Season 2, Episode 7

Why you shouldn’t underestimate the power of sales - Jason Bergman (MarketPryce)

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About this episode

Jason Bergman thinks most marketplace founders underestimate the power of sales.

Jason is a big sports fan and has always loved working in sales. Before founding MarketPryce, he ran his own sports agency where he tried acquiring customers by sending Instagram messages to almost three thousand professional athletes.

The success rate of the Instagram tactic was pretty terrible. But the experience paid off big time when Jason co-founded MarketPryce, a platform for athletes to find marketing deals. MarketPryce has matched thousands of brands and athletes together. For finding both sides, effective direct sales has been a core strategy.

In the latest episode of Two-Sided, Sjoerd talks with Jason about:

  • How most marketplace founders still underestimate the power of direct sales
  • How a change in regulation grew MarketPryce’s market one hundred times overnight
  • How MarketPryce modeled its user experience after Tinder.

A fun episode, giving a glimpse inside a relatively early-stage marketplace growing very rapidly.

Resources mentioned in this episode


Transcript

[00:00:00] Jason Bergman: So I probably DMed like 3000 professional athletes. A couple years ago. I got blocked by Instagram every single day. You can only send like a couple hundred a day. So I got blocked every single day for a couple months. And I said, basically like, Hey, I'd love to be your marketing agent. I'd love to bring you marketing deals.

And I got 12 out of a couple thousand to say yes, which I'm a salesperson that success rate is pretty terrible, but it was more than one.

Welcome to two-sided. The marketplace podcast brought to you by Sharetribe.

[00:00:38] Sjoerd Handgraaf: Hello and welcome. I'm Sjoerd CMO at Sharetribe. And I am your host for this episode. I'm joined by Jason Bergman who founded MarketPryce, a marketplace for connecting athletes and companies for marketing partnerships. Definitely not something I had ever thought about. But those are usually the ideas that I love the most marketplaces, you know, they can exist in all these unexpected niches, which I think is really, really cool.

And I'm sure many of you also have that, that after getting familiar with the idea of a two sided platform, you suddenly see marketplace opportunities everywhere. This was a really great conversation and I recommend you keep your ears pricked for the importance of direct sales. I think this is something often overlooked in startups and Jason is a great sales evangelist.

And we talk about that a lot, another really cool thing. And I think it connects really well with something that Casey winter said in episode one of this season, namely, about regulation capping a market. Is that MarketPryces market basically multiplied by 100 overnight when a piece of legislation was passed and colleague athletes were suddenly also allowed to get endorsements.

We also discussed the importance or lack of importance of this intermediation. And of course you'll find small gems throughout the entire interview. I hope. Plus an unexpected guest appearance by my four year olds, which cost a small hitch, but hopefully doesn't probably interview too much off track in any case, an undergrad episode that I enjoyed very much.

And I hope you do too. Let's get into it. Here is my conversation with Jason Bergman of MarketPryce.

Hi, Jason, welcome to the podcast.

[00:02:27] Jason Bergman: Hey sure. Thanks for having me. How are you?

[00:02:29] Sjoerd Handgraaf: I'm good. I'm good. Thanks for taking the time to come on. I've heard you listed podcasts before, so you know that my question, first question is always about setting the context of who we are listening to today and you know, what is the background from the person speaking?

So could you tell us a little bit about what you did before you started MarketPryce?

[00:02:46] Jason Bergman: Yes, of course. And by the way, fan of the podcast, thank you for having me on. I'm very excited to, to keep the good run of guests and episodes going. But for me, I have been in sales, my entire career. So I graduated back in 2015 from the university of Florida.

I'm right into, uh, Yelp where I was a salesperson at this company. Yelp, do you guys have Yelp

[00:03:10] Sjoerd Handgraaf: in fin? Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I, I'm not sure, like how alive is it in general, but in feel it's not such a big thing. I mean, for a while it was really

[00:03:17] Jason Bergman: big. Yeah. Got it. Yeah. I, uh, I like starting there because I was, uh, cold calling local businesses across the country at Yelp, first job outta college, where I was cold calling business owners who have been in business for longer than I've been alive at 22 years old.

And in sales you have to embrace being uncomfortable. Right. And that's something that I learned firsthand at Yelp, where I was trying to pitch. These businesses selling ads on the platform and kind of everything in my career since then has been a lot easier, which has been great for me. And I've just been trying to learn, and I've been in a couple roles since then, but now I'm at MarketPryce where it is a two-sided marketplace, where we are empowering professional athletes, student athletes, and sports agents to connect with businesses for marketing opportunities.

I am sure we will deep dive into the story. Yeah. Something. Why I like a lot of these podcasts, right? You dig very deep. But for me, I saw that there was a massive opportunity and a really big problem where if you're not LeBron James or Leo Messi, or a super superstar athlete, I like to say the top 1% connecting with businesses, for endorsement opportunities, for partnership opportunities, for really anything.

It's just something that's not accessible in a, a topic you cover a lot in every podcast is sort of democratizing different industries. That's what we're trying to do. Democratize athlete marketing, and yeah, it's been a fun ride so far. Yeah.

[00:04:38] Sjoerd Handgraaf: Could you tell in a little bit more detail about like what MarketPryce is about?

Because like it's a marketplace bringing, did I understand, right. Like student athletes and businesses together in a.

[00:04:48] Jason Bergman: Yeah. Uh, we like to compare it a lot to like a, well, because I'm talking to 18 and 19 year old kids a lot. Uh, we like to compare it a lot to a dating gap. Okay. Where student athletes, professional athletes and agents could more or less like swipe right or left on companies that are out there.

And my background most recently was starting with the problem, right. Was as a former sports agent. So I worked with 12 professional athletes trying to find them marketing deals, long story short, and you could feel free to pinpoint on wherever you'd like to. Go deeper is. Finding what companies are out there finding the right person at that company that handles marketing, that handles athlete marketing or influencer marketing.

