Foundr Magazine Podcast with Nathan Chan

John Mackey, Co-Founder and CEO, Whole Foods Market

Right now, every company needs strong leadership to guide them through these challenging times. Thankfully, Whole Foods Market co-founder and CEO John Mackey is well versed on the principles of leadership and is launching his latest book, Conscious Leadership, this month to help other founders put those ideas into practice. 

 

In addition to the book, people can see Mackey’s approach to leadership in action with Whole Foods. While Mackey is grateful that his stores are still in full operation during Covid-19, he doesn’t try to hide the fact that circumstances have been extremely challenging—from rapidly scaling its supply chain to accommodate the sudden demands of customers to generating almost no revenue as a result of all the sanitation products the business has had to invest in.

 

But these obstacles don't bother Mackey. As a conscious leader, his priority is making sure that every single one of their 100,000 team members has access to the resources they need to stay safe at work. He has also raised every in-store worker’s pay by $2 per hour, provided two extra weeks of sick pay for those who have to quarantine, and is giving unlimited callouts during this time. 

 

In this conversation, Mackey shares more about what it means to lead with love, how founders can attract and retain great talent in this challenging environment, and so much more. 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. 

Key Takeaways

  • An overview of Mackey’s best-selling book, Conscious Capitalism
  • A sneak peek into Mackey’s latest book, Conscious Leadership, and what inspired him to write it
  • The two most important pillars of leadership
  • Why Mackey believes in leading with love 
  • How Mackey is putting conscious leadership into action during the pandemic
  • The challenges Whole Foods has been dealing with from a supply chain and revenue perspective 
  • Why being an Amazon subsidiary adds a layer of complexity to the Whole Foods business
  • How to attract and retain great people during these challenging times 
  • What Mackey has done to support Whole Foods employees during Covid-19
  • Why Mackey believes in the win-win-win mindset, and how this attitude can guide your business decisions 
  • The importance of leading by example 

Key Resources From Our Interview With John Mackey

  • Get your copy of Conscious Leadership here
Direct download: FP325_John_Mackey.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:00am AEST

Kurt Seidensticker, Former NASA Engineer & Founder and CEO, Vital Proteins

How did Kurt Seidensticker go from being a NASA engineer to the founder of one of the biggest protein brands in the world? Believe it or not, his career path has been a perfect culmination of experiences—one that has led him to his current position as the CEO of Vital Proteins, a brand that was recently acquired by Nestlé and is expected to generate a quarter of a billion dollars in revenue this year. 

 

Even when Seidensticker was working at NASA as an aerospace engineer, he was constantly running his entrepreneurial brain and thinking up new projects to undertake. After several years of working in a diverse array of industries—from cellular phone systems to high-speed internet—he decided to strike out on his own and started his own data center company and ecommerce platform. 

 

Despite appearing to be completely unrelated businesses, these two companies served as the launching pad that allowed Seidensticker to start Vital Proteins in 2013. His ingestible collagen product took the protein market by the storm and saw over 300% YOY growth in its early days.

 

In this podcast episode, Seidensticker discusses what led to the incredible growth of Vital Proteins—from having first-mover advantage to finding negotiating power when dealing with retailers. He also shares his best recommendations when it comes to influencer marketing, moving fast, and so much more. 

 

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. 

Key Takeaways

  • Why Seidensticker decided to become an aerospace engineer 
  • The business ideas Seidensticker had while working at NASA and worked on space programs, underneath was entrepreneurial drive
  • How Seidensticker came to work on pivotal projects in the cellular phone systems and high-speed internet space
  • Why Seidensticker decided to strike out on his own
  • How the data center company and ecommerce platform he built became a launching pad for Vital Proteins
  • The experience that led Seidensticker to explore the world of protein, and how he created a whole new category around ingestible collagen
  • How Seidenstricker and his team approach influencer marketing differently 
  • Seidensticker’s school of thought when it comes to the power of product vs. marketing
  • The benefits of operating under the radar and having first-mover advantage
  • How Vital Proteins educated consumers and drove the market for collagen 
  • Why Seidensticker recommends going online before retail, and how he gained negotiating leverage with retailers
  • Details about Vital Proteins’ partial acquisition by Nestlé
  • Why Seidensticker believes in progress over perfection

Key Resources From Our Interview With Kurt Seidensticker

Direct download: FP324_Kurt_Seidensticker.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:00am AEST

Mike Michalowicz, Author & Co-Founder, Profit First Professionals

Right now, every entrepreneur has the same question on their mind: how do I recover or maintain my company’s profit levels during Covid-19?

 

That’s why we were so eager to sit down with Mike Michalowicz, who is a serial entrepreneur, author, and creator of the Profit First system. Our own CEO and founder, Nathan, used Michalowicz’s teachings to completely change the way he manages Foundr’s finances. And now we want to bring you the same level of knowledge to help you through these challenging times.

 

In this conversation, Michalowicz shares his best recommendations on how to manage your cash flow, financial priorities, and more during a pandemic. If you have any questions on how to take a profit-first mindset right now, this episode is for you.  

 

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.

Key Takeaways

  • What Michalowicz learned from building and selling his first two businesses
  • How going into bankruptcy changed the way that Michalowicz views entrepreneurship
  • Michalowicz’s path to becoming a small business author, and how running two of his own companies contributes to his books
  • What’s happening during “The Great Big Shift”
  • How to manage cash flow during the pandemic
  • The difference between sales issues vs. profit issues
  • Michalowicz’s tips to organize your financial priorities during Covid-19
  • Why Michalowicz recommends pulling off the bandaid instead of chipping away when it comes to tough decisions
  • An overview of the Profit First methodology and framework
  • Parkinson’s Law, and how it applies to toothpaste
  • Why Michalowicz recommends trusting wallets over words

Key Resources From Our Interview With Mike Michalowicz

Direct download: FP323_Mike_Michalowicz.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:00am AEST

Mikael Yan, Co-Founder and CEO, ManyChat

When Mikael Yan launched ManyChat in 2015, other messaging apps were trying to impress investors with their fancy AI and NLP technologies. But not him. Instead, he made it clear to investors that his app was solely meant to solve a business problem: helping companies better communicate with and market to their customers. 

