Hitting The Mark

Hitting The Mark

Conversations with founders and investors about the intersection of brand clarity and startup success with your host, brand strategist and author Fabian Geyrhalter.

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Fabian

EP055 – Patrick Lee, Co-Founder & founding CEO, Rotten Tomatoes

Strategic Clarity + Verbal Clarity + Visual Clarity

Patrick Lee was Co-Founder and founding CEO of Rotten Tomatoes, the movie rating system we all came to know so well and that I always saw as a kind of anti-brand.

 

To kick off 2021, we are talking about how Patrick transitioned from running a design firm, like so many of my listeners, to running Rotten Tomatoes 23 years ago. Needless to say, the brand is still going strong and we discuss how the name and the famous Tomatometer with its counter-intuitive colors came about, how focus is key to brand success, but we also go back to his design agency days where Patrick shares an inspiring story on how the small agency won Disney as a client without having any related work in their portfolio.

 

A well-rounded conversation to ease into 2021, which I hope will get a Certified Fresh status too. Oh, I know, only you Rotten Tomatoes fans will get that one.

Notes

Learn more about Rotten Tomatoes

Connect with Patrick

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Fabian Geyrhalter:

Welcome to the show, Patrick.

Patrick Lee:

Hi, thanks for having me, Fabian.

Fabian Geyrhalter:

Absolutely. So you and I met when we were mentoring a cohort of the Founder Institute. I’m not sure which cohort it was. They all blend together, but re-reading into where you come from and your journey outside of Rotten Tomatoes, I actually realized that we both started off in print design. And then we moved on to web design before we both learned how to focus on one thing and by doing so, it created clarity and with clarity, as it usually does come success. You said that in an interview, and it literally is part of my brand strategy holy grails. You said that companies are trying to out feature themselves instead of having research sharp focus. And that really is the story behind Rotten Tomatoes, which launched 20 years ago, which is crazy to think about. And despite lots of handovers over the years, it is still the trusted resource for movie fans. How did that journey begin for you? Take us back to the time you were an undergrad at UC Berkeley.

Patrick Lee:

Right. So when I was at UC Berkeley, I felt like I wanted to do a startup. I didn’t know what, but I wanted to do something with friends and I just felt when people graduate, they just go all over the country and find jobs. And I wanted to keep everyone together. So that was actually my reasoning for doing something. I started originally at a hardware, we were selling computer system components. It was my first company. It didn’t really go anywhere, but I convinced three other friends to drop out of school. From there we did that for a few years. I ended up doing my second company, which led to Rotten Tomatoes. My second company was a design firm and we were doing… Originally, we were doing all kinds of things. We’re doing print design, 3D design, web design for any kind of client. But we eventually focused where we only did web design for the entertainment industry.

And there, we started doing stuff for Disney Channel, ABC, Warner Brothers, Horizon, MTV, VH1. We made the online flash game for Who Wants to be a Millionaire. And the Rotten Tomatoes startup was actually created by our Creative Director, Senh Duong. He was a huge Jackie Chan fan and he wanted to know when the movie Rush Hour was coming out, what all the critics were saying about the movie. And so he went out to the library and started gathering reviews because back then a lot of reviews were not online. So he would go and find the magazines, find newspapers, read the review and write down a quote and then go back home. And he started working on the site and his idea was when you open up a newspaper, you would see an ad for a movie, and it would look like a movie poster filled with quotes.

But the thing is those quotes would always be good, even if the movie was not. So if the movie was actually good, they’d be from professional movie critics like Roger Ebert. If the movie was not good, they would be from a radio station DJ or something like that.

Fabian Geyrhalter:

Yeah, yeah.

Patrick Lee:

And people who are not professional critics. So Senh’s idea was what if I include all the quotes good and bad, but only from professional critics. And so that’s what he did. He attached a score to it and launched. So it was interesting is from when he had the idea to actually putting it out live, it only took him two weeks because he built everything in Static HTML. He actually couldn’t code at the time, built his Static HTML and he only covered the wide release movies coming out that week. So that’s how he was able to do it as basically one person.

