From Startup to Inc. 5000

Hosted By Matt DeCoursey

Full Scale

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Steve Bernstein

Today's Guest: Steve Bernstein

Partner, Co-founder - CrowdPharm

Kansas City, MO

Ep. #989 - From Startup to Inc. 5000

It’s a special week at Startup Hustle! Join us as we celebrate businesses based in our hometown of Kansas City that made it to the Inc. 5000 list in 2022. Be inspired by stories of entrepreneurial hustling, recovering from failure, and finding success.

Today’s episode of Startup Hustle kick-starts our week-long series. Let’s talk about a business’s journey from starting up to making the Inc. 5000. Matt DeCoursey welcomes Steve Bernstein, partner, and co-founder of CrowdPharm, to the studio. They reminisce about their childhood experiences, from being an early-stage startup entrepreneur to being featured in the Inc. 5000 list.

Covered In This Episode

Are you afraid to fail? Then you’re not likely to grow all that well.

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Throughout their experience as business owners, Matt and Steve learned that failure is part of the recipe for success. You must develop an appetite for risk if you want to grow. But it certainly helps the journey when you learn from others along the way – especially those who have been there before, like Matt and Steve. Tune in to this episode now.

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  • Steve Bernstein’s story of entrepreneurship (03:25)
  • Teaching kids about entrepreneurship (07:10)
  • All about the Inc. 5000 (09:57)
  • What problem does CrowdPharm solve? (11:18)
  • The CrowdPharm story (13:09)
  • Hiring out of the US (15:37)
  • Providing a solution for Petsmart (18:52)
  • From servicing one business to catering to multiple agencies (19:18)
  • On finding success in pharmaceuticals (20:35)
  • Full Scale and CrowdPharm, similarities in the model (24:44)
  • CrowdPharm’s keys to success (26:08)
  • Tips on bridging the gap (27:15)
  • Failing all the time and finding great role models (31:00)
  • Helping those who need your help (34:09)
  • The success of Startup Hustle and getting people to talk about their journey (39:13)
  • A story of Matt’s daughter and her simple lemonade stand (41:32)
  • Steve’s daughter commenting on what marketing is (43:26)
  • Having peace of mind when building software (43:58)
  • The winning answer is out there somewhere (46:06)
Matt and Steve - Startup Hustle

Key Quotes

The willingness to jump and take risks knowing that sometimes you’re going to fail. Not everything you do is going to be a success. And I think you see that being around other entrepreneurs.

– Steve Bernstein

Pick one, maybe two things, and be a triple plus at it. Be really good at it and focus on that because the clients and the relationships and the accounts that you really want are looking for that.

– Matt DeCoursey

If you built your business on 80% or more of one client, you’re going to have a problem, and we knew that.

– Steve Bernstein

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Rough Transcript

Following is an auto-generated text transcript of this episode. Apologies for any errors!

Matt DeCoursey 00:00
And we’re back! Back for another episode of Startup Hustle. Matt DeCoursey here to have another conversation I’m hoping helps your business grow. So many of you may have seen the episode about my company, Full Scale, making the Inc. 5000. And we are really proud and happy to have done that. It was our first year eligible. Now, with that, we wanted to highlight other companies here in our hometown of Kansas City. That’s right, Startup Hustle is from Kansas City, which by the way, is in Kansas and Missouri, for those of you that didn’t know. I blow people’s minds when I break that news to them. But so many companies go from startup to Inc. 5000; we had quite a few amazing companies here in Kansas City that make the list. And that’s what we’re gonna focus on this entire week of Thanksgiving. Because we are thankful for all of the people at our companies that have helped us win awards and do great stuff. And that’s what we’re going to get into today. I’ve got someone from company number 134 on the list of 5000. That’s really high up on the list, everyone. Before I introduce today’s guest, today’s episode of Startup Hustle is powered by Hiring software developers is difficult, and Full Scale can help you build a software team quickly and affordably. And has the platform to help you manage that team. That’s my company, once again, and I’d love to talk to you more about it. Go to to learn more. With me today, I’ve got Steve Bernstein. Steve is a partner and co-founder at CrowdPharm. That’s Crowd but P-H-A-R-M, and there’s a link in the show notes where, you know, I want you to go down and click so you can learn more about what they do. Steve has got some really interesting stories and information. I’m looking forward to the conversation that we actually started having quite a while before we hit the record. So we’re ready for you today, Steve. Welcome to Startup Hustle.

Steve Bernstein 01:52
Well, thank you, Matt. And congratulations to you, too, and your company. Inc. 5000 is a big deal. Yeah, it’s neat to see so many people in Kansas City represented.

Matt DeCoursey 02:01
We’re trying to keep up with you, man. Yeah, trying to keep up with you. You know, let’s just dive right in. Because you have such an interesting backstory, and I’ve had the privilege of meeting many of the people that are involved in and key members of that story. So I’m gonna go ahead and just hand the mic over to you. And let’s hear a little bit more about that.

