The Productive App will prepare you for the call before you even answer the call. This app is really useful, especially in real estate, because of all the little details you can have in your calls. The Productive Call Assistant will take notes for you and remind you of all the important info. Join Bill Risser as he talks to Enlai Chu about his Productive app and what it does. Enlai is the Founder & CEO of Productive.app. He has over 20 years of experience in messaging, voice, and video communications. He will show you how to solve one of the biggest pain points for real estate agents; double data entry. Make it so that once you’re done with your call, you’re done with your work today!
I have got a great episode for you. A piece of technology, first of all, that I never knew existed about. We have got the founder of the company. The tool is called Productive. It is a productive app and it changes the way you will use your mobile phone. You got to read as we are going to be sharing this with you. He is up in the Bay Area, where all the great technology comes out of. He has got some great stuff to share and I can’t wait to get this thing started.
Enlai, welcome to the show.
Thank you, I’m happy to be here.
You and I met not too long ago and we are both working with EXIT Realty on some cool project they are doing. It was nice to chat with you because 1) You have this amazing technology that I might have drilled you with a bunch of questions about, but 2) It is cool that we have products that are going to be able to play off and help each other. It is a nice situation.
I’m excited to be here and talking to you again. Thanks for the invite.
The very first thing I ask on the show is where you grew up or where you are from, so I will start that off with you. What was home for you?
I grew up in Vancouver, Canada. If you are from the Pacific Northwest, the question is always, “Is that VC or Washington?” I grew up in Vancouver, BC, Canada. I went down and finished off my school there and did my university at the University of British Columbia. I spent a few years working there. My cousins had moved there and liked it. The family decided to head over and my brother as well, so we all went there. Great food and weather if you are okay with the rain. It was a wonderful place to grow up.
It is the trade-off with any of the Pacific Northwest is the rain, but I have been to Vancouver. My wife and I journeyed up there in 1984 for the World’s Fair. You were not there yet, I’m guessing. It is such a beautiful city. I feel it is the most European city that I have ever been to in the United States, is that kind of flow?
It is multicultural, and that was one of the things that were great to explore. You have got the bilingual language thing going on with French and English, and then going to different parts of the country. You feel that European side of the country, but that was one of the big reasons why it was so comfortable, and it was almost like having the experience of traveling the world in a single location.
As an entrepreneur, thinking about the strategic reasons why your company can get acquired is good to have in mind.
The rain thing was interesting because it does rain a lot, but it is also one of those opportunities for appreciation of sunshine. When the wind stopped, the clouds are parted, you can hear the angels singing, and everybody is out. Obviously, the air outside was clean and fresh almost all the time. I loved it here.
We made the quick trip over to Victoria, which is a whole other world. It is a cool place. If you love to ski, you will love it. I love Vancouver.
Did you get up to Whistler or any of the local mountains?
We were there in the summertime. We did go to Banff and Lake Louise and all that good stuff. That was the fun part and getting up into the Rockies.
You got everything, skiing, hiking, and city life all in the same location.
Let’s get back to work. You get a degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of British Columbia. What was the first gig out of school? I had a good friend of mine who said, “It is not the first gig you get out of school. It is the second job that matters more.” I would like to find out what that first one was.
My first gig was in the semiconductor industry, and Electrical Engineering gives you the option to venture into either software or hardware and different industries like Chip Design. I started out in the application side of semiconductors, building software that controls the robots and manufacturing for chips. I got the travel to fabs and where the bunny suits. I did that as my first job out of school.
In high school, you knew you were going to start your own company. You had that entrepreneurial drive in you. Is that right or wrong?
I did. I wanted to invent, create, and build stuff. Interestingly, I did not know what an entrepreneur was. I did not know what that word meant in high school. I remember in one of my college interviews, one of the questions was, “Who is an entrepreneur that you respect the most?” This was back when I was in high school, and I did not know who to say. I said Lee Iacocca because back at that time, he was changing things around. I do not think that was the answer that the interviewer was expecting, but that was the first introduction to that word.
