Head Honcho at Expert DOJO – Venture Capital
Brian

"Build this strong personal message that exudes from your product, exudes from you, exudes from your business and people will want to be around you or at least the people that you want to be around you and that's where you start from."

- Brian Mac Mahon

Brian outlines what he looks for in a start-up

Talk Takeaways

Brian Mac Mahon shares his fascinating journey in starting up Expert Dojo and how he has helped startups from investing, scaling, mentoring, growth hacking, and just getting himself in the trenches to help them succeed. Brian also shares the 4 phase process an entrepreneur undergoes, the one key thing that founders need to possess to succeed, the importance of measurement in defining success, the focus on fundamental growth, and the difference an innovative community can make to the whole startup ecosystem.

About

Brian specialize in helping entrepreneurs become more successful in their business by using all the tools available to him as owner of the largest peer to peer peak performance academy in the world. Expert DOJO improves the success rate of early-stage entrepreneurs with investment, foundation, showcasing, influence, and community. Being a startup business is a lonely and difficult path to navigate. Why do it alone?

The full #OPNAskAnAngel talk

Jeffery:
Welcome everybody and thank you very much for joining us today. Today we’re with a guest that I have, I think, I have followed, admired, and thought man I got to interview this guy one day because boy does he know his stuff when it comes to early stage startup investing. Brian, welcome to Ask an Angel. Thank you very much for joining us today.

Brian:
Thank you sir, it’s a pleasure to be here. Always good to chat with you, Jeffrey

Jeffery:
Well so I think that the way we want to start is we’d love for you to give us a bit of a background on yourself. Where you kind of started, where you’ve kind of gone to, and where you are today and then one thing about you that nobody would know.

Brian:
So one thing about me that nobody would know — let me start, let me start with the boring stuff and then and then I get to something that folks don’t know about me. Everybody knows everything about me. I’m so public about everything. Every fight I think is the most public fight in the world but I’ll start with where I came from. I’m an Irish guy, born and bred you know 51 years ago and then I spent the past 30 years really traveling around the world. I had a property development company over in the UK which did pretty well. I had a consultancy company which got gobbled up by Regis, I then had a technology marketplace which my partner took from me and so you know I’ve just been quite fortunate in my roles through life and during that period, this lives in about 50 countries and i’m having the fortune of being everywhere in Latin America all the way through to Asia, and Southeast Asia, and Eastern Europe and Western Europe. Only places I haven’t been which I really want to fix that in the next five or ten years is India and Africa which are incidentally I would say the greatest hidden gems in the unicorn space over the next five or ten years and we’re investing heavily into both regions. And then I found myself in Santa Monica after living in about 10 or 15 cities around the states.Great places I really enjoyed like New York, and Boston, and Austin, and Houston ,and San Antonio and San Diego and all those great places and then finally settled down here And I realized that you know after years of taking, I don’t think necessarily in a terrible way but just enjoying life and taking everything that this entrepreneurship and creative lifestyle gives us. I decided I wanted to try and give back and got involved very heavily in the early stage startup space, got involved and you know opening up the place I’m in here right now here at Expert Dojo. Five years ago, which was maybe even six years ago, which was really a temporary experiment and the idea was let’s open it up and just study entrepreneurship. Let’s bring in entrepreneurs, let’s study them, let’s watch them, let’s see what happens with them, and then see if we can learn something. There was no intention of an accelerator or an international accelerator or anything like that and then that evolved then six or twelve months later into a mentorship studio, and then that involves into training and then that evolved into a venture studio and then that evolves into an accelerator and then here we are. You know four years later where now we’re investing 50 $100,000 checks, we have about 70 by the end of this month we’ll have 80 investments already done and we intend to do another 80 to 100 investments next year. So we’re investing in quite a clip. You know and things that people don’t really know about me is I really, I am a — obviously I have major issues with myself because on one side of it I am purely a venture capitalist that is what we do, but on the other side I absolutely hate what we do to the entrepreneurship inside venture capitalism. I think that in many ways we are absolutely destroying America, and helping fast forward its decline as a nation that’s already lost out to Israel many years ago which is fine but what is not fine is we’ve just lost out to china on a technology level. We’re just about to lose out to India and we’re just about to lose out to many many many other nations and I think that is principally driven by an economy which is led by venture capitalists.

Jeffery:
Well I i completely agree with that. The video I’m going to say it’s a bit choppy so I’m not sure if it’s a connection end that we’re having but it is going a little bit slow so we’ll work our way through that. Just a heads up. So now let’s get one personal thing about you that nobody would know.

Brian:
So I love traveling. I mean I’m a gypsy at heart. That’s me. if you say like what’s my favorite thing to do in the whole world, man I would get an RV and I would travel around the United States and I would be there, I would be happy as a clam. Not one other thing would I need you. Know maybe my boy would come with me, it’s pretty safe to say my wife would not come with me, right which is why I haven’t done it yet but my time will come. I am a secret hidden trailer park guy. And I will have that rv as soon as we get our unicorn.

