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TechTalk: e-Commerce Meets Middleware: Startup Becomes Gateway to Consumer Trends

Mar 12, 2024

Steve Jamieson, founder and CEO of WorkingLive, talks with EisnerAmper's TechTalk host Fritz Spencer about helping companies achieve online sales success by meeting customers where they are—across multiple platforms. In this episode, Steve discusses how his multi-channel e-commerce solution leverages proprietary middleware technology to help independent distributors and affiliates more effectively track and sell their products amidst evolving consumer trends.


Fritz Spencer:

Hello and welcome to TechTalk, where you'll hear the latest in technology and investment trends directly from the trendsetters. I'm your host, Fritz Spencer, member of EisnerAmper Technology and Life Sciences Practice, and with me today is very special guest and successful entrepreneur, Steve Jamieson, founder of Working Live. Steve has had many successful careers, not only as an entrepreneur, but also in Hollywood. Steve, it's great to have you here on the show. Thank you so much for joining me.

Steve Jamieson:

No, glad to be here and just don't hold the Hollywood thing against me.


Not yet. Wow. So over 20,000 active subscribers with over $12 million in revenue since founding your startup in December, 2017. That's a pretty quick and rapid snowball. That leads me to my first question for you In two to three sentences, can you explain working live for our audience? Yeah.


My background has always been sales selling goods and services using large sales organizations, whether that be affiliate marketing or direct selling companies. Some of companies like Herbalife and Mary Kay, where millions of people are all selling the same product, sometimes to the point of annoyance to their friends and family. And with technology so rapidly changing that the average person found that knocking on someone's door was no longer the efficient way to do it. Everyone moved to online and during covid, when you couldn't leave the house, it was an exclusively an online experience. So giving people the tools to be able to sell to friends, family, but now professional people in a way, as seamlessly as they were doing before Covid became an incredible opportunity. And the interesting thing about people is everyone has their favorite place. They meet people. Some of it's on social media sites, some people on webinars and zooms, some people on communication platforms.

Well, the trend on e-commerce is wherever you meet someone, can you actually make the sale? Not take them on a journey, but have an emotional, spontaneous moment where the answer is yes. And before they leave that webinar, that social media platform, that communications platform that you can actually make that sale. And then if you're using a large Salesforce today, we're the only company in the world, I don't know how long I can say that, that can actually track and pay the commissions no matter where that sale happens. And so that's where we saw the tremendous opportunity having, as I say, a captive audience, helping companies meet customers where they're at, because affiliate marketing, referral marketing, Amazon, customer referrals, everything comes through a recommendation. I mean, Google's almost a person, right? Siri is someone you can ask where I do that, but also it goes to your friends and family, it goes to your professionals, it goes to your haircutter, it goes to your personal trainer.

Everyone wants some level of expertise and a level of comfort, and they don't get that on a company website anymore. They want to get that from the places where they trust. As opposed to saying that we have a unified communications platform in the world where you can communicate with people however you want. Now, we like to say we have a unified e-commerce platform where you can actually transact wherever you actually meet a person. So Zoom was our breakthrough because during covid, regardless of your age or demographic at the time, you still wanted to engage in an interactive format. And so we partnered with Zoom, but we created an experience on Zoom that Zoom couldn't provide their own customers, which is that shopping cart and presentation experience. And so when we have a tremendous success with Zoom, we then said, well, some people want to be on Facebook, some people want to be on Instagram, some people want to be on TikTok, some people want to be live in the moment on Amazon. How can we take this ability to track and pay commissions, whether it be 10 people that are working for you are 10 million, and translate that into an experience across any platform. And that's really how we got started.


So if I'm kind of hearing that correctly, you're taking the sales experience not only mobile, but around the world. And then also you're really focusing in on the business aspect of it where business providers want their salespeople to be able to make these sales globally and be able to track them globally. What was the problem that you saw during Covid that Working Live is solving?


It would be like the problem here today. Let's say on this webinar, if you wanted to have people sign up for a newsletter or go to your website and you say to people, okay, get out your pen, get out your phone to go write this down. No, why don't you just push the button while we're talking and have that experience? People today watch television, they look at a QR code, they can actually purchase the product. There is no delay anymore between the sales pitch and the transaction. Except the problem is if you go to Shopify, WooCommerce, BigCommerce, any other big company that ends in commerce, they offer that to Fortune 1000 companies that are selling directly to customers themselves, but they have not figured out how to bridge the gap when you have other people working for you. And how important is other people working for you?