And so we hosted the site for him over the course of a year, and it started getting more and more noticed and getting featured on like Netscape and Yahoo. Roger Ebert wrote an article where he pointed out his favorite movie websites and he includes Rotten Tomatoes. And I remember specifically the day Pixar released A Bug’s Life. We saw a spike in traffic on Rotten Tomatoes and it turned out it was coming from Pixar. So over the course of that first year of hosting for him, we’re like, “Maybe this could be at the company.” And so we talked to him and decided to join forces where I went out, raised a million in funding for the company. And we transferred our whole team of 20 some folks from our design firm, all to focus on Rotten Tomatoes.

Fabian Geyrhalter:

Wow. That was the end of your design firm. And that was the beginning of Rotten Tomatoes as a company?

Patrick Lee:

Yeah. It took a little while for us to transfer a design firm off to another group to takeover because we cannot just automatically just hand over the clients, but we were transitioning our design firm off at the same time we were ramping everyone over Rotten Tomatoes. And then it was kind of crazy because we essentially closed funding in January, 2000. And then two months later, the internet stock bubble burst.

Fabian Geyrhalter:

That would’ve been one of my questions. Right. Because you were smacking midst of that because I remember that time clearly. How did you guys manage to get through this?

Patrick Lee:

It was tough. We actually had to let go of a lot of folks. We went from 25 to 21 to 17, to 14, to 11 to seven over the course of a year. We essentially… and even at seven, everyone took at least a 30% pay cut myself and our marketing person, Paul went to zero. So even at seven, we were going to four or something or three. And we basically told people, we cannot survive with this head count. And we told folks that start looking for a job. There’s a few that were like, “Can you please stay? We would really like you to be able to stay.” And then everyone else, we asked if they can find something and we essentially kept them hired until they found something and we accelerated some of their vesting and everything because we didn’t want to let them go.

But it’s just… It would have been impossible during that time, because once the market crashed, it was impossible to raise more money, but also most internet companies were generating revenue through advertising. And when the market crashed, most of that advertising money was coming from other internet companies. And so when that market crashed, all the revenue also dried up. So it was like, you can’t respond and you can’t generate almost any revenue. And so tons of companies, ground business, and for us, we knew, we just had to like massively tighten our belts to just weather the storm.

Fabian Geyrhalter:

And did you have to pivot in any ways or were you just basically tighten the belt and say, we’ve got to get through this because you were still dependent on advertisers and that’s just how it was?

Patrick Lee:

We didn’t pivot because Rotten Tomatoes was… It was working. The main thing we had to try and do was tighten the belt and then slowly start trying to actually generate revenue because when Senh was doing it by himself, it wasn’t bringing any revenue in. And so we actually started trying to sell advertising, but what worked for us is because the market had crashed. We were already selling advertising in that new world and figuring out as everyone else was trying to figure out. We were also trying to start putting in affiliate deals to help sell things like movie posters and DVDs and CDs. So those kinds of things and sell movie tickets, those kinds of things help to bring in revenue. So a lot of it was figuring out how to monetize the site as well as how to continue growing the traffic and growing the brand.

Fabian Geyrhalter:

And this is a question which I believe you already hinted at the answer, but I asked my listeners, to submit some questions and Ash Barber, one of my listeners here he’s admitted this one. And I thought it was really good, when you launched Rotten Tomatoes, what set you apart from the competitors? And so now, I guess, or was there even any competition at the time? I mean, were there any reviews online at that point, movie reviews?

Patrick Lee:

At the time, the closest thing probably would have been actually Roger Ebert had a TV show called Siskel and Ebert.

Fabian Geyrhalter:

Remember that.

Patrick Lee:

Where they had two folks and they would do thumbs up thumbs down, but it was essentially just two people. There were some movie sites that had movie news and gossip. There were lots of different reviewers who were gradually coming online, but they’re all solo reviewers. What Rotten Tomatoes did, was we basically aggregated all the reviews into one place and then give you a score. So that was something that no one was doing at the time, outside of Roger Ebert, but that was two people and we were doing probably about 50 to start with and then gradually other companies started mimicking what we were trying to do. But when we came out, we were original.

Fabian Geyrhalter:

I always saw Rotten Tomatoes as an anti-brand, and maybe that’s because of the name right the name and everything, and it always seemed very… the brand seemed to be a little bit grassroots, low and the glitz and glitter of a shiny brand design. Was that something that you did on purpose or was it just organic the way that it was built by one guy and then slowly you guys continue to it. But even today you look at Rotten Tomatoes, the actual website, right the.com and it still feels very, very grassroots and very minimalistic.

