Nick Cromydas is the cofounder and CEO of Hunt Club which is a talent company that leans on subject matter experts to help clients find their next hire. The company has raised so far $51 million from top tier investors such as FJ Labs, WestCap, or New Coast Ventures.
In this episode, you will learn:
- Startup fundraising
- Stuart’ss tips on branding, culture, and strategy
- The three core energy trends changing our impact on the environment
- Why he doesn’t like to think about acquisitions as exits or transactions
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About Nick Cromydas:
Nick Cromydas is a skilled entrepreneur, known for his role as the co-founder and CEO of Hunt Club, a technology-driven recruiting service designed to help businesses attract and hire top-tier passive talent. Hunt Club, under Cromydas’ leadership, reimagines the traditional recruitment process, leveraging proprietary technology and an expansive network of industry experts to simplify and optimize talent acquisition.
Before establishing Hunt Club, Cromydas founded New Coast Ventures, an innovative hybrid of a creative agency and a venture capital fund based in Chicago, Illinois. This venture showcased Cromydas’ multidimensional business prowess and commitment to fostering growth in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. New Coast Ventures invests in start-ups while also providing them with creative and strategic services to ensure their success.
Cromydas’ dynamic entrepreneurial journey and consistent focus on leveraging technology to solve traditional business problems reflect his forward-thinking approach. His leadership style centers on fostering innovation, empowering teams, and creating sustainable growth strategies, characteristics that have made him an influential figure in the tech and start-up world.
In addition to his business ventures, Cromydas is also an active participant in various community initiatives and has shown a commitment to giving back to society. However, it’s worth noting that detailed information regarding his early life, education, and career journey up until the establishment of New Coast Ventures and Hunt Club might not be publicly available as of my last update in September 2021.
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Read the Full Transcription of the Interview:
Alejandro Cremades: Alrighty hello everyone and welcome to the dealmaker show. So today. We have a very exciting founder. We’re gonna be talking all the good stuff that we like to hear building scaling financing I mean you name it, you know and and also quite a competitive entrepreneur entrepreneurry you know he used to be a really good tennis player. But. Again, yeah I think we’re gonna find this inspiring so without further ado. Let’s welcome our guest today Nick Crovin us welcome to the show. So originally you know, grew up there in Illinois in the suburb so give us a walkthro memory lane. How was life growing up.
Nick Cromydas: Um, Andre thanks for having me appreciate it. Excited to beer.
Nick Cromydas: Yeah, it was it was great I mean we grew up in a northern suburb of Chicago called glen view it was idyllic. Um, you know schools were great so it was it was really a great place to grow up and um and we had a small even though I’m Greek. You’d think I have a large family I actually. Just have one brother and it was my dad and I grown up. So is you know it was different. We’re a small family but we loved it and um, still have a ton of great friends there and I actually live three miles away now so still still close to to where I grew up.
Alejandro Cremades: Now tell us about getting competitive because I mean you picked up the racket and and that was it.
Nick Cromydas: Yeah, yeah, so tennis was a huge part of my life. So I started playing tennis when I was about ten years old now actually started when I was 5 but really like sunset at every other sport when I was 10 so only focused on tennis which was kind of sad at the first because I quite love baseball and basketball and everything else, but. You know it was one of those moments where I just need and to specialize in something and put my heart into it and so it was a weird decision for a 10 year old but it was my decision and um and I loved it and so started practicing 4 to five days a week at a young age and. Playing tournaments and missing you know 50 to sixty days of school a year at it isn’t a 12 year old on to toro playing compete across around the country in the world so is playing tennis was a huge part of of who I am.
Alejandro Cremades: So So then so then tell us about getting into college you know with the with Tennis. You know you went to bunder bill there D one tennis. Ah I’m sure that it was quite the um, how would I say this like. Like heartbreaking because all of a sudden you know like your dream is to make it to a us open and and then all of a sudden you know like that’s not the case when did you realize that they perhaps you know that was not the path for you to follow.
