Transform B2B with Social Networking | Conrad Smith from Graphite Systems

Social networking has been one of the more significant aspects of 21st century life—and yet, it has largely remained exclusive to individuals. Businesses, though, have a need to connect that is perhaps even greater.

The survival of buyers and sellers depends on their ability to find one another. Conrad Smith has stepped in to fill this void with his company, Graphite Systems.

More than just a way to forge B2B connections, his company helps manage these relationships with data integration tools and a host of other features.

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Conrad is an enterprise procurement leader with almost 30 years of experience. He has leveraged 25 years of enterprise experience in leadership roles at Intel and Adobe to found Graphite Systems. Graphite’s flagship product is graphiteConnect. This is an exciting new procurement tech solution that streamlines and automates B2B connections. In the same way that LinkedIn connects business professionals, Graphite connects companies with quick sharing of required business data.

With Conrad’s strong domain experience Graphite delivered its first product and obtained paying customers in less than 6 months. Customers and investors are excited about the potential of graphiteConnect. Conrad founded Graphite with a key member of his former Adobe procurement team. Together, Aaron and Conrad complement each other’s strengths with Aaron’s focus on product and Conrad’s focus on strategy and sales. In less than 3 years Graphite is being recommended by Gartner and listed as SpendMatters “Future 5” solutions of 2020.

Conrad joined Adobe through the Omniture acquisition in 2009. Over the past 30 years, Conrad has led several global organizational and operational transformations in Procurement, IT, and HR.

In his latest enterprise role, Conrad led Adobe’s Global Procurement transformation that has dramatically reduced PR-PO-Contract resources and delays; at the same time elevating the real and perceived value add of Global Procurement across Adobe. He is a recognized global leader across procurement and quickly gaining recognition and visibility as one of Utah’s newest tech startup leaders.

Conrad earned his BS Degree in Biochemistry from Brigham Young University and later his MBA from the Marriott School of Management at BYU.

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!

Conrad Smith 0:00
Purchasing is almost always seen as, like a cost center, not a profit center. And that’s probably okay. In terms of kind of finance, thinking, it’s definitely not okay in terms of what the power that procurement has to bring to your business.

Alexander Ferguson 0:21
Welcome to UpTech Report. This is our applied tech series UpTech Report is sponsored by terylene. Learn how to leverage the power of video at Today, I’m excited to be joined by my guest, Conrad Smith, who’s based in Utah. He’s the founder and CEO at Graphite systems. Welcome, Conrad, good to have you on.

Conrad Smith 0:38
Thank you, it’s good to be with you.

Alexander Ferguson 0:40
Now, Graphite or Graphite systems is a b2b network where it provides supplier procurement and risk management solutions. That’s from your website. But maybe you can help give an analogy of what’s the problem you’re solving and what’s your approach.

Conrad Smith 0:53
So graphite is for businesses what LinkedIn is for people, right? In your LinkedIn profile, you describe your education, your experience, your skills, maybe some references, all those kind of things that allows people to connect with you and understand who you are, there’s a huge problem in business about making connections and doing that quick, it quickly and easily those connections are becoming more difficult because the world and the regulations and the risks are becoming more difficult everyday as well. When I when I wondered, is one more thing when I started in the 90s, we would onboard and make connections with suppliers, like in less than 24 hours, we’d fax them a little farm, they would fax it back with their w nine, we put them in the system and we pay them sometimes the same day, often the next day we pay them and that just doesn’t work that way anymore. You can’t engage with a company and assume that they’re not going to bring some, you know, horrible cyber breach into your environment, you know, next week, right? So cybers, you know, cyber security data privacy with, you know, GDPR and ccpa, and all these other things that are going on around the world. ethics and integrity is really important. Did you get you know, bigger, lots of like, like almost every week or for sure every month, we hear about some new regulation that you have to comply with as you’re engaging with suppliers. So what was a couple hours or a day is now often weeks or even months to engage with a supplier and do business with them. And that’s just not acceptable business moves faster than that. So administrative process like procurement can’t slow down business to that level.