Patrick Lee:

Actually, I think when it first launched, when Senh designed it, it was much more artsy looking, had a lot more personality to it. I mean, that’s a name, but if you looked at the logo, if you looked at the way the tomatoes were, they actually looked rotten. The logo, I think there was worms and stuff on some of the tomatoes and everything. If you can go to… I think it’s the way back [crosstalk 00:09:55] to late 1998, you can see the early version of Rotten Tomatoes. It looked very different. It gradually with all the different owners and stuff, they kind of, I would say took a lot of the personality out. They made it a lot cleaner, almost more Facebook like, and then the last owners Fandango, they actually rebranded it where they change the logo, change the color scheme and everything,

Fabian Geyrhalter:

Interesting, because I was wondering about the Tomatometer, right? Your Rotten Tomatoes rating system, it’s the opposite of common visual language where red means no. And green means go. Red is bad or stop. And green is great or go, and with Rotten Tomatoes, it is and I believe it always been, but maybe it hasn’t that the red tomato means great. And the green splash means rotten. Has this been around always like that?

Patrick Lee:

Yeah. So pretty much from the beginning, that’s what Senh was doing. We cleaned it up after we raised funding and we put our whole team on it. We did clean things up. So we use a lot of the same color schemes to try to maintain the same personality, but made it a bit cleaner, more friendly looking. Right now the funny thing is, yeah, we’ve always been sort of reversed where the green is bad and the red is good. It was [inaudible 00:11:18] with the funding or rebrand. They actually changed the Rotten Tomatoes logo from green to red, which I think it looks fine but it’s actually confusing because red is supposed to be fresh for us. So Rotten Tomatoes, technically it should be green because green look rotten. Yeah, so that’s a little bit confusing.

Fabian Geyrhalter:

Yeah. I thought something was off there with the color scheme. So that’s really interesting. And I mean for obvious reasons, you’re one of the few brands that lead with a negative, right? So you let the name rotten, right. Instead of anything positive for celebratory, I know the answer, but I’m asking for a friend here. Well, a few thousand friends who are listening at this point, how did you guys come up with the name?

Patrick Lee:

Right. So, Senh’s idea was back in the day, if it was like Shakespeare times, if people were up there performing some play and it was terrible, people would take rotten fruits and vegetables and throw them at the actors. So that’s how he came up with Rotten Tomatoes

Fabian Geyrhalter:

It’s amazing how one thing leads to everything, right? I mean, what we just discussed about the tomatoes and the colors and it’s really just one name can drive everything in the brand, very often made it be a good thing or a bad thing for you guys. It definitely worked out.

Patrick Lee:

Yeah. I think one thing that was quite good about the name was it’s hard to forget when you hear it. It’s so strange that it sticks in your head. I do remember when we first started going out and try to talk to studios about the site, they would just laugh when they heard the name, because it was so weird, but it’s memorable. And that was good. And I think as far as it being a negative, it actually worked out well for us because it basically saying that we’re not afraid to tell you when a movie is bad. And so we’re not paid off by the studios or something like that, so that you can trust the scores. And I think that was very important for us.

Fabian Geyrhalter:

Too strategically, that’s very sound right. I mean, that that’s the brand story. I mean, it’s not just what’s on the movie poster, it’s actually, everyone’s voices. Everyone who’s professional and actually makes a lot of sense. What are your tips for naming? I know you have many because we’d be in a session together where you give tips to startups to basically not screw it up. And naming is so important, right? It’s so difficult to go back once you actually set a name and once you start having some success. The worst thing is when suddenly you realize that it means something horrifying in a different language or in a region that you want to expand to, or if suddenly there’s a trademark issue. What are some of your tips that you give startups?

Patrick Lee:

I would say looking back for what we do with Rotten Tomatoes, there are two things that I think worked for us, was one, we did pick up a memorable name. I think that helps. It was something that pretty much was not out there at all. So there was no real danger of us accidentally having the same name as someone else, obviously try and get one where you can get the URL and these days are the social media handles. And then the big, big thing for us was I think is important in general is like business focus, really focusing on what your company does, but I think it also applies to a brand and marketing is what does your company do? Because if it’s really clear, really focused, it makes it easier for people to understand what you do. And when they understand what you do, they can actually tell other people about it. And so then the brand can actually spread.