Steve Bernstein 02:20
Yeah, well, thanks. I think it’s a fun story. I tell people when I tell the CrowdPharm story it is an entrepreneurial story that’s filled with successes, failures, moments of doubt, and now redemptions. So I think it’s a neat story. And, if you don’t mind, it kind of starts with how I grew up and where I grew up, including Kansas City, and then into what I do right now and then into grad farm, so honestly, so I grew up in a marketing and advertising family. My dad is an entrepreneur, Bob Bernstein, and founded Bernstein, a rain advertising agency, one of the largest independent consumer agencies in the country. And my childhood, I guess, was a little bit unusual in marketing because my friends used to tell me this, they’d say, you’re the only house that we go over to when we watch television, and the commercials come on, you’re totally quiet. But when football games, everything else on You’re talking like anything, and I thought that’s how everybody grew up by that everybody was tired or quiet during commercials. And I guess that’s not true. But anyway, I grew up in Kansas City and in a marketing family. And when I tell you this one thing, man, I’ll tell you this, and it’s probably the only thing people are gonna end up remembering from me is in 1976, I, my dad represented McDonald’s, we’ve represented McDonald’s for 55 years. And they were trying to get kids in the restaurants. And I did what every 10-year-old did. And for breakfast at that time, I ate cereal for breakfast, and I used to put the cereal box in front of me and read the same cereal box over and over and over again. My dad actually used to be angry with me. He used to come down and say, you know, he’d see me reading the same thing and say, Can’t you read your homework or the newspaper while you’re eating cereal? Can’t you read something other than that stupid cereal box? And I’d say no, I’d keep putting that cereal in my mouth and during that cereal box over and over again. But from watching me eat that cereal and read that cereal box over and over again. That’s where the creation of the Happy Meal came from in 1976 when I was 10 years old. And I love to tell that story. Although when I tell it, I say that’s probably the only thing you’re going to remember from me. But hopefully, that won’t be true when I get an A in the CrowdPharm. But anyhow, it’s kind of a neat story.

Matt DeCoursey 04:31
So anyhow, you know, I went through the same thing, and you just brought up this very vivid memory of me sitting there like staring at the back of a box of Cheerios. Yeah. And so my mom went through the same pain and anguish that your dad did. Yeah. And started, and that went from us staring at the back of the Cheerios so she started doing vocabulary words on index cards. Yeah. So we would have a new one every day and my sister and I. My sister is smarter than I am, but we have a large vocabulary, all of that. Yeah. So we’d have a different word every day. And if we want to earn our allowance at the end of the week, we have to know all five words and be able to describe them. And you know, but you talk about, like filling that space in that time. Now, I mentioned before we hit record that I have the privilege of listening to your dad give a presentation. And you and he are both very humble with his success because he’s, you know, he worked with Sam Walton and McDonald’s and beauty brands and did a lot of different things like that, and was a very, very, very interesting speaker. And why was I even there? Because he was winning an award with the other Matt, Matt Watson, co-founder at Full Scale, and yeah, I just grew up in and around entrepreneurship. It is a big thing for so many people that have become entrepreneurs. I couldn’t imagine what the Super Bowl must have been like at your house, then it was, oh, that’s a religious event.

Steve Bernstein 06:00
Yeah, it still is a religious event. You know, the game is something that works completely quietly. And all the analysis goes into the commercials.

Matt DeCoursey 06:09
But how did that happen? You know, I think that I’m a big advocate of teaching your kids. What about what you do? Yeah, my father was an attorney, which, at his own firm, was an entrepreneur of sorts, but I remember, like, so many things. I am not an attorney. But man, I, I kind of think like one. Yep, on a lot of days. How was that experience growing up? And also, here’s another thing, too, let’s that might have cast a big shadow, our big expectations on Happy Meals a big deal, who hasn’t had a happy meal? It’s kind of a big deal, right?

Steve Bernstein 06:47
Parents either love us or hate us for that. But, you know, entrepreneurship and being around entrepreneurs has to rub off. I mean, because my sister is an entrepreneur, my brother’s an entrepreneur, and my wife is an entrepreneur. My dad’s dad would cheat. If he was here. He’d be telling the story. My grandfather was an entrepreneur and not a very successful one, but he never worked for anybody. And he was one of those old-school guys who used to have all of his money rolled up, everything he had rolled up in a rubber band in his front pocket. And that was my grandfather, but I think it has to rub off. I think where it rubs off is just be is the willingness to jump and take risks, you know, and know that sometimes you’re gonna fail. Not everything you do is going to be a success. And I think you see that being around other entrepreneurs. You know, you mentioned my Dad’s experience and my experience with Bernstein, a rain or advertising agency. We got an opportunity to be around Sam Walton of Walmart, Ray Kroc, and McDonald’s Henry Bloch of H&R Bloch. Wayne Huizenga blockbuster. I mean, you can’t be around those great entrepreneurs without a rubbing of. And I always say there are two things that were the biggest things that rubbed off on that, you know, they were all very different. But the two things that they all had in common is they all had this great ability to find an opportunity, you know, they would see an opportunity Big or small, but they’d really focus in on that opportunity. And the second thing was just focus, they would stick on that opportunity, no matter what anybody told them, you know, Sam was told when he started Walmart, he was with Woolworths, you know, which was the Big Five and Dime at the time, he brought the idea to them, I want to open up in small towns, they said, I don’t think that’s going to work. Well, he stuck to it, and boy, the stack, stuck with it. And they became the largest retailer and largest company at the time in the world. So it’s the ability to find an opportunity. And, and sticking with it and jumping, you know, to take the jump and then build wings.

Matt DeCoursey 08:36
And the thing that I’ve learned is that nothing will make you build those wings faster than the impending doom of heading into the canyon floor. Yeah. And you know, and that, I do advise that you have the materials to build the wings before you jump, or at least know where to get them. Yeah, but that, yeah, it’s that necessity, and, you know, and then also solving a problem that’s worth solving now, in regards to CrowdPharm, and once again, there’s a link in the show notes. Alright, so to get a little background, and, you know, Watson and I did an episode, and we’ll put a link for this in the show notes to about what the Inc 5000 Even is, and I think that I’ll refresh that for a second being the first of a series of shows that come out. So Inc, five, Inc,, or Inc Magazine is pretty widely distributed. And then they do an award for privately held companies, meaning you can’t just go to the New York Stock Exchange and buy stock in CrowdPharm or Full Scale or at least yet in any of these things. And they look at a three-year period, and they gauge your revenue growth over that period. And so for us, we were at like, I can’t remember the numbers over 700% was like 732% that put us at number 878. Yeah. Now with that, there are, You know, roughly 7 million companies that qualify. There you do have to let them know that you are interested in being considered. Yep. But a hell of a lot of people put in that application. And so, you know, so now being at 134, that’s a big deal. I mean, that’s high. Because one thing you realize, when you look at the less, the air gets pretty thin in a hurry, like, you gotta get some big numbers in there. And so, but before we get into that part, what’s the problem that CrowdPharms solves as a business that has made it so scalable or popular accelerated that growth?

