S5E8 Build a business in minutes with AI With Nicholas Thorne

S5E8 – Build a business in minutes with AI With Nicholas Thorne

Build a business in minutes with AI With Nicholas Thorne.

In the dynamic world of entrepreneurship, building a startup is a mix of excitement and challenges. In this episode of Payback Podcast, host Sean Tepper explores how AI technology can help entrepreneurs streamline their startup processes. The subject matter expert is Nicholas Thorne, an expert in AI development, shares his experience creating a software platform powered by OpenAI. This platform enables new entrepreneurs to quickly bring their ideas to life with tools for creating pitch decks, websites, and other essential materials within minutes. By leveraging AI, entrepreneurs can save valuable time and focus on growing their businesses efficiently.

Why Entrepreneurs Must Stay Positive

Nicholas Thorne stressed the significance of maintaining a proactive and positive attitude when navigating the hurdles of entrepreneurship. His advice on staying positive and curious resonates with the idea that mindset plays a pivotal role in steering through the highs and lows of the entrepreneurial journey.

By choosing positivity and approaching challenges with an open mind, entrepreneurs can better adapt to changing circumstances and find innovative solutions to overcome obstacles. This shift in mindset can foster resilience and cultivate a more optimistic outlook on the path ahead.

Nicholas’ personal takeaway stresses maintaining positivity, curiosity, and forward-thinking in overcoming challenges and embracing opportunities in entrepreneurial pursuits

How To Make Tough Decisions for Your Business

The podcast emphasized the importance of making decisions and taking action in entrepreneurship. Thorne highlighted that progress is not about perfection but about making choices and moving forward. This aligns with the notion that entrepreneurship involves experimentation, learning from failures, and iterating on ideas. By embracing a mindset of continuous improvement and being open to trying new approaches, entrepreneurs can adapt to the evolving business landscape and increase their chances of success.

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Embracing AI and Entrepreneurial Creativity

AI technology plays a significant role in the daily running of Nicholas’ Business. AI automates tasks, offers valuable insights, and enhances customer interactions. By integrating AI capabilities, entrepreneurs can optimize their operations, access data-driven insights, and elevate customer experiences. This forward-thinking approach not only conserves resources and time but also empowers entrepreneurs to make data-informed decisions, fostering more efficient business operations and sustainable growth.

Nicholas shared his experience with AI and generative AI, specifically focusing on leveraging GPT-3 and GPT-4 models to accelerate concept development for entrepreneurs. The conversation then turned to Autos, a company utilizing AI to simplify the entrepreneurial journey and streamline processes.

Business Model and Services of Autos

Nicholas explains Autos’ SaaS-based model, spotlighting how the AI platform assists entrepreneurs in creating engaging customer experiences and reducing decision fatigue for rapid progress.

Customer Engagement and AI Integration

The unique approach of Autos is explored, enabling entrepreneurs to interact with AI copilots for effective customer engagement and insights, offering tools to configure AI interactions for personalized experiences.

Autos’ role in streamlining entrepreneurial processes is demonstrated, allowing swift progress from idea conception to market engagement through rapid decision-making and iterative development.

Marketing and Growth Strategy

Nicholas discusses Autos’ marketing strategy, emphasizing direct response advertising on platforms like Facebook and Instagram, highlighting efficient payback periods and marketing effectiveness.

In conclusion, Nicholas Thorne provided valuable insights into the transformative potential of AI technology in the entrepreneurial journey. By combining AI innovation with a positive mindset, proactive decision-making, and a willingness to experiment, entrepreneurs can navigate the challenges of startup development more effectively. The utilization of AI tools can help entrepreneurs accelerate their progress, engage with customers more efficiently, and ultimately achieve their business objectives. As the entrepreneurial landscape continues to evolve, embracing technology and adopting a growth mindset will be crucial in fostering innovation and success within the startup ecosystem.

Key Timecodes

  • (01:00) – Show intro and background history
  • (09:23) – Understanding his SaaS business strategies
  • (12:34) – Deeper into his business tactics
  • (15:21) – How he is using AI to help entrepreneurs
  • (31:16) – How his AI platform can build even a dedicated website in minutes
  • (37:38) – What are his growth and marketing strategies
  • (41:36) – A key takeaway from the guest
  • (51:07) – Guest contacts


Show Intro (00:00)

Introducing Payback Time, the podcast for entrepreneurs looking to build and scale their startups, gain access to actionable tips, proven strategies, and valuable data that can help you avoid mistakes, skyrocket sales, and optimize profits. Your business breakthrough may just be an episode away.


Guest Intro (00:17)

My next guest is an entrepreneur with 10 years experience running a business incubator. After serving entrepreneurs for a decade, he took all that experience and created a software platform powered by OpenAI that It pretty much helps a new entrepreneur get up to speed as fast as possible. For example, this software will help you organize the customer’s problems, create solutions against those problems, create a pitch deck, come up with price points, create a logo, and even create a website. What could take an entrepreneur days, if not weeks, can reduce that time down to minutes. It’s absolutely incredible. And in this episode, he not only talks about the business in detail, but he provides a demo of what the software can do. This is really cool. Please welcome Nicholas Thorne.


Sean (01:00)

Nick, welcome to the show.


Nicholas  (01:02)

Thanks for having me.


Sean (01:03)

Good to have you here. So before we kick things off, can you tell us something about yourself that most people don’t know?