Jeffery:
I love it, man. Yep I’m I feel you on that side of things. The adventure side is always great. Okay so one of the things that I thought what I really enjoyed was I went through and of course we’ve had discussions, I’ve learned, did some research on yourself and I really enjoyed your TED talk. And I think, after you take how venture capital is kind of crushing the United States, and you take what you said in 2016 and you kind of shape that into where entrepreneurship is today, what you’ve accomplished in the entrepreneurship world, has any of your philosophies or theories changed around when you first started talking about this and diving in and helping entrepreneurs, has your mindset changed or has your goal stayed the same? That you want to invest in as many companies as you can, and help as many companies get off the ground, because that’s really where the win is.

Brian:
So I don’t think we’re going to make a damn bit of difference to America as an economy just by the fact that we invest in underrepresented founders, or just by the fact that we all have a hundred to 300 companies, or even by the fact that we expect to have a higher rate of success within entrepreneurship. I don’t think that will really move the ball. And but what it will hopefully do is will make us a couple hundred million dollars. And then we will take that couple of hundred million dollars and we will get to my real goal, which is I i truly believe so strongly in entrepreneurship. I believe it is the only solution to all of the problems. And when I say all of the problems, the fact that healthcare is making us bankrupt, and if healthcare doesn’t make us bankrupt, our college education is going to make us bankrupt, and if that doesn’t make us bankrupt it’s the fact that our jobs can’t afford to pay us the money that will take us to old age and if that’s not going to kill us then it’s the fact that we all live way too long these days so we can’t afford that last leg of life that we have because we don’t have the money. And so entrepreneur does takes all of those boxes if you can get to it early enough and if you find the right endeavor. And I don’t mean necessarily a venture road, I mean build something great and then on the other side of the hierarchy of needs then entrepreneurship takes all the boxes of creativity right, we come to this world, the objective of us being here, none of us know but what I know it’s not is just getting into some boring horrible middle management job, being in that job for my entire life, and just being grateful that just before I die I made it to my deathbed like I don’t want any of us to live that life. I want us to have this great creativity and bringing it out and then doing whatever we choose to do. So my goal is that I want to have all entrepreneurs everywhere on the planet with an equal opportunity of being successful, irrespective of its male, female, black, white, whatever religion it is are more importantly whether they are rich or poor. And that endeavor will start after we make a ton of cash from this endeavor. And then my only other point you made a really good point, which is like have my views changed from previously. I think what happens as you get a bit older is things are less black and white. So I don’t believe that venture capitalists neither mean or anybody else wake up in the morning and we say hey it’s an awesome day to be sexist today, and it’s an awesome day to like pick some privileged founder who comes from a really good family rather than finding a better entrepreneur, who’s building a better technology. Are saying hey you know we’re just going to take some shitty app that requires nothing more than a qr code and we’re going to pretend it’s a billion dollar company , like I always love when when compass real estate got called a tech company or when we work got called a tech it’s like come on come on who’s smoking what here like we know what this is but what’s happened is like we we’ve obviously moved away from the mark so I don’t believe people wake up and say that’s what I want to become I just think what happens is we move towards the easiest path. And if someone says to us heyBrian you can make a ton of cash today and you can make a ton of cash by doing this and this doesn’t seem particularly bad, now it may not be the fairest thing in the world and it may not be the right thing to do but it’s not the wrong thing to do in our minds. and Then it’s like it’s that great saying which is that you don’t need bad people to do bad stuff for evil to exist in the world you just need good people to do nothing right. so I now believe that there is no black and white there are shades of grey and I believe that if we can show that there’s a sufficient amount of greed and opportunity in the space of actually working with great technology and great entrepreneurs then more and more VCs will kind of take my viewpoint and say hey maybe we should like focus in that direction.

Jeffery:
I love it. And I i think that you’re clear to note that it really does come down to making a difference yourself, and growing that, and getting people to follow and be part of your vision and that starts with the startups the entrepreneurs and then it goes to the investment community and eventually over time as you continue to build, success people start to see that earned mentality. They all start to come. They all want to join why you’re successful, why are you getting entrepreneurs to break the power rule, why are you changing the way the dynamics work and I really like that. I think it’s a great way to drive your business but it’s also a great way to build people around you to see that there is a way of doing something different and do something for the for the better. All right great and now what I also like about that is the kind of supporting of entrepreneurs and at OPN and what we do we kind of follow that same suit, we really just got behind the entrepreneur and for four or five years we didn’t want sponsors, we didn’t want them on the floor, it was about the entrepreneur, it was all that other clutter doesn’t need to be here what needs to be here is that when you come in the room you see the entrepreneur and you work with them you talk to them. You figure out their problems and you help them through their day because they’re doing something that not very many people can and not many people can be successful at. So it really does take a village to raise a child and I think that’s the kind of mentality that cities, towns, countries need to take in order to build up their ecosystems and as you mentioned with India and other massive countries, they’ve never really supported the entrepreneurs and I’ve been to a lot of countries but specifically in the last couple years to Mexico, Chile, where they’re really taking this drive to really affect and make a change in their communities, they don’t have the investment dollars but what they do have is in entrepreneurship that they want to exploit and get out there to the market so that people can actually start to support themselves and not have to lean on the government as much and I think the initiative you’re taking is certainly helping build a face around that.