So with Rotten Tomatoes, we were movie reviews. Like, that’s all that we were. And so it made it really easy to tell the people and when we were running it, 30% of our traffic actually came from just word of mouth. And I believe it’s been like that forever. Yeah, you might’ve come up across it through a search engine, looking up a movie, an actor, a director, but also very likely someone else told you, “Hey, go check out Rotten Tomatoes.”

Fabian Geyrhalter:

And so you think, because the name is so memorable, it just sticks in people’s minds?

Patrick Lee:

Yeah. So that’s one thing, but also because it’s so focused around movie reviews, then when people are like, “Hey, I’m trying to figure out what to see.” Other folks will be like, “Hey, go check out Rotten Tomatoes. It will tell you what is worth seeing.”

Fabian Geyrhalter:

Right. Right. The name isn’t focused as much as the brand itself. Right, exactly. So it immediately contours up movie reviews. That’s all it does. I mean, that’s the one single focus of the site and of the brand to you?

Patrick Lee:

Right. Right.

Fabian Geyrhalter:

Yeah. Absolutely. You’re a serial brand builder, besides Rotten Tomatoes you also started six startups, I believe across three countries, the US, China and Hong Kong. And currently you in Taiwan, I think, you’re an international entrepreneur. You targeted… With five of your companies, you targeted consumers with four of them, tech and entertainment. You raised outset funding with four of them, two of them exited, having gone through all of this, what does branding mean to you? I mean, all of these startups branding was to some of them was probably a crucial component. And to some of them, it was an important component, but not the most important if it’s not a consumer brand, but what does branding mean to you?

Patrick Lee:

I think it’s what I was saying before. It’s specifically around focus. That was a one lesson I learned the hard way where of the six companies I did, the second and the third are designed from the Rotten Tomatoes were very focused where we’re doing web design for the entertainment industry or Rotten Tomatoes, where we’re just doing movie reviews. The three I did after Rotten Tomatoes, weren’t focused, we were trying to do too many things. And it ended up becoming too much work. We couldn’t focus our resources to actually build something that really people wanted. And from a branding perspective, it was hard for people to know what it is we were doing, who we are et cetera. And so I think the most important thing for any business to do is to be focused.

And I believe focus also carries over to branding and marketing as well. I mean, one good example is, I believe this is true across any kind of company across any kind of industry, not the startups. Look at fast food franchises. Every one of them is pretty much known for one thing. Like if I say the name you’ll immediately know, like Panda Express, KFC, Pizza Hut, Domino’s, McDonald’s, In N Out Taco Bell, Krispy Kreme, Dunkin’ Donuts, right? Each one of them you’re immediately like, “Oh yeah, that’s hamburger. Oh yeah, that’s chicken, et cetera.” Right? You look at Krispy Kreme, I mean, it’s literally a single donut. Like when I think of Krispy Kreme, I thinking of that one classic donut, that’s it. And the folks… You don’t see folks out there who are like, “We are going to be hamburgers and Chinese food and donuts.”

I mean, I’m sure some restaurant like that exists, but not a successful one, not one that has really blown up. And so I think it’s important for business to be super focused, but being super focused will actually help with the brand and make it much easier to market.

Fabian Geyrhalter:

I totally agree. Focus creates clarity and I 100% agree with that. Obviously you went through many, many, successes with all of these startups outside of Rotten Tomatoes and I’m sure there were a lot of fields. It’s enormous brand field, meaning like, was this something related to branding that happened with one of your companies where afterwards you felt, “Oh my God, what just happened here?” And it actually goes back to maybe the naming or maybe the brand design or maybe it was messaging that you have to completely switch over after you realized that it just did not stick to the customer. Was there anything like that in the journey that comes to mind?

Patrick Lee:

Not really. Just because I feel like the times it failed, it wasn’t necessarily because of the name. It was because we just weren’t focused enough that we were trying to do too many things. And so nothing stuck to the name, but I believe in all the cases where the companies didn’t work or the projects didn’t work, it was more… Had we been more focused we could’ve kept the same name and I think it still could have worked because I mean you’ll see names attached to any kind of project, right. Look at Yahoo, look at Google. I mean, those weren’t… I mean, Google, I guess technically is a word, but like a lot of times Yahoo is a word as well, but they weren’t anything associated with search, right. So you can almost put anything in my opinion, but it has to be focused so that when people hear the name, they will immediately think about what it is. Like the best of case examples would be something like Xerox or Kleenex where it’s like, literally it becomes the thing in that whole category.