Steve Bernstein 10:38
Yeah, well, it’s CrowdPharm, which is a healthcare pharmaceutical advertising agency that does everything that a healthcare pharmaceutical agency would do, and you’d expect, but as an engine behind it, that’s completely different. And that engine is a worldwide network of 4700 members. It changes its dynamic because every day, we’re getting new members in 110 different countries. And we have the technology of a platform that we use to reach out, and we have a marketing challenge, we reach out to that network, and we put the challenge out there, and they come back with answers. And it’s that on-demand expertise that is unique to the way marketing is done. And it used to be that I’ve been in marketing all my life. As we mentioned, we grew up with it. And you know, for years, everybody has been saying we need to change. We need to find a new way to model agencies and go after creative challenges. And clients. We’re saying that forever, forever. People are always trying, and even though clients were asking for when you put the new thing in front of them, they’d say app, I know that’s the new thing, but not so fast. So when I tell you a little bit of the history, we started one called Boom, which was a predecessor of CrowdPharm. And I think it was a little bit ahead of its time. And so, it did not succeed as well as CrowdPharm ads. And I think perhaps the market caught up and said, Okay, I know we’ve been asking for it. And then when you showed it, we weren’t ready. Now we’re kind of ready. And it’s that gig economy and being able to use freelancers instead of full-time people as the on-demand talent that’s really been the thing.

Matt DeCoursey 12:15
So it is I’m assuming that advertising Pharmaceuticals has a heavy amount of regulation around it.

Steve Bernstein 12:21
It does. And that actually is what creates the opportunity. So well to tell you, let me tell you the CrowdPharm story, and then I’ll get to that part. So Bernstein rain, which we talked about as a consumer agency, a leading consumer agency, about 2008, we picked up the PetSmart account, and we pitched against great agencies, and we’re very thrilled to win, and we were representing them nationally, but the first meeting I had with them. And this is very true. Any marketer listening will say this is the case, when I first met with them, they’re very honest and transparent. They said, Hey, we’re very fickle. We love you guys. You’re great. But in three years, we’re gonna want a different agency. I’m like, okay, great. Thank you for being transparent. I hope it’s five years, but Okay, three years, we’ll be fine. Sure enough, three years into it. We did a good job, Bernstein, they said, You know what, and this sounds really trite today. But it’s true. It was about 2011. They said, We need content, content content, which everybody says now, but they might have been a little bit ahead of their time saying that and they said, your traditional agency model, it doesn’t work. You know, you, you take too long to get things done, you cost too much. We’re not getting out of the box thinking, you got to do something different for us. Well, I’ve been watching crowdsourcing startups about that time, and they had to, and they said, we’d like you to create a crowd sourcing model for us. And we’ll stick with you, if you do it. We love that you’re entrepreneurs, we love the relationship. We just don’t like this old model anymore. So we created a company called boom, and boom, idea net, and it was in the consumer space. And it was specifically to work for PetSmart. And so we started a network of about 200. I mean, it didn’t start at 200. But it became about 250 275 people around the world, but primarily in the United States who are creative, it’s the same idea we’re talking about: you put an idea out there, they were willing part time to give you back ideas and you compensate them for that. And we ran that model for PetSmart. I do want to say one thing and in this definition here, when we talk about crowds, we definitely exist CrowdPharm and boom before it existed in the crowd space. But we’re really not a crowd. Open source means anybody can jump in and anybody can contribute. We’re actually a network that people don’t think of it that way. And network means they’re vetted. We have NDAs on people they’re contracted to so they’re really not a crowd but people think of us as a crowd.

Matt DeCoursey 14:41
That’s what we do at Full Scale. Yeah, no, I know it’s exactly us who are going through 30 applicants to maybe give Yeah, and then key the word maybe yeah, give one job offer but in order to provide service so we work with high level tech companies and companies similar to yours that have intellectual property. NDT NDAs and non-competes and stuff like that, and when you go to hire someone that’s not in the United States the question is what level of accountability, right? So we literally had to open a business and illegal business in the Philippines, you know, and do all that. And the main thing people are like, well, so you sell Technical Services. I said, No, we sell peace of mind. Yeah, right. It sounds very similar to what you do. Because the vetting thing is, is well, and I don’t ever like to compare our business people like why are you like, Upwork? No, not at all. Yeah, you can go hire anybody in any country for three hours, and pay them hourly? That’s not what we do. We provide dedicated people that become a member of your team. And that’s like, and guess what, so that disqualifies us from working with 90% of people that might think they need a computer programmer, or a developer or whatever? Yeah. But that’s not what we do. And they don’t want to be in those marketplaces, either. So and so with that, I’m assuming that kind of you, obviously working with pharma, you made yourself I want to say kind of a small batch operator, because you’re not just like an open like, you’re not I’m not gonna sign up at CrowdPharm. I’m not the kind of company that you deal with.

Steve Bernstein 16:11
Yeah, well, you might sign up, but we’re gonna put you through a test and we’re gonna get you and and you probably won’t make the list, but as a client or as a service provider, as a service.