Brian:
Yeah, thank you. You know I saw, I learned a long time ago that most governments are pretty useless like the reason they take a job that they can stay in for 30 years is because they’re not really capable of doing much else in life. And I don’t mean to be mean to people but we kind of all know. I actually had a conversation with one of our startups that runs a dog care company, and Americans love their dogs. My dog — I love my dog. More than if you if you ask me who’ll I pick my dog and my kid, i’d be like I don’t know, don’t make me choose because I really love my dog. And I was talking to her today about creating a campaign which is a consumer challenge to see if we could boost the brand. And the consumer challenge is you know which candidate would you choose for president, would you go for candidate one, candidate two, both of which we know, or your dog? Like which would you choose if you get the choice between all three which would you choose because I think that most folks would choose their dog. If they could actually get to the thing and that’s because we all know that at the end of the day, yeah we choose one side, we choose the other broadly there are policies that we follow, but whenever they interfere with that being the most important worin any of our spaces they mess it up. Because they’re physically not capable of doing it and it’s about what they see outside. So in the same way, the United States have done a terrible job in developing our entrepreneurship, they’ve made efforts but the efforts are so poorly directed in places like score, and SBA and those types of places that it’s not only has it made no impact but our real entrepreneurs don’t even go to those places. And in many of the other countries it’s very similar I think this falls upon us and the only area that I do believe that our government should take a really active role in is our education of our kids. Our kids need
to learn entrepreneurship, freelancing, starting off on their own like it’s so crazy that their curriculum is the same as it wa 30 years ago and they expect to be able to bring them into a different world. If we do that, we have a chance of regaining our crown as the nation of entrepreneurs on the planet. But if we do not do that we will decline and we will lose.

Jeffery:
That’s a great point. And I think that there’s one other role that I feel the government can support in and that is in early stage prototyping funding. I think that there’s a lack of funding at the beginning of the stream and what ends up happening is that a lot of these startups will fail right away. Because they start, they get a little bursary of a two grand or a grand and then they’re trying to build this into something and the risk factor is so significantly high that no one jumps in to help. And they go to schools and the schools try to help but they don’t have the funding so they try to offer professors and whatnot they get a little bit further ahead and then they’re going to the markets and they’re not getting anywhere because they treat it as a science project. So I think that if the governments could come in with a way to allow for one-time investment and let’s just call it an entrepreneur has allowed a one-time investment of ten thousand dollars towards an incorporated company that is backed by a bdc potential so or somebody that is a bank or a vc that can support the groupings to follow them and track them through a platform then at least we know that there’s a potential that the 10 grand can be made into a company and that they’ve been showing plans and they’re doing the right things to support it and maybe the education system supports that as well, but I do think that they’ve got to find a way to give some dollars into that early stage so that you can get more of these science projects and more of these small businesses off the ground.

Brian:
Yeah.Great point look if we were going to give scores like school scores we would give the US you know an F minus for what they’ve done. Actually you know what I’m going to give it a D because what they did with the jobs act was a good start. and that is the only thing that I saw done really well. the jobs act was good, regulation crowdfunding was actually very good, it allowed to democratize the fact that normal people are not even thought as being intelligent enough to make investment decisions in endeavors that can make them great returns for me is a travesty, and it’s a travesty of America. It shouldn’t have been allowed but what they did within the jobs act was at least a step to come past that. And Canada I would put up there is a C-plus. You know they they actually really try, they realize there’s not a lot of venture capital, there’s a lot of grants, a lot of good things I see great entrepreneurs coming out, good scrappy entrepreneurs who are building really good strong products a UK actually a B plus on this. they really gave they put in place phenomenal structures, tax incentives for normal people who would not normally invest in early stage startup to put 25, 50k checks into startups and then have most of that able to be used as a tax give back at the end of the year at the end of the following year. And what that did was it just really stoked the US as a place for folks normal folks to get involved in startups and that’s what you need. The reason Israel nailed it so well is because they had this perfect match of the government making sure that they stoked innovation both through the army and then also through what they did locally. We had local comp businesses that felt it was their civic duty to help the smaller businesses grow. We had angels and investors who wanted to only invest in Israeli companies because they wanted to do that. And you had this entire system and this cycle going around which turned them into a beast of a country and rather than them being like every other country where they all had to leave there and come to the US, the US came to them.

