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Rank #21 in Marketing category

Business
Marketing
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Foundr Magazine Podcast with Nathan Chan

Updated 2 days ago

Rank #21 in Marketing category

Business
Marketing
Entrepreneurship
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We interview hard to reach entrepreneurs. (Mark Cuban, Tim Ferriss, Sophia Amoruso, Tony Robbins, Barbara Corcoran, Gary Vaynerchuk, & many more).Unlike most podcast interview series Nathan Chan literally started from knowing nothing. He was just an average guy working in a 9-5 job he utterly hated. He knew nothing about entrepreneurship, nothing about startups, nothing about marketing, and nothing about online or how to build a business. So from launching Foundr Magazine he's gone out and spoken to some of the most successful entrepreneurs and founders in the world to find out exactly what it takes to become a successful entrepreneur, so YOU can learn from them.Why this podcast? Because we're asking the same questions you want to know as an entrepreneur on their journey to building an extremely successful business. We're on the front-lines facing the daily battles you are. How do I get more customers? How do I scale my business? I want to start a business, but just don't know where to start? How did this person get millions of customers and make millions of dollars and have a such a massive impact on the world?Some of these entrepreneurs are very well known, and some not known at all and that’s the cool part! Here we will share with you our best interviews from Foundr magazine showcasing this persons processes, failures, critical lessons learnt and actionable strategies showing YOU how to build a successful business. This is NOT your AVERAGE everyday entrepreneurship podcast.We've also interviewed many successful game changing podcasters like Jim Kwik, Pat Flynn, Lewis Howes, Jordan Harbinger, Joel Brown & many more!

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We interview hard to reach entrepreneurs. (Mark Cuban, Tim Ferriss, Sophia Amoruso, Tony Robbins, Barbara Corcoran, Gary Vaynerchuk, & many more).Unlike most podcast interview series Nathan Chan literally started from knowing nothing. He was just an average guy working in a 9-5 job he utterly hated. He knew nothing about entrepreneurship, nothing about startups, nothing about marketing, and nothing about online or how to build a business. So from launching Foundr Magazine he's gone out and spoken to some of the most successful entrepreneurs and founders in the world to find out exactly what it takes to become a successful entrepreneur, so YOU can learn from them.Why this podcast? Because we're asking the same questions you want to know as an entrepreneur on their journey to building an extremely successful business. We're on the front-lines facing the daily battles you are. How do I get more customers? How do I scale my business? I want to start a business, but just don't know where to start? How did this person get millions of customers and make millions of dollars and have a such a massive impact on the world?Some of these entrepreneurs are very well known, and some not known at all and that’s the cool part! Here we will share with you our best interviews from Foundr magazine showcasing this persons processes, failures, critical lessons learnt and actionable strategies showing YOU how to build a successful business. This is NOT your AVERAGE everyday entrepreneurship podcast.We've also interviewed many successful game changing podcasters like Jim Kwik, Pat Flynn, Lewis Howes, Jordan Harbinger, Joel Brown & many more!

iTunes Ratings

529 Ratings
Average Ratings
500
19
5
3
2

Great Content!

By MrRbnsn - Oct 09 2019
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I enjoy listening to the depth of brands, companies and founders that are discussed on this show!

Love it!

By Chargers538 - Sep 22 2019
Read more
Thank you Nate and the foundr team! Love the podcast!

iTunes Ratings

529 Ratings
Average Ratings
500
19
5
3
2

Great Content!

By MrRbnsn - Oct 09 2019
Read more
I enjoy listening to the depth of brands, companies and founders that are discussed on this show!

Love it!

By Chargers538 - Sep 22 2019
Read more
Thank you Nate and the foundr team! Love the podcast!
Cover image of Foundr Magazine Podcast with Nathan Chan

Foundr Magazine Podcast with Nathan Chan

Latest release on Jun 02, 2020

Read more

We interview hard to reach entrepreneurs. (Mark Cuban, Tim Ferriss, Sophia Amoruso, Tony Robbins, Barbara Corcoran, Gary Vaynerchuk, & many more).Unlike most podcast interview series Nathan Chan literally started from knowing nothing. He was just an average guy working in a 9-5 job he utterly hated. He knew nothing about entrepreneurship, nothing about startups, nothing about marketing, and nothing about online or how to build a business. So from launching Foundr Magazine he's gone out and spoken to some of the most successful entrepreneurs and founders in the world to find out exactly what it takes to become a successful entrepreneur, so YOU can learn from them.Why this podcast? Because we're asking the same questions you want to know as an entrepreneur on their journey to building an extremely successful business. We're on the front-lines facing the daily battles you are. How do I get more customers? How do I scale my business? I want to start a business, but just don't know where to start? How did this person get millions of customers and make millions of dollars and have a such a massive impact on the world?Some of these entrepreneurs are very well known, and some not known at all and that’s the cool part! Here we will share with you our best interviews from Foundr magazine showcasing this persons processes, failures, critical lessons learnt and actionable strategies showing YOU how to build a successful business. This is NOT your AVERAGE everyday entrepreneurship podcast.We've also interviewed many successful game changing podcasters like Jim Kwik, Pat Flynn, Lewis Howes, Jordan Harbinger, Joel Brown & many more!

Rank #1: 60: How to Become Financially Free with Tony Robbins

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Tony Robbins talks fast. Conversing with him is like riding Space Mountain: You get in, you hang on, and before you know it, it’s over and you’re left feeling bewildered, slightly euphoric, and wanting to smooth your hair.

Robbins has become a household name as the man who popularized life coaching. Imagine your client list including Oprah, Princess Diana, and Bill Clinton—all before you hit your mid- 30s. He’s spoken to more than 50 million people in 100 countries. To call Tony Robbins just a self-help guru would be like calling Muhammad Ali just a boxer. It doesn’t quite cut it. He is a force of nature, an industry, and a global brand. His advice is still sought by the likes of professional athletes, CEOs, movie stars, rappers and world leaders.

When Foundr interrupted Robbins’ schedule for an interview, he was 40 miles from the Arctic Circle, racing Lamborghinis across a frozen ice lake. As you do. “I was eaten up by my crazy schedule, going to 15 countries a year, so I decided, ‘I’m going to find a little time to play,’ and this was on my list. So it’s nice to be able to experience it.”

It’s a fitting vacation. Robbins is best known for his high-intensity seminars. To say he’s bursting with enthusiasm is an understatement. It seems as though he’s sitting atop an erupting volcano of energy and optimism. His voice is booming, with its trademark rasp. He makes each point with the force of an artillery bombardment.

In this interview you will learn:

  • How to deduce your market to the metrics that matter
  • The steps you need to take in order to be financially free
  • Turning past pain into pure motivation and a hunger for success
  • Tony's ethos in living for impact, and how the money will follow
  • How to serve your client in the best possible way
  • & more more!

Sep 30 2015

45mins

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Rank #2: 03: Marianne Cantwell Shares with us Step by Step How to Escape the 9-5 and Build a Business and Life You Love Online

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Ever wondered how you ended up working the job you’re doing? Ever felt like you sort of just, fell in to it? Ever wondered how to escape ‘the corporate cage’? Finding out what you are good at, what drives you as a person, and then finding suitable work based upon that should be a keystone of our society, but unfortunately, it is not.

Entrepreneur Marianne Cantwell aims to change all that.

Marianne Cantwell works in helping people find their driving passion, breaking free from the corporate cage and creating “free-range” careers. She runs a successful business called free-range-humans and explains that your interests should be a key driver behind your actions, not the blind pursuit of riches.

Marianne Cantwell explains that living a dream is simple, it’s possible, and takes guts.  As a woman who has thrown away the security of the 9 to 5 quite early in her career to chase down projects she loves, she is an authority on the subject. Put simply, she broke away from the corporate life and has succeeded doing what the rest of us dream about, which is running her online business from anywhere on the planet.  

 

I Need Your Help!   If you haven’t already, I would love if you could be awesome and take a minute to leave a quick rating and review of the podcast on iTunes by clicking on the link below. It’s the most amazing way to help the show grow and reach more people!   Leave a review for the Foundr Podcast!

Nov 22 2014

50mins

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Rank #3: 299: From $0 To $20M In 2 Years: How Happy Skin Co. Founder Dylan Mullan Went Viral

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Dylan Mullan took an extremely unconventional path to entrepreneurship.

While he was in school, Mullan was convinced he wanted to be a lawyer, until he started taking classes at university and realized that he hated them. After that, he spontaneously took an acting course and spent almost five years as an actor. It was eventually a desire to have more control over his life that led him and his business partner to launch Happy Skin Co together.

Through a mixture of hard work, strategic decisions, and a deep investment in understanding their target customer, Mullan managed to grow his at-home hair removal business from $0 to $20 million in just two years.

In this interview, Mullan maps out exactly what this path to explosive growth looked like. He breaks down his approach to everything from market research to Facebook ads and explains why mindset is ultimately an entrepreneur’s most valuable tool.

If there’s any other type of content you’d like to see that would be valuable to you during this time, please don’t hesitate to reach out at support@foundr.com to let us know.

Key Takeaways
  • The path from aspiring lawyer to aspiring actor, and how Mullan eventually wound up in the world of entrepreneurship
  • A look into Happy Skin Co’s early days, from long nights of planning to packaging products in Mullan’s living room with friends and family
  • The turning points that catapulted the company from $0 to $20 million in 2 years
  • How Mullan approached market research and influencer marketing in the early days
  • What the impact of Covid-19 has looked like for Mullan and his team, and the new opportunities it has opened up
  • Mullan’s best advice when it comes to creating profitable Facebook ads
  • An overview of the Happy Skin Co product development process and a sneak peek into what’s next
  • How to deal with industry copycats
  • Why Mullan is a huge advocate for visualization and believing in yourself

Apr 21 2020

51mins

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Rank #4: 81: 15 Million+ Followers on Instagram & Counting! Interview with The Instagram Queen Gretta Rose van Riel

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Every day there’s an entrepreneur out there who believes that they’ve found the golden ticket. The one idea that is so revolutionary that it’s going to change the landscape of their niche and bring them a huge success.

Unfortunately, no matter how great of an idea it may be, nothing happens unless you have a brilliant plan to execute it.

So where to start in this crazy startup world?

Well, according to Gretta Rose Van Riel, it starts off with finding not just the right product idea but the perfect one. By using a bit of research, and a little bit more patience, she was able to find the type of product that took her to over 600k in revenue in just under a year!

By utilizing Instagram she managed to spread her brand’s message and exposure, growing to over 15 million followers in just a few years! It is very rare you’ll find anyone else as savvy as the founder of SkinnyMe Tea when it comes to the world of e-commerce.

In this interview with Foundr Gretta breaks down for us the nitty gritty details of the e-commerce world and shows us just what it takes to make it as a 21st-century entrepreneur.

In this interview you will learn:

  • Learn the easiest and cheapest way to build a website for your business
  • Important Insights on how to use Instagram to help start, grow and build up your brand account
  • Learn how to identify trends and physical products that you can successfully sell online
  • How to get your perfect funnel for you to start selling immediately
  • The do's and don'ts of E-commerce

& much more!

Mar 01 2016

52mins

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Rank #5: 272: The Sweet Smell of Success: From Bankrupt to $100 Million, With Poo-Pourri’s Suzy Batiz

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Suzy Batiz’s journey from bankruptcy to founding Poo-Pourri, a $100 million business that’s become a household name.

For many consumers, the initial reaction to Suzy Batiz’s product is laughter.

I know it was for me. I remember back in 2008, my mother waving me over to the checkout register of our favorite boutique soap shop, giggling uncontrollably. I saw the tiny bottle and laughed out loud myself. Then handed one to the cashier.

After all, you just can’t walk away from a product called Poo-Pourri.

But it’s Batiz who has had the last laugh. A little over a decade since it launched, Poo-Pourri has become a household name and a $100 million business. The all-natural air freshening spray, once a boutique-only brand, is now sold by major retailers like Target, Costco, Walgreens, and more. Poo-Pourri has taken the world by sweet-smelling storm.

Given her success, you probably wouldn’t have guessed that Batiz had previously gone bankrupt (twice!) and once swore never to launch another company ever again. With a list of former businesses so long she can’t even name them all, Batiz had always come up short in pursuit of her big break.

It wasn’t until she failed hardest and stepped away from the world of entrepreneurship entirely that she had her life-changing epiphany.

The journey from broke to multi-millionaire wasn’t an easy one for Batiz. But her commitment to creativity, willingness to remain flexible, and her indomitable spirit helped her to shake the stink of failure and bring lovely aromas to bathrooms around the world.

Sh*t Happens

For years, Batiz was the kind of person who always had a full-time job and a side hustle, with another side-hustle in mind should the current one fail.

“I had a lot of businesses, and nothing seemed to really work long term. Nothing stuck,” she says. “But I was desperately trying.”

She’d owned a clothing store, a beauty salon, and a tanning salon to name a few, and she grew accustomed to taking big risks in the process. She learned early on how to bounce back from failure.

For example, Batiz went bankrupt for the first time before she was even old enough to drink. At 19, she took on a bridal salon, and at 20, the salon had gone under. But that didn’t slow her down.

“I was in this frantic race,” she says. “I was doing everything that you’re supposed to do, you know, pushing through.”

She continued trying new business ideas until, in 1999, she experienced her second bankruptcy. This one hurt far more than the first.

Batiz had sunk much of her own money into building Greener Grass, a recruiting platform designed to match employees with the right company cultures. If views were dollars, she would have been swimming in cash, but when the stock market crashed in 2001, so did her fledgling business. Batiz lost everything.

“They took away the big house, the two cars, and I had to face myself,” she says.

Batiz realized that all her life, she’d been chasing success—which really meant an overflowing bank account—without taking the time to find out what she was actually interested in.

“What’s worse than losing everything is losing everything and realizing you didn’t even have fun to begin with,” she says.

So, Batiz called it quits on the business world and decided to take some time away from it all for herself. During those years of self-discovery, she found the world of essential oils.

A Breath of Fresh Air

Ordinarily, if dinner party conversation trended toward discussing bathroom odor, it would be bad news for everyone involved. But when Batiz’s brother-in-law began to wonder over dinner if that unpleasant smell could be trapped and eradicated, sparks fired in Batiz’s mind.

After the time she’d spent working with essential oils, she realized she might be able to create something that would do exactly that. Off she rushed to her kitchen to spend nine months concocting the perfect blend of oils that would one day become Poo-Pourri.

In January 2007, she sold her first bottle.

“I really wasn’t interested in owning another business,” Batiz says. “I had sworn off business, but the product was so good, I had to bring it to market.”

She started with a website, and before long the wholesale requests came flooding in. Within a year, she’d brought in a million dollars in revenue. And it all happened through word of mouth.

“When you have an idea that is great, people tell other people about it,” she says. “I see a lot of people in founder stages stop at a good idea. And if you just have a good idea, it’s like pushing a train uphill. But when you have a great idea, people will stand on the rooftops and tell other people about it.”

Boutiques everywhere began selling little spray bottles of the cleverly named product, and before long, larger chains followed suit.

Seven years after launching, Poo-Pourri was bringing in $8 million in revenue, Batiz spent 12 weeks a year in Maui, and she truly felt like she was living the dream. But she believed her product could truly breakthrough and become the premier bathroom air freshener if she just made a big enough splash.

So, she decided to partner with the Harmon Brothers, the well-known creators of viral advertising videos, to create one of her own. You may recognize the Harmon Brothers’ name from their hit ad for Squatty Potty (yes the one with the unicorn you-know-what), or the Purple Mattresses “egg test” video.

In September 2013, the now-iconic video of a sassy-yet-classy socialite in a turquoise dress proclaiming that “our business is to make it smell like your business never even happened,” burst onto the scene.

In just four days, Batiz’s entire inventory had sold out, with $4 million in backorders waiting their turn to be fulfilled.

With the explosion in sales, Batiz knew it was time to invest all of her attention in creating a stable structure for her business, while still maintaining her company culture.

But how?

Fear of Being Number Two

There are three words that define everything done at Poo-Pourri: defy, liberate, and transform.

“We don’t do things status quo, and we don’t ever want to,” Batiz says. “We’re over here shakin’ shit up.”

Batiz strongly believes in hiring employees who can become experts in their areas without micromanaging, and can make big decisions. Of course, with that freedom comes the responsibility of owning up when those decisions don’t pan out. But Batiz believes the best idea can come from anyone or anywhere, so she wants to make sure every employee feels comfortable taking initiative.

But above all, Batiz believes the thing that sets Poo-Pourri above the big air freshener companies is their ability to shift direction at a moment's notice. She calls that agility their “superpower.”

So when the time came to build structure into the business, she knew it couldn’t come with the rigidity some organizations hold to.

“We are this young, rebel kind of company,” Batiz says, “and how do you put some procedures in place, yet keep this rebel nature?”

She tried bringing in a string of leaders, but with each attempt to establish a more defined system, the company’s culture died a little. So, Batiz had to find a way to balance shift-on-a-dime agility with much-needed stability.

She realized that much of her stability could come from within her supply line. By keeping six months worth of sprayers (a part of the product that can take up to 16 weeks to arrive) in stock, she’d be ready for the next boom when it came.