Matt DeCoursey 16:18
So no, because I don’t get marketing people we have, they just work for us. And we don’t provide those services. Right. We, I think part of creating a business similar to the ones we have is also understanding. Okay, this is what we do. And we’re really good at it. Right? And then you mentioned the focus part, right? So man, that took me a long time as an entrepreneur to figure out because I think entrepreneurs like to chase shiny things. You did just tell me that you started a startup in order to provide service for PetSmart. Yeah. That’s also how businesses get started. Yeah, the thing is a lot of entrepreneurs, I get people this advice all the time, because I learned it the hard way. You can’t chase every shiny thing.

Steve Bernstein 17:01
No. And that’s hard, because we do see the opportunities.

Matt DeCoursey 17:05
God, yes. And I get that a lot to me, like, Oh, you’re like an ideas guy. I’m like, yeah, it’s terrible, right? Like, what do you mean? I’m like, it’s terrible. Like, the noise in my head is excruciatingly, yeah, it may define insanity.

Steve Bernstein 17:20
Yeah, no, I think you’re right, Matt. And that’s probably one of the internal challenges is, you got all these ideas out there. You want to do them. But you realize success comes from focus. And those are two opposite things.

Matt DeCoursey 17:29
Yeah. So really realize what you’re good at and what your business is good at. And what you guys are doing follows the advice I give so many entrepreneurs. Pick one, maybe two things and be a triple plus at it. Yeah, be really good at it. And you focus on that because the clients and the relationships and the accounts that you really want, are looking for that. Yep. Yeah. Not like, Hey, give me the cheapest, right? And I hate the word cheat, right? It’s when you think it’s cheap, you think of flimsy, right, be whatever, right? We’re still affordable. You’re a value. Yeah, you’re efficient. There’s InterNACHI. Huge difference there.

Steve Bernstein 18:04
So yeah, well, we did that story. So that’s the success. I said, we have success in the story, that boom was successful prep for PetSmart. It ran for about five years, which was good for them. It got them the content they wanted, it was financially good. It was good for us and the boom was very successful. But then we ran into failure. The failure was that if you built your business on 80%, or more of one client, you’re gonna have a problem. And we knew that Yeah, but we were keeping up with PetSmart. It was going great. But one day, they said, you know, we’re done. And that’s what happens in our business. And we could get into that, but there’s probably not enough time for it. But so we said, oh, shit, we gotta go out and do something. So we said, You know what, we’re perfect. For agencies, we’d be perfect for advertising agencies, because we know them well. We can help them scale up and scale down, which we know is a problem for agencies. And let’s go out and try to get all the agencies in the world. Great idea, horrible execution. We did not do well, picking up agencies, agencies, CEOs would always love us because they’d say, Oh, I see. It’s gonna help save us money, you’ll manage our talent. As soon as we got to the creatives and the agency, they’d say, Well, we don’t want you guys, you know, we have our own freelancers. We have our own network. I don’t need any of that. And so it basically stopped eight advertising agencies, and I’m one of them who are inherently paranoid. We are cheap, you know, and we always think that people are trying to steal our clients. So it was not a good market. And we started burning through the money that we built up in PetSmart. rapidly, and I say rapidly, we’re successful. So it lasted for about two or three years. But this is my first moment of doubt. As we couldn’t pick up clients. I was thinking, I’m an idiot, I should as soon as we lose Petsmart I should close the whole thing down, take that money and do something else with it. But I believed in the model so much. This is that stuff where you see the shiny object, I couldn’t let go. I couldn’t let go of it. So I then started putting my money in and more of my money in and I ended up working for an agency. There was a pharmaceutical business. I don’t know anything about pharmaceutical or health care, but he was somebody who I went to school with, a guy named Mike Myers. And he was in Saratoga Springs, New York. And he had an agency called cross and wild that was pharmaceutical, but he didn’t have a creative department. So we started working for him. And we were making a little bit again, I’m still failing as boom, but it was really working for him really working for him. So then Mike, who’s my co partner now in CrowdPharm, came to me with the idea he said, and again, we’ve known each other for a long time. He said, This is really working for me, is it working for you? And I said, Well, on the cross and Wildside, it’s working, you know, it’s working, supporting you. But you know, it’s not as great as I want it to be. He said, Well, why don’t we do this thing together? Because when you’re going in the consumer world, there are 10s of 1000s of agencies. And there are even some who are doing crowdsourcing, but in the healthcare market, they are not there, there is nobody doing it. And we’ve got an opportunity to just go into that vertical and have specialists. And that gets to the question that you asked before about, and even what the business you’re in. Not everybody can do this. And in healthcare, it’s heavily regulated. There’s a lot of specialists needed in every disease state you can actually think of. And so Mike said, Let’s not do a network of 270 people, let’s have 5000 people in our network, you know, because we can have an expert in every type of disease that people are looking for, we can have experts in that. And let’s build out our platform. Let’s make our application. Let’s make that outstanding. You’ve got a shoestring thing. Let’s make it outstanding. I said, Okay, let’s do it. We decided to do it together. So now I have a partner. And Mike and I built CrowdPharm. He was running cross and wild, I was running boom, but we brought it together in the CrowdPharm. And the story in the end is great, but I’ll give you my next moment of doubt, it is hard to bring two companies together. You’ve heard this before, Mike and I have similar philosophies, but we have different ways of going about things. And my second point where I was doubting myself that I did the right thing was it was becoming too very difficult culturally, to bring the two companies together, we had real struggles in that. And, it was working. But I said, Mike, I don’t know if I keep doing this, maybe it’s better that you run the thing by yourself, because you’re driving it. It’s my model. But I don’t know if I can handle these conflicts, while he convinced me not to get out of it. And I’m glad that he did. Because again, I was in love with the model. And I wanted to stick with it. And eventually we got over the hurdles of bringing culture together. But I’d say it took a good year, maybe a year and a half of some pain. You know, he approaches things in a different way than I do. The people who I brought in who worked with me, they were used to my style, the people who he brought in were used to his style, and those didn’t always work together. And but once we got to understanding that we’re all in this together, and once we went through those pains, it actually worked very, very well. And so that is where CrowdPharm came from. And now today, CrowdPharm is what we talked about, we have 4700 members worldwide, we’re in 110 different countries, we have not needed to borrow any money. So when we got into financing, we’ve been very fortunate that we started, you know, with a model that had clients and and so we only had the model was to have very few full time people. And then to rely on freelance beyond that. So low fixed costs, high variable costs, and so it’s been a great success story from there.

