Our guest on Episode 3 is Ray Machuca, chief creative officer at FloSports, a digital sports media network in Austin. Machuca is nearing 10 years at the company, which has 200+ employees and 27 dedicated sports verticals.
A Louisiana native, Machuca shares his perspective on content and how to build a community, his path to Austin, avoiding land mines in Afghanistan, and sobriety.
Quick aside: We recorded this interview pre-quarantine.
Cover Charge: Episode 3 Transcript
Nick Schenck: [00:00:00] Hello, this is Nick, and this is the latest episode of the Cover Charge podcast. In this episode, we have a very special guest, my friend, longtime friend, Ray Machuca. Ray, thanks for coming in.
[00:00:13] Ray Machuca: What’s up? Glad to be here.[restrict]
[00:00:15] Nick Schenck: So Ray, we’ve known each other for about five years. We met in March of 2015. Ray was working at a company in town called FloSports, where he still serves as, what’s your title?
[00:00:33] Ray Machuca: My title is, that’s a good story. My title is chief creative officer, although I have no idea why. The reason why I said chief creative officer is because I just finished reading a piece about [John] Lasseter at Pixar, and he’s the chief creative officer.
[00:00:53] I was a huge Lasseter fan. This is pre the stuff that came out that got him fired from Pixar, so I’m not keeping that part of it. But then Martin wanted me to be like – I don’t know – he had some title in mind and I was like, “Chief creative officer will be my title.” Okay, cool.
[00:01:12] Nick Schenck: Martin is the guy who hired you – for people who don’t know.
[00:01:15] Ray Machuca: Yeah, Martin hired me at FloSports – Flocasts at the time. But my real title should be chief content officer.
[00:01:24] Nick Schenck: Okay. You oversee all of the on-demand content?
[00:01:28] Ray Machuca: Yeah, so I oversee all the editorial content, all the film content, and then if we do any advertising stuff, that rolls up to me as well.
[00:01:39] Nick Schenck: Got it. So FloSports is a local Austin company that live streams thousands of events a year, and they have 25+ different sports verticals.
[00:01:52] Ray Machuca: 27 now.
[00:01:55] Nick Schenck: I worked there for four years alongside Ray, and the first interaction we had, I thought it was really funny. I knew that we’d hit it off there.
[00:02:04] I was interviewing for the job [VP of Marketing and Customer Acquisition], and we sat down. Our interview was different than any other interview I had with anyone else. We sat down and you opened up your computer and you pulled up the website and you said, “What do you think?”
[00:02:16] Ray Machuca: And I soon regretted it after asking you.
[00:02:21] Nick Schenck: I’m not the type to like try to gloss over things. So I gave you my real opinion and didn’t hold back. And at a certain point, you were like, “Okay, okay. I got it. I got it.” And I could tell you were pained by the things I was saying, not because I was blindsiding you. It was because you knew all these things already. And me just pointing them out seeedm to just give you heartburn. But I assume you respected that because you said you wanted to hire me, right?
[00:02:51] Ray Machuca: Yeah. That’s what you need. It wasn’t a case of where I think my baby’s beautiful, but it’s actually ugly. It was like, “I know my baby’s ugly. You just don’t have to say that.”
[00:03:02] That’s the agreement here. Right. And I remember just feeling like – you ever been in the water maybe, and the waves are coming. You get hit by a good one. And then you’re like, “Damn, that was something, boom!” And then all of a sudden, bam, bam, bam. You’re like, man, the waves just don’t stop. Do they? That’s what it was like getting your feedback.
[00:03:19] I was like, “Man, does this ever stop?” And so I told Martin, I was like, “Yeah, I like that guy. He seems pretty intense. I think he’ll be good.”
[00:03:29] Nick Schenck: Yeah. It worked out, man. You were my closest friend working at Flo. It’s funny, we used to talk to each other, and we’d be like, “All right. Triple crown of silence,” for things that we wanted to keep to ourselves.
[00:03:44] Ray Machuca: The cones are not going to be invoked in this conversation.
[00:03:47] Nick Schenck: Of course not. But one thing I found interesting about you is, for people listening, Ray’s got, I think, two arm sleeves. At the time when I started Flo, you had a couple of earrings.
[00:04:05] You’re very expressive, very artistic, creative, but you come from a military background. And so I thought that was kind of interesting. Like a paradox. I went to military school from seventh through 12th grade in Minnesota, and it just felt like my individualism was kind of getting sucked out in that military environment.
[00:04:30] I learned a lot of great lessons, and I love the military for what it taught me and our armed service men and women, but I was kind of caught off-guard that you have that military background – you actually really enjoyed that time and talked about it a lot – given that you seem to be so expressive and you don’t seem like the type of person that likes to be told what to do.
[00:04:52] Ray Machuca: Yeah. Yeah, it’s good. So, one, your listeners – I don’t know who’s going to be listening to this possibly, but they can probably hear my southern accent coming through. It drives me crazy. So just being from the South, I had just a lot of military people in my family. And so it wasn’t very odd to me. Even my stepdad was in the Navy. My uncle was in Vietnam, my dad was in the Army, my grandfather was in the Air Force. It was just like on and on and on and on. And so it really wasn’t a big deal. It just seemed like a normal thing and it seemed like a cool thing to do.
[00:05:38] I looked at it as like a cool different thing. As just another experience. I don’t know if you talked to me – I did serve in Afghanistan. I think if you talked to me then, I wouldn’t be as enthusiastic about my experience. But it’s like a lot of things. The further you get from it, the more fond you are, or maybe perhaps you for your military school, right? The further you get away, the dark spots get a little brighter, you know? But, yeah, I guess that is a little different.
[00:06:10] So many people out there today will say they support the armed services. They respect the armed services. They are so thankful. But, you know, service is down. I love it, but they don’t want to do it. You know? Like there’s 10 people in my office who all they talk about is the military and how cool it is. They never did it. Right.
[00:06:33] Now, just so everyone knows, I was in the guard. I don’t want to come off like I’m some sort of, you know, badass. I’m not. I was in the guard and I just did my thing, because I thought it’d be a cool experience. I get some free college, and then I wasn’t into it for six months, and then 9/11 happened and I ended up serving in Afghanistan for like nine months. And when I was there, I was there for the one year anniversary, or nine months, and I was very lucky. There’s plenty of cool stories, interesting stories, but I was very fortunate. It was not a big deal. I would not want to go during other times, certainly.
[00:07:11] Nick Schenck: Sure. Tell the mine-sweeping story. I think that’s my favorite one.
[00:07:16] Ray Machuca: Which one?
[00:07:17] Nick Schenck: You were sweeping for mines and there was an explosion not that far away from you.
[00:07:22] Ray Machuca: Oh, so yeah, I wasn’t sweeping for mines. We were in Bagram, Afghanistan. And so we were the first people there. And our duty was basically to build the base – specifically like launch pads, helicopter launch pads, and put up HESCO walls, which are like – think of a giant refrigerator box. It’s collapsible and expands. You fill it with dirt. We put up all the perimeter walls and then put up towers on top of it.
