Episode 162

How to Design Events and Leverage In-Person Meetups for Community Building and Training with Mendel Kurland

This episode of LMScast with Chris Badgett of LifterLMS is about how to design events and leverage in-person Meetups for community building and training with Mendel Kurland from GoDaddy. Mendel shares his story, and they talk about event design with in-person Meetups in the WordPress community.

Mendel works for GoDaddy, and he spends a lot of time traveling around to corporate events and talking with web developers and web designers. As Mendel traveled, he realized that in his bubble he was missing the component of humanity. He talked to other entrepreneurs, and they noticed the same thing. So Mendel was inspired to create an in-person Meetup with the WordPress community that was more about networking and getting to know people in the community.

Mendel designed Hiking with Geeks, where for free you can meet up with other people in the online space and hike through the woods for a few hours and network. Hiking with Geeks currently has around 17,000 members. He also created Camp Press, which started in Oklahoma and has since grown throughout the United States and into some Countries in Europe. Camp Press is similar to Hiking with Geeks, but has some events where you pay a small fee to go and network and learn with other WordPress entrepreneurs for a few days in a camping setting. Mendel is currently organizing one in Iceland for four days in 2018.

Getting out of your comfort zone and meeting with other people in the technology space outside of the normal context is a great way to foster networking and relationship building. This is the purpose of Hiking with Geeks and Camp Press. When you spend a prolonged period of time out of your comfort zone, you tend to put aside your insecurities and start talking to others, and you get to know people.

Mendel has a strict focus on the inclusive aspect of Hiking with Geeks. Including everyone in conversation is important at events like this, because that is what creates this sense of community. It is important to take your role as a leader seriously when you run events and groups both online and offline. You also need to understand that sometimes you will have to remove members that are causing problems.

Chris and Mendel dive into GoDaddy and how it compares to other web hosting services. Mendel is a GoDaddy evangelist and software engineer, so he highly believes in the products and services GoDaddy has to offer above other services. He says the customer care and 24/7 support GoDaddy has is unlike other hosting companies.

Mendel also shares some tips on creating courses with your target customer in mind, and he stresses the importance of feedback as your consumer is the most important aspect of your product or service. Experimentation is also very crucial when creating products. Understanding that your product or service isn’t going to be perfect the first time and just doing it anyway is key.

To learn more about Mendel Kurland you can find him on Twitter at @ifyouwillit, and you can find his work on GoDaddy at godaddy.com/pro. You can also look into Hiking with Geeks and Camp Press.

Post comments and subscribe to our newsletter for updates, developments, and future episodes of LMScast. Thank you for joining us.

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Chris Badgett: Hello, and welcome back to another episode of LMScast. My name is Chris Badgett, and I’m joined by a special guest, Mendel Kurland from GoDaddy. He’s the GoDaddy evangelist and space cowboy. He’s also got a lot of interesting things going on from experience development training, and also developing a really interesting live event called Camp Press. We’re gonna get into that. We’re gonna get into Mendel’s story. But before we do all that I just want to thank you, Mendel, for coming on the show.
Mendel Kurland: Hey, thanks for having me.
Chris Badgett: At LifterLMS a lot of the people are designing courses. Some of them come at courses after being speakers on the stage and actually getting a little road weary and wanting to do the whole internet thing instead of living in airports and traveling all the time and speaking on the stage, and try to figure out how to kind of digitize that. Some people go the other way, where they’re building courses and they’re like, “Hey, I kinda wanna, I’m getting a little lonely behind my computer and ScreenFlow. I’d like to connect with my people and have some kind of event or mastermind or summit or something.”
When I first came across your work at CaboPress, you designed an event called Camp Press that first started in Oklahoma, and now you’re setting one up to happen in Iceland. What’s Camp Press, and where did that idea come from?
Mendel Kurland: Man, I was … So the first year I traveled, three years ago, big time for GoDaddy, I flew 175,000 miles. And then the second year I was, like, 150,000. This year I’ve gotten away with, like, 100,000. So I met a lot of people, and I’ve also experienced a lot of pain myself when it comes to living that corporate life. Like staying in the Hilton, and going from conference center to hotel to airport to conference center to hotel to airport, and maybe a few restaurants here and there, which sounds amazing at first. And then you start to realize that you miss the component of humanity that exists outside of this bubble that we all live in. And I started to notice that people I was talking to, because primarily I talk to web developers and designers and entrepreneurs and product people and stuff like that, they were all kind of saying the same thing. I started to tell them how I felt, and they started to agree with me.
