S2 Episode 2: Reimagining data privacy
  • Show Notes
  • Episode Transcript

Privacy is one of the biggest topics in technology today. As consumers, most of us are are aware that companies know a lot about what who we are, we buy, where we go, the information we consume and lots more – and lots of us don’t like it. But the reality is that this use of data today underpins the how advertising works online – and by extension the whole internet economy.

In this episode, we speak with Joe Root, co-founder and CEO of Permutive. His company is on a mission to rebuild data in advertising, starting with protecting user privacy. Permutive is dedicated to a privacy-first web with publishers at its core. They exist to help advertisers deliver relevant ads, without compromising user privacy and trust. To do that, they’ve had to build some cutting edge technology and rethink the adtech stack from the ground up. Enjoy this conversation with Joe Root and Entrepreneur First’s co-founder and CEO, Matt Clifford as he shares how he started his entrepreneurial journey straight out of university with no ad tech experience.

[00:00:16] Matt Clifford: Hello and welcome to The Entrepreneur First Podcast where we uncover the personalities and stories behind some of the world’s most inspiring entrepreneurs. My name is Matt Clifford. I’m one of the co-founders of Entrepreneur First, and I’ll be your host for this episode. Privacy is one of the biggest topics in technology today. As consumers, most of us are aware that companies know a lot about who we are, where we buy, where we go, the information we consume and lots more. Lots of us don’t like that, but the reality is that this use of data today underpins how advertising works online, by extension, the whole internet economy.

Today’s guest is trying to do something about that. Joe Root is one of the co-founders of Permutive. His company is on a mission to rebuild advertising, starting with the use of privacy. In recent years, changing regulations and social norms have made both consumers and brands much more wary about how personal data is stored and used in advertising. Existing ad tech solutions need a massive rethink, and that’s where Permutive comes in.

Permutive is dedicated to a privacy-first web of publishers at its core. Permutive exists to help advertisers deliver relevant ads without compromising user privacy and trust. To do that, they’ve had to build some cutting-edge technology and rethink the ad tech stack from the ground up. A big task, you might think, for two people who started their entrepreneurial journey straight out of university with no ad tech experience. I hope you enjoy this conversation with Joe Root.


[00:02:00] Matt: Every founder starts down the entrepreneurial journey for different reasons. I asked Joe to walk us through his experience.

[00:02:07] Joe Root: My uncle was one of those who always had computers kicking about the house and that’s how I stumbled into it. Built a computer, tried to make video games, the usual story. I think I really found a love of programming, went off to university to do that. I met my co-founder, Tim, there, but I think prior to university, both of us had become very interested in two things which bonded us.

One was a company called 37Signals who built this product called Basecamp from out of Chicago, and were the first company I’d seen which wasn’t a bank where it was like, “Oh, people are building really cool and interesting software,” and they worked in a warehouse and they had MacBooks and I really wanted to have their life. The other was Hacker News. I was starting to get the feeling that, hey, there are a load of engineers building really interesting companies and you didn’t need to have a business degree to build something interesting and scale something.

When I turned up at university it turns out like Tim had exactly the same two interests and obsessions and we really bonded over that. University was a lot of working on projects which never went anywhere. I think we both had a belief that at some point we would start a company. I think Tim had a job at a hedge fund. He did join on that endeavor. We spent three months there. It’s called Baked Things, it’s connecting people who love to cook with people who just don’t have the time.

It turns out like we hadn’t spoken to either cohort of user, neither did they really seem to exist. We spent three months writing code which ultimately, would allow people to deliver baked goods or pick up baked goods on their walk home from work. I knew it was useless. No one used it. We didn’t speak to a single customer. We learned very quickly all of the pitfalls which a traditional tech founder falls into.

[00:04:12] Matt: So then, you were I think working as an intern at GoCardless when we first met. Is that right?

[00:04:20] Joe: Yes. After that I realised, well, I need to get some experience of actually starting a company and went to work for Parents who were a coffee delivery company, and then the GoCardless folk as an intern over there. I was planning to head off to do a PhD and then met you who convinced me to do otherwise.

