Chris Madden (Matchnode) - How Things Progress
Speaker 1: Maybe big data has gotten too big. Whether you're a B2B marketer or a consumer brand, your data needs to be viable, relevant, and accessible so that Stirista can help you retain customers, acquire customers, and make it personal.
Vin: Welcome to The Marketing Stir Podcast by Stirista, probably the most entertaining marketing podcast you're going to put in your ear. I'm Vin, the producer here at Stirista. The goal of this podcast is to chat with industry leaders and get their take on the current challenges of the market, and we'll have a little fun along the way. In today's episode, Chris Madden, co- founder of Matchnode, talks about how his familiarity with entrepreneurship allowed for him to enjoy finding solutions in business. Vincent is joined by Brian Gold as our guest co- host. Give it a listen.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to another episode of Stirista's The Marketing Stir. I am your host, Vincent Pietrafesa, the well- caffeinated as always. Or am I? Could this just be my personality? If you've met me, you're like, " Yeah, it's just him." It's so good to be back here talking to you. I felt like it's been a while since we recorded a new episode. It was the holidays, it was New Years, it was just people being busy. But it's so great to be back to you here at The Marketing Stir and Stirista. For those of you just joining us, we talk about Stirista for 30 seconds. Take it easy. It's not an advertiser- driven show. We say no to the advertisers who want to advertise because it's just a conversation, people. Stirista, we are a marketing technology company. We own our own B2B data, our own B2C data. We also own our own technology to help those customers, our amazing customers, target that data through our own ESP, our own DSP. It's a lot of acronyms, I know. But here are a few more, connected TV, display, OTT. That's how we can help. Email me, vincent @ stirista.com. I just gave you my email address. That's how confident I am. And thank you for using that email address for a variety of reasons, I must add. But you're constantly letting us know you like the podcast. Some of you are interested in Stirista. Great. Others want to be on the podcast. It's fine. Others of you try to sell me products. Fine. That's okay too. But I'm glad you're listening. Ladies and gentlemen, today our normal co- host, our CEO, our knight in shining armor, I only say that because he's not on the podcast, is not with us today. He is on a plane coming back from Beet Retreat, fresh off of the sun- kissed Puerto Rico, where I'm in freezing New York. Ajay's not here. But we have a new co- host, ladies and gentlemen. This guy, he works here at Stirista. He's newly promoted to Vice President of Strategic Partnerships and a longtime listener. He's listened to more episodes than me, ladies and gentlemen. Put your hands together for Brian Gold. What's going on, Brian?
Brian Gold: Wow, wow, wow. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Vincent. What an honor. Big shoes to fill here. I'll do my best to do it some justice.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Brian Gold, what's new with you, man? I saw you a couple of months ago, but it's been a while. Tell me what's up.
Brian Gold: Yeah, yeah. No, it was good to see you, Vin. I look forward to seeing you here in just a couple of weeks at RampUp. That's new. We're going to be out there in a couple of weeks. Hopefully we can see some of our clients and listeners, even.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Absolutely. Yeah, we're going to be at RampUp February 27th. This probably will not come out before then, but it was great seeing you in San Francisco, everyone. Yes, there will be. That's a new thing, Brian. Maybe it'll happen to you now that you're co- hosting one of the episodes, people will come up to you. It's not like 50 people. It's like two or three, like, "Man, I listen to your podcast all the time." I'm like, " I appreciate that, ma'am, or sir." So get used to that, Brian.
Brian Gold: All right. All right.
Vincent Pietrafesa: This is your big debut.
Brian Gold: This is it. This is it.
Vincent Pietrafesa: This is it. But, Brian, let me tell you something. Not only are we excited to have you. We are excited to have this next guest on the podcast. I'm so glad that we found this guest, or this guest found us really, I should say, which is awesome. We love when that happens. I can't wait to talk to him. He and I share our love for a few things, for this industry, but for the Chicago Bulls. That's a big love of ours. What do you mean? How are you a Chicago Bulls fan, Vin, and you grew up in New York? Well, let me tell you, Brian. Because growing up in the 90s, it's really back when it was like four channels and I had newspaper for shoes, no, the Bulls were on, Michael Jordan, baby. And I still kept with them. And I really want you to hear from this next guest. He is the co- founder of an awesome company called Matchnode. A warm Marketing Stir welcome to Chris Madden from Matchnode. What's going on, Chris?
Chris Madden: Hey. What's going on, Vincent? Thanks for having me. Really excited to be here. Brian, welcome. We'll get through this together.