And when was the right time for them, you know, if I reach out to them in January is a better time in March or later in the year. And I mean, I definitely don't miss the days of sending out a hundred cold emails a day to get three replies, two of them being no's. So, uh, I wanted to make a website that made it.

Yeah. So was

[00:05:43] Sjoerd Handgraaf: that somehow an agency yeah. Uh,

[00:05:45] Jason Bergman: that you were working for? It was actually my own sports marketing agency. Right. So I am a huge sports nerd. I love sports. I could talk about it if you wanna pivot, not talk marketplaces and just talk sports the whole time. See? Yeah. I, uh, no, I, I love sports. I always wanted to work in sports.

I always wanted to be a sports agent also. And. Graduating from college. I was like, man, I've done sales for a few years. Let me try my luck at this. Let me see how hard it really is to be a sport agent. So I sent out, I went on Instagram and you know, something Gary V says, right? Like everybody is one DM away.

Uh, everybody has Instagram basically. And you can message whoever you want. Like, you can message the rock. Is he gonna answer? Probably not. But like you could and a notification may go to his phone. So I. Probably DM like 3000 professional athletes. A couple years ago, I got blocked by Instagram every single day.

You can only send like a couple hundred a day. So I got blocked every single day for a couple months. And I said, basically like, Hey, I'd love to be your marketing agent. I'd love to bring you marketing deals. And I got 12 out of a couple thousand to say yes, which I'm a sales person. That success rate is pretty terrible, but it was more than one.

So I was able to see if I could do it and yeah, again, we could get into it, but I feel like every great business has started from a problem that a founder. Really realized and felt firsthand because you kind of skip over the user interviews. You're your first user and you're building the platform to solve your problems that you faced firsthand.

So.

[00:07:09] Sjoerd Handgraaf: Did you already, basically we go straight into like, you know, supply demand problem, because when you reached out to those athletes, like, did you have any, you know, deals in the pipeline to offer them? Did you already have, you know, because basically you are in a way, you're almost like, you know, you were your own little manual managed marketplace, right.

Where you're like, okay, I have these people on one hand, these people on the other side. So did you have any deals already at that time?

[00:07:32] Jason Bergman: Before reaching out to the athletes to be their absolutely not. No, no, I . I, uh, I, I wanted to see if this was even possible. Like if athletes would answer me and I just did it and, and, and again, I got answers.

It was a lot easier for athletes to be like, cuz again, I've been in sales. So I, I think one underrated part of working in sales is not only you could sell the product of the company that you work for, but you can sell yourself. So I was able to pitch myself on like, Hey, I'm gonna. My butt off. I'm a huge sports fan and I'll be able to bring you deals if I don't bring you anything, there's no difference.

Right. But if I bring you something you could say yes or no. And then when I started reaching out to businesses, that's where the supply was important. Cuz their first question always was okay, cool. Like what athletes do you work with? Yeah.

[00:08:15] Sjoerd Handgraaf: Yeah, exactly. Yeah. So sounds like that's a great hot bet for the idea for MarketPryce.

I'd

[00:08:20] Jason Bergman: imagine it was the best. Yeah, it was, it was something that, again, I was. I want to build a product that I could use. And I, I, I'm sure you're a big marketplace nerd as I am right. Having this podcast assured like Brian Chesky was the first host on Airbnb, the founder of Airbnb. And that was something when I was building MarketPryce, I'm like, cool.

Like, let's go, like, we're gonna be the first agent on MarketPryce. And I'm gonna be able to see if this is easier to get athletes that I work for deals and it was, and that's what allowed it to really continue, grow. Yeah.

[00:08:52] Sjoerd Handgraaf: And what did the first version of MarketPryce look like as a software product? Or did you even start without it being an actual software product?

[00:08:59] Jason Bergman: Yeah, so we did start with some sort of software product I envisioning in my head and I'm kind of laughing, but I'm trying to keep it cool right now where that's alright. The, the quote that sticks with me whenever I talk about this is the re Hoffman quote of like, if you're really starting a business, you should be jumping off the cliff.

And then assembling the airplane as you're jumping off and falling down. My co-founder Sherry Arcon, who is unbelievable. I pitched him on this idea and he's like, yeah, let's do it. And there's a lot more that went into that. But from February, 2020 to about December, 2020, he quit his job and built this.

And my background is in a tech and he built this two sided marketplace. We were looking in every sense of the word in MVP, a minimally viable product of something that an athlete or agent could log. See a company and in two clicks connect with the company. And there was a lot of other things that we did manually to start that, but that.

The software that we wanted to start out. We, we did want some tech that worked that someone could go in and use without human oversight, more or less.

[00:10:00] Sjoerd Handgraaf: So you really, you really went the Tinder rope that you mentioned kindness that it's like, or am I imagining

[00:10:05] Jason Bergman: this? No, absolutely. We, and we still kind of model ourselves there.

Like we, um, you know, one thing in marketplaces is, you know, looking at a lot. A lot of these marketplaces depend on this huge transaction fee, 20, 30% where they wanna keep everything on the platform for us. And it goes into our business model a lot, like Tinder, a lot, like it's hinging or Bumble. It's one of the dating apps.

They're. Download this, and we want you to delete this. We want our athletes. The best part is, you know, if you find a match on Tinder or hand or Bumble, I really hope that you find one match and then you're done. Right. But for athletes, that's one of the coolest parts. And I know we'll dive into sports, but like you could work with a headphone company, a protein bar company, a water bottle company, a video game company.

There's an athlete, rayon Smith, who is the quote unquote king of ni L. This college kid has closed like 70 deals in like a year. So that's 70 businesses and that's a lot, right? That's the very, very, very high end. But I think my point is these athletes, don't just find one company and then they're done the vast majority, want to come back for more.

And that's really how we built our business for those athletes. Want to just really be able to access what's out there. All

[00:11:13] Sjoerd Handgraaf: right. Yeah. And when you started the software product, right, like again, I would really like to, I think always interesting to dive to the chicken and egg problem. So, so you had those, you know, you had previously those 12 athletes.

