You can guess it the first computer could probably be a guess for someone born in the early 70s. Right? It was Apple two. And it was at my school. Yep. They had an apple two at school. And then one of my one of my best friends had an apple 2E. Right? So that's I actually learned a program basic, you know, we got crazy into it. And when other kids were outside playing at lunch and at recess, I remember for a couple months, we were going in there teaching ourselves basic, to try to make a dot move across the screen. And this was like fourth grade, like fifth grade, right? But then my first computer was around that time was a Commodore VIC 20, man. Oh, yeah. Like, I don't know if you know those.

Keith Cline, VentureFizz

Oh, yeah. Like, I like lots of successful founders now like that was their first computer. Definitely.

Carlos Cashman, Thrasio

Well, the Vic 20 and this Commodore 64 it's bigger brother. I couldn't afford that. Vic 20 came with three K and a tape drive that was just so error prone. It was it was almost useless. So for cassette tapes to store stuff Measure it is insane, like how much more powerful this watch is than the Commodore Vic 20, but it was a great computer.

Keith Cline, VentureFizz

Mine was Texas Instruments T94A.

Carlos Cashman, Thrasio

Yes. So that was fascinating the tI99 and the Commodore VIC 20 shared a version of basic. So you could actually port programs between them and there was actually a commonality in the graphic design on those in that you would have to go in and redesign the the keys on the keyboard like if you wanted to have your own graphics, you would go into the essentially called it the ROM but it wasn't really right. But you would reprogram the H to be like a smiley face, right? So then you can move in a transpose five and the TI work the same way on these APA grids that remember. So we would make all these characters on these little grids and then we'd share them between my buddy with a TI and my Vic 20 and making you know, trying to make adventure games and stuff like that. I wasn't great at it, but it was fun.

Keith Cline, VentureFizz

That's awesome. That's awesome. So what did you study at MIT? And then you know, how'd you get your start after that?

Carlos Cashman, Thrasio

Well, so, um, it's funny, I like I actually wrote my own major at MIT. So little, little known loophole that I discovered after trying a few things like, you know, mechanical, electrical and computer. Like there was an awful lot. MIT is a tough school, there are a lot of people spending a lot of time working. I mean, there are single classes that you can take 60 hours a week, and, frankly, I just wasn't into that. And also, like my summers, I was working at AT&T  Bell Labs, I went to school on a scholarship. And I was, you know, programming with people, you know, who had degrees and stuff. I was not only keeping up, I was doing a pretty good job. So I was like, you know, recognize that I don't really need a degree to do this work. I could already do it. So I wrote I found this program at MIT to get an accredited major and there weren't enough interest there wasn't enough interest in it. So the way these accreditations work, it's weird. The shell was accredited, but the individual courses were no longer there. But MIT said, it's an awesome school, it can be way more flexible than most people think. And they said, Look, you know, get some advisors to sign off on a directed program that you guys designed together. And you know, that could be your major. So I created one that I called Information Systems Engineering. And it was it was, it was great. I mean, I got to take stuff that I loved. It was probably about a year and a half of us MBA from Sloan School, they let you take  grad courses as an undergrad, it was awesome. Plus a bunch of grad school courses at MIT. And it was combining computer science but with business, so the use of technology and business, which is where I carry, you know, because I just always felt like, you know, people didn't know how to use tech really well, and they didn't use it. And so I was more fascinated with the confluence of tech and business and how it was going to be, you know, successful and changing.

Keith Cline, VentureFizz

So what did you do coming out of MIT?

Carlos Cashman, Thrasio

Well, I moved to New York to make movies.

Keith Cline, VentureFizz

Did you really?

Carlos Cashman, Thrasio

Yeah, what else do you do? It's a longer story, but I got a very zigzaggy past. Yeah, you know, one of my best friends and fraternity brothers from college was a grew up in the film business and he and I love to write together and just thought we want to be the Coen brothers and we tried to make short films and made a short film and produce some other short stuffs. And we wrote screenplays together, all that kind of stuff. But But you know, I couldn't get a job. I tried to get a job at CompUSA right, like to sell computers. They wouldn’t even called me in for an interview. And they  they just put in that new shop. I mean, they're out of business now. But there's a new shop on Fifth and 38th. And I live on 38th and six, so it's a block away. So I was like, This is great. I could get a  job there. They didn't hire me and I didn't know how to bartend and all this so like, you know, and having the MIT degree rather than just being a waiter. Yeah, you know, you got to pay the bills while you're trying to make movies. So I figured I you know, get a job and I ended up getting a job at a startup high tech company and that into my career took off a little faster than the film crew.