[00:04:44] Matt: Joe’s company puts consumer safety at the heart of its strategy. As of today, publishers target billions of ad impressions every month through Permutive, a number that’s grown over 20 fold in the last 2 years. I asked him to explain more about how Permutive works.

[00:04:59] Joe: It’s a very good question. Our mission as a company is to rebuild data in advertising to protect privacy. It affects digital advertising, huge, huge business, come at the expense of our privacy. Regulators don’t like it, and that means it’s being torn to pieces. It’s also pretty important. It’s how most major publishers monetise today,, and we set out to rebuild this ecosystem in a way which functions but doesn’t come at the expense of our privacy.

[00:05:25] Matt: The sort of problem you’re talking about is the fact that we generate, sometimes actively, but mainly passively a ton of data about ourselves by the way we use sites, applications all over the internet. Today that information is a key ingredient in delivering ads to us all. That’s been the status quo for a long time, as you say, more and more people, both at the individual level, but also as you say, regulators are worried about this.

[00:05:52] Joe: I think what we do is we build for where regulation is taking the world. If you look at digital advertising today, there are two problems with it. The first is, as you move across the internet, there are hundreds if not thousands of companies who are tracking everything you do. Like you said, you’re generating passively all this data. Well, that’s been hoovered up by a ton of companies. You have no idea who they are. They’re packaging you up and they’re selling you on downstream, and regulators don’t like that aspect of it.

Part two is the way these companies are using and sharing your data is leaking at an enormous scale. When you look at the practices around the way the data is shared, when you arrive on a website, your data is effectively being broadcast, and then you lose control of that data downstream, so these companies can end up using in any which way, and regulators don’t really like that.

We’ve seen things thrown off around this. Cambridge Analytica was quite shocking because we didn’t realize that our data was being used in quite the way it was. Because of that, we’re seeing these two major shifts in the industry. The first is we’re seeing this huge transfer of power. Traditionally, in advertising, all the power sat with these central ad tech companies worth hundreds of billions of dollars. That’s now moving towards first parties. It’s why we’ve seen Amazon build this advertising business, which is larger than AWS. That’s one trend we plugged into. We build infrastructure for the next generation of winners for these first parties.

The second problem though is because regulators don’t like the way ad tech is using and sharing this data, they’re breaking this underlying internet infrastructure known as the cookie, which most people probably know is that annoying pop-up. Actually, it’s a technology which enables you to be tracked across the internet. When that disappears, all of a sudden, the internet shatters and these companies no longer can track you. That’s the second problem which we solve was, well, how do you buy and sell ads without using these IDs?

The way we did that was we went and rebuilt everything, all this data in advertising, we’ve rebuilt all the processing which happens to run on the device. That means rather than sending all of your data into a cloud to be processed and for ads to be personalized for you, we do that personalisation on the device so your data never needs to leave it, and when we’ve talked to ad tech about saying, “Hey, do you want to buy this ad?” Rather than saying, “Hey, here’s an ad for user 123,” we’re saying, “Hey, here’s an ad fora  user who’s researching what mobile phone to buy right now.”

[00:08:21] Matt: The advertising world has evolved extensively since the dawn of the internet age. These days we’re often shown ads that are intended to be relevant to our interests. However, this is only possible thanks to a massive uptick in surveillance and tracking of our browsing habits. I asked Joe to explain why targeted advertising can be problematic.

[00:08:39] Joe: Users do prefer personalized ads, whether that’s because they’ve been surveyed and the responses are overwhelmingly positive, or whether that’s because those ads just perform better, which indicates that users engage with them better. I think the reality is though is ads have become creepy. For example, if I’m on Top Gear, I can’t even drive, so I wouldn’t be on Top Gear, but if I was on Top Gear for the ads on there to be personalized around what types of car I’m interested in, it’s pretty normal.

[00:09:06] Matt: You might get an advert for a driving school.

[00:09:09] Joe: Yes, or a bike.

[00:09:12] Matt: Sorry, I interrupted there. You’re on there. Personalised around the cars you might want to buy.