Did you take them to MarketPryce or did you start a sort of like blank slate again? Meaning that basically my question is now that you were building the platform, what side were you focusing on first?

[00:11:35] Jason Bergman: Yeah, great question. I, I focused on the brand side, the brands were our supply side. So on one side it's athletes and agents, and they're looking for companies on the other side it's businesses who are open to working with athletes.

Our business model is that it is free for businesses to sign up. So for them. It's always free. They could sign up, they could create what we call a campaign. That's like a job posting that they post on our website and then our network of athletes would see those campaigns and they could apply to however many that they want.

Yeah. I didn't feel like it was right slash I didn't even know if it would work. If I was selling an athlete on MarketPryce. And then they say, Hey, well, what deals do you have for me? If they had to pay us for zero deals, I'd rather, and what we did was between November. I wanna say in December, I reached out to, I mean, countless businesses saying, Hey, here's this free product.

And again, I probably got like one or 2% responses, but we launched with actually 20 businesses that had campaigns up and running. So it was companies in the mattress space. It was companies in the protein space, like the green juice space and companies who were. Well, why not? Like, let's see what athletes wanna work with me.

And a lot of those OG businesses who I could name, basically all of them, cuz I'll remember them forever. Some of them are actually still on MarketPryce, which is really cool. And they're still running new campaigns. So yes, it was businesses first and then athletes. Yeah.

[00:12:55] Sjoerd Handgraaf: And, uh, once you had a couple of businesses lined up, like how hard was it to bring athletes

[00:12:59] Jason Bergman: on board?

I, I mean, everything was hard. I think the hardest part was the time. Like, I, I can't stress enough how. When you're starting any type of business, the time is your most valuable asset. Where, when we launched it was myself, my co-founder who I love to death, but is not doing any sales. Right. And he didn't need to.

Yeah. Um, and then we had two employees, another developer, and then a marketing manager. I was doing all the athlete sales. I was doing the brand sales. I was doing the once a brand signed up, helping them go through applications. When an athlete signed. There's a whole strategy account management, part of it, there was a hundred jobs to do, basically.

So yeah, a lot of it was hard. Now my most fun part was selling the athletes because that's what I had the most experience in. And at the end of the day, like the, the, there's not many ideas out there and I believe MarketPryce is one of them. Where, when someone hears about it, it's like, oh my God, how did that not exist before?

Like really? Like, how did this, how is this done then beforehand? And it's my most fun conversations to get into where it's like, I know that's why we built MarketPryce. Like this is such a big opportunity that we really want to jump in and dominate. And it's something that we've been doing so far. So I don't know if that answered your question, but I hope it gave some context.

Yeah,

[00:14:11] Sjoerd Handgraaf: that totally answered my question. You know, actually, can I ask one question to sort of call back your, your Yelp experience? Because of course, like Yelp was also in a way, like a two-sided marketplace, right. Mm-hmm like, did you, did you sort of realize that like, where you're like, oh, I, I see similar dynamics or did you only sort of later put that together?

[00:14:28] Jason Bergman: Yeah, that's a really great question. I have not thought about that until you answered it. But now looking back, I had to get these local businesses to pay for advertising at the top of Yelp. So if you've been on Yelp, it's the, let's say you type in auto repair. You wanna be the first auto repair shop that pops up in Waukegan, Illinois, or O Fallon Missouri, which were the two cities that I used to call into.

And. I got these local business owners. I I'll never forget it. Some cursed me out for reaching out to them. Some said, I need to pay for my daughter's braces and I can't afford this, but I'd love to do this. Like you realize from these businesses that they need to see a return on their investment or else they can't spend the money in the vast majority of their marketing spend, especially smaller businesses.

So from us making the campaigns free and we want to tell, Hey, businesses, this is free. Like, why not? There is no downside, absolutely. On MarketPryce. Sign up, because again, I've had so many of those conversations, charging brands, a ton of money, thousands of dollars to just try something. Why can't we go the freemium route?

Why can't we win on the supply side where we could go to every single athlete and we could do this today. And we've only been in business for about a year and a half, not even, Hey, there is no other marketplace that has as many brands and active opportunities as marketplace. And we are only. That's something that we can get behind that we can market.

And that gives us a competitive advantage of, you know, if we wanna be the Uber, the Lyft in this market where no one can compete with us, that supply those brands where it's a lot of brands, a lot of high quality brands. That's something that we wanna be able to, to win and dominate. That's why Yelp wins.

Right. They have the most local businesses.

[00:16:06] Sjoerd Handgraaf: Yeah, and actually good, good segue. Also talking about local businesses, you know, like the question that always comes up and I always like to ask, you know, because you talked about, I forgot the names. Oh. To be honest with the Missouri.

[00:16:17] Jason Bergman: Oh, Fallon, Missouri Waukegan, Illinois.

All

[00:16:20] Sjoerd Handgraaf: right. Yeah. yeah. I mean like, because you know, I'm, I'm gonna ask about constraint, right? Because like the us is an enormous country. Thousands and thousands of athletes probably. Well, I don't know. I don't know. What's the number of the market businesses, of course. Like basically you could, you could reach every small business in the country, theoretically, because a lot of this probably, I assume it happens online actually, like where this endorsement things happen, you know, how did you, do you need to constrain even like, first of all, and if you do, like where did you start?

[00:16:51] Jason Bergman: Yeah. So we've absolutely constrained our marketplace and we've done that really intentionally. So even at first, we are in the sports space. We were gonna have some corny sports name when we launched, because I worked in the sports space and it was gonna be, it was gonna be sport fluence. And now I kind of like it honestly, but I was like, we can't just be sports focused.

Like there's such a bigger opportunity. If you wanna dive into it, just the creator economy in general. We are really, really bullish on. So we wanna dominate sports and then expand once we dominate sports and then go into just general creators, like more general influencers. But then again, it's not often that your total addressable market, six months into your business, a hundred Xs when college athletes were able to close.