Keith Cline, VentureFizz

That's why I love doing the podcast, I always get little nuggets of gold of people's backgrounds like Ken Bennett from Bessemer. He was actually, like a screenwriter in Hollywood, making a scripts for movies. And so that was his background before getting into venture.

Carlos Cashman, Thrasio

It's awesome. It's a tough business man. But you know, my buddy who did that ended up, you know, writing screenplays in Hollywood for a number of years, it was great.

Keith Cline, VentureFizz

That's awesome. So, so was Opus your first company that you started was there I mean, you know, after college type of companies?

Carlos Cashman, Thrasio

Well, so. So when I mentioned I got a job, like, you know, to pay the bills, we'll try to write screenplays and stuff. It was at a startup company called Common Corporation. And it's very relevant to tell it to talk about and it's actually a good story of how I got there if you want to hear it. Yeah. Yeah. So you know, I was new to New York City, i’d Been there visiting college wherever. And I was, frankly kind of afraid of the subway system and taxis, just the craziness. I did grow up in Oklahoma. So wherever it was a big, it's an insanely large city. So I didn't want to have to do any of that to get to work. So I thought I wanted to be able to walk to work. And so that was the easiest way to get around. Right. So then I went to the Yellow Pages, people may not know what those are. Look it up. And in the white pages, which was the business, the business section, actually, I looked up computers, which was huge. It was like an inch thick in New York, and I went, Okay, I'll go to computer software and services was about 36 pages and still a big chunk of businesses. And I said, Okay, well, how do I narrow this down as my name starts with CC. So we'll go to the C's, I'm going to pick the first four companies I could walk to from my apartment. Common cooperation was the second one on the list. They didn't even know they were in the yellow and the white pages. Like they just snuck into there. They were a tiny startup of ten people. Great entrepreneurs, and Im still working with a bunch of that group today as investors partners whatever but uh but anyway, I walked in there they didn't have a sign anything they were desperate for somebody could do a C programming on Unix machines which is all I did at AT&T in the summers they invented both C and Unix. Right. So I was it was fascinating. It was funny. I walked in there and dropped off a resume and got a job. You know, it's, it's, I guess I said been connected. So that was founded by Ric Calvillo, you may know Ric. So Ric was my first boss.

Keith Cline, VentureFizz

No way! Yeah, he just Nanigans . Right. Nanigans, was his last one right?

Carlos Cashman, Thrasio

Yep. Yeah. And I was an investor in Nanigans. So I actually connected Ric and Claude, who the Ric had started Nanigans and Claude is my co founder of course advisor. And Ric needed a technical co founder. And so I put the two of them together. They're both awesome, guys. I mean, just you know, great.

Keith Cline, VentureFizz

Too funny. So then how did you come up with the idea for Opus?

Carlos Cashman, Thrasio

Well, so so after Connolly, I went to an advertising agency after that, I reconnected with the CFO at Conway. Marry. Horwitz, who actually has been working with us now to at Thrasio a longer story, buddy mine, but he, um, he had been at a start a service company, we were trying to start a company, this was late 90s everybody was just kind of wanted to. And so they had a network consulting shop. So, you know, like consulting and body shop, basically, network engineers, people couldn't install enough routers and switches. And so they were hired, they're growing like crazy. And they in order to manage the project, so you got to put 10 people, you know, in China installing Cisco routers, they need to know what skills you had what, you know, what, who is available, you know, what languages they spoke all this stuff, right. And, you know, we needed a  staffing manager to manage that. So I actually just said, Hey, I could probably write some software to do this, right. I built a team to do that. So I hired a CEO technical head of tech and I hired an outsourced team. We built this I studied you know, I talked to friends at McKinsey and Bain All these other shops have how they did staffing. And it was crazy. I mean, they literally just had resumes and desk drawers. And they would just leave these partners would call each other and be like, hey, look, I need this Unix guy. He's on your project until May, but I need him in early April. Can we trade? Yeah. Okay. And they would put together teams to go do projects, I built software to enable all that stuff. And it was crazy. So while they would have one staffing manager for every 20 or 30, you know, professionals, we have one guy manage 160 engineers, one person because of the software, they can, you can go in and he could put like, you know, here's the skills I need, here's the dates, I need them, here's where I need them. And it would match everybody up, you know, 100% down to 10. Right. And you could, and he could do all the figuring and, and then the horse trading on his own so it was interesting. That's what Opus came from that software. Okay, so we sold that company, great people sold to US Web. I don't know if you remember those guys back in the day. Yeah, US website. CAS Yep. Great group. Great guys. You know, Joe and Toby. So We sold we sold it to them at the same time we spun Opus out as a new entity, a new company and raised money for that separately US Web took some interest in stuff and took off from there.