Nicholas  (01:09)

It’s funny when you were talking in the pre-recording. My answer to that question typically is that my both of my front two teeth are fake. And that’s the byproduct of having an older brother and I think being rambunctuous. But then you said, Say something that then people can relate to, like a hobby. And that obviously maybe speaks to what my hobbies were as a kid playing hockey. Skateboarding? Okay. In the driveway, but it doesn’t really speak to what I enjoy doing today. I think probably the thing that most people don’t… I love cooking, and so I spend just a ton of time and really enjoy. If any excuse that I can get to be the one who makes dinner for my family or whatever is something I really take a lot of joy and pleasure. I think it’s because it feels like some very simple version of the creative act that probably at a business level, we’re all engaged in every day, but without the stakes. And so I’m definitely the guy that was watching the Food Network as a kid, randomly.


Sean (02:08)



Nicholas  (02:09)

Also something, oddly enough, that I did with my brother. So maybe that’s the opposite side of punching each other’s teeth in. We We’re busy figuring out how to reverse your stakes or something. But anyway, that’s maybe something more people might relate to than the. Sure.


Sean (02:24)

I can respect that. My wife loves cooking. I’m fortunate. I have a husband who has a wife who loves to cook, and She says it’s a big stress reliever, allows her to focus on something else. You’re probably very similar in that regard.


Nicholas  (02:36)

Yeah, it’s like exercise without the hard work in some level. You have to pay enough attention that you can’t be staring at your phone or whatever, but you also are not worried about your work in that moment in time. Right.


Sean (02:49)

Love it. All right. Well, let’s dive into your background before we dive into your business. Tell us a little bit about your career background.


Nicholas  (02:56)

Yeah, for sure. I’m based here in New York, and I grew up here, actually. I’m one of the rare people that was born and raised and then came back, I feel like. I worked on Wall Street out of college and would always just basically tell people I needed an idea, and then I was going to get out of the fairly standard track that I was on. I guess relative to the folks I was hanging out with, that sounded a little bit risque, or at least I thought it did. Then I met the guy that’s been my business partner and friend and mentor for the better part of 15 years since. He’s a gentleman named Hendrik Werdelen, and he’s about 10 years older than I am. I fed him the same line, and he just called Bull on it and said, If all you’re waiting for is an idea, I got good news for you. I got lots of ideas. That was the beginning of a fun partnership that I’m very grateful that he did call my bluff. He and I went and started a company that can best be described as a company that was selling NFTs, pre-blockchains, and I fully understand how laughably ridiculous a set of words that is.


Nicholas  (04:08)

Thankfully, in parallel to our working on that and turning that into a business that albeit not like everything we hoped it would become, certainly something from which I learned a ton of lessons, and I’m grateful that we can continue to serve some great customers through the platform we created there. Henrick was simultaneously working to build this firm, Pre-Hype. Pre-hype is where I’ve spent the bulk of my career since in a function where he and I, and with other partners over time, have been in the business of trying to co-found and help entrepreneurs start their next company. It’s through that exercise that we’ve had the good fortune of helping the founders of Bark and Barkbox, their primary product, and Roman and Ro, the broader health platform, and any number of other businesses get started. Probably our best described as students of those businesses and of a methodology of company starting, I guess you call it, that really centers around this concept of founder-customer fit. Places where a founder is solving their own problem, typically, or that of someone they’re so intimately related to, so as to obviate the difference. What we’ve been to witness and experience is that when a founder can serve a customer that they really understand that all sorts of amazing things happen as a result of that, they tend to be pretty good spokespeople for that business because they are the customer, or at least they get the customer in a really interesting way.


Nicholas  (05:47)

They speak the language of the customer, so they’re a little bit better at anticipating their needs, and all of which leads to the development of what we call relationship capital, and this concept that you have an advantage borne in your customer relationships if can really put a specific group of customers at the center of what you’re doing. Anyway, so we were in the business of doing that and continuing to be in the business of doing that. But about two or three years ago, we got very into AI and generative AI, and and specifically got early access to GPT-3, which was the predecessor model to GPT-4 that we all have become very familiar with through ChatGPT. We started the process of trying to figure out, just for our own company starting in exercises, what could we do to turn over more of the work, if you will, to an AI? Where a lot of what we saw with the founders that we were spending time with, and the typical conversation that we might have found ourselves in was someone said, I’d like to start another company or a company. Then you’d say to them, Well, what company?


Nicholas  (06:50)

They said, Well, I have an idea, but I’m not totally positive. I want to buy time and make sure I take this decision really carefully because I know that these things can get going. Then you wake up in two or three or four or five years and you want to make sure that you pick the best path possible. But in those early days, the way that confidence and conviction is built and the way that firsthand information is gathered about whether there’s a real opportunity to be had somewhere is there’s a lot of just work that needs to get done. What do you know? You tend to want to, for example, get your idea down on paper and play it back to yourself in something a campaign resembling a pitch or a plan. You tend to want to have a landing page created that you can show to some people to just explain this idea to them in something other than you and me talking. You often want to go and interview some people, both people within your network to understand how they experience this problem better, but also, hopefully, strangers, and figure out how to recruit those strangers into a customer interview dynamic.


Nicholas  (07:55)

We had this pretty fixed process, and we went about the job of trying to allow AIs and these series of copilots that we’ve created over time to do more and more of that work. We did that mostly for our internal purposes, but what we realized is once it’s turned into code, you can make that set of products and services available to many, many more people, which really opened my eyes to just how broad the problem and solution, I guess you’ll call it, fit could be when you think about the fact that 60 plus % of Americans have had an idea for a business, but 8 % of them do something about it. So you just have this big gap between vision and imagination on the one hand and action on the other. Some meaningful percentage of that gap is probably it exists for a reason, and that’s okay. But we’re just very interested in what would happen if you could just help people build some early momentum and allow them to express themselves entrepreneurially a little bit more easily. Would that be a good thing? Our inclination is that the answer is Yes. And so we have, through a company that we started called Autos, we have started to roll out this technology to more and more and more people.