They were like, “Yeah, you know, I love going out for a hike. I haven’t been out in forever. I loved going to work out, but it never seems to work out. I love getting out from behind my computer.” So I started thinking about it, and the way my mind works, I think about something and then I’m like, “Well, I want to fix this.” And so I look to see if there’s anything else kind of similar, nothing else excited me, and so I decided the prototype … A couple things, one of them being Camp Press. The there one being an organization called Hiking with Geeks. The purpose of those two groups is quite literally to get geeks out from behind their computers and either onto the trail or having person to person conversations, or connecting with each other offline, which I think is a very powerful way to build business influence and just your business in general.
Chris Badgett: Cool. Can you tell us a little bit more about the two events? What was Hiking with Geeks like, and what was Camp Press like?
Mendel Kurland: Yeah. Hiking with Geeks is ongoing, there’s 14 chapters across North American. There’s, I think, 16,000 members. Maybe we’re up to 17,000 now. The concept is simple. Super inclusive environment, geeks only. If you don’t self identify as a geek, if you’re like a guy or a girl that’s like, “Hey, geeks are stupid, I don’t want to hang out with them,” or, “I’m too cool for that,” or whatever, then you’re not allowed, because we only want people that are open to the experience. That is, quite simply, people getting out from behind their computers, their labs, their desks, and going on a hike, hitting the trail. And by hike, we’re talking about like a walk through the woods. This is an accessible thing for most anybody. So that’s Hiking with Geeks.
Chris Badgett: Let me ask you a couple questions before we shift to Camp Press. I’m imagining this is free? Or maybe …
Mendel Kurland: Yes.
Chris Badgett: It’s a free thing. With, did you say 17,000 members?
Mendel Kurland: Yeah, now it’s 17,000 members across 14,000 meetups, yeah.
Chris Badgett: That’s amazing. So you’re using the Meetup platform to organize it, is that correct?
Mendel Kurland: Yeah, at the moment. For anybody that’s used Meetup, it’s a great platform. It’s what I call discovery engine. It helps, it actually funnels members through their system very well into your event. It’s really a great way to get new people to discover an experience. It’s not really great to be able to re-market those people or to create some sort of brand affiliation. It’s possible, but it’s hard. And so, I’ve used that as a tool to then funnel people to a big slack channel where we all talk about geeky hiking stuff, or then push people to disconnect to events, like Camp Press. But the whole idea is that anybody … It’s a decentralized Meetup, so anybody can fill out a form, when they fill out the form it automatically spins up a Meetup description. I post that description for whoever it is that wants to run the hike. The only qualification is that these people have to be nice people. They have to try and help include everybody, conversations, all that, answer questions beforehand. They don’t have to know the trail, because part of the beauty of it is that we’re all humans. We can all figure out how to get from one point to another, we’ve been doing it for hundreds of years.
So you don’t have to be an expert. We put those events out there, typically we get … In Dallas, we’re getting turnouts of maybe 40, 50 people per event. In other areas maybe 50%, which is pretty high for Meetup. Normally Meetup is around, a fifth of the people that sign up actually attend. It’s really been an effective way to get people out on the trail and just enjoying a free event where they can network with other people from Microsoft, or people from indeed.com, or people from … There are a bunch of chip manufacturers in Austin, so we get people from all those chip manufacturers who are engineers and scientists, and any nerdy profession that you can think of, that’s who they are.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. If you’re listening out there and you haven’t been to a Meetup, I’d encourage you to check one out, but also think about starting one. It’s not just for cities. I live in a rural area, and it’s called MidCoast Maine, it’s a lot of small towns. I’m actually in the process of just starting a Meetup around the topics of WordPress, online education, and digital entrepreneurship, and people are joining from towns all around my rural area, and eventually we’re gonna start getting it together in person. But a lot of entrepreneurs especially can end up isolated or whatever, and it’s so important to get out of the building, which leads me to the insight that I wanted to ask you about. When you take somebody who’s predominately digital or behind a computer, and you remove the internet … I mean, I’m sure you still have the phone or whatever, but you actually get out into the woods or wherever, and you’re hiking, what does that do to people? Like if you’re playing the anthropologist and you take a step back and you look around at the fellow geeks in the woods, what’s happening from the experience?