Marketing deals for the first time ever, which again, I'm sure we could get into, so

[00:17:37] Sjoerd Handgraaf: yeah. Tell, tell us about it a little bit, cuz I don't know anything. I mean, like I don't live in the us probably a lot of listeners also didn't live in the us. So how does a market suddenly hundred X expand? You know, that sounds like a dream comes true.

So maybe, you know, maybe people would like to learn a little bit from this.

[00:17:51] Jason Bergman: It's a dream come true until you have like. 35 calls every single day for a couple weeks, what those legislation happens. But I'll try to answer that question and then the constrain in one. Yeah. Let's see how it goes. Yes, please.

But yeah. So forever professional athletes doing marketing deals. So let's say like LeBron James promoting Kia or LeBron James promoting Sprite or Tom Brady promoting hugs, uh, professional athletes promote businesses because businesses wanna grow awareness. Professional athletes wanna make money. The bigger athletes tiger woods was just a billionaire news, came out over 90% of his money came from marketing deals off of the golf course.

Right. Which is insane. But for every tiger woods, there is, I don't know, tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of golfers out there that. Haven't even done one deal. Haven't made one connection because they don't have an agent to work for them. And they don't know how to do that. That's why it's a lot like a dating app.

Right. you know, you don't know anybody personally, you go on and app you swipe right or left. Anybody could do it. So what happened was on July 1st in 2021. So in last year, July 1st, it's about to be a year since this happened, the NCAA. So college athletes were never able to do marketing deals for a multitude of reasons that would probably bore the audience.

But on July 1st, last year, they passed a legislation where every single college athlete, so 500,000 college athletes overnight starting July 1st, they passed the legislation on June 30th. I'm not kidding. Yeah. Were able to start doing marketing deal. In a day, which is 500,500,000. Yeah. Yeah.

[00:19:21] Sjoerd Handgraaf: 500,000. That's yeah, that's awesome.

Because a while ago we had the episode with Casey winters who awesome. Talk to one point about, you know, like where our big market is, like how to unlock big markets. And one of the, the reasons that he mentioned there is like, well, you should look at markets, you know, that are kept by regulation. I think he's talking about doctors and certain things, but like, this is like textbook, you know, regulation on caps aside of the marketplace suddenly like, wow, 500,000, you must have been really.

Busy.

[00:19:45] Jason Bergman: Very happy. Yes. And we kind of knew in the back of our mind, like at some point this will happen. Yeah. Because there were a few states that were going to allow this legislation, but on July 1st 50 states, every single state in the us that has a university passed this legislation. Now with that being said, too, There are 500,000 college athletes.

There's about 5,000 professional athletes. That's where I get the a hundred X and there's a lot, even less agents, but to the creators, there's 50 million creators right now. Now 2 million of them are professional and that's still just started. And there's four times the amount of professional creators as they're our college athletes.

So that's the market we want to dominate, but to loop that in with the constrained marketplace, let's say you're a college athlete that goes to the university of Florida. So you're a check and field athlete for the Florida Gators in Gainesville, Florida. Do you have any marketing value to a company that's based in Los Angeles or that's based in Austin, Texas?

Probably not. Right. And if you're an athlete that. Again, as a Florida Gator and you go onto MarketPryce and you see campaigns that are based in Finland, right? And they're looking for athletes that are based in Finland. If they're looking for athletes that are in Texas in California, it's not gonna be relevant to you for, so for us, we've been trying to constrain it to the us market national businesses.

But now as we're getting smarter and our tech is getting a lot better, we wanna be able to help those athletes connect with local businesses that are local to them because there are hundreds of thousands, if not like millions of local businesses that would connect love to connect with local athletes.

That's where a tech solution is a really valuable opportunity because those athletes in Gainesville, Florida have so much value on a local level to their local community. But then again, if we started like that, we wouldn't have been made it this far, because that is too big of a problem to solve right off the bat.

We wanted to start national and then expand. I like to say internally to a local level. Yeah.

[00:21:37] Sjoerd Handgraaf: Yeah. So you first started sort of nationwide the bigger athletes and the bigger brands, and now you're sort of pulling it back and you go like locality by locality somehow.

[00:21:47] Jason Bergman: Exactly.

[00:21:47] Sjoerd Handgraaf: Yes. Yeah. That's really cool.

Because like, you know, you mentioned earlier that like, okay, you know, democratizing sponsorships for students, but of course also like actually the other side of the market, right? Like, you know, like. Whatever, like, uh, cafe Joe on the corner of whatever, some small town did not previously have access to this as a solution.

Right? So like, that's actually really nice. Like I hadn't even realized that it sort of, the democratization works both sides of the marketplace. That is really cool. Do you remember the first deal that you made on that sort of went fully on the no hands touching? Like the first time that you fought? Like it works, right?

Like the way we think it should work, it's working right. There was no like call behind the scenes or no extra push for transaction to happen. It's just, just fully organic.

[00:22:30] Jason Bergman: Yeah, can I kind of cheat and say it was a deal that I closed, but it was on MarketPryce and it was with the,

[00:22:35] Sjoerd Handgraaf: for sure. Yeah. Yeah.

Whatever, but like whatever, it's like the sort of the great milestone you're like, okay, now, you know, because of course you have to, as an entrepreneur, as a founder, you have to be a radical optimist in a way. Right. Like being like, okay, this is gonna work. This is gonna work. Like even though all style sign are like, no, no, it's not working this not working, but you have to see it.

And it's always really great. You know, it was a really great moment once it worked. So what was the

[00:22:57] Jason Bergman: moment for you? Yeah. So I think you're just being nice. I will give you the real answer. And then I will hide. Cause I, I used the platform to connect with, uh, a business called elephant in a box to get one of my NFL players, like a sofa.

And I applied through the platform and they connected with me and, but I did it. So that was cheating there. One of my favorite ones that was early on is we launched in January of 2020. and there was an athlete and I'll, I'll never forget him. Brandon Madis. And I, I love Brandon. I've mentioned him on a few podcasts before, but he is an ultimate Frisbee player.