Nick Cromydas: I think pretty soon um in my in my college 10 career. So I had a good college careerifying college career. But we we were fortunate in Nashville to host a professional tournament every year so one of the almost minor league tournaments. So yeah, it was called the challenger. The equivalent in professional baseball would be. You know, kind of Alea Baseball so one click right? before some of the major events or the pros or the real pros and um and so we hosted this event and I got to play a guy that was like 120 in the world 130 in the world and he beat me so badly. Um, that I was just like wow is this the level that I’ll have to rise to and I was a sophomore in college. But I think I pretty quickly realized like my athletic ceiling had a certain limitation and I was going to make the best out of it in college but I probably wouldn’t have too fruitful of a career as a professional.
Alejandro Cremades: Wow. So then so then when when that comes to mind you know like what ended up happening there because you know things stay took a turn there. You know you ended up becoming a you know out of college. You know an assistant coach. But then you were like yeah I’m not into being a tennis coach.
Nick Cromydas: Yeah, and I love the sport and like maybe one day I’d go back into it and so still. It’s still a huge part of who I am but I’m interested. It was one of those things like the life of a college tennis coach is it’s grueling like you are recruiting all summer on the road. And during the season you’re basically living on the road as well. Your weekends are monopolized with matches your days off for Mondays I think ah as ah as a tenure basically from 10 to 23 my whole life and my whole schedule was dictated by the sport and after that. You know I just got to a point where yeah I wanted to make sure that the decisions I made on where I lived the things I’d spend my time and and do I had a little bit more control of and then aligned to traditionally a little bit more of the normal society and so so I think that was a big driving force I wanted to pick where I wanted to live I wanted to pick the nights I could go out I wanted to pick the nights and and the days I could. Do different things. Um and then frankly I was just burnt out like when you play nothing but you know the same sport since you’re 10 years old and my last year at northwestern I was in the court. You know 8 to 10 hours a day and my body was just burnt out I was physically and mentally tired and so I think ah transitioning out felt really right. And it’s not to say I don’t didn’t love my time in the sport I still cherish it and it’s given me so many different blessings in a wide variety of ways. but but um but I kind of knew it was it was time to to hang out my rackets.
Alejandro Cremades: So going into business tell us about that. Okay.
Nick Cromydas: Yeah, so I I had a interesting transition from tennis to my professional career. So I graduated in the last sort of recessionary period in 2009 could not find a job only job I found was obviously being a tennis coach and then um after that which. You know thank god is recessionary proof mostly and after that I really wanted to go try my hand at business and so I wanted to get into consulting I was a part of a program at vanderbilt before I graduated that like really gave you real real-world experience and working on a wide variety of different projects with real companies and I was intrigued at this idea of. You know you could be paid to learn how different businesses work and not necessarily do the same thing every day for years and that really appealed to me and so I tried to pursue a career in consulting and given it was 2009. You know I was able to get and network my way and to get an interview but I was competing against people with 3 to 5 years of real consulting experience or. Ph ds or investment bankers and like my only real tangible skill set was hitting a tennis ball and so you know really then found my way into doing kind of a small family business job for a year we manufactured and built things out of glass and metal and. It was it was sort of a baptism by fire where I knew nothing about business but I was effectively the chief of staff and of a Ceo and about a 3 to $ 4000000 company and was really learning a ton about what it takes to actually run a small business and and during that experience I started building my first software business on the side which is called alliance.
Nick Cromydas: Which effectively was a way to aggregate student athletes and their alumni in 1 database kind of like Linkedin groups before Linkedin Groups existed and um in a way for them to network and sort of solving the pain point that I had trying to find a job and so um, you know, really left the small business. Got this product got this business off the ground had a couple paying customers and then I actually use that experience to convince Kpmg that ah that I had enough business acumen to be considered for an experience associate hire in 2010.
Alejandro Cremades: And why did you realize that corporate was not for you because I mean obviously you know like a Kpmg would be your last day rodeo in corporate America it only took like 2 years for you to say it’s not for me.
