Max Faingezicht | The Essential Element of Business Success 

When it comes to technology, most small business owners and professional service providers know they need it to grow… but they struggle with how to implement it.

That’s something Max Faingezicht deals with every day. He’s CTO (and a founder) of ThriveHive, which specializes in helping small businesses build an online presence that markets their products and services effectively.

Software and data are an important part of that process. But the key ingredient in business success, says Max, is not something you can download.

We explore that concept, as well as…

  • The importance of shared values and vision to business growth
  • How past experiences can – and should – inform the direction of your business
  • Why you should be “customer-obsessed”
  • The many ways other people can help solve your business problems
  • And more

David Elmasian and Max Faingezicht Episode Transcript:

Speaker 1: This is The Hub of Success, the Boston Business Podcast, with your host David Elmasian and Michael Delany.

Dave Elmasian: Welcome to the Hub of Success with Dave Elmasian, I’m the co-host, and we’re here today with our first guest. We’re super excited about it. Max Faingezicht, did I say that right, Max?

Max Faingezicht: That’s right. Perfect.

Dave Elmasian: Oof. I’ve been working on it. Max is the Chief Technology Officer at ThriveHive, and ThriveHive, and correct me if I’m mistaken, it’s a guided marketing platform for small businesses. Did I get that right?

Max Faingezicht: That’s right.

Dave Elmasian: Excellent. Well, welcome to the podcast, Max.

Max Faingezicht: Thank you. Thank you for having me.

Dave Elmasian: I’m super excited to have you here. Technology is part of my life. I know it’s been a big part of your life as well too, and one of the things that we hear a lot is people struggle with technology, particularly in their business. I know that’s kind of a little thing that you’ve helped along the way with a lot of people, a lot of industries, and a lot of companies. Does that sound about right?

Max Faingezicht: Yeah. I mean, I think technology has definitely been a big part of my life, and I think the impact that technology can have on whether it’s individuals, businesses is tremendous, but sometimes there’s a barrier and kind of crossing that barrier can be hard.

Dave Elmasian: Right. People can be intimidated by technology, right?

Max Faingezicht: Yeah. Exactly.

Dave Elmasian: Yeah. So, let’s move specifically with ThriveHive to begin with because that’s your current company. How did it all start?

Max Faingezicht: That’s a great question. It’s almost like the perfect storm. I was here in Boston. I came for business school at MIT, and business school is a really special place. You’re surrounded by a lot of smart individuals. Everybody’s starting something. There’s a lot of stuff kind of brewing around you. But you also have the flexibility to try different things. So, I actually was working on another startup for MOL payments. That one didn’t work out like most early stage startups, not all of them work. But then through my network, I actually connected to a group of investors that had acquired a web analytics company.

Dave Elmasian: Wow.

Max Faingezicht: They were trying to figure out what do we do with this technology. The company really wasn’t going to succeed competing against Google, with a free, amazing product that Google analytics offers. So we started kind of brainstorming and it was really the power of the network. A friend of us connected to this investor group. My other co-founder, Adam Blake, was also a classmate at MIT. Together we started sort of thinking about the place that we were at, the place in time, and also a little bit of our backgrounds, right? Adam had spent some time at HubSpot so he seen a little bit of that marketing automation, V1 getting started, helping more of the sort of medium-sized, larger businesses.

Dave Elmasian: Sure.

Max Faingezicht: I come from a small business background. Kind of what you were talking about technology earlier, and I feel like that’s been the mission of my life. Applying technology to help people.

Dave Elmasian: Right. So, it’s interesting. When I first got exposed to ThriveHive, somebody described to me, I think it was one of the salespeople. He said, “We’re kind of like the little cousins of HubSpot.” I thought that was kind of interesting, but it was a great summed it all up about what you guys do. So, if you’re walking down the street or you’re drinking a cup of coffee and somebody says to you, “Hey, Max. What’s this ThriveHive thing?” What do you tell them? What is it that you guys do?

Max Faingezicht: That’s a great question. So, we think of ThriveHive as helping people that work in local business do what they love and succeed at doing it. We do it through our guided marketing approach, and that’s basically taking technology and making it accessible. So, we use data, people, and software to enable somebody to build their online presents. You’re a small business owner, probably local service provider, you don’t know about websites and SEOs and SCM and all these acronyms. So how do we bring all of those things and give you the recipe for what you should be doing today based on where you are, who you are, and what research you’ve got available, and that’s what ThriveHive does.

