The Pavilion Podcast
The Pavilion Podcast

Episode · 2 months ago

Ep 160: Digitizing the Steel Industry w/ Dallas Hogensen

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Ep 160: Digitizing the Steel Industry w/ Dallas Hogensen

Part of the "Is This A Good Time?" series hosted by Brandon Barton.

Hello everyone and welcome back to thePavilion podcast. I'm your host, Brandon Barton you're listening to Isthis a good time The show where I put Pavilion members on the hot seat for 15minutes. We hear their incredible stories, shows around Tuesdays andThursdays. Hit subscribe. So you do not miss hearing from our experts. Ourguest today is Dallas Hockenson. He's the Ceo and co founder of Felix.Incredible story, fun conversation. We talk about digitizing the steelindustry, but really more how he got into this in the first place this month,sponsors Sandoz. So Sandoz, so the leading sending platform is the mosteffective way for revenue generating teams to stand out with new ways toengage at strategic points throughout the customer journey. Like connectingdigital and physical strategies. Companies can engage, acquire andretain customers easier than ever before. All right, let's do thisepisode 78 Is this a good time? All right. Everyone's super psyched to haveDallas Hogan's in here with us. He's the Ceo and co founder of Felix,incredible businesses building. Just raised seed this year. Got more to comein. 2021 Dallas awesome to have you on the pod man. Yeah, thanks for having me.It's a pleasure to be here. Yeah, I like all meat. No filler. Let's jumpright in. Tell us about what you're what you're doing, the company youstarted and and how maybe like a couple stops on the way, how you got here.Yeah, So you know, we are a steel company, Funny enough. I never thoughtI would in the steel industry, but We are a B2B marketplace in the steelindustry, a supply chain platform and a procurement platform, reallyinteresting time to be in this space. B two B marketplaces are obviously prettyhot in the venture world, but essentially the thesis of thebusinesses were taking the entire offline industry that now is a $4trillion industry and digitizing and bringing it online to make commercehappen is easy to buy a T shirt is basically have, you can buy steel iseasy, you can buy a t shirt that's a piece of the business. How are yougetting old school? You know what, I would imagine people that detesttechnology to buy steel online. It is...

...interesting and fascinating questions.So this industry traditionally been offline forever and really there's nodigital platform to help the facilitation of commerce and so thethings that we're really focused on in the beginning is actually providingworkflow tools, right? How do we help them find customers transact withcustomers and make it easy so they can aggregate their data, understand theirpurchasing decisions and just really give them a platform to help facilitateone of the hardest jobs that you find uh in manufacturing or on the supplychain. So I'm really excited about the adamant of what we're doing and reallyinteresting time to be in the space obviously with all the supply chainproblems right now, so like if you haven't ordered your christmas presentsalready, it's probably time to think about that because they're going to belate if you don't get a head start on that. But the story is actuallyfascinating. So um kind of historical context, I mean it's been the last 10years thinking about marketplaces in san Francisco, new york little time ineurope before this and um, previously with some and recent bad companieshiring marketplace in the restaurant space, something you're familiar with.And then I was lucky enough to be one of the early employees on the liftbusiness team building out that marketplace for employee travel on topof the consumer network And ultimately what ends up happening at the end of2019, I had sold my last company which is a data company intent data, whichhas been pretty hot in sales and marketing over the last couple of yearsin gaining traction. So we sold that to our data provider, which kind ofbrought me to early 2020. And at a pretty simple thesis is like where isprivate equity rich and where is venture capital poor and what supplychains are offline. So I was doing everything from calling trailer parksto dirt farms to anything like unsexy you name it. I was trying to figure outlike where does the dollar flow through like a really unsexy supply chain. Andlucky enough for me, I end up getting connected with a guy, grew up playingpoker with who runs a steel company and...

...my aunt had worked in the industry for25 years and I had about a month of conversations with them is asking, youknow, how does go to market work? How do you do your job? And ultimately itwas the same from everybody. I talked to traditional field sales, oldrelationships, no technology, no data, no core analytics or analysis onpurchasing decisions or behaviors. And so it's pretty evident to me that youknow, there was opportunity in the space and I think this is where operaopportunity meets preparation and luck. What ended up happening is there was anexecutive recruiter that I used to work with a lift when I was running salesthere and he said, Hey Dallas, the ceo of one of the largest steel company inthe United States, wants to talk to you about marketplaces and I honestlythought it was like a joke. At first I sit down and talk to my wife and likeshould I take the call and she's like, yeah, take the call. And what was funnyabout that is they're not spending two hours with the guy on the phone thefirst time we talked and he was really the leader in the space. So he's a guyyou see on CNBC, he's a guys in, in Washington writing policy. He's midthirties, you know, clutch sports was incubated in his house. He has arestaurant group, like awesome entrepreneur to steal family businessand you know, really started to think about how something like this couldchange the industry because his belief was simple. I want to build theracetrack for the steel industry to run on. And he had really, I thinkincredible foresight to see what was happening internally and had therelationships to make it happen. And so after spending a bunch of time with himand my other co founder who ran innovation at that steel company, Idecided to join remote for the first year. And um, we went to work withouteven meeting each other for the first year on building a digital steelcompany and building a marketplace for the industry. And so it's really thisfascinating journey where For me of just doing the diligence, picking upthe phone calling people. Like I met a guy that was making $15 million dollarsa year selling trailer skirts to...