[00:09:15] Joe: Exactly. This notion that everything I’ve done is now stored in this log which is immutable and stays there forever, and then that’s being used to tailor every experience becomes quite creepy. People say, “Oh, well, my phone is listening to me.” It’s actually just the data you throw off is remarkably useful for predicting certain things about you. In a way it’s almost like a testbed for what comes next is, I think, in the West what’s happened, ads and this kind of tracking really lays the foundation, if you don’t stop it, for what comes next. Is this how your insurance premiums get figured out?

What else about you gets determined based upon all these signals you’re going to be throwing off? As the number of devices you have grows so rapidly, those signals are going to be pretty terrifying if you don’t start to rethink about how do we place some limits around what can be used and how it gets shared.

[00:10:09] Matt: You’re pushing on an open door in many ways, in that both the regulators increasingly require this, but presumably, the first parties, the site earners, and the advertisers, they want to both be seen responding to this consumer trend.

[00:10:23] Joe: I think right now, today, it’s like this middle layer of ad tech, which is very unhappy that things are changing. Actually if you speak to a publisher or if you speak to a brand downstream, neither of them feel the need to be collecting data this scale or want that type of relationship with the user. Over the last two years Apple have effectively dismantled all the ad tech infrastructure on their devices. Today, ad tech just doesn’t work on an Apple device. You can see very clearly what goes on in that world.

Today what it means is advertisers just spend less there. Today the CPMs, the amount effectively a publisher gets paid for an ad dropped by 50% when you remove that infrastructure. Now you could argue though, that’s because all that ad tech infrastructure’s geared around it. I think what we found is Apple users are obviously hugely valuable to advertisers, they want to reach them, there’s just no technical way to do that today.

[00:11:21] Matt: Permutive’s privacy-first advertising ecosystem aims to solve these problems. I asked Joe to explain how their approach differs from most offerings on the market.

[00:11:30] Joe: I think today, very high level, we run on about a billion devices every single month. We’re pretty significant internet scale. About half a percent of ads on the web are targeted by our infrastructure. We’re by no means at the completion point, but we’re just about noticeable on the internet today in a tiny sense. I think the reason why is we have a very strong footprint amongst the publisher community.

We’re almost infrastructure underneath the marketplace. We’ve done very well with one at that marketplace because we solve their problems quite deeply. We’re at scale, but by no means the solution today. SoftBank believe in this macro privacy trend and also just how disruptive it is for the old players in the ecosystem, so really the focus of that is now enabling us to scale not just in the web ecosystem, which we’ve grown very comfortable in, but these same changes are now rolling out into the app ecosystem, and we’re seeing them in connected TV.

Really, for this opportunity, you’ve only got two or three years to execute on it before someone else would’ve solved it. That’s where the SoftBank money really kicks in, and we want to be the company to solve that.

[00:12:47] Matt: A common theme in these episodes is to look at our founder’s challenges as they scale their businesses. Entrepreneur First companies usually start off as a team of just two co-founders, but over time, of course, teams have to scale and to do this well, founders need to build out a trusted management team and, of course, learn how to manage them well. I asked Joe about the dynamics of his team and how he delegates tasks today.

[00:13:10] Joe: Today about 150 people, about a 100 of those in the UK, about 50 of those in the US. In terms of revenue, we’re like a traditional SaaS business. We’re now north of 20 million in ARR and really on that journey to 50 over the next year and a half or so. We spend a remarkable amount of time together. Probably about three to four hours just one-on-one each week working through all the different problems and challenges we have.

I think what has worked quite neatly is I tend to focus on the more customer facing side of the business and try our ideas and figure that side of things out, and Tim is focused on, hey, how do we turn this into something where we have a 10X advantage? I would say we’re still very product focused founders where maybe I focus more on product marketing and Tim focuses more on the product and actual delivery of it, but we spend a lot of time together. It’s probably the core of it.

[00:14:09] Matt: Hiring amazing talent is probably both the most difficult thing that a founder has to do, and also the most transformative for their business. I asked Joe to tell us about the key qualities he looks for when he is hiring today.

