Turning Childhood Dream Into Billion-Dollar Reality With Tomer London

Tomer London is the Chief Product Officer and Co-founder of Gusto, a comprehensive platform offering payroll, benefits, and human resource management for small to medium-sized businesses. By the age of 12, he had taught himself programming and created an inventory management system for his father’s small clothing business, marking the beginning of his journey in software development. With an electrical engineering background from Stanford University, Tomer channeled his passion for technology into founding several successful ventures. He went on to co-found Gusto, which has grown into a multibillion-dollar enterprise that is changing the way businesses care for their teams.

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Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Hear:

  • [05:21] Tomer London reflects on how childhood experiences inspired his small business software solutions
  • [06:59] The “Writing Whiz” project hints at Tomer’s entrepreneurial journey
  • [09:43] Tomer transforms military rejection into motivation for resilience and work ethic
  • [18:18] Gusto’s inception focused on solving payroll service pain points
  • [22:10] Tomer and co-founders confidently challenge multibillion-dollar giants
  • [26:03] Inside Y Combinator: the intense experience that propelled Gusto
  • [33:00] Tomer navigates Gusto’s growth and his evolving leadership role
  • [36:51] Gusto’s shoeless office culture underscores core company values

In this episode…

From a young age, a boy’s entrepreneurial spirit emerged as he used computers to solve real-world problems in his father’s clothing store. His journey wasn’t smooth; facing rejection and challenges, he crafted his path through technology and innovation. Could these early experiences have paved the way for a revolutionary business idea?

Tomer London, CPO at Gusto, transformed these formative experiences into a thriving enterprise. His journey from a curious child in Haifa, Israel, to a tech entrepreneur in Silicon Valley is a testament to the power of resilience and innovation. At Gusto, Tomer and his team tackled the complex world of payroll and benefits, driven by a mission to simplify and humanize the process for small businesses. By focusing on customer pain points and leveraging technology, they reshaped how small businesses operate and manage their teams.

Tune in to this episode of the Smart Business Revolution Podcast as John Corcoran interviews Tomer London, the Co-founder of Gusto, about the origins and evolution of Gusto. They explore how Tomer’s early experiences with technology and entrepreneurship shaped his approach to business, leading to the creation of a company that profoundly impacts the small-business ecosystem.

Resources Mentioned In This Episode

Related episode(s):

Quotable Moments:

  • “Computers are good at remembering things. That’s where my journey in helping people with technology began.”
  • “Small businesses don’t have many tools to make themselves special. That’s where we saw our opportunity.”
  • “Rejection is a part of the journey. It builds resilience, especially for an entrepreneur.”
  • “Having no fear of big incumbents enabled us to focus purely on solving customer pain points with Gusto.”
  • “Being grounded in core values has been the key to Gusto’s evolution as a leading tech company.”

Sponsor: Rise25

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Cofounders Dr. Jeremy Weisz and John Corcoran credit podcasting as being the best thing they have ever done for their businesses. Podcasting connected them with the founders/CEOs of P90xAtariEinstein BagelsMattelRx BarsYPO, EO, Lending Tree, Freshdesk,  and many more.  

The relationships you form through podcasting run deep. Jeremy and John became business partners through podcasting. They have even gone on family vacations and attended weddings of guests who have been on the podcast.

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Rise25 Cofounders, Dr. Jeremy Weisz and John Corcoran, have been podcasting and advising about podcasting since 2008.

Episode Transcript

John Corcoran 0:00

All right, today we’re talking about building a world class culture. My guest today is Tomer London. He’s the Co-founder of the multibillion dollar Gusto and I’ll tell you more about him in a second. So stay tuned.

Chad Franzen 0:12

Welcome to the Smart Business Revolution Podcast where we feature top entrepreneurs, business leaders and thought leaders and ask them how they built key relationships to get where they are today. Now, let’s get started with the show.

