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Getting the Game On | Sam Caucci at 1Huddle

In part one of my conversation with Sam Caucci, the founder and CEO of 1huddle, he discussed his effort to merge corporate training with the world of mobile gaming.

In this second part of our conversation, Sam takes us through his journey of starting a tech company with hardly any knowledge of technology, and how he managed the problem of when to build, when to sell, and when to get funding.

More information: https://1huddle.co/


Sam Caucci has managed and coached sales and leadership teams for publicly held, private sector, and franchised companies across the globe. Sam founded 1Huddle a workforce training platform using game technology to help organizations better prepare their people for work. With clients across the globe, 1Huddle has impacted people across organizations in a wide array of sectors, with clients including Novartis, Loews Hotels, ESPN, Audible (an Amazon Company), Madison Square Garden, and the U.S. Air Force. Applying an innovative approach to preparing people for the workforce, Sam oversaw the creation of the training game platform, the first game-based platform that transforms the way organizations onboard, train & develop their team members.

Before 1Huddle, Sam was the National Director of Franchise Sales & Marketing for the Parisi Speed School where he directed the sales training program for 83 locations. He was previously in a leadership role with Life Time Fitness, serving as Director of Sales and spearheading the grand opening and overall management of the company’s expansion into the NJ/NYC market. Prior to joining Life Time Fitness, Sam was General Manager for Perfect Competition Athletic Development, a sports performance training center nationally recognized for its preparation of elite athletes from across the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, and MLS. While at Perfect Competition, Sam managed sales,
sponsorship, and negotiation for the team responsible for the training and development of over 2,500 elite professional athletes.

Sam is proud to have been a part of the sales and service training of thousands of workers. He is the author of the #1 Amazon Bestseller, Not Our Job: How College has Destroyed a Generation of Workers and How to Fix it and has been featured on Fox News, Fox Business, CNN, CNBC, The Huffington Post, ESPN, Yahoo Finance, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and Bloomberg.

DISCLAIMER: Below is an AI generated transcript. There could be a few typos but it should be at least 90% accurate. Watch video or listen to the podcast for the full experience!

Sam Caucci 0:00
You know, jumped off the cliff, are you done? Are you done? And you can’t do you can’t have it both ways. You’re gonna, you’re gonna go all into this, you need to go all in

Alexander Ferguson 0:13
Sam, I’m excited to continue our conversation now hearing about your journey. Tell me, how did you get to where you are right now? Like, where did you come from that? Where are you now you’re leading a company for four or five years?

Sam Caucci 0:25
Sure, like everybody not it’s not a straight line, exactly. I started, I signed to play football at the University of Alabama right out of high school, like, you know, had some family stuff happen, that meant I had to grow up a little earlier. So I passed the opportunity. And I started working right away, went to school, at night and full time, as I kind of managed both. I worked in the sports industry. So I was running sales for a company that trains pro athletes. So think Offseason training for NFL Major League Baseball. You know, over the next decade, I kind of grew in the sports and fitness industry, managing sales teams, you know, building sales training platforms for companies I was with, it was kind of like in that experience that I started to see that, you know, there’s there’s, there’s, there’s opportunity to create something that was more impactful, especially for, you know, sales reps, but that, you know, anybody who’s ever started a company or started a business, you know, everybody asked me like, What made you start it? I just got pissed off one day. You know, I think I walked out of a sales training workshop, and I just said, There’s got to be a better way to do this. And I didn’t know the first thing about technology, other than how to use it as anybody else can. And, you know, I want to say I went through like a year or two year sabbatical, just reading and learning and watching and talking and consuming everything I could and, you know, maybe a few too many, you know, bourbons later, I put a pen to a back of a napkin and had this idea for a game. And we’ve, you know, we’ve never looked back.

Alexander Ferguson 2:10
Tell me about that initial then launch, if you have the idea. But now you need funding. There’s there’s several phases one would go through first is funding them getting your first couple of clients and then scaling. Can you share anything? Maybe from the funding side? How did you get that started rolling?