While the company’s edginess has provided a competitive advantage, that need to be the fastest or the hippest has also been a liability at times.

As a rule, Batiz tries not to worry about the competition, but she once became aware that a product similar to hers was going to hit the market, using an automatic dispenser. In a fit of competitive panic, her company tried to release its own version, pushing through timelines and moving far quicker than they should have to keep up.

As a result, they sold 500,000 faulty units to major retailers and had to take them all back, losing millions of dollars and three-quarters of a year in creative energy.

“It was a really good lesson for us to keep our blinders on and stop worrying about what other people are doing,” Batiz says. “Sometimes the best lessons cost us a lot of money or time or energy. The key is to learn.”

The Future Smells Sweet

As Batiz heads into the future, she’s not that focused on expanding the Poo-Pourri line, although they have branched out here and there, including a shoe freshener line, and some clever bathroom art.

“I’m not worried about the dollars as much as remaining king of the hill of what I’ve created,” she says.

The focus on the core product is clear, as Poo-Pourri somehow manages to create a bathroom air freshener that is irreverent but not crass, all while avoiding the grandma’s house aesthetic of most bathroom products. The smells are creative, the names are funny, the packaging sharp and sometimes even beautiful. Some could even be mistaken for luxury items. There’s an obvious level of care here placed on something we may not like to think about, but we all have to deal with.

Batiz hopes to achieve and maintain the level of awareness brands like Kleenex and Band-Aid have, becoming totally synonymous with the product they sell.

“What I want is when you have a “before you go” spray—knowing other people will enter the market—that they go, ‘Oh, do you have a Poo-Pourri,’” she says. “We are that iconic brand.”

To achieve such iconic status without a cent from investors is nothing to sniff at. Batiz says that when times get tough, she sees many entrepreneurs race to investors for help. She, on the other hand, prefers to keep total control of her business and figure things out on her own.

“If you have a problem with the problems, that’s a problem!” she says, laughing. “As an entrepreneur, all you do every day is solve problems, and they’re only going to get bigger.”

But despite the big problems she’s faced both in her current role and past businesses, Batiz has emerged triumphant. This year, Poo-Pourri is on track to bring in $100 million in revenue.

The boutique essential oil concoction with a cheeky name now sits on bathroom counters around the globe. And she’s hoping the scent will continue to spread.

Interview by Nathan Chan, feature article reprinted from Foundr Magazine, by Erica Comitalo

Key Takeaways
  • The many side hustles of Batiz, and the lessons in failure they taught her
  • How Batiz went bankrupt in her teens
  • The frantic race to find success
  • How a second bankruptcy forced Batiz to take a step back and self reflect
  • The question that sparked the idea for Poo-Pourri
  • The power of word-of-mouth, and how it brought in $1 million in revenue in the first year
  • How a partnership with the Harmon Brothers took Poo-Pourri to the next level
  • Lessons learned on balancing structure with innovative company culture
  • Why Batiz believes it’s important to not worry about the competition
  • How Poo-Pourri got on track to $100 million in revenue this year
  • A peek into Supernatural, Batiz’s newest company that sells home-cleaning products

Oct 16 2019

52mins

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Rank #6: 149: How to Use Influencer Marketing to Generate Millions with Gretta Rose van Riel of SkinnyMeTea

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In 2012, Gretta Rose van Riel, like most aspiring entrepreneurs, found herself spending all of her free time building a business. It was nothing more than a passion project at the time, something to do in her spare time when she wasn't working at her day job.

Despite the fact that she had no real plans to become a full-time entrepreneur with her own business, it wasn't long before that passion project grew into something bigger. She soon knew that this was something she just had to devote all of her time and energy to.

"Basically, I had an idea that resonated with me so strongly, I just knew that it was something that I had to pursue," van Riel says.

The result was a multimillion-dollar ecommerce business called SkinnyMe Tea, the world's first teatox using the natural benefits of tea to help you achieve your health, fitness, and nutrition goals. That alone is impressive enough, but what really separates van Riel from the rest of the pack is that she didn't just build one multimillion-dollar business, she's built many.

In five years, Van Riel has transformed herself from just another employee to serial entrepreneur, with multiple ecommerce businesses under her belt. She's effectively cracked the code on how to successfully build a business online, including coming up with the perfect idea, the best way to market it, and how to rapidly scale.

In this week's episode you will learn:

  • How to build an incredibly loyal customer base through social media
  • The easiest way to hack into the power of influencer marketing to build your brand
  • Gretta's method to developing the perfect product from idea, to validation, to selling
  • Why Instagram should be your number one channel for customers and sales
  • The foolproof marketing formula guaranteed to double your revenue
  • & much more!

May 24 2017

1hr 11mins

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Rank #7: 258: The Story Behind Game-Changing Travel Brand Away, With Founder Steph Korey

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Selling Luggage and a Lifestyle How Steph Korey and Jen Rubio co-founded a luggage company for the modern adventurer that is taking the world by storm.

Jen Rubio called her friend Steph Korey to vent about an irritating, expensive problem that just about any frequent flyer has endured at some point. She had a busted carry-on.

Rubio was suffering from suitcase-demolition blues, and Korey wasn’t sure what brands to recommend. So Rubio texted a dozen of their trendiest, travel-savvy friends—the kind of people who would know all the best hotels in Bangkok—but they had no clue where to direct her to buy the perfect suitcase. They were quick to tell her which brands to avoid—sharing similarly frustrating stories of failure—but no one had the answer she was searching for.

The search seemed hopeless.

A single, action-packed year later, Korey and Rubio shipped the very first piece of Away carry-on luggage.

Today, the luggage company that is so much more than a luggage company has sold over a million bags to customers across the world and captured the imagination of a generation known for its desire to chase down experiences instead of possessions.

“This business isn’t really about luggage or suitcases at all,” Korey says. “What we’re really creating is a travel brand, and travel has the ability to really impact someone’s life.”

With an eye on revolutionizing the luggage industry while leaving the world better than they’d found it, Korey and Rubio designed a bag that is durable, practical, and looks dang good in an Instagram photo.

And that was only the beginning.

Charting the Course

In the beginning, Korey wasn’t sure she even wanted to start a business. She just wanted to learn more about the way other people traveled.

She and Rubio had become friends while working together at Warby Parker, the online store that home delivers hip eyeglasses at affordable prices, so they knew firsthand the challenges that come with life at a startup.

Rather than cannonballing into the deep end, the pair chose to start small and simply follow their curiosity. They decided to create a survey and send it to 50 people in a vast array of demographics, including male and female students, young professionals, established professionals, and retirees, who lived both in the US and abroad.

After sharing information about how they traveled, how they packed, and what travel products they used, each person taking the survey was asked to forward it to five of their friends who also came from varied backgrounds.

When the survey finished making its rounds, Korey and Rubio had over 800 responses to sift through. The pair was quickly able to start noticing themes, particularly when it came to how the existing luggage industry wasn’t meeting travelers’ needs.

The survey results showed that travelers wanted a light piece of carry-on luggage that maximized packing space and still fit in the overhead compartments of airplanes. They also dreamed of a bag that could take a baggage handler’s beating if they decided to check it, including wheels and zippers that wouldn’t fail.

Respondents also expressed the need for a place to put dirty, sweaty laundry after trips to the gym, summer walking tours through cities, or perilous mountain climbs. Oh, and they hated traveling with dead cell phones.

With these results in mind, Korey and Rubio moved into the next stage of development.

Korey says they were still unsure whether they wanted to start a business when they sat down with a group of designers from the fashion, luggage, and industrial design industries. They weren’t even sure when they decided to partner with two industrial designers to transform their findings into a product design.

The team had plans for their new carry-on bag in one hand, and plane tickets to Asia—where they planned to meet with dozens of luggage manufacturers—in the other, but were still unsure where this journey would land them.

It was only when a family in the manufacturing business told them their radical design could be actualized that it all clicked together. And just like that, the family agreed to manufacture the first 3,000 Away carry-on bags.

Well, not quite.

“I’m glamorizing this story a little bit,” Korey says. “It’s, in reality, probably a little more along the lines of we begged them to work with us.”

Korey and Rubio spent days with the family, attempting to convince them to manufacture the bags. With every new pitch she used to convince the family—that they were about to revolutionize the luggage industry, and their business model was totally unique, and this was a chance to get in on day one with a company that was going to be huge one day—she felt herself becoming more convinced that this was it. It was finally time to start this business.

Their manufacturers came around, too.

“I’m entirely certain that they didn’t believe any of that,” she says. “Actually, they’ve told us that they didn’t believe any of that, but that we were so sincere and passionate about what we were doing that they just couldn’t turn us down.”

Now that the ball was officially rolling, and Away was on the verge of becoming a reality, they had to jump a final, daunting hurdle. They had to find the money.

Gathering Supplies

“Raising any kind of capital is difficult, but raising seed capital is particularly difficult, because you can’t really tell the story of your business metrics at all, because they don’t exist,” Korey says. “You just have to tell the story of your vision and what you’re trying to create, and it really takes a leap of faith from investors.”

But she adds that the knowledge she had gathered from her time leading the supply chain at Warby Parker, and Rubio’s experience in the marketing team there, gave them a definite advantage.

“That is for sure the only reason that we were able to convince investors to take that leap of faith,” she says. “We knew what we were doing, and we would create something that resonated and that was successful.”

In fact, she recommends that all aspiring entrepreneurs invest some time working at a startup.

“I think it’s essential that you spend at least a couple years working at a startup first, for two reasons,” she says. “One, find out if you like it! Some people don’t like that chaos. … And then the second reason is it really gives you a sense of context of all the different pieces that go into creating something from nothing.”

In the summer of 2015, Korey and Rubio were ready to create something, so they met with more than 20 different investors across the United States over the course of a week.

After many failed pitches, and several uncomfortable red-eye flights, the pair met with Forerunner Ventures, a Silicon Valley venture capital firm that invests primarily in early-stage ecommerce brands.

While most of the firms they met with simply didn’t understand what they were trying to do with Away, Korey says that Forerunner was captivated by their vision.

“We’re really creating a broader brand and business around inspiring people to live a life of new experiences, and equipping them with all the products they need to make those travel experiences more seamless,” she recalls saying in her pitch.

Within the first meeting, Forerunner was on board as a partner. With over $2.5 million raised, it was finally time to make some suitcases.

Excited by the prospect of holiday sales, Korey says they set their launch date for November 2015. But as the date drew closer and the production of the first 3,000 suitcases was delayed until February of the following year, they had to get creative.

Instead of selling the suitcases during the holiday season, they published a coffee table book called, The Places We Return To and paired it with a gift card for the February release of the first round of suitcases.

“It was really one of the first moves we did as a brand really establishing ourselves as first and foremost about travel and not about travel products,” Korey says.

In the book, they featured stories and photos of successful chefs, writers, photographers, and other talented professionals. Each person was asked about their favorite place in the entire world, why they loved it, and what they did during their visits.

“We ended up with this collection of short stories that were very intimate because it was about people who were so knowledgeable about their favorite place in the world,” Korey says.

Those featured in the book helped spread the word about the exciting new travel company, its mission, and the revolutionary new suitcase that was on the way. And the word traveled like a millennial with a break between jobs.

Korey says they prepared 2,000 books and gift cards. By Christmas, every one had sold.

Embarking on the Journey

In February 2016, the first ever Away customer (his name is Adam) received his carry-on bag. Three years later, over a million bags in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes have made it across the world in shipping boxes, overhead bins, and car trunks.

The ribbed, hard-shelled luggage is becoming more recognizable by the day. By offering their luggage at direct-to-consumer prices, what was once reserved for only the chicest of travelers could now make it to the general public.

They take their social impact seriously, as well. Away works with manufacturing companies that have, as they say on their website, “exemplary and thoughtful work environments we would want for our own employees.” The company has also partnered with several charitable organizations, including Peace Direct, Charity: Water, and Kode with Klossy.

So what’s next for Away?

Korey says the company is currently working to expand across Europe, Asia, Australia and other parts of North America. Taking a page from Warby Parker and other disruptive ecommerce startups, they’ve also launched a brick-and-mortar component to their business with six American storefronts and one in London.

And as Away continues to expand, they’ll continue to release new products that support the modern traveler.

Korey is excited to see where the company goes next, not merely because she wants the business to flourish, but because she genuinely cares about the needs of Away customers. From the moment Korey and Rubio sent their first survey, they knew that the “why” behind their brand lay directly at the feet of their customers.

“You should never start a business because you want to start a business. It’s a terrible reason to do it. It’s going to be a long slog if you’re not really focused on a particular insight or a problem that you’re trying to solve,” she says. “Whether you’re just getting started and you don’t know where to start, or you’ve already gotten started, and you’re trying to figure out the next step, it really starts with deeply understanding the customer.”

It starts the way Away did: with a need, an idea, and a customer survey.

Interview by Nathan Chan, feature article reprinted from Foundr Magazine, by Erica Comitalo

Key Takeaways
  • How one phone conversation between Korey and Rubio inspired the idea for Away
  • The role data played in cementing the need for better luggage
  • How the data insights were transformed into a product design
  • Why one investor and one manufacturer decided to take a chance on Away
  • How Korey and Rubio made the best of a worst-case scenario during their launch
  • The journey from producing an initial batch of 3,000 units to selling millions
  • Why Korey believes every entrepreneur should work for a startup first
  • What the future expansion of Away looks like
  • Korey’s words of wisdom for aspiring entrepreneurs

Jul 09 2019

34mins

Play

Rank #8: 244: Viral Growth and Influencer Marketing in Ecommerce, with Ben Francis of Gymshark

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At 16, he began building websites.

At 18, he became a regular at the gym.

At 20, he started sewing and screen-printing workout apparel in his garage.

By 26, when most adults are only on the cusps of their careers, Ben Francis had already launched a viral gym clothing line, served as its CEO, and stepped down in favor of a more creative role in the wildly successful company.

Today, the Gymshark founder works alongside 190 staff, including the high school buddies who partnered with him to launch the brand, bringing this unmistakable apparel line to customers in more than 130 countries.

And while it seems like this former pizza delivery boy magically rocketed to entrepreneurial stardom overnight (OK, he sort of did), his success can be traced back to a dedication to community building and an innate understanding of social media influencer marketing, long before it was a thing.

But it all started with amateur website building, a love for fitness, and a whole lot of YouTube.

Years before he was a CEO, Francis longed to make a name for himself in the fitness space. But the closest thing he had to investors were people calling to order a pizza, so establishing a clothing brand couldn’t have seemed less attainable.

Not to be discouraged by limited funds, Francis and his high school friends began a workout supplement drop-shipping business and quickly realized that there was an opening in the workout apparel market.

Dressing a bodybuilder and a skinny, weight-lifting newbie are two totally different jobs, especially when you’re going for form-hugging designs fit for a workout. Francis and friends, however, believed they could create a line that would be sleek, modern, and appealing to gymgoers of any body type.

“And so,” Francis says, “I bought a screen printer and a sewing machine and started to make the clothes by hand.”

The designs were an overnight sensation.

“People were seeing the clothes, and they were so iconic and unique, that it sort of started to spread like wildfire,” Francis says.

But the real secret sauce was the passion he and his friends had for YouTube.

Influencing Influencers

In the early 2010s, YouTube was rising fast. People passionate about everything from movies to knitting, gaming to, yes, fitness, were creating video content and building communities around shared interests.

Francis and his friends were among the millions who joined online followings based on their hobbies, but stuck around for the personalities in the videos. One such fitness YouTuber who held their attention was Lex Griffin of Lex Fitness, whose channel now has over 440,000 followers. Another was Chris Lavado, whose channel has 65,000 subscribers today.

Realizing they could leverage the followings of others, Francis and his friends pursued a business strategy that put them on the map, and that they still use today.

They sent samples to Griffin, Lavado and other fitness YouTubers they admired, and hoped for a stamp of approval—and a video to prove it.

While the term “influencer marketing” has only recently entered into the pop consciousness, the principle has been around as long as marketing. Attracting the favor of a wealthy or influential person by showering them in gifts that define a brand is as a classic move, a point Francis illustrated by sharing some history of his hometown of Birmingham, UK.

For hundreds of years, the Jewellery Quarter in central Birmingham has been a hub for opulent accessories. Many jewelers open businesses in the Quarter, and the competition is fierce. But historically, there was one way to ensure that a brand’s name would be on everyone’s lips: become the first choice of royalty.

Frances explained that this principle of vying for favor worked then and still works now.

“They would provide a bunch of free jewelry to royalty so that people would associate that jewelry with the royalty and then hopefully back to the brand and go buy it,” he says. “It’s no different to what influencer marketing is nowadays.”

“I think it’s worked forever, and as far as I’m aware, I think it’ll always work.”

And so, like an ambitious jeweler in the 1700s, Francis sent off his product to curry favor with those who had the power to make his brand catch fire. And it worked.

“They absolutely loved it, and they’re still with us today,” he says. “That started, I guess, what you’d now call an influencer market for us.”

Today, Francis continues to leverage the audiences of athletes through an ambassador program that now includes such personalities as bodybuilder Matt Ogus, lifestyle and fitness vlogger Nikki Blackketter, and weightlifter Whitney Simmons.