[00:07:59] And so we were out there clearing and making helipads. How it works is they go in first with a Hydrema, which flails the ground. Then they go back in with dogs. That’s No. 2. They’ll flail it with Hydrema machines. Then they’ll go in with like metal-detecting equipment. Then they’ll go in with dogs. So all that’s been done, and now we’re out there thinking we’re cool, and we’re just walking around. And I was on a bulldozer. You know, a heavily-plated bulldozer and sort of having lunch or whatever. And my buddy, I think his last name may have been Holmes. He was right, not 15 feet from me, turned his dozer and he just turned the dozer and then he went over a mine and it just shot out. It was small. It wasn’t like an anti-tank mine. It would have been really bad for both of us, but it was small.
[00:08:57] But we’d been out there for weeks, gone through all these things, and we’re literally feet up. I’m like eating canned peaches, not a care in the world, you know? And then it goes off, and then we’re like, you don’t even know what – do I get off the dozer? I don’t know what we’re supposed to do. What other equipment can we bring out here? We’ve done everything and there’s still stuff in the ground.
[00:09:23] Nick Schenck: Did you feel the shock, like it was like right next to you?
[00:09:26] Ray Machuca: It was small. If you like shot a shotgun into dirt, it was like that. It was big enough to where it would take off your leg, but it was not so big. Like any tank mine would take a dozer off the ground. They’ll destroy a tank. So that would have been catastrophic for just anyone in the vicinity. He was on top of it with a bulldozer and it just popped out the side. But it was quite alarming. Yeah. From the time you got there to the time you left, you just walked around, you know, staring at your boots. You just walked around staring at the ground. Even when I came back to Fort Polk. I was just walking to chow, and everyone was talking and smoking cigarettes and our eyes are just plastered to the ground. It took us kind of a while.
[00:10:13] Nick Schenck: Was that the closest call you ever had?
[00:10:18] Ray Machuca: Yeah, that was the closest to like something going off. I had a funny thing once was when I was filling up the HESCOs. I was way out there by myself. And so out there in the desert, Bagram Air Force Base, you can see it now – it’s huge. But then it was just one drive called Disney Drive named after specialist Disney, who was like one of the first people to lose their lives there.
[00:10:46] And we’re filling up HESCOS with dirt, but in the dirt, there’s just stuff from the wars with Russia and everything. There’s MiGS and tanks out there everywhere. It’s shocking. Just MiGS, just sitting there – like the wings are taken off. The locals will take metal from them and copper wire as best they can.
[00:11:09] So there’s just debris in the dirt. And so I had a front end loader with a clamshell, so it has a jaw that can open and grab dirt. And so I’m like just ramming it into dirt. I’m assuming it’s all clear. It’s been clear, but you’re just kind of like, I guess.
[00:11:27] And I pick up that dirt and I go to drop it in the HESCO. And when the jaws open up, there was like a car transmission on top of the clamshell. And so when I opened up the arm, it threw that transmission on top of the dozer, and it slid down the arms, turned sideways, and that whole rod came through the cab of my front end loader. Broke the glass. I ducked, and it came through the glass behind me. So you know, I’m out there like I got like a dip of Copenhagen and I’m like whatever. And I open it up and I hear this scrape and I look up, and I just duck and this rod just goes shooting through my cab.
[00:12:16] It probably would have taken my head off. A big heavy transmission goes flying through my cab. That was the first – I was like. “Damn man. I thought I was cool. I’m just goofing off. I’m out here just goofing off.
[00:12:27] Nick Schenck: You gotta be on your toes.
[00:12:27] Ray Machuca: Gotta be on your toes. Gotta keep your head on a swivel.
[00:12:31] Nick Schenck: Let’s take it back for a little bit. You grew up in a small town right outside Baton Rouge. What’s the name of the town? And give me a sense of what that town was like.
[00:12:42] Ray Machuca: So I grew up outside Baton Rouge in a parish. We have parishes in Louisiana. Livingston Parish. In a town called Watson.
[00:12:53] And there was one red light cornerstore, and then the grocery store was Walmart, and it was like a 30-minute drive into town. And so there was 90 people, maybe 100 in my graduating high school class. Emma, my daughter now she’s 15, she has 750 in her class. And yeah, very small, very redneck, a lot of coonass. Very, very country.
[00:13:25] Nick Schenck: Got it. You went straight from there to Loyola or University of New Orleans, but you went to school in New Orleans for a bit, right before you went to the military, or after you got back from the military?
[00:13:37] Ray Machuca: Yeah, so when I graduated high school, I went to LSU. LSU was, whatever. Not as fine.
[00:13:45] I got activated. I went to Afghanistan. First, you go to the workup. I was in Camp Beauregard and Fort Polk for like forever. And then you go to Afghanistan, and then you come home. And so I was just like, “I don’t want to go to LSU. I really want to do like a film – that’s what I really wanted to do – a film program.
[00:14:03] And University of New Orleans had a film program. And if you’re in the military in Louisiana – another reason why I joined, because I’m just kind of dumb and there was no scholarships in my future – although I realize now, college wasn’t actually that expensive. My mom made me think it was like every semester you were basically buying a car. That’s how she kind of put it in my head.
[00:14:23] So if you join the military in Louisiana, you get free college tuition. And so I had free college tuition. Any public university. So UNO has a really good film program. I think they still do. And so when I got back, I transferred to University of New Orleans and enrolled in their film program.
[00:14:42] Nick Schenck: From an early age, you were just obsessed with movies, right?
[00:14:46] Ray Machuca: Yeah, I don’t know what it was, but I spent summers with my grandma, and she was kind of an outlaw. She had two VCRs, so she would rent movies and then record them, and she had a room about the size of your office just stacked with every movie she’d ever rented. And then she had like a little glossary, a table of contents. They were all numbered. And they weren’t by category. It was just like, “Here’s the three movies I rented this week.” And I remember, it’d be like, “20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. Ice Station Zebra, Mysterious Island,” you know, these movies just way back when, and I didn’t know what they were.
[00:15:36] And so I would just literally grab a VHS tape and put it in. And I’d spend the summers with my grandmother and she’d be at work and I’d be at home just watching movies non-stop. And I think my parents thought I was just lazy. Maybe I was, but I would just be fascinated with what was going on.
[00:15:57] I wanted to be there more than anything. I wanted to see it happen. I wanted to get closer to it. You know, I remember just memorizing. I would watch movies now that I saw. I rented “Mysterious Island” last weekend. I watched it with Mazzie, my youngest, and I just knew all these lines.
[00:16:16] I knew all these lines. And there was actually scenes where I remember as a kid mimicking scenes to my parents and getting in trouble. Like there was a scene where this guy, he finds a map and he likes snaps his finger and waves to the guy to give him the map. I remember being at the dinner table with my parents when I got back from Texas, and my mom had like mashed potatoes. I kind of snapped, “Hand it here.”
[00:16:41] And my dad jumped up, took me to the bedroom, whooped my ass, you know, for like snapping at my mother. But I was like, I didn’t know that was a thing. You know, I would really just watch it and I would just be fascinated with the whole thing. And even to this day, that’s kind of how I am.
[00:16:58] Last night, [my wife] Lilly came in the room, and I’m watching “A Serious Man,” a Cohen brothers movie, for like the fifth time this week. She’s like, “Why are you watching this? Why is this on again?” I didn’t know what to say besides, “I just hit play again.” I don’t know why I’m watching it again.
