ASOTU CON Sessions Episode 2: Jim McKelvey

September 29, 2022
Paul J Daly and Kyle Mountsier sit down with Jim McKelvey to discuss Jim's thoughts on ASOTU CON, what he's doing now with Invisbly and his advice for auto dealers.
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Jim McKelvey is the Co-Founder of Block (formerly Square) and the Founder & CEO of Invisibly.

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Paul Daly: 0:03You're listening to the ASOTU CON Sessions by Effectv recorded live in PhillyKyle Mountsier: 0:11

All right, this is Kyle Mountsier I've got Paul J Daly What's up me? We are on ASOTU CON Sessions by Effectv and we've got a friend our new friend Jim McKelvey, Jim, thanks for joining us happy to be here. This

Jim McKelvey: 0:23

is gonna be fun. Yeah, absolutely.

Kyle Mountsier: 0:25

So we're just gonna jam for just a minute. Jim was so gracious to come in and be a part of ASOTU CON and I you know, it's it's really fun when you've got a new friend. And the minute they walk in, they throw on the shirt. They're like, I'm in loving people more than you love cars. Yeah.

Jim McKelvey: 0:42

And I came in at a suit because I have I have a dinner that I've got to go to where I can only wear a suit tonight. Oh, I gotta wear the suit on right before I leave. But if I wear a t shirt, because otherwise nobody takes me seriously.

Paul Daly: 0:54

Yeah, it's funny how that juxtaposes, depending on who you're with,

Jim McKelvey: 0:57

if I show up in a suit, it's like, did you get subpoenaed? You're like, Oh, yes, yeah,

Paul Daly: 1:01

suit guy. It's a suit guy. So let's ask you this, because, you know, you're a little familiar with the automotive industry. Yeah. But we just kind of threw you in with 500 of our closest friends who like to make trouble in automotive and who are really working to change the perception and the culture of retail auto dealers, what has been your perception of the crowd, the vibe, just as a really outsider to this community? So

Jim McKelvey: 1:25

I've been approached by more people who have read my book and have thought about the issues that I've been raising for the last few years at this conference than any any other really, yeah. So this is now you know, the book kind of came out in the pandemic. And this is like the second conference, I think I've been to well, since then. But one of two, it's been fantastic. Just the level of engagement and level of thought these people have been in a, in a fairly traditional business for decades, and to hear them thinking about new ways to do things and new ways to ask questions. And I thought it was pretty interesting. Yeah,

Paul Daly: 1:59

I didn't see that coming. Yeah, I mean, I'm not I'm actually not surprised, may

Kyle Mountsier: 2:02

or may not have bribed half an hour.

Jim McKelvey: 2:06

It could see that there's alcohol everywhere. Yeah.

Kyle Mountsier: 2:10

No, yeah. So you know, we won, we did, we started talking about it, because we were like, hey, look, if we're gonna have a conference, and we're going to put up something at the center, then we want to make sure that the conversation and that the lead up. So I think a lot of people have read the book. And you know, a lot of people know you from your work at, at Square now Block and kind of that, that that growth of this Innovation Stack that you built. But what I'd love to hear is you've got a couple new ventures going on one, mainly with Invisibly. And you know, what, because you wrote in the Innovation Stack, and if someone hasn't read, it definitely should. But you wrote that mainly out of your experience of, of Square. Where are you seeing some of those similar themes right now, as you're building what you're building, and you're going, Hey, I've experienced something similar, not all together the same, but I've experienced something similar. And I'm able to import some of the learnings that I've had,

Jim McKelvey: 3:03

I think the the biggest learning is, I'm less likely to quit. So when we were going through Square, look, it took us a year and a half to get our product out. It took us three weeks to build it. But it was a year and a half before it actually worked legally. And we could release it. Yeah. And there were a lot of people during that time, who said it couldn't be done and told us to give up and Jack and I kept going. But I've heard a lot of stories. And I've also lived through situations where, you know, you get halfway through what might be just a major breakthrough, and you quit, because you're getting no, you don't get any positive feedback until the whole thing. Right, you

Paul Daly: 3:40

don't know how close you are either. Yeah, halfway through, you can be 98%.

Jim McKelvey: 3:44

Yeah. And you know, if you're a computer scientist, you're sort of aware of the fact that you like one bad line of code and the other 10,000 Don't work doesn't work. Right. But it's it's very frustrating. And so I think the big lesson that I got out of sort of writing the book was this respect for how difficult the process is. And so I think I'm a little more stubborn, maybe,

Paul Daly: 4:08

yeah, we'll talk about what the product does. What does Invisibly Well,

Jim McKelvey: 4:12

it's, it's this product for people to control their attention. So right now, that sounds like marketing. Yeah, it is. It is. But if you think about the way you get content in the world, okay, there are only two models right now. You either subscribe, or you pay per your you do it through ads. Okay. So that's that's how you get the stuff that you put in your brain. There's a third model that has never worked in the content world, which is pay per view. nobody's figured out a way to allow you to get an article. That's a pay per view and

Paul Daly: 4:52

right like if you see it, you're saying like you see the Wall Street Journal, and you want to see the article and you've used up all your free tries right and only subscribe well Right. You can't say like, Hey, I'll pay 50 cents to read this article. That is

Jim McKelvey: 5:03

correct. Got it? And check. He's.