Because of Francis’s early success in harnessing an influencer-generated market, Gymshark has never relied on investors for capital.

“We never needed investment,” he says. “So why complicate things?”

Francis recognizes, though, that there was also a component of luck at work. He entered the world of social media influencer marketing when it was still a young idea, and those with followings weren’t inundated daily with products in search of a boost.

“I do think it’s a hell of a lot more difficult than when we first started,” he admits. “It’s a completely different place now.”

But if he were to launch a new business today, a venture he says would be a fun challenge with the vastly changed online landscape, he knows exactly where he would focus his attention.

“Product is king at the end of the day,” he says. “I would focus on creating an absolutely brilliant and a gorgeous product because I think from that, it’s like a snowball effect.”

He believes that by designing a remarkable, unique, and stunning product, anyone can rise above the cacophony online.

“If you get someone’s attention with a genuinely brilliant product, people will wear it, people will use it, and people will talk about it.”

But for now, Francis is focused on the current community he has built.

Fostering Community

Growing up, Francis loved attending events and expos in his hometown and dreamed of the day he would not only participate, but host his own. His belief in the power of person-to-person advertising was instilled in him as a young expo attendee and has continued to stick with him into his mid-20s.

“Even though the world is becoming ever more online, and 99.9 percent of what we do is online, there is always space for that human connection, and I think that’s really, really important, and it’s a real important thing to Gymshark.”

So in Gymshark’s very early days, when an opportunity to participate in an expo presented itself, Francis says that nothing could have stopped him from finding a way to join.

When he reached out to one of the coordinators to find out how much it would cost to get Gymshark a spot, he was quoted a price far more than they were able to afford at the time. But as Francis likes to emphasize, he plans hyper long-term and hyper short-term and lets the rest in between work itself out.

“This was 12 months in advance of the show, and I was like, ‘Right, yeah. We’ll have it. We’ll get that, and we’ll just sort of make it work,’” he says. “It was our dream to go to an event like that.”

And go they did, beginning a successful string of expo appearances that were initially in the UK, but rapidly branched out internationally until, eventually, they stopped going to expos and started hosting them.

“I literally think, ‘Let’s make the product that I love,’ and by default, I think other people would love, and let’s create the event that I would love to go to, and by default, I think that other people would really enjoy to go,” he says.

He also says that when it comes to events, making a profit is not the immediate goal. Just like the early days spent working a screen printer in a garage, Francis’s motivation is simply a desire to create something awesome. Something he loves.

“We just sort of think, ‘Right, what would we really, really love to go to? Let’s go make it happen. Let’s forget about the profit and loss at that point for that event. Let’s just go make something really, really cool.’”

But rapidly gaining a dedicated following, especially when selling a physical product, has its challenges. Francis says that Gymshark’s biggest challenge at the moment is keeping up with demand, especially when YouTube influencers or expo attendees are hyping them.

“We definitely made massive improvements in the last six to 12 months, but there’s still a long, long way to go,” he says.

Part of the Gymshark’s effort to keep up with growth meant Francis himself coming to terms with his right role within the company. As CEO, he quickly came to realize that he was in a position that he was not suited to fill.

“We were growing so fast, and the role of the CEO is very people oriented,” he says. “I’m very much an introverted person. I’m much more suited, and work better, in either a very small team or on my own where I can really dive into a project, focus on that thing and make it really special.

“As we were growing bigger, it became more and more evident to me that the CEO really needs to be a lot more of a strategist and a lot more of a people person than what I am.”

So Francis made the difficult decision that it would be best for him to step into the role of Chief Brand Officer instead. But the transfer of CEO power didn’t just happen overnight, which he feels helped build trust among himself and the staff. It happened over a period of about a year as Steve Hewitt, the current CEO, slowly took on more and more until he finally stepped fully into the role.

Of course, passing leadership on to someone else is always a humbling and challenging process, but it’s one that Francis has come to embrace as an opportunity to become more fully himself.

“I think it’s very important to be self-aware and to understand what you are good at what you’re not good at,” he says. “I’m a massive, massive believer of that.”

Today, Francis has the freedom to focus on product and vision, gathering small teams together to pursue new designs and strategies for the future.

So what’s next for Gymshark?

Francis says that they are always pursuing innovation and are currently in the process of designing new fabrics, as well as looking to branch out of the strictly apparel space.

And in an effort to keep avid followers and fans of the brand up to date, Francis has recently launched a vlog series of his own, giving a behind-the-scenes glimpse into Gymshark and into his world.

In the 10 years since Francis started creating amateur websites from home, his world has utterly transformed. But many things remain the same: a love of fitness, a passion for social media, and an unbreakable bond with his high school friends turned business partners.

The Gymshark brand invites each customer and avid follower to “Be a visionary.” And Francis is asking nothing of his followers that he hasn’t done himself. After all, where would Gymshark be without an enthusiastic pizza delivery boy who had the vision to buy a screen printer, and the boldness to show the world what he could create?

Ben Francis’s Tips for Success

Launching a brand new product on your own or starting your own business is never easy. No matter how large or small the venture, it requires vision, courage, and determination. But Ben Francis believes that there are three things any beginning entrepreneur can do to improve their chances of success.

  1. Surround Yourself With Support

Francis says he was once asked to share a story about a time when he was told that he couldn’t do something. He paused to think, but his mind came up blank. “That never happened, because I never surrounded myself with those people,” he says. Starting a business is a challenge, but with the support of people who inspire and motivate you, Francis believes that mountains are reduced back into molehills.

  1. Embrace Self-Awareness

Being honest with yourself and clear about who you truly are is one of Francis’s crucial steps to success. “Self-awareness is key,” he says. “I think it’s massive. You can only kid yourself for so long.” Without the ability to identify which skills you have in abundance and which you lack, you’ll be unable to build a team around you that complements your abilities and improves upon them.

  1. Play to Your Strengths

Once you’ve identified your strengths and weaknesses, Francis insists on the importance of allowing them to guide your decisions. “Could I do an operational…role for a little bit? Absolutely. I’m reasonably intelligent. I could manage,” he says. “But would I be able to do it for a sustained period really, really well? Absolutely not.”

Rather than forcing yourself to be something you’re not, Francis encourages all entrepreneurs to be honest about their strengths and find ways to play to them, even if that means relinquishing, as he did, the title of CEO.

Key Takeaways
  • How interests in building websites, going to the gym, and sewing and screen printing combined to help him launch a wildly successful business
  • How connecting with YouTube influencers helped Gymshark take off
  • On using events to build community
  • The biggest challenge Gymshark faces right now
  • Why Ben traded the role of CEO for Chief Brand Officer
  • On separating personal brand from company brand
  • Why Gymshark has never taken investments
  • What he would do if he were to start a totally new ecommerce brand today
  • What his personal life is like now that he’s a successful business owner
  • What’s next for Gymshark

Apr 03 2019

36mins

Play

Rank #9: 110: The Secret to Creating & Mastering Content at Scale with Sujan Patel of ContentMarketer.io

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Every morning of every day, Sujan Patel starts his day by getting out all of his creative energy onto paper.

The process is relatively simple. He starts by recording himself talking about whatever topic he wants to write about as a way to order his thoughts. He'll then send this recording to a transcriptionist and when he gets it back he'll spend around an hour cranking out a 1,500-2,000 word blog post. For Sujan, this is the secret to being one of the world's best and most prolific content marketers today.

Just 10 years ago, content marketing just wasn't a thing. Sure, blogs existed but they were rarely used in marketing. Today, content marketing is one of the go-to strategies for businesses everywhere. But with everyone eagerly jumping onto the content marketing bandwagon, simply having a high-quality blog just doesn't cut it anymore.

In order to really harness the power of content marketing and see some tangible results, you're going to need a little out-of-the-box thinking.

"Everyone's writing content for their customers, their existing customers, or who they think their customers are. What I like to do is, I don't even talk about any of that stuff. I talk about content circles. And what a content circles is, is [the] content that circles your industry."

As the founder of ContentMarketer.io, the ultimate tool for content marketers, Sujan is one of the most knowledgable people around, and he shared a ton of his wisdom on the subject with us.

In this week's episode you will learn:

  • The best way to generate ideas for articles that your audience will love
  • Just why content marketing is so powerful and why everyone is using it
  • How to create content that generates you leads and customers
  • What to do when you find yourself with writer's block
  • How you too can start writing for places like Forbes, Inc. and Fast Company
  • & much more!

Sep 21 2016

48mins

Play

Rank #10: 139: How to Become a Master Networker to Increase Your Income, Happiness and Startup Success

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Jordan Harbinger is one of the most influential people in entrepreneurship today, thanks to his popular podcast The Art of Charm. His show recently hit its 10th anniversary, and Harbinger has interviewed some of the greatest minds and personalities in the startup space and more.

Starting off as a law school graduate who landed a job as a financial attorney on Wall Street, it didn't take long for Harbinger to become quickly disillusioned with the life that being a big shot attorney offered. Within a year, he left his job to work full-time the Art of Charm podcast, but not before taking with him some key lessons from his stint on Wall Street.

During that time, Harbinger learned of "the third path" to success that no one seemed to talk about. The one that wasn't about working long hours, or even being the smartest person in the room, but instead was all about networking. He found that the key to success was all about sharpening your social skills in order to develop the key relationships you need in order to succeed.

That lesson turned Harbinger's life around and opened up a whole world of possibilities that he never thought possible.

In this week's episode:

  • How to develop and master the social skills you need to succeed
  • The competitive advantage behind networking and building relationships
  • Why podcasting changed the game and how you can harness its power
  • How to become a highly influential person
  • The secret to creating a successful podcast
  • & much more!

Mar 29 2017

46mins

Play

Rank #11: 276: Using Content to Build a Community, With Beardbrand Founder Eric Bandholz

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Rise of the Urban Beardsman How Eric Bandholz challenged the stereotypes of bearded men and built a booming community with Beardbrand.

Eric Bandholz didn’t like being put into a box.

In his former life as a financial advisor at a big bank, for example, he was expected to fit the stereotypical facade of a banker—suit, tie, clean-shaven.

He didn’t like it, so he quit.

With his newfound freedom, Bandholz embarked on an entrepreneurial journey, all while sporting a fresh, full beard. While he loved his rugged new look, he noticed it was happening yet again. This time, he found himself stuffed in a box with the likes of ZZ Top and the guys on Duck Dynasty.

Of course, Bandholz didn’t identify with any of these well-known bearded figures either. And he began to realize that other full-bearded men from all walks of life didn’t fit this mold either.

“I ended up going to this event where I sort of meet other guys like me, like stay-at-home dads and ministers, salespeople, doctors, lawyers, who are all rocking beards and they didn’t really fit the traditional stereotype,” Bandholz says. “So I was thinking about it. … Who are these people? How do I describe them?”

Seeing there was a broad community of bearded men without a home to call their own, Bandholz founded Beardbrand in 2012. Along with co-founders Lindsey Reinders and Jeremy McGee, Bandholz created a community where bearded men could unite, evolving later into a full-fledged lifestyle brand complete with their own beard care and styling products.

With an army of loyal followers on social media, which includes a YouTube channel with over a million subscribers, Beardbrand has grown into an “upper seven-figure business” with ambitions to reach eight in the near future.

Bandholz has come a long way from his suit-and-tie-wearing days.

In the Beginning

In 2011, Bandholz was working for Merrill Lynch in Spokane, Washington, as a financial advisor. It was a respectable career that had a bright future and potential for growth, however, it wasn’t a future he saw for himself once he was in it full time.

Although he loved the work of financial advising and investing, it was stuffy atmosphere and the overall “bank life” that Bandholz knew was not for him. Not wanting to spend another moment in a job that wasn’t a good fit, Bandholz packed up his portfolio and moved on.

The next move?

With a background in marketing prior to his career in finance, Bandholz founded Sovrnty, a startup with a mission to help companies set up marketing automation. Although he had great plans for the business, it never took off.

“I was like one of those gurus. I’d never done it, right?” Bandholz says. “So I’m telling people to do something that I had never really done.”

Unable to sell businesses on his idea, he shifted Sovrnty’s focus to something that he was good at, which was designing and building WordPress sites. Although he was getting some business, it still wasn’t enough. He was pulling together around $2,000 a month at Sovrnty, but he was mainly relying upon his wife and her full-time job to keep the lights on.

Always searching for new clients and ideas, Bandholz was a regular at networking events. And at whichever event he attended, he was always getting called out as one of those cliched bearded figures.

The light bulb went off.

If he didn’t like to be lumped into the stereotypes about bearded men, there had to be others who felt the same. These guys weren’t lumberjacks, roadies, hillbillies, or hipsters, but how exactly would he characterize them? What would he call them?

He settled on “urban beardsmen.”

And in 2012, Beardbrand was born.

The first thing to launch was the blog, Urban Beardsman, which would become a place where Bandholz could help foster a community and connect with other men who didn’t fit the Grizzly Adams stereotype. Beardbrand would soon follow, an organization that united that community of urban beardsmen. There they could also find the tools they needed to feel confident about their beards and personal styles.

But getting from simple blog to full-fledged business proved to be a difficult task.

Startup Weekend

Although Bandholz was still working at Sovrnty to help make ends meet, he had high hopes for Beardbrand. However, a clear vision on how to grow this new community was nowhere in sight.

“Aw man, it was terrible. It was just terrible,” Bandholz says. “There was just no strategy at all in those early days.”

The community was growing, but it was hardly going viral. He was posting regularly to Urban Beardsman, had a Tumblr page, and posted some videos to YouTube, but nothing was really taking off.

Despite its middling traffic, the blog was the only one of its kind back then, which by default made Bandholz an expert on the topic of beards. Because of its uniqueness, the Urban Beardsman would catch the eye of a reporter at The New York Times who was writing an article and wanted to quote Bandholz.

As Bandholz waited for the Times article to be published, he convinced friends Reinders and McGee to join him and collaborate at a Startup Weekend, where they could share their ideas on potential projects. They originally came together to work on a different startup idea that Reinders had, but it soon became clear that they didn’t have the capabilities to create her software product in house.

Needing a new business to work on, Bandholz proposed his side project.

“I was like, hey, I got this Beardbrand thing and this New York Times reporter is going to quote me in an article,” Bandholz says. “Why don’t we turn that into something?”

And turn it into something they did.

Reinders and McGee were on board, and in 2013 the business arm of the company was born. Without much capital to start making their own products—they only put $30 into the business at first—the team opted to become an ecommerce company that sold beard oils from a vendor with standard retail markups.

“When the New York Times article posted, we were able to get a couple sales,” Bandholz says. “And I think the first month we did like 900 bucks in sales. And then it was kind of like 900 bucks, 1,000 bucks, 600 bucks … 2,000 bucks, 3,000 bucks, 7,000 bucks. And then it just seemed like we got a lot of momentum into that fall season and holiday season.”

After almost seven years in business, which included an appearance on Shark Tank (spoiler alert: they didn’t get a deal), the momentum is still going strong. Beardbrand continues to grow in community, employees, and revenue, and is now located primarily in Austin, Texas with about 15 team members and 120 products sold through their website.

Bandholz, whose main focus is on the creative direction of the company, still has major plans for the future of Beardbrand. They intend to try their hands at branching out to create their own custom barbershops, where they can create the same experience a customer may see in a Beardbrand YouTube video. They do this by not only creating an amazing barbershop environment, but also by hiring the right barbers and stylists and coaching them on the information a customer is looking for when they sit in the chair.

“[Customers] can to go Great Clips or they can go to their local barbershop and get a really good haircut,” Bandholz says. “But what we want to deliver is that education similar to how we deliver it on our YouTube Channel.” 

Whether it is through their popular YouTube videos, blog, or even future barbershops, Beardbrand will always work towards its core mission.

“We’re not just here trying to sell products for vanity,” Bandholz says. “We believe that when you invest in yourself, you become a better person and you make the world a better place. You live longer. … I feel this responsibility that I’ve got to get that message out there as much as possible so that we can make the world a better place.”

3 Content Marketing Tips for Bootstrapped Startups

When Eric Bandholz first started Beardbrand, cash was minimal. He was still working at his first company, Sovrnty, and was building Beardbrand on the side. They knew that they didn’t have the money to pay for marketing, but what they did have was their time to invest in content marketing. Bandholz knew that with the right content and strategy, they could reach millions of people.

“Content marketing was essentially our only option in those early days,” Bandholz says. “We didn’t have cash to put into the business. So it started with sharing our story on Reddit. It started with, you know, reaching out to people on Twitter and sharing our product with influencers and not paying them for it.”

Being proactive with their content marketing strategy in the beginning was a key component of Beardbrand’s success. Here are three tips to help your startup bootstrap using content marketing.

Get Started, But Be Patient

Without a marketing budget, Bandholz turned to content marketing to help draw eyes to Beardbrand. It was cost-effective, with the bulk of the investment being his own time to create the content.

The trick was not only to post content and to post it often, but to also know that in the beginning, you won’t get much of a return on your investment. Content marketing is a long-term play. The first step is to just create something. Anything.