Have you ever heard of the a U DL American ultimate disc? No,

[00:23:31] Sjoerd Handgraaf: but I know, I know ultimate Frisbee. Yeah. But maybe you can explain a little bit for those who, who,

[00:23:34] Jason Bergman: who don't know. I would, I don't even wanna butcher it, go on YouTube and type in a UDL highlights. It's the American ultimate disc league. It is, these guys are beasts.

They are amazing. And they could do things with the Frisbee that I can't even dream of. Doing and they're insanely athletic and so skilled. And anyways, it's amazing. And you could go onto a black hole, but Brandon mad had about like 600 or 700 followers on social media, which is for an influencer, an athlete.

It's just not a lot. Right. You think millions of followers and brands only wanna work with athletes in the millions. And he reached out to me and I'll never forget it. And he's like, Hey, do you guys have deals for. A UDL athletes that have like 600, 700 followers and I was the salesperson. Right. And you'd think that I'd be like, yeah, yeah.

Just sign out whatever. I was like, to be honest, man, I have no idea, but like it's a monthly membership. You sign up it's 49 bucks. You could try it. And if you don't find a deal, that's okay. But if you do, then that's great. In his first month, he was able to connect with three businesses. It was like this company that he's still working with over a year later called greens.

Plus it's like protein bars and super foods. There was a company that helped him sign autographs and make memorabilia. And it's like, and then there was a couple companies where he got insults for his cleats because these a UDL athletes are jumping and they're running. The insults are really important.

And there were like $400 insults that he got for free for promoting the business. And I just thought that was cool. Cause I was. Yeah. I don't know if it's gonna work, but like try it. And we allowed our business model allowed the athlete to take that into their own hands. And it it's just super cool. And like the upgraded for your membership after that.

And he's been a really great ambassador for us in trying to help us connect with other a UDL athletes. But that was one deal that comes to mind where that'll be like ingrained in my head forever. Cuz I genuinely did not know if it was going to work cuz I, I wasn't gonna lie to him. Right. I was gonna be like, yeah, just.

Uh, and, and it worked, I mean,

[00:25:21] Sjoerd Handgraaf: I know some sales people who would lie about it, but they're like, yeah. Yeah. , I'm glad you didn't. I'm glad you didn't . Yeah, no, that's great. Like that's really cool now, you know, once you, because of course the bigger brands, you know, sort of quality is ingrained because it's really important to them.

Same as with the athletes mm-hmm , but now, you know, 500,000 potential people signing. Hundreds of thousands of SMBs who can potentially use the platform. How do you keep quality up? Right. Like how do, how do you, uh, do both sides basically, but maybe we can go side by side. Like, first of all, you know, how do you check the quality of the athletes in a way, like quality of course, like, do they live up to what they set?

They were supposed to live, you know, do they, do they perform their part of the deal? For example, like how do you keep that in

[00:26:02] Jason Bergman: check? Yeah. So it's different for the athletes and for the businesses I could start with for the businesses, cuz that's a little. Easier on our side. Yeah. It, it, I compare marketplace a lot to like a job board.

Like if you go on a job board, you'll see all the different jobs that you could apply to. We approve every single one. We're only adding one to two every single day. Now. That's a lot for athletes, right? It's a newer one or two deals every single day that you can get that are new. But our team looks into the business.

Most of the time we've talked to the brand before, just to make sure it's like, okay, cool. This is a legitimate business. They've added a payment file and we approve them. Now we've had to turn down businesses, but the vast majority look good and they're approved for our marketplace that we look at on the athlete side.

It goes into our business model, where there are a lot of bad actors in the sports space. A lot of I, this isn't a video podcast, I don't think, but I'm doing the quote unquote with my fingers, like sports agents, who are the athletes, uncles, or they're the athletes, friends of a friend who are like, yeah, I can get deals for my guy.

And it's something you don't know until you're in the industry, which I was in for a couple years. And that's something where we wanna make sure that high quality is there. We charge a monthly membership. So we've seen a lot of those people and I've talked to them personally like, oh, Hey, can I get a free trial?

Can I try this out? Where they don't wanna put their money? Where their mouth is? The people that come into marketplace, like our marketplace, they're investing in themselves. They're paying money to access MarketPryce, where. If they're not serious about doing marketing deals or they don't actually represent that athletes, like you say, the quality of the user, they have to pay for our business, right?

They have to subscribe. There is no free option for them to be able to benefit. And we do that purposely because that acts as a guard war guardrail for us to make sure that our, our quality of our athlete users are the best possible. Now it's another conversation on how to educate them, because this is brand new.

We talk to athletes every single day who are like, cool. Now, what do I. But that's the fun for us. That's the opportunity for us to tackle. Yeah, that

[00:28:02] Sjoerd Handgraaf: explains also a little bit, cause I was wondering like, because you know, usually decide that you charge is decide where's the biggest constraint. Right. And just from the sort of outsider looking in, I would previously have imagined that like, okay, actually.

You know, like decide that needs this the most is maybe the businesses in a way. So like you would charge them. But on the other hand, like, yeah, it does make sense. And especially if it has sort of the double ad sword of also ING as a, as a quality control, that's a really, really great solution. So that makes a lot of sense.

Yeah. One of being the biggest growth levers for you, I mean, besides legislation being passed what are you doing to reach those, those 500,000, uh, potential athletes?

[00:28:43] Jason Bergman: Yeah. How much time do you. Well

[00:28:45] Sjoerd Handgraaf: no, , let's try to fit it into a regular podcast episode. No, but I mean, just, you know, like just some ones that you you'd like to share, of course, that you're comfortable sharing that are like potentially insightful into the business or some, some, you can just be some really cool ones, right?

Like, I mean, I remember last season when we talked to the founder of green Powell who just gone around, I think Nashville handing out like 20,000 flyers on doors or something, you know, like, like it works like those fi they work sometimes. So like, so what, I don't know what works for.

