Joe Spector has helped take his first startup from zero to being worth over a billion dollars. Then after taking that company public, he decided to apply his experience to helping pet owners and veterinarians too. His latest, startup, Dutch Pet Inc., has attracted funding from top-tier investors like Forerunner Ventures, Adapt Ventures, and Eclipse Ventures.
In this episode, you will learn:
- How Dutch is transforming this space for vets and pet parents
- How the fundraising landscape has changed
- The keys to growing a successful global startup
For a winning deck, take a look at the pitch deck template created by Silicon Valley legend, Peter Thiel (see it here) that I recently covered. Thiel was the first angel investor in Facebook with a $500K check that turned into more than $1 billion in cash.
The Ultimate Guide To Pitch Decks
Moreover, I also provided a commentary on a pitch deck from an Uber competitor that has raised over $400 million (see it here).
Remember to unlock for free the pitch deck template that is being used by founders around the world to raise millions below.
About Joe Spector:
Joe Spector is the founder and CEO of Dutch as well as a proud dog parent. Previously the cofounder of Hims & Hers, a pioneer in human telehealth, Joe is on a mission to make the veterinary industry better for pets, pet parents, and veterinarians through telehealth and innovation.
Joe believes every pet should have easy access to what they need to live their happiest and healthiest life.
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Connect with Joe Spector:
Read the Full Transcription of the Interview:
Alejandro Cremades: Alrighty hello everyone and welcome to the deal maker show. So I am very excited with the founder that we have today I mean he is an immigrant that came to this country with absolutely nothing and his last company is now valued at two point three billion so I think that that speaks for itself I find that. You know you’re all going to find this episode super inspiring. You know on how to build how to scale. Ah you know issues on the rehula qualifieified. You know when you’re trying to build a business and everything beyond that so without fartherdo. Let’s welcome our guest today Joe Spector welcome to the show.
Joe Spector: Thank you! I’m so excited to be here. Thank you.
Alejandro Cremades: You So originally you were born in Withbekistan but then all a sudden you find yourself here in the Us So give us a little of a walk through memory lane. How was life growing up.
Joe Spector: Growing up in many ways it was you know it’s wonderful, but it’s such a. It’s such a world apart I grew up in Ussr a communist system a system where you cannot question authority. System where you are you know, brainwashed to believe in in the power of the state and as a jew a fairly anti-semitic system as well. But because it’s such a closed society. You don’t really know that there is anything else. You really think that the entire world lives like this and it was only after we left and and I came to America that I started to realize that there are a million you know, different cultures and peoples and ways of thinking.
Alejandro Cremades: I Mean you come here and starting from nothing you know for the family I’m sure that that was dealing with the uncertainty too. You know is like new everything.
Joe Spector: So.
Joe Spector: It was I give a lot of of credit to my parents because at the time I think they really shielded us and I was 10 years old but you’re still a child and they never made us feel like there is anything necessarily wrong. Um, and even I remember when we came here we were poor I mean we lived in subsidized housing on food stamps and I still felt like we were kings because they made us feel that we’re in this land of Opportunity. And we have so much more that we could get to So I think looking back I’m like I think oh my gosh you know we we had you know now I have three kids and I realized that the difference. Opportunity and experiences that they have but at the time I think my parents really shielded us and I give a lot of credit to them for that and.
Alejandro Cremades: But I mean it’s still a ten year assault I mean you you realize things. So I’m sure that you know seeing your parents you know like working hard trying to give you guys a better life I mean that that’s stuff that you I’m sure it really shaped you up, you know and who you are today.
Joe Spector: It does you know my both my parents were civil engineers and in the first year while we were adjusting my dad was working at flea markets as a day labor and so that was very humbling. But I think now as an entrepreneur at the same time you know one of the things we say at Dutch is no one’s too good to take out the garbage and it just means we all can roll up our sleeves and do the shit that needs to get done. And no one’s too good for that. So and and I definitely think of that experience with my dad during these moments.
Alejandro Cremades: So tell us about you know, also getting into into business because you know the whole world of business and and finance you know is something that they you know, got you hooked you know and you actually went into Berkeley you know and you kind of like got started you know and got your feet with. Before going into into wall street. So um, so walk us through that.