 

Investors who were initially interested in ManyChat immediately lost interest. But not for long. Even though Yan and his founding team initially had to bootstrap their product, investors eventually recognized the potential behind their vision and got on board. 

 

Today, ManyChat has over one million Facebook pages connected to its platform in over 190 countries. The company also recently raised its Series A from Bessemer Venture Partners. Given that 2020 is the first time in history that the number of messaging app users will surpass the number of social media users, it’s clear that ManyChat is just getting started.

 

Listen to this interview to learn more about Yan’s thoughts on the future of messenger marketing, the global mobile industry, and the importance of mindset as an entrepreneur. 

 

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. 

Key Takeaways

  • Why Yan, after years of dabbling in the consumer space, turned his eyes to B2B 
  • How ManyChat made timely use of Telegram Messenger’s API in 2015 and introduced the world of messenger marketing
  • The rise of private vs. public channels 
  • Yan’s analysis on why China is so ahead when it comes to mobile and messaging apps
  • Why Yan believes in being product obsessed and understanding the customer experience above everything else 
  • How Yan avoided the trap of building a product for the “cool” factor (and initially lost investor interest as a result) 
  • The power of self belief in entrepreneurship, and how to cultivate this mindset 
  • Yan’s personal glass ceiling 
  • A look into the future of ManyChat and what Yan is most excited about when it comes to the messenger app industry 

Key Resources From Our Interview With Mikael Yan 

Direct download: FP322_Mikael_Yang.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:51am AEST

In 2010, only 2% of beauty products were being sold on the internet. When Katia Beauchamp and her Harvard Business School classmate, Hayley Barna, came across this statistic, they were floored. This seemed like a huge missed opportunity—so they decided to dig deeper.

What they discovered was that people were overwhelmed by the prospect of shopping for beauty products. With this problem in mind, Birchbox was created as the simple solution. The monthly subscription box contained a wide variety of beauty samples, and customers could buy the full size of whichever product they liked. In short, Birchbox made the beauty shopping experience easy for the casual consumer.

Since the brand’s launch in 2010, Birchbox has grown to a nine-figure business that now has access to thousands of products, offers over 100 types of boxes for consumers, and has expanded globally. Listen to this podcast episode to learn more about Beauchamp’s thoughts on scaling relationships, building a trustworthy brand, and appealing to your target customer.

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.


Key Takeaways

  • Why people weren’t shopping for beauty products online in the mid-2000s
  • How this problem inspired Beauchamp and co-founder Hayley Barna to launch their beauty subscription box, Birchbox
  • The idea of the “casual consumer” and how this demographic became Birchbox’s target customer
  • Why Beauchamp doesn’t view beauty stores like Sephora or department stores as competitors
  • How Birchbox launched its beta test in 2010, and what it took to grow its customer base
  • Beauchamp’s thoughts on scaling relationships and building a trustworthy brand
  • What Beauchamp is most excited about when it comes to the future of Birchbox
Direct download: FP321_Katia_Beauchamp.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:00am AEST

It’s not easy to rebuild an entire company—especially when things are going well. But that’s exactly what Justin McLeod did with his dating app, Hinge.

After Hinge first launched in 2012, it saw exponential growth. Despite this, McLeod made the risky decision to rebuild his app from scratch in 2016. Why? He felt that the company had strayed too from its original vision or helping people find and build meaningful connections. So instead of remaining the brand that connects “friends with friends,” it rebranded to become “the dating app designed to be deleted.”

McLeod’s decision paid off. Today, Hinge is a subsidiary under Match.com, has seen huge growth on a global scale, and is setting up a date every three seconds globally. In this podcast episode, McLeod shares exactly what it took to get through this challenging transition and what’s in store for this beloved dating app in the near future. 

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. 

Key Takeaways

  • McLeod’s own love story, and how it inspired the idea behind Hinge 
  • Why, after years of success, McLeod decided to rebuild his dating app from scratch
  • The reaction of Hinge’s board of directors and team in response to this change 
  • How Hinge fulfills its mission of getting more people out on great dates
  • The type of data that Hinge collects to set itself apart from competitors
  • The power of word-of-mouth when it came to Hinge’s growth 
  • What McLeod thinks are the mistakes he made while building Hinge for the first time (and how he fixed them the second time around) 
  • Why McLeod decided to join forces with Match.com, and how this decision has helped the business scale globally 
  • The type of research that’s happening at Hinge Labs 
  • McLeod’s approach to user testing and product development with Hinge 
  • Why McLeod recommends being firm about your vision but flexible about your tactics
Direct download: FP320_Justin_McLeod.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:00am AEST

Email marketing is one of the most powerful tools that brands can leverage during the pandemic. With face-to-face interactions still being limited and people spending most of their time at home, there has never been a better time to hit ‘send’ on those email campaigns and flows.

To help guide you in the right direction, we sat down with Chase Dimond to get his best recommendations on how to crisis-proof your email marketing strategy. Why Dimond? Not only is he the co-founder of Boundless Labs, an email marketing agency that was recently acquired by Structured Social, but he has also helped his clients make over $40 million in email attributable revenue during his career. 

In our conversation, Dimond shares specific examples of the most successful email messaging, campaigns, and flows that his clients have used during Covid-19. He also reveals fascinating data on the email marketing trends he’s noticed since the start of the pandemic. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or just getting started on your email marketing journey, you’re sure to learn something valuable in this interview. 