Alexander Ferguson 2:28
Your History Background, as you mentioned, being in procurement for a while you actually had Intel for many years and then Adobe helped me understand the journey that you kind of started to see some of these challenges and problems that led you to start in graphite.

Conrad Smith 2:44
Well, you know, nowadays, I think some younger adults go to college and think, hey, I want to have a purchasing job or I want to be in supply chain. That didn’t happen for me back in the 90s. I didn’t even know what it was. So I went I had a biochemistry degree I went through and got an MBA and then Intel hired me to be a buyer and, and full transparency. I thought only Nordstrom had buyers, you know, and they were all about fashion and everything else I didn’t realize really every organization has a purchasing organization and buyers and you know, it’s a big deal for them. So yeah, that that first week I showed up at Intel all fired up. Because in the 90s Intel was the tech company I mean if you think about it, now you’ve got all these other big tech companies but Intel and Microsoft and IBM and AP you know, Apple to a much lesser degree in those days, were kind of the tech companies I showed up for work and they were doing purchasing on paper. Like you know, triplicate like the white pink yellow paper. That’s how purchasing was being done at Intel. And you know, I’m whatever roles I’ve had, I’m an operational process improvement kind of person. And so that began my journey, which has been going for almost 30 years now to make purchasing work better. And in those days, it was about making work better for Intel, and then eventually Adobe. In our business today we’re doing the same thing. And that’s it’s been such a fun journey because I can continue to focus on making it work better. But instead of bringing value to one organization, our bringing value to 1000s of organizations are exciting.

Alexander Ferguson 4:21
The concept of innovation feel like some silos of maybe it’s a particular industry, maybe it’s a particular job role or department seems to be a laggard innovation is a consumer level that always innovation happening maybe in the sales and marketing innovation happens because money’s there, but procurement what what do you think has stopped or prevented more innovation happening and procurement?

Conrad Smith 4:49
Yeah, that’s it’s a good question. I you know, I told you about the fax machine and the 90s. The fax machine of the 2020s is called email. Right, it’s the same thing. And you know, most people that, you know, people of my generation will remember junk mail coming into fax machines, like they, you know, you would get some rat ridiculous advertisement that just showed up on your fax machine. It’s the same, it’s the same in business processes have shifted from there to here. Along the way, there’s been a lot of solutions, software technology, the transformation to SAS, lots of promises of automation and supply chain. And it’s interesting because there’s, like so many other parts of the world, there’s the haves and the have nots, right, if you’re at Walmart supply chain, and purchasing automation is off the charts. You know, it starts to snow in the Midwest and somebody in China is notified to start building snow shovels, and they just kind of just automate all this stuff automatically happens. And, and that’s great. But that’s super expensive for a large organization for any organization to build out. But you know, for an organization like Walmart at scale, or Home Depot, or these really big organizations, they can pull that off. I think about that, like, you know, people talk about the haves and have nots. The two percenters like that’s how it is in business, the two percenters of the companies are automated, because they have size and scope and scale. And Amazon like it a lot, that automation allows them to dominate in a huge way because of that scale and automation. But most organizations aren’t that big, and they don’t have the money to do that. And the tools are complicated. And, you know, you talked about functions or industry purchasing is sort of like the bottom of the totem pole. Because of course, you’re going to innovate and add, you know, you’re going to invest in the sales and revenue side of your business. And purchasing is almost always seen as a, like a cost center, not a profit center. And that’s probably okay. In terms of kind of finance, thinking, it’s definitely not okay, in terms of what the power that procurement has to bring to your business. It’s, it’s pretty big, but it takes a shift from triplicate paperwork, you know, pushing papers, and checking boxes to being strategic. And if and if you don’t have at least some automation in the process, then all of your time is consumed. Really just with with paperwork,

Alexander Ferguson 7:20
so you set out to help to solve this take you back to 2018 2019, which is when when you started graphite in 2019. Did you just like one day, say, all right, I do so Adobe, I’m on my way out, I gotta do something new.