Sam Caucci 2:26
Sure. I mean, I, you know, full transparency I, I, you know, I when I started the company, I put I put I put some of my money into it. And again, I say some of my money, I just, you know, I have a bank account, like anybody else. I didn’t have a lot of money in it. But I shifted a few dollars over into the new corporate account. Now I operate out of that, even though I was kind of both, it was pretty funny experience. Anybody who started you know, is this a business? Coffee? I’m buying a Starbucks? Or is it my personal coffee? I don’t know. But you know what, when I, when I started, kind of when I started that process, have just kind of starting up. I had somebody telling me something really interesting, when I was asking about going to try to negotiate for help with like a website being designed. And they said, listen, Sam, you either jump off, either jumped off the cliff, or you or you don’t. And you can’t do you can’t have it both ways. If you’re going to you’re going to go all into this, you need to go all in. And sound simple. But when people start a company, everybody knows people who are like, it’s a hobby thing. We can’t start a technology company. And I was trying to I want to build a high growth startup, that’s what I wanted to do. I didn’t want to build a small business, I didn’t want to build something that just I controlled. I want to build a platform. So that conversation was really powerful to me, I, I put together a presentation deck, I started stopped fundraising two or three times in our first year and failed it all three. But when I started doing, they started selling, so I built a prototype of our product. And I started to sell and take the money that we won and put it right back into the product. So I kind of at any point time at this cycle would have broke, the company would have failed. We just kept, you know, sell the client invest it, sell it, invest it, sell it investors, a super fun way to my way sell funding way too many tech companies that you know, don’t even have their first sale and go and raise a crazy amount of money. And you know, they don’t appreciate it. But I did that. And I got to a point where I started to realize I really do need to raise money to take forever. And I started to apply to a bunch of tech accelerators and incubators. And we got a call back from 500 startups and they said, we’d love to have you in the program. Can you be in San Francisco on Tuesday, this was Friday. I just got married. So you know, that was a long weekend. And on Tuesday, I was on a flight to San Francisco and I spent a year in San Francisco really putting the company through a boot camp, and that was our first you know, 100k. Outside outside check that we received

Alexander Ferguson 5:05
from there how what tactics did you do to then actually scale up? And? And the customers how many customers you have today? Like, what’s what’s that? What are those couple tactics that worked for you?

Sam Caucci 5:16
When I got the 100 case? And 500 said, Okay, that’s great. What am I gonna do with it? So my kind of right hand guy, Roger was our first sales, our first sales leader to join the team, Roger join me moved out to San Francisco with me, I got one of our in both of these guys are still with us, Ben joined our team, it was who started to do game design for us. And he was based in DC. And we just kind of started to corral the first initial team around the business. And, you know, we, we, we use the next year as a way to get the company in a position to raise a bigger round, which we ended up doing. I want to say, you know, today, today, you know, we have over 100 brands on the platform or across a dozen different verticals where, you know, 4040 full time team members, we just closed our, you know, we had closed a seed round, and then we just closed a series a financing in November. So we raised about 9 million total to date over the last, you know, four years. So definitely has been huge to help us just double down on our technology ground our team. When I moved back from San Francisco, we were going to be like any good tech company and open and some, you know, crappy we work in New York, and I ended up getting introduced to Don Katz, who’s the CEO at Audible. And they were just starting a vestment fund in Newark, New Jersey, Newark. I had known just from the news, I knew Newark, I knew Cory Booker, I knew the New Jersey Devils. I know it’s a city trying to fight back. And we decided probably one of the best decisions we made. I came out to Newark, and they made an investment in us. And we decided to make Newark, our corporate headquarters and our team has been planted in Newark, we’re just 12 minutes outside of the city. And being that close to a city that’s fighting back has been really big for us.

Alexander Ferguson 7:16
Looking ahead, what kind of challenges do you see communication wise in internally, but definitely externally because of COVID? And the way people are thinking right now? What do you what challenges you see, you’re gonna need to overcome to move forward?

Sam Caucci 7:29
Yeah, challenge wise. I mean, I think that the big thing is nobody, you know, the future of work was this thing people thought was a decade away from now. And it’s now here, like the future works no longer in the future, it’s now and I think we’re going to struggle as companies, you know, unfortunately, tried to figure out how to get their tech stack up to speed where it should have been. Second, unfortunately, invest, you know, companies have not done a great job broadly, getting their own infrastructure, well developed for their team. So you know, that that’s, that’s going to be one of the challenges we fight through. But I feel very, very bullish on the fact that companies are going to make workforce training investments a priority. They’re already doing it, and we’re already seeing it. You know, quarter three, quarter two was kind of a tough one for us, like everybody else was, but quarter three has been off to a rocketship start with companies starting to just get a little bit of breathing room. And you know, not every industry, no doubt, but a lot of the companies are talking to that are maybe premium and luxury and have done a good job. They’re starting to invest in their infrastructure, and in use this moment to do that.

Alexander Ferguson 8:49
Looking forward that last question I have for you, what kind of tech innovations do you predict we’ll see in the near term next year, so and in the next five or 10 years?

Sam Caucci 8:59
Yeah, I mean, I think you’re gonna see a lot more b2b Enterprise Products looking like b2c products, you know, so I think that you’re going to see everything around the employee experience is going to feel like a customer experience that’s going to be really big. So I think that’s probably the big trend, you’re gonna see, I mean, no doubt, you know, virtual reality AI deeper, deeper work on AI is going to accelerate. I think there’s going to be a lot of jobs automated under the guise of augmentation. And you know, it’s going to be really interesting to see the way work works along if humans work alongside machines.

Alexander Ferguson 9:40
That concludes the audio version of this episode. To see the original and more visit our UpTech Report YouTube channel. If you know a tech company, we should interview, you can nominate them at UpTech report.com. Or if you just prefer to listen, make sure you subscribe to this series on Apple podcasts, Spotify or your favorite podcasting app.

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