[00:14:20] Joe: I think where the real value comes from is we’re just so tightly aligned on the overall vision for the company that a lot of conversations they’re short. There are so many shortcuts through a conversation because of that. Anytime we spend together I feel it’s just very highly leveraged off the back of it, plus we also both know what we can’t do. We know that we aren’t going to scale a revenue organization, we don’t know how to do marketing. There are all these pieces we don’t know that leaves us with actually just talking about, “Hey, are we executing against our vision or not?”

[00:14:56] Matt: So how do you think about that last bit? Obviously, now, you’ve had to build an exact team to do the bits that you can’t do or even to do the bits that you can do, but better than you can do them. How have you found that particularly, again, as a first time founder? You’re now hiring very serious people that were on big organizations before. How do you feel about that? What does that feel like as a founder?

[00:15:20] Joe: I think someone once told me one of the best things about being a founder is it’s one of the few places where you can hire people like 10X better than you and it’s not weird. That’s been a real privilege, bringing in all these people who typically I wouldn’t have the opportunity to work with, and watch them at their craft is pretty amazing. I think for me, I cottoned on too late too–

I think earlier you referenced pre-product market fit, post-product market fit. I think I cottoned on a little later than I should. Post-product market fit, my responsibility is that thing about like building a company rather than building a product. I actually, in some ways, have left hiring in certain roles and certain functions within the business too late, then you hire that person into the business. We just hired a VP Product into the business and you realize, “Oh my God, this is what happens when a professional does it instead of me.”

I wish I’d realized it early, but then when you do come to that realization, then all of a sudden you see, hey actually one of the major functions of my role is just making sure there are amazing people in the business.

[00:16:30] Matt: One of the things that I think is great about being a founder, but also presents a challenge, is that simply by being the founder you have a lot of credibility beyond your experience within the company, and as the company begins to succeed, also outside the company. I think one thing that is hard for a lot of founders is figuring out how much should they invest in their own personal and professional development because it can be disguised for a long time, particularly when things are going well, that you don’t have the skills. I’m not saying this about you Joe, I’m sure you have all the skills, but I’m thinking about myself, as the founder you get a lot of credit simply for being there.

[00:17:11] Joe: Definitely. I think there are points in time in Permutive’s journey where I felt like the skill gap between what the company needs and where I am is enormous and there are points where it’s felt quite in control. I do think it’s healthy to constantly feel like it’s a little bit outside of your– but for me, what’s been enormously valuable is I’ve had a coach for probably the last like three and a half years or so.

I think that’s had a huge impact on me in terms of personal development, really thinking through, hey, where are the gaps so that I can start to address those, versus being left in my own echo chamber trying to figure out, “Hey, what are the problems?” Because sometimes people are a bit overwhelmed that’ll present as a missed quarter or whatever it is. Not having someone to talk that through and deconstruct it, I’d find that really hard.

[00:18:06] Matt: I always like to say that a CEO has three main jobs. First, hire an exceptional team of people, second, make sure you never run out of money and third, have and articulate a big vision for what you’re trying to do. I always love to hear founders talk about how they develop their vision. I asked Joe to tell us a little bit about Permutive’s initial goals and idea for what it could become.

[00:18:28] Joe: I think at this start our initial vision was we want to build a personalisation layer for the web, which was just an engineer’s dream, was, it was our opportunity to build web scale infrastructure and a really good opportunity to have an excuse to do that, but we’ve identified that the most successful websites applications at that point in time were the ones which were personalized, but deploying that type of infrastructure at scale was really hard. We felt there was an opportunity to build this layer through the web which would enable personalisation and bizarrely in a very roundabout way, we’ve become that.

Today, our infrastructure is a personalisation layer and it’s probably one of the most scaled, it’s just that we thought the number one application would be personalisation of content, we didn’t realise the number one application would be personalisation of ads.

[00:19:21] Matt: You had a lot of traction for something that turned out to be the wrong approach. One of the lessons we took from that and other similar experiences, is that actually, one of the most important things for founders is that they’re insanely productive, and it’s actually more important that they’re productive than that they have the right direction to begin with. Obviously, at some point you have to figure out what you’re doing. Do you want to talk a little bit about what you actually managed to do? Because you were running this personalisation, I think it was an API, wasn’t it, with some reasonably big media companies.