John Corcoran 0:29

Alright, welcome everyone. John Corcoran. Here I am the host of the show. And you know, every week I feel so privileged to get to talk to interesting CEOs, founders, co-founders, entrepreneurs from all kinds of different companies. We’ve had Kinkos, YPO, EO Activision Blizzard, lending tree, and many more. And if you like this episode, if you’d like me talking to interesting co-founders of large tech companies, check out my episode with Mark Randolph, Co-founder of Netflix talking about how that idea came around. Amazing story. Dan Engel the more recent episode, I was an early team member of Picasa, which was acquired by Google and became Google Photos. Great episode as well, Rich Walker, Co Co-founder of quick forms another interesting one. And then finally, Michael Arietta, the early team member DocuSign turned that into a 40 billion plus company now head of Garden City, go check out that episode, as well. And of course, this episode is brought to you by Rise25. Our company where we help b2b businesses get clients referrals and strategic partnerships with done-for-you podcasts and content marketing and you can learn all about it at Rise25.com. 

All right, my guest here today is Tomer London. He’s a friend, we know each other socially. He’s a Co-founder and CTO si P Oh, sorry, Chief Product Product Officer right of Gusto, which is an amazing company, I have to say that we use the company. In fact, the funny thing was the first time that comer and I chatted, we realized that I’m a customer of his company. And we’re going to hear the whole story about how it started. And I love Tomer always to start with your childhood and what you were like as a kid, as a kid, and I know you grew up in Haifa, Israel, your father had a clothing store. So you witnessed from a young age seeing a small business owner, which of course is who you serve now small to medium sized businesses. And kind of the challenges that you doubt your dad experience running that clothing store, so tell us about it. 

Tomer London 2:15

Yeah, well, thanks, John, for bringing me to the show. This is really, really exciting. It’s gonna be really fun. Yeah, so you know, as a as a kid, I grew up in Israel, I grew up in Haifa, which is this kind of blue collar city in the north of Israel, and grew up in my family has a small business, my dad has a clothing store, which is just a huge part of our my upbringing, and like, kind of the day to day life at home. So for example, you know, every day after school, or almost every day, after school, we’d go to the store and just help with whatever needed to be done. So cleaning and organizing and selling. And I was just there at the store. 

Lots of lots of, you know, memories and moments there. But funny, I think the moment around this is that, you know, I wasn’t at this one point, I was thinking I was like 12, or something like that. It wasn’t, my dad asked me to tell me to count the inventory, make sure we have enough, you know, jeans and shirts, and jackets, and all that stuff. So I had kind of notes and I wrote my notes, I was counting and writing notes. And I kept losing the notes. I was clumsy. And I had to kind of recount things all the time. And, then I was thinking that we had a 386 computer at home. And I was thinking this back like when he was you know, DOS and like Windows 311 and things like that. And I was thinking, you know, computers are really good at remembering things. So probably it can build something to help, you know, to use a computer to remember and track all this inventory. But it didn’t know anyone who was an engineer or a programmer or anything like that. 

But luckily, next to my dad’s store, there was a falafel shop. That’s a very, you know, Israeli thing. But the store after the barber shop was a bookstore. And the guy there luckily, was someone who was really kind of intrigued and interested in computers. And I asked him, hey, you know, I’m, you know, trying to build this simple inventory tracking thing, how do I do it, and he gave me his hand this huge, thick book, The thickest book I’ve ever seen in my life. Like, there was a Visual Basic six book, all written in Hebrew, which is what I needed to be able to learn. And that’s how I learned programming and built a simple invoicing software, or sorry, it was an inventory management software, you know, to call it the software, it’s like, it’s big, it was a project, you know, for me as a kid. And then I saw my dad use it. And he used it in the store every day. And that was really, really helpful. 

He bought a computer and he brought that computer to home, sorry, to the store, which for me was like, Oh my gosh, computers are really expensive. This is a big deal. So that gave me a lot of confidence in this kind of world. Oh, hi Kobe. kiddo. So, you know, as a kid, it just gave me a lot of confidence. Because, you know, here I was, I found something that was really helpful to me, my dad and to the store and to our family business. So that’s kind of, luckily, put me on a track in the young age of using computers to help people.

John Corcoran 5:21

And as you are so cool, that’s so cool. And was your dad, like, thank you so much? Or, like, was he reluctant? At first? What was his reaction? 

