Interview with John Casto: My First Clicks, Nomad Travel, Dance Life and What is Next?

By Ian Fernando

John Casto: What's up guys? I got a very special guest here. Ian Fernando, one of the OG's in the office.

My man, we're hanging out here in New York City at Affiliate Summit East. Ian, thank you for joining me,

Ian Fernando: man. It's about time. I thought you were going to interview me at like Pelicon and at Barcelona. Yeah,

John Casto: I would run into you in the club and that's where I would see you. We'd talk about it and then we'd be like, okay, let's do it.

Ian Fernando: You don't always meet me at the club

John Casto: I mean, come on now.

Ian Fernando: Yeah. Next question.

John Casto: You just, you just came in. I just saw you in Barcelona two weeks ago in the club, actually, literally. And then, uh, you were in Portugal. Yes. After

Ian Fernando: affiliate world. Uh, for two weeks. Yes. What'd you think? Dude, I love it there. It's a amazing place.

Very hilly. Reminds me of like Columbia a little bit. Is it Lisbon or Porto? I went to Lisbon and then I went to, uh, Algarve and, and Alvor and beautiful places. I really love the food there. It's all really good seafood, fresh, so good, man. So good. It's not like Colombian food. Oh, no, Colombian food.

John Casto: Well, let's not, let's not make Colombian food sound bad.

I'm excited to move there next week, so. Ah, good, good, good, good. Yeah, no, I was actually in Portugal in 20, last year, a year and a half ago.

Ian Fernando: Yeah. It was awesome. Dude, I mean, it's just the weather. The sun doesn't set till like 9 p. m., which is crazy because you're like literally on the rooftop and it's like 9 o'clock.

You're like, what? It's still light? It's crazy. You know, so yeah, I love it, Dan. Food, the ocean views, the women there. The people. Yeah,

John Casto: agreed. So tell everyone your story about how you got into Affiliate Legion, all of the things, because you're one of the OG's

Ian Fernando: in this space. Yeah, I mean, it's a good story to tell.

I think everybody finds it very inspirational. Um, so when I first started in the online space, right, I didn't really think of myself as a marketer or any I'm in right now because I started with three jobs and I wanted to really just have one job at the end of the day. I was a, uh, call center agent, um, a human resource manager and a waiter on the weekends.

So I was literally working like seven days a week. You got started

John Casto: in call centers, not even as

Ian Fernando: Yeah, nah, dude, yeah, dude, I was, uh, Cause when you grow up the way I grew up, especially with like Asian parents, They always want you to be like, hey, go to school, finish college, do this, be a nerd. Traditional path.

Yeah, traditional path. You're Filipino? Yeah, I am Filipino, yeah. But luckily What? In New Jersey, Jersey City. Yeah, close enough. Just across the river, right? But, um, again, I wanted to just get rid of I have two jobs because eventually my goal is to just have one job and everybody's like, Oh, yeah, you'll have one job.

I'm making good at that job. But then eventually I've been climbing the job so fast. I went from call center agent to analyst to senior analyst to like, um, the voice analyst, right? And, uh, Next position would be director, but I was not able to get that job even though I applied for it so many times and I knew I was qualified for it, but they would never give it to me because I think I was just too young.

I was like 22. Where was this? Uh, Advantage. Yeah. Here in like, Jersey? Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Nice. And then eventually, um, after getting rid of those two jobs, I was like, you know what, if I can get rid of two, am I able to get the last one, right? And I'm like, okay, let me take this risk. I had three months of savings.

And then I got into affiliate marketing through Google first doing, uh, tax. What year? I want to say, let's see, 2004. 2004? Yeah,

John Casto: yeah, yeah. When did they start running AdWords?

Ian Fernando: Dude, 2002. 2003? Well, 2002. I remember 2002 when I first

John Casto: started. It was like you and Gary Vaynerchuk. Yeah. Running like five second cost per click.

Ian Fernando: watch his, uh, you know, those shitty wine videos back in the day he had. I mean, yeah, and he's still doing it. He cleaned up, man. Yeah, and now, He banked

John Casto: by like 32 off Google ads.