I always look at Amazon, and this statistic usually surprises people because they think Amazon is the smartest guy in the room. But actually 60% of all Amazon sales happen by people on Amazon who are not from Amazon, their third party merchants or their affiliates. In fact, 16% of all sales that happen online happen because of a referral or a sales representative. Companies like direct sellers, I mean companies like Young Living and Mary Kay together alone probably have 8 million people that are selling a product every single day on their behalf. So the problem is for companies, e-commerce is so complicated. There's so many moving parts from the marketing to it, to the execution of it, to the user experience of it that it's almost impossible to hire all of that talent inside your own company to have the best experience. And that's where affiliates come. They come with their marketing skills, they come with their ability to take customers on a journey to be able to close them.

So you really do need to create a community to sell a product today online, whether it be micro influencers, macro influencers, or your own nieces and nephews, everyone is connecting with technology and their own network because companies live and die by the cost of customer acquisition. I mean, most people don't realize that at t pays on average, $300 to acquire a customer today with an affiliate, you could be cashflow positive on the first month because they're paying the cost to acquire that customer and you're paying them a commission that you can afford. So e-commerce is so dramatically changing, and it's technology platforms that can give you access to customers, access to platforms that are going to be the difference that fits your business model. It's just like when you download your iPhone and there's a billion apps you probably use three on a daily basis maybe.

So every company shouldn't use every platform depending on the audience. Maybe you want the 900,000 affiliates that are working on Amazon every day to work for you, but maybe that's not your brand. Maybe that's not your culture. Maybe WhatsApp is your area where people are far more impersonal. And also don't think of this as a limitation to a sales being the final journey. It's a call to action. Maybe it's signing a contract, maybe it's getting a telemedicine, getting a prescription, or again, enrolling people in a program or an event. It's the idea that when you meet someone, usually there's an end result. And if it's get together with the person who invited you here or jot this down, that result just doesn't happen for the company or for the customer or for the salesperson.


So I want to touch on something you kind of danced around a little bit there. This is Tech Talk. We love the technology. I want to talk about your technology and how it's accelerating the solution that you guys have built and how it's playing out today.


So for 25 years, I was a CEO of three different very large and successful direct sales companies that sold about $4 billion worth of sales. And the thing that I learned is that every time I tried to build my own technology to get better, by the time I was finished building it, somebody did a better job except I had all this money invested in it and I had to get an ROI. So I was forced to use my own technology that wasn't necessarily best in class. And so flip 25 years later, and I'm now to all my old competitors and I have an opportunity to choose the best in class technology platforms to execute my concepts and ideas. I realized I don't want to build my own e-commerce platform. I don't want to build my own Zoom. I don't want to build the next hot social media platform, but I do want to be able to connect to them.

So the only way that you can have a speed to market cost effectively and always be best in class is if you control the middleware. And so when I did the first agreement with Zoom, and Zoom had tried to penetrate the direct sales space for years without any success because they didn't know the customer, they didn't understand the client. I said, if you want me to do it for you, give me unprecedented access to the APIs. Let me own the customer, let me do the billing. Let me build the middleware that creates the experience, and I could bring customers to the platform. And once we prove that model, I was then able to do that with virtually any other platform that touches a customer or salesperson because I said, look at my track record. And so proprietary middleware is where I think if I was advising anyone else who wants to get into the technology space and doesn't want to have to raise $5 million in order to get started and wants to be able to constantly be able to navigate to either the best experience or the experience that your client already has in place, middleware is the key.

So that's what we focus on is not being the trend setter, but being the gateway to the trend.


So you've worked on developing this middleware that can essentially close deals live in no matter the meeting format or media, you can have that option to be able to make the sale, close the deal, get the agreement signed or have a connection or contact transmitted.


Yes. And what happens is we become the iPhone. Every single development company comes to us because we control the customers. So if somebody has a great AI solution for a buying experience, and I've got 20,000 subscribers who are selling to 2 million customers, I'm in a position to monetize someone's technology and not have to have a customer acquisition cost. So when I do a deal with a company, I contract with the company, and this is really critical. You contract with the company to do the marketing and promotion to their own sales reps, and those sales reps then sell that company's products. So I don't have a $300 acquisition cost. I may have a 50 cents a month acquisition cost in the sense. So that's what I meant. The business model, which I think is so critical, is middleware and contract with don't get into the end user.

