Please enjoy this transcript of my conversation with Rob Petrozzo, Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer of Rally, a marketplace for buying and selling equity shares in collectible assets. Transcripts for other episodes can be found here.
“You have no choice now—being a Swiss army knife and being able to learn on the fly. It's such an underrated skill. Everybody is so much of a specialist now, but I'd like to be a generalist. It isn't always a bad thing when you can deliver.” – Rob Petrozzo
In this episode of Outliers, I’m talking with Rob Petrozzo (@robpetrozzo) about the past, present, and future of digital collectibles. We discuss the highs and lows of building a marketplace from the ground up, how ownership has become the new status symbol, and buying and selling in a world where time is currency.
Rob Petrozzo is Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer at Rally, a marketplace for buying and selling equity shares in ultra-rare, collectible assets. Rob’s background in design led him to consult for Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music imprint under Sony BMG before he moved into the world of product design. He led design at ScrollMotion and KeyMe before creating Rally.
Daniel Scrivner (00:00:00):
Today we've got Rob Petrozzo from Rally on the show. Rob, welcome to the show. I've been looking forward to this for a long time.
Rob Petrozzo (00:00:06):
Likewise, man, I really appreciate it.
Daniel Scrivner (00:00:08):
I want to do this conversation for a few reasons, and one of those is to help everyone listening have a better, more nuanced understanding of digital collectibles as well as how Rally fits into that mix. But I want to start first with your background because you've got a super fascinating background that has a lot of parallels to what we're going to be talking about. So for everyone listening, can you just share a quick sketch of what you did leading up to founding Rally?
Rob Petrozzo (00:00:30):
Yeah. So I'll give you the quick pitch. Much like you, I think I'm a designer at heart and I think that art and design have always played a really important part of my life from when I was really young. I grew up in Brooklyn, my dad had a restaurant, my mom was a chef as well, but both of them were really creative. My mom in particular was an illustrator or an artist growing up, and she instilled a lot of that creativity in me. And a lot of it was like finding my own way through design when I was younger. When you're growing up, especially the neighborhood that I'm from where it was a really diverse group of people, and I lived with my grandparents and my parents were around, there was always family around, everybody was always doing something different.
Rob Petrozzo (00:01:05):
There were a lot of older kids in the neighborhood who were the cool skateboarders or kids that were starting businesses that were a little bit older than me. I got exposed to all this stuff, and I used creativity and design, was really my method of incorporating myself into those conversations. When you're growing up, you see somebody doing something cool and you want to emulate that. So there would be kids that were cool skateboarders in the neighborhood, and then I would want to be designing skateboards or doing illustrations that would go on their skateboards. And I'd get a marker and do that in the backyard, stuff like that.
Rob Petrozzo (00:01:34):
And that led to a lot of really creative exploration once got into high school, and trying to major in art as I got to college. That was always the goal, was to be a fine art major and get out of school and be a working artist, was the idea when I was younger. I went to school in Philadelphia. Half our company at this point is from Philadelphia. I feel like everybody has Philadelphia or Brooklyn roots at this point, no matter who you meet in life, but I've never really lived anywhere other than New York, except when I was there in Philly.
Rob Petrozzo (00:01:58):
And again, someone's situation, you meet a bunch of people, and this is in the early 2000s where product design was just starting to show itself as a real career path. It was web 2.0, it wasn't necessarily iPhone yet or anything that was really mobile, but you can see the hints of that self-taught creativity of people learning how to code and working on like cracked versions of Photoshop and trying to teach themselves, and I was part of that wave too the same way. So when I got out of school, I had this tool kit that was a little bit of code, a bunch of design, a little bit of fine art education, and I wound up in music.
Rob Petrozzo (00:02:32):
When I got out of school, my first actual job that was a paycheck from somebody else was for a Kanye West label, which is called GOOD Music, which was unde Sony umbrella, but it was basically a startup. So one of his managers called me, he had seen a design that I worked on that was sitting in a print shop in Queens, actually. And he asked the people who made it, who designed it, and they gave him my number. And he called me and said, "I have this artist, Kanye West, his album comes out in a couple of weeks. Would you want to come in? We're looking to bring designers onboard because we have a roster of artists."
Rob Petrozzo (00:03:00):
And at that point, it was John Legend in the early days, and there was a couple other groups they were working with... And Common was a part of the group too that they were bringing in-house. But they got a small budget from Sony, a small office tucked all the way in the back of the 17th floor at the Sony building. And they just had ideas. And it was like, "Let's just all work together to bring ideas to life." And that was clothing, and websites, and packaging, and tour merchandise and all these things that opened this toolkit for me, that allowed me to work in a startup environment with a small team of really unique creatives. And that just led to a bunch of opportunities.
Rob Petrozzo (00:03:30):
I was there for a couple of years working on a million different projects, doing side stuff at the same time, some of my graphic design stuff and working with a bunch of different people in the music industry, and creative direction, and clothing. 2007, 2008, the iPhone comes out, it changes everything. And now everybody is like a product designer or an interaction designer. And I found myself doing the same thing. You had no choice at that point. So there were four or five startups in New York that I was talking to. I wound up working with a couple of them, creative direction, product design, a bunch of startups here in New York. And then eventually, you realize you want to do something on your own, I have to have some really smart people around me, my two co-founders Max and Chris in particular, who I've known for a long time, and it led to what is Rally today.
Rob Petrozzo (00:04:08):
I know that was a long windy story, but in reality, it's just art led to design, led to interaction design, led to product design. That's where I am today.
Daniel Scrivner (00:04:15):
That's a beautiful way to put a point on it. I have to ask, what was the piece that they saw in the shop? Was it album artwork? Was it a poster?
Rob Petrozzo (00:04:24):
Yeah, it was a design for a DJ named DJ Drama from Atlanta who's a close friend and somebody who in Atlanta is really well known. He's really well known everywhere now, he discovered Lil Uzi Vert and Jack Harlow is his artist now, so somebody that had a lot of longevity in the music industry, but also something that was originally from Philly. When I was in school, I tried to mix tape artwork and a bunch of little things here and there, DJ Drama was one of the first people that I worked with and gave me a chance.
Rob Petrozzo (00:04:47):
And for some reason, he was getting the stuff printed in New York. I have no idea why, but that was a very serendipitous conversation that we had early on, and then it led to a lot of really good stuff for me as well.
Daniel Scrivner (00:04:57):
One parallel that I want to ask about is, well, we're going to get to this when we talk more about Rally, but so much of it is owning a moment and it is, it does feel like this cultural movement that's happening at the moment. And it's interesting to me that you start off your career doing a lot of effectively cultural design work at GOOD Music. Can you talk a little bit about the experience of working there and working with some of the artists? And can you talk about what it's like designing for stuff that's going to become a part of culture or is a part of culture?
Rob Petrozzo (00:05:23):
Yeah. It's weird because everything there, it was like a freelance group of people who were all working under one roof, and Kanye has four or five people around him. And at the time, especially that were from Chicago that were super, super creative that were just people that looked at everything we were doing as a business. So everything was very much like self-taught and just move as quick as possible. So I think one of the big things that that instilled is that you're only going to go... I was only in the office like two or three days a week, I'd go in there, drop off stuff, have conversations. I wound up getting a small office of my own at Dumbo in downtown Brooklyn, just so I could have other clients that people come in and see that it was real, that I was doing design work that was real, it was a real business.
Rob Petrozzo (00:05:59):
But you go in there and it was a little bit, I don't even want to say an organized, that's the wrong way to put it, but everybody knew that that was a stopping point, I think, all the ancillary people that were working on stuff, and it was only going to go as far as the work you put in. So there'd be situations like one of John Legend's first tours was called SPend The Night With John Legend. And that was a piece that they had the title, but there was a lot of stuff that went with it. So it was like, let's make some ideas around. There was a splash page and a website, there was some press passes. One of the things though that I still use today at Rally was they wanted to do something unique for the march, and it was like march tables back then.
Rob Petrozzo (00:06:30):
So you go to a concert and it'd be a small venue. I think one of these is at PNC Bank Arts Center in New Jersey, which is like a big lawn, and you walk in and there's a couple of thousand people, but you have to stop at this booth in the front. So it was SPend The Night With John Legend, and the idea was like, "Why don't we make a scented candle that we sell as march?" Everyone was just selling t-shirts at the time. And that was a thing where it sounds so obvious now, but back then, like a tour t-shirt, and a thermos, and a hat, it wasn't something where people would be thinking about tangible product, but I was looking at it the same way, I think that companies like Supreme look at things now where you're not just making one, it's not an item, it's not a piece of clothing, it's not a one-way thing. It's something that really could be a collectible.
Rob Petrozzo (00:07:10):
And that's how I looked at all this stuff. So situations like that, it wasn't just make something and throw an idea out, it was like, give me the whole start to finish. So whether it was something like we were doing t-shirts for Bike Week in Florida and they will all go into Miami, and the idea was like, "Yo, we want to flip the logo and do something cool. Maybe make it look Harley Davidson or whatever." So it was a guy. So I did that quick, but then it was also do the rest of it. So I'm calling my cousin who has a print shop to try and make a t-shirt, and I'm running to FedEx afterwards to package and stuff up, and I'm putting the thank you notes in it too. And then getting that to the shore club in Miami.