Conrad Smith 7:38
No, you know, it’s more complicated than that. Because when you sign an employment agreement with a big company, you, you agree that they own everything about you, like all of your ideas, now you can kind of get around that if, if your idea doesn’t have anything to do with what you’re doing for the company, you know, like you’re an engineering and you have some great idea about I don’t know, facilities are something or vice versa, right. But this idea was directly embedded in my job. And so it was quite a process to extract myself from the business and the idea from the business and, and I frankly, I was I’d spent, you know, 25 2025 years working in the corporate space, I’ve gotten to a pretty comfortable salary, it was I was happy, I loved my team. So you know, comfort is, you know, probably for those people that are thinking about this, from a founder perspective, comfort is the enemy of progress. It for a founder, for sure. Somebody with an idea, like, Oh, I want to do that, but I am making a lot. What am I gonna? How am I going to get healthcare? or What am I going to do without a paycheck? Or, like all of these things that are comfortable in our life, I think are the barriers to stop you from really pushing your innovation into reality. And and in some cases, that’s probably a reasonable barrier to entry. Like you need to be able to answer those questions about what are you doing? And why are you doing it? And is it worth walking away from the comfort to go do those things and for some people and some ideas for sure, it’s totally not worth it, like stay where you’re at enjoy the comfortable place, but I would but I would really encourage most people that that just kind of have you get this burning feeling inside you like I gotta go do this thing like this has to be fixed, it has to change. When it gets to that point. Do it like get away from the comfort and make the transition for me that actually took several years because of this complication of extracting the, the IP out of Adobe, I mean, we didn’t want to leave and then make a ton of money which, which eventually is going to happen here and have them come back and say Hey, wait a minute, you invented that while you were my employee, you know, we actually that belongs to us and have some claim against so that probably wouldn’t happen. But you know, I spent a lot of my career reading contracts and so I’m kind of sensitive to making sure we cover all bases.

Alexander Ferguson 9:58
I feel like I’ve heard many horror stories. Especially in the technology world where people talk about all that they were this particular code you develop over here, but then you use in your next startup and then there’s ensues. So you actually decided to take a proactive measure and and extract it is there any learnings from that, that others who may be in similar corporate positions and have ideas that they could take away from that?

Conrad Smith 10:21
Well, I think the hard part, the first step that I had was, you know, I’m in a comfortable, I’m in a comfortable place, I would love to actually build this idea inside of Adobe, like I don’t, I mean, sure, being a founder and turning into some unicorn and having a zillion dollars, that sounds exciting, but I was like, I’d rather just do this here, it will be easier to do inside the brand and the framework of where I’m at. And what I was most passionate about wasn’t making a zillion dollars, it was about changing the world, and you know, bringing some real value. And so yeah, I spent too much time convincing the company that they should try and try to convince the company that they should try and do it before I finally got to the point where getting getting a no in a large company is really hard, which it took like three or four years for them to say, no, we’re not going to do this. As soon as they said, no, then my conversation shifted from telling him what a great idea was to, okay, I want to go do it, I need some documentation that gives me permission to go do this thing and take it out and not have recourse. So it was absolutely proactive. I think that probably most people that you’re going to talk to on a founder side, aside from, you know, software developers that are grabbing code and running with it, you know, because maybe they they’re not even realizing the implications of that. But for sure, you know, you don’t want to take assets and intellectual property from a business and start building another business around it and assume that there’s not going to be a problem. The early companies are super fragile. And you know, all it takes is one lawsuit back from somebody like that will crush you, when you don’t have money, like the cost of legal resources is off the charts. And just one little mistake like that can crush you. But on the other side, I kind of wish I would have left earlier, I wouldn’t be five years ahead of where I’m at right now, you know, to get the business going. So you kind of got it, you just got to balance that and, and with the right level of sort of risk taking and understanding of where it could come back and get you.

Alexander Ferguson 12:24
So first you spend a couple years trying to convince those internally, this is a great idea. They say Finally, you get to know and then you were able to extract Sorry, I’m gonna run this you decide to do that you go when you What’s the funding round, like did you decide to bootstrap it? How did how did that progress?

