We have all been bombarded with ads promising the one secret to wealth beyond our wildest dreams.
Once again, targeted through algorithms, personal information, and cookies that leave us vulnerable to scam artists and con men.
That’s what surprised me about Charles Schwartz. His clients refer to him as ‘The Millionaire Maker’. You see, Charles has never run a Facebook ad promoting what he does. For someone who has been retiring entrepreneurs for over 15 years, you’d be stunned to learn that he did not even have an Instagram account until 2020. When he joined social media, he gained 100k followers and did a 6-figure launch in a weekend.
In a saturated market, it is refreshing, all bit perplexing, that Charles avoids the limelight. From time to time, he pops his head up to lecture at Ivy league schools like Yale, train our United States Coast Guard on human behavior, and speak at think tanks for Fortune 500 companies. If you can catch him, hold on tight. He adores human behavior, systems, and leveraging something he coined ‘persona shifting’. Speaking to his former clients, they shared how without his persona shifting, the seemingly endless income stream would never be possible. Most of his past clients I spoke to, quickly acknowledged the generational wealth he creates, yet they all wanted to talk about something else. Some spoke of how Charles saved their marriage, helped them reconnect with their kids, and others walked back from the brink of suicide. It seems that there is more to this ‘Millionaire Maker’ than just the bottom line.
On this evening, he was speaking with a group of successful entrepreneurs on stage about scaling companies. Most were speaking the normal regurgitated sales pitch, but Charles wasn’t. Instead, he started exploring the issues of those who raised their hands to ask questions. He would speak about scaling, systems, branding cycles, and K.L.T. Most of us had never even heard of K.L.T. (Know, Like, and Trust) prior to this evening. His authenticity was infectious, and his energy was relentless. There was something strange watching him speak on stage. As people spoke, he seemed to know what they were going to say before they said it. He could identify exactly what the hurdle was, and then gave them concrete steps on how to fix it—all in a matter of minutes from meeting them. It ‘broke some domes’ as he likes to put it. One audience member was having a hard time understanding, so Charles asked if he minded coming up and trying something.
It is difficult to explain what happened next. Charles started identifying which ‘version’ of this audience member was showing up. He explained that we all have versions of ourselves; from the one who does not think they are enough, to the unstoppable force. He explained that if we give all the resources to the first version, nothing gets accomplished. But, if we can master being the ‘ideal’ version, everything becomes easy.
He then spent no more than three minutes on stage with the audience member, and POOF! Clarity, direction, and a step-by-step plan came flying out of this audience member’s mouth. It was like Charles had unlocked this super power that was within him. I looked to my right, and the lady next to me was feverishly journaling while repeating, “it all makes sense now.” Charles went on to pivot people and break down plans to scale their companies within minutes. People he had never spoken to before, and industries he had no experience in.
He kept saying, “Humans are predictable, leverage that. When you unlock their truth, you can scale anything.”
To my surprise Charles is a Wall Street Journal Best Selling Author, but what he did next made my jaw drop. An audience member asked where he could pick up a copy of the book. Charles quickly responded, “Please don’t buy it, that is what Instagram is for. Send me a direct message and my team will send you a digital copy.”
So, we all whipped out our phones, and sent his account (iamCharlesSchwartz) a DM saying FREEBOOK.
Within 24 hours, there it was, but something was off. There was no upsell. No ‘pay for shipping’, no attempt to purchase anything. Just a wall of authenticity and a free digital copy of the book.
For the rest of the evening, we mingled and I watched another strange phenomenon. People walked up to Charles, talk for a few minutes, and then quickly either sat down to take notes, or called their business partners explaining how everything just changed. On my way to talk to Charles, I passed a group of guys he had just spoke to, saying to each other, “Dude! This is going to make millions.” Yet you would never know it by looking at Charles. Casual clothes, scruff, and always holding a water bottle. He was as quick to share a hug as he was to share advice. I won’t tell you what we spoke about, but what I will say is I am pretty sure, ‘the Millionaire Maker’ has struck again.
Amid the AI hype, don’t forget about no-code
No-code startup Softr, which allows its customers to build apps from their existing data, announced Tuesday that it has added Google Sheets to its integration list.
Previously, Softr focused on Airtable databases. Its move to support data from Google’s spreadsheet product likely expands its potential customer pool. Even before that expansion, CEO Mariam Hakobyan told TechCrunch+ that her company grew its annual recurring revenue 3x from December 2021 to December 2022.