Matt DeCoursey 23:25
Yeah, and that’s a you know, it’s an extension of the marketplace concept, which I’ve spent a lot of time talking about on the show and the history of the show. And I want to have a couple of comments about that. Before I let you know what those are, I want to remind you that finding expert software developers does not have to be difficult, especially when you visit where you can build a team quickly and affordably use the Full Scale platform to define your technical needs, and then see what available developers testers and leaders are ready to join your team. Visit To learn more, I think we’re a lot of our platforms very similar to yours and the records that like that, you know, we vet our clients actually, at an equal level that we do our talent. Yeah, that’s, that’s the best place to be as well. So yeah, so much. It’s about who you’re working with. And I want to talk about the Marketplace thing, because of my role at Full Scale. And then Startup Hustle. And as an author, I’ve had a lot of people seek opinions and advice, I’m sure you get the same thing and, and a lot of people have a marketplace that they want to launch. And so when you’re talking about like crowd pharma the same thing with Full Scale, which are, which are more exclusive marketplaces like, you know, you you you guys only want a specific type of client and I would imagine that if you’re not that type of client, then you’ve learned to say no, yep, same thing with us. But essentially what you have then is a marketplace where you have buyers and sellers. But the problem with these things is if either side of that is not populated. In or sparsely populated, it gets really hard to run the business. Yeah, buyers aren’t in places without sellers and sellers aren’t in places without buyers. Yeah, I’ve talked to a lot of entrepreneurs that have a marketplace type concept, regardless of what it is, whether it’s services or, or any of it. And they have not given enough consideration to the difficulty of populating both sides of the marketplace. Yep. Was that difficult at Crown farm?

Steve Bernstein 25:28
Well, it happened naturally because of Mike’s expertise.

Matt DeCoursey 25:33
So yeah, he was our largest client and boom, and do you agree that that’s a problem? Adam marketplace? Absolutely. And like that as a marketplace?

Steve Bernstein 25:38
Oh, absolutely. And you asked me earlier, what were our reasons for success? I mean, there are three we touched on one, the model is something that clients like, but the other thing is the marketplace. And I feel like I lucked into it. But Mike, my partner worked very hard to be in and it is pharmaceutical and healthcare, pharmaceutical and healthcare is doing very well. Now, it doesn’t look like it’s going to slow down because we’re all aging. And we’re all needing more prescriptions and medicines and therapies and all types of things to, you know, to keep things going. And so our marketplace is really every drug manufacturer who wants to launch a new product, and you just watch television today, although it’s not just on television, you can see how many new drugs are being launched all the time. And it’s a great marketplace for us. So that’s one of the keys to success, when you don’t have to give away the trade secrets.

Matt DeCoursey 26:28
But what were a couple of things that are some tips that you could give? Well, first of all, I’ll lead with what I tell people, because a lot of times it’s a software startup, you know, and they Yeah, they want to they want to bridge the gap between buyers and sellers somewhere I and I, and I say you need to be prepared to give it away for free. Yeah, for a while you have to, especially if it’s empty, like why do I want to sign up? It’d be like, you don’t go, well. Craigslist, maybe antiquated at this point. But you don’t like our eBay or any of these things. Yeah, if no one’s selling anything, if you go to put in XYZ products and eBay and there are zero results, right? You go look somewhere else. Right? Right. And the problem with that is it’s hard enough to get a buyer or even a seller into the marketplace in general, they just jet out the door right after. So like that, like I said that early adoption of like, I’m not going to charge you buyer or seller fees. Yeah. The problem is, though, that means you have to pay, you have to engage in marketing to get people in and you have to be ready to eat. You have to be ready to eat your own expense report. Yeah, a little while to get people in. And I mean, that’s one thing. That’s one way to get people and where there’s some others that.

Steve Bernstein 27:45
Well, man, I agree with you totally, you know, you can have a great model, you can have a great marketplace. But the first question that somebody’s going to ask is, well show me who you’ve done it for before. And you might hit the unicorn who wants to do it be the first one with your might. But I wouldn’t build a business hoping to find that unicorn. So I would say you got to build your book. And yes, the first few clients, we did, we did you know, we did it scraping by. And we’ll still even today, if it’s the right client, if it’s the right client, we’ll do it at very low margin, and maybe even not make money on it just so that we can put it in our book. Because case studies mean everything, not just for our business, for your business. Do show us who you’ve done a bit with before. Show us the advantages that you’re telling us about and show us how it actually worked in the marketplace for somebody else.