Jeffery:
Agree. I was there in December and January. and I met with a ton of great startups and that was the the part that blew my mind away was the the support that they get. We do talk to a lot of them still regularly now and it’s interesting but there was a gentleman investor back in the day and one of the advice that he gave me or he said to me was that the biggest slowdown or the biggest fail for a startup is money. it’s financing, it’s running your company ,it’s daily cash flow it’s understanding how to manage money and if you can take that away you could see a startup flourish and he had given me like one thing that he did which was he put some money on the table and said you know here’s a hundred thousand, if you can get your business to generate without spending any of that money that hundred thousand zeros at the end of the year. And it was I want to take away the stress of not being able to build something but I want to be able to get you to understand the value of money so that when you start building you’re going to be able to grow something great because you. realize what it took to get somewhere for nothing and what it took to get there through that journey and continue to build on it. And it always resonated with me that you know money is the hardest thing to manage work with but you have to figure out a way to keep that recurrence, you got to keep a balance you’ve got to be able to pay your team, you got to really forecast learn how to do all those things and that’s what’s going to bring a success even if you start with nothing how do I get that’s those stages and there’s a lack of learning from an education frombeing a child all the way through you know I don’t remember the exact statistic but let’s say it’s 95 of people are mathematically illiterate they don’t care to understand the numbers because they’re scared of them. and if they could just take a look deeper into that they would be able to find that there’s a lot of simplicities, a lot of ways to make this easier and they can build a company and be an entrepreneur and then not be stressed out about the financial side of it.

Brian:
I agree with you.

Jeffery:
So with with israel and these other countries doing these great things, Chile also has a startup package. Chile does 50 to 75 000 I said direct investment so startups all over the world pour into chili just to run this forward and then they go to the next country to get money but the thing is the chili’s had a great turnaround rate of people staying in Chile once they received those funds because they started to build their company there. And I think a lot of governments have to start looking at how can I take the best from everywhere else and how do I create a program that actually is using the best materials all over the world to run my company or my co-workers yeah

Brian:
No, Chile’s look they’ve done a fantastic job. You’re not the first person who’s mentioned those folks they’ve brought a bunch of startups and I actually was speaking to a startup yesterday about this specifically and how they had gone there. And it was really bizarre because I think they said they gave them money in the form of a grant and they didn’t even take any equity or anything. Which I’m not sure if that’s the best idea right because what happens is they bring them in and then they just go looking for the next country to actually take them. But I suppose if you’re starting from minus 50 percent and you’re trying to get to 100, maybe just to get yourself known and for people to see you and to get involved in your resources it’s not a terrible idea because it gets people in but I do think though that they could take equity like if I’m if I’m startup chile now i’m taking equity. Because startups are going to give me equity and why shouldn’t they give me equity, I’m giving them money and if I give money for not having to do that much or to give that much to me I don’t know but it’s a start. Look it’s a beginning. My frustration with a lot of countries is that they have a lot of money because us taxpayers give them a lot of money and they spend that money but they have no idea how to spend that money. They don’t come from the innovation space. Like somebody will say well I’m on the city council and I was an IBM and but I i don’t care, like you’ve no idea how this new economy works. You’re too old and not in your body, you’re too old in your mind like you don’t understand this so I think we’re going to see a future where there’s just a lot of folks like you and maybe I around where they create innovation hubs and those innovation hubs are managed and run and led by private organizations by people who have been directly involved in the innovation space who understand the innovation space. I also think, take Mexico, like what’s the problem with Mexico they don’t measure. So telefonica have a great fund down there that they do stuff, televisa have a phenomena from but it’s a waste of time, it’s a waste of time. They’ve brought tens of thousands of startups through their program with zero measurement. Now I’m sure if one of their folks was listening to this. They would say Brian, we do have measurement but you don’t have the real measurement that we need to see what are the levels of success within the startups based on what you’ve given them. Like what is the learnings that you’ve taken that helps the next generation of startups become better and stronger and faster and fitter. Like just being there and offering money is almost worse, it’s like offering a beer to an alcoholic Yeah he may be thirsty or she may be thirsty but a beer is not necessarily the best thing to give them. So I think the countries have got a lot to learn and I think the only folks that can teach them are the people who are deeply in the innovation space in their in their own places.

Jeffery:
And you make a good point that it’s the people that are heavily focused in that area that can really benefit and help those larger communities or the governments. And these governments have to think outwards as well and start to reach out and try to find ways to be innovative but also tap into that entrepreneurship and learn from the people that are doing this every day.

Brian:
Yeah, I would say Jeffrey I would just add one extra point I would say look if a government official came to me which they never do for some reason who why but I would say to them two rules, only two rules to follow when you’re dealing with us right. Number one give us all of the money that you want to give to startups and then we’ll make sure that we show a total flow through to all of the startups, and number two don’t ever call us again. That’s the the only two rules I have now. I don’t know why they don’t take me up on my offer because I think it’s very generous and we don’t want anything from them, we just want to make sure that startups can flourish but with the second part of the rule is kind of important.

