Rob LoCascio is the Founder of LivePerson, a company that focuses on creating meaningful connections between brands and consumers. Rob is the guiding force behind the company’s vision has been the Chief Executive Officer of LivePerson since its beginning in 1995, which makes him one of the longest-standing CEOs of a tech company today. LivePerson’s beginnings were very humble, and Rob was the only person working on it. With time and dedication, he was able to create what it is today a NASDAQ traded company, serving over 18,000 clients with over 1,300 employees and offices across the globe.
Serving Customers with Conversational AI
Rob has always been fascinated with using technology to help people, in fact, right after his degree, he founded IKON, an interactive kiosk company for college campus information and video advertising. That company went under, and after losing everything in 1995, he started LivePerson. The company started as a one-man operation. In the beginning, money was so tight that he slept on a couch in a sublet office space, and to have access to a shower, he got a health club membership. He had a strong belief and sense of purpose, that’s why he carried on through adversity to bring his ideas to the world, so much so that Rob is the person who has invented the use of real-time chat for customer care on the internet.
As the world becomes more digital, it is complicated to think of having one-on-one chats with every customer at any time. Well, it was complicated until Conversational AI came in. Conversational AI is, in fact, a set of technologies that enable communication between computers and humans, empowering consumers to stop wasting time on hold or crawling through websites and message their favorite brands instead, just as they do with friends and family, which is exactly what LivePerson is all about.
And now here’s Rob LoCascio.
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Podcast with Rob LoCascio. The History and The Future of LivePerson, Inc.
people, company, rob, entrepreneurs, thought, business, learned, grown, chat, kiosk, big, question, person, build, voice, liberal arts, life, engage, creating, college
Mike Malatesta, Rob LoCascio
Mike Malatesta 00:18
Hey everybody welcome back to the HOW TO HAPPEN podcast. I am so grateful to have you listening subscribing, and sharing all the episodes that I put out and this one is one, you’re definitely going to do off, well at least two of those three things with, you’re going to want to listen, and you’re going to want to share, because today I’ve got, Rob Locascio with me, Rob is the founder of LivePerson Inc, which is a NASDAQ traded company and has been its chief executive officer since its inception inception in 1995, right when you started Was it just one, just you or did you have a little team or just you just phenomenal, one person. So Rob is the guiding force behind the company’s vision of creating meaningful connections between brands and consumers live person has come a long way since its early years, having survived the.com crash, congratulations, and grown to become the leader in intelligent engagement solutions currently serving over 18,000 clients with something like 1200 employees and offices across the globe. And here’s the biggest thing, Rob is one of the longest standing CEOs of a tech company today, which is amazing, because most people can’t make the leap Rob right between the can’t just keep going from one person to 18, to 1200 people and congratulations on that. Rob’s interests extend beyond his business and reflect his close ties to New York City. He is a founding member of the New York City, entrepreneurs Council of the Partnership for New York City, I think I got that right. So, in 2001, he started the Dream Big foundation with its first program feeding New York City, which gives families in need a Thanksgiving dinner. And today they’ve donated more than 40,000 meals, that’s awesome. And the Dream Big, entrepreneurship initiative, which was launched in 2014 to fund mentor, coach, and empower local entrepreneurs in in underserved communities. Rob is also a founding member of equal AI which I want to talk about today, which works with companies, policymakers and experts to reduce bias in AI. And last but not least, Rob also invented the use of real time chat for customer care on the internet, believe it or not, Rob. Welcome to the show. Thanks for having me. Yeah, well, when I, when I first learned that you created the real time chat I thought oh my gosh, because I’m like a chat phobic phobic, I guess I don’t like it, like chat intimidates me but I have to say that when, when I’ve done it with some big companies like Amazon and a couple others, it chat actually works really good, better than talking to a, to a customer service person somewhere so I’m excited to understand how you got that from starting it to where it is now. But let’s get started with how I started every podcast Rob and that’s where the simple question. How did happen for you.
Rob LoCascio 03:20
Well I mean I started my, this company was my second company, my first company I started a college and interactive kiosk company like touchscreens and I got out of college so I thought this could be pretty cool for college campuses I didn’t have a technology background I was literature. And so I guess the way I always kind of feel is that for every entrepreneur. It’s like, it’s like you have a purpose in life, and you just have these things that come in your brain can’t explain why you have these thoughts, you know, And then you think oh this is a really cool idea, and there’s a need in the world, use the nurse, like there’s this need. And that becomes a purpose. And so, you know my first company kind of set me on the path of being an entrepreneur, went under, in 1995, and I lost everything, and then I started this company. When I started by sleeping on a couch in a sublet office space, the guy who made T shirts in New York City, and I didn’t have enough money for pardoning in an office I chose office, and then I ended up sleeping there. And I need to get it I had to get a health club membership so I could take a shower. Hopefully they didn’t have a showers. Back in the hallways aloft and try back. So, you know, how did it get started it’s like, it’s the I have a I have, sort of like this belief in God and faith and purpose, and that’s how I think most things get started for people in the world.
Mike Malatesta 04:58
And Rob when you started your first company, you said it was a touch screen kiosk so like, I’m thinking like, you see those all over the place now in the airports and McDonald’s even has a touchscreen kiosk and you go in there to order. What were you seeing as an opportunity, back. This was in the late 80s or early 90s Back in 1991 1991 so early 90s What were you seeing as a college student where you were thinking to yourself, the world needs touchscreen kiosks.
