February 16, 2024

NYU Dropout to POSH CEO - Avant Price | BCL #309

Avante Price, a 23-year-old dropout from NYU, is shaping the digital realm of social interactions. His journey into entrepreneurship began at 15 with ChoreBug, a platform that allowed community members to hire local high schoolers for odd jobs help. Despite facing challenges like student reliability, the venture provided invaluable insights into the startup world.

Beyond startups, Avante boasts over 15 years of DJing experience, honed under the tutelage of his father since the age of 5. This skill seamlessly integrated into his NYU years, where he became a fixture in New York City's nightlife scene. It was during this time that he and CTO/Co-Founder Eli Taylor-Lemire founded POSH, initially an event production group, which evolved into a platform addressing the inefficiencies in event management systems. Since its launch in 2020, POSH has facilitated over 10,000 groups in managing and monetizing their live experiences. With a passion for innovation and a knack for connecting with others, Avante welcomes collaborations and conversations at avante@posh.vip.

Avant: My co-founder, saw that I was having a lot of issues. I was Pandemic happens. For a lot of people that was definitely, have a lot of condolences for anyone that was, affected by the pandemic, but for us, it was a blessing in disguise. We took that time, pivoted from an event company into a software company.

Reading the room, it's the most important thing to do as a DJ. How do I get at least 80 percent of this room dancing? Because 20 percent are just there to chill. Reeling that back to startups, right? It's the same thing, it's being customer driven, knowing how to listen to customers.

I don't think that I've seen anyone that's been successful at something that wasn't solving an issue that was really dear to them. And for us, We have a lot of psychology around the user life cycle of people in the long tail of the event space.

I think the only thing that would make me cry is if this company failed.

Julian: First question to you is, bring me back to 2019. You had already founded a company while you were in high school, you had been working with another startup during college, and then you meet your co founder, you start POSH, and tell me the process of starting the company and dropping out.

Bring us back to that story.

Avant: Yeah, I think it was a, a lot different than the usual, like, story that you, that a lot of people think happens, where it's like, people have an idea and they drop out immediately, right? It was kind of wrapped up. Honestly, it was very natural, um, and at first it started out as just me and my co founder had met on Instagram, actually, he shot me a message and wanted to shoot me, um, playing gigs in the city.

So he was a photographer, I was a DJ, he was like, yo. Dope music, would love to come stream your gigs. And, uh, we became friends through that. And after a few gigs we worked on together, we were working for a few of the same, like, event organizers in New York City. And we realized that they just kind of weren't serving the needs of our friends that we were bringing out to these events.

So, we actually started POSH, even incorporated it, called POSH. As an event company, it wasn't even supposed to be a software company. Um, and basically we were just hosting weekly college events for New York City college students around the city. Um, so Columbia, NYU, Pace, etc. And we hosted about 13 events between October 2019 and the fateful March 2020.

But by around February ish of 2020, right before the pandemic. Eli, my co-founder saw that I was having a lot of issues. I was doing a lot of the marketing, and I was having a lot of issues managing the events through products like Eventbrite, you name it. Um, we actually were using some more, like, niche products.

We were really digging and churning, like, every single event. Um, and finally, he was like, Yo, I'm technical. We had bonded over the previous startup experience we had, like you mentioned. Um, and he actually built us the MVP of the product. But even at that moment, it wasn't supposed to be a software company.

It was supposed to be software for us to use for our own event management.

Um, and so effectively, he built this product, we used it for two events, scaled from like 200 to 500 students per event, and then pandemic happens. Um, and you know, for a lot of people that was definitely, I mean, definitely have a lot of condolences for anyone that was, you know, affected by the pandemic, but for us, it was a blessing in disguise because effectively we took that time, pivoted from an event company into a software company, realizing how powerful it was for us, even after just two events.

And took that entire kind of time from March to October of 2020 to white label the original tools that Eli had and, you know, kink out all the bugs. I was talking to customers, getting a bunch of product feedback, um, and trying to get those first initial users on board.

And then we kind of consider our inception date as October 1st, 2020, because that's when we first went to market as Osh, the event company, and got our first dollar in GMV.

Um, and even at that point, we still were in school, we were still online, I was, you know, I'll never forget, on Google Meets on one tab, Zoom on the other tab in class, um, while I'm, like, also talking to Eli, we're, like, remote at home, and then, um, another friend of ours that started a company called WAP, um, was in Austin building, he was like, Texas is wide open, there's no masks, like, come just enjoy the sun, so we flew down to Austin, um, spent some time there, and, Um, eventually moved to Miami for six months actually, because that was another market that was wide open, that's where we got a lot of our initial traction.

Um, and basically, after working on it for about two semesters online, we finally took, um, it wasn't even really a big, like, dropout moment, we were like, alright, let's take a leave. And NYU lets you take two semesters, like most schools, so then we took a leave, and then after two semesters of that, then it was like, alright, we're not going back.

One and a half million at the point of, like, the end of that second semester of leave we were allowed. Um, and so we finally dropped out, because we were like, alright, we have other investors money on the table. And if we can, you know, give ourselves the salary that we could have paid ourselves with the degree, then why would we even try to finish?

Um, but yeah, I dropped out with one year left, Eli had two years left. But we worked on the company for about a year and a half before even making that decision.

Julian: What was not bringing, you said earlier in the story, you know, the events weren't reaching your friends and people around your circles. Why is that?

Avant: Yeah, I think a big part of it was that, frankly, the people organizing those events were just a lot older, right? They were adults who had a lot of relationships with the venues and the DJs, the artists, the photographers, whatever it might be, all the different stakeholders in the space. They had those relationships and that was the monopoly they held, but just like, you know, with, you know, building a startup, they weren't customer driven.