Conrad Smith 12:42
Well, you know, the other side of the cookie for us I’m going to stick around for a while was a tremendous financial blessing for me, because Adobe Stock has been going through the roof, and I was able to ride through those three or four years, a lot of a lot of equity. In terms of my, the shares that the company was in had granted to me. So I was able to begin kind of the bootstrapping process on my, on my own. I went and started talking with a number of high net worth individuals in my network locally, I mean, individuals that were members, you know, members of the company where I was, as well as just kind of people in the, in the immediate area around me that I’ve been connected to, and I told them the idea, you know, trying to get their support, they all like the idea one of the things that would that was a, I don’t know, it should have been more obvious to me, but like almost every one of them because they’re high net worth individuals already invest in other companies. And so they know they’re very connected to the local venture teams and everything else and and when they were like, whoa, wait a sec so so you’ve actually lived this pain, you’ve run this process, you know everything about it, and now you want to go start a business to fix it, that’s a perfect opportunity for me. And they, I mean, they knew me professionally and personally. And so, you know, they, they I was actually in an investor meeting yesterday listening to some VCs talk about funding ideas, and they said that you know, I can’t remember what they put into like their, the, the other 20 or 30% but they basically said 70% of the decision is the team you know, what write a great idea and a great timing and all those other things but 70% of is all about the team. So those individuals bought into the idea you know, one of them I’m really excited because we just hired the, the the son of one of our angel investors to help us for from a sales perspective. This investor is Don cash and it’s a it’s a really a kind of a, you know, a little bit of love to Don cash. He was the first investor that put money in the account after I did, and I and so this week, I’ve been thinking about Meeting Don and talking to about the idea was telling his son about it earlier in the week, when I met Don, I had breakfast with him, I told him the idea I met with him because he’s on the sales side. And this two sided network is purchasing related and supplier or sales related. And I wanted his take on the idea that was my primary purpose for meeting with him to see if he could poke any holes in the idea. And within 30 minutes, he said, this is the best idea I’ve heard in a long, long, long time, I want to help you, I’ll either give you money, or I will introduce you to people who can give you experience in money, or I will come and work on this project with you, you can have my time. And, you know, that’s that he is a super high quality individually actually, he’d be working on the project right now. But he He’s, uh, he was on a quest to climb the seven highest summits in the world. And between the time I talk to him, and the time, the time that he kind of signed the final paperwork, he claimed to have those Seven Summits and he signed the he signed the investor documents from Basecamp at Everest. And then unfortunately, he he actually had some problems on the top of the mountain what and passed away on the top of that room. So So it’s, you know, so cool for us to have his son now involved in the project. Because it you know, to us, one of my, one of my dreams is to turn this thing into something awesome. When he when he went to Everest, he told me, I really I’ve had a dream to go to Everest base camp, you know, I don’t think I’m strong enough to climb the mountain, I wouldn’t even pretend. But I wanted to go to base camp, but I sat down with him the day before he left and he said this business is your mountain. Like I have my mountains, this business opportunity is your mountain go climb that. And so it’s been a tremendous legacy to have him kind of involved. He, he he has this phrase, if you will find him on social media where he’s like, do epic shit, like, just do it. And so we’ve and he did a lot of epic stuff in his life. I mean, he never said no to things and, and he has a tremendous network of people around the state and around, you know, around the country from a sales perspective, so many people that he’s impacted and helped along the way. But we’ve taken that phrase epic because it’s really cool employees, product innovation and customers and that sort of now the foundation for our business. Anyway, sorry for a little tangent there. But you know, it

Alexander Ferguson 17:29
sounds like it sounds like individuals like john, who helped inspire you to really pursue this and push this forward even further and harder it by getting that right. Yeah,