Rob LoCascio 05:30
I actually was thinking. First I had a job out of college and I got fired in six months so that, that gave me an impression that working for somebody is not a really great thing. I didn’t do anything to get fired just they downsize. They’re a big company and I was in a little division. You know I was hired out of college, when they were downsizing, the downside of me first. The thing is, I remember advertising seemed really cool back then and there was some TV show I’ve definitely, It’s like a cool thing and a very creative thing I’ve always been a creative person, so I wrote down. No. Basically, I want to be an advertising, and, and then I remember seeing these kiosks in the World Financial Center, and somehow is connected to like what is the dramatizing on these days, and that sort of suddenly on the journey now. I saw digital video I ended up finding my way to digital video which didn’t exist back then, but I found a small mom and pop that basically we’re doing training of the military down in Washington DC, they were using this digital video for cars I thought wow this is cool. And basically, you know I was going after it. And I’m going to build this, and I had no idea about technology, I learned how to program. And that set me on the power of digital media and technology. And then from there, I, when I saw the internet and happened in 1985, I knew that the car business would not last, because you can access what was the aspirants who needed buildings can access it in your, in your, in your dorm rooms, and the students will leave it at the door number, so that’s kind of why I’ve made a big ticket.
Mike Malatesta 07:27
And were you bootstrapping, was that a bootstrapped business or was it something that had grown to the point where you had other investors or what were you doing,
Rob LoCascio 07:34
oh yeah I had friends and family and stuff but back in the 90s Like, there wasn’t venture capital likers today. So I put $50,000 on credit cards, because I was credit cards out of college and funded through credit cards, and then when they went under I lost all my credit cards my credibility went towards zero. And I wasn’t, I wasn’t forced to go bankrupt to design the last set of accounts which. And then I just kind of picked myself up and moved to New York I was involved with my New York City, and that’s where I started my person wasn’t Coraline person at the time, but when I didn’t have any clue about the product that we would end up launching as to where we are today to chat, probably, but I started to build websites, now I just thought I’ll create websites for small businesses now, that’s
Mike Malatesta 08:26
okay so you were just creating websites with at a time when probably hardly anybody had a website or they had something one page or something like that and
Rob LoCascio 08:36
that’s correct an E commerce was starting to happen so like what happened was, small businesses are always the first thing and they were like, oh I want to build a website to sell my products on so we’d have like a company called IDT that sold, you know, beauty products and we had an ISP on there and we had different small businesses that were that were that were wanting e commerce, wanted to find ecommerce.
Mike Malatesta 09:00
And what was life like for you before, before college Rob was. Where’d you grow up and what was ultimately I want to get to what did your parents think when you, when you maxed out these credit cards as a just graduated college student but
Rob LoCascio 09:16
yeah I mean I, I grew up on Long Island. I come from a line of entrepreneurs so my dad was an entrepreneur, my grandparents were entrepreneurs my grandfather’s, my cousins are entrepreneurs they like somehow. Everyone on the low Casio side, and my mom’s side and more do side like just, I don’t know. We often say like we never thought we were good enough to get a job, so we started off. They’ve all had small businesses like my dad had a series of small businesses, now that I was, I learned, you know, there’s a big impression on me about the ups and downs of building a company, and you know every five years, my dad would have a new company, is that if you like the throw of it. And but I that up and down what the lasting impression I mean I guess the reason I’ve stayed with one company is kind of challenging myself not to have that life, and I wanted to stick with something, and, and see if I can build and see like I can build a start off like I know I can build a startup without thinking I know what it takes to do that, I can build a company that happens billion dollars because if we did today, or can I build a company 10 billion in revenue or 2 billion in revenue, I’m no idea.
Mike Malatesta 10:26
And so, I wake up, because the challenge of that is really what’s quite exciting. And did you with your dad sort of changing businesses every few years was there was it did that bring pressure into your life and trade, you were saying you know I didn’t want to do that or go through that was it. Because, you know it can be tough starting something new every five years, it could be.
Rob LoCascio 10:49
Yeah, it brought a lot of I mean I think it brought a lot of pressure on family we there are times we have money times we have money by time. One day we had a Jaguar remember next day with a Pinto, Ford Pinto, I mean it was like this type of, you know, stuff and I think for my dad. He just got bored, you know, like he said it once, like I would just get bored in a blog the company, and I think it was, you know, for some entrepreneurs they. My dad loved Craig ordinary being on creating things out of nothing using computers early on in the 80s I mean, he was in the credit bureau visits us and plastics in the 16th, and then we will get into certain places API. It’s funny because if you can get through the first five years usually stops like an average spike right like stuff, start to happen like you get some real stability. Yeah, actually just blow it up and try something new and it just, up until he died. He loved leaves like selling via the child whose parents middle he was importing so no hi my father my father really made me understand what it takes to build a business, my grandfather on my mom’s side, shared a lot of stories, My grandpa on my dad’s side also and I learned a lot from my family about what it takes. It’s a pretty simple equation, building companies, like, I have to be able to get up in the morning and do my job and doing well, and put in the time and where I lack on experience, I can make them work. I can walk farther and longer than anyone else, right, because I’ve been committed, and a lot of people they just want to work nine to five, or whatever and that’s fine, I’m not criticizing you, but I know I don’t know everything, and I have to learn, and the only way I can learn is by putting in a lot of extra out, And I put an extra hour is all good things will happen. God’s experiment,
Mike Malatesta 12:45
it’s funny what you said about plastics because it reminded me of the movie, the graduate where the guy in there it gives Dustin Hoffman, that advice right like futures plastics or something like that I’m butchering the line I’m sure but, but you guys,
Rob LoCascio 13:00
because the future is like. Yeah, and so like my dad was literally in the 60s late 60s, early 70s And they, this is when that was the technology, right, brother spired company for vacuum forming for the cosmetics industry and they for me, it’s extraordinary what they’re doing with that business, and then blew up. Yeah, we got fired, like this thing my dad just blow it out, and once again I, I know I don’t have any ill will towards my father, I’m very lucky to have the father I had, I’ve learned a lot from his mistakes, which, you know, it’s like I learned a lot about his passion for business. But as well having those two like there’s a lot I picked up there like, I didn’t have to learn, when I started my business right.