Rob Petrozzo (00:07:40):
It was almost like, "Here's an idea, run with it, put it to work and make sure it comes out right." And that's really what startups are now. Now we're a 30-person company at Rally, it's not that different, if you have an idea, that's great, but execution of that idea and making sure it's something that lasts is always something that I think that moment in time instilled that in me. And I try and instill that in everybody here at the company now, especially on the product and design side.
Daniel Scrivner (00:08:00):
And to your credit, that is a rare skill I think for creatives in general. Your creatives can be incredible at the process of actually doing their work, but honestly, pretty terrible at pulling everything together and actually making something happen. So it's no surprise to me that you learned those skills early on. And I think that that clearly helped you have a little bit of an edge as a designer, starting a company.
Rob Petrozzo (00:08:21):
I would hope so. It's one of those things where you have no choice now, being a Swiss Army knife and being able to learn on the fly, it's such an underrated skill when everybody is so much of a specialist now. To be a generalist, isn't always a bad thing where you can deliver.
Daniel Scrivner (00:08:32):
I totally agree. I want to move and talk about, to set the stage for Rally. I want to spend a little bit of time talking about digital collectibles, and that may be an overly vague, overly broad kind of label for it, but in my mind if we think back to 2020, think to what we've already seen happen in 2021, there's been the takeoff of NFTs, which has just been insane, especially seeing those immediately go within what felt like 30 to 60 days to major, major auctions at Sotheby's and Christie's, it has been an insane to see the revenue generated by Top Shot, selling moments from the NBA is incredible. We've also got crypto and token,. I feel they've really taken off.
Daniel Scrivner (00:09:11):
And I know that doesn't really fit tightly within the label of digital collectibles, but clearly that's an aspect of, I think what's led to this. and then we've got Rally, so can you talk a little bit about, I guess, how do those things fit together in your mind and how do they fit together? And then where does Rally fit in and how is it distinct and different?
Rob Petrozzo (00:09:29):
They all work in tandem, and they always have, the idea of a collectible is whatever you want it to be. And I think when you think about art, art is everything you need it to be too, the same way it can recharge you, it sparks new ideas that evokes emotion. It reminds you what you should be doing next or reminds you of a time in the past, all those things that are part of NFTs and what's bringing NFTs to the life, and it would spark so much of this conversation are really at the root of what Rally is too. So at its heart... I'm 10 minutes in right now, I haven't explained what Rally is, but it's a platform for buying and selling equity in these high value assets with this real historical, or cultural significance, or ones that will be really significant for the future and owning true equity in that.
Rob Petrozzo (00:10:06):
I think what NFTS provide is an opportunity for that from a creative standpoint that never really existed. So I think that the big thing right now, and whether it's NFTs, or crypto, or sports cards or any of these vintage luxury, all these things that are at the forefront right now, and especially over the last year and the last 12 months, specifically, everybody wants to be first. Everybody wants to be perceived as a futurist, or everybody wants to be able to say, "I told you so," when something works out later. And these young technologists now, they have a little bit more money to play with than ever before. So you basically have all three of those things working in tandem.
Rob Petrozzo (00:10:39):
And NFTs present this opportunity to jump ahead and really see around that turn, and this is something that I think music... for everything the music industry has done wrong, they did a few things really well. One thing they did is that the artists realized that taking back ownership of their product and their equity was cool, and that's something you should be doing. And that wasn't always the case. The idea of signing to a major label was a huge thing when I was younger, and that's part of what drove me to work in music.
Daniel Scrivner (00:11:02):
It's a status symbol.
Rob Petrozzo (00:11:03):
100%, no question. But now that status symbol is ownership, it's not showing that you have it, it's actually having it. I think from a creative standpoint, to be able to create your art and your work and be able to monetize that and let the crowd and the community you've built actually decide what that value is, is super interesting, and that's what NFTs present. But from the supply side and this bid side, it's so you have somebody who could really own something that they truly care about and they could do it in a way where they're paying the creator directly in most cases. I think that's so much of what we tried to build at Rally, is the idea that you're bringing together people, the things they care about, and the moment that's most important to them, and then put their money where their mouth is. I think that's happening on both sides of the platforms right now.
Daniel Scrivner (00:11:40):
Sure. And I think it would be helpful, we're going to spend a lot of time talking about Rally with more nuance at the end of this conversation, but just to build on top of what you said, with NFTs in my experience so far, some of those are artists, a good example is I've seen a handful of photographers that clearly sell physical prints or if someone has licensed their work previously, but then they are doing it as an addition of one as an NFT and selling it to somebody. And so in that respect, maybe there's some physical thing, but you never get the physical thing, and it's not really backed by the physical thing, you just own this on the blockchain.
Daniel Scrivner (00:12:10):
With something Top Shot, it's footage from a game or a moment from a game or a photo of a game. So, sure, this thing happened in real life, but you're owning again, this digital embodiment of this thing. But with Rally, what's really different, is it is. In my understanding, it's 100% physical things. And so, can you talk a little bit about just some of the insane physical stuff that you've sold and how that is fundamentally different that someone at the end of day owns that, owns a slice of that?
Rob Petrozzo (00:12:37):
Yeah. Again, equity is something that is cool now and it's something you should think about. In my mind, what we've seen on Rally at least, is that you have people who have an investment account, and they have a Robinhood account, or they have a Coinbase account, this is a compliment to that in a way that this is where they keep all their alternative assets, and that could be physical, it could be digital, it could be anything that has this very specific appeal to a specific group and the people that really care about it. We've always looked at what we do as passionate=led investing. So each asset is its own investment, it's got its own total value, its own share price, and its own investors.
Rob Petrozzo (00:13:09):
When we open an initial offering on our platform, we do them every single day basically, you have a lot of people who really love those individual items, they don't necessarily invest in every single thing on Rally because we have, to your point, this big breadth of individual assets, 12, 13, 14 individual asset classes right now and growing basically every couple of weeks. But it's everything from a triceratops skull that's a 65 million-year-old asset, to some of the modern rookie cards, people had that just got into the league over the last two years, the Lukas of the world, and the Giannises, the people that are just starting to get to the peak of their career, but haven't gotten there yet.
Rob Petrozzo (00:13:42):
So the ability to invest in history, whether it's past, present or potential future history, if it's relevant and people care about it, they'll find their way to Rally and be able to make that investment. And that to me has always been the most important part, is that access, that democratization, the idea that I might be able to see around this turn because I know all the nuance associated with this specific person or this moment or this asset, I want to put that in my portfolio. And there really haven't been many options to do that up to this point for the last 100 years of what the modern stock exchange has created. But over the last five or six years as we've built this platform, we're starting to see that that door got kicked down and a lot of people are realizing what that value actually looks like.
Daniel Scrivner (00:14:19):
Yeah. And I think you made a really interesting point there, and I've heard this a lot on the investing side of people saying they're investing in Coinbase or they're investing in Robinhood because they know that the future is, everyone's going to have a handful of apps on their phone that they use to interact with investments and they want to own a stake in one of those. And I think it's really interesting to think forward in that example you gave of maybe someone has Robinhood for their equity, their options, all of that stuff that they want to do. They've got Coinbase for everything crypto related, then Rally is this other thing for everything that's alternative. I think that's super interesting.
Daniel Scrivner (00:14:52):
And then the other thing that is just, I don't know, it would be a super funny future reality. Today, you'll see Twitter bios and it'll be like, investor in this company and this company. And I would love to see a bio that's investor in triceratops skull.
Rob Petrozzo (00:15:05):
We're starting to see it now. If you go on Twitter and look at our mentions, you'll see a lot of people started doing that. I think that that's the most important thing about what's happening right now. For what it's worth, over the last year, I think everybody likes to immediately say the only reason that all these assets have started to do really well. And there's all these new companies popping up is that people went into their mom's attic and found their old baseball cards. But it's bigger than that, it's this last year, more than anything to me, it's what lot of people... that time is truly currency. And it's something that got lost, I think, when you're us and it's a designer trying to turn into a product design and trying to chase a career, all these elements that go with it, people younger than me, and I hate to date myself and say young people, but it's true, people that are 25 and under, they've always treated time as currency, they grew up like that to a certain degree.
Rob Petrozzo (00:15:51):
I think those kids are spending the majority of their time today on the assets of tomorrow, the things they really care about. So I firmly do believe that. And so them, NFTs might be for them what Michael Jordan was to me, or Fortnite is their version of Pokemon. So trying to see around those turns and seeing what that next generation is doing. They don't look at equity and ownership the same way that I did or the same way that my generation did where it was, go to work, get a job, maybe have a index fund or some Vanguard fund, or put your money in some passive investment app and let it sit, they're looking at things like, "I can jump around and do the things that I truly know about and I care about because I know more than the people that came before me about what the future looks like." And we're trying to support that as best we Rally.
Daniel Scrivner (00:16:28):
Yeah. Maybe just to add on top of that, the thread for me that explains all of these things and ties it together pretty neatly, because I've heard other people bring up stuff like, "Why is it and how is it that Airbnb or Coinbase, which looks like is going to IPO at an extremely high valuation historically," but you've seen this wave of companies, DoorDash is another example of that. And people scratch their heads. And I think similarly, people look at crypto and NFTs and Rally and potentially scratch their head. But in my mind, the way it all makes sense is, what we're seeing is, 18 to say, 32, 35 year olds basically say and put their stamp with their money on what they want to invest in.