[00:17:16] I think it’s important. I think finding something that people will do compulsively is the easiest path to, you know – Emma, my daughter, had just this fascination with slime. I pray you’ll be spared from it.
[00:17:35] Nick Schenck: No, I’m already seeing it with mine.
[00:17:37] Ray Machuca: Yeah. Emma got into the slime thing. And we didn’t chide her about it or [say] don’t do that. I mean we got mad, because it’d be all over the place. But the more she’s into it, the more we just brought her to the store to buy her more glue.
[00:17:54] I want some with beads. I want to see if I can…Okay, fine. She wanted to take photos of it. So I bought her a little setup and I set up a light, like a lamp shade in her closet, a little studio space to shoot her slime and stuff. And she wanted to mail it to slimers in the community to get them to rate it, you know? And so, okay, fine. If that’s what she wants to do, because I can try to make her interested in math, which doesn’t seem to be in her future. Or I can tell her that when she gets into something, you should get into it and enjoy that, because that’s the deal. Yeah. That’s basically what the deal is.
[00:18:31] And so today, and I’ll tell Lily this all the time, if she’s struggling with the subject, I think, I’m not worried because I remember the slime. When she got curious, she figured it out. And so I remember her saying once, she goes, “I’m really glad that I didn’t mail that slime to that slimer for a review.” They had like a million followers. And my wife says, “Why is that?” Well, because I saw that they gave this slimer a bad review. And I think it traveled a long way, and I think it set up. You know, the slime got hard in travel. And so I think I would’ve gotten a bad review because it would’ve been different. I’m like, “Damn. Okay.”
[00:19:18] Nick Schenck: She’s like peeling back the layers.
[00:19:21] Ray Machuca: So it’s just like, she’ll bump into something eventually that she’s into, and then she’ll figure it out.
[00:19:28] And it’s kind of ridiculous to think that she’s going to figure it out in Bowie High School. It’s unrealistic also to think she’s going to figure it out in college. It takes a long time.
[00:19:39] Nick Schenck: But you figured it out early that you were into movies, and then – just to fast forward a little bit – you’re at the University of New Orleans.
[00:19:47] Ray Machuca: I believe it’s pronounced New Orlins.
[00:19:49] Nick Schenck: Nawlins. Whatever, I’m from Minnesota.
[00:19:54] Did you finish there, or did you leave? And talk about that. And then you started your own little film business, production company, right?
[00:20:04] Ray Machuca: Yeah. So there in college. I just, I don’t know. Nothing against them. I just don’t know how suited I am for a classroom setting, and I wanted to make money.
[00:20:20] I wanted to do the thing. I wanted to do the thing. And there’s a lot of talking about the thing, and when you do make the thing, it’s not the same. And so I looked around my class, and I found who are the couple of the smartest, most badass dudes in here, and there’s two guys, Sam Macaluso and Chun Lee.
[00:20:42] And I was like, those two guys are really talented. And I just started hanging out with those guys. And we actually ended up working on a film together. And then I said, “Hey, why don’t we start a little production company and start doing like content?” And they just said, “Okay, whatever.” I think they were like, “Whatever.”
[00:20:57] And sure enough, I found a client and I went and pitched them on a sales DVD to do a piece on them. Instead of mailing someone a brochure – there were a caterer, the biggest caterer in Baton Rouge. Instead of mailing someone a brochure, they can mail someone a DVD and get a real sense of the company and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
[00:21:20] And it was really funny, because they were like, “Well, you’ve never done this, we’ve never done this.” And my attitude was like, I mean, how hard can it be? It’s not that hard. And if you shoot something that sucks, you just shoot it again, whatever. And I think that attitude is like, that’s not the scholastic attitude.
[00:21:34] The scholastic attitude is like – you have your idea, and you take your shot, and you have your grade, and that’s what it is. And that’s not how it is. Like it really is like a process, and it’s sort of like, you know, you need to do your best to not waste money and have your thoughts on paper. And when you get good at it, hopefully you’ll get there faster.
[00:21:55] But it’s just like, we just got to go do it. What questions do we ask? We didn’t really know. Well, ask all of them. It’s basically what you do, right? And like, we use this shot, that shot sucks. Okay, we got to go shoot that again. You know, that kind of thing.
[00:22:08] And so, literally, Sam, his dad bought him a camera. We set up lights in our kitchen, made a demo reel. And then I literally went to Best Buy, bought a DVD printer, something that would print labels on a DVD, bought blank DVDs. We cut it. We brought other people into the company just so we could use their stuff in our demo, right. Made that DVD, made our business cards. I went and bought a DVD player and jumped in the car, drove to Baton Rouge, Unique Cuisine, Susan Strange, awesome woman. Pitched her. She was like, “Okay.” So I got on the phone.
[00:22:58] Nick Schenck: What was the name of your company?
[00:22:59] Ray Machuca: Switch Pictures. And they were like, whatever dude. And we did all that, stayed up all [night], did it in one day. All of that. I drove to Baton Rouge in the morning, pitched her in the morning, came back with a $5,000 check deposit. They were like, “Holy shit. What’d you say? Tell me?” And I was like, “I don’t know. I kind of just blacked out,” you know.
[00:23:23] Nick Schenck: Like Will Ferrell in “Old School”?
[00:23:25] Ray Machuca: Yeah. And this is a lesson I’ve taken to my meetings today, is like, it’s important to fuss over what you’re going to say. You should know. But it’s really how you say it. And I think she could just tell that we were eager, enthusiastic. She knew what good looked like, because she’s a successful woman. This was good. We were enthusiastic. I was authentic. I wasn’t trying to sound all fancy. I was just like, “We want to do this. We want to make content. Here’s proof. I think this would be awesome for you.” And she did it. And we really screwed up the first print of DVDs, because we had a misspelling, and we’re using software, there’s a misspelling, huge disaster. And we presented to her the final product, and there was like a huge misspelling. I was like, “Oh shit.” But anyway, it wasn’t without its bumps, obviously.
[00:24:22] Nick Schenck: During that time, what’s going on in your personal life?
[00:24:27] Ray Machuca: Well, at the time, things were good. You know, my now wife and I had a little baby, and we were living in Baton Rouge.
[00:24:39] I was commuting to University of New Orleans. Everything was good. Everything was good. You know, it’s gone up and down. I think another thing that helped me was I had a chirping bird at the house. I’m like, dude, I ain’t got time for fucking classes. We got to go. Right.
[00:24:58] And then, you know, when Katrina hit, I had tons of more work, and I ended up getting more and more and more and more and more work until finally I was like working full-time. And then I had one class to take. I woke up like in a panic one night. “Oh my God, I’m not going to be a college graduate,” you know?
[00:25:17] But both of my parents were high school dropouts, so I was like, “Oh my God.” So I like took this class and got my degree. I was like working with a house and a car. Just taking an online course. Went down there and got my diploma, basically so my mother could see the diploma and watch me walk across the stage.
[00:25:39] Nick Schenck: Barely made it. At what point were you like, “I’m going to go to New York and really try to make a career for myself in New York?” Talk about the paths that led you to that, because there’s a great anecdote I want to get to on the New York story.