We own the customer in the sense of it's our merchant account, we do the billing from that, but the company is the one that does all the promotion. We also can do licensing fees where the company is paying for their sales reps to have those tools. They think it's so essential. They want everyone to have that shopping platform. They want everyone to have that marketing tool. So there's two business models in that sense. But in today's world, it seems to me that companies are judged by how many subscribers they have. And unlike before where let's say it was WhatsApp and Facebook of how many eyeballs they have, or how many people signed up for free, now it's paying subscribers. So if you want to crossover from the technology community to the investment community, and you can go, we've got paying subscribers, now all of a sudden you have many more opportunities at an accelerated pace. Having gone to many of these technology events in the past year or two, I've noticed that is the most jarring mistake that people make. They put all their eggs in one technology plan, and then they're out flanked by somebody else and they don't have revenue. So they have no revenue and a limited narrow road in order to be successful and hope that no one else is doing it better,


Right? Talking about no one else doing it better. The technology that you mentioned earlier is constantly evolving, constantly changing, and you have to try to keep up with it. You mentioned being middleware allows you to integrate and adapt quickly. And one thing that I've noticed with not only my own clients and technology but all sectors is that adapting quickly is so important. And so making pivotal changes to your business can sometimes be necessary. Is there any pivotal moments in your either career or in working live that you had to make?


Well, as I said, when we started out, we were just basically a Zoom reseller being opportunistic. And because I had this relationship with hundreds of companies in a vertical where people were selling products from home, COVID took it beyond my core audience of people who were selling products and people who needed to communicate. And so for me, when I had this success with Zoom, the key moment for me was leveraging that story. Just the way many people on this phone today make a pitch deck. And that the success of those pitch decks is how you tell the story. So when my story became I can do for you what I did for Zoom, I pretty much had a happy ending at the end of every time I told that story for them or for us. And so that's the key is get a win, get a story to prove your business model and then quickly leverage it.

I find that the best CEOs that I work with are not the most technologically savvy. They're not the best CFOs in the world. Vision is always overrated in the sense, a much more pragmatic perspective is we're great at use cases. We understand what a customer will do or won't do, or what a salesman is capable of doing or not doing. And the technology meeting the audience. You don't want to have a 50-year-old trying to do TikTok. You don't want to have an 18-year-old believing that they're going to sell products to their friends on Zoom. So what I say is I always see the misnomer of the technologies not meeting the tribe. And that's what middleware allows us to do, is we don't choose the tribes, we don't choose the technology. They find each other. And so you make things very modular based. So we have some companies that only choose Zoom and Amazon.

We have some companies that only choose TikTok and Instagram because it's for their tribe. And that's where I think it's critical, and I think it can be replicated. I think we're an innovative company that really hasn't done anything innovative. I think we've done things very pragmatically in that sense. So I'm selling, I leverage it on my platform, a $2 billion e-commerce platform. And if there's a better e-commerce platform tomorrow because they integrated AI in a way that we never imagined, guess what? Who am I calling tomorrow? I'm calling that e-commerce platform tomorrow to be able to leverage that skillset. Because it used to be cash was king. The people who can actually acquire customers are king. And our technology helps people do that.


Great. Thanks for that. And I will let you know that if you ever feel like you see A-C-T-O-C-F-O-C-E-O falling short, feel free to give EisnerAmper a call because we have people ready to take those seats. I guarantee it.


I can see why you guys are very busy.


Yeah, we surely are. And my last and favorite question for you that I'd like to know is, what is one of your bragging points that you're most proud of? And it can be working live related, life related, would love to


Know if somebody, it's such a cliche line when people go, what's the reason why you think you've had success? I think it's the ability to connect with people. I think maybe that's the most important quality as a C-level executive as a leader, is making other people better. And you only do that if you really understand how to connect with people. And number one is being interested in other people. I think when people walk away from me, I always had a goal of three things I wanted them to do. I wanted to think, oh God, he was really smart, always really nice, and he really likes me in the sense if you make someone feel that way, you get a lot more out of them in a relationship than you do by giving them a raise.

And the other thing is, I think is connecting people with why they're there. Everyone thinks they're there just to put food on the table. No, they want to be connected to something bigger than the company, something bigger than themselves, something bigger than you. Most of my employees are 25 years old, and when I said to them, do you want to take on Amazon? Do you want to take on Facebook? Do you want to take on, do want to play in that arena? They didn't ask, well, what's the salary? They asked, well, how could we do that? And so that's what I meant about connecting with people and going beyond of why you're doing it, but why does anyone else want to go along for this journey and go for this ride,


Right? Those genuine human relationships, which are just so invaluable. Well, Steve, I want to thank you for taking the time to have this conversation with me today. It's been an absolute pleasure listening to your experiences. I want to thank the audience as well, our listeners who tune into Tech Talk, the entrepreneurs and innovators who turn to EisnerAmper for accounting, tax, and advisory solutions to help propel their success. Subscribe to EisnerAmper podcast to listen to more tech talk episodes or visit for more tech news that you can use.

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Fritz Spencer

Fritz Spencer is a Audit Senior with audit and accounting experience serving both public and private entities.

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