They didn't really care what their customers wanted. They just knew that they were the only ones that could serve that need. Um, and so effectively, honestly, as we worked for those other people, we were a little bit smarter than the people that We're also working for them, and we kind of took their relationships, frankly, um, with the venue owner, with the photographer, and with the DJ, and with the other people promoting the event, and we took a lot of their business away from them, and started our own brand, and it was actually insane for the first few months, we had the cops called on our parties, like, multiple times, um, honestly, to be super honest, we were, you know, 19 years old at the time, um, so they were, the guys that we were working for knew we were underage, and they were employing us, but then as soon as we were competition, they were calling venue owners, being like, These guys are underage, like they shouldn't be hosting these events at these venues that have alcohol, this and that, and trying to ruin our reputation.

So it was like a big all out battle in the beginning, um, from these people that were just mad that frankly the only thing they had was relationships. And because we were nice people that also had more of a draw on the audience, because we were more relatable, that we had the customer side, and we told the venues, look, we're the ones that the customers actually like.

Work with us instead, and just really piss these people off, but you know, everything, uh, became very amenable, these, even though a lot of the people that we competed with and had that head to head with over the years now actually use POSH, um, and we've all kind of They have no choice. No, they don't have any, they have other choices, there's many choices.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. It's, you know, an undeniably good product, and overall just Just us being mature and knowing, like, look, you know, that was just a function of the time, what we wanted to do, and like, what else were we supposed to do if we wanted to, you know, scale, I think a lot of people get offended when, like, someone that they brought up or taught the ropes kind of tries to go off and do their own thing, but You can't be like that, obviously.

Julian: Well, it sounds like, obviously, there, you know, is always a fight for users, you know, uh, customers, clients. I think a lot of older businesses may not realize that newer companies are trying to just get a share of it. And we all understand that. People are going to have an experience with multiple different products and getting a piece of that and being amicable with the next product and even maybe partner with them is a way more advantageous relationship than having any sort of competition.

But I'm curious because With most monopolies, there comes this instance of like, honestly, mediocrity, where it's just kind of the same thing over and over again. Is that kind of the experience you were seeing? And what do you think drove them to not necessarily improve or get new people involved?

Avant: That's interesting.

I think when you remove yourself from the ecosystem of startups people are a lot More comfortable with mediocrity. Um, so right, this was, we were just an event brand competing with other event brands. And once people have a comfortable user base or a comfortable set of customers in a non startup ecosystem, they're not as hungry as you and I are, the people listening to this podcast, right?

They're kind of just making their money, they're happy with what, the food that they're putting on the table, and like, they're not gonna try to improve or scale if they're comfortable. A lot of people are very comfortable, and it's okay to be comfortable, frankly, right? Otherwise, the other end of the spectrum is What the founder feels, which is a constant state of being uncomfortable.

Anxiety. Right, yeah, anxiety. And so, um, I think that it's hard sometimes to, that was definitely a big shift for me to realize that. Frankly, I think a lot of founders have a hard time removing themselves from the situation and realizing other people are comfortable being comfortable, uncomfortable, or comfortable.

But like, the state, the state of it is just like, if you obviously are too comfortable for too long, someone young is going to come and disrupt you. Um, and you know, we did it with these event brands, but luckily, you know. We kind of just stopped caring about hosting events because we wanted to build a platform to empower all of them.

But now we're doing the same thing with ticketing platforms and event management solutions where, you know, they're just comfortable. They're big, you know, the people at the top are not the founders, right? A lot of the founders have left. So now it's just people making a good paycheck sitting there in their ivory office, not talking to customers.

And why are they incentivized? They shouldn't be. They're making 200 grand a year in their comfortable little office doing their thing. So, it's kind of gonna be, you know, just, it's kind of a stasis at a certain point.

Julian: Yeah, yeah. You know, thinking about your experience, you're learning, you're not the first DJ turned founder on this podcast, so I'm sorry if you felt that that was special, but you are the first that really doubled down into, you know, the entertainment space and revitalizing the access to the audience, because it's just, I feel like it was so disconnected.

However, you know, now hearing your story about you having your audience, I feel like that's kind of the shift in a lot of, um, or just, I guess, in a lot of, you know, events and experiences, but for you in particular, I always like to ask, you know, DJ turned founders, this question, what relationship, you know, with your experience as a DJ bled over into, you know, learning customers, understanding them, being a founder, how smooth was that transition?

And, and was there anything in between there that you had to Pick up.

Avant: Reading the room. It's the most important thing to do as a DJ. Um, and I think that's why a lot of DJs suck, frankly, is that they don't know how to read the room, right? , they go in there and they have a USB full of a bunch of music that they really like, and they're like, these are my bangers.

I play them with my. Friends, and I, like, love listening to it on my run in the morning, whatever it might be. And you go to this room of people you've never met before, right? Maybe you brought your 20 friends, but there's 500 people in this room, and 480 of them you don't know, and they don't know you, and they weren't expecting you to play a certain genre, kind of, they're kind of there because their friends brought them.

And you have to read that room and look at every single person and understand how do I get at least, you know, 80 percent of this room dancing? Because at the end of the day, 20 percent are just there to chill. They're not going to dance. But if you can get 80 percent of the room dancing, then it almost looks weird if you're not dancing.

Um, but you have to get kind of that like, um, that tipping point where everyone's kind of into the music and the only way to do that is by being really, really driven to understand the room and to understand the different social dynamics between people, right? You got this other person over here who wants Drake, but you got this other person over here who wants, you know, dance music, and then you got this person that wants reggaeton, and then you have someone that wants some R& B.

Great! Well, I'm gonna play a remix, a dance, you know, remix of this Drake song that has a Bad Bunny verse in it, and then you got people satisfied, right, and it's like, that's really what good DJing is, is trying to understand how to appeal to as many people in the room as possible, and then you Kind of reeling that back to startups, right?

It's the same thing. It's being customer driven, knowing how to listen to customers, um, and look at, all right, you know, we have about 1. 5 million users, um, who have an account on the platform. And I have to understand, you know, how can I appeal to the, the biggest number of them? As possible with this new product update or with this new, um, campaign that we're running, right?

Whatever it might be, um, and being very, very customer driven to satisfy as many people as possible at once with the initiatives that you take on.