[00:29:12] Jason Bergman: Yeah, I, uh, so for, for me, and this kind of goes to everything that we do at MarketPryce.

And I think we've been doing a really good job, right? We've raised a seed round. We're up at 20 employees right now. And you know, we're doing a lot of things, right. With two first time. Co-founders who, I've never started a business before. I'm obsessed with this. And I'm listening to thousands of hours of entrepreneurship podcast podcasts like yours, right.

Where I could see where other founders have messed up. One right. We're not reinventing the wheel. I always say to my team, I'm like Uber didn't invent the car. Right. They just made it easier to get from a to B. And they're a multibillion dollar business. And with us. We're not reinventing athletes connecting with businesses, we're just making it easier.

We're democratizing it. So a long way of me saying the number one thing that's worked for us is sales. And I'm sure you're familiar with cameo, the incredibly successful unicorn marketplace. Unfortunately, they just had to fire 20 of percent of their sales force. But to get to that point, they were doing something right.

And I actually was offered a job there and almost moved to Chicago in another life to, to work there and their sales process. They. 200 sales people who are DMing on Instagram and on Twitter to celebrities to try to get them to sign up to their market. For free and that's profitable for them. They're making money.

So for us, it's like cool. If cameo has hundreds of thousands of celebrities on their platform, by just having salespeople reach out to them and it's free for cameo, we charge a monthly membership. Now, if we could reach out and get the same number, or even a portion of those athletes paying us membership, that's something that could work for us.

So those were sales. I did in the early days, I got these athletes up and running. I was able to show the value of MarketPryce and. When I got really busy doing a lot of other things. I hired multiple people to do that for us. So sales has been great. And I I'd say the second part, and this is a little bit less scalable because it's out of our hands.

But like you said, it's not often that six months into our business, the market that we're going after. A hundred Xs, the amount of press that came from that, like literally right now, it's June 14th. There's a thing called the ni summit in Atlanta, where we have one of our employees, a co with a couple MarketPryce athletes down there representing our name.

They made an entire summit about college athletes. Now being able to close marketing deals. Where there's hundreds of people there because of this new legislation and there's tons of press covering that. So when we are going out to athletes, the vast, vast, vast majority have heard about what's going on because it is so new because it's so like, oh my God, what is that?

It's the bright, new, shiny toy. , but then again, that's why we wanna be the fastest to market and the best marketplace, something that athletes truly, truly love and value. So they tell their friends about it and we can continue growing. Yeah. Because the

[00:31:48] Sjoerd Handgraaf: first thing also that came to my mind, especially when you talk about such large quantities and people who are, you know, in a way connected would be, I would expecting something around referral, right.

Like, because you know what group has the biggest likelihood to know athletes is like, well, other athletes, so are you doing something on that?

[00:32:04] Jason Bergman: Absolutely. That's the biggest thing that we've been testing. And I feel like we finally cracked the code on it and I think it's just getting started. But when we first launched, I'm like, oh my God.

If you're an athlete on the track and field team, like who are your best friends, other track and field athletes. If you're a, a athlete on the women's basketball team and we hire a former athletes and I'm like, who are your best friends? Who are your group chats with? And they're like, yeah, my teammates. I was like, cool.

Like how can we get those people? And it is every athlete going to promote and refer MarketPryce to the friends. Absolutely not. But for one in every five, one in every 10, are we gonna find someone who's like, oh my God, I love this. And I'm an evangelist and I wanna promote this. That's what we've been doing.

And now it's about compensating them the right way. And we've gone through like seven iterations of our referral program and it's just testing out what works. So we initially started by giving two weeks free to the refer and that kind of worked. Then we gave a month free. That kind of worked, but not really.

And then it was just like, man, screw it. Let's just pay them. And we ended up paying them $10 for every athlete that they refer, who signs up to a membership and we've paid out athletes, hundreds of dollars by just simply, Hey guys, go check out MarketPryce. Is

[00:33:13] Sjoerd Handgraaf: it a double-ended refer like, is the referee also getting

[00:33:16] Jason Bergman: something?

I think that's something that we're about to test out soon. So, uh, okay. We, we may split up the 10 bucks, so it's gonna be five bucks to the refer and five bucks to the refer E but that's not as easy to test as I'd like it to, um, I, I like testing things manually and then automating it. Like, we'd have to build a lot of tech to make that work.

And for us, it's like, man, there's so many we're in like this big boat. Right. And there's tons of holes. Every. And we're trying to fix the biggest holes and we need to be like, you know, that little, uh, like that, that graphic where it's the guy drinking the cup coffee in a room that's burning yeah. In fire.

And he is like, this is fine. This is fine. Yeah. Yeah, exactly. That's startups. Yeah. Yeah. That, that is literally a startup where it's like, I would love to do that. That's like, Yeah. Number 117 on our to-do list and we'll get there. Absolutely. But

[00:34:03] Sjoerd Handgraaf: yeah, for sure. Yeah. I'm just like the reason that I bring it up, just cause I think that like, you know, I have background and growth as well.

And to me that sounds like a really powerful growth loop because it's yeah. You know, you have this potential for some kind of viral viral loop there, but I'm sure I'm not telling you anything you had not thought about already a hundred times. And on a supply side, like how do you, you know, how do you grow supply side?

Like, because of course they are usually a little bit less connected, right? Like, okay. Entrepreneurs know other entre, like, I mean, small businesses know other small businesses, but like sometimes they're competing. So how, how does that, like, you know, is that just hardcore sales or do you have other things in the toolbox?

[00:34:37] Jason Bergman: Sales has been the number one thing for us. And I, I wanna stress that. It's like, it's hard to overlook, like a lot of founders don't and I, I think it's a really positive for us that like, my background has been in sales, so it's like, I was able to just do sales right off the bat. And I was able to find out what works, create a playbook and hire people to just do it more than me.