“While it does build up over time, it also doesn’t do anything in the beginning,” Bandholz says. “And you really have to like… stoke that fire and get it going. And you get it going by creating, you know, 20 or 40 or 50 pieces of content that start to build that foundation.”

Do What You Like To Do

With so many different funnels and channels to produce content for, it can be intimidating on deciding where to start. According to Bandholz, the type of content you should produce first should be for the channel you’re most interested and passionate about.

“I think you look at yourself and what you like to do,” Bandholz says. “Are you more of an audio person? Then maybe podcasting’s the way to go. Are you more of a writer, you know, introvert? Do you like to express yourself through words? Then blogging is a great way to go. Then, of course, if you’re narcissistic like me…then video is a great source for you.”

The more passion you have for a certain medium, the more likely you’ll churn out content and stick to the long-term plan.

Understanding Expectations

Not all content is created equal, and it’s important to understand the goal for each piece of content you create. At Beardbrand, they use the sales funnel model, where their “content at the top” is there to bring awareness to the brand, the “middle” is used to introduce the products, and the “bottom” hopefully helps to turn the reader into a buying customer.

“Sometimes we have content that is there to inspire people,” Bandholz says. “You know, it’s not going to drive any sales. It’s just there to help build awareness to the brand. And then other good content is stuff that drives sales and gets engagement, or gets people talking and spreading the word.”

By diversifying the types of content you create, you enhance your chances of attracting different types of readers and content consumers on different platforms. As Bandholz says, as a creator, you don’t know exactly what part of the funnel really “helped them become a customer.” For instance, the customer may have first learned about your company through a YouTube video, but it was perhaps the blog or an email newsletter that really got them to trust you and that turned them into a paying customer.

Whichever type of content strategy you decide to implement, one thing is for certain—just get started. You never know who is reading.

Interview by Nathan Chan, feature article reprinted from Foundr Magazine, by Nick Allen

Key Takeaways
  • What drove Bandholz from his career as a financial advisor
  • Why his first startup Sovrnty failed to take off
  • The lightbulb moment that inspired Bandholz to launch Beardbrand
  • How Bandholz leveraged content marketing to grow his business on a tight budget
  • The struggle to grow the community into a full-fledged business
  • How Beardbrand eventually caught the attention of The New York Times
  • The partnerships that helped Bandholz start selling beard grooming and styling products
  • From investing $30 into an ecommerce business to making 7 figures
  • What Bandholz envisions for the future of the company

Nov 12 2019

57mins

Play

Rank #12: 45: Our Top 7 Instagram Hacks To Generate 100's of Thousands of Followers

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So we've decided to mix things up a little with this podcast episode.

This one is a short bite-sized episode, detailing our top 7 hacks for Instagram. You're probably not aware, but in the past 8 months we've been quietly building up a very strong community on Instagram, and within the space of 8 months our Instagram account is 197,000+ followers from the time of writing this.

So often our community is asking us how we did it, so I wanted to share with you our top tips and tricks on how to gain a massive following on Instagram fast.

In this episode you will learn the following tips:

- The importance of posting content regularly

- How to create epic content and why

- Why you should have a CTA (call to action after every post)

- The importance of optimizing your bio and account

- How to use hashtags and a secret hack to increase your engagement in 30 seconds

- What an S4S is, and why it's super important

- Why you should be commenting on other pages.

If you would like to learn more on how to take advantage of Instagram for your business make sure you sign up to find out more about our course that we're launching soon called 'Instagram Domination'. You can do so here - www.foundrmag.com/getig

Jun 10 2015

9mins

Play

Rank #13: 79: How to use Instagram to Generate Millions of Dollars in Your Niche with Deonna Monique

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One common trait among successful entrepreneurs is a sense of urgency—spotting a need and responding without hesitation in order to address and capitalize on it, even when that means taking a risk.

Deonna Monique is a prime example. As a consumer of hair extensions, she had long struggled with finding the right product, and what she saw as a lack of authenticity in the market. But when she realized through social media that the problem was much bigger than her own, she started a company.

“I thought I was on to something,” Monique tells Foundr. “So a week after I opened my business, I quit my job. I just went for it.”

Despite some serious tests of faith along the way, Monique stuck with her company Boho Exotic Studio, and ended up earning seven figures in that first year, she says. Now approaching three years in business, and she has a strong foothold, all with her chief channel of marketing being social media platforms like Instagram.

Monique’s lack of hesitation, no-nonsense approach to connecting with her customers, and faith in the quality of her product and service, have added up to a stunningly fast ascent, all in the face of serious business and personal hurdles.

In this interview you will learn:

  • How to let your customer be the face of your company
  • What to do when it feels like you've hit rock bottom as an entrepreneur
  • The best ways to hack social media marketing to further your brand and grow your audience
  • The perils and benefits of diving straight into building a business as a new entrepreneur
  • The importance of looking past all the doubters and believing in yourself and your dreams
  • & much more!

Feb 16 2016

51mins

Play

Rank #14: 181: Running a 7-Figure Business On 5.5 Hours a Day, With Ari Meisel of Less Doing

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Entrepreneurs find inspiration in all sorts of places. But for Ari Meisel, founder, bestselling author, and productivity expert, desperation was the driving force behind the launch of his successful company, Less Doing. That same desperation led him to breakthroughs in productivity that changed his life.

At just 23 years old, Meisel was enjoying a thriving real estate career, but after suffering some major business blows and landing $3 million in debt, the stress overwhelmed him and he was diagnosed with debilitating Crohn’s disease. Managing the disease crippled Meisel’s ability to work regularly. Some days he was unable to work longer than an hour.

During this difficult experience, Meisel realized he needed to devise a way to accomplish more work in the limited time he had. Through a long process of experimentation, Ari developed his Less Doing, More Living productivity system, which allowed him the time he needed both to build a new business and improve his health.

A devoted husband, father of five, and dedicated businessman, Meisel now helps individuals and businesses around the world become more effective—all while working only 5 ½ hours a day. He's also recently teamed up with Foundr to teach his Less Doing, More Living system to our awesome community.

In this inspiring interview, learn the secrets behind Meisel’s airtight productivity system and discover how you can also become a productivity master and optimize, automate, and outsource your life and business.

Key Takeaways
  • Ari’s 15-minute outsourcing rule that frees you up to focus on growing your business
  • How saying no to new opportunities can grow your business more than saying yes
  • The power of using machine learning to slash your work time and automate systems
  • Why working more hours does not always translate into getting more work done

Jan 11 2018

53mins

Play

Rank #15: 235: Sell Like Crazy: Psychology, Sales Funnels, and Paid Ads, With Sabri Suby of King Kong

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These days, Sabri Suby reigns supreme as the founder of King Kong, Australia’s fastest-growing digital marketing agency. But he’s come a long way since his first job, selling ink cartridges over the phone, which he describes as a “cold, hard slap to the face.”

“I sucked incredibly badly at doing that in the beginning,” he says.

Soon enough, thanks to mastering the art of sales and persuasion, he became the top producer in that role, went on to travel the world, and eventually, forged his path as an entrepreneur. For all of his companies, he realized he was asking the same fundamental question: “How do we get more customers?”

His obsession with answering that question has helped him perfect his selling skills and scale King Kong from zero to $10 million in annual revenue in just four years.

In his latest book, Sell Like Crazy, Suby reveals the selling system he’s created and honed over the years, including things like the Magic Lantern Technique and the Halo Strategy. He says he’s deployed this system in more than 167 different niches and markets—and it’s worked every time. With Sell Like Crazy, he shares the steps you need to take, regardless of what stage you’re in, to level up your business.

Key Takeaways
  • Where to begin if you want to succeed in selling online
  • Psychology vs. technology and why the traffic channel doesn’t matter
  • The biggest mistake online businesses are making regarding sales
  • Why you shouldn’t start a business by looking only at your interests
  • How to identify a gap in the market that you can fill
  • Using automation and a funnel to convert sales
  • Why skepticism online is at an all-time high—and how to overcome it
  • How to know when to ask for the sale
  • How to get over the fear of selling
  • Why you’re doing the world a disservice by not trying to sell
  • Why paid advertising is key to growth

Jan 30 2019

39mins

Play

Rank #16: 229: Mastering Copywriting and Finding Your Flow With Arman Assadi of Project EVO

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NEW COURSE ALERT: Entrepreneur, we wanted you to be the first to know that we’ve collaborated with Arman Assadi to bring you our brand new copywriting course. Learn the copywriting secrets behind 11 seven-figure product launches, taught by Arman himself.

Arman’s broken it down into a 10-step framework that he’s proven with his clients time and time again. He’s even going to give you templates, formulas, and how-to guides so you can start converting customers like crazy.

If you’re tired of seeing ZERO sales for all the hard work you’ve put into your amazing product—then you NEED to learn the power of copywriting. We’re opening the doors to this course soon for a limited time only, and we want to see you there. Be sure to get on the FREE waitlist so you don’t miss it!

Key Takeaways
  • The “crisis of meaning” that drove Assadi to leave his job at Google, book a trip to Cuba, and pursue freedom as a solopreneur
  • How Assadi became a self-taught copywriter and began working with the likes of Neil Patel, Lewis Howes, Jason Silva, and Lori Harder
  • What you should (and shouldn’t) do if you want to find your unique voice as a copywriter
  • The key to writing high-converting copy and why every entrepreneur should learn the basics
  • The story behind Assadi’s latest business and how it created the most-funded planner in crowdfunding history: EVO Planner
  • What’s next for Project EVO and how it’s helping entrepreneurs and creatives find fulfillment in their work

Dec 11 2018

1hr 5mins

Play

Rank #17: 120: The Master of Systems (Michael Gerber) Shares How to Scale Your Business

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Thirty years ago, Michael Gerber released a book called The E-Myth: Why Most Businesses Don't Work and What to Do About it.

It carried within it lessons on what it means to be an entrepreneur, the importance of systems in building a scalable business, even the different types of people who start their own businesses. It laid out the common pitfalls that happen to most novice entrepreneurs and gave practical advice on how to avoid them.

The best-selling book has since inspired millions of people to start their own businesses, and is still considered to be a must-read for entrepreneurs everywhere. Startup thought leaders like Tim Ferriss and Seth Godin have heaped praise on the lessons outlined in this book.

But before Gerber began changing the lives of a whole generation of business owners, he explains, he never intended to become an entrepreneur. It was only through a chance meeting with a distraught business owner that Gerber found himself with his first client and in the position to help someone grow a business.

"I discovered something I'd never known before, and that is the conclusion I've come to over the years—that despite the obvious differences between industries, between vertical markets, between kinds of companies, what I began to discover was that from a business development perspective, they're not different at all."

Despite all the technological changes that have happened since that first client, Gerber asserts that the key principles behind building a business have remained the same.

In this episode you will learn:

  • What exactly it is that makes an entrepreneur different from everyone else
  • How to be a dreamer, a thinker, a storyteller, and a leader
  • The difference between strategic and tactical thinking, and which one you should be doing
  • Why everyone should start thinking about building a business
  • How to make your business unique, even if your product isn't
  • & much more!

Dec 01 2016

1hr 2mins

Play

Rank #18: 201: Zero to $10 Million in 4 Years: How King Kong’s Sabri Suby Went from Work-at-Home Consultant to Booming Agency Founder

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To Sabri Suby, business is a jungle and only the strong survive. To be successful, you need to dominate the digital landscape and crush the competition into a fine powder. That fierce attitude has served Suby, and his clients, very well over the years.

Suby is the founder of King Kong, the fastest-growing digital marketing agency in Australia. Last year, King Kong raked in $7 million in revenue from its digital marketing campaigns, over $200 million in sales for its clients, and this year, is aiming to top that.

Hustling since he was a teen, Suby learned how to sell early on. Making a whole lot of cold calls over the course of his life, he never let up. Starting King Kong in his bedroom on his girlfriend's laptop, Suby preferred to jump into the trenches and get his hands dirty instead of wasting time reading business books and attending events. That unrelenting approach definitely paid off.

Listen in as Suby discusses why his agency scaled to millions in revenue so quickly, how to dominate direct response marketing, and why a service-based business should be the top choice for entrepreneurs.

ATTENTION: Suby has partnered with Foundr to teach an epic new course, "Consulting Empire.” If you want to learn how to start and scale a service-based business, whether you are a consultant, coach or freelancer, Suby reveals all of his golden strategies (the exact ones he used to scale from zero to $10 million) in this new course. It’s just about ready so get on the free VIP waitlist here to be one of the first we notify when it launches!

May 30 2018

59mins

Play

Rank #19: 41: How to Hack Time with Tim Ferriss (not to be missed)

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We’ve all been curious about the best way to get better at languages, sports, cooking, fitness, and of course, how to start a business. Using a grand total of four hours per week, Tim Ferriss showed us how. Ferriss needs no introduction. Multiple New York Times best-selling author. Entrepreneur. Self-help guru. Investor. Celebrity. And now star of his own television show.

Even if you know nothing of entrepreneurialism, you probably know the work of Tim Ferriss. The 4-hour Workweek ring any bells? Chances are, it’s that book your roommate is always gushing about. A #1 New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-seller, it has seeped into the zeitgeist and changed more lives than its detractors would like to admit. The 4-Hour Workweek was on the New York Times best-seller list for four-and-a-half years straight and stayed on other lists for seven consecutive years. Released in 2007, this seductive and seminal book was about escaping the workaholic lifestyle to “find your muse.” For the uninitiated, that means a business that takes up little time, yet turns over enough revenue for you to enjoy a sort of freedom from the office bullpen.

If it weren’t for Tim Ferriss and The 4-Hour Workweek, a lot of us wouldn’t be where we are today. I know I wouldn't! So it's with great pleasure I bring you the man, the myth and the legend Tim Ferriss.

P.S. If you would like to check out Tim's new TV show, 'The Tim Ferriss Experiment' which we highly recommend! You can visit - www.itunes.com/timferriss

In this interview you will learn:

- Tim's strategies on how he exploded the 4-hour work week brand (the early days)

- How he builds solid relationships with influencers and doesn't use the hard sell

- The no.1 marketing strategy he uses for approaching any project and making it explode

- The top 5 productivity tools that are changing the game for Tim right now that allow him to hack the hell out his time and get insane amounts of work done (gamechanger)

- Tim's new epic TV show and the secret to learning any skill FAST

- An extremely humbling story of how Tim got his first customers for his first business, and what it's like for every single person when they first start out on their entrepreneurial journey

- & So much more of course :)

May 03 2015

34mins

Play

Rank #20: 250: How Dollar Shave Club Used Mission, Humor, and Viral Videos to Lead Up to a $1B Acquisition, With Michael Dubin

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A viral video put Dollar Shave Club on the map, but it took a team to get it where it is today. CEO Michael Dubin talks about DSC’s growth, acquisition, and expanding product line.

It was the commercial seen round the internet. On March 6, 2012, Dollar Shave Club uploaded its first YouTube video, featuring one-and-a-half minutes of offbeat humor, during which founder Michael Dubin rides in a kid’s wagon, wields a machete, and encounters, among many other things, a person in a bear suit.

“Do you think your razor needs a vibrating handle, a flashlight, a back scratcher, and 10 blades?” Dubin deadpans while riding a forklift. “Your handsome-ass grandfather had one blade—and polio.”

It was a totally unique way to explain a simple concept: For an affordable fee, Dollar Shave Club subscribers would get quality razor blades delivered to their doorsteps on a regular basis, thus skipping the trips to the store for overpriced, gimmicky alternatives. And people loved it—the resulting traffic from the video’s launch crashed their site.

Since then, that commercial has been viewed over 26 million times on YouTube. It cost only $4,500 to produce, yet it launched the company on a trajectory that would later lead to a $1 billion acquisition by Unilever.

“It put us on the map, no doubt,” Dubin says. “We wouldn't be where we are without it.”

But this isn’t a story about Michael Dubin and his famous viral video. It’s not even a story about razor blades. As Dubin is quick to point out, getting DSC to where it is today required a team effort. And with its ever-expanding product line, today, the company is about so much more than a good shave.

Timing Is Everything—In Comedy and Business

They say the most important thing in comedy is timing; the difference between roaring laughter and painful silence can be a fraction of a second.

Maybe this was something Dubin learned during the eight years he spent training at New York City’s Upright Citizens Brigade, an improv theatre with notable alumni such as Saturday Night Live’s Horatio Sanz and Amy Poehler. While taking improv classes, Dubin worked various media jobs, starting as a page at NBC, then moving into production and news writing at MSNBC, and eventually, getting into digital marketing at SportsIllustrated.com.

But it wasn’t just Dubin’s punchline delivery that set DSC up for success out of the gate. Even the timing of its launch was strategic. As Dubin told NPR’s Guy Raz in a “How I Built This” interview, he chose that specific date—March 6—because, with his media background, he knew that news outlets would be hungry for a tech story leading up to the annual South by Southwest conference that takes place in Austin in mid-March. The launch date also coincided with Dollar Shave Club’s announcement of its $1 million seed round.

It Takes a Team

A viral video can be a major boost for any company, but it’s far from the secret to a successful business. For that, you need great people, and assembling them is easier said than done.

“Big business is a team sport,” Dubin says, “and it requires talent from all corners of the universe that will help you build what you're looking to build.”