...trailer parks office spreadsheet. Andso I just became passionate about like how do we find these opportunities? AndI remember sitting next down with my wife and saying, hey, listen, I thinkthere's a real opportunity here in this $4 trillion market where no digitalsolution exists. I think it's worth the next 10 years or alive to take a bet onthis and, and this is this time we were pregnant with our first child and shesaid, let's do it. And I said, hey, by the way, there's a chance we might haveto move to Cleveland, like, and um she's like, wait, hold on. But anyway,at the end of the day she's like, let's do it. I think this is real, this iswhat you love to do. It sounds like a perfect marriage of expertise andtechnology and that's what brought me to today. So I never thought I would bein this world, it's the hardest problem I've ever worked on. It's the most funI've ever had. And you know, we think about the world is making steel sexy,like we're having so much fun telling a narrative in a space that didn't existbefore. Yeah, it's pretty cool. I mean, as you alluded to, like, I work in theworld of restaurants, not perhaps as old school as the steel industry, butit's always fun to kind of bring the light china light that's on the rest ofthe world into your corner and if that is now the steel industry, that's, Imean, that's pretty cool. Mr. Carnegie would say it's a, it's a big enoughspace to become, to become wealthy and right? Yeah, no, space for players, Ithink. Yeah, for sure. And so like obviously you've kind of answered theidea of, hey, where's serendipity and Luckman, did your, I gotta ask did theperson that the recruiter at lift know that you were trying to dabble aroundin the steel world or was that just completely random, completely random.Well what was it was interesting here? Honestly I would get calls from him allthe time around like marketplace opportunities, right? Like if peoplehad questions about marketplace, I got calls and I've never been a person tokind of shy off from things I didn't...

...know because I have a curious mind likewhat does that mean? I want to learn, Let's dig in, let's find out. And so Ithink that is where I got lucky is that I just knew that the more I chargedforward, like something was going to hit one of these days where I was like,this is what I was meant to do. That's incredible. I love it. And uh, and so Ijust, I mean to the extent that you want to, how's the business doing? Um,like, you know, give us a little baseball card on where things are atYeah, baseball card numbers up, we're about in one half of our business forabout 1280% year to date over last year. And then the other half were uh, closerto 500%. So there are two main drivers right now for us are um, just kind oftaking off in the enterprise contract space and within the liquidity in thespot market. So, uh, right now it's the right time. It's not if it's, it's whenand now is when in the steel industry around digital adoption, um, in theenterprise. So it's been a lot of fun for us to have a chance to give adifferent point of view to an industry that just have never seen one before.For sure. For sure. This is, I mean, it's great that you just kind of wentafter something you knew probably not that much about in the beginning andyou know, it's the same dynamics marketplaces, marketplaces. Well, whatgive us some tactics, give us something that that you think, you know, peoplecan use practically in their own, you know, day to day lives and what they'redoing from a sales and marketing perspective. Yeah. So I think one ofthe things that, you know, we think about internal here is speed as a habitpreparation and speed. So everything that we're doing right now is how do wemove fast? How do we get a lot of feedback loops? And we take that toheart when it comes to marketing is we rather be prolific than perfect. And ifit makes us laugh and it makes us smile, we think we're onto something great.And so like when we talk about marketing right now, the things thatwe're doing, we're having fun because this industry right now hasn't seen thetips and tricks that you and I know so well within the tax base, so like whatwe call they pick up, we send them t...

...shirts that say it makes feel sexy,right? We send them videos and we're having our customers are so engagedbecause we've created this human element that they've never seen before,but really from a tactical perspective, I think one of the things that we'relearning and starting to see is Exume has been tough on a lot of people inthese meetings and so we're trying to do like these small snippets of video,like engage with empathy and like create like a narrative over time. Andso I'm all in on video right now all the time. And I think loom is like oneof those tools that I know a lot of people are using it, but I think it'sjust under used by probably a lot of people that because it tells such agreat narrative and it brings a human element into a sales process that'sincredibly crowded. And so when I'm thinking about things like that, I'mtrying to just build a connection. If I get in the room, like with theconnection, we're going to have some fun, we're going to tell a great storyand you know, we're going to become friends and partners down the road.Yeah. A couple of people have brought up video brought up bloom and like, youknow, I think it was Katie kevin kevin Dorsey that was saying, you know, howmany, how many times do I get reached out to a week? And I was like, I don'tknow, maybe like 50 or whatever. And he said, how give me what you think, howmany times there's video involved and I was like seven and he was like maybetwo, right? Like Less than 10% of the time. And yet even if you look at likeslacks recent update where they're allowing you to post videos, you know,it kind of makes so much sense. Asynchronous video as opposed to thiszoom stuff. I mean fatigue is real right now. Uh, now, I think just ingeneral, like the way that we think about marketing tactics right now isjust be different. And so I encourage all of our team members to like, youhave freedom be free to try anything, have fun with it, test it out. And likeif you're laughing at the end of the day, like I said before, like that isworth the time for us and return on investment because the customer isgoing to appreciate like your...