Softr’s quick revenue expansion is a good reminder that while the tech world seems completely consumed by all things AI, there’s quite a lot of work going on in other areas that are worth keeping an eye on.
That said, there is an interesting connection between AI and no-code worth writing down: Both are potentially great expanders of human capability. AI tooling could operate as a second brain of sorts for the digitally busy, and no-code services may allow nondevelopers to build the tools they need to complete their work. In both cases, the genres of new tech development have a shot at helping regular folks do a lot more, more quickly and often at a low cost.
Something else that modern AI tooling and no-code share is accessibility. Softr, for example, grew its base of signed-up users from 35,000 to 150,000 in 2022. That’s really quite a lot for a service that was, until recently, Airtable-specific. On the AI side, I don’t need to reiterate just how much market demand there is for modern LLM tooling.
Let’s dig into Softr’s progress since we last covered the company and chat about what we can learn about no-code progress as a method of building more accessible software.
Softr, no-code and empowering the regulars
Ask anyone who works at a company that builds software and isn’t part of the engineering or product orgs how long it will take them to get something built for their own needs. Without even making Jira ticket jokes, we all know what the answer will be. And to a degree, the standard situation makes sense: What nondeveloper employees need is often pretty basic software, and expensive engineers need to focus on the company’s core offering not internal tooling.
Twitter’s legacy blue checkmark era is officially over
Twitter appears to have officially killed off its legacy blue checkmarks, one of the last remaining vestiges of the pre-Elon Musk owner era.
The legacy blue checks, which Twitter doled out to journalists, celebrities and other public officials for free to help curb impersonations and spam, were supposed to end April 1.
Musk took to Twitter on April 11 — days after the legacy checkmarks should have disappeared — to shift the end date to April 20 or 4/20. Yes, that’s the day when folks honor weed because Twitter is now owned by a middle schooler.
With the legacy checkmarks gone, Twitter will have verification marks only for paid users and businesses as well as government entities and officials. Now, if a user sees a blue checkmark and clicks on it, the label reads: “This account is verified because they are subscribed to Twitter Blue and verified their phone number.”
Autotech Ventures’ new $230M mobility fund adds fintech, circular economy to its investment strategy
Autotech Ventures will use its newly closed $230 million fund to expand beyond its foundation of early-stage ground transportation startups and invest in what the firm believes are the next big opportunities in automotive and mobility.
Fintech, logistics, supply chain and the circular economy are at the top of the list.
The $230 million fund, its third since launching in 2017, will be used to invest in seed through Series C mobility-related startups, according to the company. A mixture of financial and corporate LPs, including Allison Transmission, American Axle, Iochpe-Maxion and Shell participated in the fund.
“We’re still a ground transportation-focused firm and we have a very similar strategy [with this fund],” Alexei Andreev, Autotech Ventures managing director told TechCrunch. “On a high-level, it’s same as Fund 1 and Fund 2. However, one of the fastest areas of growth is SaaS-enabled fintech. Auto commerce is inefficient and there are large pockets of profit to capture.”
The firm is particularly interested in transportation-related fintech ventures that are poised to grow during a recession.
“We made a prediction that sooner or later there will be a recession and we identified areas that benefit when the economy softens, Andreev said, noting that this latest fund invested in Yendo, a Dallas-based startup (formerly known as Otto) that lets customers borrow against their vehicles at the same interest rate as standard credit cards.
Autotech Ventures’ previous fintech investments include U.K.-based buy now, pay later startup Bumper and Carpay, a buy here, pay here loan servicing SaaS platform for car dealers.
Andreev said the firm is also investigating investment opportunities in the circular economy, a nascent industry focused on finding ways to reuse materials and products. Circular economy startups have garnered an increasing amount of attention and investment as automakers transition away from gas-powered vehicles and towards EVs.
Autotech Ventures is also cautiously wading into generative AI, although Andreev was quick to note that the company has not made any investments in that area.
Autotech has more than $500 million under management and has invested in more than 40 companies.
Some of the firm’s investments include computer vision startup DeepScale (which was acquired by Tesla), Lyft, used vehicle marketplace operator Frontier Car Group, Drover, Outdoorsy, Swvl, parking app SpotHero and Xnor.ai, which Apple acquired in January 2020. Five of those startups have gone public, including indie Semiconductor and Volta Charging.
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