Mike Malatesta 13:47
And when you were when you were in college you mentioned English lip was your major. My major was English as well. So I’m curious how you came to choose that as your major because I’ll share with you how I came to choose it as well. Yeah, it
Rob LoCascio 14:03
was it was kind of interesting, I mean, I didn’t serve a dual I did English literature and then I did I got my ultimate degrees of Bachelor of Business Administration marketing. Okay so, so and. And I got both and so yeah, I was a really, I was a bad student in high school. And most people didn’t like me. And then, and then I was a class clown I was, I just was so bored. I had to make my own site. And so I get thrown out of class and, and, and I had a teacher, though. This sister Mary I went to Catholic school who saw something in there are two people in high school saw something to me. And one was, was my tennis coach I love going to tennis, Dr. Walter lace and my other one was a sister Mary something and Donovan or something and she was English literature, and she got me into reading, and I just fell in love with books. Yeah, I remember reading The Catcher in the Rye and all that stuff, you know, that was kind of our bookmark generation. Yeah, sure. Right. And then, when I went to college, I hadn’t such, there was such a great group of professors in there, and I end up going newsletter which I focused on the romantic writers Wordsworth, Coleridge, that’s the group that I really got focused on I just fell in love with the poetry, and I realized the power of the written word, you know, and language. And, and so that’s really what, what I, the reason I got into it, and then she she saw some baby and gave me bucks as a Reeboks, you know, maybe you’ll be interested in this. Most teachers like you stopped me like they were just annoyed by me, getting out of class. She was like there’s something here with this kid.
Mike Malatesta 15:52
Well I wish, I wish I had a story that was like that, where I had a mentor and inspire but I actually chose English because it was really the only thing I could do was read books and write about them. Everything else I was in I was like math and I don’t know I can do it but it didn’t feel very good. So, but in retrospect, and I wonder how you feel about this because liberal arts now, get a lot of, you know STEM is sort of a big focus now in liberal arts is sort of poo pooed and a lot of areas but as an art but you know how did, how did that experience and that training and that exposure, help you as an entrepreneur.
Rob LoCascio 16:30
I mean I went to Loyola University which is a liberal arts for judgments for liberal or liberal arts, and I remember I had a, I guess my first history professor, as I remember the first day of class and this guy was so cool you know it’s like exactly the respect question. They came in. He did his PhD thesis was in Italian. Italian dueling was totally. Yeah, the whole PhD. So he’s a real Renaissance dude, nobody had to had the tracking code. I mean, just like it was like a perfect profession. It came in the first days of month. I want to tell you what this is all about your conscience, especially this class. You’re going to be at a cocktail party one day. Just somewhere in your life when you grow up, and someone’s going to talk about some comments and your ability to just talk about that topic on some base level will make your life extraordinary, you won’t get places in the world, so like, I’m going to teach about dueling Richard Ross, I think you’re gonna trust me you’ll be in a cockpit, why don’t you guys really talk about doing it like, oh yeah, I know about doing. I know about language, I know about the romantic. I know about philosophy. I know. And I remember I was like, he just stuck in my head like, oh man that’s anything that’s a good idea. So, that is brilliant.
Mike Malatesta 18:03
You know it’s an and so true. And, you know, my wife actually says that to me sometimes she’s like how do you know about all these different things I go, I don’t know anything. I just happen to know a little bit about a whole bunch of stuff enough so that I can at least engage, if you go really deep I’m just going to listen because I have to learn otherwise but yeah and I always thought like it. It trains you to think through something before you acted on it because in English Lit, you’re always trying to understand what the author was saying and he’s oftentimes he’s not he or she is not saying what they’re saying they’re presenting it in, in the language or the words that they use and it’s not obvious and so you have to you have to, it gives you the opportunity to really think about something and then be able to argue it or take a position on either side, because you’re able to think through it very, I think, you know, carefully. And, anyway, that’s what I don’t, I don’t know if you feel that way or not but I felt like that gave me a strength.
Rob LoCascio 19:08
Yeah, I think the look for running a company, also there’s a diversity of ideas, there’s diversity of people. And so, when you think about like brain liberal arts, thinking, and a lot of it is question. A lot of it is, especially the Jesuit upbringing is sort of like you question everything including religion, like, you know, Right, it’s always a question about the Catholic Church, even though it’s a Catholic border. It was always kind of a thorn in the side of the of the Vatican stuff being the current pope is a graduate, it was, you know we questioned that and so I, you know you got to be able to question and the most important thing I found running companies, questioning yourself is, you know, there, there’s healthy doubt, and there’s unhealthy doubt. And so, your ability to question your what your what your interpretation is on things like maybe you’re not interpreting things right, right. You have a filter on your best experiences. So, you have to be very careful, always be reworking your belief system of what things are.