Mendel Kurland: It’s really interesting, and actually something I’m really fascinated with. The first time I went on one of these hikes, I invited people out, and it was weird because I got there and I’m like, “Oh no, this is gonna be strange.” Because I’m standing there and I’m trying to make an announcement, tell everybody what it’s all about. I’m standing on a rock, and they’re all just super awkward. They’re standing there and they’re super awkward. And I’m like, “Man, maybe this was a mistake, I don’t know if this is gonna work out.” So we got on the trail and I realized … You know, there’s something that happens. I don’t know if you’ve gone on a really long walk, maybe like five, six, seven, ten miles. This happens to me a lot when I do, like, 20 miles. You completely zone out, you’re one with your thoughts.
There’s something magical that happens when you have that methodical beat of your feet touching the pavement, or touching the trail, because after a certain amount of time you stop worrying about your insecurities. Because it’s like you’re incapable of doing that. Your body has to figure out how to avoid obstacles and get where it’s going. Instead, you start thinking with a different function of your brain. There are probably psychologists that could explain this exact phenomenon. I don’t know what it is, but what happened was awesome. Because we were on the trail, and all of a sudden people are just talking. And they’re talking a lot. And they’re introducing themselves, and they’re not feeling vulnerable, and they’re helping each other across these little streams and stuff like that.
We get back at the end, and the key at the end is then I say, “If anybody wants to grab something to eat afterwards we’ll organize, we’ll go get something to eat. Normally I’m the one that suggests it. This last trip I was on, this guy said, “Who wants to go get something for lunch?” I was about to leave and he was like, “Wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute, let’s get something for lunch.” And I was like, “Oh wow, let’s do it, let’s do it.” And it was like half the group that went and they wanted to hang out. People are starved, and in particular, geeks are starved for that connection.
Chris Badgett: Very cool. You mentioned a word I wanted to dig in a little bit, which was it’s inclusive. I heard a analogy recently, I was on a virtual summit for people building digital businesses, and one of the other speakers was talking about the croissant versus the bagel. It was about networking. If you go to a conference sometimes there’s the cliques of people, and it’s like a bagel, you can’t penetrate. But then the croissant is like a gathering of people, the body language is open, is welcoming if you walk into the circle, that’s the croissant. Talk to us about inclusiveness. What does that mean? You say that’s a qualifier for joining Hiking with Geeks. Why do you put emphasis on that?
Mendel Kurland: If somebody doesn’t tell you explicitly that something in inclusive then, unfortunately, by definition, in societal norms it’s not inclusive. Especially when you’re talking about an event or a club, which is what a Meetup group kind of is. So we’ve gone out of our way to put this, or I’ve gone out of my way to put this on all of the Meetup pages. Nobody can change the Meetup pages, it’s basically house rules. With Meetups in particular, if anybody is building their own experiences, this is like a golden rule that everybody’s scared of. Say what you stand for, and say how you’ll enforce it. The inclusive part has been important from the beginning because, I would literally get people sending messages that say, “Hey, I’m not that physically fit, can I still come?” Or, “I haven’t been on a trail for years, can I come?” Like, “Yes. If fact, you’re exactly the person I want.”
Inclusiveness has been big, and then telling people, “If there’s a problem during the Meetup,” and this is given to all of the organizers, if there’s a problem, they’re to talk to me. I will, and have, just completely removed people from the Meetup, no questions asked. So if there’s any inkling that somebody is going to do something or has done something that makes people uncomfortable, we just remove them. It’s my group, it’s my rules. That goes for business Meetup, that goes for a hiking Meetup. Super, super important.
Chris Badgett: Awesome, yeah. I really appreciate that, that makes a lot of sense, and I appreciate the leadership piece. If you’re gonna organize it, or there’s gonna be another organizer, there is that, that is one of the group leadership components, is protecting the group and taking a stand if you need to remove a member, or whatever. Let’s talk about Camp Press, what is it?