Brian Gold: All right. I like the way you think, Chris. Let's do it.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Yeah. Nice, nice. Well, welcome, Chris. It's great to have you here. And, yes, I'm glad that there was some of your people, should we say, that's a cool thing to have, some of your people reached out to us. And that happens a lot. That does happen a lot where, as we grow in popularity, and we usually kind of dismiss a lot of those people. But I was like, no, this guy's great. Chris is awesome. I love what they're doing at Matchnode. Maybe I saw the Chicago Bulls thing. I was like, " All right, we got to talk to him." But you impressed us, Chris, and I know you're going to impress our audience here. No pressure. I'm putting a lot of pressure on you and Brian today.
Chris Madden: Thanks. Yeah.
Vincent Pietrafesa: But it is great to have you here. So, Chris, let's get it right off the bat here. Tell us about Matchnode.
Chris Madden: Thank you. Matchnode is a social agency. So we are a digital agency. We generally help B2C brands on social platforms, but definitely extends out to Google and TikTok. We have both creative and technical services in- house. So we're very strategic, and we help companies essentially drive ROI on social.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Two questions to that. So you're the co- founder. What's some of your day- to- day? Are you on some of the pitches? Are you behind the scenes? Are you doing marketing? And then tell us then how you got into this crazy world we call marketing, social.
Chris Madden: I am on the pitches. So my co- founder and I split up the responsibilities. We've been in business for nine years. We split up our responsibilities, thankfully, about eight years ago. It took us one year to figure that out. But what I do for the agency is I run the agency. So, yes, the first touches with potential new clients. I'm responsible for the P& L, and I'm responsible to make sure that our teammates and our clients have what they need to be successful. My co- founder, Brian, manages our team that provides the value for all of our clients. So he's on the operations and delivery side, and I run our agencies, how we've split it up so far.
Vincent Pietrafesa: And how'd you get into this crazy business?
Chris Madden: How I got into this crazy business? I would say my first filter is entrepreneur, and marketing has always been one of my deepest skillsets, marketing and technology, from the time I was early in my career. So Brian and I met because he hired myself and our third co- founder, Dan, to build an affiliate marketing program way back in the day, in say 2011, for an athletic recruiting company that he was an early employee at, here in Chicago. Years passed, we stay friends, we both move on. We end up at a Pearl Jam concert together at Wrigley Field. Before the Pearl Jam concert we're having beers, and we're like, " Hey, you want to start an agency?" Because he had some freelance clients, I had some freelance clients, and we were having beers and talking about marketing a lot. So it wasn't quite as out of left field as that sounds. So we go enjoy the concert. That's Friday. On Monday we get together and start working on clients together. And about let's say four years ago, so five years after that night, we won the Cubs' ownership as clients. We're looking over Wrigley Field, signing the deal, and they have the flag from that concert behind glass, up on the wall. And so we told them, of course we're like, " We were at that show, and that's actually when we started the agency," and they were with it. So marketing has been something that he and I shared a love of from the start. It's how we met. And, yeah, we just enjoy doing the work and helping solve business problems for our clients.
Vincent Pietrafesa: I love Chicago, Chris. I don't love the Cubs. I'm just going to say it right now. But I love Chicago. I have a deep respect for their love of the Cubs, but I'm a Cardinals fan, and I happened to live around Kenmore and Grace, just north of Wrigley Field there for about four years, sort of in the Lions den. Amazing experience walking around the daytime games and the fire station with the hose, the faucet coming out for the dogs and everything. It's an amazing environment.
Chris Madden: Hopefully as a Cardinals fan, you did not live there in 2016?
Vincent Pietrafesa: 2016, I was. Yeah. I know what you're talking about. Yes.
Chris Madden: When they won the World Series.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, yeah.
Chris Madden: Well, hopefully our clients aren't listening, although if they really cared, I think they already know that I'm a White Sox fan. So I'm happy for all the good that the Cubs have done for the city. Once the White Sox won, we won the World Series in 2005, which is sadly obviously 18 years ago now. My edge about Cubs fans wore off, and I was happy for my Cubs fans friends when they finally won. So it's all good, and we're all cheering for Chicago, at least here. But I can understand as a Cards fan, that might not be the case.
Vincent Pietrafesa: No, it was a blast though. A lot of White Sox fans high- fiving you though, wearing a Cardinals jersey. So inaudible. Well, Chris, let me ask you a question. What was the inspiration behind starting Matchnode?