Ian Fernando: Yeah, yeah. You know, so, um, and then I took the risk and then I was like, all right, I did it. And then eventually I got into depression and all this shit because I didn't think I was like, uh, doing well enough.

I always thought, oh, I got it during luck. It was perfect timing because I really didn't have a skill set of marketing. Right. So, but it's all compound learning and that's kind of how I got into it. So where did that go from there? To now. Well, I mean. That's a big, that's

John Casto: like, dude, almost 20 freaking years.

Yeah. So what happened, like let's, like walk me through like 2010 to 2015. So you're running offers from 2004.

Ian Fernando: Well, so 2010 I first sold my first software company, uh, Offersnitch. Right, Offersnitch was a tracking platform that. How did you

John Casto: skip all this? Like, hold on, you were running Google Ads a second ago, and then you got the software, you exited the software.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Fill that, fill that gap real quick.

Ian Fernando: Uh, so, I was just running campaigns. I remember working with Zoogle Ads, uh, and Never Blue. They helped me with my campaigns. They assigned me a strategist. And then I was just running, uh, lead gen. Mostly in finance. More of like the insurance, uh, subprime area, um, taxes.

Your own landing pages, or? Yeah, all landing pages. Yeah,

John Casto: all landing pages. So you like posted data, like old school web hooks. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Ian Fernando: I mean, no za Yeah, no Zapier. Yeah. No za beer. I mean, I, my, I remember my first go campaign was, um, uh, ringtones. I made so much million ringtones. , right? Like, it was crazy.

John Casto: that's how old I am, man. I, I had

Ian Fernando: ringtones too. Yeah, ringtones was, was the one. And then, I mean, I did a lot of stuff from blogging. I did a lot of info marketing. I did, um, you know, white label. I pretty much did everything online. I signed up for every, every server that's also signed up.

So, I mean. There's so much I've done, you know, eBay, everything online, that's what I've done, right? So, I mean, one of the things I did was, uh, just to go back track a little bit, when I started eBay, I had, it became pretty successful that everybody wanted to buy in bulk, but I was not able to handle customer support, so I googled how to make money without customers, and that's how I found Fulfill Your Marketing, right?

And that's why, where I'm at today, yeah, so. So, you,

John Casto: you built a SaaS, and then. That was, was that like a spy tool

Ian Fernando: almost, or was it a dash? No, it was, it was a, so the biggest issue back in the day were the affiliate markers that landing pages or offers would go down. Right, and the network would never tell you.

So, there might be this 15 20 minute gap where the page goes down, you're sending traffic and you lose money. Right, for people that are doing 100 a day, it doesn't really affect them. But for people that are spending like a couple thousand a day, it affects me, right. So I made this tracker where it would Detect the page, take a snapshot of the page, look at the HTML code, did it redirect to another offer, and then it will just be like, hey, did this page change?

Um, just sort of time stamp when we noticed it, and then I can always be like, hey, you owe me X amount, at least credit, for the draft I spent, right? And the other main reason is, I noticed one network was stealing from me. So I would notice my link URL changed URL parameters, especially the affiliate ID.

They've redirected it. Yeah, they've redirected it to another, yeah. And it would happen exactly every day at a specific time. And I'm like, why does this dip happen, right? Again, for somebody that's doing 100 a day. You don't even see it, right? For a person that sees high volume, when you see a small dip every day, you're like, why is that happening?

So I was curious. So I would always look, look at it, but this network was literally stealing like 0. 05, 1 percent of my traffic skimming, just skimming. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Not even saving just, you

John Casto: know, straight skim automatically in their code. Just cut them off

Ian Fernando: from these hours. Yup. And then I sold it to Venture Cap, uh, Venture Fund in Atlanta, moved to Atlanta for a year.

And then after that, uh, moved to Florida and then did affiliate marketing. I mean, I mean, you ask me what do you want to know? I did everything. I sold two software companies, sold software code. I mean, I do Amazon.

John Casto: I know you're with Jace and A4D now. Yeah,

Ian Fernando: more recently, I'm with A4D now. Um, I basically oversee the network, helping both publishers and advertisers, um, scale their businesses.