You are right. Once I got accustomed to thinking about it, I had to make a decision on what major I was going to go through in university. It was a choice between engineering or business. I remember my conclusion was that if I started with engineering, I could go off and do an MBA or a Business Degree afterwards, but I couldn’t do it the other way around. I couldn’t do a Business undergrad and then get a grad in Engineering. That was how I started out in engineering.
Let’s continue the path. You then ended up moving down to the Bay Area, San Francisco, South of the Bay in Silicon Valley, and you went to school and got your MBA there.
Productive App: Productive will prepare you for the call, so you’re not trying to remember who or why someone is calling you. They basically prepare you for the call before you even answer the call.
I did. I had joined a startup company in the Bay Area. A good friend of mine moved down, and they needed engineers. This was one of the first Voice over IP companies that were starting at that time. Working in telecom has always intrigued me because it is a rapidly growing industry. I jumped at the opportunity to come down to the Bay Area. While I was here, I did my MBA at UC Berkeley because I knew I wanted to round out my skill sets on the business side. I was going to start a company. I came down here and did the engineering thing and the end of the school thing. It was a wonderful experience.
While looking at your CV, you have been involved with seven different companies that have been acquired. Some of those were your companies. I’m going to call you an expert in the process of working at a company that gets acquired. There got to be some pros and cons to that process. It would be neat to know that because I have never been able to ask that question to a guest.
I wouldn’t say that I’m an expert because I did not make them all happen. I have been part of companies that were acquired and they were all acquired for different reasons. The first one was acquired for strategic reasons. The first company I was at was a company that was acquired by Cisco. Back then, the Voice over IP space had started to boom and it was going to drive a lot of data traffic. For Cisco, it was a strategic opportunity, but it has been a whole series of opportunities through the acquisitions. The hostile acquisition is the formal word of having stock bought up of a public company.
What I learned through it all was thinking about the strategic reasons why acquire a company. It was good to have in mind, especially when I started my own company. I had a previous company that was acquired by Skype and to them, it was a strategic reason. We were in the messaging space, Skype was strong in the voice space, and it was a good fit with IP. Going forward, it is always good to have in mind high-level thinking of, “What could potentially happen down the road?” As an entrepreneur, that is critical that you have to think ahead and see what the possible paths for your company are.
It seems to me that a lot of the young entrepreneurs have an idea to get going with it and are thinking too hard about the exit up front instead of maybe working hard on the product.
It is never a bad idea to think about exits, especially if you are raising money. If you are building a company as a cashflow business, you are not as worried about what the outcomes are from an exit perspective, but if you have investors, you want to do it because you are responsible for the stakeholders as well. In the grand scheme of things, it also make sure that you are aligning products either from a competitive perspective or whether it is a synergistic perspective to get partners working with you. It is super important to always plan ahead. It is all part of the entrepreneurial path.
It's never a bad idea to think about exit strategies, especially if you are raising money.
Let’s talk about what you are doing now. I’m going to call it Productive. I know there is a parent company and some other stuff going on there. You tell a great story. I have heard you say it a couple of different times. Let’s share with the audience the history of the cell phone. How did you talk about that when you were presenting to a room full of people?
I started this company through some personal experience. At my last company, we were one of the early innovators in virtual numbers, which was the ability to procure second phone numbers for your phone calls. These were phone numbers that people could add on and get additional functionality that was not available on their primary cell phone numbers.
What we learned was that people were excited about the second phone number because of the additional feature sets that they got, but they did not want to have to manage an additional number or have to give out a different number because at the end of the day, they always end up either getting confused or people are going to keep using the original cell phone number that they had, so they now have multiple numbers they have to manage.
Therefore, if we were going to provide additional functionality that people were excited about that was truly useful, we would have to do it on the primary cell phone number, which was that number that people have had for years now. If you think back about the very first phone that you got and the phone calls on that phone, or if you got a call, you could do 1 of 2 things. You could either pick up the call or hit the red button, you hang up the call, and it sends it to voicemail. Fast forward, decades for some of us, and your phone rings, you can either hit the green button to pick up the call or you hit the red button and decline the call. That hasn’t changed.