Chris Madden: I would say that the inspiration around starting Matchnode was an idea to help companies grow in a strategic and profitable way. I was coming out of a startup at the time that raised investor money, and we did a lot of cool things. It was a video game business, but we never had the unit economics that made sense. It was like investors pumped some money in, it was a cool concept. And so I was very motivated by having a business where every single month we could go and help companies in what they need, good people, people we liked helping, and that the amount of money that they pay us each month was greater than the amount of money we spent each month. So frankly, there is such a core business reality that was our inspiration, and I think we're very cool with that and proud of that. Brian, my co- founder, was similar. We both believe in expanding the pie, and we think our businesses help expand our clients' pies and that we all kind of have a more abundant world because we're collaborating and doing good work with one another. We're pretty specialized, and we have specialists on our team. Despite the fact that as an entrepreneur, I'm a generalist, and I understand and Brian also understands. So I think it's this combination of strategy meets business fundamentals, meets a human desire to help others.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Yeah, yeah. So from an entrepreneurial perspective, so tell me a little bit about what that process was like, especially with a friend.
Chris Madden: Of starting the business?
Vincent Pietrafesa: Yeah. You got the idea. You shared a beer at Wrigley. You guys decided we're going to move forward with this. So what's the actual... You put your head down. What's that process look like?
Chris Madden: Well, like I said, on Friday we're at the show. On Monday we got together at a coffee shop. And I think it's literally like, okay, " I've got this client. You've got that client. How much money is that? How much money do we need each month to pay our rent?", or whatever. And I remember, and I come across notes every once in a while from some of those first days where we're like, " Okay, if we can get to 40K per month, that would mean X, Y," and it seemed like this wild thing that we would never be able to get to half a million dollars a year sort of run rate because of, frankly, where we were when we started. And now I do look back, and I'm thankful for the realities of how things progressed. But the pure blocking and tackling of entrepreneurship, the operations of starting a business, I was deeply familiar with. I've started multiple businesses. Like I said, I'm an entrepreneur first. It's part of why I think I was able to come into this business after 10 years in my career doing very different things and be able to enjoy solving different business problems for our clients, whether it's a sports team or a bank or a D2C startup sort of client. But the actual entrepreneurial realities of starting the business to me are a little bit less interesting than some of the entrepreneurial systems that we put in place as we got a little bit further along and understood a little bit more what we were doing and had some resources. So we're members of Entrepreneurs' Org, which is a wonderful global peer network of entrepreneurs. And it's 150 of us in Chicago. There's a great chapter in New York. Any city you could be in, I'm sure. And so we run EOS, Entrepreneurial Operating System, which just helps us schedule our communication with our team, manage our team, how we hire, all those sorts of things, are entrepreneurial overlays that we put on top of the business. And so that process that you're asking about at the early stage, the beginning things of starting an LLC and getting a bank account, it's very dry and tactical, and you just kind of have to do it. The future stuff that I just mentioned to me was much more interesting and exciting because you can see the clicks of the alignment on the team because the communication's better. And then you see the results get better. And you see the stress drop. And you see the quality go up, and the hiring's better. And so for me, seeing those... They're not even flywheels. It's just compounding effects of small continuous improvements, is to me what the process is.
Vincent Pietrafesa: I love the story Chris. It's like you and your pals just at a concert. That's so cool man. I've talked to hundreds of people on the podcast and it's never been a story like that. So I love hearing that. And the name, Matchnode, where's that come from?
Chris Madden: Well obviously similar era to that concert story. Well, I was familiar with how hard it is to name a business and not just to come up with a name, but to come up with a name that you can actually use that you can get the URL for, that you can get the trademark for. So of course, most common words or most things that you would think of are already trademarked by somebody else. So I at the time was of the mind that you put two kind of partial words together and make up a new word was kind of a good way to go. And so through a lot of ideation and different processes where we're throwing out parts of words that we, like, the word node came up and this was pre crypto. We have a lot of crypto exposure these days as a business. But this was right around probably when Bitcoin was in... I was not thinking about Bitcoin but as the idea of a node, connecting point between two things made a lot of sense to me to fit with what we want to do in our business. And then matching different nodes. It's an audience and a message, it's a agency and a client, it's two people, it's anything. And that imagery has carried through in our business and that we are about connecting things, conversions, the right person with the right ad and we count those things as part of our daily numbers and the numbers that we track on a very regular basis. It's like how many of those sorts of connections are we making. So I wouldn't say that when we came up with the name Matchnode that I knew that all that was going to kind of work is the way it did. It was a much later light bulb when I was like, wait a minute, these conversions are the things and those are the connections. And that is how we're matching a couple different nodes. As years have passed and crypto has gotten big, we get Google alerts for the word Matchnode or whatever. If somebody writes something about us it's always now in code, it's like a lot of Chinese writing and then the word Matchnode and because there's some language or some programming language that's actually in now. So yeah, that's the story of the name.