Jeffery:
That is good yeah it it pushed me speechless. I’m not sure the best tactic on that one to say but I will transgress into a few of the other comments that you made and I think one of them is that what you guys have created, is there is an initially a lot of handholding that’s going on in the startup world that you guys are helping with and I think that’s what’s making a real big difference and are you seeing a change I think you’ve worked with over 500 companies plus now. You guys are investing as you mentioned in over 80 companies, is there somewhere in here that you found that you’ve got the right formula you know that you can get them to that series a and these are the things you got to do and it doesn’t just start with some money but there’s some other elements you’re really diving into that governments and everybody else are going to learn from

Brian:
So you know, the more you read books like the four hour work week and you know life is easy and Tony robbins just think about it and it will come to you in a great rush of light, the more you realize that actually the only solution is the old-fashioned solutions. The same stuff that made Walmart what it is today, the same stuff that made like all of our great leaders grow to really strong places, whether it’s a Steve Jobs or a Bill Gates or an Elon Musk and that’s really hard work. And you have to position a formula in that about how you build that hard work. So I don’t know about us, look we’ve done our last our 80 investments that we’ve done have all been within the last year and a half our last cohort, we had 50 of the cohort oversubscribed not even fully subscribed that was during COVID which was technically a difficult time for other people but we found it a phenomenal time and I would say that when we look at that formula we say to our startups coming in, look we want two things number one we bring the aggression so we we have this so our regression is either going to drive you away before you become part of our cohort or it’s going to be something that you’re going to cherish and you’re going to you’re going to keep close to you like a great big love, we’re like a great big hug. And then the other thing that we want from them is we want them to be able to execute the part of execution is super important and execution has got like three or four parts to it right. So the first part is you have to have a product fit which is going to be you know fit for purpose for the user experience and that is a huge conversation on its own but it needs to be something that folks want and that folks need and that you’ve worked out how to get that to them right. The second thing we then look at is do you have the team in place and I don’t care what school they went to, I don’t care what gender they are, I don’t care what color they are I just care that they fill the skill gaps so if you’re building a tech product like don’t please don’t be a biz dev founder where you’ve hired some guy over in india to do your dev for you on a platform like make sure that you are you have all those skill gaps which are filled in and then the final one is that we can really what we call island hop and like let’s say the first island is ten thousand dollars a month in revenue and the next one’s a hundred thousand a month in revenue the next one’s a million a month the next 10 million a month. Like I want you to be able to paint a bridge or I want to be able to paint a bridge between those different islands so I could show you, I can see how you’r
jumping from one island to the next and the next to the next. And then just look underlying all of this is that we know that every company that gets set up is 15% complete. I don’t believe in pivoting at all, I don’t believe there ever was pivoting, I just believe a company is never more in the same way, that expert dojo was 15% complete when we when we launched our laboratory on top of the Santa Monica mall which was just to study startups like at that time. We recognized that there was a huge problem which is that too many startups are failing like that’s the problem that we’re fixing, the fact that we’re an accelerator today just means or even an international accelerator today just means that we listened to what we were hearing from people so we did the lab and everybody’s like okay this is all you’re going to give us, free space and we’re like well yeah we’re not charging you and they go why can’t you do more, okay that’s taken us from 15 to 17 now we know we need to build in training, it’s like oh you just do training what the hell uses training if we don’t have people to work with. Maybe we get some mentorship and then so what happens is you build that company and you go forward but if you don’t have the ability to execute on all of those levels you will never be able to follow the clues that take you from 15% all the way through and then look after that we just build a structure with all of the companies that come through we really hold their hand tight at the beginning we bring them through vision for the first week of training then the next week we bring them through mindset the next week we bring them through brand the next week we bring them through personal brand and then we bring them through investment and by the time they go through the eight weeks like literally they’ve met three 400 people and we’ve really really worked with them to get them to that next level.

Jeffery:
And what does that next level mean to you guys like is that where you’ve made the 50 000 or 100 000 investment that now they’re out in the world they’re doing their thing or do you guys have a program to keep them moving through that ecosystem of based on entrepreneurship?

Brian:
The answer to every question for us is always a revenue or a user increase right? And that revenue or user increase is normally correlated with with raises that need to happen through institutional investors that will do deal flow with us, and it’s normally associated with you know growing your structure and building your company as you need to go forward. So we were just insanely focused on growth, I mean we had one company in the last cohort and buck dock and they came in with like 15 20 grand a month and that was three months ago, four months ago and now they have a hundred and eighty thousand dollars a month. So we don’t need to say well we’re here to get you your next round because the truth is if their increase in revenue is from 15 20 grand to 180, they’re going to raise their next round. It’s this is not a complicated story, it is a story of folks will give you money if they believe that they can make money from you. And believing they can make money from you is really reinforced by you showing that other folks actually want what you sell. So go out there and be a beast and sell stuff and then once people buy, the investors will come in and come with you and then everything else takes care of itself. The a’s, the b’s, the c’s, everything else there’s bad luck and good luck for all of us but really at the end of the day if you focus on the fundamental growth you won’t go far wrong.

Jeffery:
I love it. It’s that concept if I build it, and I build a great system or a great product and I can deliver and execute eventually they’re going to come and want to and invest in me, they’re going to find me. Well but they’re going to find you because people herd mentality says I want something I can’t have and right now you’re grown and you just went from 20 to 180 000. My ears perked up, I’m interested, that to me is awesome. So that’s what people are looking for they want to hear that story they want the girl story but you got to put the hard work in to get it there.