Mike Malatesta 20:23
I went, I went to Catholic school as well grade school, At least, and, and then I went to high school that was Episcopalian, but wasn’t religious but we had to go to, we had to go to chapel three times a week and and what was kind of neat about it from coming from a Catholic background is it’s exactly like a Catholic mass, or a Catholic service except you don’t have to kneel down so that was like the. That’s kind of an interesting thing for me as I was growing up, um, the first job you got fired from Rob six months in, they downsize they fired. They got rid of you. Do you think if things had been different, you might have stayed and been not. I always wonder what kind of what you know you had the entrepreneurial family and maybe you had that in your genes and stuff but I always wonder a little bit. You know if things had worked out differently in the company, you know, you grew in it and you would, you know, I don’t even know if it’s a fair question, but what do you think you think you could have ever stayed as an employee or,
Rob LoCascio 21:22
I don’t, I kind of don’t, I don’t, I don’t look at the past like this, I don’t think you I think you I think this concept of happiness and sadness is your guiding point for happiness and something else frustration or whatever we want to say is your guide to, Am I doing the right thing, I go back to my thing. I truly believe that I learned this. Back when I was 14 when I was 40. I basically learned. I went to an arch bomb in India. Learn how to meditate and stuff representative, they’re on my birthday and massage from what I learned, it’s kind of a Hindu. Now, fundamentals is that inside of us is, is, is, is our purpose, And there’s a great story that I remember, Assange from told that at one time they were only gods in the world. And, but there was a set of gods that were gonna get put down on Earth, and became become physical beings and gods were deciding though. We don’t want to have these people have access to that type of godlike power, like right off the bat. So one God turns the other one says you know where, well how do we hide it from the middle, We do. And one as well. Let’s put in a place that’s really hard to find. And the other one said where’s that and said, within the sticking straight within the human down there, because it’s hard to look with them. And when you think about what I learned is like, this is what meditation does, like we all have called gut, a voice we call the gut. Yeah. And then we have an act of thinking but the gut is a very powerful thing and a lot of times in questioning, you can’t see it, but I do believe that we’ve all been put on Earth with a purpose, that the gut and that voice is telling us what we should be doing, we inherently will go against it, because we have freewill and make decisions with our with our brains, and those brains unfortunately are influenced by external forces like our families, friends, in society. And we tend to question some, so what happens is, what happens then we stay on a path that we’re unhappy. And we then wouldn’t have the extreme example of that is people self medicate drugs, alcohol, whatever they can end up in a situation suicide. No, not everyone I’m not saying there’s something about mental disease I understand that but I’m saying, like, the path of on happiness and not listening to your voice is a place that you can decide to live there, I don’t think I ever would have lived, and I don’t live there today. And it’s not like I’m different than any other human, I just do not live in. I don’t want to live in. Now there were times when I was younger, that I really had a lot of doubt about my inner voice and the question was a lot and other people professionally especially, I was 33 years old when I was very young I was 27 when I started the business, and especially when I went public people telling me stuff I hired professional managers, telling me, you know, you don’t really know how to go run so you know, very totally all things I had a chain. Never done this before and he put a lot of doubt in my head, right, I find it, I really shouldn’t be bold. I’m using our words physically shape people shopping or live in love to put doubt in your head, no weight and sometimes you’re looking like well that’s true and this is true. People we’re there to help you. You can help them. They’re there to help guide, But put the junior high, or they wanted to live down in your head, usually for their own purpose, is what I found. They want to put bear down and serve. If you listen hearing a voice it all be okay and over time when I’ve had difficult decisions to make, I just sit quiet. The voice tells me what to hear when I like to do it or not, I’m gonna do it. When I do it. Things are worked out over 25 years running the business, right.
Mike Malatesta 25:41
And it’s so there’s a lot of good stuff there. Rob So this, so the city people thing, this. So I, when you say that I see someone who wants power over you by being by trying to, so if they knock you down, they elevate themselves that’s kind of the way their mind works. And so I’m wondering how you dealt with that and got past it at some point because that’s something that kind of like what you said about, you know, external things in your brain mess with your gut so you were kind of at least if I heard you right, you’re kind of saying, your, your brain is kind of like, is your gut without the external forces so it’s it’s you pure and simple like this is this makes sense to me, this doesn’t make sense to me and I don’t want to put words in your mouth that’s just kind of what I heard, I don’t know if it’s right or not.
Rob LoCascio 26:35
Well yeah but the voices the voice number six in the brain, you really meditate the voice somewhere. Okay, it’s not, it’s never a cerebral event you’ve close your eyes and quiet your mind down when you hear this thing talking to you, and it tells you like, you’re okay or not okay yeah, when I have to make hard decisions, I sit silent and try to get rid of the active voice, which is like, you know your active voice, it’s that thing that you’re sharing other people’s voices, he or she said this. My family has this belief system that I’ve got in my head, my dad’s like as my mom. Yeah, there’s a lot connected to other people’s ideas, And you make them your own. Like, cognitively but inside you hear this various voice that is your voice it actually really sounded exactly like you that’s why it’s not some pitch news saying it’s okay in your voice. Hard to do by the way I didn’t like, I didn’t, I learned this trick my biggest thing on the Autobahn because for years I struggled. I struggled with it. Yeah, I think
Mike Malatesta 27:43
so. So that’s got me in it but we I think we all struggle with it so how, what led you to the ashram, you said, I just happened to show up there on my 40, but something led you there there was,
Rob LoCascio 27:57
I had a bad personal breakup in a relationship, okay I was engaged to someone, and, and it just, it was, it was really dumb I did. I was in this relationship. In the end, now I can look back and laugh at it for a lot of wrong reasons. And when that ended it ended, poorly, and it was really painful. The pains instructed, this is the one thing I’ve learned too is like, the pain is very instructive. And so when I have pain, emotional pain. I learned this from my therapist, Dr. Frank Morial, I have a podcast that I do that, I interviewed a month called over the wall plug in, but, but he taught me, he said, you know the pain and the pain of failure, and the embarrassment of failure, but really the pain is constructed. Don’t medicate it. And the man MapKit can be dumped on, don’t look for distraction and simply listen. It’s a very destructive and so when I ended this relationship, and I was in this pain. Something told me, I got to figure out why I had a lot of doubts, with this person. Why let it go on, and then ultimately create a lot of pain for me it wasn’t even like at the time I was single. I’m single. So a couple years ago, side girlfriend stuff and, and some of them would come and people would come and go but this left scar on. Right, and I ended up with massage from, actually I was on a plane, next to a guy, and I was talking about six months. No, my birthday coming up and we became good friends, and I said I’m trying to find a place in the world to go I was going from Israel to his symbol at the time, he was on the show he goes, oh my god I just came back from this place. Massage drums, drop some pictures. So like, it was, it was given to me as again, and I ended up there, and then it taught me a lot, but it’s hard, at least, I used to term it, we used to covering for me the great hair bold and that is what we used to term the type of person who would show up that I would willingly give up my decision making.