Fabian Geyrhalter:

Yeah. Yeah. And you see a lot of these example when companies have to pivot because of that, right. Because they lose focus. They suddenly do two or three things, and then suddenly the name doesn’t work for them anymore because they lost that focus, instead of staying in one certain segment or one specific offering, they just start expanding and it happens over and over and over again. And that’s also when brands start being like map brands, right. You can’t really put them… You can’t put your finger at it. Like, what are they now really doing?

Patrick Lee:

Right. Right. I mean, when the company starts growing, it will be a big issue for them because they’re going to add more and more features and product lines and stuff. And then the question is, do we try to have the same name, but then for new product line, or do we actually just have a completely new brand? And so you’ll see that where Google goes and gets Google video. But then it just couldn’t work against YouTube. And there’s probably a lot of business reasons for it. But also I think from a branding perspective, it just was easier for people to think about like YouTube where it’s a new thing and so it can attach to that, what it does more easily than something like Google video. It happens over and over again like Facebook with Instagram or Amazon with Zappos.

Fabian Geyrhalter:

Yeah, yeah. Bringing up Zappos is a tough one, [inaudible 00:22:37] because it’s timely, but I want to take you back for a second when you were running your design shop. And just before you got your first really big, massive entertainment clients, I think you told this story on a podcast on a different show that I listened to. Do you have a night to prep for this? And you talked about how you got to work with Disney as a company, despite having no prior portfolio pieces in the entertainment industry at all. Which of course, now we know that was a big thing for you doing film sites and being an entertainment industry. How did you get to work with Disney because I love that story?

Patrick Lee:

Yeah. It was pretty cool. We were originally doing a lot of work for the tech industry. So we had connections to motherboard manufacturers, like ASUS and folks like that. And so we’re doing a lot of that, but it wasn’t really something that we were super excited about as a design firm.

Fabian Geyrhalter:

Bread and butter, yeah.

Patrick Lee:

One of the people we were working with at the time his daughter was at Disney and he was going to be at, I think it was COMDEX in Las Vegas. And he was like, “Hey, come over. You’re not going to make intros to other tech companies, but you should also meet my daughter because she’s also at Disney channel and a producer there on the website.” And so I was like, “Oh, that’s amazing.” So we went over, we met her and she was like, “Oh, your stuff looks pretty good. Do you have anything that’s like entertainment related, that I can go and show my team and my boss?” And we didn’t.

And so when we got back to the Bay area, after the trip to Vegas, I went out and I essentially called a bunch of folks because our team at the time was very small, a bunch of different friends who could either code or do graphics or things like that, that weren’t part of the company. And I just basically brought them all together. We did like a pizza party. We went on to Disney Channel site and looked up their schedule and we found movies that were coming up that they didn’t actually have a website for. And one of them was Mighty Ducks 2. It was like a hockey movie, kids hockey movie. And so we went to Blockbuster rented the video.

We all had pizza, watched the movie. And then we essentially split everyone. I think it was like more than a dozen people. We split everyone into teams to essentially build different parts of the site. So we built a site, we had two fully working games in shockwave. We built icons, wallpapers, bios of the characters, everything. It was a fully featured site.

Fabian Geyrhalter:

Amazing.

Patrick Lee:

We tried to mimic the Disney Channel look as best as we could, but we didn’t really know all the rules. And then we did that all over, like one weekend and then come Monday morning, I send it over to her. And I was like, “We don’t have anything on portfolio that really matches Disney Channel, but we made this.” And when she saw it and she was like, “Oh my God, there’s no way that we would have known in advance to build something like this.”

And it wasn’t exactly Disney Channel style. So they couldn’t use it as it was, but they actually really liked the two flash games we made. And so they ended up buying those. And at the time we were just out of college, we were charging $500, $1000 for really simple websites, things like that. They bought the two games for I think it was 12,500 total. So it was like an order of magnitude more than what we were making up to that point. And we did have to go and clean it up. And then that’s how we first started with them. And then they slowly would give us requests for proposals, for new projects. And we were always super aggressive coming in faster, cheaper, better, across everything we were better. And got to the point where we were actually for a while, the lead developer for Disney Channel.