Brian:
Yeah I’ll give you one quick example as well Jeffrey. I was talking to my kid like there’s nothing worse for a kid than having a dad as a venture capitalist earning or owning an accelerator or just being around startup all day because they can forget about their childhood right. But I saw we were just driving back from playing having a game of tennis and he and I said to him okay so here’s my question for today, I’ve just given you five thousand dollars, you’ve opened up a brand new store, I wanna know do you spend your five thousand dollars, you can make up any product you want, do you spend your five thousand dollars on facebook ads on twitter ads you put it on tick tock or do you use it for emails or do you get the money to hire people to go out and call people? And he said I’m going to hire an architect, and I said why would you hire an architect and he said because if my place is beautiful then won’t everybody want to be here? And I think to your point that’s like sometimes you know from the mouths of 13 year olds come the greatest things and build something incredible like don’t don’t follow any lean startup BS, don’t just build something basic to send out to the market like build this strong personal message that exudes from your product, exudes from you, exudes from your business and people will want to be around you or at least the people that you want to be around you and that’s where you start from.

Jeffery:
I love it. That’s some great advice and I’m gonna interview your son next. I think he’s got some good direction there, I like that. So now that you’re working with these different companies you’re learning a lot about them, you take as we talked about your first ted talk and how you’ve
kind of shifted your mindset and I love the idea that you were at 12% or 14% then and now you’re at 17% and you’re slowly morphing and shifting your business based on your clientele and where they’re going, what does the future look like, where do you see the next five to ten years in an accelerator, in business? do yo seeing that shift one more time into something different as well or do you think that you’ve kind of found the right path, the right mix and the startups are really kind of blending with that?

Brian:
I would say, we right now, at expert dojo are about 24% and that’s how we should look at this. Because we’re going to look back in 5 or 10 or 15 years as to what this turns into and we’re going to learn so much, we’re going to learn so much from the unicorns we bring through, we’re going to learn so much from the folks that we should have done a better job on, where we’re going to so much from the training that we do and the impact of that training, like so much. And so I think we all need to look at our company like that and i’m saying that after six years of evolving to where we are right now we’re probably 24% and if we have a fantastic 2021 maybe maybe we’ll hit 30%. In the future where could it go to, I mean it could be anything, we could have hundreds upon hundreds of companies we could create a cooperative for entrepreneurs to be investing in other entrepreneurs, we could create an ability for crowdsourcing where entrepreneurs get the ability to you know share the equity of other entrepreneurs in the program, we could have a crowdsourced fund when we bring in non-accredited investors and make them a part of our fund in the future like we don’t need money right now. We’re fine, we invest and we put those investments out to the market but the the future is endless and I think the moment we hit 40 or 50 percent of a completed product in expert dojo I will no longer have anything to do with expert dojo. That’s when the great creativity will be gone from this company so I find the next three to four years going to be the most incredible part of the journey and every entrepreneur needs to realize this. We are entrepreneurs, I am an entrepreneur is it’s this journey, this beautiful journey of searching out what that not even the answer of like what the next step looks like and just savoring every single bit of juice out of the fruit that’s the part that I love. So as long as I have that and we can savor it we will keep on trucking ahead and finding new great things to do.

Jeffery:
I love it. We’re very similar. i’m a builder I like to build things and hand them off to great people to build them bigger, better, smarter, faster, and then work as being the ideas and shifting but the operational side and running and making things happen you do what you have to do, but at the end of the day I just like finding a gap fixing it moving forward. And you know sometimes that’s a gift and sometimes it’s a curse, so it doesn’t allow you to stay very focused so that’s why you need some great people to keep that focus going. So I like the idea that in three four years you might not be there but the idea and the growth and the build of the business is going to keep driving forward and keep getting bigger, better, smarter so.

Brian:
Because it may require different people and sometimes by the way the you know with entrepreneurs who come through here you know we say to them look there’s going to be four different phases you’re going to go through, you’re going to go through your viking phase, your gladiator phase, your knights of the round table phase, and then your sensei phase right. And those phases are going to be you know when you’re like a vicious outreach person scaring the out of every island and land that you come into, and then to the next stage where you’re focused entirely on the efficiencies and the process and the structure which is where you go to your more gladiator type phase, and then to the knights on the round table where everything is about making sure that every single person on the table is better than you, you are irrelevant to that table. And then to the sensei stage where you just sit in a corner office and everybody’s like oh yeah that’s the dude he doesn’t do much but that’s the dude who started the thing. Right and then so you want to go through that entire process. The genuinely the funnest part is the viking phase, it’s also the scariest part because it’s when you don’t have the money when you’re not putting it you have to you wake up every night and you wonder what the hell you’re doing but it’s definitely the funnest part because that’s when you go to pillage.