Mike Malatesta 30:05
Rob LoCascio 30:06
But I will say one thing marker is. We as humans, especially if you’re like, high achieving inside buildings we tend to be pretty hard on ourselves. We don’t need anyone’s being hard on us, and if somebody shows up, they’re hard on you. And it’s a very fine line to some people want to be honest with you and you need the honest feedback. But there’s a difference between honest feedback that’s loving and caring. And there’s honest feedback that’s controlling and, and, and hurtful and you’ll know because when you meet people who want to give you honest feedback that are that are good souls, you feel like God I’m learning something and I’m okay with it, and people don’t go home and you feel lousy. You feel lousy about yourself you feel worse about yourself in the morning. No one has the right to do that so you’re pointing now and it happens to protect one another, Mike, nice to meet you and don’t Buck yourself. Like I got it. Yeah. Want to you’ve got a motive and I get it. And it doesn’t fit where I want to go in life, that’s okay, I would have perspective on not inviting you. You don’t get an invitation in my life.
Mike Malatesta 31:16
You know, so the word manipulation came into my mind when you were talking about that but, um, do you find this because I find this, people who first thing out of their mouth is, that’s, you know I just tell it like it is I’m just, you know, but I always think to myself, if you have to, if you have to provide that intro intro to me to put me on morning that that’s what you do. I am immediately thinking that the next thing you’re going to say is complete bullshit because people who really want to tell tell you like it is, first listen right they first, and no one says, it’s sort of like Can I be honest with you. Well, if you’re saying Can I be honest with you, what’s it What am I supposed to make of that, like, should I or should I say, Okay, this time please be but otherwise don’t silence. I’m always confounded by those kinds of things, and especially people who say it they were that like a chip on their shoulder or some badge of courage or something like I’m just going to give it to you straight man I’m just going to tell you how it is. But that’s not all, you’re telling me is what you think. I know that doesn’t, how, why should that mean something to me just because you tell me that’s the truth. How do you know what the truth is,
Rob LoCascio 32:38
and I think there’s a few different sets you’re running a company with a bunch of, you’re going to change, like I’ve been around long enough I’d seen massive change in our company like every five years, you’re gonna change. Yeah, but you like it or not, changes of money unless you’re not growing, if you’re growing, you’re going to face something could be competitors, could be new opportunities, it could be macro events like COVID and financial crisis before 911 Or the internet bubble I read through all of those. Now, the thing, the tricky one is people you fired that did really well for a couple of years and now want to now, your inner self and your strategy is, has changed, and you need them to change. And what I’ve found is there are many times that then they go into, into a mode of trying to then stop doesn’t serve them. Right. And that’s the tricky one. And so where I found with that one is that it takes time to work through somebody out of company, sometimes like you can’t. They’re important people too and you just can’t fire him tomorrow. And you want to give them a chance, but you have to go through with a very stoic perspective as I say, they’re not going to be here. So no matter what they do their job right now is going to do one thing to me personally, is to take my energy. They want to engage me in stuff that’ll distract. I couldn’t find my goal, right, because they can distract you. They can keep me where I am, where they want to stay. So you have to take a point like just not get engaged, they’ll be engaged in the dialogue going and that’s good, but if you go to, then he goes out and I’m like, Well, my goal today is not to get distracted and go stay focused, and whoever with me is going to keep them focused he was not to distract me. Therefore, I’ve got to minimize them as a human being, and the company suffers because of this as a leader, say, yeah, it’s not a nice thing to do but it’s a necessary thing to do to change over 25 years. Yeah,
Mike Malatesta 34:48
I, well thank you for sharing that because, As you were talking I was thinking it’s like well thank you for sharing that with me. And then I’m moving on. So you want me to come back at you and say no, you know, you’re right, you should be NSA. Yeah. But yeah, so you’ve had to learn. Well first of all, you mentioned the Teflon thing Rob, so when, when these gray haired old men come to you now. And, you know you’re all aware, right you’re aware of what’s going on, how do you how do you deploy the Teflon shield and how do you, you know, make it. Get those people out of away from you.
Rob LoCascio 35:26
This engagement, you know, it’s really, we, we have choices of engagement. Now we decide that the only choice we really have I always think it’s really interesting. If somebody is not being a positive force in your life you have one big choice and that’s not to engage with them. Right. Very rarely I’ve only had a few employees in my life that ended. And that was amazing and it’s funny because there’s an example of one of someone and I never only a couple years ago. He came back to someone in the company to potential company to talk to our company, he went he ended up in a company and company really didn’t work out, he had a big ego, but he could be president of the company, the CEO yeah that was a big deal, has never come about. But he took the journey. I was very impressed, did not end well with me. I won’t engage him. He’s emailed me 1000 times. Once this feeling was wonderful for a company that they wanted me to book the company, and a choice. You must have the privilege. So like we have choices of who we hang out with. And you’re better off there are a lot of people what I found is that if you fill your space, you’ll have a limited amount of time and space. You decided when filling with homeless people are going to make you happy we’re going to really help you feel excited. If you don’t have to you have a couple of people in there that don’t got to ask yourself why are they that, what is their purpose, why are they, why do I feel that way. You have a choice. Take the call or not to take the meeting or not engage with them or not. Right.