Nicholas  (09:10)

And so that’s where we spend now all our time, really, is trying to help entrepreneurs get going on their next concept to go from zero to in business, if you will, as quickly as humanly possible with the use of AI.


Sean (09:23)

Love the backstory there. Thank you. And what we’re going to do here shortly to the listeners, we’re going to be sharing… Nick is We’re going to share a screen. Before that, though, we want to learn a little bit more about the business. How does it work? How do you charge your customers? Then we’ll get in the screenshot. Of course, those of you who are driving your car right now and you’re listening to the podcast, we will speak to what we’re showing. But anyway, before you show your screen, tell us at high level, is this a SaaS business? How does it work? How do you charge your customers? Give us the details here.


Nicholas  (09:54)

Yeah, totally. The business is… Yeah, you can think of it as a software product. I think the The primary way that we charge is threefold. One is there are some deliverables that our AI generates for our customers that you might expect otherwise to pay a person to do. If you had a presentation created for you, a business plan created for you, you might expect to pay some money for it. We happen to… Our AI generates slide decks for our customers. We happen not to charge for that, but there are things like that. There are these deliverables, and we have charged for that. Mostly, though, and We’ll get into this. One of the things that our AI creates, not to be too meta, is an AI that our customer, the entrepreneur, can use to engage, talk to, and start to convert their customers. We’ve basically taken these tools that we’ve created, especially from an onboarding perspective, and we make it very easy for our customers, the entrepreneurs, to configure their own AI copilot to go find and talk to their customers. That looks then like a very traditional hosting arrangement because we are hosting this AI service for them.


Nicholas  (11:04)

You can imagine it, yes, very much almost like if you were paying Squarespace to host your site 10 years ago or two years ago, you would still probably do some version of that. But we think of a chat-based experience, an intelligent experience as being a big step forward in terms of what entrepreneurs can work with early on in terms of trying to communicate their on the one hand to prospective customers, and then receive feedback from those folks on the other and make that a pretty iterative process. And that’s what a landing page used to do. But it’s fairly static. It takes a little time to update And so if you can imagine something that does that much quicker, it starts to look a lot like a chat-based interface. And so we’ve made it possible for entrepreneurs to launch those, get those into market, start engaging with strangers very, very, very quickly. And then we host that for them, and it looks like a SaaS style model there. Not to complicate things, but to complicate things. Downstream of that, of course, we’ve long been in the business of trying to support entrepreneurs as they grow their companies.


Nicholas  (12:12)

And so there are a variety of ways in which we have We’re there to engage with people down the road. We lend the money. We have been helping connect them to various sources of capital so they can grow their companies. And so there is more to it than that based SaaS model. But I think for sake of clarity and within the first few days and weeks and months, for sure, it looks a lot like a software service.


Sean (12:34)

Got it. And just to back up a second, when was this company founded?


Nicholas  (12:38)

Yeah, we just launched this business this year. So the beginning part of this year. You did?


Sean (12:42)



Nicholas  (12:43)

So obviously, it’s an extension of what we’ve been doing at Pre-Hype for a decade plus in many respects. So it’s hard, too. But in this construct, this is really a… In fact, as of last week, we really even relaunched a number of parts of our features because we launched two or three new parts of the product suite. So it’s all moving very, very quickly. But it’s a very new thing from that perspective.


Sean (13:14)

And then before you share your screen here, who’s your ideal customer? Do you serve more like new businesses that are just getting founded or maybe some smaller businesses that are trying to gain some momentum? They’re at an inflection point.


Nicholas  (13:27)

Yeah. It’s, generally speaking, I think We buy ads that say things as simple as that idea that you have and that you haven’t made any progress on will still be an idea in a week unless you do something about it, I mean, effectively. Got it. I can even see some of those things. I think it largely targets people who, one, are probably curious about AI, generally, and what it can do for them, but who definitely, I think, would answer yes to the question of, are you a person who’s had an idea for a company but just haven’t found the right way to make progress on it. I think for people who are making some form of progress on something already, I think our tools can be very valuable. We have experience with people who are working on something and they like the ability to reset. But I think the core crew is either someone who has an idea but has not made any progress on it, or someone who is running a business or even starting something, but they have these other ideas, and they’re like, well, how do I make… A lot of entrepreneurial people I find and we find are folks who they have more than the one idea that they’re working on, whether they’re running a successful business or just getting started on one thing.


Nicholas  (14:44)

They don’t mind this feeling that they can open up optionality for themselves by trying some other things at the same time. We have probably a combination of those types of people, but it is very much targeted towards… It assumes that you’ve not made almost any progress on this. In as much as we will help you frame up your idea. It assumes you don’t own a domain, for example, probably, because it’ll go buy you a domain if you need one type of thing. For the domain orders out there, yes, we can help you turn that domain you purchased into something more, but it assumes you’re at that very much the starting points of a thought process. Sure.


Sean (15:21)

To zoom out a bit, your past business, it sounds like it was really, you could call it, would you phrase it as more as an incubator or maybe- Yeah, 100 %. So now you’re letting software do a lot of the heavy lifting, thanks to OpenAI now, can walk the entrepreneur through the journey, get them laser-focused on perhaps what they should be working on, maybe avoid things they should not. Is that a nice assumption of what you do?


Nicholas  (15:51)

I think that’s a very fair way to do it. I think we view it as not to be too kitsch, but if it’s generative AI, what is it generating? We’re probably trying to generate momentum. Obviously, we generate a variety of assets, but I think what we’re trying to do is fabricate forward progress to put people into edit mode, if you will, in these early days, to maybe think a little less about, Is this a good idea or how should I do this? Not pretending it is the only way to do something at all, but it is what we offer is a way to make progress. And as much as possible to put making progress on to autopilot so that in those early days, I think people tend to… It’s overwhelming to try to make a little bit of progress on something like this. You have an idea, you probably have a job. The time you can dedicate to it is the nights and week. Our usage chart, if you were to look at it, it’s actually an interesting challenge to us from a customer service perspective. Our customer service basically needs to be on at night and on the weekends.