Vincent Pietrafesa: That's awesome. I love it. And can I talk about some of your clients? You have some impressive clients. New Balance, LendingTree, but also some local ones, and I want to talk to you about that. It's a Chicago Bulls, I know you were from Chicago and we talked about our love for the Bulls. But that's a client of yours. So it's like how cool is that, first of all, because you're probably rooting for it. It's like me with the New York Giants. If the New York Giants were my client... Why aren't the New York Giants my client? Let's get on that tissue.
Chris Madden: ...Real question.
Vincent Pietrafesa: I know they're big fans of the podcast, the owners of the Giants. And so tell me about how cool that is and then also what are some of your favorite campaigns that you've worked on?
Chris Madden: Well Vincent, I think we may have discussed this previously, but I think you and I are about the exact same age. That might have been one of the things that you liked about me.
Vincent Pietrafesa: That's right. Yeah, you're class of'96. I just revealed that. You look great, we look great. Man, I knew there was a number of things.
Chris Madden: As you well understand, well I also grew up in Chicago and when the Bulls won their first championship, I was in eighth grade. And so through all of high school and college, I was enjoying that to say the least. And I played basketball, I was just like, it took over the city. And of course, culturally Michael Jordan and the brand exploded globally along with the NBA. And so I just was a very impressionable kid at that age that just absolutely loved that team. So I remember exactly where I was when the lead came through. It was like they filled out a form on our website and I was like, " What?" And of course, Google the name, is this real? My co- founder happened to be sitting next to me and I'm like, I said to him, " Out of all the companies in the world, all the leads we could get that filled out the form, what do you think my most favorite one would be?" And the Bulls were his second guess, I think. His first guess was something about Costa Rica because I used to live there. So yeah, it was the Bulls. And it's been great. It's been four or five years, we got through a pandemic together and they're just really great partners. I go to tons of games. I feel super fortunate to be able to do that. We have a sky box a couple times a year when our teammates are in town and we get together. And what's great about the Bulls, and this is part of what they offered us when we started working together, was just they've opened a lot of doors for us. You probably saw it, like you said, when you're researching us to see if it makes sense to have me on this podcast. I definitely get the sense of course, of the credibility factor that we got there. It definitely helped us get the Chicago Blackhawks, which helped us get the Arizona Coyotes. Similarly, the United Center, the arena that the Bulls and Blackhawks play in as a separate client for us that the Bulls connected us to. And that would probably be my favorite campaign to answer that question. That is relatively recent too. Say last year, about a year ago right now, the Bulls and the United Center discussed the idea that... The United Center has more luxury suites in it than any stadium in the United States. And when the Bulls were at their peak, and for maybe a decade after, those suites were bought out and paid for by corporations and every single one of them was sold out. In the last five to 10 years, if you watch on TV, you can just see that there's a lot of them that are open. When you're there, half of them are open. And so there's a lot of unsold inventory there. And they'd only ever sold these things over the phone, like corporate sales again. So they had this idea thinking of us in mind to sell them digitally. And so we use ads, we built out a landing page with them. We've tested a bunch of different kinds of messaging. We had a couple really big breakthroughs again on the point of my favorite campaign. And one of them was that forever they'd been calling them exclusive suites. And as we start working into the details of the marketing and the messaging and which ads are working and which ones aren't, and landing pages and all of that, we realized we just kept listing everything that was included. It's 20 tickets, it's four parking passes, it's this much food, it's this much drink. And so we started saying all- inclusive and all- inclusive just blew exclusive out of the water for maybe obvious reasons. But as soon as we had the idea, we're like, " Ooh, this might actually work." Now they have a lot of their collateral, their non- digital collateral, they've switched to also say all- inclusive. And so that was a fun detail. Similarly, we started testing pricing it per person again on this digital idea. Instead of saying it's going to be$ 15,000, it's more like, " Hey, this is$ 400"... Actually let me reprice that. Say instead of being$ 8, 000, it's$ 250 a person and it comes with your ticket and your parking pass and your food and drink for the night. So those two changes have really helped and it's just a good example of we help establish brands that are shifting to digital. And so the United Center was not used to digital tactics and they wanted to run some tests to understand would this work for them? How would it work for them? And so we did that over a four- month period. That went again, sorry, almost exactly a year ago right now, it went through the end of the Bulls and Blackhawks season in May or June. And then we re- upped and now they're a regular client on an annual basis. So that United Center one, certainly among a lot of people who get these jobs that the Bulls and the Blackhawks are in sports. And the way that we work with them, I've said this, but it's like 12 year old me pinches myself regularly. And a lot of people that work in sports say that. So it's really just fun and pretty meaningful to me deeply. Where I was at that point in my life and my dad passed away right around then end. So there's just deep, deep memories that are ingrained in my experience of the Bulls brand in particular. And the fact that it's benefited me and our business in these other ways has been pretty wild.