[00:19:53] Joe: Yes. You and Alice had really encouraged us down this path of finding customers. Tim and I were still quite resistant around this initially, but I think at some point we came on board after a couple of weeks of being pestered to find customers. We’d identified this chap at the Metro who was tweeting about personalisation stuff and effectively spent a couple of weeks stalking him. We would find ways to speak at the meetups he was going to and we’d hang around his office.

Eventually, he brought us inside the building, and we sat with him whilst he deployed this SDK. Just overnight, we went from zero users going through our platform to 30 million of them. It was just this very sudden access to scale, which was pretty amazing. We also messed stuff up. When we first deployed on their site it was late at night, but we turned the whole thing into nasty content because we had this bug in our code. It was really a hack job at the start, but it exposed us to scale. It forced us to fix things very quickly and actually gave us somewhere to iterate from.

[00:21:12] Matt: It’s quite common for founders to feel that they’ve actually started the wrong business. I asked Joe how he tackled these feelings and some of the personal challenges he experienced as a founder early on.

[00:21:23] Joe: I think for a long time, Tim and I lied to ourselves about the traction. In a way that was quite a useful thing to fall back on, was like, “Well, something must be working. We’ve got these 30 million users.” What we ignored was the lack of growth. We sat down with Matt Robinson over at GoCardless who had this come-to-Jesus moment where he was like, “Well, I think you two are wasting your time. I’ve got zero growth, growth is all that matters. You should spend a couple of weeks really figuring out what your customers want because they don’t want whatever you’re selling right now.”

It was quite a tough message to hear, but it was right. There was something quite disheartening about banging your head against the wall. Although people would install the product, they weren’t really delivering value from it. I think that conversation gave us time to pause and reflect and say, “Well, what is it people are actually asking us for?” and then go back to them and say, “Hey, if we solved this, would this change your perspective?”

I think for us, though, we spent too long in that phase of being okay with decent-ish scale but very little growth. After that conversation and the weeks which followed that, all of a sudden, you could see our growth hockey stick.

[00:22:37] Matt: Fundraising is also a big challenge for most founders. For Joe, understanding how publishers made money and how that would impact the Permutive business model was key when it came to fundraising for Permutive.

[00:22:48] Joe: When we raised money from Octopus [Ventures] at that point in time, we started to realize the technology is better suited to ads. I think we’d just come to this fairly obvious realisation that publishers make money from ads. If you aligned yourself with that, you’d have a better chance of building a business. I remember, I think, two months into the Octopus investment, we called a board meeting with Will, who’s our investor from Octopus, basically saying, “Look, this isn’t working. We’re going to pivot the business. We don’t quite know what to, but we’ve got this sneaking suspicion, something around privacy and ads and all this stuff.”

Octopus were remarkably supportive. We went for breakfast at Will’s. I remember he made us croissants, and we chatted it out, and thinking, “Oh, my God, he’s being remarkably supportive about this.” Thankfully, they were and we pivoted the business. I think three or four months after that, we saw our first couple of thousand in revenue and it was clearly the right path. I think I’ve always been quite surprised at how supportive investors have been when things go badly. I think that in my mind I’d always had this idea of, well, investors turn on you the moment something goes wrong and actually, my experience wasn’t, they were supportive. 

[00:24:07] Matt: In some ways, raising money is actually the easy part. More important for entrepreneurs is to find a market need that is so big, to solve a problem that is so valuable, that your customers will actually pay you for the solution. I asked Joe to explain how he found the initial target market for Permutive.

[00:24:25] Joe: Until Q3, 2017, was when we really felt it. We’d gone into a pitch at our first well-sized publisher, which was the Evening Standard and Independent. We were pitching against Salesforce, and everything we were saying was landing with that prospect. You could just feel in that meeting, everything we were offering they wanted. Our positioning felt like it was landing, we’d identified the pains and the problems. You could just feel it.