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. 

Key Takeaways

  • Dimond’s agency merge with Structured Social 
  • How Dimond is thinking about Covid-19 from a business perspective
  • Examples of email messaging to use during the pandemic 
  • Why Dimond is staying away from fear mongering and focusing on adding value
  • The difference between email campaigns and email flows
  • Which categories of email campaigns are working well for Dimond’s clients
  • The importance of creating an email marketing calendar 
  • Why Dimond recommends splitting your time between campaigns and flows
  • Examples of successful email campaigns Dimond’s clients have run in the past
  • Dimond’s thoughts on giveaways
  • What Structured Social’s data is showing when it comes to open rates, mobile traffic, and the impact of stimulus checks on email marketing
  • Dimond’s recommendations on getting emails prepared for the summer 
Direct download: FP319_Chase_Diamond.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:00am AEST

Founder and CEO of ActiveCampaign Jason Vandeboom sits down with Foundr’s Nathan Chan to discuss his journey from launching a small part-time business to running a global SaaS empire.

An email marketing, marketing-automation, and sales CRM platform, Jason owes the company’s success to its “customer first” approach and mindful framework.

By throwing out the “product-first SaaS playbook” to a more customer-centric model, ActiveCampaign has evolved from an old-school on-premise contact management company to over 90,000 customers in 161 countries.

Jason doesn’t believe in a time-box window for creation, and he discusses his belief that you can create innovation over time. He says that when it comes to building a business that is sustainable and long-term, you have to start with the right framework.

With many small businesses facing uncertainty due to Covid-19, ActiveCampaign has made it their mission to provide support and security for their customers. Jason discusses how “there’s a former digital transformation that […] has become a necessity.” Above all, business is about trusting your instincts and trying to find a path that is a different shape to others.

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 to us via email.

Key Takeaways

  • Jason discusses his belief in the importance of staying true to being a small business
  • How ActiveCampaign found its footing as an on-premise contact management businesses
  • Why Jason believes the key to a successful business is customer-first over product-first, and how this can shape creative innovation
  • How ActiveCampaign slowly built its foundations in order to secure 100k paying-active companies and over $100 million in annual recurring revenue
  • Why you should ignore the typical SaaS playbook that insists that in order to obtain growth you will need to upmarket
  • Jason advises that you should always trust your instincts, and allow time for your company to grow. You only need passion, joy, and the strength to find our way through it all.
Direct download: FP318_Jason_Vandeboom.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:03pm AEST

From working as a server at Longhorn Steakhouse, to multiple successful startups, making millions in his 20s, to publishing a best selling book, Daniel DiPiazza knows the entrepreneur's journey like the back of his hand. Here to discuss his upcoming "Start Your Side Hustle" course with Foundr, Daniel is all too familiar with the challenges and doubts faced by today's hustlers, and is here to teach you ways to overcome them.

If you want to start a business but don't know where to begin, a low-risk side hustle by freelancing with your existing skills really is the gateway to entrepreneurship. It's extremely affordable with almost literally zero startup cost. In return, you can expect to make great profits with little to no overheads.

Daniel has done this multiple times and has a unique method for helping you identify your skills, find clients, and getting them to pay you for your service.

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 to us via email.

Key Takeaways

  • Daniel discusses his first viral article: Hacking E-Lance, the infamous "butterball story," and how he dominated a job board website
  • Taking the first step towards starting your own business with "sweat equity"
  • Why service-based businesses are the gateway drug to entrepreneurship
  • Why freelancing teaches you all the business essentials
  • Taking the first step; how not to be afraid, what to focus on, and what the competition means for you
  • The importance of building a skill inventory, defining your skill, and seeing where they align
  • Gaining confidence in becoming an entrepreneur and why you don't have to be the best in the world at what you do
  • The fastest way for you to get paid for your big idea
Direct download: FP317_Daniel_DiPiazza.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:00am AEST

Ben Horowitz is one of the most widely recognized names in the world of entrepreneurship. Not only is he the co-founder of the famous venture capital fund, Andreessen Horowitz, but he's also a respected author and thinker with some of the most innovative ideas when it comes to the way companies are run.

In our conversation with Horowitz, we dive deep into the topic of culture—how to create it, move it, and adhere to it. Horowitz also gives us a glimpse into his book, What You Do Is Who You Are, and shares fascinating stories and case studies from it (such as his learnings from prison gang leader, Shaka Senghor).

This isn't a podcast episode you want to miss! Whether you're a fan of Horowitz himself or simply want to learn more about the art of crafting a company culture, you're sure to gain tons of insights in this interview.

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 to us via email.

Key Takeaways

  • The problem that Andreessen Horowitz set out to solve for technical founders 
  • What compelled Horowitz to publish his book, What You Do Is Who You Are
  • What it takes to move a culture 
  • The importance of cohesion between culture and strategy
  • Why you don’t need to establish your company culture on Day 1
  • What a prison gang leader taught Horowitz about culture and leadership
  • The creative way that Andreessen Horowitz enforces their value to be respectful to entrepreneurs at the firm
  • Horowitz’s thoughts on the culture of Netflix versus McDonald’s  
  • The elements that go into creating a high-performance culture 
  • Differentiating between high performance versus long hours 
  • Why Horowitz looks for courage in founders 
  • Bonus: Horowitz shares his favorite rap album from 2019
Direct download: FP316_Ben_Horowitz.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:00am AEST

In 2008, Jeff Rosenthal and his co-founders Elliott Bisnow and Brett Leve convinced 19 people they admired to go on a ski trip with them to Park City, Utah. They wanted to spend one-on-one time with this small group of thought leaders to learn from them and glean some knowledge.

Little did they know that this was only the beginning of their long and successful entrepreneurial journey. What started off as a small event production company has morphed into a global behemoth that includes everything from nonprofits to funds to a major ski resort that all fall under the Summit brand.