Uh, to me, this is a new venture, right? Because being an affiliate, you're just constantly media buying, you're always having ups and downs. And for me, I'm at a point in my career where, what does Ian Fernando do next, right? Does Ian Fernando build another software company, does he do this, right, so this might sound ignorant but sometimes like I get bored of making money, right.

If I make a product. I don't know if that sounds ignorant. I mean like by the time I make a product and I make it 100, I'm like oh, I made it 100, I can probably scale it to 10K a month. But then I'm like, that doesn't excite me anymore. Doesn't fill the cup for you. Yeah, exactly. So. What does excite you, man?

I don't know. That's why I'm figuring it out. So during the pandemic, I started consulting a lot. I'm hopeful to talk to a lot of CEOs, get what they, what they, you know, wake up every morning to, uh, Jason was just reached out to me, um, to help their publishers grow on the network. And then eventually, uh, I oversee now the network, uh, full scale.

And I think this is a good challenge for me because even though I've ran businesses and with team, this is a very different dynamic because in something, you know, Since I know both publisher side and I know both advertiser side, because I used to be an advertiser, Nutra, and all this other stuff, I see both dimensions, and then how do I mend them together to make it a nice, really boutique network for, like, the high ballers.

You know what I mean? So, it's a good dynamic. Jason gives me a lot of good feedback. You know, it's like, his insights in, like, business is very interesting. It's just because the way He looks at it at such a micro level as to why are you running this versus Not doing that. And it's very, like, micro. Very, like, meticulous.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. So he breaks it down, and instead of me, like, I can see the end picture. The problem is, I'm going through a tunnel, but I just don't see the roadblocks. Whereas, he's like, well, let's just take two steps forward. Let me dissect the problem. What happened in two steps? Why did, we're not, we're not able to go forward?

Are we moving forward, back? Right? Was it a wall? Was it a bump? How big, how big is that bump in front of you? That's how he is, where I'm like, I see it, let me just run. But then I'll just hit the wall. Yeah. And I'll figure it out, let me feel the walls a little bit, feel the walls a little bit here. That's how I do things, whereas he actually looks at, well, there's a puddle there.

Should we patch up the puddle first so we can run, right? The way he thinks is very, very unique, and I really appreciate how he's been teaching me so far. Do you

John Casto: enjoy the learning process with him, or the work more?

Ian Fernando: Conversations, I guess. So, learning, right? Uh, cause the way he looks at it, again, is, is very, it, it triggers something in my head that I haven't had in a very, very long time, right?

It's like stimulating. Yeah, stimulating. Like, he makes me think. And then, even though I think I'd done it, uh, the right way, where, what he's expecting, he comes back with something better. I'm like, ah, I knew I should've done that,

John Casto: right? And like, I'm like, I knew it. Now you know. Yeah,

Ian Fernando: yeah, now I know. Yeah, yeah.

Do you feel like you're growing? Um, right now, I am in discovery mode. So, I don't think I haven't grown in a year and a half. Did

John Casto: you feel like you were growing? Oh. Or did you

Ian Fernando: feel like you were It's still, I think I'm just still in this mode of, even at, even at A4D right now, even though Jason gives me the feedback, um, The conversations are very unique, but I also have to grow the network, right?

So, there's that balance of am I growing or is the network growing, right? So, it's a little difficult to really, really say, but I find it exciting, but um, for my personal growth, I'm pretty much still stagnant there.

John Casto: If you didn't do this, if you stopped doing everything you do right now and you never needed to work again for money, what would you do?

Ian Fernando: Man, so this is a very tough question, because I don't know, because I've done everything. I've traveled. The one thing I wanted to do was basically travel. And I've done that. I've been a digital nomad for the past eight years, living full time. You did it before it was

Well, dude, even my first international trip was to Panama, then Morocco. Morocco, I actually got jumped the first time, so. That's part

Ian Fernando: Yeah, but, uh, yeah, I mean I've traveled and now I just, I have my time and freedom. But everybody tell me Ian should have a family. I'm like, I worked so hard for my time, I'm not sure if I want to give it up yet.