In that quarter was where we closed– I think in the three quarters proceeding that we went from zero to a million dollars, and you could feel the market pulling. It wasn’t perfect. It didn’t feel like that precisely at that point in time, it felt like a lot of battles, but when you step back a little bit, you could see the curve and you could see that it was being pulled. When people join the company today, we’ve really try to make it clear, “Actually, we haven’t been around for all that long in many ways. We’ve only been a meaningful company for about three years.” Yes, it was a long time.

In all honesty, I don’t understand how sole founders do it. I don’t think we would– well, I wouldn’t have been able to stick out if I didn’t have a co-founder in Tim. I think even now obviously, we rely on each other hugely. Yes, it was a long time figuring stuff out, and it wasn’t all rosy, right, a lot of it was actually quite stressful and disheartening. At the same time, I think we both have an optimism, which doesn’t necessarily translate when you speak to us, but I think we are actually quite long-term optimistic, short-term pessimistic.

[00:26:08] Matt: Founder experience is almost never easy. From scrappy upstart to seasoned CEO, Joe realized along the way the importance of coaching and mentorship through his growth as a leader.

[00:26:18] Joe: I think we’ve relied on a handful of small number of mentors around us, but just the impact has been so profound. I think that’s actually where EF helped us a lot, was building a network of people who we can actually rely on and give us advice and bounce ideas around with. There’s just no way we would be here without it. For me, it’s been anything from a management challenge, like, “Hey, I don’t know how to deliver this piece of feedback,” or, “We’re having a really difficult relationship and I need to figure out how to get it back to a healthy place.” All the way through to like, “I don’t know how to tell the story of our company to investors.”

My coach starts every conversation with, “How can I help you this week?” Which I find an interesting leading question, but from there spills out all these thoughts and emotions and within there are these pieces of work and themes which we’ll then spend a few weeks or months really working through. I think it’s really hard to have that conversation with an investor. It’s really hard to say, “Hey–” to present the motion without also a useful conclusion which reassures them of like, “Hey, I don’t know how to fundraise,” or, “I don’t know how to manage this amazing exec.” It’s not a conversation which is particularly easy with an investor.

[00:27:40] Matt: With online data privacy rules getting stricter all the time, I asked Joe to tell us how he envisages the future of his company.

[00:27:47] Joe: I think we see two different horizons for Permutive. Near term, we’re very much focused on this mission to rebuild advertising, and I think that’s a big opportunity. There’s $50 to $100 billion of market cap which isn’t well structured to solve these problems, and that creates a lot of opportunity. I think there’s the opportunity for us to build a public company and really–

I would hope that five years from now, we can say, “Hey, the majority of ads on the internet are targeted via our infrastructure,” and we’ve been able to imprint our vision for what this privacy safe ecosystem looks like. Slightly longer term, though, the thing which we’ve really been blown away by with the business is effectively as you go through this exponential device growth, the way we’re processing and handling data today in the cloud actually has a lot of limitations when it comes to privacy, but also when it comes to scalability.

The thing which we realized, it’s like, “Hey, if you move all this computation to the data, if you move the processing to the data, rather than moving the status of processing, you unlock these huge capabilities,” and people refer to it as edge computing. We really believe in this as the future paradigm as we see decentralisation kicking its gear again. For us long term, 10 years from now, our dream would be to say that, hey, what Amazon Web Services has done for cloud computing, Permutive has gone and done for edge computing.

We think that that’s like an enormously big opportunity. It’s a tough vision to execute on, but if we’ve achieved everything we’ve set out to achieve, that is how the world would look at us 10, 15 years from now. I suppose firsthand, one, we’ve seen the benefits of this. We’ve seen the privacy benefits, but we’ve also seen the scalability benefits. We’re measurably 10X better than our competition not because we’re the world’s best engineers, but rather because– we maybe, but because we have this paradigm which just really pushes us ahead of the competition.

We’re massive believers in change and also just what’s required to take us there. I think we see an opportunity which I think others are starting to realise as well.