Nick Cromydas: Yeah, actually new in two weeks too um you know I think I think there’s a couple things that a few of my mentors in life have told me that I’ve always rung true and and then there’s obviously these experiences of playing like a competitive sport in your entire life and so. You know I think from the competitive sport angle. You know I always wanted to be an environment where you’re only limited by your own imagination and work ethic and corporate America although serves an incredible purpose for a wide variety of different professionals is not the most attuned to really. You know, creating and jettisoning someone’s career for those who really want to work. There’s all these organizational structures and barriers to grow in a company as fast as you’d like um and you have to play someone of a game versus really you know your own excellence in a role and so as an athlete that was used to kind of thinking or swimming on my own merit It didn’t really register for me. And so that was the first and the second was and this is no knock on my previous employer like I love my time at Kpmg I met great friends that I still talked to today and learned so much but you know one of my best mentors said at the end of the day in the job you’re at you want to look around and see if there’s anyone you aspirationally want to be down the road. And I always found myself. Um, admiring entrepreneurs the way they built and created or the way they buck the system or the way they took a wide variety of risk and um and Kpmg was a very safe place where you do incredibly well over the course of your career but you know there wasn’t a ton of risk associated with it and so.
Nick Cromydas: And so really I I wanted to kind of try my own hand and build build things and in the first experience of building that software company gave me the bug and I needed to go do my own thing.
Alejandro Cremades: Now a software agency you know, ah you guys were developing stuff for others. So I mean you you were not a technical. They are really a technical guy. So how do you come across? you know there is and and and how did you go about it.
Nick Cromydas: Yeah I think passion, you know it’s amazing. What you can do if you are just really excited about learning something and I found that in tennis I found that a lot of different elements in my life and so yeah, at the time native mobile apps weren’t a thing they had just launched Instagram and just got acquired for $1,000,000,000 and um, by facebook or meta now and I was obsessed with like what you could create using a cellphone what you could create using the internet and so we had built our first business called eth alliance which didn’t end up working out but it got me my first job. But I love that experience like whatever you can imagine. You can go create. You can do so with limited cost structure. You just need an engineer or 2 and I had a great cofounder who’s still a co-founder day of of home clubb. Um, and so really was passionate about this idea of like just leveraging technology to create a wide variety of different things and so. So that really fueled it and so kpmg helped tone those skills a little bit. We did a lot of tech-based projects. Um, learn how to be kind of a stronger project manager create clear outcomes and goals things of that nature but you know a big reason. why um why I think I’m in was in the software space or started becoming building a software agency called newcast years ago just the idea that you could create for a lot of different people and I’ve almost applied this idea that I love consulting which was learning from so many different industries and and other people to something I love to do which is build software.
Alejandro Cremades: And as a result of that you know one of the projects that you guys ended up incubating was say Hunt Club. So So tell us about Hunt Club you know like how does the whole idea of Hunt Club come about and. And at what point do you realize? hey you know like what maybe we should they put a little bit extra muscle into this one.
Nick Cromydas: Yeah, so hunk club for starters. Hunk club is a new category search firm. So we leverage all our own technology to automate and augment as much of the process as possible. Um to create a better experience and our big differentiator is we use a network of thousands of business leaders to refer for your roles. So. You know, not just 1 recruiter’s network cold calling think of you know thousands of cmos giving you warm referrals and and warm introductions to really great talent all across the country. Um, and so it’s been really fun building that business like the genesis of it was really kind of on 2 or 3 observations. So the first was. With newcast. We we had created an investing arm and we kept investing in early stage growth, stage companies and realized many of them were engaging recruiting firms or head hunting firms and routinely kind of I think a poor experience and we thought a big reason for that was the type of talent that you need to. Make dollar shave club successful versus potentially like p and g is quite a bit different right and the market really didn’t have a service provider yet or a provider that really understood what it was like to help these growth stage early stage companies drive impact and so I thought there’s a huge delta there. And then the second was um was actually just an experience I had so I had a friend that was a partner at 1 of the major search firms and he got incredibly good at looking at my Linkedin Network my Gmail network and saying hey Nick I saw you’re connected to Alejandro. He looks a great fit for Ceo of this company. Can you make an introduction and so I did that.
Nick Cromydas: Multiple times over a summer placed multiple people for him and just kept getting a thank you note back saying hey like I you know I would have never taken this job had it not come from you and I’m so excited and I’d call my recruiter friend and he said yes, thank you for helping and and I was like what is this industry? Um. So I spent a ton of time shadowing different firms big ones small ones public ones private ones wide variety, different business models and just came to the conclusion none of them use any technology really to power their process certainly at the time and it’s actually hasn’t advanced too much since with the exception of people using Linkedin. You know, really stale tools and technology that aren’t dynamic that help make any part of the experience better or create more productive ways for their consultants or recruiters drop but they all use networks and they all built networks in different geos and functions and they call them those networks. When they want a new search and they needed id as a new’d be a great fit and asked who would you refer and so I thought what if we just built a totally new model which combined best in-class technology and the world’s largest referral network for talent. Um, and that was kind of the idea and so we we got off to the races and 15 and.