And eventually better than me. Um, sales has been amazing cuz for businesses it's like, Hey, here's this free, amazing tool where. You could post for free in five minutes, this campaign, and then athletes who are paying us money to find opportunities like you wanna work with you. Let's work together. And that's something where again, it's our brand sales has been mostly education where it's like, cool.

Like this is a no brainer for you to do. Now. Let's figure out the best way, how to do this and strategize with them to be able to craft these awesome campaigns with athletes. So, yeah, it's, it's been sales. We haven't had any like tricks and growth hacks. It's just been no. Let's hire sales people to do this, and it's been working tremendously for

[00:35:34] Sjoerd Handgraaf: us.

Yeah, I recall. I recall, uh, you know, Lenny Ruki you must, you probably know him. He's the boss. Yeah, he is. He is shout out to Lenny, but he had also at one point in, you know, he had a whole slew of posts about growing marketplace. And I think also if I recall correctly that like, I think sales was the number one across all of them.

Right. Like, including. Uh, okay. We have to take a small break because I have someone someone's coming in here. I have, sorry, my daughter is just no worries. Apparently woken up here. Just gimme a second. Jason, Jason, we're talking about sales. No worries. Sure. Just a moment that has not happened before. It's like it's 11.

It's like 10 to 11 here. She's four years old. She should be sleeping. I think, I think mom's already sleeping. I have three kids. So is the youngest one? No worries. No worries. I'm gonna piece this together, but I think I said something like, yeah, it makes a lot of sense that, you know, sales is number one. I recall Leny, Siski a series of podcasts about marketplaces where he, I think the number one sales tactic across all of them, like whether that was thumb tag or, or, or grub hub or all of them was like sales was the one they all had in common.

Right. It's not the growth tactic that people write blog posts about. It's not the sexy one that people talk about when talk about growth hack, but direct sales usually is the best one when you talk to people like that. Right. Because a lot of our, uh, I know a lot of people listening and a lot of share up customers also target small businesses, right.

Because in most cases it's like, well, it's a really interesting market. Always has been. What's your biggest problem in sort of like getting them on board. So you mentioned a little bit like education marketing, like what do you mean? Like what's the part, what's the threshold, what's the obstacle to get them on the platform?

Like what's the thing that they, that that's sort of blocking them.

[00:37:19] Jason Bergman: Yeah, not to dip too much into like psychology, which I'm very interested in on that answer. But like, I think the biggest hold up for founders I've talked to at least is just kind of like the fear of suffering, the fear of like, oh my God, what if they say no?

And like, they don't want someone to hurt their baby right. Of their company and be like, ah, I actually don't see it. I don't like it. And it's like, you'd rather not do sales. You'd rather think of these like interesting. At least I've seen right. And every marketplace is different, but for me, that's the hardest part of like, Just picking up the phone and just reaching out to people and be willing to hear, Hey, this doesn't work for me, or I don't like this idea because for every one of those, you're gonna get one who absolutely loves your business.

So it's just reaching out if you are. So you know, that this product that you've built helps people making sure that you can get that point across where again, not everyone will see that vision, but that is totally okay. Um, that's the hardest part now for education and you just talked about earlier.

500,000 athletes. It's like a brand new, because a legislation opened it up. These college athletes there before July 1st, there has never been a college athlete. Legally who's gotten paid to do marketing deals. Right? So for them, they could look at professional athletes. Sure. But 90% of them, if not more are like, okay, cool.

I can do this, but what do I say to a business? What do I do? If they don't like me, what do I do? If they don't answer right away? What do I do? If they send me a product, what do I do? If they send me a proposal, what do I do? If I really like their product, what do I do? If I don't like their product, there's just a ton of different questions.

And it's probably another episode, but what we're building out right now, shout out our athlete strategy team. So Ashley comer and MEChA co sharp, they are working hard on a community. It's like an athlete community where now we have hundreds of paying users who. Are going to, and they've just started last week, participating in a community where it's like a live discussion and Airbnb's done this well, notion has done this well, Lenny has wrote about it a lot, but building communities to answer all of these questions.

So education learning from us like educational content from MarketPryce, like, Hey, here's the three keys to succeeding on our platform. But then also from other athletes, like what are other stories that athletes have seen and being able to create that C. Within athletes. And that's an opportunity that that is going to be like when you talk about democratizing athlete marketing, like opening up, not just meeting businesses, but meeting other athletes too.

And that's an opportunity that we are very excited. Yeah, that

[00:39:46] Sjoerd Handgraaf: that's really cool to hear. Yeah. One quick question about monetization, because we discussed now a little bit membership, so am I correct that you're not charging businesses? Anything?

[00:39:54] Jason Bergman: The only thing that we charge businesses ever is if they do a cash deal.

So let's say, sure, you are pro soccer player. And I am Nike. I wish I wish. And I pay you. Yeah. Stick with me here. That brings I can gone. Jason, I'm gonna keep going. You're gonna be like, oh, this sounds nice. Let's say I pay you a hundred dollars to make an Instagram post. To promote my cleats that I send you.

Yeah. I would charge MarketPryces. What we would charge the business $105. So 5% fee on top of what you're paying the athlete. And then we would charge that business and then hold the money in escrow. And actually process the payment to you. So once you've done that deal, so once you've posted for the business, that Instagram post, we would send you a hundred dollars and we'd keep the $5.

[00:40:36] Sjoerd Handgraaf: Okay. And how do you combat this intermediation there? Right. Because like, especially, especially for small businesses, right? Like you mentioned earlier, you know, for some people, at least in their mind, this is the trade off between their daughter's braces and advertising. So how do you make sure that they're not like, Hey, I'd rather pocket that $5.

Can I know just, you. Hand you some cash, especially if we're talking about local marketplaces, local athletes, right? Like stop by the store. And I'll, I'll, I'll pop you a hundred. How do you go around that? It's a

[00:41:04] Jason Bergman: great question. It's a mix of, we don't really care that much because of our business model and fair enough, because of the value that we add, where if it was 20 to 30%, we would not allow dis intermediation that's too.