Jeffery:
I love it. I’m writing that down. i’m going to use that one I i don’t know where yet, put that in that’s brilliant. Well I think what we’re going to do now is we’re going to jump into our rapid fire questions if that works for you

Brian:
Hit me

Jeffery:
We learned a lot there and I think now we can make that quick shift. So all right so how did you get started in early stage startup investing?

Brian:
I mean it’s a journey, it was a 30-year journey that took me here you know. I did some small investments as we turned it from a laboratory into the venture studio and then suddenly I did a couple of small investments into it and then after I did a couple of investments into it, then I brought in my partner and my partner desperately wanted to invest in the early stage startup space and he became our LP and I became the GP and I just believe in that like you just you want to spread yourself very wide, you want to make sure that if you’re in a space that you’re the loudest person in that space but that doesn’t mean you have to be the emptiest vessel, it means that you have to have something to say or you have to have a conversation to start. And I just made sure that I put myself into that place in southern california so that when the time came to have a fund which by the way I hadn’t planned to do that’s what I meant about the 15 to the 16 to the 17 to the 20 to the 22. Like it happens because you’re executing what you’re doing extremely well and then that takes you to the next level and now me and my partner have never looked back like we’ve got 80 companies we’ll have probably 150 companies next year that we’ll have investments into and we’ll grow it up to two 300 companies and then see where that takes us.

Jeffery:
Love it. What’s your favorite part of startup investing?

Brian:
Man, it’s not investing, it’s just getting in into the trenches with the startups and working at how we grow their business like I could care less about investing. We try, we try and make good investments rather than bad investments but it’s all about really getting in the trenches and making sure that we just drive the business forward.

Jeffery:
I love it. How many companies or dollars do you invest per year?

Brian:
We will do so we’re going to do boom boom boom boom, we do like 50 to 100k per investment, normally 100k and we did 48 investments this year so what like four million bucks. And next year we’ll probably do about seven to eight million and then we’ll also do follow on investment of million dollar checks so I would say you know 15 to 20 million dollars would throw in next year.

Jeffery:
Awesome. You mentioned you do follow-ups that’s amazing, any notable portfolio companies you’d like to share.

Brian:
So you know before we became because — I have loads and but they’re all a year and a half old are months old tops ,I like I got this great company a couple of bunch of great companies in Africa, Star News is one of them and they’re just about to get around from a major cheer one vc they’re doing about five mill ,they have about five million subscribers right now they’re doing about two three hundred thousand dollars a month, and they’ll do a big series a next year. Unlu over in India, again they’ll do a big series a next year, they’re probably going to do three hundred thousand dollars in December and they only launched three months ago. We’ve got bok dok who I mentioned earlier on, we’ve got you know smart plate which Tony Robbins just put an investment into with a bunch of his friends. We’ve got geo jam that Mariah Carey has just come in as the chief talent officer on, we’ve got happy bond which we’ve got Cesar Milan the dog whisperer who’s an investor and a partner in that company as well. We’ve like there’s loads, there’s literally — if we this wasn’t rapid fire there’s 25 companies that I would mention that I’m so proud of right now and I feel awesome about next year and then there’s another 25 companies that I would say are just going to do great it will take a tiny bit longer and then was like probably 10 that I would say I’m a little bit worried about those guys.

Jeffery:
Fair enough, any specific verticals that you like to focus on or you sound pretty good?

Brian:
We like them all, we like them all because we’ve got a lot of specialization within all of the different areas.

Jeffery:
Brilliant any preferred terms that you go for when you are making an investment?

Brian:
Yep. Early stage, we do the 50k for three and a half percent, we do very very similar to normal accelerators or 100k for seven percent.

Jeffery:
Perfect. What’s your timeline for investment? One to three months? Right away?

Brian:
One to three days if we like the company, we’re early stage if we like a company we’re investing in a company a week right now so we can. I saw a company this morning made an offer this afternoon.

Jeffery:
Love it. Do you look to lead rounds?

Brian:
Yep.

Jeffery:
Board seats?

Brian:
Either. no no I don’t know, what’s the point. You know we’re too early we’re not valuable enough to have a boards to take a board seat so we let them do that but we will take a board seat if they want us to, so I just took a board seat with a company that had a slightly difficult board but we’ll never we’ll never ask for it.

Jeffery:
Okay so now to jump into more of like a heartfelt story one of the things that we always like to hear is some great war stories, you talked about the viking, the sensei, is there a company that you think that they could have won or failed but they really battled hard and they really proved what entrepreneurship was all about?

Brian:
wow I mean I have so many stories of people who’ve gone through hell. Like I’ve got one company, mavens list where the guy came out of the project, out of the projects, real tough area. He decided to put himself through
college in Chicago, he met with a a phenomenal guy up there who just helped him out, he took a job working in a subway made his way through college started working within the influencer space, slept in his car for about a year and a half and he started this company called Maven’s List which now introduces influencers to brands and they have some of the top tic toc influencers in the country, like when I say some of the top, he’s got seven of the top 10 tick tock influencers in America along with a bunch of other folks such as Paris Hilton and other people that they’re working with too. So it’s just a beautiful story of someone. I mean there’s a lot of stories I have about you know middle class white guys who have gone through really difficult times where they couldn’t pay their mortgage and that type of thing but that’s not really — I think it’s there are way deeper stories and more more interesting stories of folks that started off with nothing and they had to build from a place of zero and they knew that build was not just about building a company, it was about building themselves first and I think that’s also one of the biggest things America can do. Help our poorer classes have a better relationship with money.

