Galactic Fed 15 min read
Written by Dallin Porter
Communications Manager @ Galactic Fed
Published 11 Aug 2020
Our very own Galactic Fed Co-Founder Zach Boyette sat down Matt Bowles, host of The Maverick Show Podcast from the Maverick Investor Group. The podcast interviews industry experts on topics like world travel and entrepreneurship. Matt and Zach and talked about adventures from Zach’s digital nomad life, scaling Galactic Fed to a multinational brand, the best ways to rock remote work, and how to create an awesome company culture. We rounded the best bits for you to learn a bit more about one of the captains of the Galactic Fed spaceship.
On his first entrepreneurial endeavors:
Matt: So let’s go all the way back though. Now, Zach, I’m really curious about your background. Where did you grow up and what kind of entrepreneurial tendencies did you have as you were coming up that put you on this trajectory?
Zach: So I grew up in Signal Mountain, Tennessee, a small mountain outside of Chattanooga, Tennessee. I love it there, it’s super beautiful. I wouldn’t say I did a whole lot that was entrepreneurial related, at least until college. I went to Vanderbilt University in Nashville, and started the first of two major college entrepreneurial ventures.
The first was a student run newsletter called Recruiter Panda. I recruited about 20 students to help me write a blog. I didn’t really have any revenue goals in mind and didn’t make much, but it was fun along the way. My second one was a do it yourself, drag and drop website builder for people to make personal websites like ZachBoyette.com, called Recsy.
This was around the time when Squarespace, Wix, Weebly; those companies were getting big. So I coded the entire thing along with my Co-Founder, Marissa, and basically taught myself Ruby on Rails and how to code. I was coding for like 16 hours a day, all of senior year of college and into my first job. I actually had this couch that I would sit on that had a hole in it from me just sitting there coding basically all night. So I’d say those are my first entrepreneurial ventures.
On getting his start:
Matt: So from there, what was your trajectory after college? Did you go into the corporate world or straight into entrepreneurship?
Zach: I tried to do both at the same time as best I could. When I graduated school all my friends were going to senior year, beach week and going to have fun down in Panama City. Me and my Co-Founder went to a Hackathon instead, which was pretty nerdy, but fun.
And then we lived in Nashville for a couple of months after school, when everyone else was traveling Europe, and basically all day. I realized from that first venture that it’s not just all about making the perfect product, it’s not about having the most beautiful code, while that is extremely important.
If you build it, people won’t just come, you really need to focus on marketing, sales, those sort of things are quite important. That’s what I got into for the rest of my career. I was running that company while I was in Cincinnati, working for Proctor and Gamble.
I really liked the people I worked with. I would say I’d always been really interested in technology. And if I wasn’t doing the entrepreneurial thing full time, I wanted to be in the tech space at least. So I went and worked for Google which was really great and I enjoyed my time there, but I guess that was my last stay on the corporate journey.
On working for Google:
Matt: How was that working for Google? Can you share a little bit about that experience?
Zach: Google is great. The people I worked with were some of the smartest in the world, of course, they recruit top talent from all around the world.
I was based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Actually a lot of people don’t know, but this is the third largest office that Google has in the US. The first being San Francisco, the second being their New York office.
I got really close with the other Google people there and I’d say my “Google alumni network” is very strong as a result of that. I really, really enjoyed Google, but I knew that I was still interested in the entrepreneurial path and also increasingly important in my life at this point was the remote work path.
On finding balance as a digital nomad:
Matt: I’m curious when you got into the digital nomad lifestyle, you had seen it and you thought it was completely epic and you really wanted to do it. So how did you balance and negotiate and navigate the lifestyle and the work that you had to put in?
\ Zach: I saw some people in my Remote Year group that viewed it as a year abroad. Like, I never studied abroad and this is my chance to do it. I discovered this lifestyle in college and I’ve viewed Remote Year as my intro to being a as-long-as-possible digital nomad.
For me, work always came first. I’ve always been a very disciplined work oriented person anyways. I would just feel bad if I’m not working very hard. So behind the glamour of Instagram and stuff, it is a very strange lifestyle sometimes. I would say it can be quite tough if you’re working American time zones. But at the end of the day, what’s really important to me is just putting work first, always, no matter what, even if I have some really cool plans or something like that, if some issue comes up with my team or clients, I will always put that first.
On the birth of Galactic Fed:
Matt: I would love to ask you a little bit about the founding of Galactic Fed. Maybe just start with what was the impetus that inspired you to start Galactic Fed.
Zach: I’ve always been really interested in marketing. My initial startup company couldn’t quite find traction and the right product market fit. So, other experiences like working at P&G, Google, and running the paid media team at Toptal I realized my love for digital marketing. I loved working with Google ads, Facebook ads, SEO, but I wanted to do this for more people, I wanted to have a more scaled impact, and I wanted to be able to help a lot of different companies grow.
So, starting an agency made a lot of sense for me because I have a background in this space. I told my colleagues at Toptal that I was leaving, and discovered that my colleague, Irina Papuc, was also leaving to start her own agency in the same space - so it was a perfect fit for us to join as co-founders. I focused on paid media, she focused on SEO. With our similar approach it made sense for us to join forces, and Galactic Fed was born.