Joe Spector: I would say from the moment we got to America I realized that this is the land of opportunity and my from from everything I saw and I um. I wanted to I saw that being an entrepreneur is is the is the way to really make it here make a have a vision and and have an impact. Um I think I’ve always. I always had it in me where I didn’t like to listen to authority or follow the rules and be creative and ultimately you know even though I started my career in investment banking I think I quickly realized that it just it wasn’t going to fit with my personality. And really once I got into Wharton and business school is when I kind of met my brethren and realized that this is a whole career that could exist which I didn’t need being an immigrant didn’t realize that was an option. Um, and starting in business school is when I started to really commit to startups and commit to starting new ideas and executing on them.
Alejandro Cremades: I mean what? Ah what a journey here because I mean your parents come with nothing and then all of a sudden you are like literally admitted to the best schools in the world to study I mean war on Mba you know, incredible program. The communities is out of this world. And team and there I mean as you were saying you know that’s when you really got your first experience with entrepreneurship. You know when you entered their business plan competition. So what? What could you hooked? What could you hook to entrepreneurship. What? why why. Why was it so impactful for you. It sounds like it was like a mind-blowing experience. You were like oh my god I can’t believe this.
Joe Spector: I think I you know there’s these moments where there’s this intersection of who you realize who you are and you but. So you know you go through life in those early stages and you think you know am I weird or like is this are there other people who are like me are there is this something I can make a living from and I think I hid that intersection at Wharton where I realize there’s a whole world. There’s all these people. Who basically can dream up of an idea and then go do it and at the time I think that was so unfathomable and so crazy you know because in Russia and everything I saw before. You go you have a job and you work there and you work up the ladder and that’s that’s it I didn’t know otherwise I didn’t know there was another option and I remember the business plan competition at Wharton that first moment it was it was like a jumping over a canyon. I just I remember thinking how am I and I were like you know who am I to think of an idea who am I how am I going to even start to get this going. It feels like like they say like climbing Mount Everest
Joe Spector: And I think it’s just a muscle you build where you just realize. Yeah, you’re not going to climb it in the one day but you just take 1 step at a time and then you see the progress but being able to take that jump I think in business school and the safety of it. And starting to see some examples of other people who are doing it allow me to just start taking that jump. Um, and I think ever since then you know it’s a high it feels exhilarating to be able to. Have a vision to start executing against it to start seeing results and as you do it, you get more certainly confident and you learn from your mistakes. But I really owe a lot to wharton for creating that space for me to really start taking that jump and.
Alejandro Cremades: I’m talking about creating I think you also learned about creating luck right? And and I find that luck is always preparation meets opportunity because what you did right after Warharton is you go to silione valley where you know it’s the the La of innovation. You know when it comes to to launching startups.
Joe Spector: Are.
Alejandro Cremades: And you know 1 thing led to the next and then all of a sudden you meet andi do them and andi for the listeners. You know he’s also been on the show that was a great episode but you made Andi and that basically you know Wasa was a shift.
Joe Spector: Ah, hundred percent if I say that quote all the time like because people say you’re so lucky and you know it’s it’s never like that and this was 1015 years of busting my butt in Silicon Valley before um, and and being ready to be prepared. You know to have this moment and by the way when I met Andrew the first thing he did is he told me to go away. So even that it wasn’t a given he at the time was working on another company. And he was heads down and I remember he he said seemed like a smart guy. He seemed driven but I’m busy. Let’s just let’s stay in touch and I think by that point. I was already in the framework of I don’t take no for an answer especially when you see opportunities and I remember um the atomic studio where he worked and where hymns was born was such as is still. You know such a special place. So many incredibly smart? well-connected, thoughtful folks I was not going to let that go so I actually pestered him for several weeks until finally he relented and said you know we’ve been.
Joe Spector: Hymns of the time was called club room and he said you know we’ve been kicking around this hair loss idea and no one has time to work on it. You know why don’t you see what you know where this goes so i. Didn’t let him I didn’t let this opportunity slip by and I also made it super easy for him to say yes and and give me a try and again these are all this is all preparation that I kind of learned over that time but meeting him was definitely an incredible experience. And hundred percent agree um in in some ways it was luck but it was a lot of preparation that led up to it making the most of that moment.
Alejandro Cremades: So then what happened next because it sounds like they were you know hitting a block you know and then all of a sudden you come into the picture and then and then what happened.