Knowing where to find your future teammates can be a challenge.

“Finding great talent is always going to be the hardest thing that any entrepreneur does,” Dubin says. “Because, ultimately, there's somebody out there in the marketplace that can help you do your job really well and help you build your company the best way possible. But you've got to go out and find them in the great wide world.”

That’s why Dubin is a fan of recruiters, “because recruiters are paid to have knowledge of the network that you're looking in.”

When building his team early on, Dubin had just moved from New York to Los Angeles and lacked a network in his new city, so he relied on his early investors to make introductions. “That's a great reason to take investment—besides, obviously, needing to take it to drive growth and invest where you need to.”

To attract the right talent, Dubin recommends founders do two things. First, focus on your company’s mission. What are you trying to achieve? What gaps in the market are you trying to fill? Why do you come to work every day?

“Really talented people want to work for companies that have purpose,” he says. “And that's defined in the mission of the company.”

Second, consider granting employees equity. “People want to feel like they're participants in the success—if you ultimately do have the success—and that's super meaningful.”

And if your mission changes, that’s okay. It’s natural for it to evolve as your company grows; that’s certainly true for Dollar Shave Club. “It started out more as a shave-only proposition,” Dubin says. “And then it grew out into becoming…more of a men's health, more of a men's grooming platform.”

What’s their mission today? “Help guys take care of their minds and bodies so they can be their best selves.”

Growth, Acquisition, and Expansion

Taking on the shaving industry was a gutsy move. To put that into perspective, it was around the year 1900 that King C. Gillette invented the world’s first disposable razor, according to Gillette’s website. So when Dubin decided to disrupt the shaving market, he was going up against a company that had already been in it for over 100 years.

Eight months after the launch of its first commercial, Dollar Shave Club secured a Series A round of $9.8 million. And two years after that, the subscription razor blade company hit 1 million members.

In July 2016, Unilever acquired Dollar Shave Club for a reported $1 billion. At the time, DSC had 3.2 million members and was expected to exceed $200 million in turnover (which is sometimes defined as net sales and sometimes defined as revenue) that year. Dubin stayed on as CEO and continues to serve in that capacity today.

“Unilever's been very good to let us run the company our way,” he says, “and that was part of the design.”

Today, Dollar Shave Club boasts over 300 employees and continues to expand its product line and global footprint. Beyond razors, DSC now sells cologne, body wash, shampoo—even flushable toilet wipes (they’re called One Wipe Charlies). It also has sites live in Australia, Canada, and the UK, with plans to expand further in the next couple of years.

Knowing When It’s Time to Add a New Product

For a long time, razor blade subscriptions were Dollar Shave Club’s bread and butter, and it gained a loyal following with its single product line. But growth almost always means product expansion, so how can a founder know when it’s the right time to add new products?

“You have to stay true to your core,” Dubin says. “You have to develop credibility in your core categories before you can expand outward. There is such a thing as doing that too fast.”

Timing matters. Move too fast, and you could confuse your customers and dilute your brand. Too slow, and you may miss your opportunity to take the market.

As for figuring out what your next product should be: ”You should definitely do your research. It's always a blend of gut and research.”

Time Well Spent

These days, Dubin doesn’t star in any viral videos, but he told Foundr about a recent, albeit lesser-known, YouTube video of his commencement address to the 2018 graduating class of his alma mater, Emory University. In it, he sums up the lessons he’s learned over the years, including one about “little choices.”

“They're the ones you make more frequently, maybe even every day,” he says to the graduates, “the ripple effects of which, I believe, actually have a bigger impact over the course of your life. They’re choices about where to invest your time.”

Given Dollar Shave Club’s meteoric success, it’s safe to say that Dubin and his team’s time has been well spent.

5 Entrepreneurial Lessons from Michael Dubin

Dollar Shave Club is a massively popular company that attracted a billion-dollar acquisition. What are some parting lessons we can take from this interview with CEO Michael Dubin?

  • Video isn’t a magic bullet.“What worked for us is not necessarily going to work for everybody,” Dubin says. “Unfortunately, there's no easy answer here. The best advice that I can give to somebody is to find what makes you special, understand what unique talents you have or your team has, and leverage those to try and cut through the noise. It's not easy. It's not easy, and video is not the surefire way to do it.”
  • Culture is more than company perks.“Culture's a tricky word. A lot of people mistake culture for meaning like a coffee bar and a beanbag chair for everybody or stand-up desks, and that's not what culture is. Culture is a much more complex, complicated animal than that. And to me, culture means…people are into their jobs, they feel like they're contributing to the mission, they feel like they're being valued for their contributions and recognized for their contributions, and that they have a career path at that company—that's culture. All the other stuff is sort of superfluous icing on the cake.”
  • Only use a subscription model if it enhances the customer experience.“A lot of people get addicted to this notion of a subscription business because they love the idea of monthly recurring revenue, but you should only be launching a subscription business if it's going to be an enhancement to…the customer's experience. The customer's experience is the most important thing. If delivering them a subscription is going to make their life better or happier, you should offer a subscription. And if not, you shouldn't.”
  • Expect hard times. “You're going to go through hard times. You're going to go through lonely periods. That's to be expected. There's really nothing that anybody can tell you that's going to help make that feel better. … You just kind of have to go through it, truly.”
  • Take breaks. “My advice to entrepreneurs who are starting companies is you have to be relentless, but you also have to step away and take breaks. You can't work yourself to death because it's a marathon, not a sprint.”

 

Key Takeaways
  • His media background and the social network for travelers he tried to start before launching Dollar Shave Club
  • The importance of building a great team to help your business grow
  • How to attract and retain high-quality talent
  • How Dollar Shave Club defined its mission and how it has evolved over time
  • What the early DSC team looked like
  • The famous first Dollar Shave Club video
  • Life after Unilever’s acquisition of DSC
  • Challenges the DSC team faces as they grow the brand
  • How to know when to launch another product
  • Dubin’s thoughts on the physical product subscription model
  • How to build a healthy company culture

May 16 2019

30mins

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307: Basecamp’s David Heinemeier Hansson On What A Productive Workplace Should Look Like

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As we start thinking about re-opening our businesses and offices after Covid-19, many people are wondering what the new “normal” will look like.

While co-founder of Basecamp David Heinemeier Hansson doesn’t know for sure what the outcome will be, he certainly has an idea of what the new world of work should look like. As one of the biggest advocates of remote work, Hansson is hopeful that more and more companies will see the benefits of allowing employees to choose how and where they want to work.

But his vision for work doesn’t stop there. Hansson is also passionate about creating an environment where employees can protect at least a few hours of their day to accomplish deep work. This means no daily stand ups, no open calendars, and no unnecessary distractions that take away from your ability to get s*** done—an approach that’s imbued in Basecamp’s own culture.

If you’re fascinated by the topics of remote work and productivity, you don’t want to miss out on this conversation with Hansson.

If there’s any other content you’d like to see that would be valuable to you during this time, please don’t hesitate to reach out at support@foundr.com.

Key Takeaways
  • The email from Hansson to Jason Fried that eventually led to the birth of Basecamp
  • Why it’s difficult to tell what the new “normal” for work will be after Covid-19
  • A look at the most common misconceptions about remote work, and how the pandemic has proven them to be false
  • Why Hansson believes we need to focus less on the number of hours we work and more on the quality of those hours
  • The reason why Basecamp isn’t renewing the lease for its Chicago office
  • Why Hansson doesn’t believe in daily stand ups and open calendars
  • How to maximize deep work
  • Why Basecamp’s approach to work is less about productivity, and more about human health and happiness
  • A sneak peek into Hansson’s upcoming project, HEY
  • Why the phrase ASAP is overused
  • What Hansson’s schedule looks like on most days

Jun 02 2020

54mins

Play

306: From Myspace To Jam City: Chris DeWolfe Breaks Down His 25 Years Of Experience As An Entrepreneur

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Chris DeWolfe excels at creating massive user bases—a skill he has demonstrated with two companies you’ll likely recognize: Myspace and Jam City.

After DeWolfe launched the biggest social network of its time in 2003, it was only a matter of months before Myspace completely took off and attracted millions of users around the world. Only two years after the start of his company, DeWolfe sold the platform for $580 million. But he wasn’t done yet.

When DeWolfe asked himself ‘what’s next?’ he found himself drawn to the world of gaming. Not only was it easy to scale, but he also believed the current trends pointed toward an explosion in gaming. He wasn’t wrong. Today, Jam City is known for famous mobile games like Cookie Jam and Pop! and Panda, and it’s still going strong to keep up with the growing demand of casual gamers.

In this interview, DeWolfe discusses the hyper growth of his companies, how to stay focused when running such a behemoth of a company, and what it takes to build massive user bases.

If there’s any other content you’d like to see that would be valuable to you during this time, please don’t hesitate to reach out at support@foundr.com.

Key Takeaways
  • How DeWolfe built the largest website in the world and the biggest social network of its time, Myspace
  • The trends in pop culture and technology that led to the launch of Myspace in 2003
  • A look into the rapid growth and eventual sale of Myspace in 2005 for $580 million
  • How Myspace created a roadmap for companies like Spotify and YouTube
  • The top three lessons DeWolfe learned from his journey with Myspace
  • How DeWolfe figured out his next step into the world of mobile gaming
  • Why Jam City targets an underserved audience for gamers
  • The acquisition of Mindjolt
  • How to be a great storyteller and create amazing games
  • What’s exciting for DeWolfe in the future of the mobile gaming business
  • What it takes to build large user bases
  • Why DeWolfe recommends taking measured risks in the pursuit of innovation
  • A sneak peek into Jam City’s latest upcoming mobile game

May 26 2020

48mins

Play

305: Dropbox’s Drew Houston on Continuous Learning, Decision Making, and Fixing the Way We Work

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By now, the story is legend. When Drew Houston boarded a bus from Boston to New York and discovered that he had—yet again—forgotten to bring his thumb drive, he was frustrated. So frustrated that he sat down and began writing the first lines of code of what would eventually become Dropbox.

After over a decade of changing the way files are stored, synced, and shared, Houston is changing the way people work, once again. This time, to solve a problem that likely plagues every single knowledge worker today: our fragmented, overcomplicated workspaces.

In this episode, you’ll learn more about Houston’s journey—from ideation to launch—with Dropbox Spaces, as well as the most important lessons he’s collected while building a multibillion-dollar company with over 500 million users.

Key Takeaways
  • The relatable experience that inspired Houston to come up with the idea for Dropbox
  • Why Houston doesn’t believe there’s any “magic” involved in building a multibillion-dollar company
  • The importance of decision making and learning continuously on the job
  • How a conversation with a SpaceX engineer sparked the vision behind Dropbox Spaces
  • Houston’s advice on “harvesting” versus “planting” when it comes to your business
  • Why Houston is such a huge believer in intentionally designing your environment—at work and with your personal relationships

May 19 2020

37mins

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304: Alex Osterwalder On Why Products, Technology, And Price Aren’t Enough To Keep Your Company Competitive

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Alex Osterwalder is primarily known for developing the Business Model Canvas, a template that helps startups develop and document new or existing business models.

In this interview, Osterwalder shares his best insights into the world of business models—ideas that are especially applicable now as entrepreneurs try to launch businesses during Covid-19. He explains why products, technology, and price alone aren’t enough to keep your company competitive. Osterwalder also breaks down the innovative models that Apple, Netflix, and Nintendo have used to become industry leaders (and why even these behemoths aren’t safe from disruption).

We also get a sneak peek into Osterwalder’s latest book called “The Invincible Company.” Not only does it contain an entire library of business models for companies of all sizes, but it also provides guidance on how startups can continuously reinvent themselves to stay ahead of the curve.

If there’s any other content you’d like to see that would be valuable to you during this time, please don’t hesitate to reach out at support@foundr.com.

Key Takeaways
  • How Osterwalder came to study business models in graduate school
  • Insight into Osterwalder’s latest book, “The Invincible Company”
  • Why companies can’t compete on products, technology, and price alone (and why your business model can provide the ultimate competitive edge)
  • The scalability of business models
  • Why companies need to transcend industry boundaries
  • The reason why Osterwalder urges entrepreneurs to test before they build
  • How Apple, Netflix, and Nintendo are prime case studies of innovative business models in action—but why even they’re not safe from disruption
  • Osterwalder’s stance on the “magic bullet” when it comes to business models (hint: there isn’t one)

May 19 2020

57mins

Play

303: Ballsy’s Adam Hendle Talks Community Engagement, Customer Acquisition, And Leaning Into The Pandemic

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Adam Hendle’s company, Ballsy, is eye-catching and humorous, which are some of the most defining characteristics of the brand.

But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t take his business seriously. On the contrary, Hendle is obsessed with producing the highest quality products and finding creative ways to take his company to the next level. This is exactly how he brought in over $10 million in sales in just two years. And now, during the Covid-19 pandemic, he is still finding opportunities to grow.

In this podcast episode, Hendle discusses his unique approach to everything from community engagement to customer acquisition. He also opens up about his most challenging moments in business and explains how he finds opportunities in unexpected times and places (such as during a pandemic). This is a conversation you don’t want to miss!

If there’s any other type of content you’d like to see that would be valuable to you during this time, please don’t hesitate to reach out at support@foundr.com.

Want some training on ecommerce? Check out our free masterclasses:

FREE Masterclass: Start a Profitable Online Store (In 12 Weeks or Less)

FREE Masterclass: Discover the “5 Core Drivers” Behind Today’s Fastest-Growing 7-Figure Stores

Key Takeaways
  • What’s changed with Ballsy since the last time we talked to Hendle
  • An overview of Ballsy’s growth from a sales, marketing, and team perspective
  • How Covid-19 gave Hendle’s brand an opportunity for growth
  • The approach Hendle took to lean into customer demand for subscriptions and stocking up on products
  • How Ballsy stays engaged with its community in fun and creative ways
  • A deep dive into one of Ballsy’s most unique customer acquisition channels: podcast advertisements
  • Why it’s important to test your assumptions
  • Insight into some of the biggest business obstacles Hendle has had to face
  • Why Hendle has Ballsy’s influencers on a monthly retainer
  • The reason why product quality is paramount to the Ballsy brand

May 12 2020

49mins

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302: Serial Ecommerce Entrepreneur Rory Boyle On How He Survived (And Thrived) During The Pandemic

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All three of Rory Boyle’s ecommerce businesses were negatively impacted by Covid-19.

But thanks to his strategic—and insanely fast—pivot, two of his companies are now making double the revenue they were before and one (which historically made most of its money through conferences) is still pulling in around 50% of what it used to make.

How did Boyle recover so quickly from the pandemic? In this interview, we were lucky enough to get a detailed analysis around his thought process and strategic decisions. Boyle takes us through how he shifted his sales and marketing tactics (which still includes getting on the phone) and explains how he’s using this time as an opportunity to give back to his community and customers. He also shares tons of tips around scaling sales efforts, the art of cadence emails, and other tactics you can use to grow your revenue.

If there’s any other type of content you’d like to see that would be valuable to you during this time, please don’t hesitate to reach out at support@foundr.com to let us know.

If you need want some training on ecommerce, check out our Free Masterclasses:

Learn How You Can Start a Profitable Online Store (In 12 Weeks or Less)Discover the “5 Core Drivers” Behind Today’s Fastest-Growing 7-Figure Stores

Key Takeaways
  • The origin stories of Hampers With Bite, Promotions Warehouse, and Snacks With Bite
  • What Boyle means when he says to “control the controllables”
  • How COVID-19 impacted all 3 of Boyle’s businesses—and how he pivoted all of them at breakneck speed
  • The approach Boyle is taking to sales and marketing during the pandemic (and why his team is still hopping on the phone to talk to customers)
  • Why Boyle believes every ecommerce entrepreneur needs to be thinking about the next step instead of focusing on current performance
  • How Boyle is giving back to his community and customers
  • How he’s planning around stocking challenges, especially for the upcoming holidays
  • A super deep dive into Boyle’s best sales tactics and strategies
  • Why Boyle would encourage entrepreneurs to launch their business in today’s climate

May 11 2020

53mins

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301: 8-Figure Ecommerce Founder Reveals His Best Insights For Ecommerce Entrepreneurs Struggling Through Covid-19

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Today, we’re excited to share another valuable interview to help you overcome business challenges during the Covid-19 pandemic.

We had the opportunity to pick the brain of Ashwin Sokke, the founder of WOW Skin Science. His global 8-figure skincare and haircare business is extremely popular in India and across the U.S., and it has been a top-selling brand on Amazon for the last four years in those countries.

In this interview, Sokke shares how his company dealt with the impact of Covid-19 which shut down half of his business for several weeks. For businesses who are going through similar pains, he provides incredible insights across many topics—from how to communicate with customers (he believes we should be sending them more emails and texts during this time) to getting creative with your marketing tactics (remember giveaways?). Sokke even digs down into the nitty gritty and breaks down his thoughts on subscription models, ad investments, and SKUs.

We believe this conversation will be valuable for any entrepreneur to listen to, especially those with ecommerce businesses. If there’s any other type of content you’d like to see that would be valuable to you during this time, please don’t hesitate to reach out at support@foundr.com to let us know.