Julian: Yeah, what, uh, obviously you have the philosophy down in terms of, you know, be customer first and ask questions, get a lot of feedback, but why do you care so much?

Avant: About?

Julian: Just, you know, the customer experience, no, the audience, you know, it sounds like with, whether it's DJing, running, you know, POSH and creating a product out of it, there's so much care and attention you have towards the audience. Is that innate? You know, is that some part of your personality trait or is that something that you learned along the way was, you know, the right way to do things?

Avant: I think it's actually none of the above. I think it's, to be a really good founder, you have to be solving an issue for yourself, right? I don't think that I've seen anyone that's been successful at something that wasn't solving an issue that was really, really dear to them. And for us, we have a lot of psychology around the user life cycle.

of people in the long tail of the event space, right? So, for a little context, we're not trying to go after Madison Square Garden or these big venues, right? We're trying to empower people like me and you who have a passion, a side hobby, um, a niche interest that we are influential in to empower them to create communities where they can make money by hosting live experiences.

So, if you know a bunch of founders, for example, you know, on episode, you said 307 here, that's insane, right? So, like, you can 309. 309, right? So we have 309, you could probably get into a room and if you provide some sort of value, maybe you could charge them 20 bucks to come, now you just made 6 grand, right, if they all came, and it's the same type of thing where anyone can effectively create an in real life, paid experience brand.

Uh, and we're trying to be the platform that empowers them. But to kind of reel it back to your question, it's about what does it take to get to that point, right? And what it takes to get to that point is first attending an experience in a niche that you're interested in. Then it's being an affiliate or a contributor to those experiences and to those communities, right?

So, you're not going to be a founder first. You're going to read a cool Peter Thiel article, right? Or if the more like, nascent, um, nightlife space, right? Which is kind of what a lot of our ICP is, right? You're going to go to a nice, cool nightclub. And you're gonna have a great time, and you're like, this is pretty cool.

And you're gonna go a few times, and you're gonna be like, Yo guys, I've been to this nice club, you know, ten times, like, tell your friends, we should go to this spot. Now you're a contributor, cause you're someone who used word of mouth to contribute five more of your friends to go there. And now you're gonna be like, I really like this place.

Who's the person organizing this event? How do I get involved and get on the other side, on the supply side of this, right? Maybe you're a photographer, maybe you're a DJ, maybe you wanna be a bartender, maybe you wanna be the lights person, doorman, it doesn't matter, right? Whatever your role is, and you can step into that.

And then eventually, once you're really participating in the space from a contributor perspective, then you take that next step and become an organizer. Um, and that's the, you know, kind of process that I took. Right? I went to my first EDM show, I'll never forget it, it was Lollapalooza in Chicago, I was like a 15 year old high schooler.

Fucking insane, right? There's 10, 000 people, um, you're like, what is this? This music's awesome, da da da. Um, and then you want to get involved, right? Then I became a DJ, I started DJing around my high school, then eventually in college. And then I wanted to start contributing to the actual hosting of the events because I was unsatisfied with kind of that next level up.

And it's the exact same user life cycle for anyone using our platform, where the first step is just going to that first event. And the people that get hooked just kind of get reeled in and want to start now monetizing whatever contribution they can to this kind of social economy that we're creating.

Julian: Yeah. Obviously want to get into kind of the philosophy of the product and the customer experience, but just, you know, To finish the story out, so, you know, you raised 1. 5 million, you know, you choose to go full time into POSH, what was that decision like and what were the pieces around you that you started getting into place?

Like, was your team already there? Did you need to start hiring people? Did you already have an office space? How smooth was that transition going from, you know, okay, we're doing this on the side, I'm taking classes while I'm building my company, and now like, okay, we have other people's money, we gotta build something because I'm not about to lose it.

What was that transition like?

Avant: Yeah, it's very interesting. I think we have to build some things. I'm not going to lose it. Came upon our first ever check, which was actually in the first month we launched October, 2020, we raised a hundred K pre seed. Um, and so we had been through what just friends and family or.

no, just like an angel in our network that kind of had been following along from the sidelines, but effectively, we, you know, in that first month, processed 150K in GMV, and it was the pandemic, like, things were closed down, but I had used a lot of my network, um, from the event space to find people doing, like, underground events, and we did 150K in GMV, and like, that was pretty insane that this product did 50K in RR, and 150K in GMV in the first 30 days live, so this guy gives us 100K, he's like, alright, let's see what you can do with that, and at that point, like, I'd never taken on venture funding.

I'd worked on a startup before this, like you said, but it was like, I took on, you know, 10k from NYU. I didn't care what happened to that 10k. Um, but right now someone who's like trusting me with six figures of their money to like, go build this vision that, you know, Eli and I had. And so that was a lot of pressure, frankly, to like, be like, this is not going to fail from now on.

And that's kind of when we Really, really went all in. It was less of like a side project, like you said, but we were still in school just because there was still that chance of failure, but I think we never were going to accept failure from that point on. But, you know, we raised that 100k, moved to Miami for six months, came back to New York as we were starting to open up.

And then at the, uh, kind of beginning of 2021 is when we released that one, when we raised that 1. 5k, dropped out, and then we really went all in. That's when we became sort of like a team of around like five, seven people. Um, we got our first office in Soho. It was a Craigslist spot we found for 4, 000 a month.

Um, from some guy that was just like, you know, giving out a COVID deal. Um, really, really awesome. His name was Cliff. He's a beast. Um, we never, um, signed a lease. Uh, it was very, very like, just like, give him his cash once a month. Um, and basically we had this space in Soho and just kind of started building there and really building up the culture and what, like, the foundation of the company was.

Um, and then eventually, you know, we started scaling more. And then last April. We raised another three and a half, um, and then some more funding, uh, this most recent December, so about a month ago, um, in advance of our Series A later this year, but, uh, basically a lot of it was really based on, like, again, like I said, step by step, it was never, like, we had an idea, we worked on it for a year, then, like, raised twenty million dollars, like, it was very, like, we raised Funding in tranches, we've like, dropped out after it was secure, we've like, scaled the team very, very, uh, in a very, very meticulous way.