Joe Spector: Um I think some one of my secret superpowers is I am so results driven and I’m a workhors and with him’s hot. Again I had been through Silicon Valley enough to know kind of shitty ideas or ideas that may sound good on paper but are not good in reality and I felt like what we were trying to solve. You know it was a hard problem. Um. Because it was highly regulated. It’s in a highly regulated space of you know delivering medicine and it was in an area that was ripe for disruption because the current competition of the time in hair loss in erectile dysfunction was doing a terrible job with branding so I saw a lot of opportunity. Um, and then like I said I think my secret weapon is execution and results and hymns was instill. It’s such an incredibly magical place because we from but from the very early moment. We were seeing incredible results now. Granted this was a different time this was before ios privacy so on Facebook you could get a read fairly quickly and you could run a lot of tests but everything we were doing I remember was working.
Joe Spector: Um, it’s never like that you know and of course when things work the only one ah for them to work faster and bigger and better. But we saw positive results almost from from the very beginning um and and like you mentioned you know. You know Andrew will say we did a million dollars of sales in our first weekend. Um, that’s true. You know once we went live. It was kind of yeah you know you ask any of the investors in in hymns and it’s their best you know performing company. Because it just did so incredibly well and and it’s the same thing you know I think right place right? time. The right people were there to do to the right things and took advantage of the right opportunity.
Alejandro Cremades: So what was that tweak that needed to be done so that you guys went from like you know, kicking the heads and hitting the wall to all of a sudden you know a million bucks in the first weekend.
Joe Spector: Um, it’s connecting the dots the running this business is operationally complex. You have to have pharmacies that deliver all over the us. So that’s kind of 1 thing and at the time. To find the pharmacy that’s going to you know, no pharmacy wanted to touch a telemedicine business so it was it’s finding that right network and and having a pleasant experience. It was investing in brand we had this company that no longer exists gin lane. Did some of our branding work and just created a beautiful experience for hair loss for erectile dysfunction that had never been done before so that was a huge unlock and you know this was a different time and place. This was a time when. We could raise 50 to $200,000,000 every ninety days so we could run beautiful New York subway ads and giants baseball toilet ads and be super innovative in our marketing and. We were even from the very beginning thinking about twenty four months ahead because we had that cash runway so kind of making the long-term investments and then doing the super complicated logistic operational things I think those were.
Joe Spector: The unlocks we did and we were just moving crazy fast when when we launched from from that million dollars of sales but a month after launch we had already raised the series b at a $200,000,000 valuation so it’s it was.
Alejandro Cremades: Wow.
Joe Spector: Maybe still is one of the fastest growing Dtc businesses because we were also just working our butts off and moving so fast.
Alejandro Cremades: And for the people that are listening to really get it What what ended up being the business model of hymns.
Joe Spector: Hims. It was a it’s a subscription model. So mom initially was just hymns and and men paid for a visit with a doctor and then the doctor for appropriate rights of prescription for hair loss for erectile dysfunction. We ended ended up getting into. A whole bunch of other conditions like skin care and mental health and then we launched hers. Um to do the same thing on the women’s side partnered with some you know with celebrities like Snoop dog and J-lo and a rod and. You know, still to this day continue to open up new verticals and continue to invest in just an incredibly beautiful brand.
Alejandro Cremades: And it sounds like you guys were like like a Scott like I literally like rocketing you know, right? right? Off the get-go like since that first weekend that you launched this thing how much how much capital.
Joe Spector: Here.
Alejandro Cremades: Did the company raise prior to the company going public.
Joe Spector: Um I don’t it’s too I want to say maybe close to $500000000 maybe 3 to 500,000,000 it was a lot more.
Alejandro Cremades: 3 3 to 500000000? got it and and and let’s let’s let’s talk about being able to raise money as you were saying you know obviously different times. But also you guys were at a position of leverage. You know, typically companies are like raisingcing money because they need the money I mean here you guys were like really kicking Butt. So. So How does it look like when you’re raising money and you’re at at that ideal position of leverage where you can like you’re in a your like metrics are like off the roof and you can literally pick anyone that you want to pick to to invest in your company. How How do you go about that.
Joe Spector: You.
Alejandro Cremades: What does that look like how do you go about picking the right people. What was that process like.