Alejandro Cremades: And how do you guys make money for the people that are listening Nick to get it.
Nick Cromydas: Been building it since.
Nick Cromydas: Yeah, so we charge a a start Fena Success Fee. So as a retainer to start search with Hunk club and then and then ah a more on the backend Once we actually successfully complete the engagement which our clients generally love because if you think about most of the Market. It’s this fully retained model that is a bit misincentivized with um. With people’s clients.
Alejandro Cremades: Founder market Fit Nick why were you passionate about about you know this segment to really you know take a stop at it.
Nick Cromydas: Yeah, yeah, I think I’ve built a lot of businesses for the last twelve years and and I work with a lot of different entrepreneurs who are creating businesses whether it’s investing or whether it’s supporting them as an advisor or just partnering them with via hung club. And I think there’s always a clear distinction between those that create something really special and it’s this concept of founder market fit and so when ah when ah when a founder is solving a problem that they’re really passionate about one that they really want to solve. It may not work in the end for a wide variety of reasons but like because there’s passion rooting the cause you’re willing to run through walls. You’re willing to to keep going when you lose that big customer or you lose that big pitch or when one hundred vcs say no to you because they don’t quite get it or for a wide variety of other reasons right? And so. Yeah I think when you think about like the the challenges of building a business or being an entrepreneur and starting a company. The amount of problems and issues and obstacles that present themselves. It’s really easy just to quit and I’ve done that before in other businesses ones that I was less passionate about solving the problem and so when I think about hungk club. And and others that you know we work with that really have this idea of founder market fit every challenge or over obstacle just feels like another challenge or obstacle not like a you know a existential moment every time something goes wrong right? and.
Nick Cromydas: I Think that’s how you know you’re building something you’re meant to build and something that has a chance of maybe being successful one day because you’re really just trying to solve an acute problem that that you’re passionate about and and that sort of Founder Market fit.
Alejandro Cremades: So building teams. You know you guys. Obviously you know help with search for a living. So how did you search for people for yourselves.
Nick Cromydas: Yeah, you know we have a cobbler shoe problem. No I’m kidding we use hung club so you know I think there’s a lot of things that people get wrong when they think about hiring executives or building teams in today’s world talent looks different all the time right and skill sets because of how fast technology is evolving are changing all the time and then I also think like post covid. You know what people want in the world both personally and professionally is constantly changing as well. So like you look at precovid. There’s this idea that you would work. And continue to evolve your career and eventually you get to a certain point then you retire right? and I think postcovid people are starting to prioritize a wide variety of things for the first time quite differently work life balance worklife integration. Ah mission-driven companies value-driven companies high growth slow growth like you know I think people’s whole framework on what they pick. Has changed post covidd pretty dramatically and so so when we think about like talent and helping our clients. We really think about like what is the right archetype of different profiles that might make a grid fit for their role because it’s really not one size fits all those who go to market. Looking for talent and have a very rigid framework on it has to be these 14 things. Otherwise we won’t hire them. You know general the ones that never really get great talent. Um because it’s more fluid than that, right? organizational structures are more fluid. Um.
Nick Cromydas: Talent is more fluid and the skills you need Today may not be what drives success tomorrow and so we really encourage both ourselves and then also our clients to make sure that they’re really flexible in setting up a couple different profiles that could work as well as a couple different ways that org might work depending on the type of talent we can get and that generally yields a way better. Output. That um, then a really rigid framework.
Alejandro Cremades: So what is a question that you would always ask the people that you’re looking to bring on board to your team that you’re like I’m definitely gonna pay much attention to the answer on on this one fine.
Nick Cromydas: Yeah questions for someone we bring on to our team.
Alejandro Cremades: That’s right, the number 1 the one that you’re like this one is going to really make a difference for me. You know when I listen to the answer.