Um, we haven't, you know, really been trying to be meticulous about like, not overhiring too fast. You see all these startups that do this, like, keeping burn rate low, if not, we've already had a few profitable months. Um, and like, really just basically staying product oriented and extremely lean. Um, and never prioritizing sales over product led growth, I think is extremely important.

Julian: Yeah, yeah. I mean, it sounds like you're doing it the right way in terms of taking time and being meticulous, you know, looking at the right signals. You know, that is a very mature way to build though.

Who, or whether it was you or not, where did you learn the foundational skill set or who helped kind of guide you into, you know, Building in that way because it's easy to crash and burn, to, you know, invest in the wrong type of the wrong part of the business, invest in a new product line, you know, hire a bunch of people that you didn't really need.

There's so many ways to go about this process. What kind of led you to go the right route so early on?

Avant: Yeah, it's a good question. Obviously, we're still, you know, still got a ways to go. I think it's less about a who, like, I think there's many different people, right? Our investors, advisors, people that I've, you know, randomly sent a LinkedIn or cold email to that luckily responded and gave me 30 minutes of their time and just kind of really being open to feedback and understanding how to like really just take in information.

But I think beyond all that, why would I even want to do that? I think it's kind of more the first principles question. And I think it's really more about like, Any successful founder that I've met. Hates the idea of losing more than the idea of potentially winning, like we're not sitting here like really excited about like Exiting for a hundred million dollars something like we really really want to build this into a hundred billion dollar company And what we're building is a lot more than event management or like a pseudo event, right?

We're building more of like gig economy tools for the other entrepreneurs in the space to manage their businesses, Um, but I can talk about that more later, but really like the fundamental root of it is just like losing. Like I, I always say this to my friends, I don't remember the last time I cried. I think the only thing that would make me cry is if this company failed and like, cause I put my heart, sweat and tears into this.

Um, and so has the entire team, like they're grinding weekends, they're grinding late nights, they're grinding Friday night, Saturday nights, whatever it is. Um, and I would feel like my responsibility to them. I, you know, have, is basically to not let them down, and I would have let them down if the company failed, and so that fear of failure is, I think, just what drives me to be as open to feedback as possible, and to always be constantly searching for feedback, and to learn, um, because if I didn't learn one new thing every day, I would feel like that was a waste of a day, and it's actually, um, gone into the company culture directly, I'd stand up every day, um, on my team, we have, uh, everybody, everybody puts one win from the day before, one learning from the day before, And then the action items they have for that day.

So you have to sit down, and even if it's just five minutes, actively thinking about like, what's one thing that I learned yesterday. Uh, I think it really creates that learning mindset where everyone's really hungry to like, keep evolving their skill set.

Julian: Yeah. You know, shifting gears and thinking about the product more, I was looking over the service I told you I've used it more, uh, more so recently, actually.

It's been probably my top event app, uh, not just because you're on the show, but I've used Luma, I've used Eventbrite, I've used Meetup, I've used all these other ones. You know, I was going to ask you, like, if you built it on a white label service, but you mentioned earlier that it is a white label service.

What, what was the decision behind creating it in a way for others to be able to repackage it and use it themselves? Did you, did you purposefully do that?

Avant: Oh, yeah. I mean that's, that's a lot of the root problem that we had with Eventbrite is that now in the day and age that we're in, you know, gen Z wants to be extremely individualistic, not in the sense of not wanting to collaborate, but instead in the terms of wanting to have their own identity.

Um, right? Everyone's extremely concerned with their identity on social media and to their friends and to the people around them. Um, and the number one thing that Eventbrite or these other platforms prohibit is your identity as a brand, right? Every page looks the same. They're advertising other people's events to your page visitors on your own event page.

And there's absolutely no brand identity or customization. So that was what pissed us off about pretty much everything in the market. Um, and that's why Eli had originally built the MVP of the product was just so we could have a page that was branded to us, but we realized that clearly that was probably the, um, need and desire of everyone else.

And so that was a really, really big part of the product in the first, like, year or so, frankly, like, there were a ton of bugs. Um, like, I was, I'll never forget the first ever demo I got, it was like, 3 4 months into cold emailing people people were just like respond if anyone would respond to be like I'm not having event you'd like Social distance and I was like, yeah, you're right Guys, like I'm hosting like the first like camp event.

It was like a camp out house music event called dirty bird camping and Yeah respond. He's like I'm down to take a demo and I hop on this demo and like 3 minutes in, the screen goes black, and I'm like, running over to the other room of Eli Black coding away, and I'm like, dude, like, I'm on my first demo, like, what happened, and like, stuff like that would happen all the time, that's just like, uh, people don't really talk about, right, like, it's always like, on Twitter, it's like, all nice and fun and dandy, but like, there's a ton of bugs at the beginning, especially if you're like, one technical co founder and one non technical, like, it's just like, what, kind of, par for the course, but um, you I think a lot of it was really just about like pushing through with that, but what I was getting at to your question is A lot of the early value, even though there were so many bugs, was just that Eli is a phenomenal designer and the product just looked and felt amazing.

So even if there were a few bugs, it just looked so good and it looked like a page that you built that was your own with minimal technological experience, um, or technical expertise on like, how do you shopify or webflow? Like, you put a few inputs about your event date and your flyer and your time and a color and it looks beautiful.

Julian: Yeah. I mean, it's so personalized to the individuals and you kind of see a theme with people now that you kind of follow. I follow a few DJs. I'm like, Oh, I like their art. I wonder who's doing it. And it creates this, this interest and this curiosity to learn more, which I really love about the product.

Um, before we go into it more, a question popped in my head is a lot of people might think your story is easy. Quote unquote, you know, you had an idea, you're an ambitious kid, you started building and then people gave you money. But what gave people? In your opinion, the confidence to give a young entrepreneur money, because you can have all these ideas and have all this, you know, how to, but, you know, what results did you come with, what was the pedigree behind you, whereas these, you know, investors felt confident, I don't care about your age, I don't care about anything, you know, what were the components where you felt gave them the confidence to invest in you?