[00:25:54] Ray Machuca: Okay. There’s a lot to unpack in there. During that time, I was working at this company kind of being a production manager for a small local show, and with ’07, ’08 economic stuff, I lost that job. I got another job with an ad agency that I was super jacked for. I was like directing and editing and doing a lot of after-effects, and I was so excited to be there.
[00:26:32] And then six months after that, that was in the automotive. That’s mainly the bulk of any advertising agency is going to be automotive and like insurance. So when that happened, I got laid off. So then I’m like, “Okay, now I’m editing new spots at a TV station.” I’m like, “Dude, this sucks.” Everyone was so thrilled to have me. I knew what I was doing, you know? But I was a very reluctant worker. I was like, “Man, this is terrible. I hate this. “And then, sure enough, I got laid off from that job, and so I got laid off three times in two years. I was going to lose my house and lose my car, and I was about to get a job, reach out to some people I knew to see if I could get a job at a plant in Baton Rouge, and my stepdad…
[00:27:20] Nick Schenck: What’s a plant? Like manufacturing plant?
[00:27:23] Ray Machuca: Yeah, chemical plant. Okay. You go into Baton Rouge and it just looks like.
[00:27:27] Nick Schenck: It’s like petrochemicals.
[00:27:28] Ray Machuca: It looks like “Blade Runner,” you know, furnaces and fire. It smells terrific. And so I was like, I’m going to get a job in a plant. And my dad told me, he goes, “You’re going to do all that for this house?”
[00:27:48] It was a shitty house outside of Baton Rouge. Your house is really nice. Don’t think that this is the house I was living in. It was like a a starter home, a $120,000 plot home. “You’re going to do all that for this?” He’s kind of looking around the room and I was like, yeah, all of a sudden that seemed really stupid.
[00:28:14] Like I want to do content. Now I’m going to do all of this to save the house? That is silly. And so I literally bought a plane ticket, call my buddy up, Shun Lee. And I think that’s really the strength, the wisdom of going to college. Unless you’re going to be an accountant or a surgeon, if you’re going to do the creative arts or something like that, you need to get out there and do it.
[00:28:40] If my daughter told me I want to be a photographer, I wouldn’t care if she graduated high school. If I knew that’s what she really wanted to do. Go shoot photography. That’s the only thing that counts. That’s the only thing. So I had these contacts because of going to UNO, and I called up my buddy Shun Lee, and he was in New York.
[00:29:04] He said, “Yeah, man. Come up here.” And you know, he was doing web work in New York and so naturally, that’s what I started doing when I went up there. And I was also, you know, I’ve struggled with sobriety and other issues like that, and I was just like really struggling. I’ve lost my job – and I lost the jobs through no fault of my own, miraculously. I don’t know if that shows just like a real lack of oversight by my employers, or I’m just that brilliant. I think it’s lack of oversight.
[00:29:34] But I went up there and had plenty of work.
[00:29:39] Nick Schenck: You crashed with him?
[00:29:43] Ray Machuca: I crashed with him. They had an office, strangely enough, in the financial district in Manhattan. A content business.
[00:29:53] We had an office like at the very top floor, like across from the New York Stock Exchange. I don’t know why. Totally bizarre. But they just had a room, kind of like the size of your office, for rent. One room.
[00:30:06] Nick Schenck: So you had all of your editing suite there?
[00:30:09] Ray Machuca: We’re all just jammed in there, and I slept in there for awhile, which is a very common thing to do in New York. You just sleep wherever you can. It’s just brutal. I kind of started getting a little more work and make a little more contacts, but at the end of the day, I just knew Lily and Emma, my, my baby mama and baby, were not going to come to New York. They were not going to come to New York. I knew it.
[00:30:36] And so Lily was like, “I’ll go anywhere, but I’m not going to New York.” And so I just took a sheet in an email, I still have the email. I just wrote down every city that’s better for my field than Baton Rouge. It was like L.A.., Seattle, Portland, Denver, San Antonio, Houston, Atlanta, every major city that has some sort of media was on that list.
[00:31:05] And she picked Austin, because we weren’t together at the time, and she had two ex-boyfriends here.
[00:31:10] Nick Schenck: That’s funny.
[00:31:10] Ray Machuca: So she was like, “I’ll go to Austin. Maybe I’ll hook up with so-and-so.” And I was like, “Okay, whatever. I don’t care.”
[00:31:16] Nick Schenck: Back in New York, you are self-conscious a little bit about your accent, but somebody told you to lean into your accent in New York, right?
[00:31:24] Ray Machuca: So my buddy Shun Lee. I was lucky enough and I was staying with a buddy in Galaxy Mall in West New York, just over the river. And I was on this bus, and I don’t remember what the exit was, Galaxy or something. And I got on the bus and I’m like in the back and I have no idea what it was supposed to look like where I’m going.
[00:31:46] And I said, “Hey, this thing get off at Galaxy, right?” And the bus driver looked back at me, maybe he was expecting to see like cowboy, like a 10-gallon Cowboy hat and flannel, you know. But I look like, I don’t know, a normal-ish guy for New York, which isn’t saying much, but he looked at me, he was like, “Yeah.”
[00:32:09] And then later on I said, “Man, Shun Lee, man kind of looked at me really weird, you know, I know I sound like a redneck, man. Should I take elocution lessons or something? Is this going to be a problem?” He goes, “Dude, are you kidding me? There’s 8 million people here, and they’re desperate to stand out. You actually have a difference. If I was you, I would crank it up. You should to be wearing flannel jackets, cowboy hats and boots, man. I would walk around like that. Everyone here is like desperate to be original, you know?” And I was like, “Okay, I still don’t own it like you should.
[00:32:46] And you know, I’m still kinda like, I guess I don’t like doing this kind of stuff, because I sound kind of funny to me.
[00:32:54] Nick Schenck: I say lean into it, too. You’ve got a big personality. Lean into it.
[00:33:01] Ray Machuca: Martin would critique me – my boss at at Flo – he would say, “Hey man, before you go into that presentation, don’t be too folksy.” Because that’s my-go to, you know. I like it. I think that is very disarming. It’s very, just much more authentic. But he didn’t want me to say “y’all” too many times, you know? But it works for James Carville. He’s like super folksy. He’s like The Raging Cajun. People love it. I’m no Carville, not to make a comparison.
[00:33:35] Nick Schenck: So you said that you have had battles with being sober. Addiction. When did that start and what was a low point for you?
[00:33:48] Ray Machuca: Um, low point is tricky. What you’ll find is you can always go lower. It’s like, I hit my bottom faster than I could lower my standard. I don’t want to get into a big drunk log or anything, but I remember being really young and getting into granny’s whisky and her cigarettes. She’s a lovely woman. I love my grandma. She’s real people. And being so drunk, I couldn’t stand, and thinking, “I love this. I love it.” And if you’re doing that at 12, that’s not ideal. If I ever caught Emma, my little precious 15-year-old doing that, I would probably have a heart attack.
[00:34:49] You know, from that, my parents were sober cause they’ve had trouble. My biological father has had trouble. He’s what you call a ne’er-do-well. You ought to look that up. He’s just never really on the up-and-up. Anyway, my parents were sober, or abstaining at the time, for great long periods.