Keith Cline, VentureFizz

Very cool. So yeah, that became a big, big business. I mean, you took it to a public offering.

Carlos Cashman, Thrasio

I'm the I'm the poster child for the .com boom and the bust the bust is the depression.

Keith Cline, VentureFizz

There was that there was actually software value that you created. It wasn't just you know, for you know, a.com like the infamous pets.com right. It was actual

Carlos Cashman, Thrasio

No, although pets is a great idea today, right? Yeah, Chewy You know, it's all timing. I mean, Opus was you know had a great business. I mean, we had it was to0 multipronged actually but enterprise software for doing talent management and stuff right and then then also tell it procurement we added to that which was a huge piece to rationalize that when it comes to like loosen would have literally 150 Different staffing companies providing the people around the world and not adhering your rate cards, all that stuff. So we did that. And then we also had a site called free agent.com if I remember, which was literally an early version of LinkedIn. I mean, you know, we acquired this company called Industry Insight which were these guys who built this great tech that was you know, it was it would tell you your two degrees from this person six from that one, you know, you could connect and do all that stuff like, Oh, it was just not quite exactly it was a little too early but the idea was behind that free agent we get really big. I mean, we want you know, we spent a ludicrous amount of money on marketing and advertising. We won Cleo awards for our ads. They were they're fantastic. But we're that Trisha BonBon did back then was amazing. And, you know it what it was, was it was supposed to be the pool, we have million free agents on it. And it was the first site where you could bid you could go post the project, and workers could say, you know, could bid on it right. Upwork was, was came out about that whole space. They were another company called VLANs. Originally, I believe, I don't know if they copied us or just had the same idea, but we were the first ones out there doing it. And we had a million people on there and E portfolios was your LinkedIn resume and stuff. So the idea was that that would plug into all of our enterprise software customers, right. So, I mean, we sold millions of dollars in software, I mean, but we were mostly selling to, you know, the razor fishes and Sapiens and of the world. When the.com crash happened, those types of just the first thing they caught was massive software purchases and stuff. It was tough.

Keith Cline, VentureFizz

Yeah, no doubt.

Carlos Cashman, Thrasio

Yeah, we took it public. And yeah, we raised 50 million privately for that. So I did the whole Sandhill road thing, you know, learned how to do the pitching and the deck in the business plan and then we took it public and you know, I mean, great, great learning experience, amazing people I met there are still many my good friends today. And we've got a great experience building a company we got about three or 400 people at Opus, including some acquisitions we did and stuff like that. So yeah, you know, it was it was that that was my business school.

Keith Cline, VentureFizz

Good Business School. So next is course advisor is that what what was next?

Carlos Cashman, Thrasio

Well, so there's that there's a hiatus there. I was so burned out after the whole public process and stuff. And that was in New York that I wasn't even sure I wanted to stay in business, frankly, like, there's been a lot of hokey stuff that went on to and I wasn't really psyched about and I just, I just really burned myself out. So I bought a motorcycle, and packed up my stuff. I told you that zigzag path here. I sublet my apartment and just took off from New York with no direction nowhere to be. And, you know, it was an amazing time of living on the bike for almost a year. You know, and one of my best friends in the world, another college fraternity brother who was had been a VC and all this stuff. I thought it was like, you know, stuck in that wall street world. I mean, he surprised me. He said he, he got his yearly bonus. It was enough to pay off all the school loans and stuff and he called me up one day goes, I quit. I'm gonna go buy a bike, learn how to ride I'm coming with you was incredible. So the two of us left New York together on motorcycles, you know, and spent three months driving around the country, Canada, Northern US. We ended up splitting up on the west coast. He drove back and I kept on the bike for a while. But so, um, yeah, I ended and all that in that time, and then it was, we could talk for hours about that trip.