Dave Elmasian: You’re talking about me, right? I’ve been a customer of ThriveHive for three plus years. Do I know a little bit about those things that you just mentioned? Sure. I know a little bit, but that’s not my focus. That’s not really … I don’t want to do a lot of heavy lifting in there. I think that was a big part of the appeal. So that’s interesting. So, going back to those early days, you and Adam, were there others involved at that time when ThriveHive started?

Max Faingezicht: Yeah. Yeah. There was a small group, our kind of early founding group. Couple of people on the technical side, there’s two with us. There was another co-founder that was more focused on the sort of branding ideation side of things. And then we started building from there.

Dave Elmasian: Okay. Alright. So, where you working out of an office? Where you working out of your house? Set up the scenario so to speak.

Max Faingezicht: Yeah, so it was really like the startup story, right? We had a small space in a shared office. So, we had too little offices for the four or five people we had working here. And then around us there were maybe ten people working on other things, which also helped. We had all these questions, you’re not really sure what it is that you’re doing, because startups are kind of this machines in search of feasible business model. That’s a good way of thinking about it, right?

Dave Elmasian: Yeah.

Max Faingezicht: And so, yeah, it was very, very scrappy.

Dave Elmasian: Do you miss those days?

Max Faingezicht: Absolutely, yeah, there’s a little melancholy around the early days. It was a fun time, a stressful time too.

Dave Elmasian: Of course.

Max Faingezicht: You’re kind of against a ticking time bomb.

Dave Elmasian: Yeah, always expenses right.

Max Faingezicht: Yeah.

Dave Elmasian: So, it’s the three of you basically and a few others, and that was when?

Max Faingezicht: We’re talking 2011, 2012.

Dave Elmasian: Okay, so five six years ago, somewhere in that range. So, if you don’t mind me asking, how many employees does ThriveHive have currently?

Max Faingezicht: Yeah, so we crossed the 300 mark recently.

Dave Elmasian: Wow, 300.

Max Faingezicht: Yeah.

Dave Elmasian: So, you went from four or five guys five, six years ago to 300.

Max Faingezicht: Yeah.

Dave Elmasian: That’s amazing.

Max Faingezicht: It’s been an incredible journey and I think a big part of it has been the people that we’ve really invested in our people in making sure we have the right people all along.

Dave Elmasian: Right. Right. Going from four or five people in a little shared space, communication is easy. Now you have 300. What’s the difference? What’s it like?

Max Faingezicht: So, I think that early on we were very focused on culture and making sure that what we were doing, the reasons of ThriveHive existence were clear. We codified our values so that we share this common foundation and I think as it started growing, there’s much more specialization, right? Not everybody can be doing everything. You wore 100 hats. I was doing marketing, I was doing sales, I was doing … You name it, right? I was doing everything in the first few months and years. And then we start specializing, bringing in a little bit more experienced people. And then you also have the people aspect. You actually need more management layers because you have larger teams and they have to communicate and make sure they’re working together. So, finding that alignment I think, is key. And it all comes down to communication.

Dave Elmasian: Right, or lack of it at times, right?

Max Faingezicht: Right.

Dave Elmasian: Right. So, you have 300 employees now, you started with four or five. Let’s talk about your customers. We know what your mission was. Do you remember your first customer by any chance?

Max Faingezicht: Yeah. We had a small group of beta customers.

Dave Elmasian: Okay.

Max Faingezicht: One of them is actually a local restaurant, I want to call it. It’s paint and drink wine experience type of place out in Natick. So, it’s a place called Palettes.

Dave Elmasian: Yep.

Max Faingezicht: And it was kind of awesome to see them launch the business with us. Maybe not the first customer, but one of the first few. And we really saw how our methodology could help somebody almost with no online presence. They were just getting started, build up the company and grow it and they stayed with us over the years. And it was amazing.

Dave Elmasian: So, if you look back at your product or your service at that time, and you look at it today, what’s the same? What’s different?

Max Faingezicht: Yeah, I think so much has changed.

Dave Elmasian: Yeah.

Max Faingezicht: I think that the essence is the same, this concept of guided marketing. We are always trying to distill what is the most important thing for you to be doing and then make it easy for you to execute on it and that could be through software, guided work flows, or through a coach, somebody who actually talks to you and looks at your business in a very unique way.

Dave Elmasian: Right.

Max Faingezicht: But what has changed I think is, back then we were doing a lot of fake it before you make it. Some of the interfaces might have been there, but behind the scenes, there wasn’t so much, right.

Dave Elmasian: Why don’t we call that, there was a lot of duct tape and that kind of stuff. Sure.

Max Faingezicht: Yeah, exactly. I think we’ve definitely come a long way. I look at some of those old screen shots for the interface and it looks completely different.