Daniel Scrivner (00:17:05):
And now I think they don't want to have physical collectibles, that's not cool, you can't share that with anyone, I can't show anyone my portfolio, I want to have digital collectibles. They believe in crypto and that that is a physical, tangible thing that makes sense to them and has value. And I think similarly, they see companies like Airbnb and they're like, "I don't care what the valuation is, I want to stake in that. That's a business that I care about." So it's this younger generation really putting their stamp on culture. Is that how you see it? Do you think that's bullshit? Thoughts on that?
Rob Petrozzo (00:17:32):
No. You hit it on the head. First and foremost, to me, just from a tangible aspect, there's always a place for the best-in-class assets. I'm in my apartment right now and my girlfriend wants to throw me out because I'm in a separate bedroom, which I turned into an office, and it's surrounded by things from my past that make me happy.
Daniel Scrivner (00:17:47):
No one can see it, but there's stuff on shelves all around you. It's very neat and tidy, but there's a lot of stuff.
Rob Petrozzo (00:17:53):
Neat and tidy is a good way to put it, but in reality there's boxes in storage and at my parents' house and tucked in closets right now. But the stuff that's important to me is the stuff that I connect with from my childhood. For other people, it's not that, and we want to give them the opportunity to invest in the things that they truly care about. So when we talk about a triceratops skull or some of the dinosaur stuff or meteorites or any of these things that are coming up on Rally, the stuff that you learned about in fourth and fifth grade and like The Great Gatsby required reading when I was in middle school or getting into high school, to have the first edition version on Rally was an important thing for me and I think for a lot of people on our platform.
Rob Petrozzo (00:18:24):
Because even if the tangible thing is not something you're holding in your hands, connecting with something that you know is real, that you truly believe in, and that creates this positive emotion and this positive nostalgia or recollection, or it's something you can get and see around the corners and feel like this is something that will stick around forever, providing that opportunity, whether it's a digital collectible or a physical collectible, tangible or intangible, is something that it's really important to all of our users. The average age of our user right now is around 27, 28 years old for any investor on Rally. Those are people that, again, they see around turns in a way that I think me in my mid to late 30s does not see anymore.
Rob Petrozzo (00:18:58):
So to be able to provide them with the opportunity and then see how they gravitate towards that has been really interesting and encouraging to see somebody invest in a baseball card from 1906 or 1907, and it's around literally 100 years before them, it's pretty crazy to see the velocity at which that group has really gravitated towards these things from the past.
Daniel Scrivner (00:19:17):
One thing I wanted to ask, and this is a question both for you, and I'll frame this up in a second as well for the customers that you see on the platform. And I think it's super interesting to note that that average age is 27, 28, but just knowing a little bit about your background, you've invested in equities you've invested in crypto, you've invested in stuff on Rally. And one thing that that gets me thinking about is, what does the asset allocation model look like for this next generation? Because typically, if we we align back the 60/40, you've got 40% of bonds, 60% in stocks.
Daniel Scrivner (00:19:47):
And now it seems like we're going through a pretty massive change where, and I'm going to pull something out of thin air, but you could imagine someone say have 60, 70% of their portfolio in equities, say 20% in crypto, 10% of collectibles, I don't know. Your thoughts on, have you given that much thought and do you see your users, are they investing in this as opposed to stocks and crypto, or are they doing it alongside it? Just any thoughts on that?
Rob Petrozzo (00:20:10):
Yeah. It's the right question. It's something that it's up to everybody's individual investing thesis. Again, none of this is ever investment advice, and I can only speak for myself and what we've seen on the platform. I think that we're seeing a much more savvy investor than I was when I was 18 or 19 years old. When I got out of school and you start paying attention to the easiest thing, the path of least resistance was equities. And it was like a TD Ameritrade account or I think I might've had an E-Trade account, I forget what it was back then. But your optionality is really only around going long equities.
Rob Petrozzo (00:20:39):
And it was something that you only privy to the information that's on CNBC or that you're getting surfaced to you on a day to day because the internet was still young compared to now, the apps didn't exist, the information asymmetry was way different. Now, Twitter is way ahead or on the same timeline when it comes to information as the CNBCs of the world, or as The Wall Street Journals. And I think that there's always a place for both of those to exist, but these kids today have so much more access to information and so many more on-ramps, Rally included.
Rob Petrozzo (00:21:07):
So when we see an investor come to our platform, again, we look at it as passionate-led investing, where one individual asset or something that you really care about is what drives you to Rally and brings you here. But once you get here, we see that our investors diversify really quickly. So you have somebody who might've come in for a Michael Jordan rookie card, but then they start to see that shared DNA and some other stuff from that same timeframe or things that Michael Jordan likes but are also on the platform, or the things that are about the '80s and '90s, where you grew up and you remember it. And they started to really invest their time and effort into understanding everything about that asset.
Rob Petrozzo (00:21:38):
It's not just the stories that we tell, but they're bringing up stuff on our Twitter page and our Instagram comments that they did their own research and they found this, this and this, and they're asking questions about it. So I think that what's changed dramatically over the last, call a decade, is that a young investor who really cares has the on-ramps and the ability to invest in assets like these on Rally, they're able to do it at a really approachable price point. On Rally, there's no minimums, there's shares that are at $1 at times.
Rob Petrozzo (00:22:06):
So you could buy one share at $1 and see how the whole process works and use that as your on-ramp. And they also have this, I'm not talking about YOLO trades and GameStop type stuff, but they had this courage that I think I didn't have too, when I was younger, they had the idea that, "I'm making a great investment for me, and here's why." And they'd go through that checklist in their brain. They know how to buy dips, they understand what demand looks like, they can look through the order books and have takeaways in a way that I never did. They're put together their own Excel sheets about how the whole process works and where to allocate their money.
Rob Petrozzo (00:22:33):
We've seen that, and I've seen that firsthand, especially over the last year, call it where everyone's had a little bit more time on their hands. And I think the cash economy is starting to die off a little bit where even just holding a dollar bill in your hand feels dirty right now in a way where it's like that's starting to move in a different way. They've found a way to diversify, start digital, and have all these individual portfolios that are based on their passions and their needs. And I think that Rally is a compliment to all of those.
Daniel Scrivner (00:22:59):
Yeah. It's super interesting. Maybe again, something that was popping up in my mind as you were saying that is, it almost feels this latest generation of investors is just like, they don't care what the conventional wisdom is or what they should "invest in." They are truly just like, "What do I want to invest in? What do I want to put my money into?"
Rob Petrozzo (00:23:15):
It's so true.
Daniel Scrivner (00:23:15):
Which is really exciting. And I think that's also why it feels the Wild Wild West, because you no longer have this, I don't want to use a negative analogy, but you no longer have this herd of sheep, you've just got a bunch of people that are headed off in their own direction, doing their own things, which is neat and exciting.
Rob Petrozzo (00:23:28):
It's super exciting. When I was younger, there was this... I've been lucky in that, again, I credit my parents for this more than anything else, but they were young and they kind of let me do whatever I wanted, and they always encouraged me to pursue things that might've been a little bit left field. So when all my friends started getting into... I was playing baseball and I played a bunch of sports, but when being in plays, wasn't cool, that was something I really wanted to do though, so trying to be an actor was something my mom was like, "Yeah, if you want to do that, go do it," when I was 11 or 12 years old, and that became a thing that I was into.
Rob Petrozzo (00:23:58):
And then art, the same way, when everybody was taking as few classes as possible senior year of high school and even in college and I was in these four or five-hour art labs, to me, that was something I really loved doing and it was something that I was going to dedicate my time to. So now you have these kids who they've been in those niche groups. I think a lot of them, when it comes to, especially the investments they're finding themselves in, they translated that to like, really big Discord groups, and really big Telegram channels where they're having conversations with a bunch of people.
Rob Petrozzo (00:24:24):
It's so much easier to find your own subreddit and to find the place where you fit and where so many people want to have that conversation with you. So you might've thought it was you and two or three friends, everything now, the information is so much about global reach and finding your tribe and realizing how much bigger it is than just you and the three or four people that you thought were into this. And that's what I think Rally's always done a really good job of, is finding those groups and presenting the best possible asset or this really unique item that really evokes a response and an emotion from that group that we know is way bigger and way more impactful than just you and the four friends who you thought it was. You know what I mean?
Daniel Scrivner (00:24:57):
Yeah. It's fascinating. I love that parallel of thinking about Reddits and subreddits as almost like asset classes and sub-asset classes. And you're just now seeing, I don't know, it's the pyramid getting flipped upside down and we're just now seeing all these little niche groups and niche ways of investing just blow up.
Rob Petrozzo (00:25:11):
So true. So true. And you said it too. Their risk profile is so much different than mine was because they have all these opportunities. If you look through history, it's always been this, it's always been the early adopters who are the ones that are able to stake their claim, and they do it in a way where you have to move a little bit quicker now than they did 20 or 30 years ago, because again, the on-ramps exists. It's just in the '30s and '40s, stocks were considered too risky for pension plans, and then in the '60s, it was all bonds, and then they started to integrate stocks, but REITs were a little bit too risky.
Rob Petrozzo (00:25:40):
And then by 2001 REITs worm edit to the S&P and now they're a big part of that index. So it's the same idea that alternatives, which are a little bit of everything, whether it's baseball cards or crypto or dinosaur fossils or anything, or classic cars and all these different asset classes, the ability to access the information, find the group that really understands it and be able to communicate with it, and then the on-ramp to make that investment exists in a way that the risk profile has changed dramatically for the people who get it.