Keith Cline, VentureFizz

I know it sounds like a whole nother podcast.

Carlos Cashman, Thrasio

Yeah, you know, and I also experienced what people think you take a company public. Yeah. And you're loaded. I lost money on Opus? I invested what little money I had as a 28 year old and some from like US Web and stuff. But I lost it all. I know, I came out of Opus in debt up to my ears. And I was on this motorcycle. I remember it was a penny stock at the time. I think we'd sold it to artemus. But it was like a penny stock. I remember being in the middle of Canada in the mountains in the middle of the night, and the stock cratered one night from its usual 40 cents like five cents. And I've been using just even at 40 cents. It could I didn't need much money to live on a motorcycle. So it's helping me 1000 bucks a month here. It was it was gone. And I remember just sitting there Well, alright, what do I do from here? But I'm so, I ended up in New Mexico. We got a couple there's a couple because uh, my parents lived there. So I went to I was writing a book, and I thought I could finish it better there and focus on it a fiction book that I had in my head since college. And so I went there thinking it would take me a couple weeks, ended up getting stuck through the winter ended up meeting my wife on match.com because I didn't know anyone in Albuquerque. So I figured I would get on match and meet some people and met her. And then, you know, ended up staying there for a few years. And we were you know, while I was at brunch with her best friend and her best friend's family there. I her best friend's dad was this amazing, brilliant engineer, nuclear scientist who had been writing this software and data for electric power Research Institute effort. And he created this amazing predictive maintenance package to the nuclear industry how to do maintenance better than anybody. Right? They can't afford anything to go wrong. So he created a way to tie preventive maintenance to reliability. And he built a software a way of model this this complex equipment, pumps, motors, valves, you know, Transformers in, in data, and it built a database and then software around it all for every which is a globally renowned organization if you don't know them, and we were talking about it, I was like, This is awesome. This is fascinating. This could be a company. So we started asset performance technology. I just couldn't stop I got back into it, which was a great, great company that I mentioned that it so we started that like, 03-04 and it just sold in 2017 or 2018. We sold to uptake, great deal, great governance, but that was you know, kind of my entree back into stuff. So Course Advisor comes after that. I tried to raise money for a company in New Mexico, a couple of people and all the people I knew were on the coasts and they were like if you move here we could fund you but the guys didn't want to move the two founders are older gentlemen. Now so You know, what happened was I, we had a lot of consulting work and the business was we made money and it was you know, we could pay for itself, but it didn't need me as a full time CEO and it was not going to be the opportunity I thought it could be. And I had made a great friend in Albuquerque who took over as CEO, Mark Benek and I was doing business and stuff with him too and I was contacting I was trying to figure out my next thing and I contacted again my friends from college. So my fraternity brothers and stuff and I I had an idea to create a gambling company pull up this chart for betting which Cantor Fitzgerald ended up starting and doing very well with in basically prop bets in Vegas, but I contacted this the smartest math guy with from our but I knew from my time at school, one of them and and he was up here in Boston, working on some doing search technology stuff and and they needed somebody to come help from them the company that built this up and that turned into Course Advisor. So I came back to Boston to do that.

Keith Cline, VentureFizz

And Course Advisor I remember was like a very successful company and a very trying time to build a company.
 

Carlos Cashman, Thrasio

Yeah, it was a rocket ship. We actually sold it right before the trying time. I mean, Course Advisor we started in 05, at any. I mean, I've redefined rocket ship since we started thrasio. But of course it was pretty fast and came out of a, you know, great group of companies that are now the Cogo Labs companies, right. And family companies, you might know that Dave 

Keith Cline, VentureFizz

Dave London who another amazing entrepreneur who has just started so many successful companies. So Dave's my

Carlos Cashman, Thrasio

So Dave's my fraternity brother, and, yeah, we've got a great group and a tight group. And so he's done. So, you know, he called me back to Boston and then Nick Adler that started what was called Aberflex at the time and then became Cogo Labs 

Keith Cline, VentureFizz

And Mika he did Fixu. 