Mike Malatesta 37:02
It always want I always, when people are sort of, especially at a leadership level where they’re sitting around and they’re sort of complaining about people that are on the team, but I’ve learned this over the years I always say well you invited them on the team right they didn’t, they didn’t like bang down the door and take you hostage you invited them on the team and now here you are saying. You don’t want them on the team well. Do you know if that’s what you really want don’t want them on the team then take them off the team otherwise make win with the team you have, it’s, it drives me nuts.
Rob LoCascio 37:41
I’m actually not super far from religion provided the answer grew up. We always call that God’s Word we like the Jesus complex like you always have on your mind, the person can fill that role, who’s like walks on water and and they’re perfect. Like, if that person wants to have like the perfect person, and a lot of times you create this like, it’s a Frankenstein of perfection, and they’re human beings, no there are very, Very few. Perfect, people in the world. The Buddha was one of them and stuff you know like the brief action of a being, right, from God and building a team is about finding people that complement each other’s weaknesses, and, and then helping people to maybe build through those weaknesses. Yes, but you can’t find someone who’s perfect telling them they show up and you think they’re perfect they’re gonna let you doubt they will let you down. I mean I let people down. I know that, like, there are people who have. I remember, somewhere in my 30s late 30s I was about 34 years old. Now it’s not 37 years old. I came to the conclusion that it’s okay letting people down. That I can’t, you know, that people are going to be let down by nuts, okay. And also people will be hurt by me. I will do things and say things to them. So, I won’t say, one on one level, I have the power to say I’m sorry. I think for a leader, the power of of Ansari is very powerful because I know I can make mistakes, I have the power to correct. If authentically apologizing for what I’ve done. Right. I find people are okay with that you know somebody screamed at somebody once or whatever, not gonna talk about something like horrific ly and in the bounds of what’s working, you get excited to scream and smile with that intention and go off the handle to try not to do that too many times, but it happens. And sometimes you’ll want to do seven times now and that’s okay, it gives you power to move forward.
Mike Malatesta 39:56
Yeah and it’s especially okay if over the period of time you’ve built a lot of trust in the bank with these people so they know that everything you’re doing, you’re doing out of, you know, care for the mission or whatever, not because you’re sitting there, you know you’re not directing at the person you’re directing the situation for, maybe, so they understand. Hey Rob is not like that all the time. Rob’s done a lot of great stuff for me so if he, you know, if this happens every so often that happens is human, that that’s the way it goes. And I’m okay with it, or I’ll get
Rob LoCascio 40:27
over it so I’ve learned things for myself there’s tools I use for myself that don’t work for me but I think basics are hanging out with people that you feel like positive, that gets you excited, you know, bringing them along on the journey and hearing a voice or purpose in life and they’ll be happy. It’s hard to be happy. Well,
Mike Malatesta 40:52
I know. So, this is weird because we’re kind of bumping up against the time that we have, due to a little scheduling snafu that we had, and I haven’t talked to you at all about chat or, or live person or anything because you’ve been so fascinating, on the other stuff but I feel like I should ask. I, because I’m really curious about how you invented chat because I like I told you at the beginning I’m kind of like, I’m now I’m amazed by it before I was kind of scared by it but where did it come from, you know this, this, your your kiosk. 2.0 idea.
Rob LoCascio 41:25
So, it was noticed it’s pretty obvious but building websites right. Our customers start to say, Yeah, we would, we look at customers reports on time and product. And back then, there was a lot of voice call dozen people were looking at a website and we couldn’t figure out that would hang up allow production dial up connection back then. And they would call the company out in front of number and talk to him he would lose the connection so our customers started talking about like their websites, good, but they get a lot of phone calls, and I started to think, I remember, this is such a great number like adjusted in 1995, to 93 I saw the internet, but it wasn’t what it was until 95 is where commerce started to happen. I remember logging in 93 I was like this is a joke, we’re doing digital video on kiosks, no links on pages 95 html. Netscape browser, like pictures like farmers, right. When I first logged in in 95, I never forget. IBM had a website and had things like Java. I didn’t so I had an IBM computer logged in and up on this portal on the call center was a website like Winston means they’re actually trying to do like a job. And I remember, connecting, you know, and clicking around number thinking like original the people at that time there were millions of people on it now like there’s a lot more. That’s a lot of people, and I felt really alone. Plus I was in an office, a morning broke, so I felt really alone. As a result of people. And then I thought about. That’s not the impression so then when I started the websites my question people who sell on a website, you got to put the people back in the store, and that led to creating chat that we really designed, but it didn’t exist as often as one in South Barton she designed the windows, because by time we will chat about five people working in the company, and design the windows now you should work today because Windows exists today like that design is still like, designed by your boss most websites. And how is your chats gotten really smart, I
Mike Malatesta 43:44
mean, I know you’re, I wanted to talk about equal AI and just AI in general but Chad’s got really smart and you. You seem to have figured out how to make chat, super smart so that, you know, big companies all over the world are using live person to, you know basically improve engagement by like, you know multiples of percentages right and maybe keep instead of people talking to someone overseas that can be kind of frustrating sometimes they’re actually getting the answers they need and in seconds by typing into to the chat so how is, you know how I guess how is AI really, and where is it going to go from here.