Tomer London 5:29

Like, I remember, he was literally kind of scratching his head looking at the screen and saying, Have you built this? Like, you did this? How did you do that? And, you know, that’s like, that was incredible. And, you know, give you another image, you know, my, so you know, we were Jewish and so Shabbat means a lot for us the second you know, Friday evening, doing like this dinner with the family. And I remember, too many times, my dad had to skip Shabbat to go to one of these corners like Biscayne in like this corner room we had in our apartment. 

And just kind of have these calculators, you know, with it with a ribbon coming up with a paper and just like trying to calculate kind of trying to figure out what happened this week, you know, money coming in mind when going on and just kind of figuring out with lots of stress in his mind and, and his feelings about about that week. And I remember looking at him, kind of feeling like, oh, my gosh, this is really hard. So, you know, these are the sorts of things that still give me incredible motivation to try to help small businesses, but they’re wearing so many hats, and it’s just really hard to draw on your own business. 

John Corcoran 6:39

It for sure, definitely. You know, the tools have improved, but some of the challenges still remain. You ended up I think this is around high school age starting something co founding something called Writing whiz. Tell us about that.

Tomer London 6:51

Yeah, so writing was a funny story, I can’t believe you asked that I don’t think I was ever asked this in any part we dig deep.

John Corcoran 6:59

We dig deep on the show, Tomer, you go through.

Tomer London 7:03

Your research, writing with a funny story. So I was. So this is, I think, 11th grade or something like that. And I was, you know, English started being more and more important, I saw that as this language of business. And it’s something that you kind of always wanted to, to improve in, and I got to kind of still in this world of building software. So I noticed that you know, there’s dictionaries in the world. So if you don’t know how to say a word and kind of translate from Hebrew to English, or you have a dictionary, and notice that there’s an issue of like, I didn’t know how to use a word in a sentence in a proper way. So this, for example, do you say, I’m sitting in a meeting, I’m sitting in a meeting, I’m sitting with a meeting with these propositions and how do you combine the words that didn’t really work? 

So, I was like, Okay, that would be cool. If I built this like a simple button that sits in your, this is Windows nine, like, I don’t know, XP, or something like that. Period. So this little button that sits there in the right corner, right bottom corner, if you click on he puts a word with, you know, whatever form you would like, and it automatically finds proper ways and gives you examples, here’s how you use this sort of word in.

John Corcoran 8:15

Basically what we have was Grammarly that to these days. 

Tomer London 8:20

Something like that, something well Grammarly does much more today. But the idea of like how do I, you know, I know the word but I don’t know how to use it in a proper way as a non native speaker. So anyway, I built this thing, and I used it and I you know, I really liked it. And and but the cool thing about this is I put them back this experience that I put it online, back then it was called download.com. It was later acquired by CNET. And I put it online for the first time and put it like software online. And then I kind of forgot about it. So it was free. Anybody can download, whatever, put it out over there. And then a few weeks later, I got a call from my friend Adam, who was, you know, just like, like a high school friend. 

And he called me and said, Hey, Tommy, you know, I know that you’re really into English and like learning and all that my mom found is the software that’s really, really good to help you learn and kind of work on your writing. Is that Oh, cool. What is it? And he said, It’s called riding waves. And it’s, you know, you can download it over there. And I said, what? I figured out that he’s mom’s bound that’s off the road. So I noticed it was like, you know, got like, I think 20,000 downloads or something like that, which was really cool. 

But that experience was just mind blowing to me because it’s kind of how you write software once and then it’s being used by so many people, you know, and I think that’s the magic that exists with software, you know, and special.

John Corcoran 9:43

Yeah, huge impact. And by the way, is there any part of you that’s kicking yourself that you didn’t stick with the original inventory management system? I mean, that was a huge category in itself. He’d stuck with it. It would have been like, you know, 20 plus years now that you’ve focusing on that massive not the customer, isn’t it?

Tomer London 9:59

I never imagined that years later, I would, you know, I would be building business software. You know, like, I think Steve Jobs has this really nice saying of like, you know, when you look back, like the points connect really nicely all the dots connect, but when you look forward, it’s really hard to know. And back then I was just interested in technology, I was interested in helping my dad in the store, and kind of this is the one plus one equals two. But, you know, I didn’t think about this business, I didn’t understand business at all, which is the kid.