Dave Elmasian: So, fast forward, in 2016, you guys get acquired by Propel Business Solutions, which correct me if I’m mistaken, it was a division of Gate House Media, is that correct?

Max Faingezicht: Yeah, that’s right.

Dave Elmasian: So, how’d that all come about?

Max Faingezicht: Yeah, so we were growing very fast at the time. Things were really clicking and our product was getting some traction. We were looking for other ways to grow. We were mostly growing organically and direct to consumer. We were basically reaching out to small businesses and we wanted to explore channel partnerships. So, Gate House Media obviously has one of the largest footprints in the United States on the newspaper side, which means or translates to thousands of salespeople, feet on the street, very deep relationships with this small business owners in all the small towns in the US. And we wanted to put our product in their hands, right? So, we started talking about a potential distribution partnership, and as we were talking about our vision for the market, and where we were going, they told us about their vision and their values. And it was kind of like we were pitching each other. And all of a sudden, we were realizing how aligned we were in our thinking.

Dave Elmasian: Wow, that’s surprising. Because who’d ever think a newspaper company and an online marketing platform. I mean, from the outside looking in, that seems like completely different worlds.

Max Faingezicht: Right. Yeah, I think that they were definitely quite visionary in the way they setup this what became up curve today, is the division that acquired us, and they really set out this really kind of entrepreneurship effort to start something from within the newspaper company and use their resources of the newspaper, but do it in a stand-alone way. So, they brought in venture people and they were really trying to push the envelope on technology because they felt that there was an opportunity that they had kind of seen from the newspaper side. And talking to small businesses, it was clear that there was a pull in the market, like real demand for understanding this digital world, digital advertising, this whole online unknown and that’s kind of how it all came about.

Dave Elmasian: So, they were like you said, they were forward thinkers and they realized the newspaper business isn’t going to be forever, right?

Max Faingezicht: Yep, yep, exactly.

Dave Elmasian: They kind of … You guys meet, you talk about it, you discover you have a shared vision or at least some. I’m sure not 100%. What starts going through your mind when you start thinking about we’re going to be acquired by this larger company?

Max Faingezicht: Yeah, I mean, I think it took a little bit of time for it to kind of hit me that we were in this fundraising mode, we were growing, distribution, partnerships, things were going kind of as planned and then this thing comes a little bit out of nowhere. We were not looking to sell the company.

Dave Elmasian: Right.

Max Faingezicht: But, then you start thinking about kind of your people, your group of employees, we were at that time maybe 25 or so people, you think about your investors, and of course you think about your customers, right. Making sure that if what it seems that you’re going to be doing is the same thing you’re going to continue building toward that vision in a more stable way and get to it faster, than all those other things start making sense. So, it definitely got me thinking could we achieve this vision? Because we always wanted to be the dominant player in small business marketing and if we can get there faster, it could be really interesting, right?

Dave Elmasian: Yeah.

Max Faingezicht: And so that’s how we kind of how we started thinking about it. And ultimately, it came down to people as well, right? When we talk about values and shared vision and all of these things, it’s also people. Who am I going to be working with? Do I like these guys?

Dave Elmasian: Right.

Max Faingezicht: And that mattered. I think that’s one of the reasons that we decided to move forward with the deal. It was the right deal for everyone. Our customers won, our team won, our investors won, and the combined company is just a much stronger player in the space.

Dave Elmasian: That’s a great perspective on it. I think from the outside looking in, a lot of people would say, your first thought is, “Wow, we’re going to make a ton of money.” Right? We’re going to be acquired, we’re going to get a big payoff, a big payday. Maybe it’s our exit strategy. Did that happen at all with anybody in that process?

Max Faingezicht: Yeah, I think most of us were really never driven by the financial outcome. Of course, you want to be successful and you want to have a good outcome, but we were building a large company. We wanted to help as many small business owners as we could. And this helped us do it in a better way, I think.

Dave Elmasian: Right.

Max Faingezicht: So, like I said, the outcome was good for everyone, which was also a big part of it, right? I would have never taken a deal that was good for me but maybe not my investors.

Dave Elmasian: Right.

Max Faingezicht: That’s just not who I am and I don’t think that’s how you do business.

Dave Elmasian: Yeah, that’s great. And what takeaways were the result of that? Meaning, you look back on it now and you look at that process, do you think there’s some things … Do you think everything went smoothly? Do you feel like you hit the right buttons? Are there any … I don’t say regrets because I don’t want to mean it in a negative way, but what are the things you kind of look back and you say, “Geez, I don’t know if I were aware of that” or that kind of thing?