Mendel Kurland: Camp Press is kind of like a sister to Hiking with Geeks. The idea is to take it one step further. So instead of just a hike for two hours on a weekend or an evening, it’s a full experience. It involves either camping or cabins, and it’s an all inclusive experience. So you don’t have to go and worry, do you have the right stuff with you? You basically bring clothes, or wear what you wear for four days, you’ll be good. There are certain requirements that are important. Number one, whatever the venue is, it doesn’t typically have great cellular service. So you don’t really …
Chris Badgett: That’s by design?
Mendel Kurland: Yeah, you don’t really have an option of whether or not you can do work there. We don’t do it at places like KOA campgrounds, because KOA has high speed internet, so we don’t do it places like that. But the whole idea is a disconnected experience where we bring people together from different walks of life, a diverse group that has diverse interests, and we ask them questions when they first sign up in a questionnaire that asks them about their offline skills. What are they good at? What have they done before in an outdoor setting, what have they not done before? We use a program called Missions when people first show up, to help people connect in a way that’s not intrusive. The idea is that this should be whatever you want it to be. If you want to relax, great, go relax. If you want to go read a book, go read book. If you want to hang out with a couple other people and kick a ball around or something, that’s awesome too.
These missions serve as a way to pull people together. In Oklahoma when we did our first one, somebody knew how to light a fire, somebody else didn’t know how to light a fire. So they get these index cards when they first show up to the event, and one of them said, “It’s your mission to go light a fire,” and one of them said, “It’s your mission to help this person with their mission,” and they didn’t know what it was. So they have to communicate, they have to talk, they have to figure out what they’re supposed to do. And it’s usually something that then benefits the greater group. So at the end of the time, everybody just bonded, had a great time. Somebody taught a song, somebody else cooked breakfast for the entire camp, and it really created the sense of community.
The first one was in Oklahoma, the goal now is to do them all over the country and world. One’s scheduled for Texas in 2018, one’s scheduled for Iceland, because why not go check something off your bucket list with a bunch of geeks, while you’re at it? Now that one is particularly special because we’ll be at the base of a volcano, again, in a camp format. This time in cabins, because it’s a little cold there. And we’re gonna do the same thing, we’re gonna create a community, we’re gonna build that up for four days. We’re gonna have a lot of fun together, do a lot of cool stuff, maybe challenge each other a little bit, and we’re gonna go home after having an epic time.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. For the practically minded out there, it sounds like Hiking with Geeks is, it’s more or less free, I think it costs $15 a month to have a Meetup group, whatever.
Mendel Kurland: Yep.
Chris Badgett: When you’re organizing an event, what was your approach to pricing it? Were you trying to just cover costs and make it happen because you believe in the mission? Is there, like, how do you figure out, how do you approach pricing? Which was more important to you, the experience, or the business model, or that kind of thing?
Mendel Kurland: Experience is always first. Not losing your ass on it is always first too.
Chris Badgett: I think a lot of event designers learn that one the hard way with their first one, or whatever.
Mendel Kurland: Yeah. To be honest, I got really lucky with Camp Press Oklahoma. I got a great deal from Aaron Campbell’s family on the property, which was a huge help. We had some great sponsors, which was super cool too. But yeah, I guess I look at designing a cool experience, and then I figure out, how much does it cost and how much do I want to make so that I can continue to sustain this? So for Iceland, the number of people I want to bring, I need to put down 20% when I initially book. Now it turns out that through some cool connections in the WordPress community, I hooked up with a tour company there that was super lax about the deposit. They were like, “We love what you’re doing, we want to be a part of it.” And now they even want to advertise for us.
But yeah, you want to make sure you don’t lose your ass, and then also that you’re making something on it. When I looked at costs for Camp Press Oklahoma, I just wanted as many people to sign up as possible. I got some really mixed reviews, and I think it was because of the way that I explained the event to people, because some people said, “You’re charging way too little.” Some people said, “You’re charging too much.” Some people said, “Oh, this is totally reasonable.” With Camp Press Iceland I’ve had two schools of thought. Well, actually three. One is, “Yeah, no problem, I’ll check out today.” One is, “Aw, man, this isn’t cheap, but I aspire to go.” So they’re saving up, they’re waiting, they’re figuring out how the holidays go, how their business goes. And then the third is, “What, are you crazy? For four days you’re charging me 14 hundred bucks? You’re nuts.”