Nicholas  (16:56)

What do you know? Because that’s when people are engaging with the service. But that’s an overwhelming exhausting time. There’s so many things you could do. It’s just a little bit of a paradoxical situation. You ask anyone at that moment, Name me a few things that you could do to make product. They’ve got a laundry list, and they’re not wrong. They’re all probably right. It’s just a matter of picking what the thing is that you make a little bit of progress on. I guess I would say it’s all of those things. We’ve just had to learn how to create a path that people can follow and that the AI can help people follow as much as humanly possible using the experiences that we’ve had over time to inform it and to make it useful.


Sean (17:44)

We’ve got a lot of entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs in our audience, so they are chomping at the bit to see what this thing looks like.


Nicholas  (17:52)

Yeah. Let me give you a little rundown here. So this is an Instagram, actually, where we first interface with most people that we’re working with. And so you can imagine on autos. Com, we actually, for the moment, and we can get super wonky about this. But for people who talk to people a lot about, Oh, talk to your customers. It turned out that while we can host our AI on a website, and we do, one of the best things that we found early on that we could do is put it into context with people. The place where, for the moment, you primarily interface with the onboarding, at least part of our copilot and our AI, is in an Instagram chat. What people do is they come on and they can find us directly. We do have a following because we publish these reviews of business books. But we also, as I mentioned, buy advertisements that will start people into our conversation. When people click our ad, instead of going to our website or whatever, they actually just end up right in a conversation. The way that the AI works is really a two sold. Just to go through the super quest, we have a conversational form factor wherein we first ask people to give us the name of their customer.


Nicholas  (19:08)

And the reason we do this is back to this concept of founder customer fit. We basically have the view that the starting point of a conversation about a business has to be like, who are you going to serve? Because as what do you know, there’s no such thing as a business that doesn’t have a customer. That doesn’t, again, mean that the only way to start a company is to start by identifying who you’re serving, but it is a way. And so therefore, we have found over time that it’s a good starting point. And then what the AI will go back and forth. So what you can see in the blue here is for those watching is my responses. So this is just a demo that I went through with it. And then the gray is our AI. And so you’ll see that I gave the name of my customer as being a guy named Jake. And then the AI will ask me, now, can you tell me what Jake wants or needs but can’t get? And what is stopping Jake from getting what he wants? And this is a question that we’ve basically asked hundreds of people over the year.


Nicholas  (20:00)

And it allows someone to, without getting too academic, to try to give a quick reaction. So here you’ll see that I wrote that he wants to buy a home but doesn’t have enough saved up yet. Our AI will then try to reframe this problem. And so what we’ve learned over the years is that if you can spend just a little more time in the problem mode before you jump into identifying solutions, sometimes what happens is that you identify a slightly different version of the problem, and that makes it easier for you to come up with a clever solution. In the case of doing this with AI, this is really important because it’s actually part of getting the AI to understand what version of this thing is you’re talking about. This playback form factor, you’ll see a couple of times here, it turns out to be a pretty good way to use it. In this case, I just give it some feedback that of the three problem reframings that are offered, I just give it one of them. In this case, it’s that the problem for Jake is he doesn’t have a clear plan or strategy to save up for a home.


Nicholas  (20:56)

Then our AI will go and try to pitch you some solutions. What we’re really doing What I’m doing here is just casting a variety of solutions and business models at you to see which one you react to. Because if you’re a person who is really into you’re a good writer and you want to build a content business, well, then maybe your natural reaction is to solve a problem through content versus software or whatever. In this case, you’ll see that I’ve given it. Often, actually, the answer is at the intersection. Here I’ve given, I’ve said, Oh, well, it’s a little bit of this and a little bit of that. That’s worked nicely. With Within those three questions, the AI has enough feedback that it’ll say, Okay, great. Give me a minute, and I’m going to go off and make a set of slides. You’re two or three minutes into a conversation, and then in about five minutes later, you’ll get this note that says, Okay, check out this draft plan based on our conversation so far. And if I’m capturing this correctly, I can keep going.


Sean (21:52)

While you’re working on the tech there, I’m going to summarize here what I just saw, which was really slick, just to zoom out, and I’ll simplify This for the listeners, especially if you’re listening and you’re not watching, which is you come into the platform, it immediately asks for a name of your customer, which I think is fun. In this case, you use Jake. And then what is Jake’s challenge? You said, Hey, he wants to buy a home, doesn’t have enough capital, and then immediately gives three options on which problem of the three applies most to Jake. And then you’re responding with not long answers, but with short answers. And I think you mentioned it was option one was where Jake is having a problem, and then it fed out a list of seven or eight different solutions to Jake’s problem. And I think your response to that was, options four plus one, I think is what it wrote. We’re the best of the best for Jake, and then it creates this slide deck we’re here. So you remove so much decision fatigue from the customer’s shoulders and let the AI just take a few data points from you and create this slide deck.


Sean (23:07)

I think that’s super slick. I’ve never seen anything like this before.


Nicholas  (23:10)

Yeah, I think your decision fatigue point is exactly… I actually never use that word in this construct, but I think it’s spot on because it’s exactly what we find early entrepreneurship to be riddled with decision fatigue. It’s just exhausting how many decisions you got to make, and you don’t know which one is the right one. And the answer is, typically, there’s not a right one. It’s just you got to make a decision. Then what the customer gets back very quickly here is a set of slides, and I won’t do a dramatic reading of them because we’ll just get back into the flow. But what this goes through is a format that we’ve used over the years where it first tries to lay out the context. It tries to tell a little bit of a story of what’s the big picture here in which this problem exists. For example, it’ll make these statements. Historically, financial planning has been a complex process, often requiring professional assistance, but the advent of technology has to democratize access. It’s just trying to set the stage. Then we will go into a little more depth about what the problem is. Here it’ll restate that problem.