Max Faingezicht: Yeah, so I think that of course, there’s a lot of lessons and I think that somethings that I didn’t necessarily see coming in, how much of a distraction it was going to be to run through this process for the business. Had the process not gone through, cause I mean, half of them never go through, right? Like you go through the process and for one reason or another, the deal falls through the cracks or whatever. It was a big distraction for the business. The business suffered and I didn’t realize how much it would suffer. The other thing is how important diligence is. So, we actually did spend quite a bit of time kind of getting to know the team, working together, hours and hours of just making sure that it was the right thing. Because it’s a big decision. And then, back to communication. People and communication, making sure that as things kind of progressed, the team needs to be brought in, making sure that your investors are also kind aligned. And once the deal goes through, communicate with both sides of this new formed entity and all of its customers. It’s a big change for everyone.

Dave Elmasian: Right. Yeah, I once heard it described as kind of a marriage, right? You bring two parties together and the families that are involved.

Max Faingezicht: That’s a good analogy.

Dave Elmasian: It has a lot of aspects to it. So, one curious thing that came out of that, I certainly noticed it and I’m sure others have too, you got acquired by this company, yet shortly thereafter, they took on your name ThriveHive. What went … Why was that?

Max Faingezicht: Yeah, it was kind of planned all along. We had a very strong brand in the marketplace. You look at all of our content out there, we’ve really invested quite a bit of energy building up that brand and unifying sort of the two products, the two companies and the initiative under a single name was important. We actually went through a pretty deep process to make sure that the brand attributes the tone of our voice and all of those things around our marketing made sense for our now combined target market, because we were looking at our customers and maybe ThriveHive was more focused on the S and B working with small businesses. And what used to be Propel Marketing, they were doing a little bit more M, so you have to bring those two things together and make sure that it made sense. And everybody loves the ThriveHive name.

Dave Elmasian: Yeah.

Max Faingezicht: Yeah, we kind of decided to move forward … [crosstalk 00:15:53]

Dave Elmasian: So, I have to ask where did the name come from?

Max Faingezicht: Actually, in the early days, we were thinking about this notion of business owners and how they collaborate, this notion of hive, so it’s hardworking, but it’s also collaboration. And then of course, the notion of thriving and succeeding at what you’re doing. And that’s kind of how this other co-founder I was mentioning earlier, it was her idea. So, she’s the one to be thanked for.

Dave Elmasian: Come up with that.

Max Faingezicht: Yeah.

Dave Elmasian: Okay, well, good. So, you mentioned that you went to MIT Sloan, and I know … Tell me a little bit about Tech Stars at MIT Sloan and how that fits into the equation.

Max Faingezicht: Yeah, so I think that coming into the ecosystem here in Boston, one of the big things that you realize is how dense the small startup community is and how important is that value of the network. So, first of all, MIT Sloan, huge network. It opens doors, anywhere you go, you can kind of find somebody that either went to Sloan or you go anywhere, there’s going to be somebody …

Dave Elmasian: Or wanted to go that couldn’t.

Max Faingezicht: Right, right. So, I think that the power of the network was one of the most important things and that kind of started for me at Sloan in 2009 or so. And then we went to the Tech Stars program and now you kind of open up yourself to a new network. And this is a network of mentors, huge network of mentors that are all with the right mindset. I think one of the things that I loved about Tech Stars is this idea of gift first. Every mentor is there to give, give back to the community. They don’t want to take anything from you, they’re not trying to profit from you. It’s just about how can I help you.

Dave Elmasian: Now, this is in Cambridge, right?

Max Faingezicht: Yeah.

Dave Elmasian: [inaudible 00:17:36]. I’m familiar with the areas. No, all kidding aside, but yeah. Okay, go ahead.

Max Faingezicht: And then I think that now I’m kind of on the other side, I’ve actually mentored back a lot of the companies. I was a mentor in the last cohort and the one before that. And I think it’s one of the self-fulfilling mechanisms that feeds the system. So, they were both incredible experiences for me and I think definitely defined what the company ended up doing and our success.

Dave Elmasian: So, are you actively involved in that still?

Max Faingezicht: Yes, I am.

Dave Elmasian: Oh, okay. Do you work with individuals, do you work with companies or businesses or a little bit of both?

Max Faingezicht: Well, it’s one in the same, right? Every business is just made up of individuals.

Dave Elmasian: Right.

Max Faingezicht: So, especially at the early stage, you’re working with a founding team. In my case, probably more involved with companies that are going after small business or having marketing challenges, the technology side, engineering product, which is kind of where I spend most of my …

Dave Elmasian: So that aspect of giving back has a lot of appeal to you.