[00:35:12] So when I was in home in Louisiana, I’d huff gas and break into their valuum and take bottles of Robitussin and just anything I could do to not feel myself in my own skin. I think I’ve just always been a very anxious and nervous person. And so I did that for a long time. I was using I.V. narcotics by the time I was maybe 20. I had already gone through the levels of, drink until I blacked out, smoking pot and drinking until I was just totally incoherent. I totaled my truck. I got the scar on my forehead. I totaled my truck in a blackout when I was 16.
[00:36:04] Just that kind of stuff. I say, “Just that kind of stuff,” like everyone understands. “Oh got it, typical.” But then when I was 20, I was put in my first psych place. And then from there, I was moved to an inpatient, then did outpatient, sober for a short time, then ended up Lily and I were engaged and just kind of went through this cycle forever. Basically until I moved to Austin.
[00:36:37] It got to where in Baton Rouge where I couldn’t go to a McDonald’s – pick an area town – you know how you kind of stay in your little area? I would just like, you literally could draw a giant circle around Baton Rouge, and there was no place where I hadn’t like ran off the road drunk, or pulled in to shoot dope, or bought drugs over here.
[00:36:59] There was no AA meeting I could go to that I hadn’t walked in loaded. There was no person I knew in AA or my sobriety little circle that didn’t know what a fuck-up I was. It was brutal. It had gotten to the point where I remember thinking, I told some friends this, “I mean, I wonder if I should maybe like not be alive anymore, because I’m worried when Emma starts becoming conscious of her parents, I’ll just be a bad example. And at least if I disappear right now, I’ll just be a fantasy. I’ll be this great father.” That would be more poignant than like her watching…Me trying was the same thing every night, just the same.
[00:37:50] And so I moved to Austin, and I was just like, “Man, I don’t want to do this anymore.” And just went to some meetings and found a group of men that really I respected and just, man, I don’t know what it was, but I got sober. So I’ve been sober for 10 years.
[00:38:05] Nick Schenck: Congrats. Does it get easier over time?
[00:38:10] Ray Machuca: Yeah, I mean, it has to. You couldn’t do it. I remember thinking like, okay, you see these slogans – one day at a time, one day at a time – and there’s a time when I was like, one day at a time, one day at a time. But one day at a time is hell.
[00:38:25] That’s my description of hell, wanting to just get through this one day. That’s hell. That’s Groundhog Day. And so my whole mindset was like, that’s the goal is one day. It’s kind of a bizarre thing, you know? It’s like, no, actually that sounds disastrous. But once you really start turning the corner on this stuff ,and there’s a whole, it’d take a philosopher to explain it, I guess.
[00:38:59] But once you start turning the corner, it’s not one day at a time. It’s like, “I’m never gonna do this again, period. That’s what I know.” You know?
[00:39:12] Nick Schenck: Do you still go to meetings?
[00:39:14] Ray Machuca: Yeah, I stopped going to meetings. No, basically, no. I went to a meeting a couple of weeks ago, and before that I hadn’t gone to a meeting in a couple of years. It’s mainly because of – I’m lazy. But mainly because I guess the main reasons are: ungrateful and lazy. But my third reason is that my office moved, and it’s just brutal to get to a noon meeting, and it’s just life stuff.
[00:39:47] Nick Schenck: So you moved to Austin, you’re able to get sober. You’re not together with Llly at the time. But you’re getting your career going in Austin. Talk about that period – and if you don’t mind sharing, at one point you declared bankruptcy, right?
[00:40:07] Ray Machuca: Yeah. So when I finally got sober. I was sober for a little while, and I was living with my baby mama, which is bizarre. We’re not together. We wanted to move to Austin. And if we had to save money up on our own and get two houses – we would never have done it. So we’re like, here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to move in this apartment for a year. Use that to establish ourselves, and then whatever.
[00:40:37] And so moving on with my baby mama, and I started getting sobriety. I wasn’t like white-knuckling it. Anytime I’ve ever wanted to drink or do drugs, that’s what I’ve done. I don’t not do it when I want to do it. Does that make sense? There’s no like, “I really want to drink. I’m not going to.” Nope, doesn’t work. That’s bull. Then you don’t want to drink. That’s what that means. Right?
[00:41:00] So I just felt really different, and all of a sudden, I was like, “Man, this isn’t healthy. I need to get out of here.” And so I moved into a 500-square foot apartment. To this day, Emma, she was really young at the time, she’ll refer to it as daddy’s hotel. That’s how small it was, like 500-square feet, just roach-infested, and I was living there sanding cabinets for some friends. Never been happier in my life. I got to where I remember Lily coming over and needing money, because she was struggling with her own issues at the time, and I had like 200 bucks in my checking account.
[00:41:37] She needed like 100 bucks for groceries, and I gave it to her. In my mind, I was like, “I don’t care.” Like there was nothing you could take from me. I was like, “Oh good. I’m down to my last hundred.” Like what? What’s going to happen? Nothing. You know? And so I would go to Randall’s and buy beans and sausage and rice.
[00:41:58] Okay. Whatever. I don’t care. And like, that was the first time I experienced freedom. Like I’m terrified of failure. Well, this is what failure looks like. It’s a $400-a-month apartment. You’re eating beans and rice and sausage, but there’s still a swimming pool. And my daughter’s with me every other week. This is pretty good. Austin’s nice. You’re going to the park, and I was like, “Man, I’ve been so afraid of failing over this? This is nothing.” Right? And so that attitude allowed me to kind of consider that maybe I could get somewhere. If failing just looks like this, then that means nothing. I don’t care.
[00:42:44] And so I had some content. And so we entered a music video we’d made into South By Southwest. I got accepted on the strength of that. I started shopping that, because Austin’s who you know in production. And so I was just like, not working, but I got into South By, and then I got another little gig based on the strength of that. And tat’s how I met Flo.
[00:43:10] Nick Schenck: Yeah, you’re at the Austin School of Film when you get contacted by Flocasts at the time, and they have a project for you to go to Africa. That story is incredible. Talk to me about it. Explain how that went down.
[00:43:26] Ray Machuca: Yeah. So basically, I’m doing freelance production work, and then I’m teaching on the side, and I’m doing okay.
[00:43:35] And when you’re not making any money, making any money is like great. And so Mark reached out to – Mark Floreani at Flocasts – reached out to Austin School of Film, it was like a little small nonprofit that helps kids get into creative fields that they want. And so I’m teaching there.
[00:43:57] And [Mark] reaches out and says he has a project. I go meet Mark. And totally bizarre, dude. Totally bizarre. I’m just used to, man, I’m not some Mad Men suit, guy, but still. I go to their office on 5th Street, which is just the heart of downtown. And I pull in the driveway in a parking lot and they’re all in the parking lot playing football, whole company, which is only like 10 people, but shirts off, summer, football.
[00:44:32] And I’m like, “Hey, guys.” And Mark just goes, “Yeah, Ray?” Yeah, Ray. “Be right there. We got a flag football team. We’re just kind of doing some stuff.” Okay, cool. When I go inside and Pat Hitchens, you ever meet Pat Hitchens?
[00:44:47] Nick Schenck: Yeah. Once.
[00:44:48] Ray Machuca: Once is enough. And he’s in there on the couch, and I’m like, okay.