Nick Cromydas: Yeah, it’s it’s all about resiliency and change management. So when you think about our company. We’ve grown from 40 people to close to you know 15080 in the last eighteen twenty four months and the business has changed dramatically every single time every single cycle and so. You know what? we really think about is like how do people handle change tell me about how you handle change your last company in your life in some moment where where things were complex and I think that the way you listen to those answers the way that they answer the question. The things they pick. Um I think is a really good leading indicator and how they might. Operate in sort of a higher growth environment or ah sort of changing environment.
Alejandro Cremades: That’s a good one now. What about what about when it comes to people on the investment side because you guys have raised quite a bit of money. How much capital have you guys raised today. So how did you go about getting the right people for the right reasons to give you the money.
Nick Cromydas: Yeah, we raised $54,000,000 today
Nick Cromydas: Yeah I mean a lot of it’s serendipity right? and I think like a big thing. A big mistake that serendipity for us and I’ll tell it story in second. But I think a big mistake a lot of founders make is they take hundreds of calls without being super targeted and selective of like What’s their business model. What’s their business. What’s their vision who are their relationships who are the right investors for the business and you know I think they’d save a lot of time if they really like were selective on who they actually engage with versus trying to boil the ocean and so we’ve always been really selective and deliberate and how we’ve raised money. We’ve never actually. Been in a full fundraising process. Um, we’ve always either put together capital through family and friends family office entrepreneurs and customers for our first 2 rounds people like we were screaming with excitement to work with that. We wanted to be a part of our story that we wanted to have skin in the game that we wanted to learn from. Um. And so we the great couple early syndicates of just like entrepreneurs who have built billion-d dollar businesses family offices who created like companies that are still standing creating a legacy for their their next generation to their families and more um and then in our previous two rounds. Yeah, it’s really serendipitous and so and all through network effects which is our whole business model home club. So. Um, one of our ah investors and our clients g 2 their ceo gutard dabel introduced us to you know a guy named Thomas Learman and another guy named Steve Schmalhofer who led our series a and they founded the expert network industry in ah in um, in a company called glg many years ago and so they like quickly got what we were doing.
Nick Cromydas: It was serendipitous through one of our relationships. Um via goodard able and um and it was just felt like a lot of really good culture alignment and a lot of really good sort of institutional knowledge if they built the category in expert networks you know it’s they’d certainly be able to help us unlock that vision for search. And so we weren’t raising during that process but we met them and thought they’d be a really additive partner to helping us go build our vision so that was one and then two was um was actually our most recent round with westcap where the partner that led around founded ah a firm called Agon Zeer and agon zeender is one of the largest. In the United States he found the firm so he’s one. It’s one of the largest executive search firms in the world and so him and I had been building a relationship for 7 years where we met and I met him in his office in Dallas and you know right? when we were getting started and it was this like literally 2 wo-person company and I was pitching this big vision. We stayed in touch over the years and when he left Aon Zender you know he gave me a call and we just started working together on a couple projects. We have a software product called Atlas that they um that they’re using now to manage their own network and I can share about it more on that second. But. You know through that experience working together and getting to know each other we we decided there was something we you know wanted to go do together and and they end up leading our series b and so um, for us. It’s always been serendipitous but I really you know push founders or anyone listening that pick the right partners you know.
Nick Cromydas: Raising capital is very serious. You have to pay it back one day you have new owners and shareholders in the business and you want partners that you’re really excited to work through all the problems. The good and the bad times with not just the ones that look great on paper or in the Techcrunch press release.
Alejandro Cremades: And you were talking about cultural alignment. Can you expand on that.
Nick Cromydas: Yeah I think from an investment perspective lajandra like cultural alignment. Yeah I think I think you have to be very clear on what the business is and isn’t right and you have to be somewhat principled as a founder you know which is hard to do right? Especially if you have cash issues but here’s the vision of what we want to do.
Alejandro Cremades: Ah, that’s right, That’s right.
Nick Cromydas: That vision is the vision of what we want to accomplish I hear you miss Mr or Mrs Investor but like that’s not aligned to who we want to build what we want to build who we are as people and what we want to create long-term and so like at Huk Club we were really principled that like this is probably a you know multiple year journey. Maybe even a multi-deca journey. And just building something to arbitrage growth and selling. It was not what we wanted to do. Um, we really wanted to create sort of category defining business and you know we wanted partners that were on that journey for a long time with us and so that was a huge part of of as we spoke to people about investing in hung club um, where there was really good culture alignment that like. If the pressure to grow 1 year is greater than provide a great experience for our clients and our customers like we wanted the optionality to stop growing to make sure we’re getting that right as we scale and um and we’ve been really fortunate to have amazing investors that that share that sentiment with us.