Nicholas  (24:11)

I’ll say the primary problem is the prospective first-time homeowners lack a clear strategy and the necessary financial planning tools to save for a home. What we’ve actually been doing all along is that we’ve sent off a bunch of sub-AI agents to do different jobs. What people watching will see is that it’s had to design a logo, and we’ll come back I think I told it, I didn’t really like this one. It’s come up with a name, and I didn’t really love that. It’s come up with a color palette, and it’s come up with some typography and some fonts that it used. What we’re trying to do is just make things a little bit more real, a little bit more quickly. Then We just continue through to talk about what this solution is and how it might be experienced and all the way through to what are the benefits of this as far as we can tell for the customer and what therefore might they pay for it, how many people are out there that might fit the profile of this customer, and therefore, if you multiply the price by that number of people, at least how do we think about the size of this opportunity, all the way down to what’s a to-do list of things that both we, as a set of tooling and the entrepreneur, could make progress on.


Nicholas  (25:11)

Really, this is meant, again, to play it back to you, to give you a little bit of a structure for a plan. But very quickly, what we offer you when we send that to you is we say, We can either keep going here or, by the way, we can send you a link where we’ll just gather together the key assets, because really within that presentation are a few decisions. You You don’t have to decide what’s on every slide, but you should make a couple of things. And here I said, yes, I’d like to do that. And so then let me just…


Sean (25:38)

Really slick what you’re doing there because I have run into a lot of entrepreneurs. They have multiple ideas. They want to figure out the best idea, and then they are literally stuck. Okay, what’s my next step? And this is so cool. This tech is really guiding them on this streamlined swim lane, if you will. They’re going to hit these guardrails or swim on the side. Here’s where you’re keeping you focused. On this lane, doing this, then this, then this, really guiding them. And what could take them, what I’m really looking at, is what could take them weeks, probably not days, probably weeks to do manually. You’re literally… This software is with them.


Nicholas  (26:16)

Doing in minutes, yeah.


Sean (26:17)

In minutes, yes.


Nicholas  (26:19)

It’s a little crazy. I would say, honestly, yeah, weeks is only because, again, not because of necessarily how much work there is, but how many decisions have to get made. Exactly. So it’s more just trying to I put you constantly in this position of saying, Okay, well, here’s our decision. It may not be perfect, but it’s done. And so whatever. In this case, I gave it the feedback that I didn’t like it, actually. And so you’ll see that I’ve already done this. And so I went there and I tried to redesign it. I wanted a slightly different color palette. I kept the name, but I wanted to change the icon. And so I can easily say this should have a dollar sign. And so it’ll regenerate this based on some image models. What we’ve learned here, for those who are a little bit wonky about these things, is a conversational format is really great for certain things, but other things, like trying to configure an icon, are not that great through conversation. We’ve had to create interfaces that we can drop you into over time in order to help you achieve your goals. And in this case, it did a half-ass job of taking my feedback, but I could do that.


Sean (27:27)

Yeah, we get the idea. To back up a second, the The name that was generated, did that say Hobbiton? I think it says Hobbiton.


Nicholas  (27:35)

I’m not sure. Got it. I’m not sure how to pronounce it. We should add in a feature that says, How do I pronounce this?


Sean (27:40)

Pronounce. But that was the name it came from.


Nicholas  (27:42)

Yeah, this is generated by the machine. Basically, we tried to bubble it down to what is the visual representation of this? And then what’s the elevator pitch? And so all those slides are actually the result of taking this 11 sentence this pitch that you’re seeing here and then spreading them out across slides. And so we can go back in and say, I’d like this to focus a little bit more on crypto. Sure. It’ll go through and try to rewrite the pitch you’ll see here to have a focus on cryptocurrency, for example, but I won’t save that. Then after that, what happens, and then we can move on as quickly or not. Two Two or three more things happen that are probably pretty relevant. One is I say, Okay, let’s keep going. Here’s where we take a step back, actually. We hand you a link to a customer interview, and we say, We don’t know a lot about this idea. Obviously, we had to rush forward to make all those decisions. Why don’t you try to tell us a little bit more about what you’re thinking about here? This is really twofold. One is for the entrepreneur themselves to have a little bit more time to discuss the needs and wants of this customer profile, again, either because they themselves fit the profile or because they know it and understand it well.


Nicholas  (29:07)

It works both by typing and by voice. What we’ve learned over time there is that if you allow someone to talk rather than type, often they’ll talk a little bit more. They might rift a little bit more. That’s very helpful to getting the machinery insights and information that they can use. In this case, it starts by asking, Do I fit this profile? Yes, I do the profile of a prospective homeowner. I can talk into it, and then it’ll have a conversation back with me. But again, this is really just to try to, as best as possible, go another layer deeper. This is all informed by what it follows right now is the need-finding script that you might learn if you went to the design school at Stanford. It follows an academic process to get into it a little bit more. But you can also share this link with people in your network, and then it’ll do two or three three things. One is we do ask for a small payment here just to continue the process on. So that’s probably the end of the free part of the experience. But one of the things that we’ll do, two things upon someone signing up from there.