While the company is still primarily known for its famous invitation-only events, its biggest impact is its tight-knit community of innovative, creative individuals from around the world.

In this podcast episode, Rosenthal talks about Summit’s explosive growth, what it takes to host a truly extraordinary event, and more entrepreneurial gold.

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.


Key Takeaways

  • What inspired Rosenthal and his co-founders to start their event production company Summit in 2008
  • How Summit expanded into a family of companies, nonprofits, and funds over the last 12 years
  • What makes a spectacular event, according to Rosenthal
  • Why Rosenthal believes “keep it real” is terrible advice when it comes to events, and what he recommends instead
  • The importance of leadership when it comes to event planning
  • The correlation between creativity and capital
  • How Rosenthal manages to lead the multiple entities under Summit
  • The best advice on delegation Rosenthal received from his mentor
  • Why profitability isn’t the only measure of an event’s success
  • What it takes to attract top-notch speakers (and how to set them up for success)
  • The way Rosenthal approaches balancing quality of experience and scaling
Direct download: FP315_Jeff_Rosenthal.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:12am AEST

When Tiffany Masterson was a stay-at-home mom, she was always looking for ways to make a little extra money. So when the opportunity came around to start selling a brand of bar cleanser as a side hustle, she didn’t think much of it.

Little did she know that she would soon develop a passion for skincare, cultivate her own philosophy around what skincare should look like, and launch Drunk Elephant—a brand that was eventually sold to Shiseido in 2019 for a whopping $845 million.

In this podcast episode, Masterson takes us through her unexpected journey as an entrepreneur—from having her brother-in-law as her first investor to snagging a partnership with Sephora, to building an incredible company culture.

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.


Key Takeaways

  • How Masterson, a stay-at-home mom of four children, started selling bar cleanser as a side hustle
  • Why she developed a fascination with the world of skincare
  • Masterson’s skincare philosophy, and how she started to create her dream product on paper
  • What it was like to have her brother-in-law as her first investor
  • Why Masterson kept the launch of Drunk Elephant in 2013 as minimal as possible
  • How Drunk Elephant caught the eye of Sephora
  • The cost of formulating, producing, and packaging 5,000 units of six products
  • The tough financial conversations Masterson had to have
  • Why Masterson chose to take things day-by-day instead of looking too far into the future
  • The biggest trap Masterson believes most founders fall into
  • How Masterson has kept her turnover rate at less than 2% since 2013
  • The reason why people get excited about the Drunk Elephant brand
  • Why Masterson doesn’t believe in trying to “outcompete” other brands
Direct download: FP314_Tiffany_Masterson.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:18am AEST

Parker Conrad is no stranger to hard times.

His first startup, Wikinvest, failed to take off during the seven years he was with the company. He then had a falling out with his co-founder, which caused him to leave and start over. Conrad’s next venture, Zenefits, faced scrutiny while he served as the CEO. And now, his current company Rippling is feeling the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

But Conrad’s strength has always been approaching problems with a realistic and humble attitude. Despite the fact that Rippling’s existing customer base has shrunk since the pandemic hit, the company's top-of-funnel performance hasn’t been impacted. They’re setting up record numbers of demos and doubling down on product investment. Most importantly, Conrad is being strategic about finances and still has three years of runway left.

In this podcast episode, Conrad shares his most honest thoughts on the challenges of Covid-19, what he’s been doing to get through this transition, and what he thinks other struggling founders should do.

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.


Key Takeaways

  • Conrad’s most challenging chapter as an entrepreneur of a failing startup, and why he chose to stay for seven years
  • The pain point that inspired the idea for Zenefits
  • How Rippling provides an employee system that goes beyond HR
  • How the pandemic impacted Rippling’s existing customer base
  • Why Conrad is focused on burn, and what he’s doing to maintain runway
  • The importance of acknowledging what’s not working while also looking toward a more promising future
  • Why Conrad hates working from home, and how he got through the difficult transition
  • Conrad’s unpopular advice for struggling founders
Direct download: FP313_Parker_Conrad.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:56am AEST

It’s not every day that an entrepreneur creates an entirely new industry category and a nine-figure company at the same time. But that’s exactly what Dharmesh Shah did when he started HubSpot.

Before the company launched in 2006, marketing relied solely on outbound tactics such as cold calling, purchasing billboards, and buying email lists. Shah and his co-founder Brian Halligan saw an opportunity to completely change the game. Together, they founded the concept of inbound marketing, which is all about creating value for your audience to draw them into your company.

Since then, HubSpot has quickly become the most respected and recognized brand within the marketing world—known not only for being the inventor and category king of inbound marketing, but also for adopting an incredible company culture. In this interview, Shah touches on all these topics and shares his biggest takeaways from serving as the co-founder and CTO of HubSpot.

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.


Key Takeaways

  • How Shah and his co-founder Brian Halligan simultaneously came up with the idea for HubSpot and an entirely new category of marketing
  • The biggest challenges of inbound marketing in the early days
  • Why Shah decided not to trademark the term “inbound,” and how this decision helped the inbound marketing movement flourish
  • The history behind HubSpot’s famous 128-slide Culture Code deck
  • Shah’s tips for keeping culture consistent across a decentralized team
  • Why Shah recommends approaching your company culture as a product
  • What Shah and his team do to make sure their customers and employees stay happy
  • How a maniacal obsession with your craft will help you find success
Direct download: FP312_Dharmesh_Shah.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:40am AEST

Peter Yared has a wealth of experience as an entrepreneur. Not only has he built and sold six different B2B enterprise companies (making more than $500 million in exits), but he’s also lived through three different recessions and managed to stay afloat through them all.