Kyle Mountsier: 5:07

So remember the Southwest illustration? Yeah, I found another one. Right, I

Paul Daly: 5:12

would be willing to pay 25 cents to read an article, but not $7.99 for all the articles, right? Yeah.

Jim McKelvey: 5:17

And you know, if you think about the, the way, journalism is supported, like, you want to pay more for good stuff. And this is the whole thing. Like, we want to live in a world like I want to live in a world where there's expensive stuff and cheap stuff. And sometimes I can do the cheap stuff. Sometimes they can do the expensive stuff. But I don't want to live in a world where everything is as cheap as possible. And right now, the model that dictates content is make it as cheap as possible. Because if it if it costs more, you can't earn more. So the advertising model is you're you're basically monetizing per minute of engagement. Which is to say, if I can trick you into watching something for two minutes, as opposed to one minute, I get more money. And the way to think about that is why are some of the articles you've read and some of the content you see. So long winded and stupid, right?

Paul Daly: 6:11

It's like discussing how am i three scrolls down? And I've said the same thing. So I don't know even what you're saying actually. Right. Yeah. And then you get to the bottom here. Like, it's not even there's no punch line. Yeah, the most unsatisfying thing. And that

Jim McKelvey: 6:23

used to not be the case, because it used to be expensive to deliver the content because you had a printed page, or you had a broadcast signal meant it

Paul Daly: 6:31

was the opposite. Exact right. There was a real estate issue. Yeah, I only have so much. So I better make great use of it fit it in now. It's

Jim McKelvey: 6:37

like, Hey, how's it go and got up? I was about to blog. And like, try looking up a recipe some time. Oh, gosh, don't

Paul Daly: 6:51

I don't care about the life story that like South Dakota. Yeah. Like I

Jim McKelvey: 6:56

understand your grandmother was an important person to you. But I'm trying to bake a pie. Right. You know, that's just how do I get the

Paul Daly: 7:02

flaky crust? Where's the butter? I paid 50 cents for that right

Jim McKelvey: 7:06

now. Right? So, so anyway, Invisibly is my new effort, I should say New. It's not it's been around for five years. We have been getting it wrong for five years. So Wow. So we've we've we've we've that's encouraging. Thank you so much. Oh, yeah. Well, encouraging for you. I

Paul Daly: 7:21

mean, your life is going on. Thank you so much for your we have blown through

Jim McKelvey: 7:30

almost $30 million over five years, with teams of people and ideas that almost worked. I see why you're discouraged and did and but it's it's starting to go and like I have a product right now that I'm actually pretty happy to use in, in in the magical two weeks from now, we will release a product that I'm really psyched about. The Wall Street Journal just signed up last week, literally loud. Now

Paul Daly: 7:55

you can read the Wall Street Journal now. Yeah,

Kyle Mountsier: 7:57

I don't have to be a

Paul Daly: 7:57

savvy business. But I had this feeling of exclusive exclusivity, because I'm a subscriber to The Wall Street Journal. So am I I went into the store in the airport, and they didn't make a big deal of it. Like, I'm a subscriber, you know?

Jim McKelvey: 8:09

Well, the journal is terrible. Because I constantly get people email me and are emailing the Arctic articles. And I'm a subscriber and I can't open them

Paul Daly: 8:19

a lot of times, right? You're still like, Oh, I'm logged in on another browser, or like the private

Jim McKelvey: 8:23

have to do this, you know? So, yeah, I'm really excited. Two weeks, you have

Paul Daly: 8:29

a product that is going to be available where so when you consume this product,

Jim McKelvey: 8:34

so you go to, it's an app. And it will basically take news feeds from your local news sources and national news sources, and now the Journal, and it'll, you know, try to pull those together in a way that suits you. So the other thing that's weird about content is that people who get their content from platforms are actually being fed, like cattle are fed in a feedlot, that right, that feels right, you you are, you're basically being shown the article that is in the best interest of the platform. So if it's in if it's in essence, to you know, like we can like we need to piss Kyle off right now. Right? Because he's about to, he's about to leave and we know that pissing him off is going to get him to engage more like now's the time to show him

Paul Daly: 9:18

give it to him. Yeah, right. Got this. And we know he doesn't like this. Let's give him so.