Matt DeCoursey 28:31
It’s a chicken and egg problem. We all have these 23 year old entrepreneurs or even just people seeking a job. Yeah, everywhere, everywhere. Who wants experience? How am I going to get experience if no one will give it to me? Yeah, I’ll go out and figure it out. Yeah, that’s that, I’ve had you know, I’ve talked to I’ve had a lot of people that have said, dude, I’ll come work for you for free. Yeah. And I don’t ever take them up on that because I don’t think that pay anyway. Yeah, he’s talking about wanting to get exposure right. And go back to the you know, there’s something you said at the beginning of the conversation you’re talking about growing up around some pretty influential entrepreneurs. What there’s something we say a lot that we tried to be cognizant of is that until you’ve seen winning, it’s often hard to win. And there’s a value to that and and some of the things that just it could be you look at well look at a team like the Kansas City Royals, which quite honestly as a terrible team that rarely wins. But they have some good moments or whatever but you look at teams like that and they keep around role players and people that set a good example for those that are coming up and that’s to show you winning Yeah. And just show you professionalism and how to get it done. And I think that for anybody that’s wanting to get started with you we talked about Okay, so how do you start up and then go to inc 5000. Get yourself exposed to some of it or be ready to just fully immerse yourself and be ready to fail a lot. Yeah. Dude, I fail all the time. Yeah. And I sometimes have people that will say things. And the same thing with Matt Watson because we were joking as he might us, because by the way, Matt had three companies in the Inc 5000. This year. That’s crazy. Yeah, yeah, I know. But without he’ll be the first person to tell you that he fails all the time. Right. And he’s a software developer at heart, which is like literally scientific failure again, and again and again. And again. Yeah, try something else. Try something else. Try something else. But I mean, that’s, that’s a guaranteed thing. So if you had to talk to, what would you tell yourself 2025 years ago?

Steve Bernstein 30:41
Well, it’s probably the same thing I tell myself today. And you probably would say the same thing. Yes, I failed a lot. But don’t be afraid to fail. And I still take failure horribly, I have a horrible time failing.

Matt DeCoursey 30:54
I personally write some levels for myself. Just like, you know, I don’t like losing. Yeah.

Steve Bernstein 31:00
But what would I tell myself to in addition to not being afraid to fail, I think it’s what you said, it’s, and it’s what I think I started with, maybe by accident, but surround yourself be around other successful people being around other entrepreneurs realize what they’ve done. You know, it’s alright to model people. In fact, it’s great to model people, you know, there’s a lot of people that I admire. In fact, I’ll tell you a little bit about VML, who’s done wonderfully well here, and their leader, John Cook. I think John’s a great leader. And I went before I created, boom, I went to a speech that he gave for the ad club. And they were asking him, okay, you’ve done a great job with VML, what are you afraid of next, and he referenced a scene in Jurassic Park. I don’t remember which Jurassic Park movie, but it had the dinosaur in it that was evolving. And now it has new skills and all that. And John said, that’s the thing I’m most afraid of is something that doesn’t exist today. And that really stuck with me. And I haven’t had a ton of chances to tell John, but that’s one of the things that really inspired me to go into boom, and then therefore, CrowdPharm. And so it was modeling people like John Cook and VML. But but being around other entrepreneurs and seeing how they stick to an opportunity and focus, focus, focus, and people ask the question, I tell them the same thing.

Matt DeCoursey 32:17
And they say, Well, how do I get around? You just ask? Yeah, it’s true. I’ve literally made a living doing that. And that, but there’s a key component to that. Because please do not contact me and ask me, give me a coffee invite. I’m not coming. I’m gonna drive all the way across town to meet a stranger in a coffee shop to talk about something and spend the time driving back home. But if you make it convenient, yeah. So if you want to get help from people make it easy for people to help you. Yeah, that’s true. But you know, it’s just the key thing. And, you know, the, I was talking about this to someone yesterday, that, you know, I’m 47 years old now. And I think as entrepreneurs age, we all look back at our stories. And we’re like, Man, why did? Why did that person take an interest in me? Why did they even care? It would have been so much easier to blow me off. But it’s that someone else took interest in them. Yeah. Right. And, and with that, you know, there’s, you know, there’s, there’s people that get my attention, and I feel, I feel kind of beholden to transfer some of the knowledge and experience. And I will say that all of them. So when I say make it easy this is if I wanted to reach out to you, this is how you do it, say it, Steve, I first off, I’m a I’m a big admirer of all the things that you’ve done. And I know that you have so much information and knowledge that you could pass along. I’m interested in some of that. Can I can I come to you? Can I you know, or whatever. And then I’m gonna you know, if you tell me you’re like, you’ll find that that, that ask? Yeah, we’ll get responses. And because otherwise, it’s like, if you try to make people go out of their way to help you. Yeah, you’re not gonna get us you’re not gonna get as much help. And it’s the same thing. It’s like, I’ve run into a lot of stuff. I actually had someone Want my advice on a pitch deck and I said, Well, there’s a lot of problems with this. And they said, Well, we’ll fix them for me. Oh, yeah. No, I’m doing other shit. You know, but who are you again? Well, it’s not even that. It’s like, No, it’s not my thing. And and but if you told me if I really wanted your help, your input your advice, and you said, Okay, I’ll meet you at 3am on Sunday. I’ll be there. Yeah, I’ll be there. And I’ll and I’ll say, How much time do I have? And you know, and can I bring anything with me? Yeah. And if you do that, you’ll find that a lot of people will be really receptive. And I always point out my friend Sandy Kemper. You probably know Sandy and he’s the founder of CTF. Oh, and I remember you know, Sandy’s got 10 million things he 25 He was in here not too long ago. And 25,000 companies on board at CTFO at De, it’s crazy. I saw 35,000 reasons to do something else other than talk to me. But I remember I needed some help and some advice. And I, and I emailed and I was like, Hey, man, I really, I can use your help, I could use your advice and tell me, you know, when, where or whatever. And he replied in two minutes and said, Come on by, yeah. And I was like, shit, alright. And I went, Yeah, I like dropping what I was doing, and you will for Sandy right what he did, but he gave me advice. And that and that was only about a 15 minute meeting that actually he gave me a blueprint that I ran with, and you talk about like no funding, so we didn’t ever sell. We don’t have any investors and Full Scale. But we were trying to bridge the gap. And you know, Santa gave me advice like create your own venture and I was and that honestly at the time, I’ve never even heard of it. It’s but you create your own lending pool. You don’t have you don’t have investors, you have lenders and pay them an amortized return and an order, like don’t give up on part of the company, don’t give up on the company. So it’s not absolute of capital. Yeah. And it accomplished exactly what we needed to do. And then And then, of course, I gave him the first opportunity to be one of those lenders. And he became one, that’s great, but I bet I can proper, and I came prepared. With that. I wasn’t like, Oh, hey, you know, lend me some money. I had it all prepared. And I came back and with that, you know, give the same people that have helped you opportunity to help again, if that comes up?