If you need want some training on ecommerce, check out our Free Masterclasses:

Learn How You Can Start a Profitable Online Store (In 12 Weeks or Less)Discover the “5 Core Drivers” Behind Today’s Fastest-Growing 7-Figure Stores

Key Takeaways
  • How Sokke got into the health and beauty space
  • The path to growing WOW Skin Science in India and the U.S. and becoming a top-selling brand on Amazon
  • Why Sokke develops all of his products from scratch
  • A glimpse into the company’s incredible numbers: 8-figure revenue and 370% growth in the U.S. last year
  • The impact that Covid-19 had on Sokke’s global company
  • Why Sokke believes companies should be sending more emails during this time (and how to be strategic about it)
  • Why giveaways have been a successful tactic during Covid-19
  • An overview on a winning stock keeping unit (SKU)
  • Sokke’s thoughts on how to win with subscription models
  • The best advice Sokke can offer to the community during Covid-19

May 05 2020

51mins

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300: [Special 300th Episode] Rich20Something’s Daniel DiPiazza And Foundr’s Nathan Chan Dive Deep Into the World of Instagram

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The latest installment of the Foundr podcast is a landmark—our 300th episode! So to mark the occasion, we’ve got something a little different for you today.

Daniel DiPiazza, the founder of Rich20Something, was on the cover of Foundr Magazine last year, and today, he returns to Foundr to “reverse interview” our own CEO, Nathan Chan, ahead of the relaunch of Foundr’s beloved Instagram Domination course.

Together, Nathan and Daniel share the details of how they each found success on Instagram for their respective brands. They also explore Instagram’s algorithms, how it compares to other social media platforms, and the right way to use this powerful tool during the Covid-19 pandemic. Plus, they swap stories about their friendly competition, their time in the “Motivation Mafia,” and more!

If you want to learn more about our remastered Instagram Domination course when it launches, sign up for the Free VIP waitlist here (Get a FREE Lesson!).

Key Takeaways
  • The reason for this special “reverse interview”
  • How Nathan and Daniel got started on Instagram and are still finding success with the platform today
  • Why Instagram is the most powerful tool for both personal branding and ecommerce
  • A glimpse into Instagram’s algorithms and metrics
  • Why Instagram needs to be about more than just follower numbers
  • How Instagram can be a powerful tool through the current pandemic
  • A throwback story about the “Motivation Mafia”
  • Why Nathan would still pick Instagram as his platform of choice if he were to start a new company today
  • A comparison of Instagram vs. YouTube
  • How Daniel’s Instagram account helped him seal a six-figure book deal
  • The question that stumped Nathan (and why he prefers to focus on the present)
  • Why Daniel owes Nathan a trip to San Sebastián

Apr 29 2020

1hr 6mins

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299: From $0 To $20M In 2 Years: How Happy Skin Co. Founder Dylan Mullan Went Viral

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Dylan Mullan took an extremely unconventional path to entrepreneurship.

While he was in school, Mullan was convinced he wanted to be a lawyer, until he started taking classes at university and realized that he hated them. After that, he spontaneously took an acting course and spent almost five years as an actor. It was eventually a desire to have more control over his life that led him and his business partner to launch Happy Skin Co together.

Through a mixture of hard work, strategic decisions, and a deep investment in understanding their target customer, Mullan managed to grow his at-home hair removal business from $0 to $20 million in just two years.

In this interview, Mullan maps out exactly what this path to explosive growth looked like. He breaks down his approach to everything from market research to Facebook ads and explains why mindset is ultimately an entrepreneur’s most valuable tool.

If there’s any other type of content you’d like to see that would be valuable to you during this time, please don’t hesitate to reach out at support@foundr.com to let us know.

Key Takeaways
  • The path from aspiring lawyer to aspiring actor, and how Mullan eventually wound up in the world of entrepreneurship
  • A look into Happy Skin Co’s early days, from long nights of planning to packaging products in Mullan’s living room with friends and family
  • The turning points that catapulted the company from $0 to $20 million in 2 years
  • How Mullan approached market research and influencer marketing in the early days
  • What the impact of Covid-19 has looked like for Mullan and his team, and the new opportunities it has opened up
  • Mullan’s best advice when it comes to creating profitable Facebook ads
  • An overview of the Happy Skin Co product development process and a sneak peek into what’s next
  • How to deal with industry copycats
  • Why Mullan is a huge advocate for visualization and believing in yourself

Apr 21 2020

51mins

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298: Serial Entrepreneur Josh Snow’s Approach to Influencers, Recurring Revenue, and Paid Ads During a Pandemic

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Josh Snow always finds ways to thrive in difficult situations.

Growing up, his family didn’t have a lot of money, and he wanted to help them cover basic expenses. So Snow taught himself how to create websites at his local library, which is how he stumbled into entrepreneurship. He eventually took that knowledge and built a software company from the ground up, which he sold by the age of 21.

Now Snow runs multiple successful businesses—with the most prominent one being his nine-figure teeth whitening business, Snow.

And he’s still finding ways to overcome adversity. Just as most businesses have been impacted by COVID-19, Snow also took a huge hit in terms of sales, with its conversion rates cut in half when the pandemic first emerged. However, by making fast, strategic changes, Snow got his company through the temporary setback and is today seeing higher-than-average sales on its site.

In this interview, Snow shares exactly how he made the necessary changes to his business. He also provides advice to other online businesses on how to get through this time by adjusting everything from your subscription model to your approach to influencer relations strategy.

If there’s any other type of content you’d like to see that would be valuable to you during this time, please don’t hesitate to reach out at support@foundr.com to let us know.

Key Takeaways
  • How Snow stumbled into entrepreneurship through necessity
  • The journey to selling his first software company at the age of 21
  • Why Snow believes adversity gives you the opportunity to pause and reprioritize
  • The inspiration behind Snow, and how it grew to be a nine-figure business
  • How the company has been affected by COVID-19, and the changes Snow made to help his business bounce back and make more sales than before the pandemic
  • Snow’s recommendations on how to adjust your subscription products, influencer relations, and paid ads strategy during this time
  • The importance of evolving and meeting your customer where they’re at
  • Why Snow believes you have to be an “everything” person if you want a successful business
  • Advice on using Shopify vs. funnels
  • The choice between hunting rabbits vs. elephants (metaphorically)

Apr 15 2020

1hr 12mins

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297: Steve Blank’s 3-Step Process to Help Businesses Cope With COVID-19

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Steve Blank is a legend in Silicon Valley. In addition to launching eight startups in 21 years, he’s also a well-known author and educator at Stanford University, Columbia University, and the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business.

Having worked in the realm of entrepreneurship for so long, Blank has survived some of the worst recessions in U.S. history and has first-hand experience of what it’s like to keep your business afloat under high-pressure circumstances—knowledge that’s directly applicable to the COVID-19 global health crisis.

In this interview, Blank shares his three-step process for what every business needs to do right now to survive the pandemic. He breaks down everything from calculating your burn rate to reassessing the way you work with your team. Blank also shares his own personal experiences with the 2008 recession and dot-com bubble.

If there’s any other type of content you’d like to see that would be valuable to you during this time, please don’t hesitate to reach out at support@foundr.com to let us know.

Key Takeaways
  • Why Blank believes today’s entrepreneurs should listen to the advice of seasoned founders
  • The three-step process Blank recommends to understand where your business is headed, from calculating finances to reassessing business models
  • The biggest lessons Blank learned during the 2008 recession and dot-com bubble
  • Why Blank believes in planning for the morning after
  • The importance of high-level execution during times like today
  • How to think about recalibrating in terms of retaining staff and hiring
  • The importance of setting expectations—whether in your marketing or management
  • Why this pandemic could be an opportunity to re-evaluate how you want to spend your life

Apr 07 2020

53mins

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296: How Invitation Homes CEO Dallas Tanner Scaled a Multibillion-Dollar Home Rental Company at Breakneck Speed

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CEO Dallas Tanner on the breakneck creation and growth of multibillion-dollar home rental company Invitation Homes.

Like a lot of successful businesses, Invitation Homes was a seemingly overnight hit that had been in the making for many years.

“We bought the first 30,000 homes in the first 18 months,” says CEO Dallas Tanner, of the single-family home rental company.

Based on that burst of early success, it might seem as though Tanner did the impossible—come up with a brilliant idea, instantly get buy-in from an investor, and reap immediate rewards.

But long before Invitation Homes launched in 2012, Tanner had already cut his teeth in the home rental business. During college, he bought a couple of houses with his dad and managed them while going to class. He later founded the Treehouse Group Companies, which focused on workforce housing in the Southwest.

So, when Tanner set out to start Invitation Homes, he did so with a large body of experience, knowledge, and accomplishments in his chosen field. That could have had something to do with the quick traction he got at Blackstone, his early capital partner and provider of funds for those 30,000 homes.

“High speed, low drag,” Tanner says of their initial goal. There was an intense focus on getting out there, scaling up, and achieving meaningful gain in as short a time as possible. Were they worried, though, that the swift pace might blind them to any turbulence ahead?

“If you’re building an airplane while flying it, there’s always a risk that you may miss a step. We were lucky to have no major issues and that’s because we were comfortable in the area we were building. We knew it and understood it.”

That early work and knowledge of the industry paid off. In 2017, Invitation Homes went public with an initial share price of $20. Two years later, it hovers between $29-30 per share, a 48% increase. Blackstone sold its remaining shares (11%) of the company in November 2019 for $1.7 billion, bringing Blackstone’s total profit from IH to $7 billion.

Systemize to Scale

Tanner attributes much of the company’s success to its fast, effective scaling. “Economies of scale give us a really strategic advantage in terms of the services we can provide residents, and establishing predictability of the experience.”

Cases in point: Each of the 80,000 homes in the company’s portfolio is visited by one of its 300 technicians every six months, whether there’s a known issue in the home or not. Customer care is offered 24 hours a day. Day-to-day management and communication are provided by local teams of 10-15 people or, as they’re called at Invitation Homes, “pods.” Each pod has 3-5 maintenance technicians to service its portfolio of properties.

And the system seems to work. On average, Invitation Homes residents stay for about three years. More than 80% of them take advantage of another system innovation—online auto-pay.

Tanner is constantly reviewing data, though, to ensure they’re being as efficient as possible.

“As we think about our business, we’ve gotten more and more efficient here in year seven,” he says. “We’re focused on the kinds of things that deliver a really good customer experience but make us as optimized as possible.”

For example, the inaugural days of the business found technicians switching out locks each time a home got a new resident. New tech eventually provided the option of electronic entry, which Invitation incorporated into its homes. Now, when a resident moves out and a new one moves in, only the code needs to be changed. This made the move-in experience that much smoother for new residents and saved time for the team.

Knowing What to Hold Onto

Crunching data is also how Tanner reviews the performance of each property and whether it’s time to sell. Their typical home is a three bedroom, two bath with 1,800 square feet, which will rent out for about $1,800/month, depending on the market.

Invitation Homes sometimes sells off certain properties that either aren’t performing or have experienced such increases in value that a sale presents a better gain for the company.

“Just like any good asset manager,” Tanner says,” you look at the data and make these decisions in real time.”

And, true to form, he’s even created a system that kicks in when the decision is to sell. The “Resident First Look Program” allows the home’s current resident to consider purchasing before the home goes on the open market.

Dallas Tanner’s Advice for System Creation

Tanner is firm in his belief that fine-tuned systems allow for the best customer experience and most efficient performance within the company. So what’s his advice for others who are looking to create systems that allow for scale?

  1. Align yourself with good people who are willing to carry the flag.
  2. Be willing to understand that you do not always have the answer yourself.
  3. Do your research and challenge yourself as you develop systems and processes.
  4. Do not be afraid of being wrong. You’ll learn through trial and error. Use regression analysis to reveal if your decisions were right.
  5. Early on, figure out how to capture your data.

That last point is crucial. “If you’re not capturing data from an early stage, then you’re kind of playing with one arm behind your back,” Tanner says. That early information provides keen insight and helps you make sound decisions about best practices in years two and three.

Remember, though, that the quest for good systems shouldn’t overwhelm everything. “You’ve got to spend your time being as efficient as possible, but driving growth at the same time,” Tanner says. “It’s always a balancing act.”

For Invitation Homes, the priority is to find long-term residents and put them into homes in markets and submarkets that are the most appealing and as efficient to manage as possible. This priority steers decisions and interpretation of data at the company. It defines how the company and its people best use their time.

Finally, Tanner offered two key activities that he believes lead to success for startup entrepreneurs:

  1. Gather people who share the vision and will work.
  2. Work hard.

He acknowledges that it also takes some luck and good timing. “But, the only way those things go your way is if you’re head down and going hard.”

Interview by Nathan Chan, feature article reprinted from Foundr Magazine, by Rebeca Seitz

Key Takeaways
  • Tanner’s early experiences in the home rental business
  • Why “high speed, low drag” was Tanner’s initial goal when he launched his single-family home rental company, Invitation Homes
  • A look into Invitation Homes’ quick and efficient scaling process, which resulted in the purchase of 30,000 homes in the first 18 months
  • Why crunching numbers is a critical part of Tanner’s role and his company’s success
  • The road to going public and growing a multibillion-dollar company
  • Tanner’s advice for other entrepreneurs who are looking to create systems that allow for scale

Mar 31 2020

38mins

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295: How 12RND Fitness Founder Tim West Beat His Competitors to the Punch

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Believe it or not, there are many parallels between the world of boxing and the world of entrepreneurship. Tim West is familiar with both.

As the founder of the fastest-growing global boxing franchise, 12RND Fitness, West has had his feet squarely planted in both realms for many years.

He started his journey working in brick-and-mortar fitness centers before jumping into tech entrepreneurship, and eventually launched 12RND Fitness in 2014, which quickly exploded across Australia and is now expanding globally. In fact, West is in the process of opening up their first locations in New Zealand, Singapore, London, and Los Angeles this year.

In this interview, West dives deep into his thoughts on the franchising model, his biggest lessons from working in tech, and his approach to overcoming obstacles. Check out the full conversation below!

Key Takeaways
  • How West worked his way up the rungs of the fitness ladder—from aspiring professional athlete to strength and conditioning coach
  • Why he jumped at the opportunity to open up one of the first franchises for Jetts Fitness, the first 24-hour gym in Australia
  • West’s first foray into tech, and the most important lessons he picked up along the way
  • Why West decided to return to brick-and-mortar fitness, and how he came up with the MVP for 12RND Fitness
  • How West pressure-tested his business model across Australia
  • The reason West tested his business for two whole years before opening up to franchisees
  • A sneak peek into West’s data-driven approach to working with franchisees
  • Why West is grateful for his struggles

Mar 25 2020

54mins

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294: Responding to COVID-19: What Entrepreneurs Should Be Doing Right Now

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As a founder, you’re likely feeling a lot of stress and anxiety around the current situation with COVID-19. While we hope your business isn’t being too heavily impacted, we want to let you know that we’re always here for you and want to help in any way we can.

We’ve been mulling over how we could be the most useful to the Foundr community and decided it would be incredibly valuable to sit down and talk to Steve McLeod. McLeod is uniquely equipped to share advice about the current circumstances for many reasons: he’s a business coach that has guided thousands of organizations through challenging situations (including Foundr); he founded his own company called Fire And Safety, which is now a $20 million business; and he’s a former firefighter who dealt with many disasters during his eight-year tenure.

In this interview, we touch on many topics—from managing cash flow reserves to communicating with customers to adjusting your mindset—that we hope you’ll find helpful as we navigate this unfamiliar territory together. Whether you’re getting ready to launch a new business or are already running a seven-figure company, the contents of this interview should be applicable for entrepreneurs at every stage.

If there’s any other type content you’d like to see that would be valuable to you during this time, please don’t hesitate to reach out at support@foundr.com to let us know.

Key Takeaways
  • How McLeod’s background as a firefighter, founder, and mentor is allowing him to guide businesses today through the COVID-19 pandemic
  • The importance of understanding where your business is today: positioned for growth or in survival mode?
  • Why you need to be transparent with your teams, regardless of your current situation
  • McLeod’s advice: cut costs but don’t stop your sales and marketing efforts
  • Why you need to focus on your existing customers and how you can help them
  • How to keep your mindset clear during this stressful time
  • Why connection, discipline, and alignment are more critical than ever before
  • An overview of cash flow reserves, and how much you should have in the bank now
  • The reason why McLeod doesn’t believe it’s the right time for work-life balance
  • How to be a good leader in unprecedented circumstances
  • Why leaders need to be asking themselves the tough questions today more than ever
  • McLeod’s advice for businesses that are thinking about launching soon

Mar 21 2020

55mins

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293: Square Co-Founder Jim McKelvey on the Connection Between Art, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship

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Jim McKelvey needs to solve problems. “It’s not about money. It’s not about recognition. It’s not about anything you can measure. It’s just this burning need to fix something.”

That burning need is what sparked the ideas for all of his startups, including the massive small business payments company Square, and now his current project, Invisibly.

“I look for a problem that I care about,” McKelvey says. “I look for something that bothers me, something that angers me, something I will get up and bend my life into a pretzel to solve.”