Max Faingezicht: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I think it’s a big part of the … Sort of like the Tech Star community it’s self-fulfilling. You need to have those mentors kind of come back and keep the [inaudible 00:18:40].

Dave Elmasian: Right. Yeah, that’s great. Your participation, you continue to participate in that, currently your official title is Chief Technology Officer at ThriveHive. So, for those of us who don’t know what that means, what does that mean? What do you do all day Max?

Max Faingezicht: I get that question a lot. Yeah, I mean, as companies grow, our group of … And their technology encompasses everything from engineering so the group that is building our software solutions, that’s … Here we got a large group in Boston, we’ve got a team in Denver and of course, we have five locations. So, I oversee all the engineering product development, all of the IT side of things, so hardware, people work on computers, they break down. You know that.

Dave Elmasian: I do.

Max Faingezicht: And then all of the networking stuff. Making sure that our facilities are operating properly and that it goes to the third sort of leg of my work, which is systems. So, we’ve got a pretty large operation with hundreds of people using our CRM, and our order management system, billing, accounting, all of those systems need to talk to each other.

Dave Elmasian: Right.

Max Faingezicht: A lot of integrations and moving parts, and then making sure that marketing is feeding all of those from the [inaudible 00:19:50].

Dave Elmasian: So, you mentioned marketing. Usually, technology and technology focused folks aren’t really good at marketing. It’s usually one or the other. It’s been told to me by several people that know you that actually you’re pretty darn good at marketing as well, too. So, in your view, for the people that are listening, hey, I’m trying to start my business or I just got started, I need more customers. We know the first thing is they’re going to use ThriveHive, right? But beyond that, what advice could you give them? What’s your view on marketing for a small business?

Max Faingezicht: I think that I was lucky that I had seen it first-hand. I had a small business before I came to Boston and so I butted my head against the wall trying to figure out this website thing, how to optimize it, all of the basics, right. But I think the most important lesson that I took from that experience was being customer obsessed. I’d really obsess about my customers and I’d try to understand them, spend time with them, learn their language, understand their problems. Because if you can speak to a customer in their language, you’re going be able to clearly communicate and it might be good or bad. If it’s the right product for the problem you’re trying to solve, it’s great because then it’s such a clear obvious fit. And if it’s not, it’s actually good for you too. You don’t want to be selling to the wrong people, right?

Dave Elmasian: Right.

Max Faingezicht: So, it comes down to making sure you’re crisp in what is it that you’re offering, where is your value and how does the customer perceive it?

Dave Elmasian: Yep. So, how do you find that out? How can you reach into the mind of your customers?

Max Faingezicht: Just talking to them. That’s it.

Dave Elmasian: Okay.

Max Faingezicht: It’s not rocket science. Just talk through it. Like we have probably spoken to hundreds of thousands of small businesses at this point. I mean, not myself personally, but through the community of ThriveHive employees.

Dave Elmasian: Okay. If you have a choice and you have two tasks in front of you, one is let’s say, technology or IT related and one is marketing or marketing related, which one do you kind of pick first?

Max Faingezicht: I think I’m probably a nerd at heart, so I’ll go with technology being part of me.

Dave Elmasian: I can relate to that. So, let’s switch gears a little bit. You weren’t born in the United States, were you?

Max Faingezicht: I’m not.

Dave Elmasian: Tell me about what brought you here and your background.

Max Faingezicht: Yeah, so I was born and raised in Costa Rica, of all places, last name probably doesn’t give that away. A family of immigrants from Poland, Germany. Born to a small business owner, my father and his father before him, so, kind of a long line of small business owners.

Dave Elmasian: What type of business was he in? Do you mind me asking?

Max Faingezicht: Yeah, of course. So, my grandfather was actually selling fabrics, small store in the city. And my dad started a sign making and equipment distribution company. So, if you want to make a sign, he would sell you the prints or the plastic, all that stuff. And I worked with him for a little while, but definitely entrepreneurship starting your own company was dinner table conversation.

Dave Elmasian: Yep.

Max Faingezicht: I was always focused on technology so, kind of a family of engineers as well. So, I did electrical engineering and loved solving problems. That’s kind of what drives me. A lot of the application of technology to help people and probably mostly the underdogs, right? The ones that don’t get access to technology, the ones that don’t know how to use it. And so, I worked in the technology world for a little while. And then ended up starting my own small business, kind of first experience building a business and thinking about things that engineers don’t get taught, right?

Dave Elmasian: Right.

Max Faingezicht: And learning from anyone that I could. I think that’s another thing that kind of defined me is becoming an expert in this thing that is an unknown and I enjoy that, learning about a new thing. And the same happened with marketing, by the way. Before I came to Boston, I had no formal marketing training and yet I had to figure it out. But so, as that business kind of started to take off, the business is still operating in Costa Rica actually.