Daniel Scrivner (00:26:05):
And again, you made a super interesting point there of, there is a history, kind of a historical record of these things that were fringe alternatives becoming mainstream over time. And we're just now seeing a handful of those that right now, I think for some people they think they're mainstream or they know they're mainstream, I think for others, they think they're are fringe, and scary, and bubbly, and all these other things, and we're seeing a wave of those, which is interesting.
Rob Petrozzo (00:26:28):
Yeah, you should be scared. For what it's worth, you should be a little bit scared. You shouldn't go into anything and just dive all the way in, you should read every disclaimer, whether it was Rally or anywhere else, and you should really become a sophisticated investor, but to your point, the amount of information that's available now, just going on YouTube and looking up... we have a broad side of the Declaration of Independence coming up on Rally in May. And that's something that it's got the craziest amount of history behind it, but it's also something that there's only a handful that have ever come to market in any meaningful way where it was transacted in the open.
Rob Petrozzo (00:26:55):
But if you go to YouTube or you Google it, there's so much information about why it's meaningful, what it is, way more than we can pack into the app. And we're already starting to see that, people that had conversations and wants to know more about it, as soon as you put it in preview in the app, they're doing so much research and they're telling us stuff about it that we haven't released to the public yet. So it's always interesting to see how that dynamic changes when you trigger somebody's real imagination, and it's this young savvy investor who wants to learn more, they're going to be able to learn more really quickly.
Daniel Scrivner (00:27:22):
And it just kicks them off on this super interesting trajectory of learning about stuff that I'm sure otherwise they would have no interest in, no curiosity in knowing about.
Rob Petrozzo (00:27:30):
Daniel Scrivner (00:27:31):
So I want to now transition to talking more in-depth about Rally. And one thing that I wanted to start at which we talked about in the lead up to this interview is something to me that is fascinating, is people that are early in a space and what they see that brings them into that space. And the fact that they're there as this story really plays out in real time, I think there's just really interesting insights. And Rally makes a ton of sense in the world that we're at now, but it was founded in 2016, which feels like an eternity ago. And there was at least from my experience, my recollection, there was none of these kinds of positive tailwinds that we've really seen over the last five years, but really over the last 12 to 18 months.
Daniel Scrivner (00:28:11):
One question I wanted to start with is, what was the unique insight or unique perspective you had that made you so convicted that this was going to be a thing, and that it made sense to start Rally?
Rob Petrozzo (00:28:22):
I'll go all the back and I'll keep it brief, because it was a lot of highs and lows, and there were times where I was like, "There's no possible way this is going to work." When we talked about it in 2014, 2015, but at that point, when we started talking about this in a real way, myself, Chris, I went to high school with, and I've known forever, Max was his college roommate who was our CFO and our other co-founder, we've always talked for like a year, we were having a conversation about working together on something. At that point, Max was at Barclays doing private placement deals, similar to what we do now, but at a much bigger scale.
Rob Petrozzo (00:28:49):
Chris was an operator, one of the smartest kids I've ever met, he had come from venture and he'd worked at a bunch of different high growth companies, had run a couple of those companies as well, had an exit, somebody who really understood this space in terms of how to build a business. And then I was coming at it from a product perspective. I was at a company called KeyMe here in New York, building out their whole products. And then I was at a hedge fund in-between building out consumer software for these hedge fund managers at a company called Ares.
Daniel Scrivner (00:29:12):
Oh yeah, Ares is big deal.
Rob Petrozzo (00:29:13):
Yeah. At that point, they had just gone from being a $15 billion fund to having like 100 billion under management. The big takeaway for me from a product side there was that you had these super wealthy fund managers who have 20 people working for them, but they have all these legacy systems to work in. And they really wanted everything they were working to look and feel and act like the consumer apps that they knew best, not some enterprise app with just spreadsheets. So we'd all had our individual takeaways from the worlds in which we worked. But when we sat down, we started about finance first because we'd all had some degree of exposure to it.
Rob Petrozzo (00:29:45):
It was a zero-sum game, it was just make money by any means. And there's nuance to it there, and we always realized that if people want it to invest in the things they care about, it was super hard, and so then, because it was so hard, they walked away from it, they didn't even try. So this is now 2015, and Robinhood is really starting to become a thing. Crypto was on his first wave where things were starting to go crazy in the beginning, super early, but 2015 was also when you started seeing the headlines because you're making all-time highs, but you get a lot of volatility around it too, which tends to happen at the beginning of any of these markets.
Rob Petrozzo (00:30:14):
Messaging was also starting to take over, so what was once in-person and phone conversations is now flying all over the place and a million different inputs every day, whether it was Twitter or texting, which had really like iMessage becoming a more real thing over the course of that two-year period. This created that perfect storm. And I say this a lot, but I think 2015 was really one of the most important moments and the most important years for technology adoption of our generation because the walls of access started to fall in every imaginable way, finance was less.
Rob Petrozzo (00:30:44):
So what we started to see were the things we cared about and that we were sending each other in text messages and group chats, was these crazy auction results where you'd start to see like anti-car auctions in particular and some of the big headline news all over TV. There was this start of a willingness there to invest in new assets on new platforms like the Robinhood and Coinbase's, and you had these huge auction results for all these individual assets that were going to auction. There was no way for the group that cared most about those things to make an investment in them.
Rob Petrozzo (00:31:13):
So that was the big aha moment where we had a lot of ideas on cocktail napkins, literally, basically like coffee houses having a conversation, but we realized Max's experience dealing with this on the finance side, Chris's experience as an operator, and mine from a product perspective, if we put our heads together and found the right methods to bring this live and the right assets to start with, we can incorporate all those things into one bucket and turn an idea into something very, very meaningful, very quickly. And then the big defining characteristic that allowed us to do that was that the Jobs Act had created this world where not accredited investors could invest in the asset classes and the investment types that were deemed a little bit too risky for those people earlier.
Rob Petrozzo (00:31:53):
So you had the SEC, who's really making an attempt to close that wealth gap and platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, and some of the crowdfunding platforms were leveraging this new rule to allow for non-accredited investors to make investments. So we felt like we could probably do the same thing. We talked to our lawyers about it and it turned out that there was a possibility we could do that. That was heads down building for 18 months, basically.
Daniel Scrivner (00:32:13):
It's amazing that you cite the Jobs Act there because I feel like most of the time people talk about, anytime a startup founder talks about regulation, it's not like, "Here's this thing that enabled us to innovate and to disrupt it, bring something to market." It's fascinating.
Rob Petrozzo (00:32:25):
It's weird because everyone looks at financial regulations sometimes, I think, and this is where crypto in my mind got it wrong early on. There's a bunch of problems and a bunch of solutions. When you have a solution in place like we did early on, which was going through this regulated route and getting all these assets qualified by the SEC as true investments, we were doing that in the peak of the ICO boom, of that 2016 rug pull in crypto, where everybody was raising huge sums of non-dilutive capital. And they're doing that at rates that no one had ever seen before in a weeks, they were able to raise 30, 40, $50 million.
Rob Petrozzo (00:32:56):
And you have a bunch of people that we would talk to early on, the same way people ask us about NFTs now, they were saying, "Why aren't you just doing an ICO? Why don't you tokenize these things? Why don't you make a utility token as opposed to a security token?" We had a really unique structure in place with the way that we submit all of our assets to the SEC that that to us was really just the problem that we didn't have to solve for, we'd already solved for it. And we wanted to build trust, and we knew that if you go any route that wasn't going that regulated route, you're putting yourself in a position where you can't come back later on.
Rob Petrozzo (00:33:25):
For us as a new company, you have two things that you want to do. One, is proved that the assets are unique and investment worthy, but at the same time, you want to prove that Rally is the most trusted place to get those. And for us to make those two things work, it required us leveraging what already existed, but also working with the powers that would be to make sure we were doing it above board. And that actually was innovation for us more than anything else.
Daniel Scrivner (00:33:44):
I think that's super, super interesting. You talked about there, 2015, 2016, maybe that bleeds a little bit into 2017, I would love to talk about what you've seen over the last, say 12 to 18 months, because in my mind, 2020 and the first three months, we're three months in a few days into 2021, it's just been really transformative on a number of those spaces that we talked about. How has that impacted your business? How has that impacted interest in Rally thoughts?
Rob Petrozzo (00:34:11):
We're seeing a lot of the same challenges, the same wins and the same challenges that we have to overcome that we did even in 2017. Part of that is always around that imagination and getting people to understand what you're doing when you do it in a way that we do. We're not aggressively marketing any of these, we don't do something where we're calling people and tell them to invest in stuff. We just want to tell stories as best we can inside this app and let all of our investors make that decision for themselves, whether or not it's investment worthy, and whether or not they truly care about it, whether they want to put some money into it, or whether they just want to watch from the sidelines, which we're always okay with too because we're trying to really build this entire marketplace more than anything else.
Rob Petrozzo (00:34:47):
So for us, the biggest thing that we've seen is that willingness and that openness to try something new has changed dramatically over the last 18 months. Again, people always ask that question to us and they say, they'll ask in a way where they'll say, "You know, how has the pandemic affected your business?" And the answer that we give sometimes, I think, which is the more tangible answer is that our metrics all look better now than they did 18 months ago, but we were building towards that moment for the last six years." You know what I mean? So it's not something that we didn't prepare for.