I have 12 RSVPs already, and that was in the first month that it was on sale. So I think I’m priced pretty well, because I’m actually getting sign ups. There are actually people that are aspiring to go. And the people that are saying it’s too expensive, those are few and far between. So it’s really important to listen to what people are saying, and continue asking the question, “What did you think of this, what did you think of that? Was this valuable, was it not valuable?” Based on some research I did before I even put the event out there, it was gonna be a three day event for the same price. I went back to my travel company and I said, “Listen guys, we gotta figure out how to make this work for four days for the same price.” And it turns out, it worked to my advantage. They had somebody that they were gonna hire to play music for us.
Chris Badgett: What did the travel company do? What did they do?
Mendel Kurland: What do you mean?
Chris Badgett: Like in terms of structuring the event, what did the travel company do?
Mendel Kurland: They don’t do anything for the magic of Camp Press. They basically make sure all of it can happen.
Chris Badgett: So it’s like organizing flights, or what is it?
Mendel Kurland: It’s anything once we’re on the ground. They’re gonna have four by four modified trucks there to take us across the back country of Iceland to our volcano huts.
Chris Badgett: [crosstalk 00:23:03]
Mendel Kurland: They’re gonna make sure that we’re fed, and stuff like that.
Chris Badgett: Okay, cool. So, that’s a way … I like how you did one… Or, it makes sense, it’s practical to do one a little closer to home, proved it, now you’re like, “Let’s go deeper into this idea and push the boundaries a little bit.” And then you can have boots on the ground with a travel company to help guide you and make sure all the pieces come together. It sounds challenging to create, but if you have a clear vision and you’ve go the right people helping you … And that’s, I mean, you have a day job …
Mendel Kurland: Yeah.
Chris Badgett: … You were able to pull it off, that’s really inspiring.
Mendel Kurland: I’ll just say one other thing, a defining characteristic of the success of both events … And there are some others in the works too … is, I partner with somebody on each one, and it’s not the same person. So Alex Moss came to me from the U.K. and he’s like, “I’m super stoked about what you’re doing, I want to do one in Europe.” And I said, “Cool, let’s talk about that.” And then we went from doing it in Italy to, he said, “What about in Iceland? I got friends up there.” And I’m like, “Yes, I’ve always wanted to go there, right? Let’s do it.” So not being afraid to partner with people … And these guys don’t expect much. They understand what I’m trying to do, so they’re not trying to steal the show. They’re just genuinely interested in the concept and helping out. That’s super important too, is if you can get somebody to partner with, it’s awesome.
Chris Badgett: That’s cool. I’m a big fan of shared leadership and not doing it by yourself. Let’s shift gears into GoDaddy a little bit and talk about training there. What did you do with training at GoDaddy? Or what is it you still do? What is your GoDaddy training story?
Mendel Kurland: About five years ago, six years ago, I was at an event at our headquarters and the CMO was saying, “You know, what are some fresh ideas? What are some things that we can do to really push the envelope with our customers and make things even cooler for them?” I said, “Why don’t we talk to them in person? Why don’t we do workshops? Why don’t we teach them things in person?” And she was like, “Okay, here’s the credit card.” It was that easy. She was like, “Go build it up, go try.” So I did a pilot in Chicago and in Austin where, with an instructional designer, built out a full curriculum for building a website with both our website builder and with WordPress. Over the period of about two years, spent about two weeks in Austin, two weeks in Chicago each month, so I wasn’t home much. I basically optimized the in-class experience so that people could get up and running with a website in about an hour and half.
Chris Badgett: This was training new customers?
Mendel Kurland: At first it was training new customers. So then it went from training new customers to training trainers. So we started working with local SBDCs and score chapters, and things like that.
Chris Badgett: Were these new customers in person or virtual?
Mendel Kurland: These were all in person. I was on a plane going back and forth. At that time I lived in Iowa.
Chris Badgett: How did the new customers end up in the training room, how did that happen?
Mendel Kurland: So, would you believe that I leveraged Meetup?
Chris Badgett: There you go.
Mendel Kurland: It was funny, because I stumbled a bit. I tried making a Meetup that was GoDaddy meetup, and people were like, “Okay, whatever.”
Chris Badgett: It’s a company.