Avant: Yeah, it's a good question. I think the number one thing is If I was to talk about, like, what's the number one aspect of being a founder that I don't think we've figured out. To the best extent of, compared to everything else, it's fundraising, right? And I think that even someone that's raised 300 million dollars is still going to tell you the same thing, right?

I think that fundraising is kind of that one black abyss where there's, like, there's playbooks and there's, like, articles on how to best fundraise, but at the end of the day, it really is, like, dating, right? There's feedback and advice on dating, too, but at the end of the day, like, it's still a black box, right?

It's very similar. Um, in practice. Um, and so, I don't want to make it seem like, yeah, the fundraising was easy at all, like you said. I think that was probably one of the hardest parts, especially because we're building in a space. Um, that, you know, A, a big problem was, people kept saying like, oh, is this just another ticketing platform?

And just recently, about, you know, a year ago, we started showing people, um, the kind of, you know, first product additions that made us more than a ticketing platform and helped other people, other than just organizers, monetize on our platform. And kind of started molding this Geek Economy vision that we have, um, but until then it was very, very difficult to get people behind a product that had been done and also failed so many times, like people were just like, this is a monopolistic space, there's a bunch of multi billion dollar companies that are buying up market share, it's not gonna happen, and no one was confident in our vision which was, you Even if we didn't have the new vision that we have now to expand beyond ticketing, that being product led is more important than being a multi billion dollar company with a war chest.

Um, and we were very, very confident in that at the beginning, and I think the people that did give us money in the beginning saw that, like I said, right? Even though the product had been buggy from a back end perspective, from a front end perspective, it was like, these guys know what they're doing. The UI UX was phenomenal.

And the customer, you know, experience was phenomenal on the end user side. Mm-Hmm. and the organizer side, the features spoke to them because we were really iterating on a customer led basis. It wasn't me and Eli sitting in a room with a whiteboard like, let's build this. It was like, let's talk to a hundred people and validate that this feature's gonna help them.

And our experience as organizers ourselves helped us validate those too. Like, would I have used this when I was hosting own experiences?

Um, but I really think, you know, fundamentally it was like all the people that invested at the beginning were for two reasons. One, how product led we were and how quickly we iterated.

And two, the ambition. Uh, a lot of people, you know, at the end of the day, like, you can smell ambition if you're a really good seasoned VC. Um, and I think, like, the energy that we protruded was just like, we are not going to let this thing fail. And, you know, whether or not you believe in an idea, I think you have to believe in a founder at the early stage more than the idea.

And I think that's, you know, the people that did invest in us really, you know, appreciate them. I think they believe in us, even whether or not they believe in the idea, frankly.

Julian: yeah.

I had a few different things. I was like, you know, it's the pedigree of having, you know, starting two companies while you're, you know, in school, but also I'm sure that you had, you know, incredible results.

The ambition was a huge piece. But also the product led growth, I think it's such a valuable way of building because you don't have to search for the answers. And I was talking to a product Someone in product, they were thinking about starting a company and they're like, but I kind of like this space. I was like, just ask people questions.

Like, go into your life, think about what's broken and like maybe try to fix it. Maybe other people think it's broken and just start being curious and tell people what you're doing. But what do you think hinders people from? You know, being bold or, I don't know if it's courage, for me it's like curiosity.

In your mind, I guess, what are the other traits that come with a founder outside of the experience that they gain

along the way?

Avant: That's a great question.

I think it's, I think the biggest trait that we've gained, which is kind of like, it's kind of broad to state, but I can kind of explain it, is maturity. It matures you a lot faster than people your age. Obviously, at the onset, people are like, oh, even to just go do this, like, it's not, it, it shifts from like, oh, like, you're kind of like crazy to go drop out and not pursue a normal passion, job and things like that, um, to go pursue your passion, right?

And then you start getting into it, and like, you're handling, you know, within a year of the business, we're handling one and a half million dollars that we have the full right to do whatever we want with, right? And no one at our age, at, you know, I think 19 years old at the time, was doing anything like that.

They were just trying to like, figure out their way around a spreadsheet and their banking internship. Um, and like, even now coming up on May of this year, I was just thinking about it, because I had skipped a grade too. I actually, in like the timeline of the normal person's life, I would be graduating this upcoming May and now I've already raised nine million dollars, you know, um, working with a team of 22 awesome people, um, managed, you know, hiring people, firing people, finances, marketing, sales, the full gambit.

It really gives you a full education, but also from a, less of like a learning perspective, just the maturity that, you know, 35, 40, 50 year old adults. Like, receive at that stage of their life because they've just been waiting to get promoted and be dealing with people, uh, and a lack of responsibility, frankly, right?

And so being given that responsibility that someone in their 40s or 50s is eventually given at the early age really makes you, you know, has to be more mature and act like a, act like an adult, for lack of a better saying.

Yeah, yeah. Yeah, the experiences teach you so much, um, humanity, you know, when you're dealing with people, when you're talking to clients, you're building teams, you have to go through those transitions that are tough, tough conversations.

There's a lot of humanity and just a lot of, um, I think your judgment gets less clouded because you have all this, you know, prior experience to really back you up.

You know, thinking about shifting to like live experience and events. I love music. I love going to events. I hate bad ones. I will trash talk them all night long.

Just like, I have the full energy to do it.

But what makes, I know what I go to for an event, but what does, you know, the average person or from what your perspective, what do you think about when you're like, we need to deliver these factors for these types of events? You know, what are people looking for?

If you want, if you can lift it out. And then how do you deliver on each aspect? Yeah, it's a really good question.

I think the biggest differentiator of POSH, to put it plainly, is we're the platform where people care about who's going rather than who's performing. Right? And that's a big differentiator between us and platforms like Ticketmaster or Dice, et cetera, where you're not really that concerned with who's going.