Dave Elmasian: Oh, it is?

Max Faingezicht: Yeah, it’s part of my family overseas. And I came here for school. So, I came here in 2009 for the MBA program at MIT, spent a little stent at Amazon as a product manager. And that was fun.

Dave Elmasian: Yeah.

Max Faingezicht: So very data driven company.

Dave Elmasian: Yeah.

Max Faingezicht: Everywhere … Every meeting you would go in and they give you this print outs with tons of tables and charts and people just read for like five, ten minutes and they discuss based on the data. And I think as I was building ThriveHive, in the early days, it was like this small business experience, technology problem solving and then this data driven approach that kind of called us into guided marketing.

Dave Elmasian: Right. So, that background kind of led you to what ThriveHive is now kind of become from those past experiences.

Max Faingezicht: Yeah.

Dave Elmasian: So, you know, you touched upon being an immigrant, coming from Costa Rica, that means your perspective on stuff is a little different. What … How do you view business… And let’s even talk about specifically in Boston. What’s unique about Boston from your perspective? Is it a good place to start a business?

Max Faingezicht: Yeah, I mean, I think Boston is a great place to start a business. You’ve got a very rich ecosystem. Everything from the talent with all the schools, the people, but also just experienced people from other companies, right. So, there’s a lot of deep knowledge in the cohorts of people. I think you also have some really interesting kind of hard technology problems being solved, and maybe not talked about too much. Which to me, is exciting right, all of these very difficult problems that are kind of at the heart of sort of the new stage of companies that are going to become large companies. We’re seeing more and more of those IPOs and big kind of pillar companies here in Boston. And that also creates an ecosystem for exits. We were talking about when we sold our company. So you have to have either an IPO or a company to buy your company if you’re building a venture backed type company.

So, I think all of those come together in a very small footprint which is also nice, right?

Dave Elmasian: Yeah.

Max Faingezicht: And you wouldn’t think it, but actually, it’s a very welcoming community. Every entrepreneur is open to having a conversation with you, grabbing coffee, and giving you all the playbook. I was amazed at that. It’s very different from where I come from.

Dave Elmasian: So, what was it like back in Costa Rica in that regard?

Max Faingezicht: Yeah, so I think one of the big things … There’s some pluses and minuses. I think what I was alluding to is more when you have an idea, you want to hold it tight and not show it to anyone because they’re going to steal it from you. And here, you realize that the idea is step one of a thousand. And then you have to go and execute, and that’s the hard part. That’s kind of one of the things that I learned at MIT, socializing your idea, iterating on your idea. When you end up … I look back six years later and the idea has changed so much. The idea was just the spark, but it wasn’t the most important thing. And I think part of the reason why is that back at home, the system isn’t as solid. There’s more corruption, people do things in a little bit more sketchy way. It’s just normal in a developing country.

Dave Elmasian: Yeah.

Max Faingezicht: On the flip side, I also think the human side kind of got developed in me back in Costa Rica. I think when you look at what we do with ThriveHive, there’s people and we’re not afraid of people. It’s fine. You can have a marketing coach and you can talk to someone. Someone’s going to pick up the phone.

Dave Elmasian: Right.

Max Faingezicht: Right, I think that’s kind of that background where we’re okay with having people be part of the solution and you can make that work. And I think maybe here in Boston maybe we over index on the technology, it’s technology, it’s going by hyper efficient and you can’t talk to anyone. It’s going to be a machine.

Dave Elmasian: Yeah, that brings up an interesting point. You guys … So, for people that aren’t familiar with ThriveHive and how it works, obviously, like you said, you have the guided marketing platform, you have technology, but there’s a big people element in it. And quite honestly, let me speak personally as a client, my coach is central to all of what you guys do. And, from my standpoint, you mentioned the thing about people, it’s huge that I can pick up the phone or email an individual and get an answer. Maybe not immediately, but very quickly. And, that’s very unusual in automated systems in the platforms that we see in other organizations. So, that had to have been a conscious decision on your part, right? From you guys.

Max Faingezicht: It was. Yeah, I think that again, coming from that small business experience and my co-founder Adam was also a small business owner, knowing the importance of having somebody pick up, somebody at the other end of the line, there’s tremendous value in that. But, more importantly, I think it comes from the idea of we’re in it for the long haul. I want you to be successful not tomorrow, not this month, not next month, but for five years, for ten years, for twenty years. And if you’re in it for the long haul, then that’s a small investment to pay to make you successful. I think that’s how we think of it.