[00:44:54] And then they come in and Mark has his shirt off. You know, he’s like, “Yeah, man. So we got this thing. We want to go shoot this project. Haile Gebrselassieis is going to be premiering, he’s going to be running the New York City Marathon. His sponsor is Adidas, and so I thought we could do some content around him.”
[00:45:15] Cool. So where’s he at? Africa. Okay, awesome. Really? He’s like, yeah, yeah. Okay. And so I remember Mark and Martin and the company had no concept of production. I’m not like Roger Deakins. I’m not some huge expert. I don’t know everything. I know just a little bit, especially in the world of production. I know a little bit. But it was like, “I know way more than anyone there.”
[00:45:43] I’m like, okay, cool. and just all the details, he had no idea. Like where’s he going to be in Africa? “Probably the capital, Adis Ababa.” Okay. But like out in the country? In the city? “Yeah, I don’t know.” Can we get on the phone with him? “Probably not.” How long will I have? “Maybe a day.” How many videos do you want? “How many can we get?”
[00:46:07] It’s like a very bizarre conversation, and so I remember being like, “Okay, dude, if I go, I’m going to at least need me and someone else.” Why? “Just to get enough B roll.” I don’t know what B roll means. I was like, “Um. B roll is the other thing. There’s like the main thing you’re shooting, A roll, and then B roll is all the other stuff. Like the stuff that your talent is not in – that’s B roll.” Okay. Why do you need two cameras? “Because we’re going to Africa for a day. If I have two cameras, I get twice as much footage.” It’s like seriously, you know? And he’s like, “Cool.”
[00:46:49] Just no details and that’s how these agencies operate. It’s like a weird thing. Adidas, the way they operate is they don’t just, it’s not how you think it actually works. And so literally, we had enough pull with Haile to get a day with him, but that was all we were going to get.
[00:47:08] And so, oddly enough, Mark trying to get the most out of his travel dollar, he goes, “We also have an event in cyclecross. Can you do that, too?” I said, what do you want me to do for the event? “Stream it live.” I said, okay. And I was like, “Mark, just so you know, there is nothing cohesive about live production and documentary storytelling. They’re not. I know. Yes, they both, okay. They both use cameras, but there’s where all the relationship stops.” But he was just like, you know, no one else could do it. And so I don’t know why, but I agreed. And so I literally flew to Adis Ababa, like my passport was stamped at like three o’clock in the morning, and it was like brutal, dude. It was like, “Okay, are you going to help me get like a visa?” Nah, you just got to go. Okay, cool. So you know, I had to do it as a travel visa, not a job, a business visa.
[00:48:13] And so I literally, I had all this production, we had DSLRs, so they were small cameras, but like I’m there with Chad, and I open up my suitcase in Ethiopia, and there’s like serious production equipment. It’s not like, you know, we’re not going to shoot “Inception 2,” but you know, it’s legit stuff.
[00:48:32] We have like shoulder rigs and all this audio stuff and he’s like, “This is. business equipment?” No, I’m just really into photography. Yeah, no. That’s all I did. And sure enough, as time goes on, there’s just people accumulating in the queue, and he’s just like, “Okay, go.”
[00:49:02] And I was like, dude.
[00:49:03] Nick Schenck: Wow, because that would’ve been expensive.
[00:49:05] Ray Machuca: It would’ve crushed me personally. This is like the first thing, the big biggest thing – I was like doing some stuff, but like this is a thing, you know? I’m going for Adidas and Flo to go do a thing about, you look up Haile Gebrselassie.
[00:49:23] You’ll never spell Gebrselassie, but he’s a very, very – he’s like won 28 world records. So it was a big thing.
[00:49:33] Nick Schenck: So you get back from Africa. And how long after until you got offered a job at Flo?
[00:49:40] Ray Machuca: I started editing the videos, and they were rough, because it was just insane.
[00:49:45] You know how the Flo timeline is. It’s like now. And I was just kind of throwing them together. So probably by the time they all got out. I was done with them, which is like two weeks for five videos.
[00:50:00] Nick Schenck: And you didn’t want to work there, right?
[00:50:02] Ray Machuca: No, I didn’t. I was just like, this is too much, man. I went from Ethiopia, then to Madison, Wisconsin.
[00:50:07] Just think about this. Like I had to like get all the equipment and bring it there with me. Get all the equipment back. Like I didn’t know whether or not we’d have storage to get the media on drives. So when I rented the equipment, I was like, “Yeah, I need 10 three-terabyte flash cards.” Why? I was like, I rented all of them, becasue I wasn’t sure. I didn’t know where I was going to be. So like I came back with like the footage in my pockets, right? It’s just like, dude, this is too much. And then from there, I went to Madison, Wisconsin, and I did the production. I mean, like I went to Home Depot and got the scaffoldings, assembled the scaffoldings, put up the cameras, hired the crew, ran the cable, did everything, just everything.
[00:50:58] I’m like, man, this is a lot of work. And so, but everything worked out great. And so they said, “Hey man, we’ll bring on full-time.”
[00:51:06] Nick Schenck: And you had just gotten, you know, in your recent past, you’d been laid off like three times. You thought Flo’s probably put together with duct tape. You were like, I don’t know if I want to take this risk, right?
[00:51:19] Ray Machuca: It was definitely put together with duct tape, and the reason why I stayed is something Mark said, and it’s always sort of embarrassing when I tell the story, but they weren’t offering me a lot of money. It was like, nothing. But it was steady and I had insurance and I had Emma, and basically it came down to, I was like, “Mark, I’ve done the, I’ve done the startup thing before. It never really works out great.”
[00:51:51] Martin was in the room at this point, and Mark says, “Martin, you know, Ray’s had some bad startup experiences, blah, blah, blah.” Martin goes, “We’re not a startup.” I was like, dude, if you don’t think you’re a startup, you are fucking high. It’s like this is as startup as it gets, dude. You don’t know what you’re doing.
[00:52:10] And so we exited that room and I’m talking to Mark later, and I said, “Man, I just don’t know, man. I kind of got a thing now, and I got some freelance. I’m fine. 400-square-foot apartment. That’s cool. I like insurance. That’d be great. Something a little more steady, but man, I don’t really care.
[00:52:27] How do I know it’s going to pan out? He said, “We can give you options.” I don’t know if it’s going to pan out. He goes, “Man, you just got to believe,” and I was sort of embarrassed that he would say that. I don’t think you’re supposed to say that in a professional environment. It’s just a very strange sentence to say. He said it dead-faced. You just got to believe.
[00:52:53] And Mark and Martin and the team they assembled, Fenton, Joe, Bader Truong, you know, these guys, if they were anything, they were winners. I could just tell. I know what a winner looks like. These guys are winners, and if they don’t figure out gold, they’re going to get silver, and if they can’t figure it out, they’re going to get the next best thing.
[00:53:14] I was like, man, they’re going to figure it out. And if anything else. I’ll have more stories, and so maybe I’ll get to go back to Africa. For the record, I’ve never been back. I never basically did any content ever again.
[00:53:30] And I actually took the job because I thought I’d have insurance and I’d get a lot more reps, because I want to do more content. I basically never made content again. They unloaded fucking other stuff on me.
[00:53:43] Nick Schenck: You made the right call. That was pre them raising any money.
[00:53:50] Ray Machuca: Oh yes. And that was pre them making a nickel.