Carlos Cashman, Thrasio

Yeah, Mika is one of my best friends, another one of my fraternity brothers. It's tied in together, my network is the big Boston network.

Keith Cline, VentureFizz

There needs to be a round up of people from your fraternity.

Carlos Cashman, Thrasio

You know, it's interesting. So I was proposing that to some some professors at Sloan and we were talking about this, because there was a period of about eight to 10 years, when my fraternity turned out a ridiculous number of entrepreneurs. I mean, I don't you don't know Mike Saylor, founder of MicroStrategy. Yeah, Dave London  was part of that, you know, Sid Banergy, who now has Clara Bridge, but he was part of the founding crew of MicroStrategy. There's a period of about eight to 10 years where there were a ton of entrepreneurs with a lot of success. But I'm talking to the Sloan guys he said, you know, it's funny, like every living group we've talked to every fraternity has a period of eight to 10 years where they turn out a ridiculous number of entrepreneurs. And it's like we see it in many others and he was starting to look at it and anecdotally, but I wonder if there's something you could figure out because it doesn't doesn't last on either end, but it was it was an interesting time.

Keith Cline, VentureFizz

So course advisor was acquired by Washington Post, which was obviously a great outcome. And now that was like a big exit, you know, of the day and era. Like that was like a like I remember that was like big news in Boston.

Carlos Cashman, Thrasio

Yeah, it was great. And in two years, I mean, it was created the post host companies are just, I mean, I can't say enough good stuff about them. And Don Graham, I mean, what a great group of companies that was and what a great great people, they all were. And it was really, it was really refreshing. You know, to me, just to see all that it's a particularly after, you know, my experiences in New York weren't always perfect. So, you know, seeing that and coming back into that was great.

Keith Cline, VentureFizz

So what what came next?

Carlos Cashman, Thrasio

Well, so in the long story after course advisor um, you know, I ended up starting a company I was looking for what to do, I invested in a bunch of different stuff, angel investors to do a good way to to lose some money. And maybe you get lucky and make some. And I started a company called constellation ck, which does, it was SEO, I got connected to my co founder there. super smart guy. And he had he lives in Pakistan. But he lived here and all over the world and going to school at Caltech, and MIT his first business plan competition with with open the organization of Pakistani entrepreneurs. For his he had a ticket selling business online. So we actually combined efforts and created what was going to be I hope to be an SEO using search engine optimization. And using this technique built he built for ticket selling to combine the two to be able to sell a lot of tickets online. The idea was a partner with properties like the Washington Post had a lot of SEO power and then could use that if they knew how to sell tickets. But man, it was a hard every magazine and newspaper that was losing money hand over fist just did not want to make money. They were all so afraid of Google. They didn't understand it, and they couldn't understand our pitch. So we ended up I mean, it was a good business. It still exists. Although the ticket industry, it's basically was destroyed in the last two, two months. It's been around for 10 years in the last couple months. So the team has gotten much smaller over the years, and we did some education lead gen for that side also. So that part is keeping it alive and keeping a small team focused on that team is in Pakistan. I haven't really done much with that business, you know, it's been on autopilot, my partner running and mostly for the last five years or so. But, but it was neat for a while we know when we sold, we were selling over a million a month and tickets were a lot of years in there. And you know, we don't take all that that's mostly you know, marketplace. So I said, between the buyer and seller, we took a piece on that, and it was fun, and then did some consulting and stuff out of that. And that's actually where Orion grew out of. So constellation was a big idea. You know, I would hope to one point to have partners with 35 different you know, newspapers around the country or, or magazines and be selling tickets for each one of them, but never never materialized. It was just too hard to sell. So, again, it didn't didn't need me there wasn't anything I might need to buy my expertise or skills for anymore. So looking around for different things to do and that was a Ric was Starting Nanigans So, you know, Ric and Mika and another fraternity brother named Neil Robertson, who started a company. He started a bunch of companies. He was at net Genesis years ago here. And then. Yeah, Neil's great entrepreneur, very, very successful. He was starting another company that we were all getting together and talking about what our next things were to be. And that was when Mika started Fixoo you know, and Ric was starting Nanigans. And I invested in all these and then, so I've been looking at different stuff. And I've been following Ric and what he was doing at Nanigans obviously, and one of my partners at constellation had been working with him on a consulting basis, because he needed he's grown so fast he needed the help. And we just saw, you know, like, I knew, I've seen that picture before service software company early on, needs to do services because people don't know how to use the software properly. But at some point, they should just be building the software people should use them, you know, they see other people doing those services. So we were just sitting there on the side, you know, saying, hey, when you're ready, hand us the accounts, I'll build a services company that will be your prime partner for making, you know, using your software well, and, you know, that's what Orian grew out of. So, you know, we print at some point, people inside Nanigans were too overloaded and said to my partner, Scott, Scott Briggs, another phenomenal entrepreneur here in the Boston area, a great guy. You know, he was, he said, Hey, I'll run it like, Okay, great. Here's another one. Here's another one. And then, you know, we obviously grew beyond just Nanigans referrals where they really helped us get going. And, you know, we built a reasonable sized performance marketing agency on using Nanigans right. And Facebook Park and it was the time when Facebook was just advertising just exploding, right 2013 14,15 right in there.