In this conversation with our CEO Nathan Chan, Yared dives deep into the world of software businesses and takes us through his process of coming up with an idea, turning it into a company, and successfully selling it. He also explains the most important lessons from the three previous recessions he’s lived through, as well as what he’s learned during the current pandemic.

Whether you’re an engineer who wants to step into the world of entrepreneurship or a business owner who is struggling with the impact of Covid-19, this episode is jam-packed with helpful knowledge!

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.


Key Takeaways

  • How Yared initially fell in love with programming
  • Yared’s journey to building and selling six B2B enterprise companies
  • Why software businesses usually end up being bought out
  • An overview of Yared’s most successful exits
  • How Yared decides when to turn an idea into an actual company (and why he prefers to call them “projects”)
  • The importance of being part of trends
  • Why Yared’s last five projects started off self-funded
  • Yared’s best advice for engineers
  • The idea of push vs. pull selling
  • Why Yared doesn’t believe the superior product always wins
  • How to use an engineering perspective to successfully go to market
  • How Yared managed the impact of Covid-19 for his global company
  • Yared’s best advice based on his experience with multiple recessions, and how the current pandemic compares
Direct download: FP311_Peter_Yared.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:16am AEST

What does it take to create, market, and sell a profitable online course?

This question is likely on the minds of many people⁠, especially now that the pandemic is pushing people to turn to online courses as a way to level up their skill sets. Ankur Nagpal has a wealth of knowledge when it comes to this topic, from running his startup Teachable for the past six years to growing his online course platform to host 50,000 creators and reaching over 30 million people since its launch.

Nagpal shares insights on everything from how to create a full-time income from an online course to best practices to follow as a beginner course creator. He also predicts what the future of the online course industry looks like.

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.


Key Takeaways

  • How Nagpal got started with Teachable, the startup that converts passions into online courses
  • The three factors that are contributing to the growth of the online course market
  • How the pandemic has impacted Teachable
  • What it takes to create a full-time income from an online course business
  • The importance of an NPS, and how it distinguishes the top 1% of courses
  • Nagpal’s best practices for online course creation, especially for first-timers
  • Strategies to drive more sales
  • How to overcome limiting self beliefs
  • Nagpal’s best advice when it comes to niches, tools, and list building
  • A look into the future of the online course industry
  • What Teachable’s recent acquisition means for the future of the business
Direct download: FP310_Ankur_Nagpal.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:53am AEST

Gina Bianchini has always loved working with creators. That’s why she co-founded Ning, an online platform for people and organizations to create custom social networks, with Marc Andreessen in 2005. Even after leaving Ning, she couldn’t stay away from the world of creators for long so she launched Mighty Networks in 2017.

Since then, the team at Mighty Networks has been obsessed with serving “creators with a purpose.” The platform powers brands and businesses that bring people together via online courses, paid memberships, events, content, and community.

In this podcast episode, Bianchini explains why she’s so passionate about providing more opportunities for creators. She also shares her best recommendations when it comes to creating successful online courses and communities, and how her team at Mighty Networks approaches these goals within their own platform.

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.


Key Takeaways

  • Why Bianchini has always loved working with creators
  • A brief history of Bianchini’s first company, Ning, and why she left in 2010
  • The three pillars that inspired the idea for Mighty Networks
  • Why Bianchini believes in the power of small communities
  • The reason why creators want to get away from Facebook Groups, and why it’s beneficial to encourage this migration
  • The story of why Bianchini launched her own online course, and why it’s the best thing she’s ever done
  • What makes a successful course
  • The most important things to know about community building in 2020
Direct download: FP309_Gina_Bianchini.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:30am AEST

Henrik Werdelin has never been about chasing money, power, or fame. Instead, his focus has always been on creating cool things with people he enjoys being around. That’s exactly how BarkBox, now one of many subsidiaries under BARK, came to be.

Despite Werdelin’s non-material approach to BARK, the dog subscription box company has exploded in popularity since its launch in 2012. Today, it boasts hundreds of thousands of subscribers and it is a nine-figure business.

In our conversation, Werdelin shares the most important learnings he’s collected as an entrepreneur—from finding the right funding option for your business to maintaining the right headspace during challenging times. Werdelin also gives us a glimpse into BARK’s incredible company culture and how he managed to build a quirky, kind, and smart team of people to pave the path for the organization. As a bonus, we also get a sneak peek into Werdelin’s book, “The Acorn Method” to understand how companies can grow in an ever-changing environment.

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.


Key Takeaways

  • Why Werdelin and his co-founders decided to start creating cool stuff for dogs in 2012
  • The funny story of how Werdelin met one of his co-founders in a heart-shaped bed on a cruise ship
  • What the pet industry was like when BarkBox first entered the market
  • Werdelin’s advice on finding the right funding option for your business
  • How BARK has dealt with the pandemic, and why the pet industry is recession proof
  • The importance of staying in a good headspace during tough times
  • How Werdelin and his co-founders approach leadership and decision-making
  • Why BARK is an inside-out brand, and what that means
  • A sneak peek into Werdelin’s new book, “The Acorn Method” and the advice it shares on how companies can continue growing during uncertain times
  • Werdelin’s best advice for entrepreneurs who are struggling during the pandemic
Direct download: FP308_Henrik_Werdelin.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:02am AEST

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
Direct download: FP307_David_Heinemeier_Hansson.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:02am AEST

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
Direct download: FP306_Chris_DeWolfe.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:20am AEST

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
Direct download: FP305_Drew_Houston.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:54am AEST

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)

 

Direct download: FP304_Alex_Osterwalder.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:06am AEST

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
Direct download: FP303_Adam_Hendle.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:24am AEST

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
Direct download: FP302_Rory_Boyle.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:54am AEST

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
Direct download: FP301_Ashwin_Sokke.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:47am AEST

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
Direct download: FP300_Daniel_DiPiazza.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:07am AEST