Brian Gold: Well that's really cool. That's really special, Chris. So you mentioned the lead came in from the Bulls. I can't only imagine what that would feel like. But how were you marketing your company and I guess how are you marketing your company? Any specific channels or strategies you can talk about?
Chris Madden: Well, we're a B2C marketing agency. And so the B2B marketing we do for ourselves is different from what our expertise is, I'd say. Now, our business has changed and evolved and we now have in- house creative and in- house technical people and we're doing more organic creative work. And so there's more B2B possibilities, I think for our business. But what was particularly, I wouldn't say unlikely, but just special about that situation is we were just exactly what they were looking for. They wanted someone in Chicago, they wanted someone who cared about the brand, who understood it, who could specialize in this particular piece of the digital ads that we were good in. And so we had just basic SEO. If you Google searched Chicago paid social and you're in Chicago, we'll definitely be in the first few in the few results. But the challenge that we've had in our agency, B2B marketing, is a lot of, I think the challenge that you all are dedicated to, which is just in my Bulls story, they decided internally that they needed an agency like us and they went out and they searched for us. And thankfully, we had enough SEO basics so that we came up. But we're doing an outbound now and we, like every agency or every solid agency, we have a really good basis of referrals and our own personal networks and our clients networks that we can build off of. But every B2B business wants to be able to turn the switch and have a system and have a machine so that we know how many leads we're going to get and how many new clients we can get and have it be more predictable. But that intent piece and that timing piece of what made the Bulls reach out to us then, I mean I know now what it was, but it was entirely based on what's going on inside their own walls. And nothing at all that we could have done to influence that timing or their desire to hire an agency. They contacted us after they'd already decided to hire an agency. So I think the awareness of the fact that how much research is going on before they even reach out to us is kept in mind. But I think it's what makes the data so valuable is we have this outbound program that we've stood up relatively recently and that intense data is part of what we've been looking for because that's the piece I was missing, knowing that we can't necessarily force demand on a client like the Bulls and we just have to be ready when they are looking for us. That sort of intent data, again, that I do believe you guys are good at, is part of what recently we've become more aware of, needs to be part of the picture.
Brian Gold: Yeah, good stuff. Good stuff. I don't know, competitive landscape wise, I'm going out on a limb and saying it's pretty competitive. How does Matchnode differentiate themselves from other companies in the same space?
Chris Madden: Yeah. It is so competitive if you're not clear on who you are and what you're good at. And I think that at the beginning we made that mistake, like maybe a lots of super small businesses do. We would just take the business that we could get. And then as we started to I'd say level up and work with bigger clients, I remember in particular when we were working with LendingTree, we were kind of like, " Are we good enough for this?" And then we realized actually, we're better than anybody they've ever worked with, and they tell us that. And it's like, wow, okay, maybe this is what we're good at. And seriously, it was like that. We're like, " Ah, paid social, maybe we should put that on the top of our website." And it clicked with us. We've always been data driven, strategic. And there's a lot of agencies that do paid social and there's lots of other agencies in Chicago that do paid social. But I think what we've learned is when we put our uniques together, there really isn't anybody that looks that much like us. And I'm not saying nationally or globally, but in the competitive set that we're in based on the deals that we believe that we are right to win. And everybody would say, to some degree, almost any company would say this about themselves. But when you dive deeper into the reality of what it means of working with us, that we're data driven, that we're strategic, that we're paid social first, and that we're an extension of your team, it ends up looking different than most other agencies we come across. And we're aware of a handful that I would say are directly competitive to us that we come across in pitches and things like that, but it's the same handful and I think they're good companies too. So you're right that it's competitive. The differentiation has come down to, again, like I said, knowing who we are and then putting that out. Especially established brand shifting to digital. We're not a D2C agency. There's not lots of paid social D2C agencies. That's not us. We have a couple of those clients and we do great work for them, but we're not the only D2C, every D2C business, let's get all the mattress companies. We're teams that already have an in- house professional marketing team of say two to eight people. There's someone on that team in particular that speaks our language and understands why we might be doing the things that we're doing. It can help translate it internally. So there's all these components that end up making us a really good fit that ends up making us not a good fit for some other situations, which is, I think another way of answering your question is how we're differentiated, is part of it is knowing where you stand and who you are and that you have to say no to some things or that we're not going to be the right fit for everybody.