...personality and spin on that and thatsticks out. Yeah. And so it's more like strategic tactic. But um, you knowthose type of things and conversations that we're having internally right nowis like, if we're gonna do this, we're gonna have fun. Our customers are goingto have fun and let's just not be the same. Love it. Love it. Well look, Imean, it sounds like you guys are growing like nuts. You must be hiringany position, key positions are hiring for and do they have to move toCleveland? Uh, no, they don't have to move to Cleveland. So we areheadquartered in Cleveland. I moved here actually in june, it's an amazingcity and it feels good to be back on the east coast a little bit. But uh, weare hiring a bunch on the engineering side, the product side, the sales side.Um, sales Ops strategy. Ops rev, ops I need somebody, I want somebody gradesthe hardest challenge you ever worked on from a revenue options rev Opsperspective. So like that's the things I'm focused on right now is how do weget like smart people who are working on really hard big problems that I knowit's going to take years to figure out like it, man, That's very cool. Allright, Well, I'm sure, I'm sure somebody will get one lead for you Outright now. one x 1. All right. Um, and who some shout outs. I mean, you know,I would imagine that there are people out there that would say they followyour content. You know, you're active on, on all the platforms and put upsome good stuff and I've always appreciated your writing and you'rethinking, who else do you look to and say, hey man, like this person, this,this woman does a great job at, you know, thought leadership. You know, Ithink one of the person I've had a lot of appreciation for and like, I don'tthink this is anything new, but it is obviously like what devin read is doingthat gong as like the head of content strategy there. I think that I had achance to do a conference with him. We both spoke at an outreach conference acouple years ago and I just like you when you see people who just get ittell a great story and are like in it for the customer, those type of peopleto me are like we're spending time with and like understanding like theirstrategy and so I spent a lot of time...

...reading what he does or just likemaking sure I'm checking in on what he does. But you know, other than thatright now, I think where I spend most of my free podcast time is obviouslylike on all in podcast like that to me right now is from like a macro view islike I'm loving the conversation dynamic and obviously it's not like asecret anymore but that's the one go to for me where I make sure I listen everyweek. Yeah, it's uh it definitely, I mean you know their their banter backand forth can be annoying perhaps but like fine but you are getting you aregetting the tip of the, the tip of the pin view of like what's to come perhaps.Yeah. I think from a macro level there's probably not many people thatare smarter collectively that our understanding what's happening frommulti parts of the world right now. So it is a fascinating conversation, but alot of banter. I agree. Yeah, that's all right. All right, well look, allthose other questions while fascinating for everyone else. This is for me, giveme a spot that you loved that we should go eat. It could be in Cleveland. Iknow you haven't been there too long. Could be any of your former homes, Westcoast, east coast, whatever. Yeah. So, so I'll start in new york close to home.West village is Joe's pizza is my go to, I was in the delivery range so many ofnights on a $20 cheese pizza for me was to go to and I've also used gold bellyto order it out a few times. Yeah, I know, I know. I don't know if you're ajoe's guy or not, but 100% on to like a straight up regular slice. For sure. Imean I grew up really, Jafari's was like the defining slice, although thenthen it became like famous and whatever, but like joe's is like, like it's an Aall the time, all the time. Other spot that I missed the most right now that Ihaven't had in years, Kazunori, my favorite hand roll in the country. Idon't know if you've been there or not. Of course one of my, one of myfavorites and then two in Cleveland that I'm loving right now. So one of myco founders has a restaurant group and he has one of the top restaurants inCleveland called the last page. It's...

...fantastic. Kind of this fusion cuisineand then there's a delicatessen here. That was a James Beard winner calledLarter that I'm obsessed with right now on the harder. Yeah, love it man, thisis great. All right, we're going to all these places when we get up toCleveland, we'll go catch a, catch a hoops game, catch something andbaseball game, whatever and go to larger. I love it, awesome man, It's sogreat to chat. Like I'm so pumped for what you're building. It soundsincredible and like keep at it man, you got it, you got a big dream ahead.Thanks man, I appreciate it. Thanks for having me on. All right, that's ourshow. Thank you so much for listening. If you love the show or even if you'rejust like kind of like it, don't have to love not to be all the way. Justrate it. Give me five stars. Tell ever. Tell everyone else in your, in yourhouse, in your, in your family, send it to some friends, maybe think about itas as you can't get your holiday gifts. Maybe think about gifting the gift ofthe pavilion podcasts. A reminder of this episode was brought to you byCindy. So they deliver modern direct mail, personalized gifts and otherphysical impressions that make your outreach more personal. All right. Ihad so much fun today. I hope you did it. To now go crush your numbers. Say something. Mhm.

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