One of the guys who was basically the main person in charge, he switched over to ABC because they were like sister companies. And he even brought us into ABC. So he had us do the online flash game for Who Wants to be a Millionaire back when the show was at its peak. So it was really cool and we really enjoyed it. And it was an example of just being super, super aggressive.

Fabian Geyrhalter:

Yeah. Well, I am the price, right in hustling. It’s like, “Hey, we have nothing. We have no chance. We only have a weekend. What are we going to do?” You know, be miserable that we just don’t get that gig because we have no examples of just build something from scratch, which sounds like a completely crazy idea. And the reason why I wanted you to share this particular journey is because we have a lot of creatives listening to this show. And a lot of them want to move more towards brand strategy and how like creatives are, they move around different areas. And so for them, that’s a fantastic story, but for any other entrepreneur, I mean that hustle that you guys show it’s amazing. And then it was your biggest client for a long time, right? I mean, that was your main client.

Patrick Lee:

Yeah. Yep. It was. But the thing that was really good for us was because we were working with them in Disney. I think within that space in general, folks move around a lot. So a lot of times when we got new jobs, it was because someone moved to MTV or VH1 or other places, Warner Brothers, and they bring us with them because they knew we did a really good job. And essentially our job was to make the producers look good for choosing to hire us that they didn’t make a mistake. And because we did a really good job of doing that, they brought us everywhere.

Fabian Geyrhalter:

Right, right. That is something that I see in design, branding, advertising over and over. Right especially with larger companies, CMOs are constantly on the move. I mean, they stick around for a year or two and then they move on. And if you just have a handful of them where you’ve made great impressions, you’re constantly busy because they come in and they want to see change. And then they want to make things happen. And if you’re a trusted partner, that’s absolutely what happened. But all of that changed for you once Rotten Tomatoes came to fruition. And I know the way that you explained it is you basically slowly had to let people go. You basically advised them to look for a new job. And at the same time you had some amazing clients that a lot of your competitor web design firms would have most probably drooled over. Did you just send an email to your clients and saying like, Hey, here’s what’s going on, let’s be in touch. But here are five companies that I think would do a good job.” How did you move clients somewhere else?

Patrick Lee:

We didn’t actually move clients. We basically, there was a company that we were passing our overflow clients to, when it just didn’t fit, it was either not entertainment or it was like too small or something like that. Generally if it was not entertainment related, we would pass it to this group rather than just purely say no. And they were doing a good job with the companies we were passing over. And we basically we’re like, went to them and said, “Hey, do you want to just take over our company?” So they actually took over our company design [inaudible 00:30:06] and so when we transitioned, it was more about like transitioning our internal producers and team, but to the companies like the media companies working with us, we were still design director.

Fabian Geyrhalter:

All eggs in the basket with Rotten Tomatoes.

Patrick Lee:

Yeah, exactly. We had a huge discussion at the time about, should we try to do both? And we were very worried that we wouldn’t have been able to properly split the two. And with design companies is like, every time the client wants something, it’s like, they want it yesterday. And they always have these last minute changes. And we were very nervous that it would continue to happen. And every time it happened, we’d have to pull folks from Rotten Tomatoes over to help out on stuff. And so that’s why we were like, “No, I think if we tried to do both, neither one’s going to work.” But looking back, had we known that we would have had to let go of so many people, if we could have just taken the people we had to let go put them all on design reactor, and then really, really strictly cut it off where the two and not help each other. I think that could have worked.

Fabian Geyrhalter:

Interesting. Well, if all goes to plan, this episode will literally kick off 2021. It should post on the 1st of January, which I think mankind can’t wait for that day, even though I don’t think we’re going to switch everything on the first day of suddenly life is going to be great again, but let’s just hope for 2021. But so this is going to go live on the first. What is your… What are your thoughts about branding like moving on? What is your vision for brands this coming year? It doesn’t necessarily have to do with branding, just brands overall. Do you have any thoughts of what may change, what may flourish, what may feel, what are some thoughts for the new year, as far as start ups go and brands go? Where are things heading in Patrick Lee’s crystal ball?