Nicholas  (30:16)

One is we’ll take the interviews and we’ll turn them into… We’ll transcribe them on the one hand, but on the other hand, we will use them to extract some insights and recommend some features. And so what you start to have is what we call an auto roadmap is your product roadmap that you can at least have, if you were to run that interview with three or four or five friends, extract some of the commonalities, like go find the things that people seem most interested in. And this is just to set yourself up to go execute this project over time. The other thing that we do is we provide you a set of assets to really start to go try to find and engage strangers. One of those is that we’ll make you a website. And in In this case, you can see actually that it’ll even go and find you a domain for this website. But as I referenced in the early going, probably the more fun and more exciting thing is that we will build you a…


Sean (31:16)

Pause there for a second. It will build a website for you and set up the domain?


Nicholas  (31:21)

Yeah. So it made and set up this domain. But then the really cool part is it also made this. And this is a place where… Just go here. So this is your own AI. And so what out of the box it created is a conversational model that now understands my idea and that I could buy an ad, for example, and the thing will go on to do this, buy an ad and put people into this experience. I can start having the equivalent conversation that our AI was having with the entrepreneur as customer, the entrepreneur can now have with Jake, as in this case, we called our customer. It can say Jake, and it’ll maybe needs to know that I work at whatever company. It will start to ask me questions that you might expect of going through a lead generation and qualification experience. But all the way through to we have these tools that we can allow people to configure to allow their AIs to deliver immediate value to the customer. Just as we deliver slides, for example, as a free benefit of having a conversation with our customer, our customer can train their AI to deliver some benefit to them.


Nicholas  (32:43)

I know that starts to get a little wonky and it’s probably better for playing with it than not. But the goal is really to give you the assets with which you can talk to your customers, both people you know and then strangers, as quickly as humanly possible, so that what you’re getting is firsthand inside of information. I love it.


Sean (33:01)

Yeah, great demo there. Really appreciate that. Now, quick technical question. It’s building a website. Is it using some CMS or like in your own system?


Nicholas  (33:12)

Yeah, actually, you get access to a call call it a Squarespace style experience for the website that we created. And then, yes, also for what we call the automate, which is your AI that you use to befriend your customers through conversation. You have a dashboard where You can do everything from change its instructions to it comes along with a lightweight CRM that the AI is to speak to. So that if you go in there and have a conversation with that, obviously we want to capture your information somewhere. And so What our customers come out of the box with is this set of assets, but includes a little lightweight CRM that they can use to track who’s talking to the tooling and follow up the people.


Sean (34:00)

To speak to our audience real quick, and I’ll let you chime in. There are a lot of entrepreneurs out there that spend way too much time trying to find an idea, come up with a problem statement, what problem is solving, and then they spend forever on building a website, didn’t spend too much money on a website. I always tell people, Nobody really cares about your website. They care about the app they’re using that solves their problem. So you want to go from A to Z as fast as possible with what problems are you solving? You Get a website up. It doesn’t have to be pretty. The content should be on point, simple, clean. What pain are you removing in my life if I’m the customer? And that’s it. If you can get from A to Z as fast as possible, then get feedback, then you can start working on the thing that matters most, which is the… That is the tech stack, the real tech. So your help, that whole beginning phase is… My gosh, you streamlined so much.


Nicholas  (35:01)

It’s so cool. Yeah, just trying to compress as much of that exactly what you described as much as possible, just so that… I mean, just too many times have spoken to people who are hiring a developer or an agency to go make them a product, and you’re like, Oh, well, based on what? Well, this is what we laid out. And you’re like, Well, okay, but do you know how to find that customer? Do you know how to acquire them? Do you know how to talk to them? Have you confirmed that They want all of that. Could you start with just a portion of it? Could you start with a portion of it that you don’t even build an app for, that you just start delivering in the background because you have this conversation going with them and you serve the first 10 of them asynchronously and figure it out? And then once you’ve done that, you know that they like what you make. You’ve gotten some good NPS scores, if you will. You’ve actually been exercising the muscle of finding these people to begin with. So maybe you don’t even have to replace the acquisition channel that you’ve been using to find them.


Nicholas  (36:03)

Maybe you can actually just start filling. I think a lot of business building traditionally has been done where you… And again, this does not apply to 100% of all business concepts. Correct. But for a big portion of them, it’s a lot of business building that is like, let’s go make the thing, and then let’s go figure out how to get it to people, as opposed to, let’s talk to people, and then let’s figure out how much we can backfill product itself. Obviously, there’s a job of closing the gap between the conversation you’re having with your customer on the one hand and the capability set that you’re developing on the other and getting that as close as possible. But many people move capability forward, and we just try to put ourselves and our customers and the people we’re working with in the position of moving customer backward. I think, by the way, it’s a last comment there. I think it’s one of the things that AI is incredible. We’re going to release a book in the next month or so called Me, My Customer and AI. We’re very long in this perspective. But I do think that there’s a golden age of entrepreneur-customer relationships to be created here because AI can help you just stay really close to your customer.


Nicholas  (37:15)

And in fact, I think it’ll make it even more important that you’re close to your customer because I think people will want to be buying from a human being that they can see and talk to. And they don’t really care if you’re using lots of tools to deliver that value. In fact, they want you to because you can probably pass that value onto them. But I think this dynamic is really where we’re headed. But obviously, we’re along that point of view.


Sean (37:39)

Is your growth strategy… I’m just going to shoot in the dark here. Is it to connect with other incubators, introduce this product to them, to do a distribution play where they could introduce it to their customers that are approaching them?


Nicholas  (37:52)

Yeah, we’ve been messing with… For the moment, what’s worked pretty well is that, again, people respond pretty well to the direct stimulus. And I think there’s something to be said for that we are able to find people… As far as I know, people are riding the subway to work or on their lunch break or sitting watching TV at night when they come across our ad. And because how much we’ve been able to compress the time frame, I think it’s fun. It’s a little almost game-like to get going. And so that’s been great for us because what you’re getting are not necessarily people who have self-selected into an incubation-style setting. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Obviously, we like that, too, and we understand it well. But I like catching people when they’re otherwise doing something leisurely really, because I think it speaks to this feeling of, I’m not making progress on this thing otherwise, but all of a sudden, I can just answer a few questions. It starts making… Well, you just get this. It’s a little bit addicting, I think. Oh, man. We’ve had good success for the moment, we have very good payback periods and very good marketing efficiency around just doing performance and direct response style advertising to recruit people out of the woodwork.