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
Direct download: FP299_Dylan_Mullan.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:01am AEST

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)
Direct download: FP298_Josh_Snow.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:53pm AEST

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
Direct download: FP297_Steve_Blank.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:50am AEST

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
Direct download: FP296_Dallas_Tanner.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:46am AEST

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
Direct download: FP295_Tim_West.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:46pm AEST

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
Direct download: FP294_Steve_McLeod.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:49am AEST

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
Direct download: FP293_Jim_McKelvey.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:42am AEST

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
Direct download: FP292_Alexa_Von_Tobel.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:52pm AEST

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
Direct download: FP291_Peter_Diamandis.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:05am AEST

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
Direct download: FP290_Craig_Walker.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:38am AEST

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
Direct download: FP289_Zvi_Band.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:34am AEST

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
Direct download: FP288_Erik_Bergman.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:58am AEST

Richard Li puts customer service above all when it comes to his luggage company, July.

This unfaltering commitment is why he personally makes house calls to address complaints and why he recently hand-delivered packages after realizing that some customers wouldn’t receive the luggage they ordered in time for the holidays. But this high level of service is only a small piece of Li’s success story with July.

Li, who has previous entrepreneurial experience from his furniture company Brosa, has also figured out a “magic” formula for manufacturing, marketing, and selling physical products. He used this knowledge to grow July from $0 to $5 million in revenue in just a year. And now he’s looking forward to opening up additional retail stores, introducing more products, allowing for more luggage personalization, and expanding into international markets in 2020.

If you want to learn more about what it takes to launch and scale a business that revolves around a physical product, be sure to give our interview a listen!

Also be sure to check out our latest online course, Ecommerce Masters, where Richard Li is one of the five instructors teaching advanced ecommerce skills.

ATTENTION: We're excited to announce that Richard Li has partnered with Foundr to teach one of the modules in our course, Ecommerce Masters. Get on the Free VIP Waitlist to be notified when we open enrollment!

Get a FREE Lesson from Our Course: Ecommerce Masters! Learn the FASTEST Path to a Million-Dollar Store


Key Takeaways

  • The opportunity Li saw in Australia’s furniture market that led him to launch Brosa
  • Why he stepped back from Brosa after five years to focus completely on his new direct-to-consumer luggage company, July
  • An overview of July’s funding journey, go-to-market strategy, and first sale
  • The journey from $0 to $5 million in one year
  • How to find a manufacturer that can grow with your company
  • Why Li offers July customers a 100-day trial and lifetime warranty
  • The rules of product development that Li follows
  • Why Li decided to follow the direct-to-consumer trend of opening up a physical store
  • July’s four growth pillars for 2020
  • Li’s best advice for entrepreneurs building a business around a physical product
Direct download: FP287_Richard_Li.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:28am AEST

Rob Ward always seems to be one step ahead.

Before Kickstarter took off, Ward and his co-founder Chris Peters launched two successful campaigns on the platform, funding Opena and Quad Lock—the two products that led to the founding of Annex Products. Then Ward was early to the Shopify game, which he successfully used to sell his products for several years. Ward was also quick to see the potential of Facebook Ads and has used them to scale Annex to a multimillion-dollar business.

This ability to spot trends, paired with his finely-tuned approach to product development, has helped Ward find tremendous success as an entrepreneur. While Opena is no longer active, Quad Lock has become a leading device mount and accessory company, serving a wide variety of users—car commuters, motorcyclists, kayakers, even hang gliders. As a result, Quad Lock sells hundreds of thousands of units each year in over 100 countries.

We’re now thrilled to have Rob Ward as one of the five instructors of our latest online course, Ecommerce Masters, teaching advanced ecommerce strategies.

If you’re curious to learn more about Ward’s approach to trendspotting, product development, and more, we highly recommend you check out this episode!

ATTENTION: We’re excited to announce that Rob Ward has partnered with Foundr to teach one of the modules in our course, Ecommerce Masters. Get on the Free VIP Waitlist to be notified when we open enrollment!

Get a FREE Lesson from Our Course: Ecommerce Masters! Learn the FASTEST Path to a Million-Dollar Store


Key Takeaways

  • An overview of Ward’s prior entrepreneurial experiences with everything from laser machines to 3D printers, and how they helped him get to where he is today
  • How he and his co-founder, Chris Peters, founded Annex Products in 2012, building on two successful Kickstarter campaigns
  • Why the duo decided to eventually focus their resources on Quad Lock
  • How Ward stays on the cutting edge and predicts trends
  • Insight into Ward’s approach to the product development process—when to start thinking about the next product, the iterative process, and more
  • Why Ward isn’t too worried about Quad Lock copycats
  • Why Ward doesn’t believe in following other people’s blueprints for success
  • A sneak peek into the module Ward will be teaching for Ecommerce Masters
Direct download: FP286_Rob_Ward.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:54am AEST

At 27, Chase Dimond is already considered a marketing veteran. In addition to overseeing the marketing teams of various companies, Dimond has also founded many of his own ventures, such as Soundjuice and ZenPup.

His most recent company is Boundless Labs, an agency that focuses on email marketing for ecommerce—with a special focus on CBD companies. Thanks to its modern and human-centered approach to emails, Boundless Labs acquired 30 clients with six- to eight-figure revenues in a little over a year.

Dimond has also secured mind-blowing results for those clients, such as sending emails with 40% to 70% open rates (compared to the industry average of 20% to 25%) and helping companies generate 20% to 30% of their total revenue with emails.

If you’re looking to master the art of email marketing, this podcast episode with Dimond is a great place to start! He gives us a sneak peek into the best practices he uses with his own clients at Boundless Labs, along with other helpful insights.