[00:30:05] Matt: There’s obviously lots of different technological changes across a real range of domains that, as you say, are pushing a wave of decentralisation. It was hard to predict these very macro things, but it feels that it is a relatively long term cycle, it’s not something that it’s going to play out over the next year.

[00:30:34] Joe: I think the compounding effect of those collisions is pretty amazing. When you have one macro tailwind carrying you, it’s amazing when there are two or three others which add on top of that. It’s just so explosive, I think.

[00:30:50] Matt: Obviously, I’m extremely biased in saying this, but it does feel a very exciting time to be working with people who just are very early, but they have an instinct about those tailwinds and they’re in real time feeling out where it takes them. It’s a very cool moment. It’s interesting, without getting too philosophical, having done this for 10 years, there’s points where you start to wonder whether a particular cycle is playing itself out.

As you’ll remember, a particular cohort after you, suddenly everything was machine learning. It was like machine learning, machine learning, machine learning. Obviously, machine learning is still in fact, way more important than it ever was in 2014, but in a sense, as a distinctive opportunity for startups is narrowed in the sense, not because it’s less important, but because it’s more commoditized.

You can almost get into a sense of like, “Okay, we’re in the slight deployment phase for that technology,” but what’s amazing is just a constant, refreshing, re-energizing of what’s possible. It is very exciting to see it play out. I was also, as I usually am, very curious to know what career Joe thinks he would have chosen if he hadn’t started Permutive.

[00:32:09] Joe: I’ll be really honest, I don’t really think about that much stuff outside of Permutive day-to-day. I do think, though, to your point, the one place where I am super interested right now it’s the emergence of this web3 stuff, not because I understand any of it whatsoever, but more because I can see, to your point earlier, the collision of a couple of themes which I think about a lot.

I can see the collision of privacy, I can see scalability, but also, you made a point earlier about community. I can see things which I don’t see with Permutive today emerging over there. I think that’s super interesting and powerful in a way in which I just think it layers in a way in which perhaps our opportunity hasn’t layered. I think that’s exceptionally exciting for people who can figure out that space.

[00:33:05] Matt: One of the things I’m most excited about in web3 is, it’s going to sound silly to say, but true web3 by which I mean there’s a lot of activity that’s labeled that today, that is interesting, may turn out to be very valuable and important, but there’s relatively little activity that is genuinely trying to take something that worked in the last version of the web, and really reinvent it for a decentralized worldwide.

Actually, you can totally imagine a web3 version of many, this is really a banal thing to say, but obviously, the big social networks could be reimagined as Web3. I searched, to some extent could be, there’s all these ways that you could actually rebuild the web. I’m really excited to see what that ends up looking like. Obviously, there’s a risk of which, at least at the time of recording, we’re in the meme stock phase of web3. Beyond that, I think there’s just some very, very cool things happening that really could change the way we think. Finally, I asked Joe to share any advice he had for first-time founders.

[00:34:10] Joe: For me the piece I wish Tim and I figured out earlier was hard to be honest with ourselves. How to really have honest conversations about things not working out, not in this sense of give up. I think we’ve always had this optimism that we’ll figure things out, but I don’t think we started to have tough conversations early on enough, which meant we spent longer figuring out things than we should have done.

I really wish we’d learn to have honest conversations because I actually think I’m a big believer that if you confront challenges, you can always figure out a way around them but you can’t have that optimism if you aren’t talking about the problems.

[00:34:48] Matt: That’s great advice. I thought you were going to say Matt’s always right, which was very valuable advice for anyone starting EF. 

[00:34:58] Joe: If Matt tells you to drop out of a PhD, I would recommend taking that advice on.

[00:35:02] Matt: That brings us to the end of this conversation with Joe Root and this episode of The Entrepreneur First Podcast. I hope you enjoyed hearing about how entrepreneurs like Joe are imagining a new future for data privacy. Join us next time. If you enjoyed this episode, please do subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen. Thanks to an update, you can now give us a rating on Spotify too.

If you’d like to support the show, a rating there is a great way to help us out. For more information about Entrepreneur First, please visit joinef.com. As always, thanks to Cofruition for consulting on and producing the podcast, and thank you for listening. Speak to you next time.