Conrad Smith 17:41
and I think you know, interestingly that that discussion with Don happened before I resigned from my previous job and but it gave me the confidence to you know, it’s it’s, it’s like I said before, some ideas, you shouldn’t quit your job and go invest. This is a, I mean, you’re going it’s an adventure. Like it’s a battle, it’s a war, it’s, it’s like all these analogies that you can think of it’s not, it’s not easy, it’s incredibly rewarding. And I’m not talking financial, I’m talking about intellectually, the learning and the growth. And the stimulation from being that actively involved in something you’re trying to create. It’s probably the only thing more creative than this is something like parenting, right? Like, where you’re creating life and creating a family. But when you’re creating a business, it’s, it’s, it’s got a life of its own, and it’s, it’s just so exciting. But you’re like, if you can’t invest your own money, like you don’t have the confidence to be throwing down your own money. Don’t do it. If and I didn’t really think about this back then. But I took money from friends and family. And you’ll probably need to do that if you’re starting a business. That is a very, for me. And these are weird words to use, I’m sorry, but sacred responsibility, someone’s going to give me their money. And they want me to use it wisely and do good with it. That is a huge motivation for me, you know, first off to realize what I’m getting into, and the commitments I’m making to these people. And secondly, to keep me going all the time, like, I can’t stop, I won’t stop like I can lose my own money. I’m not going to lose money for my family members. And my you know, and my friends, I mean, eventually it those things happen, right? And, and they and they forgive you and whatever. But that led to a funding round a seed round with a venture capital team, where that the angel money and the VC money came together into a price round with a VC and I think that actually the VC round that the early seed round was simplified because they saw the support from many of the people that invest or sit on boards with them, you know, in the local business community. So you know, I

Alexander Ferguson 19:53
change the way for the other. Yeah, yeah. This This is your first first venture that you’ve co founder founded and start Is that right?

Conrad Smith 20:03
Yeah if you want to ignore paper routes and lawnmowing then absolutely

Alexander Ferguson 20:10
VC invested in seed funds coming in why even pick a route maybe get funding but the this kind of trajectory it’s a lot of learning and you’re kind of still in the learning stages there’s there’s so much more to go but how we understand so you get the funding and development is obviously the first first piece Did you were you able to find team members? Because you were Are you in the technical side yourself? Or did you go and find a good technical founding members?

Conrad Smith 20:40
Well, I’ll tell you my founding partner His name’s Aaron this would not have happened without Aaron because you know back to the comfort conversation Aaron was constantly nagging me like this is an awesome idea when are we going to do it when are we going to do it when are we going to do it and we actually built solutions like software business process and workflow solutions in our comfortable purchasing jobs together for a number of years before we resigned from the company and did it together so he had 10 years of software development experience, he was at micron and doing a bunch of fab automation software for them. So you know, I have I have more of the business process and domain expertise in procurement my time in procurement is a little longer than his he has all of the like software development experience. But we I mean, we’re I remember what I said in the beginning this is this is like LinkedIn, this isn’t like some little database that you can go like scrap together a prototype and go live with a prototype and hope you make it right because this thing opens up to millions and millions of companies connecting together and it has to scale just like a social network has to scale. So that’s a level of architecture and development that Aaron had done and after some sort of difficult false starts with some early technology we had a really smart advisor you know that this is another thing I’ll say I mean I’m assuming founders are listening in here the startup community is generally very amicable to each other unless you’re in hardcore competition with each other a founder my experience is early stage founder type people will go to lunch with you and give you advice anytime you want. Just about and they’re busy, they’re busy people but you know that this this gentleman named Paar out of the Bay Area he even flew out to Utah on his own dime and I that’s probably not typical to do a design in a code review in a business review with me and some of the early stage things that we were doing and he he walked out of that meeting and said this is the skill and type of development you know, talent that you need to make this work it took us seven months to find those that level of people and you know and get them into the business the most unique really talented technology people to help you with all the technology problem. And those best people they call them kind of you know 10 X’s or top you know, the the top talent there, none of them are looking for work. Like none of them you know, you have to go and you have to go it’s actually harder to convince those people to join the team than it is to convince a VC to give you money I mean that might sound crazy but I think that’s totally true because they’re all involved in really cool opportunities that have big upside for them and you know convincing them to walk away from that and do something totally new you know, it’s it’s not that easy we hired for exceptional software developers and architect level people to be that founding team so we got four software developers that that were able to build a product and get it ready for production in like you know this is this is proof of concept level early you know minimum viable product in like three or four months and an interestingly early people we talked to said oh we could build the whole thing and like six months like two people six months just not true I might be for your for anyone’s particular product for ours because of the the it’s just highly complex to build a real time architecture to do many too many two sided network stuff with workflow and a lot of sophistication but but that was critical and I you know, if Aaron had had the architecture and the experience with this, we probably would have you know, we probably would have bootstrapped it even lock you know, further. But, you know, our, the opportunity for us was too big to try and drag it along. And so we you know, it really paid off and we had a lot of like I said there was, we had commitments on two to $3 million from angels. Before we were you know, before we really started the business and you know, when you when you have resources You need to use them wisely. But you need to use them and you need to you’re in it to win it. So you need to go for it.