Rob Petrozzo (00:35:14):
Obviously, nobody prepared for a pandemic, but our goal was always diversified, bring the best assets to market and for what it's worth, our secondary market, which all runs through registered broker dealers, we are the only platform out that had an active secondary market before the pandemic. And we were doing it in a way where it was always about bringing the best assets, the most quality museum quality assets to our investors, and doing that in a way that let make the decision. So I think the big difference from 18 months ago to now, the metrics and the growth aside, is that everybody's willingness to try something new.
Rob Petrozzo (00:35:45):
And again, that time is currency idea has really accelerated in a way that I think nobody could have ever predicted. So the ability to find what you want and that access lane is something that we created well before the pandemic. What happened is that that access lane, it got flooded with people who really saw what we were doing as value and found the assets that they're really passionate about on our platform, and were able to do much more of that research on their own before they got to us. So when they got to Rally, they were able to make a very informed decision quickly.
Daniel Scrivner (00:36:11):
Yeah. One thing I think would be interesting to explore just to help flesh this out for everybody listening, that gets it, at this point we've talked about, so these are physical assets, they have a lot of history, or they're unique, or they're extremely limited in nature. You then take those, turn them into equity, where you've got a number of shares of these, and people can then buy that on the platform and build a portfolio. But what I think would be really interesting is I love that line you just shared, these are museum quality assets, which is in my mind, super different and super interesting.
Daniel Scrivner (00:36:41):
Walk us through the process of you guys finding, or identifying, or buying a museum-quality asset all the way through the sale actually happening and people being able to purchase these. What does that look like? What does that journey look like?
Rob Petrozzo (00:36:55):
I'll start with 2017. When we first targeted the assets that we were looking for, so the name of the company was Rally Road, originally. I think everybody looked at that and thought, "Oh, it's about cars," because we launched with classic cars, but that was the secondary piece, we really looked at it as like another Wall Street. That was the idea. It's like a different Wall Street where you and your friends who really care about something or passionate, you show up somewhere and make that investment together. So for us, finding the things that people would really be interested in was always the most important part.
Rob Petrozzo (00:37:19):
We started with classic cars, it was something that was all over rallies television. It was something that if you talk to the Discovery Channels of the world and some of the people that we talked to early on, it's the fastest growing segment of reality television, it was something that everybody cared about. The Oxford results were printed everywhere, there were all these new records happening, but also it's like this big piece of metal, this 3,000 pound thing you have to store somewhere, and the insurance is expensive and you have to roll the tires, but you can't drive it. So that was a big challenge for us, and finding the best quality assets is going to be a challenge.
Rob Petrozzo (00:37:47):
So early on, we work with some of the smartest people in the space and wherever possible we bring them in-house, but we always have great advisors around us and people who've been working with the auction houses, and we've created this great global network that allows us to source the best possible assets, whether that's a purchase, a consignment, working with an auction house, we have our checklist that speaks to all the must haves. If it's a car, it's about the mileage, and the provenance, and the history, and what the rarity is, the serial numbers, making sure everything matches, but there's also these intangible aspects that go with that.
Rob Petrozzo (00:38:16):
And that's things like making sure that an asset is relevant right now, but will be relevant for the future. And that's a little bit of the secret sauce that we have at Rally is making sure that we're finding things that are truly significant now and will be in the future. So there might be times where there's what we think is a great asset and it meets all the marks, it checks all the boxes, but maybe it's already had its moment, and maybe it's something that Google Trends speaks to the fact, and the social listening speaks to the fact, that maybe it's best days are behind it. We try and avoid ever making that asset finds its way to Rally.
Rob Petrozzo (00:38:43):
When we find something that checks all the boxes, has that cultural-social relevance, and it's something that our investors care about, we know they truly will care about, we'll buy opportunistically when we can, and we always have a number in mind that our formula spits out and tells us what we should or shouldn't be spending on an individual asset. We also will work with best suppliers in the event that it's a consignment or it's a shared equity deal where sometimes someone might have a collector or an estate might have a great asset, they don't necessarily want to go to the auction houses and know how that process works, so they'll come to us and we'll make sure that people that really do care about that asset are the ones that are making the investment, which I think is very attractive to a lot of people.
Rob Petrozzo (00:39:17):
Or we'll do something where if there's an institution or a museum, for example, that might have a great asset that's not necessarily on display and maybe it's in the archives, but they want people to enjoy it and be a part of it, that's something that we'll put on the platform as well. So when we think about all those check marks, the social and cultural relevance and the things that our investors care about, I think we've gotten it right at a clip that I think many museums or auction houses can't because we're so in tune with what's happening in the space, but also with our users' wants and needs. So that's how that process works. And then once we have the asset, whether it's in a deal on consignment or it's owned or something, that's in our archives now, each asset becomes its own investment.
Rob Petrozzo (00:39:55):
We take that asset, we put together all the risk factors, the pricing dynamics, submit it to the SEC as an offering circular. Once approved, it goes live in the app as its own investment, it's got its own total value, its own share price and its own group of investors during that initial offering period, which you open up, kind of similar to an IPO, we open those up almost every day at this point. Once that offering is fully subscribed, those happen pretty quickly now, we'll maintain the asset, we'll store it., we insure it on behalf of those investors. Then 90 days later, we'll open up a bid-ask trading in the app or through registered broker dealers.
Rob Petrozzo (00:40:26):
So at any given time, there'll be assets trading, initial offerings happening, they'll be coming soon where you can go in and learn about it before making that investment, and all the activity around those assets that we're previewing at any time before they go live, create a lot of responses and conversation with our users all over Twitter and Instagram, we try and make sure that we're always listening to make sure that we can find the next thing that they really want as well.
Daniel Scrivner (00:40:46):
I want to ask one quick follow-up question, which is, I imagine there are potentially some users that are just interacting on the secondary market where they're just looking at what's available and buying. I don't even know is day trading a thing there? Is there are some holding period? But talk a little bit about the different dynamics and people that would invest just in those secondaries versus the primary?
Rob Petrozzo (00:41:04):
Yeah. We're always looking for best in class assets and we're always trying to find assets that are interesting and that are going to evoke emotion, but also make sure that people had the opportunity to invest in that initial offering or wait until something trades and see what the volume looks like and see what the price action looks like. So while we buy for the long term and we always invest our time and our effort into sourcing assets that we feel like have that long term potential, we don't necessarily dictate how an investor is going to move inside of our app. We want to create the opportunity for them to do what they feel is most appropriate for their risk tolerance, for their wallet, and for their future.
Rob Petrozzo (00:41:37):
So, a lot of what we'll see is that somebody might make an investment in an initial offering, and if it's their first investment, during the first trading period, they might put a couple of shares up to the asset just to see what happens. And end of day, the way it works is one clearing price where you're trying to bring the most buyers and sellers together at one price so that everybody can get involved, but they might pull that ask at the end, they might sell one or two shares, but keep a piece of it. They like to see how it works a little bit before making that second investment sometimes, and we want to afford the opportunity to do that.
Rob Petrozzo (00:42:06):
But I think what we've seen is that the assets that people really care about, they get a lot of volume, there's a lot of price action, there's a lot of momentum behind it, and it's not necessarily specific to any one asset or one asset class or one time period. You'll have somebody that comes in and maybe they made their first investment in a watch, but then our hone is waiting in their car during the secondary market, which has always been very active during the secondary market. And we publish the whole bit as table so you can see what the volume is, but that's when it gets really interesting for our user base where you'll have a watch that's only five or six years old, but has a lot of attention around it like a newer Rolex, and that's your first investment.
Rob Petrozzo (00:42:40):
Your second investment is of 100-year-old baseball card that you bought during that secondary market. Those all live as part of your portfolio, and that's the experience we've always tried to create so that everybody can diversify, but can make that decision whether or not they want to get involved in the primaries or the secondary market.
Daniel Scrivner (00:42:53):
One other question, just because I hadn't thought of this before, but it just popped into my mind. You're selling historic assets and just maybe a hypothetical, it might be better to frame it as hypothetical. So let's say, I know you mentioned a few times assets related to Michael Jordan. So let's say those are on the marketplace, you've got those trading, do you notice that whenever there's news about Michael Jordan or say, he was to pass away one day, do you see big spikes in prices based off recent events or based off stuff surging in popularity?
Rob Petrozzo (00:43:20):
We have a very responsible user base. So what we've seen is that definitely brings in a lot of attention, and our Pokémon set is a good example. So we have the first edition, 1999, first edition-based set with all the holograms, PSA 10, the best possible example. There's probably under 15 of those full sets in PSA 10 that are known to exist of which we have two of them. So when we did the first IPO of that set, it was $125,000 IPO. By chance, the week before we ran that initial offering, a record was set for the highest price ever paid for a Pokémon set. And it was slightly higher than ours.
Rob Petrozzo (00:43:56):
And our initial offering price was set at that point, so the range was set. We saw a ton of activity and a ton of people coming to that initial offering. Now it's in lock lockup period for 90 days after that initial offering is done, you have five or 600 investors in that asset. Right before the first trading period, there was another record that was set, and everything went to auction and we received the buyout offer for the entire asset as well. It was rejected by the shareholders, and now the asset, again, trades on volume that we hadn't seen to that point, and doubles in price in that first day.