Dave Elmasian: Yeah, that’s very unusual in today’s world in a lot of ways. Everything is always about automation and technology. Again, we can’t minimize that, but it’s always about people at the end of the day, right?

Max Faingezicht: Yeah, and don’t get me wrong, I mean, obviously, we’ve built a lot of technology and automation to make those conversations efficient and make sure the coaches can handle a large number of customers and all of those things, and that’s fine. That’s part of the magic of software and technology, but don’t take away the people aspect. Why do you have to completely break it? There’s no need.

Dave Elmasian: Yeah, people look at it as there’s a cost associated with that. And, I agree, I look at in my own business the same way, but that cost also … If it’s in the right situation, can pay big dividends and like you said, that’s the key to long term growth. So, let’s bring it back to Boston again. So, you like the environment, you like the vibe, you look our cynicism. For somebody that is thinking is Boston the right place for me, how do you feel about that? Other than the obvious stuff like you said, the schools, the people, the talents, that kind of stuff. Do you think if somebody asked you why Boston, what would you say?

Max Faingezicht: Yeah, I think you covered some of the most important ones, but I would say there’s also certain industries that kind of have formalized a hub here in Boston, marketing being one of them. We’ve got a lot of the big marketing companies here. You’ve got a cyber security thing that I think has been developing over the last, I don’t know, five years or so. And there’s a lot of this clusters, if you want to call it that, and there’s a ton of value in that, right, and it comes from … It’s a function of the things that you said, but also the density. I think density matters. If you have enough people doing similar things, then magical things can happen, because you’re walking down the street and you bump into that person that wasn’t at conference, and the panelist that was in this other event and the meet up group is happening next door. And you actually end up in a place where what’s hard is what should I do? There’s ten things that are interesting going on this week, and I cannot do them all. It’s a great problem to have, but I think it’s one of the magical things that happens here.

Dave Elmasian: So, you mentioned networking. I’m going to guess that you participate in networking events and I don’t want to over hype it, how do people get plugged in? I guess, is really what my question is, Max, for somebody that is starting a business or thinking about starting a business

Max Faingezicht: I mean, again, back to the advantage of being in Boston is that there are so many of them going on, some of them might be a little more exclusive and you’re going to have to work your way to get to those, but most of them are open. Just go to and look at what’s going on, get some of the newsletters from the local media and you can see that there’s literally two or three things going on every night. And if it’s on blockchain, if that’s what you’re interested in, if it’s security because that’s what you want, if it’s marketing, there’s going to be one for that, too.

Dave Elmasian: Right.

Max Faingezicht: So, I think you just have to get out there. It’s hard to beat the … It’s easy to just stay inside the building and keep doing what you’re doing, because it’s just easier, but if you get out there, you’re actually going to meet people, you’re going to iterate on your idea, you’re going to make it better. And I think that’s kind of one of the points that going back to the start of ThriveHive, is working on the things that matter. You can stay busy all day and do all these things, but if you didn’t do the three things that mattered most, so you didn’t do anything worth doing.

Dave Elmasian: Right.

Max Faingezicht: And maybe networking could be one of those three, especially in the early stage.

Dave Elmasian: Sure. So those priorities and making them relevant to what’s happening and what the needs are for the organization as a whole can be a little bit of a challenge at times. I read in doing my research that ThriveHive was nominated, I think more than once as one of the best places to work in Boston. First of all, congratulations on that. I think that’s very exciting. How did that happen? It didn’t just happen, right? It was obviously intentional in the sense that things that you’ve done and haven’t done. So, tell me a little bit about that.

Max Faingezicht: I think I always go back to one of our early investors Arthur Epstein, he always told us, “It’s all about people and people means your customers, your employees, your investors.” It’s all about people. And if you treat your people the right way, they’re going to give back and with your customers, I was saying, we invest for the long haul. If you bring three, four referrals over the course of a year, how valuable is that if you provide an amazing service? How valuable is that? This is the work that’s not about your company, same happens with your people, right? You treat them right, make sure that your values are well communicated, that there’s alignment, and that people are working towards a common goal, and they love the challenge.

It’s not easy. It’s work. It’s going to be hard, it’s going to be challenging, but at the end, it’s fulfilling. I think that’s what makes a difference.

Dave Elmasian: So, a lot of young people … Again, young is a relative term for everybody, right? For me, young means under 40. Okay. But in your case, I bet it’s a little bit different. So, one of the terms I hear a lot is millennials, millennials, millennials. Okay. And I’m going to guess, you’ve got a lot of millennials working at ThriveHive. Is that true? And I don’t want to get too personal, if you’re a millennial, I don’t want to say it any other way, but is there a challenge in that?