Alexander Ferguson 25:06
taking that action with the resources you have on the right people, it sounds like that the first thing was to knowing who you needed, which that advisor was able to give that to flew out. And the next hard part is actually finding said talent. And what did you do to find them if you just take a second to ask about that?

Conrad Smith 25:25
It’s networking, like cold called LinkedIn, like, Hey, you know, it looks like you have this experience. And LinkedIn is awesome to help you find people. But like I said, most of these people, they don’t just take a we bought a lot of lunches, I’ll say that, you know, Hey, can we meet up for lunch? And you mean, and you talk and, and, you know, a lot of times that leave me How many?

Alexander Ferguson 25:46
You remember how he talked to you versus like, that took you to get to the floor?

Conrad Smith 25:51
I you know, I don’t My guess is it was probably 20 other 20 lunches and other meetings along the way, before we tapped into, you know, one of our four founders, we actually had lunch with him. And he, he’s like, yeah, this is really interesting. It’s kind of cool idea, but I can’t leave my current company, they, you know, it’d be the end of them. I mean, they really need me. And we’re like, Well, you know, we really need you to, we’d love to work with you, he went home, and he went home and talked to his wife and his wife was like, what’s the risk in talking to them again, like, what’s the harm? So he called us back and said, Let’s have lunch again. And we had lunch again, and we kept the conversation going. And then he introduced us, like, his circle of network of people that he could introduce us with was, was probably eight or 10 really interesting software developers, and, you know, forum, four of, you know, they were all really good, but four of them were really good, and, you know, wanted to join in the and interestingly, they just coincidentally, they kind of brought a lot of complementary skills to the mix. I mean, you know, one of them wanted to sort of be a lead and, you know, run, you know, manage the sprints, and one of them is just like, insanely intelligent, like, like, just beyond genius level kind of person from a technology. Well, everything, like hats off to this guy. You know, I if I had a tough decision to make, I’d probably asked him, you know, if he that if he’d give me some direction, I take it and almost anything, but it’s like complementary skills coming together. And that was really nice how that happened. So

Alexander Ferguson 27:22
you’re saying all these four actually came off of that one individual who didn’t actually end up working for you. But

Conrad Smith 27:28
it’s funny he did. His wife said, Go talk to them. And yeah, he says, Dan, that’s Dan. And he’s one of our founding for developers. So yeah, he joined in, and he introduced us to a lot of other people. And that’s networking. Right? That’s just examples.

Alexander Ferguson 27:41
Yeah, you can find the end eventually the good talent actually through the others that you first meet. So being able to grow from there. Now for for the technical challenges. I’m, as you’ve already stated, it wasn’t a simple Feat. So what can you share on then, this past? One, two years that you guys have been building this coming up on three years? What were some of the hurdles you’ve overcome? Or still working on?