You're concerned with that Taylor Swift performing and you and your one or two friends are gonna go and see Taylor Swift and it's gonna be an awesome time. Right? But really, what do you get out of that? Other than, honestly, you might get a great relationship bonding moment with the two friends you brought, but you don't get New relationships and the entire value of kind of to get out of your question of what do people want when they're going to a an event on a POSH is they want to develop new human connection and new human relationships and Effectively escape the void of social media, which even if you have millions of followers just creates a lot of intangible Relationships that don't solve the need to belong and so people, you know at the fundamental level I do a lot of like first principles thinking and like it's really just about like people just want to belong Right?

Like, fundamentally, humans as a race are extremely social and if you don't feel like you belong, you're going to go into depression, right? And you're going to feel extremely lonely and that affects the entire rest of your life. So, people are just going to these events to feel like they belong to whatever niche community they're attending the events of, and as long as we can build that feeling of community and of belonging for the attendees and help the organizers build that for their audiences through all of our B2B tools, right?

That's how we're gonna win.

Julian: Yeah. I love, I love how your, your, uh, your app's set up. It's like the RSEP for Access Shit gets me every time. I'm like, ah, this is really good. And then it makes me sign up and then I can see other people's RSP for belonging. . Yeah. Yeah. You should .

Thinking about where you are now and the traction, obviously it's incredible to see, you know, the experience, um, hearing your story, what are the biggest risks that you think POSH faces today?

Avant: It's a great question.

I think we, I think the biggest question mark on our entire team's head is that we have a lot of awesome ideas, um, in terms of like the brevity of the product we want to build. And it's just as an early stage company, right? You have to prioritize where you put your resources. So it's like, can we build the level of product and the, Like, honestly, just amount of product that we want to build and that we know needs to exist in the world with the amount of resources that we have today, and how do we prioritize how to execute against that product vision with the resources we have in a very meticulous manner that both complements growth, but also creates new products that don't exist today, right?

And when you're trying to create new products that don't exist today and innovate. Um, there's a big like Jeff Bezos ideology of like one or two way doors and like that really is a one way door. If you invest for three to six months on building a new product that never existed before, that money is down the drain and it's either going to be extremely impactful for you, but there's no going back, right?

And so you have to really prioritize that against iterating against, you know. Uh, Event Page Customization, which everyone loves us for, and by continuing to iterate on that and increasing the, um, you know, conversions through that flow, we're going to, hands down, increase the number of events on the platform, right?

But, if we invest in a new feature that never existed before on any product ever, it might dud, or it might 10X us overnight, right? And that's a very, very, um, Exciting, but also, you know, nerve wracking place to be in, and I think most founders obviously are trying to create something that's new, or probably in that space a lot, so it's really just a constant prioritization of like, do you iterate on what people love, or create new stuff that the customers will love based on the feedback and research you've done, and just your gut also, like there is a level of product that is just gut, right?

At the end of the day, you have to trust your gut, um, to go after the product vision that you have. Um, while keeping a customer grounded, but um, prioritizing is constantly on our minds.

Julian: Yeah. Is there any door you walk through that's shut behind you?

Avant: In a negative light? Um, NFTs. Does it have to be negative? Oh, NFT ticketing.

That is one where we spent like three, four months on that. We put two engineers on it for three or four months, um, early in like 2021 and we built it out. It worked and we were about to deploy it. And we were testing, just talking about it with a few, like, people that were in the crypto space, and they were like, Yeah, this is cool, but I need X, Y, and Z feature to use it.

And we realized, if we deploy this People that, maybe if they do like it, are going to have a ton of requests. And that's going to send us down a product rabbit hole for something that we were trying to build to like, frankly satisfy like, the VCs that were like, so what part of this is web free? And obviously that was idiotic for us to be like, caring about that.

You know, in hindsight, luckily we put it behind us. Um, yeah, it was definitely one of those one way doors that, you know, we fully sent it and we spent a lot of time and resources on it at the early stage when resources were even more minimal. But I think if anything is you can treat moments like that as a learning experience.

I think now it's just helped us really be more meticulous about how we approach product.

Julian: Yeah. I was going to say it's, it's, um, now it's like, what part of AI is, does this have, you know, it was like, what NFT, what crypto does this have now? It's like, what AI mL do you have built into your product? Um,

Avant: and because of that learning, we've been very meticulous about like.

And we've been really trying to think about, okay, like, we definitely want to integrate generative AI into our product, but let's not just do it in, like, a cheeky way that just, like, says we have an AI product or feature. Let's do it in a way that actually helps people optimize their workflows. Um, and so actually we did just drop, funny enough, our first AI, uh, feature.

Um, doesn't really use generative AI at all. It's actually, um, something that's existed for a while, but it's just a photo matching feature in our app, where after the event, the organizer can upload all the photos that the photographer took. And based on profile pictures You'll get that photo. Hey, Julian, you were in these four photos at the event, right, in the app because of facial recognition.

Um, but this actually existed for a while. I don't know if you remember, like, when Facebook, you'd get, like, randomly tagged in a photo. Um, and then they got sued for a ton of money. Um, they had to, like, deprecate this, but they had built that in house. Now there's an Amazon API that a bunch of different startups.

We're not the first to do it. I'm not gonna say we're the first to do it. Um, there's a bunch of people that are We're building features around like this facial recognition stuff based on this Amazon API. Um, but I think that our use case is definitely one of the most applicable because like where else are you getting photos taken of you than an event?

Um, and so it's been fun to drop that feature but uh, hopefully more guys

Julian: Yeah, it's either good experiencing a photo from an event or like uh, ooh, can you delete that?

Avant: You can delete them, yeah, if you feel like

Julian: Yeah, yeah.

Um, stealing a question from your show, um, any dream brand or a company or event, you know, company that you want to work with that you're not working with now?