Brian Gold: Yeah, I think that's wisdom and experience speaking there.
Vincent Pietrafesa: So Chris-
Chris Madden: Are you calling me old? inaudible Class of'96.
Vincent Pietrafesa: No, he's older than us, Chris. He's old.
Brian Gold: This is wisdom and experience right here.
Chris Madden: Well, that's what I thought, but Vince earlier said something about your age.
Vincent Pietrafesa: He's way older than us. Chris, come on.
Brian Gold: You guys were freshman when I was a senior.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Yeah, I know Ajay, our co- host, he would've been young. He's like 37, 38. That's all right. Class of'96, it's so funny, that era. I remember those. You saying, " I remember when they won this and they did that." I remember that too. It's just such great times. I love the United Center story because you're right, that's a place that does different events all year round. It's hockey, it's basketball, but it's concerts, it's different things. That's a cool one. And just being close to that. I love hearing that. I'm still yet to see a Bulls game in Chicago. So when I come and visit-
Chris Madden: If only you knew somebody.
Vincent Pietrafesa: If only I knew someone, I know. My new favorite Chicagonian, is that the way to say it?
Chris Madden: Chicagoan.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Chicagoan. I've been to, because now I have a couple options, right, with the Knicks and the Nets. When the Bulls come in town, I'm there. They're actually playing the Bulls... They played them yesterday.
Chris Madden: Yeah, I'm not pretty for us.
Vincent Pietrafesa: No, no, I know. But I couldn't make that one. So Chris, I want to get back to something you mentioned earlier. You're talking about NFTs. That's something that I sort of have an idea about, but our listeners are always asking about. And I know it's like you started your own NFT project known as Seabums. Talk to us about that.
Chris Madden: Yes. Well, through the lens of Matchnode, which was definitely part of how Seabums was conceived. Matchnode, we're a small agile out on the cutting edge. I enjoy early adopting new technology, as does my co- founder. And it works well when we're running ads because we'll go out and find the new thing that's working and apply it across our clients. In a higher level, more macro consideration, when Apple and Facebook really started the fight around iOS 14. 5 plus, we changed our business in a bunch of ways due to that, including bringing creative and technical people in- house. I just personally, and I won't speak for my co- founder, but I think he generally agrees just seeing these centralization versus decentralization friction that I think has happened a lot over decades, if not hundreds of years. But speaking to right now, seeing the power and the control over traffic that the companies like Facebook, Google, Microsoft, have, and we are pretty agnostic to that generally, like we have an ad agency that generally runs traffic through those platforms. So I think it was part a curiosity and part like a strategic positioning. And there were other things we're doing crypto around this too to kind of assess and address some of the same, I guess long- term competitive landscape positioning issues. And so all that aside, I also then personally deeply wanted to do this. And so I started an NFT project with my co- creator Nate. And Nate is also in the Matchnode world. And the fact that he's referred business to us, he referred LendingTree to us, we referred the Cubs to him. He's an artist and he is done tons of concert posters over his career. He's done lots of great stuff, whether Metallica or Elton John or Phish or you name it. And so I talked to him about crypto for a long time. I personally, and Matchnode has been on the outskirts of crypto for a long time and we launched an NFT project called Seabums. We've donated$150, 000 to charities that help protect and clean the oceans. And we've got a great community of people who have bought an NFT, knowing that part of that money is going to protect the oceans. We give out, it's like a monthly contest for beach cleanups. There's a lot of people in our community go out and do beach cleanups and then we give them a POAP, which is a little mini NFT. It's kind of like a Foursquare check- in for NFTs to commemorate that they did a cleanup and then that enters them into a drawing. So just fun little community engagement things that the people like, that the people in our community value. And so zooming out from the details of that particular project is just we're deeply interested in how the ability to own things digitally in a new way, which really was not possible before Blockchain and NFTs and Ethereum in particular, I think. And how that changes ways in which consumers are going to engage with and stick to brands. So I mean, just personally seeing how we had this moment in our NFT project for about say six weeks where it was just crazy. There were so many new people coming in every day and it's just 24/7, it's global and people just like, it's very emotional. Our Seabums project is much quieter than it was at that time, at that boom time. It's kind of settled into this values- based small crew that enjoys helping and talking about these issues. But I've continued to buy NFTs and invest and stay involved. The first NFT I ever bought was a Bulls NFT and the Bulls have done multiple NFT drops. And I'm super interested in organizations like theirs and others, other brands that I like and what they're doing in NFTs and why. But seeing the rabid response and the rabid stickiness, even if it was for a short time, to our project based around, again, a common value that everyone held and then understanding what that can mean for other sorts of businesses. It could be art related or not. It can be music, but it certainly could just be a restaurant. So there's so many ways in which I think NFTs are going to continue to affect and help the ways in which brands and consumers interact. So that's a big long answer. And I could have made it 25 times longer. You've been a 12 or a 20- hour Twitter space because you could do one.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Exactly. But no, it's your passionate about it. And then my last question about NFTs is really how do creators and investors get involved with it?