Rob Petrozzo (00:44:23):
Again, it goes into lockup. The next time it opens similar situation, a buyout offer comes in, another huge auction result, and now Logan Paul's on YouTube talking about it. So now it becomes even that much more relevant. So I think a lot of what we've seen, price action is always, we want to let the market truly set the price. That's not something that we dictate once it's in the secondary market, but what we want to be able to do is create moments where things stay relevant. And again, it's not just relevant during the initial offering process, but something where we can see based on trends, based on what's happening in the marketplace, that there's going to be more activity and attention around it.
Rob Petrozzo (00:44:53):
For us, price transparency is always a big part of that, and really an efficient marketplace with true price dynamics is something that we feel like should set by the people who care about it and know it best. I think we're able to do that, and we don't necessarily leverage what's happening outside of Rally, but I think what's happening outside of Rally brings in a lot of new eyeballs and people who really understand this space, and that's been a really effective way to price those assets for us.
Daniel Scrivner (00:45:14):
Yeah, super interesting. And obviously, if you're holding that, I'm sure everyone's excited about it. Whenever there's a new story like that or a new high set, that obviously validates your investment and your purchase.
Rob Petrozzo (00:45:24):
Yeah. It's important. Again, everybody wants to say they were right, I get it. Everybody want to say they saw that band before it was big. Why not give them the opportunity to do that with everything? And that's always been part of our goal is to democratize that asset.
Daniel Scrivner (00:45:35):
I want to ask about one part of your business, and I guess it's two parts of your business that I think is fascinating, we talked a little bit about before this interview. And one of those are, you've got a retail store, which I think is fascinating, and I'd love to talk a little bit about that. And the second is you also have a warehouse, maybe it's better called archives, where you're storing all of this stuff, which is a fascinating part of your business model, which is very different than in NFTs or NBA Top Shot, or any of those. Talk a little bit about those two aspects of the business, and I guess any insights or anything that's interesting about them?
Rob Petrozzo (00:46:05):
Part of that, I'll be honest. When we were a little bit of a smaller company, one of my ideas was like, "We should do something around these assets, that was a great stories. I want to be able to tell them as best as we possibly can." So we took a little bit of a risk in opening a storefront in SoHo here in New York. We got access to a space that was right below our office. So the same landlord and a retail space that's one block South of Supreme and one block North of every cool restaurant in SoHo in the middle of Lafayette Street between Prince and Spring. It was like the last frontier of SoHo, there's a firehouse, there's a couple of restaurants, there's a parking lot, but it was the one area that wasn't heavily commercialized with retail.
Rob Petrozzo (00:46:40):
So for us, we were like, "This is a great spot, it's comfortable. We don't necessarily have to fend off a million tourists a day and have to staff it with 1,000 people. We could do something where we can ease into it and see if this works if people are interested in it." So we opened that first space, we called it a museum. So every quarter, and it's been closed with our appointment only for the last few months, we're getting ready to do a new relaunch and a bunch of other big stuff around it. But most of the 2019, all of 2020, for the most part up until the shutdown in March, April, it was a space that anybody off the street could come in.
Rob Petrozzo (00:47:11):
And you walk inside and you'll see, when you walk in now, it's a 1980s Aston Martin sitting in the middle on a gold platform. And then you have museum cases all around it, the Mickey Mantle rookie card, the first edition of Harry Potter, some really incredible assets that tell the story and reserve shares and make that investment on the spot through iPads that are set up around there as well. But we also have some people that know these assets that are from Raleigh that are down there that just ally to come in at your own speed, walk around and ask questions.
Rob Petrozzo (00:47:39):
We wanted to get people to say, "What is this?" Because you're in this space where it's this mix of tourists, the people that live in the neighborhood, people that grew up in SoHo that have this older generation that are just around the neighborhood, people who are just coming from other boroughs and doing some shopping. So what you get is this huge group of very diverse group of people who don't necessarily what Rally is, but know what these things are. So when they walk by and they see that there's this half a million dollar car sitting in the middle of the store, they inevitably walk in and just ask questions.
Rob Petrozzo (00:48:07):
And that to us has been a really important driver of the way that we build product, the way we think about our user base, the questions that we want to ask ourselves when we think about releasing new features and new product and new assets. And it's also driven a lot of conversation around our platform, which is always good too, to have all these things in one place where they come to life, where you know they're real, you can have the conversation with somebody who really knows it. And if you're interested, you can leave with the app and have a conversation with anybody in the store about how the whole process works, and then potentially make your first investment.
Rob Petrozzo (00:48:33):
So that's been a really important part of the way that we built this business and the way we built the tangible aspect of this business. Then the other side of that is that a lot of times we'll put the newest assets or the IPO's that are upcoming inside that museum space. But the next step for us is always about where do we store these, ways of maintaining them? So we have a purpose-built facility that we work with on the East Coast, where all this stuff lives. And it's concierge, and it's got obviously, full security, is basically like a vault. Doing something with a space, a bigger space that we have right now is what the goal has always been.
Rob Petrozzo (00:49:02):
And now when you go to our storage facility and you see how much incredible stuff we have down there now, it's a disservice. And I had that on display, some of that stuff on display somewhere. So we're thinking about what the future is as everything starts to reopen, a more investor-friendly spot where everyone can come and be around it and have conversations with people, really understand these assets the same way you do, and doing that with partners, doing it ourselves with new storefronts and new spaces, doing it with pop-ups is a big part of what the 2021 and 2022 roadmap look like.
Daniel Scrivner (00:49:29):
Yeah, it's kind of fantasy land, but I almost imagined like an ideal scenario would be, I bought this thing on the platform, now, I want to go look at it or go bring my friends and talk about it. I go into the store, type in some code or go to some special area and I can see that thing. But one other random thing is, as soon as you mentioned that warehouse, the image that comes to mind is the end of Indiana Jones, where that guy's pushing a cart, and it's just an endless warehouse filled with boxes and all sorts of crazy stuff.
Rob Petrozzo (00:49:57):
I wish I could say it's like that. It's a really unique space, but it's also something that we've put together so that we can do photo shoots and a bunch of other things that can best tell the story, but give us enough space, enough room to let these assets stress their elbows out a little bit and move around. But the next step for us is, we've always thought about it as exactly what you described, where I would love to have a space where you walk in and you take out the right book and it turns the whole shelf around, you walk into this hidden chamber, the idea of a clubhouse with these assets or with some of the things that are not yet on the platform and be able to create experience around those, has always been part of what we wanted to do.
Rob Petrozzo (00:50:31):
For us, 2020 was really going to be about building community and doing more of that. Obviously, the world decided that wasn't going to happen this past year, but I think as things start to reopen and we see so much more excitement around what we're doing as a business around the assets, the opportunity to do more things like that is going to happen very quickly for us, and we'll definitely be focusing on that going forward.
Daniel Scrivner (00:50:48):
Yeah. You can almost imagine some cool addition or tangential part of the business model where it's like, as long as you've bought a certain number of assets or a certain dollar value on the platform, you get access to something like the Rally House. And that's where you go and you can see all these things contained in different rooms, and it's part social club.
Rob Petrozzo (00:51:04):
Yeah. You're on our roadmap right now, I think. I think I might've accidentally sent you over the deck.
Daniel Scrivner (00:51:07):
I want to ask two closing questions about Rally. And the first is, I want to ask what about building a marketplace because that's what you've been doing and any insights learned there, but the first question I want to ask is, another way to think about what you've been building is that you're building a modern Christie's or Sotheby's, thoughts on that? Clearly, you've really emphasized trust, you've really tried to get these assets that people cannot get any other place. You've got a ton of trust and credibility that you're actually buying this thing. I guess, other thoughts about what it's been like building a new version of Christie's or Sotheby's, or thoughts around that space.
Rob Petrozzo (00:51:42):
I'll start with the latter and saying that, I'll give Christie's and I think Goldin Auctions are some of the big names in the space right now, I have to give them all credit because I think there was a time where it could have just gone by the wayside. People could have said, it's staunchy-older thing, and it's for the super wealthy. I think that a lot of them have made a strong effort, especially over the last 12 months to create a place where somebody who might only have a couple thousand bucks to invest in something, to make that first collectible purchase has the opportunity to do that. I think that's good for the space as a whole. So I got to give them credit for that too.
Rob Petrozzo (00:52:13):
And you start to see that Goldin Auctions having a top shot as part of an auction, or Christie's doing crypto punks and doing NFTs as a front page bucket.
Daniel Scrivner (00:52:20):
Kind of crazy to see.
Rob Petrozzo (00:52:21):
It's insane, it's nuts. And that would have never happened 10 years ago, they would've never made that jump so quickly 10 years ago, but it's great to see all these auction houses understand that a 25 or 30-year-old, a 35-year-old understands this space, and maybe they have a little disposable income, or maybe they're doing it with a syndicate and a couple of friends together and inviting that and allowing that to happen, it's a really interesting part what's happening with the auction houses. So for us, we've always looked at this as, it's almost like contemporary, or it's almost it works hand in hand with all the other platforms that exist, and whether it's an eBay, or it's a Christie's, or it's a Goldin, or it's Rally, to us, that makes up this landscape of optionality for an investor, for a user, for somebody who just wants to test the waters a little bit to buy or sell, you have a few different options.