Rob LoCascio 44:24
So, like, seven years ago I cancelled the chapters this workshop wasn’t going to really go the distance. About, even our best comes about 10% of people would chat and 97 Pick up the phone. And there’s some dynamics of web chat, that it’s synchronous are going to have a messenger chat constantly. When you come back almost it’s like you have to start over again. Right, it’s like, it’s not persistent, like you don’t have this ongoing connection with the brand would say that chat so when messaging. Seven years ago, I started to see why messaging started becoming more pervasive I thought about what if we get back in the messaging platforms and use asynchronous messaging like the message with our friends and family. And then I thought about, from there, I thought about automation like this really takes off this consumers writing messaging, it’s aligns with consumer behavior. We’re probably gonna need a lot more automation if people don’t want to stamp with humans, and then all of them playing out. So, in some cases we removed 40 50% and 70% of voice calls domestically, we’re doing things within retail today with like dunkin donuts on fountain chappati and and signatures weather and Lowe’s where they’re selling hundreds of millions of dollars, and stop using messaging and automation, you know, what you probably has a bot called Pepper when the word filter burrito and everything pick it up at the door. So there’s a lot of cool stuff going on today. Well,
Mike Malatesta 45:56
I mean I could spend more time talking to you I’m sorry we had a little snafu but we, I know you got to go so I just want to thank you so much for being on the show today Robin sharing your stories and being so personal, about your stories, it’s just been that’s inspirational that’s, that’s what I love, I mean 50 grand in debt, out of college on credit cards and sleeping on a couch somewhere taking shower at the at the gym and and then seven years later, you’re something like that you can’t you’re taking your company public, it’s frickin amazing man.
Rob LoCascio 46:33
Employees almost a $4 billion company’s market cap and it’s been a ride, you know, I, you know, and one of the things I’m trying to do now is get back, entrepreneurs, that’s why I created my own podcast called over the wall I guess by now and, and, because I really want entrepreneurs don’t understand. That’s why I try to be pretty straightforward, like open about the conversation of being an entrepreneur. I feel like there’s a lot of BS out there, especially with a lot of motivational speaker people, yes. Entrepreneurs like it’s all like, get out of bed, you know, it’s a lot of superficial crap, and I find nothing that’s needed me, that’s something I find a lot of that is, those guys who’ve never built businesses why those motivational people and like small business in America business has been more
Mike Malatesta 47:28
businesses a speaking business Yeah,
Rob LoCascio 47:32
trying to run like five people or 20, or 22,000 people or 200. What you’re trying to build a company over time, not from rags to riches in one week five and 10 years. Right. And there’s a lot of short term thinking, and there’s unfortunately a lot of misinformation by employers. So what happens, you sit at home. You feel alone, you feel like you’re a loser. That’s what happens you go, Oh my God, this mistake happened like, I must be the only person in the world who will hire the wrong sales guy leader, modifying, and I’m embarrassing, my company’s not doing well, and I just wanted entrepreneurs to see that it’s a mental game, that there are some rules to the mental game that they have a journey they’re on and they shouldn’t go along that we’re all together we all experience is very simple. So that, I don’t want to be an outdoor is a very lonely road. Yes, and the creative people could think like there’s little Don Quixote in their lungs and is like you, the horse in the other guy, and definitely guys named to split my mind with it to casual friends going we’ve got to find and once more entrepreneurs and that’s that’s myself, so I want people understand that while you’re thinking.
Mike Malatesta 48:51
I love the way I listen to your podcast over the wall. I love the name of that podcast that’s really, That’s really cool. How long have you been doing that.
Rob LoCascio 48:59
Oh, wow, six months, okay 17 Or something I remember from Deepak Chopra, Edwin scab Kelly the astronaut. Oh No kidding. Yeah. All the people recently who did the request bar. So I got a really large part about the mental game. And on some people can prepare themselves mentally to go out in the world and
Mike Malatesta 49:29
I’m going to listen thanks Rob So Black live person.com is the website. What if people want to get a hold of you, where do they connect with you.
Rob LoCascio 49:37
So I’m on, I’m on all the social channels and then they want to know me and Rob of my personal calm like entrepreneurs email me all the time, or give me a LinkedIn like I looked at I do look at LinkedIn, a nice solid Tommy’s in your email gets lost. Just put it into LinkedIn or put it into Robert liveperson.com and I’ll be more than happy to help I can I just helped now was very fortunate, very fortunate to have some people in my life who really helped me and is paid back to it but I think it’s just don’t feel like I want to do. Right.