We would be forfeiting way too much money for 5%. That's something that we did a ton of user research with businesses where it's like, cool, what is the amount that you would pay for us to handle all of the crap that goes with paying athletes? So for example, let's go back to that example, if you're a pro soccer player, because you had a big smile on your face.

When I was saying it, that's something where like, if you. Or working with the business and the business has never worked with an athlete before. Did they send you the money before? Did they send you 50% now? 50% later? How do they make sure that you actually do it? What happens if you don't do it? What happens if you don't do it?

Right? What happens if you don't do hashtag ad like all of that stuff, the contract, right. Are you gonna write up your own contract? We have an internal contract. So for all of those problems, we tell those businesses, like you don't have to worry about any of. And it only costs 5% of a cash transaction. So that's something now we eventually, as we scale, we're gonna continue adding tech, which maybe we'll talk again in six months and I'll show you all the cool stuff we're building.

But like we wanna keep adding value to businesses to raise that rake. Right. So go from five to seven and a half to 10% as we continue building value, but we wanna be wary of. There are other marketplaces out there. Like if you try to share your email address on Airbnb, what happens? You get blocked. Hey, actually keep this on our platform.

That's something that I don't wanna get the point to. I wanna be able to make that connection. And if that athlete and brands go off of our platform and do a bigger deal. We've done our job. Yeah. No,

[00:42:42] Sjoerd Handgraaf: that makes sense. And, and I like what you said that like, we don't really care about it, like, because it just happens so rarely in my, in my experience, like the first time marketplace founders, that, that worry about this, it's usually, like, I usually think that it's more of a problem in your head than it's really a problem.

Like it's not the number one problem, you know, like referring back to, you know, being the dog with the coffee in a room on fire, it's one of the smaller fires. Right? I think so. And, and I think that also what the other thing you said is just really key that like, Yeah, you can do all these tricks, like, you know, block the email addresses being shared, whatever.

But of course the key thing is really just to add enough value to sort of justify this, this, the take rate that it doesn't actually feel like, like a pain that people want to sort of get rid of. So, so that makes perfect sense. Jason, I think I've taken off more enough of your time. Could you tell us a little bit about, you know, you already referred a little bit like creator space, maybe later creator economy, you know, what's next for MarketPryce.

[00:43:36] Jason Bergman: Yeah, I, uh, I I'm gonna preface this by saying typically I don't love answering this because it's like an Andy Jassey quote, the CEO of Amazon, where he's like, if you're thinking five years down the line, You were going to be out of business in five months. Like you need to worry about problems today and figure out sure that guy put out those fires today and then drink your coffee today.

But down the line, the creator economy is something I'm really bullish on where it's podcasts like these right, that are incredibly popular. Anyone listening to this podcast they've made it. This long hearing, both of us talk about marketplaces. That's something where you have value, right? If you get hundreds, if not thousands of people to listen to this, if you drop in an ad, right?

If you are talking about marketplaces and then you could find an advisor role at a marketplace, right? I know you work with Sharetribe, but the idea of one individual's resume, not being a resume. I don't, I personally don't look at resumes anymore. I don't. I look at the LinkedIn. I look at your social media.

That trend is only going to continue as gen Z is now older, right? Like gen Z's the first generation where being a creator quote, unquote is like an actual job. Like that's not something where it's like, oh, ha haha. True, whatever true. That trend is only going to continue with people thinking of themselves first, promoting themselves, building their personal brand, where that has tremendous value in the business sense where.

And again, I could talk about it a lot, but going back to athletes because we are an athlete focused company, you see LeBron, James, you see Kevin Durant, you see Serena Williams, they're moving to equity deals and not only equity deals where they have equity in a company. They have venture capitalist companies where they're investing in companies.

At the same time there's athletes on the other side of the spectrum that haven't even gotten free product from businesses or gotten paid to promote a business. I'd love to get to the point where there is every single athlete having access to equity deals, working in businesses and being able to use their influence to promote companies for the better, whether it's at a national level or even at a local level, but making a platform that can facilitate all of that and help that the, the toughest part of those deals is just the zero to one what's out there.

And MarketPryce is gonna open that up to every athlete in every single business.

[00:45:43] Sjoerd Handgraaf: Awesome. Let's end on that. Where do people find MarketPryce? Where do people find Jason Bergman? Anything you would like to pitch in particular?

[00:45:51] Jason Bergman: Yeah. Uh, I mean, I've been pitching my business the whole time. I just went to my co-founder's wedding last weekend and I made a speech and I pitched MarketPryce to everybody.

So I, uh, I, I have, it's something I love doing, but check out MarketPryce. I would go on our website or on social media. We're just at MarketPryce everywhere. And it's P R. CE. So it's MarketPryce. We're a startup. We had to throw a Y in there at some point. Um, but yeah, I would check out MarketPryce and then find me I'm I'm best on Twitter and LinkedIn, but just Jason Berkman.

I'm sure you'll be able to find me. And yeah, I'd love to connect with any marketplace looking to learn more, or if you're a business and you're like, man, I think it'd be cool to work with athletes. I hit me. I will get you in the right hands. And then if you're an athlete, I don't know. Sure. Do you have athletes listening to this?

Cause that can be pretty

[00:46:36] Sjoerd Handgraaf: epic. I'm not sure. I'm not sure. You'll find out. Hopefully after these episode, ours, I'll keep you posted. Thanks a lot for your time, Jason.

[00:46:43] Jason Bergman: Thank you for having me. I had a lot of fun.

[00:46:45] Sjoerd Handgraaf: All right, bye.

[00:46:48] Jason Bergman: Thank you for listening to two-sided the marketplace podcast. If you enjoyed today's show, don't forget to subscribe.

If you listen on iTunes, we'd also love for you to rate and give us a review. If you got inspired to build your own marketplace, go visit www.sharetribe.com. It's the fastest way to build a successful online marketplace business until next time.

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