Steve Bernstein 36:26
Yeah. Yeah. You know, coincidence, or maybe not. I grew up with Sandy, we went to the same high school. He was a year older than me. So we know each other well. And yeah, talk about another person to admire. And Sandy, somebody whose ideas are so far out there. Most of them I don’t even understand what he’s talking about, to be honest. But then he makes you but he makes them happen.

Matt DeCoursey 36:45
I give him a hard time because he loves Startup Hustle. He’s Yeah, he’s been on three different times. And, he is one of the few people that I let send me a list. Yeah. But he’ll send me five things that we could talk about. And I always give him a hard time because I’m like, Dude, you’re making me do a lot of homework. You want to talk about the macroeconomic effects of small business arbitrage.

Steve Bernstein 37:12
And, you know, like, all these different I’m like, dude, but man, you got to do that. If you keep up with Sandy.

Matt DeCoursey 37:15
That’s another thing. He’s like, why I mean, these are things I thought would be interesting. And I want you to be prepared. I’m like, Yeah, I was. Yeah, I give them a hard time about right. But yeah, but that’s that’s the point is without it he didn’t have to take time to tell me he had no vested interest, right, my success at that time, or whatever. And literally, in a very, I mean, 15 minutes changed the shape and the trajectory. So we turned around, like we created that venture, those ventures that venture that program within like, 10 days, and had and and and achieved that $700,000 in funding. Yeah, from people we knew within the next 10 days, that’s so, you know, rather than and you look back at some of these things that change your path, or your trajectory, and some of that, and like, I’ll never forget that I was one of those. And we even talked about that the last time he was here. And the key was, if I made it easy for him to help me he didn’t have to go anywhere. Yes, sitting in the same seat, when I got there that he was in when I sent the email that he didn’t have to move to help me. Yeah, I mean, that’s a key thing.

Steve Bernstein 38:29
And you know, I think that that’s, that’s important, or it’s one of the reasons why your Startup Hustle works so well. You know, entrepreneurs, some of them may be humble, some of them not. But every entrepreneur likes to talk about their journey and is happy to share it is happy to share it, actually.

Matt DeCoursey 38:40
Because this comes out five days a week, so many people are like, that must be a lot of work. I’m like, well, not necessarily for me. You know, we have a great support team. Our request was that I need to sit down and go and hit record and then hit, hit stop and be able to go back to doing other things. But yeah, people are like, Well, where do you find the gas? I’m like, it’s easy. They’re like, Man, I tried to do a podcast and I couldn’t find the gas. I’m like, Well, did you ask because people really love to talk about themselves, of course. And you know, it’s also I mean, that obviously got a lot easier on this platform, right?

Steve Bernstein 39:16
A little bigger and well, we talked about, you know, starting a business to even starting this course. I knew about Startup Hustle. I’ve listened to it a few times but before as a guest, I went back and looked how many you had. I thought, Man, if I could be included in that group. That’s great. So again, looking for your case studies, even on Startup Hustle to say okay, I’m more than happy to.

Matt DeCoursey 39:34
You came in because at this point, we’ve had a lot of people that you know, to have our fifth birthday, that’s Startup Hustle this year and Startup Hustle is older than Full Scale was Yeah. Watson and I started Startup Hustle because we wanted to tell the real story of entrepreneurship and we came in hot. Episode One is like what Startup Hustle was going to be about Episode Two is titled getting funded sucks. Because you know, it figured like someone needs To tell people that like it’s the real, real deal with it and that entrepreneurship is not easy. And it’s not for everyone, right? I mean, it is truly not for everyone and you need I think you need to resolve yourself to whether it’s for you or not.

Steve Bernstein 40:17
And you have to have an appetite for risk.

Matt DeCoursey 40:20
You know, you wanted to be an entrepreneur because I did you know, I think I did to remember people people asked me, though, when did you know you wanted to become an entrepreneur? My answer is, I don’t remember a time when I didn’t.

Steve Bernstein 40:30
Write well, again, I was around my dad who is a true entrepreneur. He started with nothing. And so he was always creating things. So we all grew up. I have two other siblings who I mentioned, we all grew up always trying to create something there. What’s the next thing now and getting frustrated when you couldn’t? You know? So I Yes, I think I always wanted to be an entrepreneur and create something that feels genetic now that I have kids because my daughter especially is like a super creator.

Matt DeCoursey 40:50
And a salesperson. I remember when she was I think it was her fourth. She was four. And we gave her a lemonade stand for Christmas. And of course, she wanted to sell lemonade after the video that somewhere and I remember asking her, she has all these cups of lemonade. She’s like, do you want to buy some lemon MSA? How much isn’t? She says $5. I said, that’s a lot for lemonade, she said and literally I realized what an amazing salesperson she was, and I never taught her that she goes, Yeah, but it could be you’re never going to know if it’s the best lemonade you’ve ever had. If you don’t try it. Wow. Like holy shit. How are you? We’re all just outclassed. Most of the salespeople that I know are adults, because that was an excellent way to handle an objection. That’s awesome. You’ll never know if it’s the best lemonade you have if you don’t try it. And I was like, Oh, wow. Yeah. And that was I also took her to one of Lauren Conaway is his co host, a regular co host. And make sure you tune in for Lauren shows. They’re great. She’s been a weekly host for two over two years now. I took her to an innovative fundraiser event like a pitch competition. And there were eight, eight female founders that presented and wanted to raise money. I took my daughter with me and she was like, barely, that was right around that same age. And she was so charmed, that she wanted to get up and give a presentation. And I was like, you know, you’re not ready for that. And she goes, Well, I want to start my lemonade stand. So when you need money to do that, and she goes, Well, how do I do that? Because they’re asking for money. I said, go ask people for money. She went around the room, and she raised like, $9, but which, but she knows the process was amongst the top money raised that night. That’s funny, she went out and asked, it was kind of like I actually had to slow her down. Because I was like, I’m gonna maybe have to give some of this. I tried to give it back and the people that gave it to her that I know, that’s great.