In fact, the problem that became the catalyst for Square—which, by the way, has grown to a $34 billion market cap—evolved from McKelvey’s first profession as a humble glassblower.

That same unstoppable drive is something he’s seen in so many successful startups around the world, and it’s now the subject of his new book, The Innovation Stack. Someone sees a problem and, without experience or previous knowledge, they set out to solve it. For McKelvey, this is what true innovation is all about.

Mira Publishing: Turning Failure Into Opportunity

McKelvey’s first company, Mira Digital Publishing, solved two problems, actually. First, McKelvey wanted to create image storage and recognition software, something that was still in its infancy when he founded the company in 1990.

Second, he needed a way to break out of his own rut. He had graduated from Washington University in St. Louis in 1987 with degrees in computer science and economics. At 19, he’d published a textbook called The Debugger’s Handbook: UCSD and Apple Pascal. 

But after he graduated, he was running at what he calls a “high level of mediocrity,” freelancing for IBM, blowing glass, and running a company that built storage cabinets for CDs.

In 1989, his mother died suddenly, and it made McKelvely reevaluate his priorities. “I just asked myself, do I want to be mediocre at everything? And so I decided that one of the things I had not done in my life was focus.”

So he gave up IBM and the CD cabinets (but not his glassblowing) and focused on starting Mira. Unfortunately, Adobe released Acrobat in 1993. “We got our heads handed to us by Adobe. … It was a giant mess.”

But while their imaging software failed, some good still came out of it all. That’s when McKelvey met Jack Dorsey, the future co-founder of Twitter.

The Entrepreneur and the Artist

McKelvey is a trained glassblower, who has even written a textbook on the subject. In the past, he’s used his studio to support himself while working on his startups.

“The cool thing about making a physical product is that you can do it whenever you want. So I could work on my technical companies during the day and head into the studio at night, make a bunch of work and stick it in galleries and make enough money to survive.”

For him, art and entrepreneurship go hand in hand, not just because one can fund the other, but because they are parallel endeavors that achieve the same outcome. McKelvey says he uses an archaic definition of the word entrepreneur, which broadens its scope beyond merely starting a company.

“The original meaning for the word entrepreneur was this crazy person who did stuff that hadn’t been done before.”

Square: Starting With a Problem

Dorsey started as an intern at Mira, and the two developed a bond that held fast over the years. After Dorsey was forced out of his position as CEO of Twitter in 2008, he reconnected with McKelvey and they decided to start a business together. They just had no idea what that business would be.

They brainstormed together and came up with a few ideas. They knew they wanted it to be something mobile. They started looking into a journaling app, until another idea came to McKelvey while in his glassblowing studio.

He tried to sell one of his glass pieces to a customer who wanted to charge it to her American Express card. But Dorsey couldn’t process her credit card.

He lost the sale.

“And so I called up Jack with the iPhone that I had in my hand and I said, ‘Jack, you know, it’s really stupid that this iPhone that does everything that I want it to do—it becomes a television, it becomes a book, it becomes a radio, a compass—but it couldn’t become a credit card machine. And this is stupid. We need to fix this.’”

And so, they came up with Square. They originally wanted to serve artists who couldn’t take credit cards or receive electronic payments.

“The tough thing about being an artist is, I make stuff nobody needs. Like, nobody has ever needed anything that I’ve made in the glass studio. So, you better be ready when they’re ready to buy and not make it too difficult for them.”

The challenge Square faced was serving a community that didn’t have the typical business setup.

“These little guys who didn’t have credit reports. Some of them didn’t have bank accounts. Some of them didn’t have credit scores. Some of them didn’t have mailing addresses. I mean they were weird outliers to the financial system.”

Even some of their bigger customers were still too small by the standards of the industry to process credit cards. So, they were forced to reinvent the entire process, from signup to hardware to pricing schemes.

And for McKelvey, that’s where real innovation comes from, when you are forced to improvise.

“Invention is something that has to almost be forced upon us. And people get inventive when they have no other choice.”

The Innovation Stack

A few years after Square launched, McKelvey and Dorsey learned that Amazon had launched a small business payments service that was nearly identical to theirs. For the second time, McKelvey thought he was done.

But then, an amazing thing happened. About a year later, Amazon shut down their service and sent all of their former customers a Square reader. For a long time, McKelvey couldn’t figure out how they had survived a direct attack from a giant like Amazon.

“I was like, well what’s special about us? What did we do to be still standing after Amazon comes after us? And I couldn’t answer the question.”

He talked to former executives at a number of companies Amazon had directly targeted. Some of them sold to Amazon, while others went out of business. None had survived.

“I was happy we won, but I couldn’t answer the question, why did we win? I knew we’d won, but I’d like to think it’s more than just luck, but I just couldn’t explain it. So I went on this two-year quest to figure it out.”

McKelvey found that Square wasn’t actually alone. Many companies had survived direct attacks from large competitors, and they all had one thing in common, what he calls the “innovation stack.”

He describes the innovation stack as a series of interlocking inventions that create something you can’t attack. Instead of one big innovation, the companies that survive are innovative in several ways that all contribute to the overall success of the company.

And that series of innovations is almost impossible to copy in their entirety. For Square, it was easy to copy the hardware, but that was just one of 14 different innovations that made the company different in the online payments field.

“So I talk about 14 things that we did differently. Every one of those was necessary for the system to work. So, if we’d done 12 and we hadn’t done the 13th and 14th, Square wouldn’t have worked.”

One of the 14 was their system for handling fraud.

Since Square is a company that handles online payments, McKelvey says, it got hit from day one. Three years later, when Amazon came out with its product, Square had already developed unique processes for dealing with fraud, something Amazon couldn’t replicate.

But, McKelvey says, even if every aspect of a company’s innovation stack is visible, it’s hard for large companies to copy it all successfully. Why?

“Organizational culture,” he says. When a startup comes along with a new way of solving a problem, it’s difficult for a well-established brand to pivot, to change its ingrained processes to compete.

His example is Southwest Airlines. They revolutionized the boarding process, turning a 45-minute process into a 10-minute one. And they did it by rethinking the whole process, right down to cleaning the plane.

With Southwest, even the pilots helped clean the cabins before boarding new passengers, something McKelvey says United or Delta Airline pilots would not be willing to do because they were already used to a certain organizational culture.

Because Southwest was new, they could set their own culture. “Let me tell you that the Southwest pilots, you didn’t become a Southwest pilot unless you were willing to play their game.”

McKelvey writes about Southwest and several other companies who shook up their industries in his new book, The Innovation Stack.

No Experience Needed

As he researched his book, McKelvey noticed something else about these innovative companies. Companies from Southwest Airlines to the Bank of Italy all began the same way he did—by solving a problem for a previously ignored segment of the market and having no idea how to do it at first.

He came to the realization that starting a business isn’t about the market needs, but rather the needs of a small, even fringe group of people. “I don’t think you should choose a big market. I think you should choose a big problem,” he says.

From Southwest, which figured out how to make flying affordable, to the Bank of Italy, which started out giving loans to farmers and immigrants when other banks wouldn’t, they were all sailing in uncharted waters.

And because of that, none of their founders had any kind of expertise in their field.

“I looked throughout history and I saw all these people who had basically no qualifications for what they did.”

That included himself and Jack Dorsey. While McKelvey holds two degrees, he finds neither relevant to what he does today. As for Dorsey?

“So, like, Jack’s professional credential, he has one professional credential. He is a massage therapist. I mean, you’ve got a glassblower and a massage therapist and they start a payments company. We knew nothing about payments. We didn’t know a thing.”

The Innovation Continues

McKelvey still sits on the board of directors for Square, but his focus is now on his new startup.

With Invisibly, he wants to change the way publishers monetize their online content. The current model, where ads pop up in the right rail, across the top of the page, and even on top of the content you’re trying to read is infuriating to McKelvey.

“Our attention is being bought and sold without our permission or knowledge. So when you watch something or read something, you’re essentially trading your attention to advertisers in a system that is largely biased against you, and in many ways subverts your interests.”

And, he says, ad blockers are not the solution, which is essentially saying to journalists, “Starve to death, guys, because I’m not paying anything.”

So he and his team at Invisibly are working on a way to allow users to control the ad experience.

McKelvey has also founded a nonprofit called LaunchCode, which trains programmers for free and helps place them in jobs. Oh, and he’s also a deputy chairman for the Federal Reserve in his hometown of St. Louis.

McKelvey has built his success by solving problems. “If you have a problem that has never been solved, man you probably want me around.”

And he’s seen other people create world-changing companies by doing the same, and by building innovation stacks that all but guarantee their success.

He looks at entrepreneurship, not as the process of starting a business, but as an art form, a means to bend and mold an industry to create something no one’s seen before, something that makes life a little better for everyone.

Interview by Nathan Chan, feature article reprinted from Foundr Magazine, by Laurie Mega

Key Takeaways
  • Why McKelvey believes he was running at a “high level of mediocrity” early in his career, and how a family tragedy shifted his priorities
  • The launch of his first company, and why it ultimately failed
  • McKelvey’s unique background as a glassblower, and why he believes art and entrepreneurship go hand in hand
  • How McKelvey and Jack Dorsey came up with the idea for Square
  • How Square survived a direct attack from Amazon
  • How the answer became the inspiration behind McKelvey’s latest book, The Innovation Stack: Building an Unbeatable Business One Crazy Idea at a Time
  • How McKelvey plans to continue solving problems with his newest startup, Invisibly, and his nonprofit, LaunchCode

Mar 18 2020

1hr 4mins

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292: From LearnVest to Inspired Capital: Alexa von Tobel’s Mission to Help People Find Financial Stability

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We’ve all heard the motivational mantra that if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. But Alexa von Tobel sees things a little differently. 

“If you love what you do, you’ll work every day of your life,” she says, “and it’s because I’m so passionate about what I’m doing.” 

The mission that gets von Tobel jumping out of bed every morning is one that impacts every one of us—finding financial stability. Without it, whether you’re a working family or a creative new startup, it’s near impossible to plan for the long term and ultimately thrive.

Von Tobel came to this understanding after graduating from Harvard and beginning a career on Wall Street, when she realized that, while she was great at managing the business finances of others, she was woefully unprepared to manage her own. And she quickly discovered that she was not alone. 

That lit a fire underneath her to improve financial education, inspiring her in 2008 to launch LearnVest, a digital financial planning business that teaches investment and finances. The award-winning company became wildly popular, especially among women. 

She ended up selling that business, but in 2019, van Tobel decided to take her passion for financial advising in a new direction. Today, she manages Inspired Capital, a $200 million investment firm that’s supporting early stage startups. 

This massive new undertaking is all rooted in van Tobel’s desire to support ambitious entrepreneurs and help people achieve financial stability. That, and a deep love of math.

Freedom to Think Bigger 

Von Tobel says she was an entrepreneur from day one. She’s always been drawn to the toughest problems, outside-the-box thinking, and bringing joy to others. And when she recognized her own problem with managing her personal finances, she suspected that this could be a cause worth taking on. 

Von Tobel says that 78% of all Americans live paycheck to paycheck and that the average person doesn’t even have $400 in a savings account. And the crippling anxiety that comes from mountains of debt and living one medical crisis away from going broke? She firmly believes it holds people back from concentrating on something bigger.

“If you’re living for tomorrow, you can’t think long term,” she says. 

Despite her lifelong love of math and her driven personality, she’d never been taught how to manage her personal accounts, invest her money, or plan for retirement. It became clear that many of her peers had not either. 

“I think it’s insane that it’s not taught in every high school, college, and graduate program in America,” von Tobel says. “I mean, it’s not that dissimilar to basic hygiene.” 

From von Tobel’s perspective, money is a basic lifeline that enables people to care for themselves. Therefore, she believes everyone should learn how to intelligently manage it. 

That’s what drove her during her years as founder and CEO of LearnVest—the unwavering belief that financial education was a key to happiness. 

“If you can create real financial stability for a family,” she says, “you can help a family thrive.”

Among the strategies she taught through LearnVest were how to grow a successful savings account by setting aside 20% of each paycheck, no matter what, and the benefit of establishing firm ground rules for financial health. She taught when to begin investing (yesterday), preparing for retirement (the day before yesterday), and how to plan effectively for the ebbs and flows of life. 

But what about the people (like, oh, I don’t know, the writer of this article, for instance) who are deeply terrified of math? Von Tobel says that’s not a problem. 

“Personal finance is basic math,” she assures. “It’s not complicated math. It’s really straightforward math—what comes in, what goes out, is there something left, and are we saving it properly? Really, it’s more organization than math.” 

After more than a decade spent as a financial educator and the sale of her business to Northwestern Mutual in 2015, von Tobel decided it was time to give something new a try. 

And when her husband pointed out how many hours she had spent financially advising entrepreneurs for free, she realized she may have inadvertently stumbled upon her next big project. 

Shooting for the Moon 

Inspired Capital was born from von Tobel’s passion for financial education, combined with her desire to help entrepreneurs reach their goals. The result is an early stage and seed investment firm, driven by women (also led by former Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker) and funding startups nationally.

Von Tobel now meets with at least 75 founders each week in pursuit of new investments of all shapes and sizes. From tech to product-based business, von Tobel is interested in all of it, provided they have a good idea and a plan. 

She says that the best founders who have pitched her get to know her firm before reaching out. They also don’t get discouraged by rejection. Von Tobel says that just because it’s a no today, doesn’t mean it’ll be a no tomorrow. 

And while founders are waiting for their yes, von Tobel says there are many things they can invest time in learning. She says that the biggest mistake she sees founders make is running away from the aspects of the business that make them feel inadequate, passing it off to others before even giving it a try. 

“I think it’s the typical kind of head-in-the-sand ostrich move,” she says. “You’ve got to lean into the things that make you nervous.” 

She believes this is what enables businesses to address issues before they reach critical mass, while also making founders feel capable and bold. 

“If you want to build a really good business—if you want to get really good at being an entrepreneur—you’ve got to get good at everything,” she says. “And I don’t mean you literally have to hold every job, but you have to take the job, get pretty darn good at it to the point where then you know how to hire for it, and then you can pass it off to somebody better at it.” 

Once the machine of a new business really starts whirring, von Tobel says that it’s essential to have an eye on building up the reserves. 

“You want to make sure you are never within nine months of running out of cash,” she says. “Because if you need to go fix that, putting a plan together to go fix that can sometimes take three to six months, and you don’t want to be in a position where literally you can run out of money.” 

While she acknowledges that smaller businesses can get away with slightly less in the bank, she wouldn’t recommend leaving the stability of a company to chance or dependent on a tight timeline. 

And ultimately, von Tobel believes these healthy savings accounts are what embolden business leaders to take new and exciting risks. 

“I’m not risk-averse,” she says. “I shoot for the moon, but I have a plan B that has enough cash...that gives me enough confidence to shoot for the moon. Having a good solid financial plan gives you the comfort to take more risks.”

And the best part of all is that von Tobel believes there’s never been a better time to launch a business than right now. 

“Every year it gets less expensive to stand up a company,” she says. “Every year there are better online resources to make it easier to do.” 

From free online resources to highly affordable software for startups, she says founders need only do a light Google to find a flood of resources at their disposal. 

As an investor passionate about the startups and founders of tomorrow, she can’t wait to see what thrilling new business plans come across her desk next. And that’s why she encourages struggling founders to keep pushing, keep growing, and keep pursuing their dreams. 

“You’re building something new. You’re building something special that serves a purpose,” she says. “And that’s pretty powerful.” 

Alexa von Tobel’s Tips for Building a Successful Business 
  1. Get the product right first

Von Tobel says that entrepreneurs can be distracted so easily by the task of building a business and marketing a product that they forget to perfect the product. Talk to the customers. Find out what works and what doesn’t, and make adjustments. Before diving headfirst into marketing a product, she reminds entrepreneurs to really nail product-market fit. 

  1. Begin by stoking word-of-mouth marketing

Rather than sinking tons of cash into a paid marketing strategy up front, von Tobel recommends that founders begin by delighting their customers and encouraging them to share their experiences with the brand. She reminds entrepreneurs that word-of-mouth marketing is free and often more effective than traditional marketing for startups. 

  1. Wait to focus on paid marketing until revenue is up

Once revenue is climbing and there is a little more wiggle room, von Tobel says the time has come to give paid marketing a go. 

  1. Embrace a constant learning process

Above all, von Tobel reminds entrepreneurs that the constant pursuit of growth without fear of negative feedback is essential to success. 

“I think the best founders are learners,” she says. “They are comfortable with negative feedback. They want to make it better, and they are constantly just listening and learning obsessively.”

Key Takeaways
  • Why von Tobel, a Harvard graduate and Wall Street career woman, found herself struggling with her personal finances
  • How this experience drove her to launch LearnVest, a digital financial planning business that teaches investment and finances
  • Why von Tobel doesn’t believe a fear of math should stop anyone from pursuing financial education
  • The sale of LearnVest to Northwestern Mutual in 2015
  • The mission behind Inspired Capital, an early stage and seed investment firm
  • Why von Tobel wants to work with founders who embrace aspects of business they’re not good at
  • The reason behind von Tobel’s optimism for the future of business

Mar 10 2020

43mins

Play

291: X Prize Founder Peter Diamandis Talks About Creating a Blueprint For The Future

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When Peter Diamandis was a kid, there were two life-changing moments that shaped him into the person he is today: the launch of the Apollo space program and the release of Star Trek.