Rob Petrozzo (00:53:01):
And each one provides its own advantage to the other. And I think that what we've done, and the biggest thing for us has always been democratizing access. And I think we do that better than an eBay because eBay might be a situation where it's easy to sell under 100, under $200 item, but once you pass that certain threshold, it gets a little bit tougher for a seller. And then for a big auction house for a buyer, there might not be the things that you really want to get your hands on because of price. So it might be a situation where the million dollar item that you really want is the one that's going to be the headline for a big auction house, but not one that you can get involved in.
Rob Petrozzo (00:53:33):
So we live in that middle ground that allows everybody who understands the assets might have a PSA, one version of a card. If you want the PSA 10 version on Rally, you can do that without spending an arm and a leg and have true equity involvement. That's the lane that we've always thought about and that we want to live in from a marketplace standpoint.
Daniel Scrivner (00:53:50):
I have to stop and just ask a new question. What is a PSA 10?
Rob Petrozzo (00:53:56):
I should have described this, I should explain this better. The grading system for cars and for ticket stubs and some of the items from the past or from the present, sports collectors in particular you want to get their hands on, PSA is one of the grading companies that now it's a big part of Collectors Universe, which everybody might've seen in the news, got taken private by a group led by Nat Turner and a bunch of collectors. But it's a grading company that puts a one through 10 grade on an individual asset, in this case, a baseball card or basketball card most times. And that represents the quality score that's looked at least in the sports card industry as the standard, right now is a PSA grade.
Rob Petrozzo (00:54:30):
So they put it in a plastic Lucite slab, and it has all the specifics around the card, its catalog, so you can look up that number, see what the sales history looks like and gives you the ability to sell it on the secondary market in most cases because it's guaranteed authentic, and it's got as grade that goes along with the asset. But in a situation like Michael Jordan's rookie card, there's only 300 PSA 10's on earth. So the logic behind a lot of the price action that you've seen there in the beginning of the pandemic, you're talking about a $35,000 card, $30,000 card, now, most recent sale, over 500,000, it peaked at around $780,000. So there's only 300 of those that exist.
Rob Petrozzo (00:55:08):
So you have that scarcity value, you have somebody who's super important to an entire generation and somebody who is legendary in their sport, and who's broken every single record basically. And the fact that it's a PSA 10 version of that card, it makes it the most valuable. That's the long and short of what PSA means. But this last situation we see on Rally where somebody might have a PSA three or PSA four version of that card, and you're talking about like 1,000 bucks, let's say for one of those, but you come to Rally, you can get that best quality example. You can get the box that it came from, where there might be three or four of those inside of it.
Rob Petrozzo (00:55:38):
That's what we want to provide so you can have that tangible piece, the one that you care about, and it's the PSA two or three, but if you want the best quality version, we might have it on Rally and you can get involved at a very affordable, approachable price point.
Daniel Scrivner (00:55:48):
yeah. It's like the most premium exclusive version of the asset, is what you're going to find in Rally.
Rob Petrozzo (00:55:53):
That's what we're trying to do, but to your point too, the reason that it's taken so long, I think for us at the beginning to build this out is that we kicked the door down to democratize all those assets, which to a lot of people, it made very little sense early on that there would be a million dollar car that was available to them, or there would be the best quality example of something available to them, or a Declaration of Independence available to somebody who only learned about that in seventh grade history class, but now it's like, "Why would you have that? How is that even possible? This has to be a scam, it has to be fake. There's no way." So for us to get people to wrap their head around that was around building this marketplace, and this is something for every marketplace.
Rob Petrozzo (00:56:28):
And I think that the Coinbase IPO is a good example, everyone looks at that as this overnight thing, but you're talking about decades of work and a 13 year, 14-year-old company to get to a point now, they had to go through so many boom and bust cycles and crypto, and so much of that skepticism early on to get to where they are. But I think they built in a similar way how we're building now, where we sat down, Max, Chris and I early on knowing that this wasn't the overnight thing, that we were building for the long term, and not building something short term. I think that's something that a lot of entrepreneurs have to be very deliberate about early on.
Rob Petrozzo (00:56:59):
And I'm lucky and I'm happy that we did that early on when we knew this wasn't going to be something that was... It wasn't a quick flip, we were never building it like that. Just like we look at our investments now, we don't look at them as quick flips. We want to get people involved and think about it for the long term. And that was the platform that we were building.
Daniel Scrivner (00:57:11):
Yeah. I just have to stop there and emphasize that even more because I've done a lot of early stage investing, and it is extremely rare to find people building companies at the earliest stages that are taking that truly long-term approach. And just as you've described it, and as I've gotten to learn more about Rally, it seems you have truly from day one really taken that approach. And I'm guessing maybe part of that is that this is just something you're all incredibly passionate about. Clearly, this is something you're very, very passionate about. Was there anything else driving that perspective because it is not common, and kudos to you guys for doing that from day one.
Rob Petrozzo (00:57:46):
I appreciate that. Honestly, and this is part of the conversation about why we never went the ICO route and never tried to jump into crypto head first, it was that we were trying to build something very intentional, and it wasn't a cash grab. And it was something that we told a lot of people early on. We talked to a million investors in the beginning, and all their questions at that point, a lot of them were about the total addressable market. And the idea that like, "Can it really be big? How could it be that big?" And we would try to explain that, "You have to trust us as people who live this." And our origin story of this company is not a PR thing, it's something that really happened.
Rob Petrozzo (00:58:16):
Chris had the opportunity to either buy this awesome Porsche that he really wanted, this vintage Porsche, and it didn't cost a ton of money, but it was also could be a down payment on a house. And that's the American dream type thing. So he talked to his parents and they were like, "You'd be stupid to buy the car, buy the house." So he bought the house. He's flat on paper on the house up a little bit now probably, and the Porsche was 10X. And he saw that coming from around the Terran. And I was the same way with a bunch of things that I really cared about. Max is the same way about some of the things he cared about.
Rob Petrozzo (00:58:43):
So for us to hear no, when we were trying to raise money early on 1,000 times and be deliberate, intentional about what we were building, knowing that we see around that corner, we know how important these things are to us, we know how important they're going to be to the next generations, there's just no way to trade in and out of it right now, if we keep building that, the marketplace will follow us. And as crypto gets adopted more, and as equities and options trade becomes more of a thing for a younger generation, they really get it, they'll gravitate towards this. Don't worry about the total addressable market right now, because it hadn't even been created yet, we're going to create that.
Rob Petrozzo (00:59:14):
That was the big driving force is being intentional about building for the long term. To speak from an equity perspective, knowing that it wasn't going to be something that was like excitable in a year, it wasn't going to be what Clubhouse is now, it was going to be something that just hit immediately, we're going to have to build to a point that we create, not just the trust in the asset classes, but then the trust and Rally as a business. So being intentional early on. There's nothing wrong with cash grabs, if that's a business you want to build, there's a million ways to do that. You could buy an existing Amazon store or flip a domain name or something like that, I don't know, but that's not what we were building. We were trying to build something for the long term.
Daniel Scrivner (00:59:45):
One question I just want to come back to is around marketplaces, and I think the question I want to ask there is, so you have now been doing this for five plus years of building out a marketplace, and when you go and listen to interviews with people that are experts on marketplaces, or the CEOs of companies that are building out marketplaces, two things become really apparent. One, they're super valuable once you build them out because they're defensible from a bunch of different sides. But two, what that inherently means is anything that's valuable, it's also really difficult to build.
Daniel Scrivner (01:00:14):
And so one thing I wanted to ask is, any insights or ahas as you guys have been building the marketplace that is Rally and/or, and you can answer either of these or both of them, advice for people that are going out to build a marketplace? And maybe that could be cautionary tales, maybe that's just like, "Hey, know what you're getting into." But any thoughts there?
Rob Petrozzo (01:00:32):
Our marketplace is not that different than others in one respect, and that everybody's out to do, it's human nature, we do it, others do it, you over-index the highs and the lows. I think when it comes to not just traction but transactions, and when you see there's going to be awesome weeks, and there's going to be weeks that are not that great. For us, we always want to make that series of higher lows as we go up into the right, and if we're in a situation that we feel like something's wrong, we have to change it, we want to be able to move quickly, but you want to have the entire team, and you want to have the mentality that you don't over index or under index what you're saying.
Rob Petrozzo (01:01:04):
You don't want to be in a situation that a bad week triggered by macro, things that are out of your control is something that makes you blow up a roadmap or blow up a conversation, and so I think everything from the ground up. That's really always been the toughest part. And that's something that, again, it's human nature and I've had to get over it, and I think a lot of people early on in our company had to get over it. A bad week doesn't mean the product's dead, it doesn't it doesn't mean the marketplace is dead, it doesn't mean everybody left your busy restaurant and is never coming back.
Rob Petrozzo (01:01:28):
It means that there's some probably things you have to change and things you have to fix, but being able to keep an even keel and know you're building for the long term, as opposed to seeing the shiny object that everybody loves right now, which might be specific types of entities, or it might be one specific asset class, and jumping to that to change your entire business is something that kills marketplaces. And that's something that we've been very deliberate about staying away from.
Daniel Scrivner (01:01:49):
And that's great advice for any entrepreneur. That's something I learned at Square in the early days is, from the outside looking in a lot of times, people just think it's that historic or iconic, liteRally, it's flat and it just goes directly up into the right. And that is not at all what it's like, there are huge highs, huge lows, and building a company is really this series of challenging endeavors that hopefully each you're getting to another peak on the mountain, but there's a lot of room to be traveled and the lows that you've got to through between those.