Jim McKelvey: 9:22

So that's, that's healthy for the platform because it ups your engagement. It's not necessarily healthy for you. So the other thing that we're giving people, which I don't know if anyone's ever going to appreciate is just neutral discovery, which is like okay, here are the things we think you like, you tell us if we're wrong or tell us how he said neutral discovery. Yeah. In other words,

Paul Daly: 9:42

here's some new things. Here's an informed by Yeah,

Jim McKelvey: 9:45

so initially, we're going to we're going to do you know, the the regular popularity contests here, the most popular articles right now, you know, but then as you start to choose and engage with articles and we start to get a sense of what you like, then we will skew our Article recommendations towards what you like. But then we give you this huge control panel with, you know, hundreds of variables where you say, Oh, look, I'm interested in these things, and not these things. And you know, all this stuff. Yeah. And look, this is a big experiment. Nobody's ever done this before. I, we were looking, I guess, is I'm gonna say this on stage in an hour. Like, we really wished we could have copied somebody. Yeah. But you couldn't. But there was nobody out there doing this. So we had to. So we had to

Kyle Mountsier: 10:26

Yeah. Well, you are a, you're a troublemaker after our hearts, we have, we're going to tell the story this afternoon, why you're even here it was conference, because it's a big part of what we're doing. Because we know that there's this moment that automotive specifically, is in this. So we had to moment and I don't think we expected it to come as an industry where it's like, you know, where there are things where nobody's else has done before. And we can't even copy the the new entrants into our space, there's only the only way around that is figuring out a new way. There's a new path that has to be carved. Now it's gonna be an as an industry. So you know, there are people that will do it differently. But I guess just one more question. And we'll just pivot it to auto just real quick is just like, when when you look at auto dealers, specifically in the realm of what you know, of the financial world and automotive, where would you see auto dealers making at least a step or a move toward toward reconciling a new audience or finding a new audience are contributing to the retail environment in a new way?

Jim McKelvey: 11:33

So auto dealers, I don't think you can lump them together too much. Because like, I've learned so good. I bought cars from like, the guys with the colored flags. Yeah. Okay. And then I bought cars from, you know, our premier dealers. And every and in between, you know, I've done the, you know, the deal in the back of guys yard, right. So I think there's a, there's an evolution that's happening in about five or six different variables in the auto world, and you just got so much change coming out of it once. My question is, five years from now, when I'm a consumer, and I have a car, what's that car gonna look like? What am I going to need? What sort of relationship? What sort of relationships am I going to have? And I keep thinking about all these, you know, examples throughout my life, like my uncle never bought a car, he would only lease and I was like, Uncle Bob, why do you? Why don't you buy cars, you know, like, cheaper to buy the car. He's like, I don't want to deal with buying the car like he was so repulsed by the, by the experience of of semi to lease a car. Yeah, but he could, he could, he could simply lease it. Yeah, so he's leasing it. And, and so I think, you know, as far as the dealers are concerned, there's a tremendous amount of opportunity down, because because there's sort of a low trust factor in the industry as a whole. Like, if you had dealerships or organizations or, you know, sort of signals that you were trustworthy. I think that's gonna go a long, long way. And just

Kyle Mountsier: 13:02

kind of a just, Oh, those are the good ones. Like if someone was able to point that out in a way you could, you could, the consumers would move move to that.

Jim McKelvey: 13:11

And this is why you see brands like you know, like Koons in around around DC where I used to live I had a girlfriend, they used to sell Chevy's for Koons. Right, wow. And I was, you know, I go to the dealership and hang out, watch her, you know, like, sort of talk some guy in a Camaro that he, you know, probably shouldn't have been driving, but, you know, that was I was like, but, but I remember how they were trying to build up the Koons brand, you know, and how they were trying to say, okay, you know, we'll take care of you. We have dealerships in Missouri that do that as well. But there are a lot of people who, you know, view auto dealers as as this thing to avoid. And I think that's that's the big challenge, but it's also the big opportunity the industry.

Kyle Mountsier: 13:56

Yeah, that's good. Well, Jim, thanks so much for joining us on ASOTU CON Sessions by Effectv and we're just a little bit over an hour from here and you just kind of addressed our industry and can't wait to do that. We'll share our story but appreciate it.

Jim McKelvey: 14:11

Yeah, it's gonna be so much fun. Thanks, guys.

Paul Daly: 14:14

Thank you for listening to this ASOTU CON Session by Effectv if you want more content like this, you can check out our other podcasts we have a daily show called The Automotive Troublemaker Monday through Friday, here on podcasts also live streamed on YouTube, and LinkedIn and Facebook. We also have a long form podcast called Auto Collabs, Auto Collabs. And if you just want to go a little deeper into this community, you should sign up for our regular email we put our heart and soul into it. You can get it for free by going to We'll see you next time.

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