Patrick Lee:

That’s an interesting question. I wouldn’t say I’m like an expert on branding or anything. I still think the biggest thing would be just focus in general across all companies, all brands, especially startups, especially new creatives is to not try to do too much, to not try to have your brand represent everything and everyone, because then it represents no one, I think that’s super important. And then just for 2021 in general hopefully it’s a fresh start. I don’t think it could be worse than 2020 across anything just on so many levels. It’s just been just such a crazy year. So I think moving forward for brands in 2021, I think maybe just having more positivity, more hope would be just good. And I think also just to have people and brands and everything, to be more focused on helping each other out, supporting each other, how we can work together, support one another and not be so divided across everything.

I think with COVID and all these other things it’s been just a really tough time for a lot of people. And I think now more than ever, we need the country, the world to just support each other more. And I think if brands could sort of capture some of that spirit, I think it would be good.

Fabian Geyrhalter:

Yeah, absolutely. And I do believe that a lot of brands, especially to smaller brands not necessarily mom and pop shops, but anything from, from third level to mid size, they had to be more authentic this year. They had to be more transparent about what’s really going on. And so I think that something happened there with that transparency on the authenticity where they started to connect more with the customer, and they didn’t even know, they don’t have to have this big brand, divider between them and the customer. I think that’s going to keep going in 2021. I think people, brands, well, people and brands that both actually the same brand is just a bunch of people. It’s like they will… I think that they will really start celebrating that because everyone will have a big sigh of relief I hope once the vaccines come around and I think that we’re humbled enough throughout this year, where a lot of them had to literally survive, the entire brand had to survive and a lot of them had to pivot and just a lot of stuff was going on in business.

That they just going to sigh with relief, and they’re just going to be with open arms towards the customers, whoever is willing to start paying money again for their services. I do hope, and I do believe, and I think that what you said is a prelude to that thought. I think that everything will become a little happier and more transparent and more authentic in the new year. I really hope so.

Patrick Lee:

Yeah. I hope so too.

Fabian Geyrhalter:

What’s next for you? I mean, six startups that you have under your belt. I know you’ve been doing a huge amount of mentoring. We’ve done some of it together in one session, but I know you mentored in an incubator accelerator in Hawaii for a couple of months lately. What are your goals in 2021? What is going to go on in your professional life?

Patrick Lee:

That’s a good question. I’ve been trying to figure it out. So I came to Taiwan. I just got here about a week ago. I’m still in quarantine and trying to figure out what the next step is for me. I don’t know if I have the energy to do another startup. They take so much out of you. Past few years I have been doing a lot of advising and mentoring, and I do realize I really like working with startups. I really like helping startups. I also really liked the intersection of tech and entertainment. So one thing I’m exploring the idea around, I don’t know for sure if I will do it was a possibility of maybe doing a fund that invests specifically at the intersection of tech and entertainment and probably to invest pretty early, like pre-seed seed stage. So that’s something I’m looking into, but I don’t know for sure that that’s what I will end up doing, but that’s currently what I’m researching.

Fabian Geyrhalter:

Well, I mean, if you put all of these different areas of backgrounds together, and you have some circles and then smack in the center is the funds. It does make a lot of sense to me, right? All of the experience, all of the mentoring, your own journey, all of your connections and into passion for startups and for tech and entertainment and there it is. And once again, there are so many funds out there, but actually creating one that is so highly hyper-focused once again, it’s about focus could be really amazing. Well, I hope you check back with us. I would love to hear once you’re there and on this podcast, I only feature founders and investors. So who knows, maybe you’re going to be back in a year as in with your investor head on, I’m talking about your brands.

Patrick Lee:

Sure, sure. I would love to come back to this. Feel free to reach out anytime .

Fabian Geyrhalter:

Listeners who appreciated your advice and they want to follow along on your journey whatever’s next, where can they find you online best, where can they connect?

Patrick Lee:

I would say the best is LinkedIn, Instagram, and basically rotten doubt everywhere, like Rotten Tomatoes doubt, like no doubt. So rotten doubt.

Fabian Geyrhalter:

That’s awesome. That’s really good. Well, listen, Patrick, thank you for calling in from Taiwan, doing your quarantine and just having settled in. Super appreciated. Thanks for your time and be in touch.


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