Rob Petrozzo (01:02:17):
It's tough because people make decisions for the present, that's just human nature. It's the reason you'll put your future self-in debt to get a watch right now, but to pay $100 a month forever. It's a weird thing where you're thinking about right now, and that makes it really, really hard to make good decisions sometimes. So to do it deliberately, especially if you're doing something brand new and kicking a door down and starting a brand new industry, or going with a new asset class, or a brand new marketplace, that early traction is something to hang onto and something to really hold on to when you see people that really care about your asset, or care about what you're building.
Rob Petrozzo (01:02:46):
And that's what to lean on during the bad times. We do that now, the first person that spent $1,000 in our app is a situation, I remember like it was yesterday because it was still so shocking in 2016 that somebody would... That's what I lean on now, like, listen, we were able to go from zero to one. That's almost more important than going from one to 100, because along the way, you'll see so many highs and lows, so to lean on the things you're doing right is the most important thing that we've been able to do at Rally.
Daniel Scrivner (01:03:08):
Okay. I want to ask a couple of closing questions as we wrap things up, and this one's totally just for you, but knowing that you've not only built Rally, you've seen a ton of these just super fascinating, interesting, iconic things transact on the platform, but you're also collect to yourself, what are a few of the things that are just super near and dear to your heart that you've collected?
Rob Petrozzo (01:03:28):
I try and divest from anything that's on Rally directly, so I don't have any of the stuff that's on the platform, but the stuff that I've always cared about with things from like the mid-90s, I think, which is like the coming of age moment for me, that was a few specific things. One, I was obviously into music, and music was a big part of my life, but Nirvana was this huge thing for me, so I have a ton of Nirvana stuff, and that was something that... I was too young, I was like 10, 11 years old when Nirvana was really the biggest thing on earth, but in my mind I was like, "My first concert is going to be a Nirvana concert." So I have a bunch of tickets from the last run of Nirvana shows.
Rob Petrozzo (01:04:01):
I have the last ticket for the last US-based show that was never used, it was a radio station giveaway. So I have a pack that it came in where the person who won never came to pick it up and it's in like this K-rock envelope, and it's a whole thing. That's a really interesting thing that I've always held on to that I've never gotten graded or gotten authenticated, just hold on to it. It's in a frame somewhere. That was one. I have a bunch of those Nirvana tickets, it's a really important thing for me. And then I was really, again, and some that makes me feel really good like a good moment for when I was younger, is Maurice Sendak, who was the author of Where the Wild Things Are.
Rob Petrozzo (01:04:30):
I have a bunch of his original sketches, it was the first thing when I first made a little bit of money, when I first started working and had a little bit of money tucked away, I went to a gallery here in New York which no longer exists called AFA. And they had just started putting up a bunch of his stuff, and it was original sketches, and some of the original pages from the book. So I have one of the intro pages from Where the Wild Things Are, the original sketch signed by him that I have tucked away somewhere too. So those are the things that just make me really happy as a designer, as someone who thought was going to be an artist, that's something to hold onto.
Rob Petrozzo (01:04:57):
And then the whole '90s, Grunge Run was something that was near and dear to my heart that I wanted to get as much of that Nirvana stuff as possible. Those are two that are really interesting
Daniel Scrivner (01:05:06):
The Maurice Sendak, I would not have guessed that, but also that to me seems like it's right in the bullseye of what you're trying to do on Rally, which is super scarce. Everyone knows that name, I'm sure almost everyone listening immediately clicks, and super iconic book. What a cool thing to find it?
Rob Petrozzo (01:05:22):
You know what it is? It's one of those things where it's like everybody, I don't know how much those things are worth right now because I've never looked at price. There are things that I have where I look at them and I'm like, "I should probably part with this, it has gotten to a point where it's made a lot of money on paper, it's something I have tucked away somewhere, I don't really look at it." Those are the things that I keep separate. I think that Darren Rovell, who's somebody who's a friend and a really important part of what we've built in terms of keeping me grounded and telling, "Hey, have you seen this, look at this." Prolific collector in his own right too.
Rob Petrozzo (01:05:48):
He says something all the time that's true, if you're not willing to sell something that you have like a collectable or some asset or an item at the price it's at right now, that means you're willing to buy it at the price that it exists at right now. So when you've made 10, 20, $30,000 on paper on something that sounds crazy to some people, if you don't sell it, their prices are irrelevant because that means that no matter how much it costs, you want to hold onto it. And I have so much stuff like that I keep separate from everything else.
Daniel Scrivner (01:06:13):
That's such a good inversion of that idea. I think that's a really interesting investing principle as well too.
Rob Petrozzo (01:06:18):
Daniel Scrivner (01:06:19):
The closing question we ask every guest, and you've already shared a ton of interesting stories is to share either a person or an experience that's had a profound impact on them. I'm sure you've had a ton, and you've already shared a few with us, but when I ask that question, does anyone come to mind? And can you share to someone or something that's had a profound impact on you?
Rob Petrozzo (01:06:36):
Yeah. Obviously the people that are close to me. The one thing I think about all the time is something my dad told me a while ago, as a designer and a creative, I think a lot of my moods are dictated by how creative and how good I think I am at what I'm doing in the moment. So you have these wild swings and thank God, my girlfriend is able to deal with that and calm me down in most situations, but he told me something a long time. This is like 15 years ago, we were working together on something, and he was like, I think I flew off the handle on something, and he was like, "No matter whether you're right or wrong, if you're an asshole, you're wrong."
Rob Petrozzo (01:07:08):
That was always the thing, no matter what it is. And that was something that I try and remember when I'm about to get mad about something because no matter how right you are, if you present it the wrong way, it really is, everything is sales. So whether you try to sell something to a stranger or you just try to sell an idea to somebody who you trusts and who you know best, if you turn into an argument and you turn into that person, you're wrong, it's already too late, you've already lost the argument, and it's over. So that's why I try and keep. The other was my AP Art professor in high school. And AP Art was a joke, back then there was three of us in that class and they made the curriculum for us.
Rob Petrozzo (01:07:41):
And he passed away maybe like six, seven years ago, but they [inaudible 01:07:44] and we're sitting in the classroom one day and everyone was gone and it's me and him, and I'm just like sketching something. And I was going to run, two of my friends came in like, "Yo, let's go." I forgot where they were going to... They were going to Burger King or something like that. They were like, "Let's get out of here." And I looked at him and he looked at me, and I knew he was like, "I'm not supposed to leave, I got to finish this, and I should stay here doing what I wanted to do and not run with them." And so I was like, "No, I'm going to hang out here."
Rob Petrozzo (01:08:04):
So they left and he was like, "You don't always have to do what everybody else is doing." He's like, "Just do what you want to do. Don't worry about it." And that was something that it's so obvious now, but back then, when you're like 16, 17 years old-
Daniel Scrivner (01:08:17):
Rob Petrozzo (01:08:18):
It's impossible, yeah. It's like, everyone you know is about to go and do the most fun, possible thing, but you don't leave one party to go to a better party. I'm at a good party already, I should stay here and do what I love doing and what I enjoy doing. That was something that stuck with me for a long time too and still has.
Daniel Scrivner (01:08:32):
Yeah. It's like you live in a constant state of FOMO.
Rob Petrozzo (01:08:35):
Yeah. But it's hard now, we're so inundated by information and by these things that are triggering every receptor, that's something that that exact quote, a friend of mine named Marco, who was just like, "Dude, you don't leave a good party to go to a better party while you're here. Where are you going to go? What are you going to do right now? There's nothing you want to be doing right now." Trying to finish one thing to go rush and do the other is something that's perpetually I've been working on forever, but it's something I try and think about a lot from that moment when I was 17.
Daniel Scrivner (01:09:00):
Those are great. Thank you so much for sharing those. So just to close out, for anyone that's interested that wants to learn more about Rally or that wants to follow you, where can they do that? Where can they find you? Where can they find Rally?
Rob Petrozzo (01:09:11):
Rallyrd.com, Rallyroad.com will take you to everything you need to know about Rally, we're Rally, R-A-L-L-Y in Instagram, we're @onRallyrd on Twitter. And then I'm Rob Petrozzo on every platform. But my DMs are always open, my emails are open. Any ideas, concepts, things you want to sell us, or things you want to hear about, or things you want to learn more about, we're always all available and we want to hear more about what everybody's working on, especially in this space.
Daniel Scrivner (01:09:33):
If anyone finds a triceratops skull, maybe a meteoroid, that sort of thing.
Rob Petrozzo (01:09:38):
If you're in your backyard digging and you find a T-Rex, let me know. I will show up there quickly, anywhere in the tri-state area, I'll be there within an hour and a half.
Daniel Scrivner (01:09:46):
Well, thank you so much. This has been so much fun. I think what you're building is incredible. The story of it is incredible. The fact you're five years in and you've truly built for the long term from day one is incredible. So thank you so much for coming on, Rob. This has been great.
Rob Petrozzo (01:09:56):
I sincerely appreciate it, man. Thank you so much.
On Outliers, Daniel Scrivner explores the tactics, routines, and habits of world-class performers working at the edge—in business, investing, entertainment, and more. In each episode, he decodes what they've mastered and what they've learned along the way. Start learning from the world’s best today. Explore all episodes of Outliers, be the first to hear about new episodes, and subscribe on your favorite podcast platform.
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