These two events inspired Diamandis’ love of space and taught him to always keep his eyes on the future. It’s no surprise then that Diamandis went on launch over 20 companies in the areas of space, longevity, venture capital, and education.

Diamandis has also dedicated himself to supporting others who make an impact on the world, which is why he founded the venture fund BOLD Capital Partners, the X Prize Foundation, and Singularity University—all organizations focused on promoting technologies that have the potential to improve society.

In this interview, he shares his thoughts on what it takes to build a sustainable business, his predictions for industries like education and healthcare, and what he’s most excited about in terms of future innovations. This is a conversation you won’t want to miss!

Key Takeaways
  • Why Diamandis ended up going to medical school, despite his love of space
  • How Diamandis carved out his own life path, which led to him starting 20+ companies in the areas of space, longevity, venture capital, and education
  • His predictions on which industries will transition from a scarcity to an abundance mindset
  • The golden rule Diamandis always follows whenever he prioritizes what to work on next
  • Why Diamandis believes a person’s mindset is the most valuable asset they own
  • The inspiration behind Diamandis’ latest book, The Future Is Faster Than You Think: How Converging Technologies Are Transforming Business, Industries, and Our Lives
  • What excites Diamandis most about the future, and why he feels optimistic about what’s to come

Mar 03 2020

51mins

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290: Disrupting the Desk Phone and Taking on Google Voice, With Dialpad Founder Craig Walker

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Craig Walker’s on a mission to overhaul the way businesses communicate, with cloud-based phone service Dialpad.

As a securities attorney in Silicon Valley, Craig Walker met regularly with a who’s who of Palo Alto venture capitalists, startup founders, and investment bankers. He thrilled at their stories of big ideas and bold risks.

Then one day in 1998, he decided it was time to live one of those startup stories of his own. When life offered him an opportunity to sit on the other side of the table, he said yes without hesitation. That decision shaped the rest of Walker’s life, first as a VC and soon after, as head of his own companies.

Today, he’s the founder and CEO of Dialpad, a cloud-based business communications company that is rapidly approaching the coveted $100 million revenue benchmark. The San Francisco-based startup is changing the way businesses communicate, by shifting them from traditional desk phones to cloud-based service, and all the powerful features that come with it.

In fact, much of Walker’s career after that fateful day has been all about improving business communications. He’s been disrupting the stodgy old office desk phone in some way or another for around 20 years, having laid the groundwork for Google Voice and Yahoo! Voice, and ultimately taking them on as a formidable competitor.

From Attorney to Founder

Walker was quite successful as a lawyer, but it was in that role that he became drawn to the prospect of starting his own business, and learned what it takes to make it happen.

“Once I was a lawyer and I met a bunch of CEOs and founders, I realized there wasn’t any real magic to it,” Walker says. “It was just taking a risk or taking a chance and having a good idea and a good team to go along with you.”

When a client asked him to leave his job behind and join a venture fund, he took the opportunity. But his time with TeleSoft Partners and Sterling Payot Capital, both of which invested in early-stage telecom startups, was only a combined four years.

In November 2001, when an internet telephony service asked him to step in as CEO, again, he took the leap. And he’s been in the game ever since.

That company was the first iteration of Dialpad, where Walker served as CEO and built relationships with his coworkers and others in the tech space, who would stick by his side through future ventures.

When Dialpad 1.0 was acquired in 2005 by Yahoo! as the base for Yahoo! Voice, he took on his first role as a founder and launched a similar company, GrandCentral Communications. This was yet another foray into the world of online phone communication, but in less than two years, it was also acquired, this time by Google.

For nearly four years, Walker continued on with GrandCentral, now called Google Voice, but before long it was time for him to move on once again.

Having now laid the groundwork for both Yahoo! Voice and Google Voice, Walker was ready to challenge them for supremacy.

Desk Phone Disruption

A good name is hard to find. So when Walker and crew decided to found a new online communication company, they knew they needed to have a little chat with Yahoo! first.

The owner of the first version of Dialpad agreed to sell the name back to Walker—including the all-important URL—and in 2011, Dialpad 2.0 was off to the races.

His goal remained very much the same—the master the art of using the the internet as your business phone. As Walker boasts, Dialpad offers “all the power of a business phone system, but from anywhere in the world.”

“The world has changed,” Walker says. "You’re working from anywhere at any time, and not having the ability to do that from your business phone system is crazy.”

Using the latest iteration of Dialpad, businesses can toss their hardware to the curb and use the cloud to connect team members and clients.

By importing existing numbers, companies can use a single system to manage all phone communications. There’s even an app that instantly transforms a cell phone into a work phone, allowing employees to port their number and merge into existing CRMs, productivity suites, and social networks. And with an AI integration that alerts supervisors of red flags like an irate customer, prompting them to step into the situation, sales teams could grow and improve with ease.

Convenience was key, and customers of Dialpad rapidly embraced the new technology. After winning TechCrunch Disrupt and being featured several blog posts and articles, Dialpad saw a flood of new inquiries.

But even with all the buzz around the new business, Dialpad wasn’t above the need to make cold calls. As you might expect, however, Walker’s approach to cold calling is a little different than just picking up a phone and hoping for the best.

He explains that they first built a list of “modern-thinking companies.” Then, they investigated what tools those businesses were already using to accomplish basic day-to-day tasks. If they found a list of antiquated, on-premise technologies, they crossed the business off their list. If, however, they found that a company used other cloud-based technologies, they knew they’d found a lead and would reach out.

“Ultimately you want to get up to the CIO, but building champions below the CIO is great,” Walker says. “The folks who are going to be actually responsible for managing the day-to-day of the product are great ones to start with.”

As momentum built, so did Dialpad’s sales team and advertising budget, along with a loyal customer base.

“I don’t see any other competitors on the horizon coming out of the startup world,” Walker says, “so now you’re just competing against the legacy guys that you know you’re ahead of and can out-innovate because you’re more modern.”

Despite their edge as an innovator, Walker acknowledges that no business grows without facing its share of challenges.

“On the road to success, there’s plenty of roadblocks and challenges on a daily basis, and I think every startup goes through those.”

Staying Nimble

The first major hurdle Dialpad had to clear was convincing major corporations to trust all of their critical calls to the cloud. This was back in 2011, when the concept was still fairly new.

But even if they could achieve that goal, Walker had to struggle through the complex process of raising money, gaining traction, finding early customers, building a healthy organization, remaining innovative while serving existing customers, and so much more.

Most importantly, Walker had to become excellent at making decisions. He insists, however, that this doesn’t necessarily mean being right all the time.

“There have been many times I’ve been wrong,” Walker says. “You just need to adjust and move on, because you’re never going to always be right, and if you wait until everything is so clear that you’re always right, you’re going to be moving way too slow.”

The key is to remain attentive and flexible.

“One of the beauties of a startup is if you do realize you missed something or you moved too quickly one way or you moved too slowly one way, you can pretty quickly adjust it as long as you stay nimble,” he says.

And, above all, Walker advises founders to trust their instincts. Even though he has spent the last two decades gathering a collection of trusted friends and advisors, he still occasionally throws caution to the wind and goes his own way.

“The decisions all come down to you, and, because of that, I do think you’ve got to trust your gut,” he says. “You’re the one that’s going to live with the outcome. Don’t let people talk you into things that don’t make sense to you.”

Walker explains that, because everyone has a different perspective, two equally intelligent and well-informed people can come to diametrically opposed viewpoints on a situation and what is best to do next.

So his best piece of advice to new founders is simply this: “Stick to the North Star of what your idea was, and see it through.”

Interview by Nathan Chan, feature article reprinted from Foundr Magazine, by Erica Comitalo

Key Takeaways
  • Why Walker, a Silicon Valley securities attorney, decided to transition into the world of entrepreneurship
  • How the first iteration of internet telephony service Dialpad came to be
  • How Walker became involved in companies that were eventually acquired by Yahoo! and Google
  • The reason Walker decided to buy back the name Dialpad in 2011
  • Why introducing the cloud became a game changer for Dialpad and its customers
  • Walker’s unconventional approach to cold calling
  • Why it’s OK to make the wrong decision sometimes
  • The best advice Walker can offer about staying nimble and trusting your instincts

Feb 25 2020

41mins

Play

289: Understanding the Power of Relationships to Achieve Business Goals, with Contactually Founder Zvi Band

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Zvi Band describes himself as an introvert—someone who tends to be inward-looking, generally preferring to spend time alone. At the same time, he’s a successful entrepreneur, writer, and speaker who preaches the importance of relationships.

“I actually found that all of my business, and more importantly, all of the amazing opportunities in my life came from, of all things, knowing the right people,” Band says.

That may not sound like something an introvert would say, but for Band, human connection is about quality over quantity. He isn’t focused on collecting new friends on social media or passing out stacks of business cards at mixers all over town.

Instead, he is focused on maintaining and nurturing the relationships he already has. That, he says, is the key to success. Yes, it’s all about relationships, but in a world of constant connectivity, it’s about focusing on the meaningful ones.

“I was in a room of a hundred real estate agents this morning and everyone raised their hand when I asked, ‘Who here thinks their relationships are their most important assets for business?’”

The power of relationships is more than a philosophy for Band; it’s his business. His enterprise SaaS platform, Contactually, helps professionals, particularly real estate professionals, build and maintain relationships by automating personal communication.

A resident of Washington, DC, he’s been named one of Washingtonian Magazine’s Tech Titans six years running, and has been featured in publications like TechCrunch, Washington Post and USA Today. He’s even written a book on the topic, Success Is in Your Sphere: Leverage the Power of Relationships to Achieve Your Business Goals.

Why Are Relationships So Important?

Band understands that humans are naturally social creatures, and the biological need for connection translates directly to the business world. He sees that as an opportunity to build success through the support of a professional network.

“We rely on social connections and relationships to help keep us safe and therefore help us identify who we should work with,” he says.

To Band, relationships are directly connected to reputation, something that has become either an asset or a hindrance, depending on how people view you as a professional. Because the world is so connected, professionals are now competing with other professionals with the same skills on a global scale. The only way to differentiate, he believes, is through reputation.

“Because no one can fully copy you. So that reputation and your ability to maintain that reputation ended up becoming us.”

How does a good reputation resonate in the business world? Through the relationships professionals build.

Band points to a study of banking customers in Germany and the relationship they have with their bank. “They found that when a customer is referred by another customer, there’s a 25% higher contribution rate, so referred customers become better.”

Relationships Paved His Own Career Path

Band started out as a software developer, eventually leading a team at an intelligence agency. In 2009, he struck out on his own, creating a software design and development firm called skeevisArts.

It was there that he started thinking more about relationships and how they can make or break a career—or a company. But he also found that maintenance and development of those relationships was tough.

“I would meet people for coffee and two weeks later completely forget who they were. So, a lesson learned for me was, ‘Okay, well, what’s the right thing to do, here? Well, how can I solve this with software? How can software help us build and maintain better relationships?’”

And that’s how Contactually started. With the help of fellow co-founder Jeff Carbonella, he developed a platform to organize and automate personal contacts in order to maintain and build relationships that he knew were so critical.

They brought on Tony Cappaert as the third co-founder to lead business development. Both Cappaert and Carbonella were connections Band already had. Carbonella was a lead engineer at Band’s consulting firm, and he had gotten to know Cappaert through the local community.

He started small, not really thinking about building a company but more fleshing out an idea. They initially decided to focus on real estate agents, who rely heavily on relationships to sell homes and build their business.

In 2011, they were chosen to participate in the 500 Startups accelerator program, where they raised their first venture capital.

“We quite literally had an apartment with three mattresses on the floor,” Band says, laughing.

Over the course of eight years, however, the company has raised $12 million in venture capital. It now has, according to Band’s personal site, “tens of thousands of customers, including eight of the top 20 real estate brokerages in the country.”

And Band practices what he preaches. To this day, he uses his own tool to maintain his professional relationships, keep up with current and potential investors, recruit new talent, and stay connected to the media and important influencers.

He even used it to develop a relationship with Compass, the national real estate company that acquired Contactually in 2019.

“Robert , the CEO, knew me well enough that he had absolutely no problem reaching out to me to say, ‘Hey would you be interested in a potential partnership?’ And that’s an  important thing, right? It’s not like companies just get sold overnight.”

Band now using all he’s learned about relationship building to mentor a new generation of entrepreneurs.

In 2010, he founded MadeInDC, which markets startups in the DC area and helps entrepreneurs get started. He is a co-founder and co-organizer of DC Tech Meetup, one of the largest tech meetups in the country. And he created DC Tech Summer, where over 550 interns apply to work at tech startups in the area.

That’s a lot of new, powerful relationships that Band is out there, helping to form. Not bad for an introvert.

Key Lessons in Nurturing Relationships

Throughout his career, Band has learned some valuable lessons about harnessing the power of relationships. He shared some of them with us.

On Starting a Business

Band tried to start a few companies before his success with Contactually, while he was still running his consulting firm. None of them really took off, and he realized it was because he was working on his own and only on the side. He wasn’t committing to their success.

This was true of nStructo, a backend-as-a-service tool he tried to get off the ground.

“With nStructo, we had no customers, we had no users, we had no team. It was just me. So it almost could exist in my head or it could shut down in my head and no one would know and no one would care. And so I knew that I needed to have a team around me.”

He realized how much he needed that team to keep him accountable and give him the discipline to invest time in his next startup venture.

On Identifying the Right Relationships

While cultivating relationships is the name of the game, Band stressed the importance of identifying the right relationships first.

To do that, he says, you first have to identify your goals, which will lead you to the right people to reach out to. He learned that the hard way when networking for his consulting firm.

“So, for example,” Band says, “I used to think that going to a lot of tech meetups and developer meetups was a great way of doing business.” But Band had to find companies in need of software services, not other developers.

“I was looking to work with a lot of design agencies, so I would go to design meetups and pitch myself as a software consultant. I would go to marketing meetups.”

By clarifying his goals, he found the right people to reach out to.

On Cold Outreach

While Band stresses the importance of cultivating current relationships, he does see merit in cold outreach to expand a network. But, he cautions, a generic or overly produced message will fall flat on your audience.

“Everyone is used to getting slammed with cold emails,” he says. “Therefore, if you write a cold email that actually stands out, or if you do it via LinkedIn or you do a handwritten card, or something that says okay...this person genuinely wants to talk to me or be of value to me, then I’ve actually found that people are pretty receptive.”

Also, he says, make the contact short and sweet. An email, for example should be no more than a few sentences that engage your contact directly. Asking a simple question of your prospect rather than talking solely about yourself can draw them in and send the message that you’re interested in a conversation.

Interview by Nathan Chan, feature article reprinted from Foundr Magazine, by Laurie Mega 

Key Takeaways
  • How Band’s background in software development and challenges with building new relationships inspired the idea for Contactually
  • Why Band, despite being an introvert, believes in the power of relationships above everything else
  • The connection between relationships and reputation
  • Why Band and his co-founders decided to focus on real estate agents for their SaaS platform
  • From accelerator program to $12 million in venture capital
  • How Band practices what he preaches
  • The relationship with national real estate company, Compass, that eventually led to Contactually’s acquisition in 2019
  • How Band is using his relationship-building knowledge to mentor a new generation of entrepreneurs
  • A sneak peek into his book about relationship marketing, Success Is In Your Sphere

Feb 18 2020

43mins

Play

288: Catena Media’s Erik Bergman Talks IPOs, Affiliate Marketing, And Finding Meaning In Life

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Erik Bergman’s entrepreneurial journey started with trading hockey cards on the playground.

When Bergman realized that owning coveted sports memorabilia made him feel valued and won him friends, he became obsessed. As he got older, his focus eventually shifted from trading cards to making cash.

After a brief stint as a professional gambler, Bergman co-founded a website consultancy firm called Catena Media in 2012. The affiliate-based marketing company focused on the online gambling industry and eventually IPOd at €160 million.

Despite achieving the wealth Bergman had relentlessly chased since his youth, he was still unhappy. So he set out to learn the true path to fulfillment and eventually found deeper meaning in his life through charity work with his latest project, Great.com.

Check out this interview to learn more about Bergman’s journey to finding happiness and the most important lessons he learned along the way.

Key Takeaways
  • How trading hockey cards instilled a sense of entrepreneurship in Bergman from a young age
  • Bergman’s brief stint as a professional poker player
  • Why Bergman and his best friend Emil Thidell launched a gambling-focused website consultancy agency
  • From making side-hustle money to officially launching Catena Media
  • How strategic website acquisitions helped Catena Media skyrocket
  • The long and difficult road to IPO
  • Why Bergman found himself in a dark place, despite his newfound wealth
  • How Bergman became involved in charity work and discovered his “splash of color”
  • The inspiration behind Great.com

Feb 12 2020

52mins

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Great Content!

By MrRbnsn - Oct 09 2019
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I enjoy listening to the depth of brands, companies and founders that are discussed on this show!

Love it!

By Chargers538 - Sep 22 2019
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Thank you Nate and the foundr team! Love the podcast!