Chris Madden: Yeah.
Vincent Pietrafesa: What advice do you have?
Chris Madden: It's a great way to think through it because to get involved requires a spark of curiosity, a small amount of money. It could be as little as$ 20 or it could be as much as you want it to be. But it doesn't have to be a lot of money. And to me, the thing for an NFT, if you're interested in learning more, be just find something you like. Don't find something because you think it's going to go up in value or because you think that it's going to make you rich or something. Find an artist or a community or a cause or something, there's tons of them out there now, that resonates with you and that you want to have the thing to have the thing, not have the thing to sell the thing. And then for me, I'm a deeply believer and deeply passionate about Ethereum as well. And so for me, having this NFT project, I've done many thousands of transactions on Ethereum now, whereas before that project, I'd only done a handful. So it's just like NFTs have onboarded people to decentralization. And that's the way I think of it. It's not like crypto or blockchains. It's like this option where it keeps people honest, it keeps the centralized powers honest. I think it's super powerful and super important for the future. And there's a lot of scams, downside, darkness, but there's so much upside and possibility it can solve or help solve so many of our most intractable problems. So someone wants to do the basics, find an NFT project you like and buy it because you want to put it on your wall or you want to have it as your phone background and spend only as much money as you're willing to lose or not recoup. And then see where your curiosity takes you. Because I've found that it is such a... The combination of community collaboration, curiosity. Then of course, there's commerce because the speculative aspect of it. Even though I'm advising against basing anything on that, it's just truly important. Humans like to speculate, humans like to collect, humans, from the beginning, have wanted to have things and own them. And now somehow, this giant digital realm where we all live our lives is not also going to be a strong part of that. And I'm somewhat now referring to the pushback against NFTs and crypto, which is very, very, of course there, depending on the time of year or where you are in the market, people are going to love it or hate it. And that would be my final thought that was really interesting to me about being as deep in NFTs as I was and as I am was the amount of negativity was a signal to me that something is up, in a good way. People don't respond like this unless there's something here. So the emotions on both sides of it are really interesting to me.
Brian Gold: Good stuff. Chris, I'm going to ask, I'm switch topics just a little bit here. I'm really curious in general, people reach out to you all the time, I'm sure, trying to sell you things as well. Talk to me a little bit about an email that might get your attention and then flip that around what, or even a LinkedIn message and then tell me something that you just can't stand, immediately hit the control D.
Chris Madden: Well, I don't hit control D, I hit report spam, unless they let me unsubscribe. If there's a one click unsubscribe, I will unsubscribe. If there's not, I will report spam. But look, we do it too. I've certainly experienced both being the sender and the receiver. So I would say, of course, show that you've done some research. You might not be right that I'm in the market for a particular thing or that I'm interested in your issue, but at least show me that you tried to figure out who I am and maybe why I might be interested in your thing. And every once in a while you might catch me at the right moment and I am interested in your thing. And that's when I'll reply. But if I don't reply, that could mean, " Hey, good email, but you didn't catch me at the right time." And those people, I won't report spam to. The people that I report spam to are the people who get presumptuous. It's like, treat me like I'm a human. Don't assume that you deserve a response. What bothers me is when people say, " Oh, well," like they're getting an attitude because you didn't respond.