Avant: Hmm, that's a good one. I think what's interesting about us is that we are really trying to democratize this space. And work with new entrants. So what excites me more than working with some super massive brand, frankly, because how it works in our space is that super massive brand is going to want a massive signing bonus, because that's just how the industry works with other ticketing and event management solutions have kind of created that as a monopolistic, um, strategy.

Instead, what would excite me more on what is happening on our platform today is Having someone buy a ticket, they never made money in the event space before and six months later they're making 10 20 grand a month in side income from their paid event and whatever niche that they had an interest in while, when, before coming to the platform.

If we can empower more and more people to do that, that's a lot more exciting and opens us up to creating a new market that's never existed before, this new like social gig economy.

Julian: Yeah, I was going to say, how does it change the promoter job? In a sense, it kind of replaced it, but it sounds like if you play it the right way, POSH is almost going to enable you to become even that much more of a connected promoter, maybe even expand your, nightlife clientele.

What does it change from the promoter job function?

Avant: I mean, it's literally empowering. I think, frankly, the word promoter has a very bad connotation just because of who typically would fill those shoes. Um, but we think of it more as just paid event community organizers, right? Um, and when you think about it from that perspective also, you can remove the nightlife component as well.

And we have a bunch of fitness events and college events, like on campus clubs, fraternities, sororities. We have festivals that use us. We have, not just like music festivals, but like Beer festivals, or local, farmers markets and things like that. So we have a bunch of really different use cases that utilize the product, but it's really anyone who's trying to congregate a community in person.

Julian: I mean, it's, I love the way you're building, you know, anything that enables, you know, I'm working on a community myself and my long term vision is to enable the members to create, you know, and create more for themselves. So it's so impressive to see how you've been able to do that. With, you know, Nightlife and not even just Nightlife, just events overall, especially giving such a wide array of possibilities, because I think, you know, most people got stale with just going out and having some drinks, like, there's so much other ways to connect that I think are becoming more and more exciting, more and more popular. What are some ways you've seen that you didn't really think of before, but you saw it on the app and you're like, wow, that's pretty fucking cool?

Avant: That's what excites us most, is when we see a random event series. I mean, Full Gambit is like the I think one of the cutest ones I saw the other day was Puppy Yoga.

It was this person who set up, um, like, at her yoga studio, she set up an event page, and she had like, partnered with some local breedery, and was gonna have 20 puppies just running around with people while they do yoga, and we could adopt them after the session. Um, and I was like, this is like the cutest thing ever.

You know, on the more, less PG side, we've also seen, like, sex parties, um, So it's really any type of community can

stand up.

Julian: Humans, man. Yeah.

Such human nature, it's so funny.

Um, I always like to go into this part of the show, I call it my founder FAQs, you with some rapid fire questions, um, and then we'll see what we get.

But first question I always like to ask is, what's hard about your job day to day?

Avant: Hmm, interesting. I think there's a constant push and pull between like, what society considers a healthy personal life and what makes me as a founder, like, excited. Like, in the sense of that, if I look outwards, people will tell me that I'm like, you know, why am I at the office right now recording this podcast at 1pm on a Saturday?

But like, there's nowhere else I'd rather be than talking to you right now about what we're working on and then going to work on, you know, this deck that I'm going to go work on, um, and some other things, you know, thinking about high level strategy, um, and the overall vision of the company, because that's what excites us most, because like, it's what our mission is.

Um, but I think a lot of people, you know, I think that's, Unhealthy, or they think I'm overworking myself because they're contextualizing that against their friend that works at Goldman Sachs putting in 100 hours a week to a job they don't like, frankly not making a lot of impact on the world, right, and just working for the man or for someone, you know, more senior than them who doesn't actually care about their well being at all, and there's a lot of hierarchical drama, etc., right, and so when people can't contextualize that you're going after a dream, they think that, you know, you don't have a healthy personal life, and probably I don't. But like, frankly, I love, you know, working on what we're doing, 24 7, 365. Um, and so, it definitely is that, like, push and pull in my head of, like, damn, is this unhealthy?

Like, always questioning myself about how much time I'm putting into it if it's unhealthy. But I think as long as I wake up and I'm happy and I personally want to go into the office, then there's no reason I should be taking any time off, frankly.

Julian: Yeah, yeah, if you got the energy to do it, might as well. Your body will tell you. At some point. Whether a breakdown or not.

Avant: Health is a big thing though, man. I mean, on that note, I think a lot of founders don't have the personal health down. And I think that's something that I shifted probably like six to 12 months ago, is like eight hours of sleep is the absolute most necessary thing you need in your life.

Um, and yeah, working the weekend is not working, you know, until 4am and then getting into the office at 8am. It's just working consistently and having consistency, but it's a marathon, not a race, and not like going hard for three days straight on a bunch of Adderall. That does not Help anyone and you're also not thinking straight, right?

You're not having clear thoughts It's really more about just always thinking about the company, right? This morning I went on a run for it to Central Park and like just thought about the you know Company and wrote notes in my phone like that's not working to the extent of like being in front of my laptop But it's still constantly staying in that mindset and not being distracted by unnecessary You know personal drama or other social random things that don't push us forward

Julian: Yeah, yeah. If you weren't working on POSH, what would you be doing?

Avant: do think one other thing I'm very passionate about is early stage education. I think there's a lot of people, um, you know, I was very lucky that my, my parents, frankly, were very, um, supportive of the, like, frankly, my, um, Passion for like learning at an early age, and I don't come from a lot of money I come from Chicago, you know kind of not really a great neighborhood frankly my parents are English teachers They didn't have much money, but what they did have because they were teachers is the ability to IQ test me early, helped me skip a grade when I was in 4th grade because they saw that I was testing out of all these classes and kind of pushing forward my educational span.

Um, but I think there were a lot of my peers in those same neighborhoods that I grew up with that frankly did not get the attention they needed even though they were just as smart and just as driven as me, they didn't have those resources and so. I have always told myself that after POSH, you know, I love connecting people, um, but what I also would love to work on is something that helps provide opportunities to people that are smart and driven at the early age of like 10 to 15 years old, but just might not have the parental resources, or they might be at the wrong school, um, and providing them, you know, with the educational resources and opportunities to get into things like technology.