Keith Cline, VentureFizz

And that company was acquired by elite SEM.

Carlos Cashman, Thrasio

Yes, it was. Yep. And mountain gate, which was the private equity backers behind the elite is a phenomenal company. Like we actually saw I knew the guys that Elite center started that right? and wrote about their, like what they did at the company, their phenomenal culture, they were known for that, right. And so and we'd actually borrowed some ideas from them, because of our mutual friends that told us things. They did whatever, to build a great culture. And I always said, like, you know, get culture is super important inside the company. Everyone talks about that on how many people really appreciate and understand. And I think we did a great job of that, and Orian too, but so you don't want to just hand it off to anybody, right? And I was like, if there was any place to go, for me, it always felt like it would be the elite guys because they just done such a great job of it inside of their company. And it just, it worked out well. But that timing wasn't what we weren't actually looking to do anything. But you know, it was it was a good matchup and the time turned out to be really good.

Keith Cline, VentureFizz

Well, let's, let's talk about your current company Thrasio. So what how did you come up with the idea the name of the company like what what kind of led you down the path of starting this new venture?
 

Carlos Cashman, Thrasio

One thing grows into another grows into you. I mean, you see this daisy chains we talk so so at Orien Nanigans against was just phenomenal software. I mean, it was still the best software out there I think you know it but it was complex, it was complex and you had to know how to use it. And we use it in ways that other people didn't, didn't really appreciate. So our team had been around since the start right Scott went in consulting with them is eighth or 10th person. So that meant that we weren't doing like buying likes for Coke and Pepsi and their big white competition, like anyone could do. We were doing performance marketing on Facebook, right? We were some of the first ones to really turn it over and show that it can be used as a customer acquisition platform cost effective, right? So you know, we all of our customers then turned out to be people who needed to cost effectively acquire customers, which were ecommerce companies and lead generation companies, right. So credit card offers and things are big e commerce players and we had some of the top names in the business. You know, pretty much all the top names in the business. We're using Nanigans software, whether it was with us or with Nanigans or on their own right what I mean Uber, Gil Group, you know, chewy barkbox, which we built like all these different different ones. So, um, you know, so as that business grew, I was noticing again, more and more than I was seeing the whole trend and happening in DC, right and e commerce, right. And that was really starting to blow up. And so what happened was, you know, I mean, a simplified way of looking at it, like we the companies coming asking us through their advertising are made up of fewer and fewer people shipping product from Asia, and we really the whole business, you know, like, we've got our product here and get us customers and we do that and then they'd go get a 30 to $50 million valuation something or sell it, and we got paid our 5-10 grand a month whatever for for building the entire customer base. At some point, I was just like, hey, maybe I don't need them. Like what I have is the magic now. That's a vast simplification, but that was really the core that's the heartbeat idea was started there. Right. So then we started looking at the same time we were getting a lot of leads made several a day, man. Really, you know smallish companies doing one to 3 million a year, you know on Shopify, right? And they want to try Facebook advertising. Well, you know, we have we have minimums, if you weren't spending 50 100 grand a month, we couldn't take you on as a client at Orian, but one thing entrepreneurs need to understand is focus, right? And I've learned this the hard way. I've lived through it a lot of times, like Orians business was an agency doing Facebook performance, advertising, Google, whatever, whatever else. It was not to incubate other businesses and things. So you know, while I would have loved to look at those, you know, startups, they offer us equity and stuff like that. They wanted to spend five