Nicholas  (39:11)

And so we’ll keep doing that till it breaks.


Sean (39:13)

Yeah. Offline, you mentioned you got a 20. Is it a 24 to 36 hour payback time?


Nicholas  (39:18)

Yeah, it’s pretty fast. I mean, maybe another way of saying that, it’s definitely under 30 days, which is your credit card billing cycle. So therefore, it’s potato, potato. And means that for the moment, We’re not underwriting big long payback periods on our marketing dollar, which just helps us be a little bit more efficient and hopefully just take that value and pass it back to the customer. We’re consistently… We’ve already taken things that we were charging for a month ago and started giving them for free as part of the initial experience, because we’re just trying to stuff the offer, if you will, with as much value as possible, because we are very much of the view that there is a whole new category of company emerging that we call it a donkey corn. They use the unicorn verbiage. It parties like a unicorn, but it works hard for you like a mule. But it’s a couple of people business that does a couple of million dollars a year. It’s just a new… And it’s not possible without AI. It’s AI native, customer-first, small team, hyper-efficient, and operating probably in some internet niche, which is a little bit of a a conundrum because of the dynamics of that.


Nicholas  (40:33)

Anyway, we just view that if we’re serving people long term, they’re building businesses, they’re generating good outcomes for themselves, then we’ll be well taken care of. And we’re just trying to get as much of that activity going as we can.


Sean (40:47)

We could probably talk about ad spend all day, but we’ll keep it high level and people can connect with you offline. Are you doing Facebook ads or Google ads?


Nicholas  (40:55)

Yeah, more Facebook, Instagram, obviously with Instagram, the way we are set up. It’s a very native experience. Things that are very much trying to, again, take you from you’re just going about your day. And it’s not that you’re out looking for it necessarily. We will get into that, too, I’m sure. But for the moment, we’ve had pretty good outcomes with just being able to slot ourselves into your day-to-day routine, because I think it almost, in a show-not-tell way, speaks to the value proposition of helping you make some progress when you might not have ever even expected to.


Sean (41:36)

Sure. Awesome. Well, let’s go ahead, transition to the rapid fire round. Before we do that, though, what is one key takeaway you can give our audience?


Nicholas  (41:44)

I think the main thing that I have found, and this is more personally, I’ve prototyed a lot of that set of services myself, having never been a software developer. And so I have written I guess I’ve said, but that’s really I’ve generated with ChatGPT or otherwise so many lines of code in the last year. I guess it’s just a way of saying that I think we’re at just an amazing moment in your ability to express yourself creatively, entrepreneurially, et cetera. Hopefully, we’re adding to that, but it’s much more generic. It’s much broader than whatever we’re doing. I just think the moment is now to act and express yourself in these ways. I’ve never seen The Internet is just so friendly to people who do stuff, especially if you do it in service of someone else. I think we’re just headed towards a golden age of people doing that stuff. I guess I say that having found myself being so much more productive in the last year, and maybe not even productive, but resourceful. There’s just a feeling that everything is possible if you just are willing to put your head to it a little bit.


Nicholas  (42:56)

I think that’s a great feeling. I hope people will try these things Obviously, you’re welcome to try our stuff, but even independent of that, try making stuff with these new tools. In a making is thinking version of the world, I just think that it’s so rewarding.


Sean (43:13)

Yeah. Let’s take a Quick Commercial Break. Do you feel like stock investing is too confusing, too time consuming, or too risky? It doesn’t have to be. If you ever considered investing on your own but don’t know where to start, I welcome you to check out Tykr. Tykr guides you through your investment journey by steering you towards safe investments and away from risky investments. I created Tykr because number one, I wanted to remove emotions from investing, and number two, I wanted to save time. If you’re interested, you can get started with a free trial. Simply visit tykr. Com. That’s T-Y-K-R. Com. Again, tykr. Com. All right, back to the show. To hit on a key point there is there’s people out there that’ll become fearful of AI, and it’s like you got to flip that equation and say, Hey, how can I use AI to provide a service, remove pain, save a ton of time, which is what you did with autos. And then on your customer side, on how fast they can get to a concept that’s pretty darn close to monetized. Of course, you’ll get some customer feedback to refine it. But that’s A to Z.


Sean (44:16)

Like I mentioned earlier, the amount of time they reduce is just ridiculous, and you’re really leveraging the power of AI in the right way. So nice work.


Nicholas  (44:25)

I appreciate that.


Sean (44:27)

Cool. Let’s dive into the rapid fire round, the part of the episode where we get to find out who nick really is. If you can try to answer each question in about 15 seconds or less. You ready?


Nicholas  (44:37)

Yeah, I’m ready.


Sean (44:38)

All right. What is your favorite podcast?


Nicholas  (44:40)

Other than this one? No. I would say I most listen to Invest Like the best. Yeah, very familiar.


Sean (44:47)

All right. What is a recent book you read and would recommend?


Nicholas  (44:50)

I was just having to look up the name of it, which maybe is not a great sign, but I read a book called Stolen Focus, Why You Can’t Pay Attention. It’s written by, I’m looking at it right now, a guy named Johann Harri. And it just speaks to the issue of our age in terms of how difficult it is to maintain focus when you are being bombarded with stimuli. It has both some very sobering inputs as well as, I think, some recipes for success. And I, for one, I’m certainly one who had seen a notification show up on my phone even a second ago and looked at it. Anyway, so I would recommend it.