Julian: Yeah, I tell people all the time, it's a huge education gap, and as long as you feed Kids and give them a lot to do, you know, they'll have positive outcomes. People are naturally curious and naturally gravitate towards things that are positively rewarding. Um, but there's just not a lot out there. So it's amazing to hear experience. And as a, you know, person of color, founder, does that, do you think about that a lot, you know, as you're building or you're just kind of product focused and you think about that later?

Avant: No, definitely. I always think about it. I'm always, you know, anyone that honestly reaches out to me that is a person of color, anyone watching this that wants to reach out, like, I'm always happy. And, and people who are, you know, not a minority, frankly, I just love helping anyone who's, um, kind of in the early stages and might be a little bit confused. Um, it doesn't feel like they have all the resources they need. Um, but yeah, it's definitely something I'm always thinking about. I think there's a lot of, you know, people that I grew up with that thought being a rapper, you know, being a, you know, Oh, and they're not the only ones, right?

Um, and then they tore their Achilles or something and then, you know, what's going on now. Yeah. Um, it's sad to see for sure because, again, like I said, they were just as, if not smarter or more ambitious than me. Um, but they just didn't see the same opportunities that, luckily I was able to see by just, you know, going to Starbucks after school every day, frankly, and just like going on like these different websites and Reddit and things, but.

Julian: Yeah. Oh, it's amazing to hear just like from your. Uh, from your journey, you're working in a space that you love, and it's slightly adjacent to it, but completely involved. I just feel that, um, going through the experience of life, you'll find those. And it's not so binary. It's not just these two professions, and then that's it.

You know, if you want to work in sports, there's so many things around that. If you want to work in music, there's so many things around it. Um, but there's just a lack of I guess a social reference for people in certain communities to see that it's possible and to see the steps along the way.

Avant: Yeah, that's definitely a massive issue for sure.

Julian: Yeah, yeah, you know thinking about what's impacted and influenced you and in your career up to this point you mentioned Peter Thiel a few times, but what books would you recommend to a founder who's whether you know In the early stage of building a company or in the midst of, you know, that day to day grind, what's something that has carried on with you throughout this experience?

Avant: Yeah, there's two really good books I do, yeah. Peter Thiel is amazing. Zero to One is really awesome. Um, and I think in the same vein, Blue Ocean Strategy is another big one. Um, that is very popular, um, and both of those books kind of put you in the same mindset of how do I not compete with others, but how do I think from a first principles perspective about what doesn't exist today, and how does that meet a fundamental need that humans have.

Right? To build something that could be worth a hundred billion dollars. Um, cause I think at the end of the day, like building something that's competitive with someone else and only marginally better with a couple of features is just a losing game, especially as a startup, right? You don't have the resources that they have.

You have to be building something that's ten times, a hundred times better than what exists on the market. And the only way to do that is not with a few features, cause they can build features all day. Creating network effects, creating a brand, creating things that are impenetrable, right, through your product, right, and through your company.

Um, but things that will literally make you a hundred times more valuable to your customers than what they're currently using. Um, and those books definitely put you in that mindset.

Julian: Yeah. Avante, I have a whole list of questions I want to continue to ask, but unfortunately we're at time, so maybe we'll have to do a part two.

Last question I always love to ask my guests is, um, Is there any question I didn't ask you, that I should have, something we didn't cover, that you wanted to touch on before we end here? Anything at all?

Avant: No, I think you have a, you have a great question, um, kind of style. Hey, I've been on a lot of podcasts and uh, sometimes they are drilling you and it's not as much of a conversation as you've kept it.

So I appreciate you for kind of keeping the conversation flowing and open. And uh, yeah, just anyone that, you know, wants to reach out, I'm happy to answer any of their questions as well. You can drop my email or whatever it might be best .

Julian: Yeah, yeah, of course, I was gonna ask that at the end, but last question that did pop into my head is, um, what's one, just like, interesting thing you learned during one of your shows that you ended up using, like, in your business?

Avant: During our podcast?

Julian: Yeah, yeah, you talked to a lot of, you know, nightlife, event people, what's something that somebody said and you're like, oh my god, we gotta put that into the product today or tomorrow?

Avant: That's a good idea. Frankly, it's more about that. The common thread between anyone in the space, no matter if they're at the early stage or the later stage, the number one problem they all have is a lack of relationships, right?

To get to the next step of wherever you are, and this is frankly just in life, but especially in the event industry, because there's no platform to democratize those relationships, it's very, very difficult, right? If you're in tech, for example, and you want to Learn from really senior product people. You go on LinkedIn, and you message them.

These people, um, in our space, are not even on LinkedIn. And they're maybe on Instagram, but you can't categorize by saying, like, venue owner in New York City. You can't find them, right? And so, I think just the amalgamation of all these different stories that we've heard from all these different people, and understanding that these problems don't just exist at the long tail, but also at the, you know, high end of the market, um, have pushed us forward towards the vision that we're building, which is The gig economy platform for any stakeholder in the event space to establish a profile and communicate and transact with the other people.

So if you're a photographer, you're able to get booked and connect with organizers. If you're an organizer, you're able to connect with venue owners, etc. And kind of create that bridge for all the different stakeholders in the long tail of the event space.

Julian: Yeah. Avante, it's been such an incredible conversation, man. I really appreciate you taking the time. Last little bit, give us your plugs. Where can we find you? LinkedIn, Instagram. Facebook, I don't know. Where can we find and be a fan of you and your progress?

Avant: Yeah, Instagram, um, Avante Official, Twitter, Avante Price, uh, email avante@POSH.vip. People cold email me all the time.

Sometimes I think founders are too protective of their email. Please cold email me if it's good. If you're working on something dope, I would definitely like to take 30 minutes and chat with you. Shoot shit.

Julian: Love it, man. Well, thank you so much again for joining Behind Company lines.

Avant: Thank you, Julian.

Julian: Of course.

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