We also learned that it wasn’t the ringing part or the hangup part that mattered. It was the conversation and the information that you exchanged during the call that mattered. The question was, “How do we enable productivity features for people to work more efficiently with these phone calls?” Even now, when you get a call, you are probably scrambling for a notepad or if you are lucky, you are sitting in front of a computer with Evernote open or some note-taking software, and you are able to capture the information manually. That is what you have to do now.
Why are we doing things manually? Why are we capturing information manually? The other forms of communication that you use, whether it is email or messaging, we do not take notes after you read an email or read the text message. This is the last form of communication now that people have to manually do work because there are no features on top of these basic phone calls that we have. I wanted to bring and combine all of the technologies that are available now and enhance the native cellphone calls on your phone.
This works for any salesperson anywhere in the country, right?
It is a lot deeper than that. It is interesting because when we first started, we had a lot of people asking us if anybody still used the phone call. The people who asked those questions are thinking from a perspective of, “I use a lot of video conference calls,” so everything is moving towards video conference calls. They forget that there is a whole segment of people that aren’t sitting in front of the computer 100% of the time nor do people have plans for voice calls 100% of the time. It is very much like when messaging comes out, emails are going away.
Productive App: Virtual or secondary numbers didn’t last because of the extra work. People were excited about the additional features. But they didn’t really want to have to manage an additional number.
Every single communication medium has its purpose. You can probably think of a time when you have been messaging somebody or emailing back and forth, and all of a sudden, someone decides to give somebody a call because they need to get things done quickly. This is exactly the same. It is never going to replace video calls, like video calls are never going to replace phone calls, because one is planned, one is ad hoc. There are so many reasons. They all serve a purpose.
We are focusing on industries where it is the norm for voice calls to be part of this toolkit that people use to conduct their business. There is a lot of these industries, real estate, sales, legal industry, recruiting, and finance. We have a whole list of industries that have come to us to integrate with their digital workflows.
Let’s talk about real estate and realtors who live on cell phones. We know that. Talk about the pain points that you are solving for them. Even though real estate is not your background, you embraced the real estate world with your product. I love how you can lay out a scenario as to how this works for a realtor.
We did not start in real estate. Interestingly, we started out in sales because we came out of an accelerator called Alchemist, which is a B2B and an enterprise focus accelerator up in the Bay Area. We were exposed to the Salesforce and HubSpot world, the general CRMs, that serve the sales market. We started there, but we started getting a lot of inbound requests for integration with real estate CRMs.
That opened up a whole door of new CRMs. We had never come across and realized that in every one of these industries, there were systems that people have put in place to try to organize their data. They had the need to collect information to get that, what we call the full 360 for every touchpoint, to try to update every customer record and communication. They were having to do this manually on their phone calls.
Every other communication channel had integrations except for this final gap they had. Real estate was a pull and we realized that this was a perfect use case because agents live on their phones. They are not sitting in front of the computer, driving or multitasking. They are really busy. This was a perfect opportunity for us to bring the technology and try to automate the work for a realtor. That is why we are focusing on this industry right now.
Let’s go ahead and walk through a use case. First of all, this is what blew my mind the first time I heard it. These integrations are so deep. Let’s walk through it. I’m driving down the street and I get a phone call. As a realtor, how do I use your product?
Phone calls are the last form of communication today that people have to manually do work.
The first thing we do is when a phone call comes in, we pull as much information about the caller for you as we can. These are from public sources. If this person is someone you have never talked to before, we try to identify the name of the caller for you. The typical information to get when somebody calls you is a name because this is going to lead to your ability to now go enter the person as a lead in your CRM or even to be able to put them into your address book. We will try to look it up for you, so you do not have to talk on the phone.
If you have a CRM, we call the contact with CRM, pull information about the caller from your CRM to instantly prepare you for the call, so you are not trying to remember. “The name looks familiar,” but you can’t remember what...