You know. It's a huge sacrifice. I know, so I'm not, I'm not sure yet. It's cool

John Casto: man. Yeah. If it is the right thing,

Ian Fernando: you'll, you'll know. Yeah, dude, like I said, like when I moved to Sao Paulo, two weeks into it, I'm like, Ah, this place reminds me of New York. I want to stay here. So hopefully that will come up.

John Casto: lived outside of the U. S.? Colombia, Venezian,

Ian Fernando: Sao Paulo now? Yeah, Peru, Philippines, Cambodia. Long term, like Oh, long term. Okay, so Vietnam, Philippines Not short term stays. Yeah, so Vietnam two years, Philippines two years, Thailand a year, Colombia two years, Dominican Republic two years, and then Brazil, six months beginning this year,

John Casto: January.

How would you rank those in order from, not counting Brazil, because it's only been six months. How would you rank those destinations in order of like, your favorites to your least

Ian Fernando: desirable? It'd probably be Vietnam first, and every other country, so Vietnam, Philippines, uh, Dominican Republic. I mean, Vietnam just because of the food.

I love the food there. It's delicious. You can get pho literally for breakfast. Yeah, I mean, it's just so cheap, too. Like, you can literally eat for a whole day. I mean, people are

John Casto: awesome and super safe. Yeah, it feels super safe. That always

Ian Fernando: is nice. I agree. I agree. For sure. So, um, but Brazil, I'm definitely gonna put in just top five just because again, I went there and I felt like, damn, this is my place.

I, I just felt instant home. It just felt home for me. So do you feel like you

John Casto: went to Columbia after, not after it was like cool to go as a, as

Ian Fernando: nomad? Well, I, I was there in 2015, so originally my first time. Yeah. So you saw it, you saw

John Casto: it before, yeah. Yeah. It became

Ian Fernando: what? It's today. Yeah. Yeah. So I mean, still, I remember going there during, um, Christmas holiday.

And I remember this person just like, Hey, come over. We're going to have dinner here. Uh, let's play some chess. And at that time, it's obviously just a stereotype of it being so dangerous, but I went and just felt super comfortable. And that's how I feel like it is now, right? But, um, it's all about the personality though.

John Casto: What else do you like doing, man? Obviously, well, actually, why do you like traveling so much? What, what interests

Ian Fernando: you about it? So for me, for my brain to be engaging, I need a different scenario. Right, I need, in order for my brain to learn, or pick up, like, I need to see something different where I'm uncomfortable.

Right, so the fastest way I learn a language is usually, I go back to that country, and your brain has this intuition of survival for the first two weeks, that the absorption rate is so fast, that you can learn anything. Pretty fast within that first two weeks. It's like the subconscious

John Casto: is more open and

Ian Fernando: receptive.

Yeah, because your brain is like, Oh, your brain needs to be more open to see what's around you. Yeah, correct. Like, what do I need to absorb? What do I need to not absorb? Where am I on the map? Right? You absorb that so quickly. So I try to take advantage of that, of that two weeks. But, uh, the traveling for me is because my brain needs, uh, stimulus.

Once I get too routine, I'm like, uh, I need to go travel up north or somewhere here. But at least Brazil is so big that You

John Casto: speak obviously English, Spanish,

Ian Fernando: Tagalog, obviously I don't.

John Casto: Some Portuguese,

Ian Fernando: it's getting there. And what else? I speak a little Arabic, I speak a little bit of Vietnamese. Vietnamese, even though I speak it.

Right. They don't understand it for some reason. It's probably a tonal thing and a little bit of time. That's cool, man. Yeah, yeah, yeah. So, that's who I am. What

John Casto: are you excited about now, like today? Here it is, what, it's August, basically. 2023. What are you excited about personally and professionally?

Ian Fernando: Personally, I want to see what, where I can be. Like that, that is, like once I hit that discovery mode, I'm like, oh, Ian. This is what you're going to be at. I think that's where I'll be excited. But in the meantime, for me, I just need to get more of my physique going. I'm getting old. I'm shrinking. Do Jiu Jitsu, man.

Dude, everybody's telling me to do Jiu you want if you do it. Dude, everybody's telling me, even Brazilians tell me to do Jiu Jitsu. Yeah, you live it.