Key Takeaways

  • How Dimond got his start in marketing, growth, and acquisitions
  • An overview of Dimond’s ventures, from CBD pet products to a social media platform for musicians
  • Why Dimond decided to launch his email marketing agency, Boundless Labs, and how he scaled from zero to 30 clients in a year
  • How design sets Boundless Labs apart from the rest
  • Dimond’s perspective on email marketing as a source of revenue for his clients
  • The importance of the human touch when it comes to customer retention and acquisition
  • How Dimond achieves a 40-70% open rate on customer thank-you emails
Direct download: FP285_Chase_Diamond.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:04am AEST

Nick Shackelford used to be a goalie for the American pro soccer team, LA Galaxy II. So how did he end up being an expert in the online ad space?

After leaving the soccer league at the end of 2015, Shackelford felt limited by his career options—either training people or playing in a low soccer division—and decided to take the road less traveled instead. He gained experience in paid social media through an internship at PepsiCo. and a stint at a digital marketing agency.

Shackelford used the knowledge he gained to start his own fidget spinner business called Fidgetly. This was where he further cemented his paid marketing know-how and also mastered the art of scaling quickly without breaking the bank. Even after the close of Fidgetly, Shackelford continues to put his knowledge to good use by helping brands through his online marketing, branding and consulting company, Structured Social.

Whether you’re looking to learn more about scaling, media buying, or paid advertisements, Shackelford is your guy. Make sure to check out his interview to take a deeper dive into these fascinating topics!

Key Takeaways

  • How Shackelford went from pro soccer player to intern at PepsiCo.
  • His experience working on paid social media campaigns for the iPhone 7, iPad Pro, and the Apple Watch
  • The rise of fidget spinners, and how this trend helped launch his own business Fidgetly
  • The discovery of Shackelford’s superpower: scaling via paid marketing
  • An overview of Shackelford’s work with various brands after closing Fidgetly
  • How he helped one company clear $10.7 million in sales in 35 days using online ads
  • Shackelford’s best advice for 6-figure businesses that want to accelerate growth
  • The traits of a good media buyer
  • A sneak peek from Shackelford into the new Foundr course he’s teaching
Direct download: FP284_Nick_Shackelford.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:45am AEST

Gideon Shalwick believes there’s one trait every entrepreneur needs, and it’s not persistence, a strong work ethic, or creativity. It’s self awareness. His own desire to better understand himself has led him down a winding road of serial entrepreneurship and self-exploration.

It’s what first inspired Shalwick to drop out of the 9-to-5 club early in his career, move to another country with his wife, and start fresh. The pursuit of his true calling led him to publish a successful ebook in 2006, and two years later, develop a blogging training product that boasts over 40,000 subscribers. Meanwhile, Shalwick was also building up a personal brand as an expert in video marketing.

But his journey didn’t stop there. In 2012, Shalwick founded video captioning service Splasheo, which has become a major source of passive income. He followed that success in 2014 with Veeroll, a SaaS company that automates the production of video ads for YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook, and now dominates the video advertisement space.

While Shalwick saw great success with these companies, he found that tug of self-discovery pulling at him again. He realized he had become so caught up in the startup world that, in the process, had forgotten who he was.

So he decided to walk away from the projects he spent over a decade building. Now, he’s in a period of self-rediscovery and is sharing his entrepreneurial wisdom with others while plotting his next move.

Starting Over

Five years into his career, Shalwick decided to start over, for the first time. He had graduated with an electrical engineering degree from the University of Canterbury in New Zealand and immediately recognized that he didn’t enjoy working for someone else.

In an attempt to try another path, Shalwick got his master’s degree in engineering management, which focused more on the people side of business. Still, he felt frustrated by his job.

“I don’t think there was any job in the world that would allow me to live out my potential the way that I wanted to, so I felt really stuck,” Shalwick says.

He turned to his wife and suggested that they quit their jobs, move to Australia, and start from scratch.

At first, the plan was for Shalwick to find a job in Brisbane as their ticket in. But three months later, he still hadn’t found employment. He asked his wife to try applying for jobs as well and,  within a week, she had three offers. While this allowed them to successfully relocate, Shalwick still had no idea what to do with his own career.

Millionaire Secrets

Shalwick began reading books on entrepreneurship, with the hope that they would point him in the right direction. It was Rich Dad, Poor Dad, which talks about the importance of building up an asset, that eventually struck a chord. Shalwick wondered how he could build up his own asset and started to explore a variety of options.

He considered everything from franchises to a dog-washing business, but ultimately ended up attending a book-writing course that gave him his first taste of entrepreneurship. In 2006, Shalwick wrote and sold a personal development ebook for $47. The title? Millionaire Dropout Secrets.

“I blush when I think about the title, but I have an excuse,” Shalwick says. “The course taught us that titles with the words ‘secrets’ and ‘millionaire’ in it do really well. So I came up with the title Millionaire Dropout Secrets...I wrote it as a reporter, looking at everyone who dropped out of the system and became successful.”

The ebook was a huge success. The instructor who taught the course offered to help promote the product to his database of 10,000 people. An email was sent out on a Friday night and, by Saturday morning, Shalwick’s ebook was selling like hotcakes. In fact, he sold enough copies to where he felt extremely optimistic about the idea of selling digital products from the comfort of his home for the rest of his career. Shalwick was on cloud nine.

Until one day, his ebook ran out of steam.

Video Ventures

After the initial rush of sales, Shalwick’s ebook experienced virtually no traffic for two years. Because he had little experience with business building, traffic generation, or customer relationship management, he had no idea how to bring his sales back to life.

But Shalwick knew he could learn by tapping into the expertise of others, so he purchased a camcorder and decided to start interviewing people on video to better understand how to set up successful online businesses.