Joe Spector: It’s still look at that you still have even when people are giving you money still has a price money still has a price and so there’s definitely folks who would come and want to give us money but not at the valuation that we wanted and you always want. The least possible dilution. So you’re trying to find a partner who’s giving you a valuation you want but at the same time You also want partners who are actually going to be helpful to your business as you know and not be a distraction. So you’re still wanting that combo of of a good partner but also not wanting to be diluted because by the way some of the best vcs are not going to give you the valuation that you really want so you still have to have that negotiation.
Alejandro Cremades: Yeah, and then how was the process of taking the company public.
Joe Spector: The first word that comes to mind just it still feels surreal when you take a step back and you look at the odds and you look at the statistics going and as fast as we did. It’s just nearly impossible odds like. I do remember a year before really realizing that like we aren’t going to go public. This is this is going to happen and I just couldn’t believe I couldn’t believe that again for an immigrant. Who came you know my family I came here with $100 and one one suitcase literally. That’s what we had to be able to have the chance to take a company that I started public. Still to this day I just type inch myself I just can’t believe that happened and so so I think first it’s surreal. But of course once you start? ah you you know when you’re a private company. It’s different now you have to file with the scc. You have to have earnings calls so it just you know it becomes ah a different game. Yeah I have to be incredibly buttoned up and your operations have to rise to a whole new level. So I think in that sense it was like oh god even though.
Joe Spector: I’m so used to a lot of the legislative and the regulatory matters. This is obviously this is obviously a whole new level and then um, so yeah, so much much more regulation but a super surreal moment.
Alejandro Cremades: And let’s talk about this real moment because all of a sudden you know you as you were mentioning. You come to the Us with a hundred bucks and with a suitcase you know with a family and then all of a sudden you have financial freedom. How does that? How does that they what? what does that feel like and then also what what did you? do you know with. Once once you had you know money in the bank.
Joe Spector: Um, you know I still have ptsd from the immigrant experience because in in that time when we left. Um, we lived in this refugee camp in italy. Um. I would say basically as as homeless people for I mean maybe slightly you know we we had a tent but I will that experience that experience I’ll never forget it and so on the 1 hand. Um. Definitely feels like incredible because you know we can take vacations and I can have a nice house but on the other hand I still have this feeling like this I could still be in that place in that homeless environment and this could all be gone in a second. I never feel like um I have a base I think this could all be gone and so I think in the sense I really want to live every day like it could be my last and try to live it to the fullest and so I think you know when it comes to Dutch. I still I’m working I’m working harder than I did at hems because here I’m the Ceo and this is even more my company and so I still I think I would have thought that yeah like you you make several million dollars
Joe Spector: And you can just chill and that hasn’t been how I feel I still feel like I have a lot to prove and this could all be gone.
Alejandro Cremades: So then let’s talk about that. So um, you know you take him’s public. You know, right now he saved I got two point three billion incredible experience incredible journey why you know turning page why starting again from.
Joe Spector: Well.
Alejandro Cremades: From nothing you know, like building something from the ground up.
Joe Spector: Maybe I mean maybe I’m I’m a masochist but but I there is. It’s a high. There is something incredibly thrilling about that 0 to 1 about creating the universe and you know right now one of the things that’s going on is I’m working on bills in 4 States of changing the veterinary telemedicine law and. It’s incredible. You know I think I feel that as humans we have such a short time here on this earth and if I if I can feel like I can make some sort of an impact that feels incredibly satisfying and so. Working on this legislation to change the law which will increase access and increase affordability for millions of people that is such a high and I feel like I still have it in me to make big changes and I think that’s. Kind of like what I learned from hymns is it’s only worth doing if you’re going to do something big and you’re going to have a big impact. Otherwise it’s it doesn’t feel like it’s something that’s worth spending your time my time on and I think Dutch felt like.
Joe Spector: I Could still have a pretty major impact I think coming into this business when I looked at the pet landscape I was the only entrepreneur that had the regulatory experience and the big brand experience to make an impact and I felt like that. Very excited and very what’s the word optimistic about being able to really make another impact in this tangential. But ah you know adjacent space.
Alejandro Cremades: That’s amazing. So then tell us what are you guys doing at dutch. How are you guys making money.