Brian Gold: Right, right, right.
Chris Madden: "Email number six that I've sent you in the past nine days and you haven't responded yet." Then I'm like, " Are you serious?" So if I even read that, that's going straight to spam. So I think that of course, this technology enables us to send messages in a way that you would never be able to do one- on- one. So the more it feels like a real world interaction where you're treating me a person that you... I get that we are all looking for opportunities maybe, or we're trying to do some business sales. But make sure that there's some sense of research behind it that there's some chance. I was, as we were talking before and is your business, the intent signaling and all that data that's out there on the internet, I was investigating that. I was looking into Bombora, I was deciding which outbound email provider to use. And right then, a couple people started hitting me up with things about intent data. I'm like, " I know why you're doing this. You're actually showing me that you're using the tool and I am in the market for that." And I took calls with people. But that's kind of a meta answer. It's like I knew that they knew that I was in the market and how they were doing it, because that's what I was researching and that's obviously a pretty specific example. But I really disliked the attitude of I owe them a response. One person recently, I said, " Okay, please take me off your list." And they said, " Okay, well is there someone else on your team I should email?" And I said, " My dude, I did not tell you to take me off my list because we're interested in your product."
Brian Gold: Right, right. Yeah, been there, been there. Yeah. Closing thoughts. Vin, you want to?
Vincent Pietrafesa: Yeah. Brian got to ask you our signature LinkedIn question. Now we get to know you personally a little bit, Chris. Tell me what you like. You're in Chicago, born and raised there, you grew up in the greatest era in history, I think, the'90s, like me. What do you like to do now? You have little ones. What do you like to do for fun? What are your hobbies?
Chris Madden: I do have little ones, yes. They are born to. And so Matchnode, we used to be just Chicago based, had a headquarters and all the rest. COVID hit, we went remote. My co- founder moved to Indianapolis and now we hire people all over the US. So four times a year we get together once in Chicago and three trips. We were just all in San Diego. My wife and kids and my in- laws flew out on the back end of that trip and met. And so what I'm noticing now is we were in San Diego visiting and just enjoying getting out of the cold Chicago weather. It's like, all of my Google searches were to go to a nice place and then playground. Where is the playground near this beach? Is there a playground in that town that we can visit? So if I know you, class of'96, Vince, have small kids. So I don't know if that counts as a hobby, but it's certainly time- consuming in the best way.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Yeah.
Chris Madden: So there's tons of that. Because of our work with the Bulls and Blackhawks, we have a lot of tickets. So I do enjoy going to games. Chicago is an eating and drinking town, for better or worse. So it's a lot of what is exciting and available and new happens to do with those two items. So we definitely will enjoy that and indulge. But that's a lot of it. I'm also, aside from all that, as you've heard hopefully in this podcast, deeply interested in business and technology. So I started a rocket pool, Ethereum validator in my basement about three months ago.
Brian Gold: Of course you do. Who doesn't do that?
Vincent Pietrafesa: Exactly. That's awesome.
Chris Madden: It's a hobby, it's a hobby. I mean it pays, but it's a hobby.
Vincent Pietrafesa: That's awesome. That definitely counts as hobbies. And also, a lot of your hobbies, I used to do things and it's like your hobbies now revolve around your children. Is Cocomelon a hobby? inaudible
Chris Madden: Cocomelon a deep hobby. Cocomelon was free on the airplane last night with the wifi. My daughter was very excited.
Vincent Pietrafesa: That's awesome. That's awesome. And we're excited that you joined us today, Chris. Ladies and gentlemen, that is Chris Madden, the co- founder of Matchnode. Checkout Matchnode, check out Chris Madden. But you better have a compelling email for him or else you're going right to do not, or unsubscribers.
Chris Madden: Spam.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Spam. Chris does not take it. I love it, Chris. Thank you for spending time with us. That's Brian Gold, one of the co- hosts of the Marketing Stir. I'm Vincent Pietrafesa. This has been another episode of The Marketing Stir. Thank you so much for listening and we'll talk soon.
Vin: Thanks for listening to The Marketing Stir podcast by Stirista. Please like rate and subscribe. If you're interested in being a guest on the podcast, please email us at TheMarketingStir @ stirista. com. And thanks for listening.
Chris Madden, Co-Founder of Matchnode, talks about how his familiarity with entrepreneurship allowed for him to enjoy finding solutions in business. Vincent is joined by Brian Gold as our guest co-host.