grand, I knew they needed to spend 30 to 50. d start to figure it out. But they didn't have that kind of cash, you know, so and they weren't willing to and I saw I was looking at that and talking to my partner at Thrasio Josh, he's been a friend for 10 years and been a customer of constellation years ago, when we were talking about what can be done, what kind of different opportunities were out there. He was looking for something to do to and is absolutely the most brilliant probably one of the most brilliant people I've ever worked with period, but like financial and deal making the guys off the charts. And so and we were kind of playing around with this with the e commerce stuff, everything going on, I was telling, but all these leads, were saying small companies, like, you know, if I had a few million bucks, you know, I could, I could take 10 of these companies. And you know, I turned five of them from 2 million a year to 20. And five might just stay at 2 million, but they're profitable. So you know, I'll waste a million dollars testing them, but they're still there. They're still good. And he was like, you know, we could probably raise money to roll these up. And you know, and people would buy them and then we then we could bring that expertise, you could build the performance marketing on so we started down that road. That's actually so so then, at that time, then you start saying, Well, if you're going to be doing e commerce, you got to look at Amazon, it should be a channel as well. We thought we might as well sell there. And I don't have been doing some Amazon playing around inside of Orion. So some of our Orion customers were saying, hey, you're so good at performance marketing. Maybe you could do Are our Amazon marketing too, and we didn't know how to do. We didn't know anything about it. But I'd started to learn. And I've had some guy, you know, through my network, I've met some great folks training some of my people. So we got connected and to some folks in the space and started learning about the Amazon space. And you know, we're the thing that really kicked it off was connecting to viral launch. Casey Dallas, the founder of viral launch, and that's a great software platform. There's a few main software platforms out there that Amazon sellers use to research Amazon products and pricing, all that stuff. You know, helium 10, is another fantastic platform, right? But so we got connected to Casey at the time. And, you know, he was building this company growing like crazy. He needed some help. So Josh went into consultant and help out, and, you know, to raise some money and sort of help put some financial structure around the company, all this stuff. And at the time, we also got to learn from Casey about, you know, how Amazon works, what's going on and you know, what we can do with it. So, you know, in the process of doing that, basically look at that, we said, Hey, do this whole roll up process would be easier on Amazon and, you know, independent Shopify websites or just 30 e commerce platforms, WooCommerce, big commerce, all that stuff. Like, you know, if you're going to acquire small e commerce businesses, you're going to have a pretty heavy tech back end infrastructure, to put them all together and make it all work and be smooth and all that. And on Amazon, it's all just on Amazon. And we didn't really know much about the Amazon market for third party sellers or anything. So started looking into that. And, you know, as I say, the rest is history. I mean, we turn it over. And so we don't want any of this independent stuff. Let's just try it on Amazon. We didn't know how big it could be or would get, you know, the downside I learned as I looked at it, you know, like, you know, Josh and I, we're looking at this with a, you know, and the downside was, we buy a few and we have a 10 to 20 million dollar Amazon business right down that makes money. So it was like, why not give it a try, right.

Keith Cline, VentureFizz

Since then, a lot has happened. I mean, it's like it's been a little over Two years. And from what I was reading on crunchbase, your most recent financing rounds 110 million, raised a total of 163 million. And, you know, very

Carlos Cashman, Thrasio

actually, the total is about 250 million. We've got about a, so so it's about 163, or something like that in debt. And then the rest is in equity. And so yeah,

Keith Cline, VentureFizz

and the valuation came in almost 800 million too. And that's, you know, a couple years in.