On his Co-Founder and Galactic Fed Managing Partner, Irina Papuc:
Zach: We’d only actually met once in real life at an offsite in Florida. That was the only time we’d met before, but we kept in good contact since then. She’s brilliant. Probably the smartest person I’ve ever met. She’s actually a physicist at CERN where they discovered the Higgs boson prior to starting her SEO journey. She traveled From Taiwan to Afghanistan on foot, hitchhiking basically the whole way across the Eurasian continent.
We had really similar ideals, we’re both very mathematical in our approach and very interested in travel as well. She recently charted this course from Istanbul all the way down to Ethiopia, traveling by boat, and spent time with the village tribal leaders in one of the places she was at.
She bought this satellite internet box and it was working the whole way. She didn’t miss a single call for Galactic Fed anyways. So we left Toptal and we were like, this makes sense for us to start up together.
On Galactic Fed’s services:
Matt: Can you share a little bit about how you have refined the services and offerings of Galactic Fed? What exactly do you offer specifically to businesses?
Zach: So what we call ourselves as a Growth Marketing agency, but what I mean by that is there’s some marketing agencies out there who are really focused on getting eyeballs, having a big splashy campaign. They are more of a PR focus and are driving people to look at you and recognize what you do.
That’s important of course, but what we really focus on is revenue growth. Going from 1000 to 2000 to 4000, 16,000, 32,000, 64,000 dollars per month and really scaling up your business as fast as possible.
We do almost exclusively Paid Media and SEO. Paid Media refers to basically all of the online ads you see: that’s Google ads, Facebook, Instagram ads, LinkedIn, Reddit, Quora, Twitter, et cetera.
SEO is basically what you see on Google. So the organic results you type in, like “Buy Red Nike shoes” and you see a listing for that. That also goes into writing content, and blog posts, all sorts of things that really help growth hack companies from zero to one. We’ve scaled what we offer over time, but one of our core pillars is “hyper-focused in our zone of genius” and we really try to stick to that.
You know, we know what works well. We know what helps companies grow. And that’s what we really try to stick to.
On mistakes companies make with digital marketing:
Matt: What would you say are some of the biggest mistakes that companies are currently making in these areas?
Zach: There are a lot of agencies out there that use strange tactics that typically don’t work, which often turns people off from this sort of industry. I’ll start with Paid Media. One mistake people make is trying to go in and do it all themselves with no knowledge of how it works.
And you’ve got to think that with this paid media side, you are literally paying Google or Facebook money per click. So you’re saying I’ll pay $5 per click every time someone searches for “buy red shoes” or something like that. And Google and Facebook have spent a lot of money trying to convince people that they can do it themselves.
That they can go in and set up marketing campaigns themselves that will produce a lot of money. And sometimes it works right. Especially for local businesses, easy stuff, but people try it out on their own for complex basis models for B2B SaaS, or other things that require a lot more complexity and they fall flat on their face.
So I’d say one big mistake is just, you know, not having expert help, obviously not trying to just plug ourselves here, even if you’re not at an agency level, just hiring like a small local freelancer to help you get things set up, I think it’s quite important.
On how Galactic Fed is different from other agencies:
Matt: So there’s obviously a lot of digital agencies out there, how is Galactic Fed differentiating themselves in a crowded space?
Zach: Great question. There are a billion other marketing agencies out there, and I know that. One of the common things we’ll hear is when companies come to us and say “we just had a terrible experience in this space with the last agency we hired, how can we trust you? How can we believe that you guys are different? You might have a slick sales pitch and you sound like you’re good, but how do we know?”
Our focus has really been in the like Silicon Valley startup type mentality. That’s where Irina and I grew up, working at companies like Toptal. But if you take this sort of approach of testing small, scaling from there, being really creative and thinking outside the box, that’s the kind of approach that we try to take to everything.
And it typically works really well. And again, just being really honest and open and transparent with our clients has been really helpful for us. You know, we found that trying to have a cookie cutter, one-size-fits all approach doesn’t really work in this space. You need to make sure that you’re customizing your approach while also having best practices.
On successfully being a remote-first company:
Zach: We can hire the best people, whether that’s Canada, the US, Romania, Philippines, Brazil, wherever may be. We really try to focus on getting the best people wherever they are. And that allows us to move really fast.
Locally-based agencies haven’t been able to scale very fast because they have to find people from where they are and that just really slows them down. I’d say another thing that’s allowed us to grow really fast and just keep our employees happy is just that we prioritize employees over our clients.
At the end of the day, like I’m building this company to make my employees enjoy their lives as well, I think that people really appreciate that. We’ve had very, very low turnover, extremely low attrition, hardly much at all. That’s allowed us to retain a lot of institutional knowledge. It’s allowed us to grow really fast. So I think that’s been really helpful for us really to try to practice what we preach since we’re a growth marketing agency.
Check out the full interview HERE.
Communications Manager @ Galactic Fed