[00:53:52] Yeah, I don’t know how they did it. It’s very impressive.
[00:53:57] Nick Schenck: Let’s talk about content now. I’m going to jump to a lot of different things when it comes to content. I think one of the best things that you’ve been able to do, you and your team, has been able to go into these sports that nobody’s shined a light on, shine a light and build community.
[00:54:17] There’s tons of direct-to-consumer eCommerce companies and other companies selling online that they don’t have a brand. They’re unable to build community, and they don’t really know about content. What’s your advice to them and how do you build community?
[00:54:32] Ray Machuca: Oh man. That’s a good question. The thing that we’ve done is when we go into a community, one, we actually have a purpose for being there. We’re going to the community with something to do in mind. Number one, we’re going to do events, we’re going to do content. One, we have a purpose.
[00:55:04] But one of the ways we get into the community is you have to have someone on the team who’s in the community. You just have to have that person who has contacts and credibility and relationships and buys into the vision of the company. If someone shows up just an alien force, and wants to, like, “We’re going to get into Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu,” it is not going to happen.
[00:55:30] It’s too closed off. It’s a small world. I have experienced that from when I was in Austin and moving to Austin, trying to get into production. Uh, uh. Not going to happen unless you’re like some A-list celebrity who wants to get involved. And so when I got to Austin, I started doing content and working with people, and then all of a sudden, I worked with other people and I got their credibility, and then stuff started coming to me.
[00:55:57] So we have the same approach. We have to have subject matter experts who have credibility. And then what we do is we pair them – So our purpose is to hype up events and then engage subscribers with content. That’s the purpose. Our whole vision is that underserved sports finally get all the love they could ever want.
[00:56:17] And so that’s what we do when we first go into a sport, we have to find the people who are already doing that. They’re already – like Hywel for FloGrappling, he already had a website. He was already creating content. He had moved to Brazil to do content and study jiu-jitsu.
[00:56:38] And so that’s a guy who’s already kind of doing it. And so my job is to find those people, assemble that team, and give them the resources, pair that enthusiasm with someone who actually knows how to tell stories. And that’s where the sauce happens, right? So Mark Floreani, a very similar story. Mark wanted to bring more cool content to track.
[00:57:00] Why can’t track be the coolest sport in the country, right? In fact, when I took the job, I was like, “Man, I’m not some big sports guy. I’m just not.” And I told Mark that, “Man, I’m not some big sports guy, dude, I don’t know anything about track, wrestling, gymnastics, cycling, or swimming or sailing. We were in sailing at the time, and Mark said, “Perfect. I don’t need any more sports people. What I need is people who know how to tell stories. And so I will get the sports people, and we will pair them with content people, and together we will make something authentic.” And so they were sort of ahead of their time in that regard.
[00:57:41] It was like doing creator content from the perspective of the sports. And so long story short, you have to have credibility in the community. That usually comes with someone who’s already doing it. And then giving them the creative resources to do more of that is kind of how we do it.
[00:58:05] Nick Schenck: I think the one part of your story you’re sort of selling short is the storytelling aspect, the storytelling in the content that y’all create.
[00:58:15] Ray Machuca: Well, that’s what I mean, though. That’s what I mean. We’ll take Bader with wrestling and my content team. Bader is an expert. He knows the Mark Perry story. He just knows Mark Perry is so cool. You know that guy he went against, you know, his uncle and with Iowa against Oklahoma State and whatever. But he doesn’t know how to tell that story. He just knows it’s this really cool thing. And so he brings that to us.
[00:58:45] If you’re an outsider, if I’m just searching for stories on the Internet, you are just never going to – it is going to be hard to find that story. It’s going to be hard to do it authentically without Bader as a subject matter expert in the sport. And so that’s the juice is like pairing the two, right?
[00:59:05] And so oftentimes what happens is you get – there’s a lot of services online where you can buy stories. We’re trying to build community in wrestling. We’re trying build community in grappling. Oftentimes what happens is if you’re a storyteller, you know, big S storyteller and you went to some big fancy pants film school, and your main thing is to like impress your other film school friends, right?
[00:59:36] Where I’m not trying to impress anybody. I’m trying to impress the wrestlers. And so I’m trying to be authentic to the story, and you’ve seen this. We’ll play it for the wrestlers, and the wrestlers will say, “Yeah, you can’t show that shot because he doesn’t finish it. That’s a bad shot. That’s not good.”
[00:59:57] Everyone knows what a touchdown looks like. Guy stretches out, catches the ball over the line. But you don’t know what that is for wrestling. I remember Martin on my ass about Terry. Terry’s a documentary we did. He says, “When Terry’s turning on Kendall Cross like that you cut. You’re cutting before the thing.” And I was like, “Well, what’s the thing?” That, that, that’s the thing. Don’t cut there. Cut there. Right. And so pairing really talented filmmakers with experts who actually know the thing and knowing what are details we need to include and what are details we can leave out. Because sometimes they’ll want everything in there.
[01:00:38] Nick Schenck: Outside – looking externally, when you see content that other brands create, and I’m talking not commercials per se, but like storytelling. Where do you think brands make the biggest mistakes?
[01:00:53] Ray Machuca: I don’t know. That’s a good one. I think brands probably make the biggest mistake when they try to do too many things. I’ll use us for an example. What are we doing and when are you trying to do too much?
[01:01:21] Too many brands try to be e-commerce. They try to build a brand. They try to do – companies are out there and trying to be a media site and a merchandising site and an events platform and a thing and an ad and a PR and they’re trying to do all the things instead of doing the thing has the most impact for the community or for their purpose.
[01:01:47] The story I like to use is Steve jobs with Apple. When I was at UNO in the late nineties, early 2000, you go on the Apple website and they’d sell like a flea market. You had cameras and lenses and everything. I remember you could buy headphones and speakers, and when Steve Jobs took over, he was like, “No, we don’t even do this shit good. Let’s do the one thing. Here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to do computers. Done.” All of a sudden, overnight, all that other stuff fell off Apple.com. All of a sudden now, it’s just like, “Wait a minute, man, I was going to buy that Canon whatever.” It’s gone now. And so honing in on that and doing that one thing well, I think is is what brands should do.
[01:02:37] Nick Schenck: Yup. All right. You have a bunch of sayings that I love that I wrote down. I’m going to go through them one-by-one, and I want you to just describe what it means.
[01:02:48] Ray Machuca: Man, this feels like a test.
[01:02:50] Nick Schenck: No, this is good. All right. Gussy it up.
[01:02:53] Ray Machuca: Gussy it up. Um, you know, give it a what-for. Gussy it up means it needs a little love. Gotta gussy it up a little bit.
[01:03:03] Nick Schenck: Context?
[01:03:04] Ray Machuca: Context. I don’t know. Did I say something specifically?
[01:03:09] Nick Schenck: Like, if somebody shows you a video, you’re like, “Oh, gussy it up.”
[01:03:12] Ray Machuca: Yeah, you can gussy it up a little bit. For instance, just yesterday, Christian sent me his content plan, and it’s like paragraph and then just a bulleted list. It’s like title, bulleted list, title, bulleted list. I said, “Man, you gotta gussy this up a little bit. Gimme a little something here.” Make it shorter. Put some color effects on it. Do something. Gussy it up. You know, gussy yourself up a little bit.