Mendel Kurland: That was the first time that I really learned that what you do can’t be about you, it has to be about them. So then I hit up, I remember Ray Massory, he’s this dude that works at one of the big agencies in Chicago, and he runs the Chicago design Meetup, or at least he used to. It was huge, and I was like, “Hey man, you mind if I come and give like a quick workshop on building websites?” And he was like, “Yeah, it’d be awesome.” Because every Meetup leader needs new content, right? And so that’s how I started off. Then it turned out that we found out that, like, every small business development center in the country trains people on building websites. And so, sorta go kind of up that funnel. But yeah, it was Meetup at first.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. You’ve got my wheels spinning about doing a Meetup in a bigger city where there’s lots of people, about building an online course site in a workshop style. That would be kind of fun.
Mendel Kurland: Yeah. Well, then I started moonlighting in Iowa. I was like, “Man, if this works for business …” I spun up a build your first website Meetup in Iowa City, Iowa, and I think I charged, like, 60 bucks for people to come, which wasn’t a lot of money, but perfect concept. It was awesome, because I made, like 250 bucks one night, because everybody just sat in a room and I was like, “Let me help you get your domain, and by the way, there are affiliate codes.”
Chris Badgett: Yeah, that’s really cool. What is it about you and being a serial event creator? Or just a serial connector or problem solver, where does that come from?
Mendel Kurland: I don’t know, I’ve just always loved people. When you love people, I guess …
Chris Badgett: You like helping people.
Mendel Kurland: And I have this crazy entrepreneurial spirit, right? So those two things combined end up with … Oh, and I’m also a trained software engineer, so all those things combined allow to prototype things and create things fairly quickly.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. Just in general terms, when you were working with the end customer versus training the trainer, how is that different? Or maybe no difference?
Mendel Kurland: Interestingly, it rarely was different unless … Because there were a lot of small business coaches and stuff. I can think of this really great group in Chicago, I still miss them, they were all small business owners trying to help other small business owners be small business owners. So teaching them how to train their clients was just as difficult as training their user. Then when you got up the funnel to people that were parts of established, big organizations, that’s when it started to change. So people at small business development centers, that was a little bit different. You’d go to a college in the middle of Brazosport Texas, and teach somebody how to teach all their clients, and they were building sites every day for their clients, and I just came in and gave them some more structure around it.
Chris Badgett: Wow, that’s awesome. What are some tips you have … When we talk about course creation, and we talk a lot about three main kinds. One of them I call the resource course, one of them’s called a behavior change, and the other one’s called learn a process. So you’re teaching a process course, like From Zero to Website. Any tips on teaching a process course in general? Like …
Mendel Kurland: Here’s a tip on teaching any course, and that is, as you build the course, focus on, and this sounds silly, focus on whoever your target is, making their life as awesome as possible. And then make sure to document every piece as you’re creating it, because when you go back to replicate it, then you’ll have all that information, and then when you go back to replicate it, get feedback and then immediately make the change. Don’t wait to make the change, immediately make the change to the curriculum or to the setup or to the layout of the room, or the layout of the web page, or whatever. Continually do that, and you’ll be amazed how quickly feedback changes, how much quicker learning occurs, all these things.
By the way, my dad has a PhD in education … Sorry, a doctorate in education, I don’t know if they’re the same thing. But anyway, he has a doctorate in education, and he was a school principal for most of my life. And so, I guess the whole education thing, it comes pretty easily to me, which is probably why I loved doing that whole training education thing.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. Let’s shift gears over to hosting a little bit. You work at GoDaddy, and you’re an evangelist and a space cowboy. We get asked all the time at LifterLMS, what web hosts do you recommend for an online course? A lot of times I like to recommend some kind of managed WordPress hosting, and make sure you’ve got good customer support and backups. When you’re making the case for GoDaddy, what do you love about the GoDaddy universe, when people operate in there? And I gotta say, for me personally, whenever I go to get a domain name, I go to GoDaddy. GoDaddy’s got the best domain names, searching. I’m not a serial domain buyer, I’m not a bad one, I should say. And I’ve had sites on GoDaddy, I’ve worked with lots of clients on GoDaddy, and I’ve had a great experience. How do you make the case for GoDaddy?