Conrad Smith 28:07
Wow, well, I, you know, you make decisions early on, that you kind of live with over time. And that’s just life. I mean, I look back now and think, dang, if we could have done that differently, than we would have saved ourselves this extra time, or effort or hassle now, and that’s technology wise, and lots of other stuff. But you, you have to make decisions, the very best you can at balance your priorities. And speed is a very important one. And as your business grows, it’s it’s always gonna be really easy to look back and sort of pretend or wish that you had made different decisions. But that’s just not possible, right? You’re doing the best you can you’re prioritizing the best you can, we actually make great decisions, there’s very few things that we’ve had to kind of go back and re re architect and rebuild. There’s been a couple of things. But you know, we got we founded in December of 18. And we had our first product in March of 19. And we had our first revenue in April of 19. And a lot of a lot of organizations don’t have the benefit and the blessing to do that right to get there that quickly. So we moved fast. And we we we knew where we were going longer term. I mean, we have the benefit of knowing this is a two sided network, and there’s Instagram and Facebook and LinkedIn. And so I imagine those companies and you can listen to their stories like how they were built and listen to their stories about how quickly things broke and had to be rebuilt. Because they didn’t understand this concept of two sided none of us did two sided networks and you know, in the early 2000s No, this wasn’t a thing. But you know, we so we’ve been able to benefit from a lot of other projects and technologies and businesses in terms of how we think about And we have been able to think about it with the end in mind. often think back whether Zuckerberg, when he sat down and started building out this Harvard, you know directory of good looking people, whether he even had the foggiest idea of all of how this would follow on in the end. Because we’ve spent so much time conceptualizing where this goes as a business, it makes me wonder how much time they conceptualize this early in their business but, but that big vision and the you know, the past learnings really helped us a lot in making those decisions. But, you know, I guess I would say to that, that a lot of this makes it sound really hard and really complicated and scary, and don’t do it. Unless you’re, you’ve got all this stuff figured out. If you if you have that bug, and you just can’t stop thinking about it. Just frickin do it, like started do something. And because of the I run marathons, and what I’ve learned about running marathons, and building businesses is most like 99% of failure happens before you even get to the starting line. And it comes with you basically just saying, I don’t know if I can do that, that seems too hard. Like it might kill me, like there might be problems. And, and so you don’t show up at the starting line. And if you don’t show up at the starting line, you’re sure as heck Never gonna make it to the finish line. Right? So if you’ve got the bug, and you’ve got the attitude, and you know, don’t be afraid, go put your toes on the line and, and start taking those first few steps, there’s tons of people that will help you along the way, just like in a marathon tons of encouragement from the side of the road from other runners, I guarantee if you fall down, and if people are around that can help pick you up and put you back together, there will be people that are there to help you as well. You know, I’m I’m I’ve, I’ve, I’m not very far down this journey. And I’ve already sort of, you know, I have lots of conversations with people that are, you know, a year or two behind me now that want some like this feedback and advice on how to move forward, I’m always happy to meet up with people and do what I can to help them because you know, dozens of people did that for me, just to get me to the starting line. And to get you know, through that first few miles,

Alexander Ferguson 32:18
we’re excited to see what happens next is obviously one piece is deciding to make the leap, take the plunge, the next is getting it off the ground and get some some traction going which you say be able to go from idea to concept to then the product all under two years getting cut and rest and revenue. And that’s, that’s very, very good, very impressive. And then, but then beyond for scaling and growth. So you might have to check it out in a year from now as well as you continue to scale up and obviously the network so that the idea is that more and more people join the network, the power of it only increases Is that right?

Conrad Smith 32:54
That’s exactly right. And that’s what we’re seeing right now. I mean, when we started our first customer was like, there was no network benefit from peer companies. We just signed a awesome technical tech company in July that everybody would recognize everybody uses them. And when we analyze their supply base, there’s already like a 40% overlap between their suppliers and, you know, the suppliers that are already in the network. So we’re building these little micro networks and that network value is coming is coming quickly. But yeah, I’m making good progress. You know, we’re my, it’s just like, our eyes are always bigger than our stomachs, you know, you know, the, the old mantra that you can that it, what do they say you can, you can always do less in the first year or two than you think you can, or that’s probably not exactly how you say it. But the first little bit always goes lower than you think, you know, you’re always overestimating what you can do in the beginning. But over five or 10 years, you know what everyone tells me I’m not there yet. You’ll you’ll go a lot further than you even thought you would. So just be patient in the beginning and you just got to go forward and you know, have the trust and confidence in yourself and people around you. And yeah,

Alexander Ferguson 34:10
your your business model is based off of the individual suppliers adjoining they don’t pay anything. So the idea is that network growth should should continue to grow. But it’s just then finding those that are the vendors that want to get they’re the ones that would be the ones paying for the platform. Is that right? Right how it works?