Shalwick snagged his first interview at an industry event, where one of the speakers agreed to talk to him. Over time, this was the formula Shalwick used to eventually collect five gigabytes worth of video interviews. He planned to upload them all to a membership site, but before he could launch, the sheer size of the files ended up killing his PC and the project never got off the ground.

But all the effort wasn’t for nothing. Shalwick became close friends with one of his video interviewees, and together, they launched a product called Become A Blogger (a course for those who are just starting out with blogging or looking to take their blogging to the next level) in 2008. Within the first two weeks of launching, the business had over 10,000 subscribers and an income of over $20,000 per month. This was life changing for Shalwick, who had been making no money for the previous two years.

That business gave Shalwick the exposure he needed to start building up his own personal brand, as he took to YouTube to teach people about building successful video products and online businesses. His channel grew to 36 million views and 360,000 subscribers, and the name Gideon Shalwick became widely associated with the video marketing space.

Changing Priorities

When Shalwick and his wife welcomed their first daughter in 2010, everything changed.

“I realized...what if something happens to me? Then what’s going to happen to the business and income for the family? So I decided I’d better change tactics.”

This dawning realization is common for entrepreneurs who build personal brands. Shalwick believes the most important thing is to know yourself and understand the benefits and drawbacks of each type of business.

For instance, personal brands are simple to start up, have low overhead costs, and make it easy to build a connection with your audience. But as Shalwick realized, the trouble is that a personal brand can’t survive without its creator.

If you have a personal brand, Shalwick recommends looking at other ways to build assets that can run independently of you. This could mean investing your income in other wealth vehicles or creating a separate product or service.

That’s the reason Shalwick decided to launch his human-powered video captioning service, Splasheo, in 2012. To this day, it still functions without Shalwick and serves as a passive source of income for his family.

A few years later, Shalwick decided to venture into the SaaS space. He initially wanted to set everything up through Splasheo, but decided it would be cleaner to create an entirely new entity based in Singapore. And that’s how Veeroll was born in 2014. This SaaS company was created to automate production of video ads for YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook. The idea came from the nine years Shalwick had spent in the video marketing industry, where he constantly heard about the biggest pain point in the market: the production and editing process.

Because this software so directly addressed a source of frustration for video marketers, Veeroll quickly became a leader, and today is a million-dollar company.

The Hunt Continues

Despite the success of Veeroll, Shalwick decided to sell his shares and walk away from the company earlier this year. Working in the world of SaaS was intensely challenging, he explains, even for someone with a technical background.

He recounted the time he reached out to Clay Collins at Leadpages for advice when he first started Veeroll. Collins told him, “There are a million things, and you have to get them all right.” While Shalwick didn’t understand what he meant at the time, he grew to appreciate the truth behind this statement.

But it wasn’t just the technical aspects of the SaaS business that were overwhelming. As Shalwick describes, he was also burned out by a high-stress environment, brought on from pursuing extremely aggressive goals. That’s when he recognized how easy it was to get caught up in the wrong things and lose sight of what’s important.

So he decided to step back once again, and focus on rediscovering himself.

Shalwick has spent a lot of time contemplating his life’s vision. He believes that for each of us, this vision is guided by an “unconscious drive,” what some people refer to as their “why.”

He discovered after much reflection that his unconscious drive is for significance. All of his actions had been driven by a desire to prove himself. He was embarrassed by this realization at first, because it felt superficial, but he came to embrace it over time.

Now that he understands this reality, he has made an intentional effort to channel his drive from achieving significance for himself into helping others feel significant. For Shalwick, this has been a huge game changer and has made the vision for his life much clearer.

“As entrepreneurs, you really have to get to know yourself,” Shalwick says. “Each of us has a unique capability and gift or talent we can give to the world. But it’s conditioned away by society...and it’s a real challenge to rediscover that again. When you can rediscover that and find your true why, then everything becomes a lot easier.”

The Formula for Successful Video Ads, From Gideon Shalwick

Shalwick uses the AIDCA formula to ensure successful video ads that consistently convert customers. Below is a breakdown of each component of the formula:

A = Attention. The first part of the formula is all about grabbing people’s interest with a hook. According to Shalwick, one of the most effective ways to do this is to identify your audience’s biggest pain point then turn it into a question. For instance, if your intended audience is video marketers, you may ask: “Are you struggling with video editing?”

I = Intrigue. You can build intrigue with a story of open loops that draws people in and makes them want to keep watching. In other words, create a sense of mystery. This part of the formula relies on the Zeigarnik Effect, which states that people remember uncompleted or interrupted tasks better than completed tasks.

D = Desire. Now it’s time to create desire around the solution. Shalwick recommends listing the benefits, features, and differentiators of your product or service to make it more appealing to your viewers.

C = Conviction. According to Shalwick, it’s important to provide as much proof as you can so the audience is convinced that the solution you’re offering actually works. This can come in the form of testimonials, social proof, or a stamp of approval from an authority figure.

A = Action. Finally, you have to ask people to do what you want them to do. This is where you insert a call to action and guide your audience in the direction you want them to go.

Interview by Nathan Chan, feature article reprinted from Foundr Magazine, by Sophia Lee


Key Takeaways

  • Why Shalwick and his wife decided to quit their jobs and start over
  • How he got his first taste of entrepreneurship with an ebook (and why the title makes him blush to this day)
  • Why his ebook sales skyrocketed, then saw virtually no sales for two years
  • Shalwick’s journey to better understanding online businesses
  • How he built his personal brand in the video marketing space
  • Why the birth of Shalwick’s daughter made him reconsider the way he approaches business
  • The birth of Splasheo, and how it became a source of passive income for Shalwick
  • Shalwick’s successful venture into SaaS with Veeroll
  • Why Shalwick sold his shares and walked away from Veeroll
  • The importance of discovering your true “why” as an entrepreneur
Direct download: FP283_Gideon_Shalwick.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:10am AEST

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