Steve Bernstein 42:45
But it sounds like she’s great. I got a great start. I have a daughter too. She told me yesterday, marketing yesterday, and I’m impressed with her. She said, Dad, I’ve listened to you a lot. You don’t sell just products and services as an advertiser as a marketer uses you to sell feelings. And I go, Isabelle, that is right. I know you’re right. Comment? Yeah, I go. Can I borrow that? She goes, Yeah, you can borrow it. So anyhow, I’m borrowing my daughter’s. I’m not where I’m not helping you sell products and services, I’m helping you sell feelings, man, she has got marketing down.

Matt DeCoursey 43:16
And that’s the point that I had earlier with the peace of mind and calm commentary. Because, you know, with what we sell, people are worried like, you look at building software, it’s like, Well, okay, would you want to take apart my Rolex and put it back together? Because I’d feel really uneasy with that, unless I understood your experience or skills as a watchmaker. And if you’re right, and I’ll figure it out, I’d be like, yeah, maybe not the right thing, right. So, you know, software engineering is kind of the same thing if you put the wrong person in and then really muck up like a ton of stuff. Yeah. So that is always rattling around in people’s minds. And then you also have preconceived notions because a lot of people believe that. Well, in America, we all think that America does everything better than everyone else, which by the way isn’t always true. Right? And that’s not an unpatriotic comment. That is a realistic comment. Right? But they’ve had a bad experience with a company in India or maybe even the Philippines where we were out or whatever. And they’re like, Well, I don’t want to go through that again. Right. So the peace of mind thing is so without peace of mind. Nothing else really has much flavor. Yeah. And if you lose that peace of mind, especially as an entrepreneur like as an entrepreneur, yeah if I could sell you a healthy glass a peace of mind that they have a pretty damn high price tag on it. Yeah. Because that’s a tough thing to get. Yeah. And so if you can find ways to do like you mentioned or even like feelings, yeah. Because like, I would think in pharmaceuticals, it’s like that can be a bland kind of thing. Like here’s something that I’m having a hard time even pronouncing. Yep. For the name of your medication, then what does it, what does it fix? says this, If you can sell the feelings for how someone’s going to react if that pharmaceutical successfully accomplishes, you know, you whatever. Yeah, I mean, if someone has eczema, right, they hate that, right? And if and that and that contributes to lack of peace of mind, what are your feelings?

Steve Bernstein 45:20
If you’re like, wow, well, you just hit on the magic of our network. I mean, so. So we have people from all different walks of life, from all different backgrounds from all over the world, you get all those contributing to what they think the feeling behind that product should be. And then you can find the right one. I love saying, by the way, it’s a little bit of a jump out, jump off point. But in marketing, I believe the good answer is the winning answer out there somewhere. It’s our job to find it. So again, why would I want 1000s of people trying to find the answer instead of just a few?

Matt DeCoursey 45:49
Yeah, and that’s, so we’re here in the studio next to this giant metal Startup Hustle logo, which by the way, was crowdsourced? Cool. That was a 99 designs thing.

Steve Bernstein 46:01
Yeah, like five years, which that’s what we’re not. But yeah, but for that, yes.

Matt DeCoursey 46:05
I spent a couple 100 bucks. Yeah. And the whole idea of the crowdsourcing was that they call it a contest? And I wanted a lot of different concepts. And that stood out right away. Yep. Like right away. And five years later, we get a ton of comments on it. People want the stickers, the shirts, yep. You look at its $1 sign, and the dollar sign is wearing a sign. Right, you know, and that, and but the crowdsourcing, I mean, there were dozens, or maybe even hundreds of people that put out on that. Yep. And I think when it comes to creativity, it is a great thing. Yep. Because you never know where those good ideas can come from. It could come from a four-year-old, right? It could come from a 44-year-old, a comparison, 84, as long as we vetted them.

Steve Bernstein 46:49
Yeah, true. True. Right.

Matt DeCoursey 46:52
Well, you know, thanks so much for joining me once again. With me today. Steven Steve Bernstein, partner, co-founder of CrowdPharm, Inc. 5000. Number 134. And in 2022 less proud to have you in Kansas City. And I’m, you know, I’m embarrassed to say that this was your first time on, you know, that’s part of why we looked at the list, and we’re like, we’ve joked that Startup Hustle here in Kansas City has become a rite of passage. For many people we’ve had, we’ve had people that have come back a second and a third time.

Steve Bernstein 47:24
Well, now I’m in the club. It’s like, oh, serenade ly, right. I just have to get my jacket. If I come on so many times. Is that what we can’t tell everyone?

Matt DeCoursey 47:31
You know what the secret handshake is. If you want to apply to be a guest, go to and fill out the form. Good luck.

Steve Bernstein 47:42
It’s a long list right now, but do I get the secret handshake when we sign off?

Matt DeCoursey 47:44
Totally, totally. And let’s go ahead and do that, man. I’ll catch up with you next time.

Steve Bernstein 47:48
Okay, thank you, Matt.