[01:03:41] Nick Schenck: Salt and pepper.
[01:03:43] Ray Machuca: It’s real similar to gussy it up. Usually, I use salt and pepper as in, just give me the facts. I say, “Don’t put no salt and pepper on it.”
[01:03:57] That’s usually what I say. Just give it to me straight. Usually from sales and partner success. Don’t put no salt and pepper on it. Just give it to me straight. What did the client say? Don’t tell me what you think they said. Give me the words. No salt and pepper.
[01:04:12] Nick Schenck: Lickety splitskis.
[01:04:14] Ray Machuca: Lickety splitskis. That usually means you’re fucking late. And hurry up.
[01:04:21] Nick Schenck: After Flo raised the Series B round, you said, “21.2 million bricks. Get to work.”
[01:04:29] Ray Machuca: So. I think a lot of companies when they raise money, internally, the senior leadership team doesn’t really fall into this trap, but a lot of people think, “Oh, we have $21 million,” or, “Good, we’ve arrived.”
[01:04:45] No, no, no, no. What just landed in the front yard are 21 million bricks, and we need to start building. Like something needs to be done with every single one of those bricks, and our job now is to start laying them. And so it’s actually like, they don’t give you the money for job well done. It’s like, this is a promise. You said you would do this if we gave you this, so now get going. So it’s really important to get that mindframe in your employees.
[01:05:12] Nick Schenck: Yup. All right, last one is a direct quote. You texted me: “Dude, do you ever want to get fired up? Put on Africa. Toto, bruh. Song gets me fired up.”
[01:05:26] Ray Machuca: Yeah. I remember. You know, we had this, um, what was that? What was that Google chat we had? Solid Gold, Eighties Gold?
[01:05:34] Nick Schenck: Yeah. There were a few people on that where we’d just share songs from the 80s that we just loved.
[01:05:38] Ray Machuca: Yeah. Random songs. So we listened to YouTube and like, man, every time Toto comes up, dude, I get fired up. That’s a great song.
[01:05:47] Nick Schenck: Weezer did a remake of that.
[01:05:49] Ray Machuca: What?
[01:05:49] Nick Schenck: Yeah. Sounds just like the original.
[01:05:52] Ray Machuca: Shut up.
[01:05:53] Nick Schenck: YouTube it later.
[01:05:55] Ray Machuca: Dude, I’m going to have to.
[01:05:57] Nick Schenck: Okay. Last thing on content, just to get back to that quick, is how do you codify good content? It’s such a subjective thing. Yeah. Do you guys codify it, or do you think it’s important for companies – before they make investments in content – they codify what stands as good content so it reduces confusion?
[01:06:16] Ray Machuca: Yeah. I mean, it’s tough. A lot of times what the code is are the people you hire to do it. Right? Like that’s kind of what it is. For all practical purposes, I am the code, right? That’s my job is to be the guy who – I know what good is, and I know what good for us is.
[01:06:39] And so that’s like a really draconian way to put it. However,as best you can, you can articulate what you mean. So for instance, for us, we want there always to be a sense of being there, a sense of presence. You know, we’re trying to be inspirational, not informational.
[01:07:02] You know, if people want to know the facts, they can Wikipedia it. We want to be inspired, right? And so as best we can, we do try to codify those things with actual specific things you can point to. I want a feeling of presence, and when I say that, that usually can be audio. It usually can be going longer on takes.
[01:07:27] You can hear the natural sound when you’re in a room. One thing that drives me crazy is when you see in trailers or hype videos, they’ll show stuff going on, and you can’t hear what’s going on. If it were me, a slow-motion shot of someone catching a ball in football, you would always hear the crowd. Always. Even if it’s faint. But you’ll notice, you’ll see really badass photography and video, and you’ll see guys playing basketball. But you won’t hear it. You should always hear a squeak, always hear something, something that gives you a sense of presence. And so our whole thing is, where we stand out is like, since our communities are small, we’re passion sports, people are – they’re die-hard. You don’t get into jiu-jitsu unless you’re doing it. You don’t just become a casual watcher – it’s too complicated. So if you’re doing it, then that means you know what it’s like, and you kind of want to be there.
[01:08:30] And so a sense of being there is what we’re always going for it. So you do that with sound. You do that with different moves. And so that’s an example of how we can codify that kind of stuff.
[01:08:43] Nick Schenck: What are the top 1-2 metrics you look at to be like, “Okay, that’s a good piece of content right there.”
[01:08:50] Ray Machuca: Yeah. One, you should just feel something, period. Right. And some people are – it’s a really hard thing. You have to know what good looks like. Some people do not know. They just don’t know. You know? And so you’re laughing, it’s just true.
[01:09:19] I get people all the time who send me a piece, “Hey man, this brand wants to work with us. Here’s a piece they did. What do you think?” I’m like, “Oh my God, this is so terrible. There’s someone out there who thinks this is – talking about our baby, right? – there’s someone out there who thinks this is money. Right? So you have to know what good looks like. And that’s just true.
[01:09:44] And if it’s a hype video, I should be excited. I should feel something. That’s the thing. If I should laugh. And a good piece of content will do lots of those things.
[01:09:56] Nick Schenck: Yup, yup. All right. Taking it back. Do you think, you know, let’s say five, 10 whatever many years from now – post Flo – that you’ll ever do film? That you’ll go back to like the original passion point of you watching movies at your grandmas, that original fire that was lit back then. Do you want to direct films at some point?
[01:10:20] Ray Machuca: I don’t think so. I would like to work in that field. To be honest, I’m not really – I know now where I’m good, and I’m not really good there. That’s not to say I don’t want to be involved in maybe producing – at some level, sure. But back in the day, I wanted to like direct and write and actually make it. And that’s not.
[01:10:54] I talk to content creators all the time now. I’m like, man, I just, I don’t have it like that. It’s like you say, I want to be a professional athlete, and then all of a sudden, you start doing it. You get to high school and get to college. And you’re like, “Oh my God, I’m terrible.” Right? That’s not to say you can’t be successful.
[01:11:11] It also doesn’t say you can’t be successful being a filmmaker. There’s a lot of shit movies out there. But I think where I’m really good is finding talent and putting teams together and creating an environment where creativity can happen. I think that’s where I am the best.
[01:11:29] And that makes me happy. I feel like when I find a good editor, a good shooter, or a good even writer – I don’t really find many of them – but that makes me feel like I’m winning is finding those precious creators. I think it’s because I wish I was better than I was.
[01:11:51] But like finding them, collecting them, giving them time and space to refine their chops is like really rewarding for me. And so I take a lot of pride in the fact that I’ve got – I’m asking people on my team who are – I don’t say this to brag, but they are world-class, fucking period. They’re the thing.
[01:12:14] And so they got that good because we know what good looks like and then we give them tons of reps. While we’re doing this podcast, you know it’s just reps. You got to do a lot of it. So letting people be in the chair and get good at it is really rewarding for me. And I’m 40 years old dude. It is a hustle, which is young, but it’s a hustle.
[01:12:35] Nick Schenck: Ray, thanks for joining the podcast, man. I enjoyed it.
[01:12:38] Ray Machuca: Yeah, man. Thanks.