Alejandro Cremades: Obviously with with those investors you know you had to share a vision So when it comes to vision Imagine you were to go to sleep tonight and you wake up in a in a world where the vision of the company is fully realized what does that world look like.
Nick Cromydas: People are doing business almost primarily through trusted relationships and introductions whether it’s your next business development deal or your next great hire or hiring a great service provider to help you with a need. The network effects power how you find things and it’s rooted in trust and we think that creates a better world and a better business.
Alejandro Cremades: So how does for example, like network effects you know work with with you guys you know with with your company.
Nick Cromydas: Yeah, so when you sign up. So if you think about humc club think of it as almost like a bit of a 3 hree -sided marketplace so we have candidates we have experts and we have our clients and so when we run a search. We really leverage our expert network and their network they sign up, they’ll drop their Linkedin Networks through Gmail Networks and we know who they know we know who they’re connected to we build technology to understand their strength relationship between their network and our technology makes it really easy to serve up. You know the 5 to 10 people in their network who might be an amazing fit for 1 of our clients search. Um, and so. You know that’s really an example of how we’re investing internally is like how do we really understand you know what do our clients need who’s the perfect person in our network and who’s the perfect person to introduce them? Um, so it’s really powering trust in every interaction across the board.
Alejandro Cremades: So in this case I mean imagine you were to um, have the opportunity of going back in time and you’re able to go back in time to that moment where you know perhaps you were like thinking about doing something of your own maybe during the days were right before going to kpmgn.
Nick Cromydas: Yeah, yeah.
Alejandro Cremades: You were able to give your younger self one piece of advice before launching a business. What would you say that would be the piece of advice that you would give to that younger Nick and why given what you know now.
Nick Cromydas: Yeah I think it’s it’s a hard 1 right? but um because part of I think what like gives you the fortitude to start something is probably um if you remove that edge is probably the reason why you would never get going but I think for me I would just say be patient. You know I think growing up and starting. Our first thing. You read the tech crunch posts you compare yourself to the world. You compare yourself to everyone tweeting on Twitter and you know everyone’s practice is different. Everyone’s timeline is different and what success looks like is different to everyone right? and I think like you know I would have encouraged myself hey. Business is a decade decade decade long game like you know it’s multiple decades like slow down be patient and always make sure you’re doing right by every interaction and I feel like I’ve lived through that mantra a lot but you know there are moments where I’ve burned a bridge or 2 or moments where I was so you know. Determined to pursue something with vigor and complete it that um that the interaction wasn’t perfect and I think it’s just you know, be patient and great things. Happen.
Alejandro Cremades: Do you remember in your own journey when you came to the realization that this was more of a marathon versus a sprint.
Nick Cromydas: Yeah, yeah, I think you know’s ah that’s a cool thing about the way we built this business has always been kind of set up that way. So we we bootstrapped it for 3 years before we raised a single dollar of outside capital business was you know, basically been profitable 5 or 6 out of 7 years since we ran it and so. You. It’s really one of those things where I think we’ve always sort of designed it that way and I actually think like you think about like some of the best companies in the future like there’s so many different iterations of software in today’s world there’s so many different asriations of consumer marketplaces getting a consumer’s attention now is nearly impossible right? like. I actually think the only types of businesses one can build if you’re not dealing in some sort of exponential technology or like generative Ai or something that truly is transformative um in a certain category like the only thing you can build is something that really solves customer problems and in a slower scale and so I think I think the future actually looks more like. People being really patient being capital efficient focusing and solving smaller customer needs and then growing their sort of base revenue and their scale as they get a stronger foundation.
Alejandro Cremades: Love it. So what Nick for the people that are listening that will love to reach out and say hi. What is the best way for them to reach out. They say enough. Well Nick thank you so much for being on the deal maker show today. It has been an honor to have you with us.
Nick Cromydas: Just nick at humclub.com
Nick Cromydas: Thanks for having me Andre. It’s fun.
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