John Casto: Dude, come on, bro. You're killing me right now. There's no reason you shouldn't be. You're in the Mecca. Yeah,

Ian Fernando: I know, I

John Casto: know, I know. Easiest way to stay in like pretty darn good shape and literally eat and drink whatever you want.

Ian Fernando: drink every day is my problem, too. This would actually solve that All right What professionally for us me? I'm not sure yet that it's all in question. I don't know what I'd want to be her I don't know what I want to be when I grow up.

John Casto: I feel like you're on the hero's journey, like you're on like a quest.

Yeah, it is, it like these side quests, and you just haven't figured out where you're gonna land.

Ian Fernando: Yeah, I mean it's very interesting, you know, like, I don't meet a lot of people that are in my scenario, where some people were like, oh yeah, I have this, now I'm doing this, and they're excited about it. Whereas like, I can do those things, but they don't excite me.

I need something that's like, exciting, and stimulating, and challenging.

Ian Fernando: when I was living in the Philippines, I was gonna do an accelerator. But, the reason why that bored the shit out of me, is because There's so much red tape in the Philippines that I was not able to get up my accelerator. So I was like, you know what, I don't want to do this.

Bureaucracy in the Philippines

Ian Fernando: social work. So I'm like, nope, I don't want to do it. You know, but I don't know. I'm, I will, we'll see. You know what I mean? So. You like teaching, right? I like coaching, not teaching. Right, I'm not a good teacher at all, I'd rather be a better, I'm a far better coach just because I can see like, oh, your campaign, you've launched it, you're landing page, you actually have a little knowledge, let me now just try to guide you in this path a little bit.

Right. So I'm a better coach, not, not teacher for sure. Cause I'm very impatient. I can't, when a person tells me like, what's the landing page, I'm like, here, take your money back. I can't, I can't deal with it.

John Casto: Well, you're at a point where you want to, you got to pick and choose. You have

Ian Fernando: to pick and choose.

Yeah, of course. Like when I work with clients and during the pandemic, like I would only have like a couple of clients, but they all pay me like five figures a month. Right. Because. Luckily for me, my, my name and my brand and obviously like after conversations and talking to them on the phone, like they know that I'm not a bullshitter.

John Casto: What else should people know about you? What's like a last, last idea or even like word of advice you want to share? I

Ian Fernando: used to be a breakdancer. Can you still do it? I can. We can get some footage. I used to be a choreographer. Um, so I used to do dance classes, uh, back in Jersey. I used to run a dance. Class when I was in college at Lockhaven, and I used to be a breaker.

How's your bachata and salsa? My bachata is very good since I learned it in Dominican Republic. Salsa, pretty, pretty okay. I just have to pick the tones up. The swinging and stuff I can't do in salsa. Yeah, so everything else, I'm fine. Yeah.

John Casto: Any, any, uh, words of advice for, for, let's talk through the affiliates.

Share a piece of advice for someone new to the affiliate space or thinking of getting in and then share advice for someone that Hasn't reached your level of success, but is on their way

Ian Fernando: up. I think for both would be to collect data, right? I've always I've made a mistake in past of having so much data, but not Utilizing it at the best possible way.

So, your strategy should always be with a lead gen strategy of collecting, and then optimizing, right? Um, I think that's the huge mistake. I know, for me, I've had millions of records, and I've really sold them in real time because my argument was like, oh, why should I do 10, 000 extra a month when I could spend more effort and make 10, 000 extra a day?

Just scale up the front ends. Yeah, exactly. This is literally what I'm working on. Yeah. So it's not always be data centric first and then optimize next. So, yeah. Appreciate it, brother.

John Casto: Thank you. Tell the next party, the next event, the

Ian Fernando: next club, we'll probably get

John Casto: more footage of him.

Ian Fernando: Let's see. No, no, no. You won't to meet club.

You will meet me at a conference like we are now. guys. Appreciate you, man. Thank you. Of course. Thanks. That was cool, man. Thanks. Thanks.

John Casto: Thanks. Appreciate it. Yeah. Let me know. Like.

Ian Fernando
Involved in the internet space since 2002 and have been through the ups and downs of this online industry. I am a traveling digital nomad, media buyer, online strategist, and many more online titles.

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