Joe Spector: Um, very similar. It’s you know it’s telemedicine and it’s a subscription business. Um, there’s definitely differences. We focus on setting up pet parents with a video call with a veterinarian. Um, and then that veterinarian could either give you advice or could write a prescription for an issue that they’re trying to solve. You know some of the biggest differences versus hymns is it’s all video. You know we don’t have forms. We don’t have kind of quite you know. It’s not It’s all real-time video because you know you’re dealing with you know with a dog with a cat that you kind of have to see in person and it’s new telemedicine. You know when hymns got on the scene you already had companies like teledock that were public and so that. Behavior was much more accepted in the human field on the pet side. We’re having to do a lot more education. We’re having to you know, a lot of people don’t even realize that they could have a video call with a vet and a lot of people don’t even realize how much money they could save. By doing telemedicine versus in person I think you were saying you know and saying and this was my experience I don’t know that when I go to a vet and I so you know, ah you know I’ll get a bill of 400 or more and being able to.
Joe Spector: You know our service at Dutch. It’s $12 a month. So. It’s the best deal in town. You’ll never be able to see of that same day for twelve bucks and um and we allow up to 5 pets and and the medication is far cheaper. Been in person so you know it’s ah it’s an amazing service. We have to do a lot more education and then there’s still big states like California and Texas that don’t allow this type of service. So we’re also working on changing the lot. But I think you know. As with him I think the tide is on our side and it’s a matter of time before all 50 states allow this.
Alejandro Cremades: And I guess say for this I mean you you also have raised some money I mean it’s been like no time you know on 2021 you did the seed you know, then you did the the a round. So. How how much capital have you guys raised to date and and I’m sure that raising money this time around was a little bit easier since he was. You know you’re a very much a proven founder so I’m sure it was it was different.
Joe Spector: Um, I always think you know I’m sure it’s easy or but it’s not easy because I I did think it was going to be easier than than it was but it wasn’t I think. There’s there were so many concerns around pet telemedicine about the regulatory laws about ability to acquire customers. So I think in many ways it was actually still incredibly hard and we’ve now raised $30,000,000 so knock on wood. You know we’re in a really good position but it’s definitely It’s a very different environment when you know at hyms we could be looking at an eighteen even a twenty four month payback period. Right? Meaning how long how much we were willing to spend to acquire a customer and that’s just not the case today we have to be almost profitable from the beginning and I think in many ways that’s made us a superior company because in the end. You know, hims as a stock was being punished for a long time for being unprofitable and so it gets you one way or another I think that we’re a very strong company as a result of this reception or this you know economic environment that we’re in.
Joe Spector: And it’ll make fundraising easier the next time we’re out in Market. But um I Still think it was incredibly hard and I think oftentimes. Um, what I’m so happy with the with the folks who are my lead investors is. I Think they? um we connect with them on a personal level I think they understand what makes me tick and what makes me a good entrepreneur and that was important to me especially in in those early series investors of finding people. Who can understand um me as an individual because then they can help me. You know they can help me be better because they know me and and what it takes for me to win.
Alejandro Cremades: And tell us about pet health as well versus human health.
Joe Spector: So I think one of the maybe mistakes I made is to assume that there are so many similarities but there’s actually a lot of differences. The financial incentives are quite different and that leads to very different behaviors. So in human health about 90% of us in the United States have insurance whereas on the pet health side less than 3% have insurance. And what that means is that pet health is almost an entirely cash pay market and because of that you don’t have an insurance set of players who are regulating the industry you have you know it’s it’s cash. And so oftentimes brick and mortar veterinarians really are incentivized and talk about creating incentives based on what they call production quotas meaning that they order the extra x-ray they give you the extra set of pills. Um, because that’s how they build their practice whereas human doctors build their practice on service on the services that they provide and they don’t care. You know if you go to Cvs so or Walgreens to fulfill your prescription doesn’t matter to them because there’s a single set of.
Joe Spector: Or a fairly similar set of prices that insurance companies have created um and so as a result of all this. There’s many brick and mortar vets who really don’t want telemedicine because they think it will take away their ability. Upsell you on all these products and look at the end of the day we have to do? What’s best for consumers and ultimately, what’s best for consumers is going to win in the long run. But the fact is there’s almost 200,000,000 pets in this country.
Alejandro Cremades: Um.