Max Faingezicht: Yeah, so we have a very young workforce. I think I’m border line millennial, depending on what definition which I actually think it’s a huge advantage. I kind of see both worlds and I can relate to both. I hate the idea of oh, the millennials. I don’t like even the kind of pointing them out or singling them out as a special or different group. They’re just passionate people that want to do things that matter. They want to have fulfilling lives, interesting, challenging jobs and they want to go back at home at the end of the day and feel good about what they did and share with their friends and their family. I feel the same way, don’t you?

Dave Elmasian: Yeah. A very smart person told me a very long time ago that never forget that everybody has hopes and wishes. And if you look at people in that vein, you realize, yeah, there’re differences and we all have some differences, but at the end of the day, we all have those hopes and dreams, and if we don’t, we’re not really … What’s the point? But everybody does and you have to look at people in that vain.

Max Faingezicht: It all comes down to putting yourself in their shoes and understanding what’s important to them, what matters, how are they growing their careers, how are you helping them achieve their wishes, their hopes, their dreams.

Dave Elmasian: Right. Okay, before we wrap things up, lets kind of pick … I think it’s a more fun topic, maybe others won’t think of it that way, but I think you and I might feel it’s fun. So, you and I have a couple things in common. One is first off, you blatantly stole my tag line on LinkedIn. Of course, of which, I blatantly stole from somebody else. But the other thing is you and I both have a kind of a little bit of passion for some coffee or espresso. And I think shared one of my stories with you, but for those that weren’t on that phone call, tell me how you got hooked on espresso and how much of a geek you are about that.

Max Faingezicht: Yeah, so I think it’s the engineer in me, the thinker. I see it almost as a science experiment. I get people at home when they come for dinner, they laugh at my process, because I get my beans online, I weigh them. I have a special grinder that has the right particle size.

Dave Elmasian: Particle size!

Max Faingezicht: I gotta make sure the distribution is … [crosstalk 00:35:24].

Dave Elmasian: You got one of those special instruments out to particle size?

Max Faingezicht: It’s not that crazy, but it does feel a little bit like a lab. And then you got your distribution right, the right temping pressure, make sure the temperature is right, pressure is right. And that’s when this amazing elixir comes out of the machine and it’s night and day. When you have a good espresso, you now realize that you had it before.

Dave Elmasian: Right, yeah. I can totally relate to that. And my dad was a chemist, so when you were saying those things, I was thinking about my dad and I’m picturing the beakers and the steam coming up and all that stuff.

Max Faingezicht: It really is science. You have the wrong particle size, then there’s a side of the pot that extracts your coffee, now it’s going to be bitter or it’s going to be acid and then the flavors aren’t there, so it does make a huge difference.

Dave Elmasian: It is kind of chemistry isn’t it.

Max Faingezicht: It is. That’s my obsession.

Dave Elmasian: It is an art as well to it. And so, you shared with me a story, I think it was when you were working at Amazon, right?

Max Faingezicht: Yeah.

Dave Elmasian: So, when did … When was that memorable moment for you?

Max Faingezicht: Yeah, so this was 2010 in the summer and I was in Seattle, so I spent the summer in Seattle, which was lovely. I got to see or taste a new coffee shop every day, like literally go to new coffee shops as frequently as I could. And there was this one moment where I had this shot of coffee and you could taste plum. You could taste this brightness of tropical fruit. And, it blew my mind. I think that was the turning point for me. There’s no going back after that.

Dave Elmasian: No.

Max Faingezicht: It was a Kenyan coffee. Beautiful

Dave Elmasian: Yeah. Like I said, I had a similar story, and it’s true. I guess … I’ve never been a golfer, or not a very good one, but there’s always that one shot that maybe you made and you say to yourself, maybe I can do this. Well, the same thing with the coffee, once you discover that, everything else is kind of secondary and you just want to go back to that. Anyway, let’s wrap things up. I appreciate you taking the time, Max. It was a very interesting story and I appreciate you taking the time. Let’s share with the folks that are listening, how can they learn more about ThriveHive?

Max Faingezicht: Yeah, so, obviously on our website We’ve got a very active social media presence as well. You can find it on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, all the usual suspects. And, I think we’re always hiring, so if you’ve got anybody who’s interested in marketing or wants to help small business owners, go check out our openings. There’s across the board, I think we’re hiring. And if you’re a small business owner, looking to get help with your marketing, there’s the shameless plug, go to and you will have a person talk to you and see if we’re a good fit, and if we are, we’d love to help.

Dave Elmasian: Thank so much, Max.

Max Faingezicht: Thank you, it’s a pleasure.