Carlos Cashman, Thrasio

That's so I mean, look, there's a lot of a lot of people look at that. I mean, you know, how it is, like, people don't understand venture finance or stuff like that and go, Wow, 800  million, you know, you must have 100 million in your pocket. No, you don't, it's not cash. It's not real. It's, it's numbers, you know, in a deck in a spreadsheet, and there's enterprise value, which includes your debt, right, as opposed to, you know, market, you know, you know, the price of the stock, you know, In a market, for instance, the price of the company, right, so the market cap is different from that as well, you know, it comes down to, I don't wanna get into a lesson of those different things, you can go look up on Wikipedia, but now it fantastic. It's unbelievable. And it's, you know, and but this company has performed in a way that's been unbelievable to all this also, I mean, frankly, since we, you know, really started bringing people on and doing this, it's been less than two years, but we had the idea we were messing around with it in the summer of 18. I, you know, I went out and bought the first business, you know, just, you know, said hey, let's give this a try. And then we created the company and rolled it all together and then raise some capital for but we didn't really start raising the capital put it together until probably August, August, September 2018. And, yeah, that's when everything you know, and then it just took off like, you know, from there really rapidly.

Keith Cline, VentureFizz  

So how does it work? So you find these brands that are selling on Amazon, and then you acquire them like, just talk about the actual you know, the business model

Carlos Cashman, Thrasio

Yeah, I mean, so you know, it's interesting. I mean, so it's not you. Amazon has been the most potent machine for entrepreneur creation like I think the world has ever seen. And it's the combination of Amazon and Chinese manufacturing, right outsourced manufacturing and global shipping, right how all this stuff has been just put in place in the last 20 years, which makes it so that, you know, a stay at home dad in Tulsa, can decide he wants to get into business. I can go source salt shakers on Alibaba, find a manufacturer go back and forth, but he gets the design, he wants to create his own brand and then throw it up on Amazon and start selling. I mean, it's unbelievable. And you've got it overnight. You've got you know, exposure to hundreds of millions of customers, right so, you know, this, you know, people hear about the Amazon sellers and they have literally millions of sellers. These think of each one of them as a product manager, right, trying to create the next great product and launch it. That's why Amazon is so phenomenally successful and crushing Walmart and others Right. So these are like solopreneurs to a large degree, sometimes it's a couple of people, two friends out of college or something pretty smart. They, they, you know, if you got into it at the right time, you know, 2015 is when this stuff started really exploding, I think 2014-15 I mean, the marketplace has been there, but really started taking off then, you know, if you're in the right category, and you did the right stuff, I mean, you got to be smart, you have to have a great product. You know, that's where it all starts. But then you got to play the game. I mean, there's 1000 things to do. And, you know, the control panels and, you know, the ad the advertising and there's more and more all the time, right, but but basically, you know, they get on there and they're selling their products, they learned their space very well and, and the relationship with the supplier, they're so so what happens is, it's, you know, at some point, they've got a, you know, a phenomenal product and you can call it the, you know, it's a business, they may have an LLC, whatever, but it's really just a single person with a product and a listing on Amazon. And, you know, they the people who just learn to learn, they could sell us right as a business essentially, right? 2015 2016 right, there hasn't been much of a market for it. But so we came in you know initially looking there's a lot of Business Brokers in the space you talk to them you get to know them all, most of them are all of them know us now make these relationships and they are out there to conferences. You know, we're out there now to I mean, most of most of our leads come from our, you know, just inbound now because people know us in the space. And sellers refer other sellers to people have sold to us tell their friends, hey, this is great, great experience all of these guys. So it's getting around like that. But yeah, I mean, so it's we're not like it's we don't go necessarily and find a product and say, let's go buy that. It's more people said, Hey, I want to sell, there's a lot of that we look at them all and say that was great. That was great. That works for us, you know, and, and we pick the ones that fit our thesis, our ideas, what we're looking for are and are great businesses, again, it's got to start with a great product, right, which means you've got, you know, taught fantastic reviews and a lot of them, you know, so you're top of the page, right? Amazon's a search engine. So you know, we want people that are ranking you know, At the top or near the top or have a very solid position wherever they are, right? And so and so you can, you know, you can be assured to some degree that that product is going to stay there. And you can also understanding where the revenue is going to be and where it is going to go, right?


Keith Cline is the Founder of VentureFizz. Follow him on Twitter: @kcline6.