Joe Spector: You know and pets are like all biological creatures have problems that they’ll always need to be seen in person you know and then by the way there the the other thing that’s crazy that I didn’t realize is how little that’s make the um, the. The average vet makes about $100,000 a year I mean it’s incredible. They go through almost the same amount of schooling they come out with several hundred thousand in loans and they make on average like I said $100000 it’s not nearly enough to pay off their bills. Um, in fact, vets have vets have a 3 times the national suicide rate 3 times people often think of dentists but actually vets are incredibly depressed because they love animals and. They go into an industry where they make actually very little money. So telemedicine is a great opportunity for them because we actually pay that’s almost double what the industry pays them and they can actually work from home. And so that’s been that’s been the cool part about telemedicine is that’s actually a huge win for consumers. But it’s actually a huge win for the industry as well. So.
Alejandro Cremades: And you were talking to about the long run. So let’s talk about that. Let’s say you were to go to sleep tonight and you wake up in a world Joe where the vision of dutch is fully realized what does that world look like.
Joe Spector: Yeah, it, you know? Ultimately, we’re we’re a global brand and people come to Dutch for the ability for that first interaction they can talk to someone in real time talk to a veterinarian in real time and. If they need be get a prescription delivered within a matter of hours and that’s actually I think one of the reasons I wanted to name the company dutch is because I wanted it to have this global ubiquitous um brand that can grow into variety of. Areas you know, just recently we launched an integration with ah lab testing so you can actually you know we talked about the how much money you you spend on on x-rays and labs we actually partnered with someone who sends you something at home. For one fourth of the price you pay in person so having more and more services that you can do from home and doing it at a national and ultimately a global scale is the ultimate vision.
Alejandro Cremades: I love that. So obviously here we’re talking about the future. So let’s talk about now the past but doing it with a lens of reflection. Let’s say I was to put you into a time machine and I bring you back in time I bring you back in time to those moments where you were you know. In Wharton you know they’re in Philly and then let’s say you had the opportunity of having a sit down with that younger Joe and being able to give that younger Joe a piece of advice before launching a company. What would that be and why given what you know now.
Joe Spector: I I would say kind of 1 mistake I made early on that I tell myself is spend the time to get to know people to build your network because. As a Ceo you know some of your main responsibilities are hiring people fundraising and having strategy and a vision and I think I jumped into starting something before I had any of those things. So I would say you know spend the time in the industry you want and soak up as much of it as possible from learning from people and then and then jumping into it yourself.
Alejandro Cremades: So Let’s double click here. Let’s say now you’re able to go even earlier. Let’s say you’re able to you know, really sit down with that younger kid you know that 10 year old that they. Was perhaps in that refugee camp in Italy you know, living literally under a tent and dealing with all that uncertainty you know surrounding the family. What would you tell that kid.
Joe Spector: Yes.
Joe Spector: I think I would say experience things that are different and that are all just.. You may not even know where it goes now because I think at that time maybe this is the Russian in me or the Survivor. You’re so practical but I would say get into experiences get into situations talk to people that. Are so different than who you are that think you know so differently? Um, because I think that’s kind of how your world opens up is by realizing the possibilities and the differences and not being um. Maybe at at the time as narrow minded as I was in the earlier days I think maybe another kind of the other thing that I give my earlier self advice is to be comfortable in my own skin I think um. Now that I’m older and just I am who I am but I remember earlier it was I had a feeling like I’m not salesman enough I’m not introverted enough and.
Joe Spector: And thinking that’s what I need if I want to be you know the caricature of a Ceo or an or an entrepreneur or an executive and I always felt that that’s another reason like that’s not me because I’m not this idea of who I think. Ah, Ceo is or who I think an entrepreneur is and I think what I what I would say is there is no caricature. It’s all about results if you can achieve results. You can be whatever and so I’ve learned now over time to be more confident and. Just realizing I am who I am and this has worked for me and there’s going to be others who are going to potentially get to the same result or better in a different way and that’s okay, there’s not 1 way to do it.
Alejandro Cremades: I love it Joe so for the people that are listening that will love to reach out and say hi. What is the best way for them to do so.
Joe Spector: My email me Joe at dutch.com
Alejandro Cremades: Amazing. Well hey Joe thank you so much for being on the dealmaker show today. It has been an honor to have you with us. So.
Joe Spector: Thank you so much. What a fun chat.
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