Sean (45:35)

All right. Next up, movie question. What is your favorite movie?


Nicholas  (45:38)

I wanted to come up with something more insightful when I was thinking that you might get to that. But I love Gladiator. I know that maybe that just speaks to being a 13-year-old in 1998 or whenever that came out. Anyway, so I guess I’m going to say Gladiator. Great choice. It’s so fun.


Sean (46:00)

It may have been mentioned once or twice before in this show. We’ll put it that way.


Nicholas  (46:03)

I’m sure that’s true. There’s a very compelling component to that character, right?


Sean (46:10)

Yes, indeed. All right. What is the worst advice you ever received?


Nicholas  (46:15)

Man, that’s a very difficult question because I feel like I’ve had the very good fortune of having some good advisors and mentors in my life. The worst advice I’ve ever… I And I guess it just speaks to my mindset, which is most of the advice I’ve ever gotten that I don’t feel as good advice, I feel like even if I’ve taken it and it’s led me down some path, so much of the good stuff in life has come from just trying things and seeing And the opportunity is very rarely… The good stuff is very rarely at the end of the road I’m on. It’s often because I get down that road a little bit and then you get to turn off onto this new road that opens up. And so I don’t know. And that’s a terrible answer, but nothing It comes to mind. Maybe that’s a bad thing for me.


Sean (47:02)

You’re around the right group of people, it sounds like. So let’s go there. What is the best advice you’ve ever received?


Nicholas  (47:08)

My dad, when I was a kid, just really harped on having a positive attitude. And and the importance of being positive and curious and interested. And I think his encouraging that positivity, I was lucky to have football coaches who did the same. But I think positive attitudes are largely a decision, not always. And don’t pretend that there aren’t folks who are in a situation where positivity is very hard to come by. But I think my grandfather died at 99 years old, and he would put his coat and tie on every day, basically, till the day he died and have a big smile on his face. And he’d been sitting in the same chair, barely capable of moving for the last 10 years of his life. And it just struck me that this was not by accident. This was a gentleman who He was living a long time because he was choosing positivity. So I think the advice to be positive, to smile, to just engage and be curious and see the best in people and situations has been a very helpful piece of advice.


Sean (48:12)

Kind of piggyback on that. This is wise advice I heard from probably a trained reaction to people throughout my life, including my dad, which is life is 10 % what happens to you and 90 % how you react. And you can either choose to react with a poor attitude or a good attitude.


Nicholas  (48:29)

I think they train you as maybe another version of that for your memory bank. I think they train both Ironman athletes as well as people, prisoners of war being tortured, and the latter is complicated for a variety of reasons, to smile. Because even when you’re exhausted at the end of an Ironman or you’re being put through POW camp style treatment, if you smile, you can positively impact your own endorphin set. I don’t think we think of a smile as a thing that is not causative, typically in the way we think about things, but it just does at some level, how you react, I agree with that, matters a lot.


Sean (49:12)

All right. Last question here, time machine question. If you could go back in time to give your younger self advice, what age would you visit and what would you say?


Nicholas  (49:19)

Oh, man. I mean, selfish ones aside, I spent a bunch of money on buying Bitcoin mines in 2013 instead of buying Bitcoin. If I had just taken the money that I invested in the mining rigs and put it in the thing, I wouldn’t be on that. I’d be retired in the beach somewhere. No. I think relatedly, when I started the first business that I started, and we arrived at a moment where it was just becoming clear that at best we had massively mistimed things, I was just very down and very upset about that. I think it took me years to ready to commit to something thereafter because I think I just felt raw and that I had not figured it out. And not that those were valuable experiences, but I think I would have gone back and just said, it to myself at that moment, to keep an open mind about what was coming, that this was not necessarily the end of the world, and that oftentimes good stuff just is It’s the matter of, maybe to your point, not just how you react, but just continuing to answer the bell and show up and try things.


Nicholas  (50:40)

Trying things has been just an incredible positive force in my life. I guess I would have just told myself to maybe be a little bit calmer about what was coming because oftentimes, it’s not at the end of the… I guess to repeat myself, it’s not at the end of the road that on that you necessarily find what you’re looking for, but you do find new roads, and those are the fun parts anyway.


Sean (51:06)

Yeah, great advice. All right. And where can the audience reach you?


Nicholas  (51:10)

Well, I think the easiest thing… I’m very good on email, so Nikolaus@previs. Com rehype, P-R-E-H-Y-P-E. Com or nicolas@autos, a-u-d-o-s. Com. I’m very available. I’m on LinkedIn, I’m on Twitter @thornny. I’m everywhere, and I don’t have a big enough following to not be responsive. And And many of the most successful people I’ve ever come across are incredibly responsive, far more responsive than I am. So I try to be no matter what. But for sure, if you’re into entrepreneurship, generally AI, and much less something at the intersection of those things, would love to catch up.


Sean (51:50)

Well, thank you so much for your time here, nick. Entrepreneurs, if you’re watching or listening, I highly recommend you check out this product. This demo today was worth its weight in gold. I think this is a A huge time saver. I can’t wait to see where your company is going to be in the next year.


Nicholas  (52:03)

Well, I look forward to coming back and giving you an update.


Sean (52:06)

Sounds good.


Nicholas  (52:07)

Thanks, nick. Thank you so much.


Sean (52:08)

Hey, I’d like to say thanks for checking out this podcast. I know there’s a lot of other podcasts you could be listening to, so thanks for spending some time with me. And if you have a moment, could you please head over to Apple Podcasts and leave a five-star review? The more reviews we get, the higher this podcast will rank. All right, stay tuned for the next episode. We’ll see you.