Mendel Kurland: I’ve been there around eight years, so I’ve seen progress, I’ve seen the way the company feels about their customers, and change, and the experience. Quite honestly, the company just gives a damn about their customers. And the whole mission the entire time I’ve been there has been about building awesome stuff that helps customers do their best work. Right now the thing that I’m super hot on are … Actually, well, there’s three things. One is this product called Smart Line. It’s an app that you download that gives you an extra number for your phone for your business. So that’s pretty cool. And then the GoCentral, which is our website builder, that’s in its fourth generation, or something like that. It’s a super easy drag and drop builder. So for one page landing sites, and sales site, and stuff like that it’s killer. You can build something in, I don’t know, 20 minutes, that you can throw out there.
The thing I’m most excited about is where our managed WordPress product is going. Because it’s now a hyper containerized product that checks all the boxes of all the feedback we received from our first generation managed WordPress product. That just launched like a month ago, so it’s super fresh. And it’s all the latest gear underneath, so if you’re a geek and you think about things like PHP and caching and SSL and things like that, then you’ll totally geek out on what’s under the hood, because it looks phenomenal from the technical standpoint. But I guess the coolest part is that our engineers are banging on this, and making it better.
Like, in real time I watched these slack channel messages, like, “This customer said that this wasn’t working quite right,” and so, like, “Oh, I got you. I’ll take care of that across the system,” and 24 hours later the bug is fixed, or whatever. I’m stoked about that, and GoDaddy as a whole, it’s cool that you can go to a place and get everything you need, and then if you don’t quite understand how to get started with online marketing or set up your email on your phone, or whatever, it’s, I think, one of the only companies in the industry that’s 24/7 support. So that’s my, I dig it. I’ve worked there for a while, and I’m a pretty honest guy. I think some of those things that we’re innovating on are pretty awesome.
Chris Badgett: Yeah, that’s super cool. The whole managed WordPress thing and like, you know, what are you managing? The point you said about listening to customers and that feedback loop, and then you’re seeing it change and making the experience better, removing friction, that’s just so key. And being able to get support? I know me personally, there’s been many times where it’s like 2:00 in the morning, gonna call GoDaddy, I’ve got a problem here on my site or a client’s site, and you know, it’s good, I get it resolved. So yeah, that’s super cool. And making it easy for people to get set up is what it’s all about.
Mendel Kurland: Totally.
Chris Badgett: Thanks for sharing that. Wow, we covered a lot. We covered a lot about your story, about your events, about training people on how to build websites, about where you work at GoDaddy and what they offer. Just to kind of circle it all back to event design, if you’re gonna give somebody like one or three tips on starting their first event, that’s somewhat focused around training a skill or teaching a process, or creating a community around a similar tribe of people, what would those best tips be?
Mendel Kurland: If you’re scared or questioning it, do it anyway. Let people know that it’s an experiment, but don’t apologize for it. And generally build the experience for the people that you care about, and do it for the right reasons. Do it to build something cool, but also remember that it’s gotta pay the bills for the effort. And just make sure that you test everything, and you learn, you make changes. And I guess the last thing is that you’re gonna try and plan everything to the T, and that’s what you should do. Just know that it’s gonna look wildly different the second time you do it. You’re gonna learn so much that you’re gonna kick yourself and you’re gonna be like, “Why did I do it that way? Why did I do it that way?” But that’s all part of it, you can’t predict that. So let yourself live in the moment, build something with as much detail as possible, and then just be excited about the fact that you have some sort of success, and make it better and different the next time.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. Well, Mendal Kurland, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you so much for coming on the show. If people wanna find out more about you, find out about your events, or find you on social media, where can they connect with you?
Mendel Kurland: You can hit me up on Twitter, it’s @ifyouwillit, it’s also my website as well. If you want to look at what’s going on at GoDaddy lately, godaddy.com/pro, that’s the stuff that I’ve been working on. And if you’re interested in Camp Press at all, it’s just camp.press, there’s no com or anything like that, it’s camp.press.
Chris Badgett: Awesome. Well, thank you for coming on the show, Mendel. We’ll have to do it again after Iceland or something …
Mendel Kurland: Yeah.
Chris Badgett: … and get a full report, and find out more lessons learned about creating masterful events. Thank you again for coming on the show, and have a great rest of your day.
Mendel Kurland: Cool, thanks a lot.

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