Conrad Smith 34:31
Well, sort of I mean, we don’t think about if you just think about LinkedIn, it’s a perfect analogy here because anyone can use LinkedIn for free. Anyone can use graphite for free. Those people that need to use advanced features and workflow and enterprise capabilities that aren’t kind of typical across most businesses. those organizations pay us you know, to build out that workflow and those capabilities, those advanced features for them. But everybody, anyone and everyone can use it for free and it should be that way. Because we need We needed one everybody in the network.

Alexander Ferguson 35:03
Got it, got it. And so the business model based off of those large companies wanting to be able to then build great workflows off of it, but anyone can can benefit from it already. What What would you say this is a question I’m always curious to ask more often is the difficulty of adoption of getting people to say I’ll try something new. The fear of the unknown especially in maybe areas people aren’t usually innovating as often or as frequently How are how are you addressing that that fear of adoption and be able to overcome and say yes, try this new technology

Conrad Smith 35:43
that’s a that’s a great question. You know, I would say that you know, go read the book Crossing the Chasm or something I think is the name of the book it kind of talks about the mindset of people that you’re going to be talking to there’s some people that you’ll talk to that there is no way they’re going to you know, take new technology and there’s other people that wake up every day and and just you know, just fiercely anticipate the release of the next new AI anything because they want to be the first and have the best and like they’re on that bleeding edge of of new stuff. And there are people like that and and you need to be thoughtful about Who are you talking to? Because it’s they don’t they all kind of wear the same shirts to work kind of right I mean, you you don’t it’s hard to figure out who those people are that are going to help you in those early stages of the process the ones that will be more open and receptive. But you just have to find them and those people will be like yeah, this is cool and that doesn’t mean they’re going to write you a check for $100,000 but you know, most of them will be like yeah, let’s give it a try. Let’s do a proof of concept let’s do a pilot let’s do something so you know and a lot of this depends on the complexity of what you’re trying to do and the integration and the price points and the risk and all sorts of factors in terms of how you you know you go about it but yeah, I think you’re probably gonna have to do free stuff for people or really low cost stuff for people to get the ball rolling and work out I mean in the beginning it’s a beta of sorts and you need somebody that that really wants to work with you in that environment Yeah, the wrong person there is going to sink you because they’re going to be like you know you’re gonna get a bad review right from the beginning like they sold me on this thing and you know only 20% of its working well that’s kind of typical that minimum viable product is 20% of what the vision is right or less so you you want to be in that environment with those kinds of people and they will help you you know, we had some amazing early customers that were just like that for us and kind of helped us through that process and then it grows you know, like I said read the book and it kind of talks about how you think about it and we’re not past the chasm so you know, I can tell you more about that later but the you know, right now it’s all about finding companies that really want to transform and you know make a difference and approaching them in a way that highlights the value and you know, helps them along you know, helps them with it helps them kind of try before you buy i think is a really important way to think about it.

Alexander Ferguson 38:08
Crossing the Chasm is definitely a good book but it’s it’s helpful to hear just hit those initial steps that you need to take and then be able to go from there well uptake and circle back was the approach that chasm and continue to make the leap across thank you so much for kind of, for sharing us a taste of the journey that you’ve been on and suggesting and encouraging others to take the leap that it is worth it. Already from from just being in there.

Conrad Smith 38:36
You only live once and we’re creative. We’re creative creatures, like get in the business of creating don’t just be a consumer be a builder and a creator and I don’t know I don’t know how to describe it, but I’m, I’m in my mid 50s now and I feel like you know, my body doesn’t feel like I’m 20 but like my energy and my doozy Azzam is like I feel like a new person in terms of the challenge the learning and the growth and the engagement that comes from you know, passionately trying to you know, being in that back in that creative mode.

Alexander Ferguson 39:08
It’s it’s exciting for those that want to learn more, you can go over to graphite, graphite, GRAPHITECONNECT.COM. Thanks again, Conrad, for joining us, and we’ll see you all on the next episode of UpTech Report. Have you seen a company using AI machine learning or other technology to transform the way we live, work and do business go to UpTech and let us know


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