Mike Malatesta 50:14
I love it. Rob, thank you so much. Recording has stopped. Okay, well thanks so thanks so much man it you’re fascinating to to talk to you really are. I’m. I feel like we talk that we sort of talk the same language a little bit, you’re, you’re probably further along than I am but I, I, I’ve been an entrepreneur my. I got fired from my first job too and I wrote. Yeah, and I started a business after it just like, just like you did. And it’s been fantastic, but it’s also been very challenging along the way I sold mine in 2015 and then started another, but it wasn’t when you saw that 50 million. Yeah, That’s pretty good. Yeah, I mean, compared to yeah I mean it’s not, it’s not nothing, it’s not. It’s not nothing. So I, and you know it’s funny. And I should have talked to you about this and get your feelings on this but you know so many entrepreneurs they get they get sort of scared of growing because they feel like growing is gonna just be more problems and more time and all these things and, and, you know, it was my experience and I wonder what yours was you know like the bigger you get, maybe sometimes the easier it gets you know because you got support people you can actually spend time figuring things out, you can, you know you can do a lot of things that you can’t do as a small business owner like your dad for example he was probably doing everything you know he had his hands and everything, all the time and you just run out or you run out of bandwidth that way you run out of speeds and frustration today
Rob LoCascio 51:59
is like, I don’t know I tend to, there are times when, like so, you know, close as you get your team in place and they start taking capacity right to get the capacity back. Yeah, man, it’s me that I tend to fill up with stuff. Yeah, okay, and not, like, I tend to then I’m looking at where we’re going. I’m looking forward, and then there comes in like right now we’re in a period of time where there were like, when we grown tremendously in the last like four months. And we’re very big fans. But we’re at a point where we got to kind of change things up a little bit, bring more people in I’ve got, and I’m now because I feel the burden on me, I’m like I’m on calls like it’s a lie o’clock at night, a lot, but I’ll start building gaps, and like as leader we were also gaps around like God need to hire someone like why am I doing this call. I don’t know I don’t think it ever, it’s never like here’s a query, they’re like why don’t you just focus on some strategic stuff, but it’s very shortly. If you’re really grown.
Mike Malatesta 53:17
Okay. And how do you what I know you probably have to go but I’m just curious here. How do you keep a long term focus with, you know, a public company, because you know the, it’s, there’s sort of a pressure,
Rob LoCascio 53:33
I guess. Yeah, it’s quarters keep Yars. So like, you can’t, you can’t be a member. I was looking like a month, next year, being in running a public company is like being in the Olympics every quarter, who’s going to show up and show your numbers. And so there’s something great about that like, it keeps you pretty straight up. You can’t bullshit anything being a public company that’s kind of what it is in the end. Yeah. And so, and being a company in public was very embarrassing and it’s not good, you know, and it’s great when it’s great, right, but it keeps you on the straight now of like, I got an excuse to move fast, it’s part that’s tricky is not going to caught on to investment horizons, like we had like seven years ago we made a big investment in what is our new platform it’s our messaging, ditch the chat platform as invested in it invites the chemicals into the new platform which was three years to build a new platform to cut our cash flow and half the stock got really cut down, there’s a lot of down uncertainty analysts didn’t like it shareholders activist people came in. Okay. And so I kind of thought, you know what those but I said no, we have a long term vision, we’re executing on it and we just got to get out the door. And in the end we got out the door, worked out okay wasn’t pretty funny about doing some carols and still have this residue left over like consistency and it was 56 quarters of straight growth. Until we actively couldn’t. Right. And so, so, but they don’t like to wear like the jeans. They just want you and then there’s a lot of stuff that wants you to buy revenue, like we build a lot of adult most of our stuff organic and our dog, there’s a lot of pressure like by revenue by invoice waste a lot of time to get value for the short term or the long term most acquisitions are not awesome. You can look at companies that acquired their way into their future like Oracle, and they’re pretty crappy companies at the end. But in short term you’re the boss and more powerful but they can’t put it together in the end. So, I don’t know too many companies acquire their way to success, you know, Amazon, Google, Facebook, they don’t acquire the weight as the core businesses work. Yeah. Right, right.
Mike Malatesta 56:07
Yeah, it’s it’s it’s hard and it’s, I’ve grown businesses through acquisition, and it looks so easy on paper, you know, and we’re just going through it right now, it looks so easy on paper and you look at in God’s steel this, this, you can’t, can’t mess with this right and then you get these people in there and they’re just, you can’t get anything right with them. Cannot like the business, you can’t miss somebody. Today, we are industrial waste management firm, so we help manufacturers dispose of all kinds of wastes that’s not the garbage. And that’s what I’ve been doing most of my, that’s my first business that’s this business too. So it’s similar. Once you sell the first business I sold it to a company called Covanta energy which is a publicly traded company. They’re in Morristown, New Jersey is where they’re based and not not far from you. Yeah, yeah, so that was, that worked out well, that was a good. I think it worked out well for my team for me. For them, it worked out good so I, but it was not perfect, that’s for sure. Gorgeous bought a company now, you just bought another company, yeah three actually to, to form a base for, you know growth on the new platform basically so. So yeah, we’re, you know we’re struggling our way, our way through it I mean, the thesis is good, the business is good but the PEEP getting all the people from three different companies to be like together as one, has been a challenge from us and not just from a person standpoint but a system standpoint and yeah, you know, that kind of thing. You overestimate you underestimate that I do underestimate you know the difficulty of that and, but we’re getting we’re getting our feet under us, we’re, we’re, every day, a little bit better.
Rob LoCascio 58:00
Yeah, that’s 1% 60 points. Yeah, it’s hard. I mean, they always take longer to integrate they take longer to do everything right. Yeah, man, and then put a system on top after the system, picked up people gone. It’s the time, because you don’t want to break you don’t want to break it, they did, right, bottom line.
Mike Malatesta 58:23
Yeah, exactly. Yeah, exactly, exactly. Hmm, okay, well, alright Rob talking. Yeah. Take care. Thank you. Thanks so much, Mike. That was awesome. Oh, my pleasure. I didn’t know you were still there and like you’re very quiet. You’re very good. You’re very good at being quiet.
Oh good, that’s what the mute buttons for because I tend to talk a lot. It’s, Yeah that was that was awesome. I’d love to be in the loop around when it’s going live so we can help promote it and anyway and post about it on Rob social so yeah I think we’re connected over email, but feel free to just keep me in the loop about that.
Mike Malatesta 59:02
Okay I will. And then we probably didn’t get to as much about the company and stuff but anyway I thought it was fascinating, with these sounds great. Good. All right, well thanks thanks India. Of course, yeah. Have a good one. You too, bye bye.