Jeffery:
I agree with that. I think that’s common everywhere and I think there’s a lot of education that needs to happen there as well but also not just education it’s also giving someone a leg up and helping them just like we’re doing with entrepreneurship, it’s the same thing in society. it’s helping people. we’re in this together but it seems to be separated all the time and I don’t really get that myself but these are the types of things that we can hopefully change in time. Crystal ball where do you predict the world’s going to be in the next three months and is there any verticals that you think are really going to stand out in the next 12 to 24 months that as an entrepreneur someone can think about maybe exploring and seeing if there’s a fit.

Brian:
So if you ask me who’s going to win the election like I don’t know. I have no idea the same as four years ago I had no idea four years ago and I have no idea this time around. It’s all very confusing to me. If you say to me is there going to be a lot of pain coming from what’s happened after the last nine months with COVID 19 ,I’d be
like yeah ,i’ve seen recessions before and there’s no way we can avoid a recession here. This is too bad however I would also say that recessions are the best time for venture capitalists and startups so bring it on, I love this. This is where we will get the best companies, it’s where we get the best opportunities, it’s where all of the competitors to my startups are quaking in their boots because they don’t have the hundreds of millions of dollars to protect themselves from real market competitiveness so yeah this is my favorite time and it’s going to be a fantastic time for for folks who are the brave and it’s going to be a daunting time for those people who have got a lot of later stage companies right now.

Jeffery:
Brilliant, I like that. So I think we’ve done this nice little journey from what the world and the governments can do to support startups, and what it’s to be an entrepreneur and all those great things, and what it takes to kind of fit inside of expert dojo and what entrepreneurs really need to focus on and how they can be better and how they can get to the stages they need to, how you invest — so a lot of great learning so now we’re gonna shift one little bit more and we’re gonna talk about a couple of different things three questions what’s your favorite sports team?

Brian:
I’m a tennis guy. I’m a tennis guy like I can’t even apologize for this. Like I left tennis, I was tennis when I was a kid and then I didn’t play for 20 years and I came back again so although he’s not a team, he is a team, I love Rafael Nadal. So I’m just taking Rafael, okay.

Jeffery:
I love it .Hey that’s a team man, he had to build it to get there. It wasn’t just him he had a whole team helping him and supporting it .

Brian:
So I’ll take that . He’s a beast

Jeffery:
He is. All right, your favorite movie?

Brian:
oh oh oh I love Shawshank Redemption. It’s an awesome movie you know I gotta say like I’m gonna throw in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off because it goes back in time and I’m also gonna throw in Office Space as well. I like quirky movies that are just funny and they make me laugh and I like deeper movies that have a real tone at the end of them but I will say one of my favorite documentaries was Theranos . I did find that was a really interesting documentary and I saw both I watched them both and I listened to the podcast as well and it is a cautionary tale so yeah I know I just said more than one there but I’ll take them all

Jeffery:
Well they’re all fantastic and I did the book and podcast all of that their notes were quite the shocking following the money and wework fits right into that at the same time, but if we go back to Ferris Bueller’s because I’m a huge fan of that and now I’m like I gotta watch that tonight what would be the character you would play in that movie or three movies you picked?

Brian:
I just loved the character, who would you play man? I’m his friend. I’m his friend, like I’m that guy, I’m not Ferris, like I’m his friend. I’m the guy who’s with him, who’s worried about my dad’s car being scratched but I want what’s best for him so that’s that’s where we should be.

Jeffery:
Yep, I love it. Well, that’s great! Well Brian I want to thank you very much for taking the time today, I learned a lot, I really enjoyed the conversation as usual and in the fashion of what we do at ask and angel outside of thanking you for all of the advice and all the information provided we like to leave you with the last word so anything you want to say to investors or to the startup community we give it to you take it over and share away

Brian:
S my message to both is exactly the same. Startups, investors this is the greatest time of the next 10 years right here, right now. If you have an idea you want to get it started, if you’re looking to make investments don’t put too much investments into early stage startup, maybe five six percent of your portfolio nothing more than that. Check very carefully in startups, make sure that they have the traction to give you the best chance of being able to get a return from it but this is the time and if we look statistically back over the last 50 100 years it’s always been the time, so get out there make it happen, be a beast, focus on traction, and build an awesome unicorn.

Jeffery:
I love it, unicorns. Well I got my notes I’m going to share some of this dialogue, I love it Brian, thank you very much for today man it was awesome.

Brian:
Thanks brother it was a pleasure.

Jeffery:
Well, that was awesome. I met Brian like five years ago, I think four or five years ago and it was through a mutual contact from he was in Canada traveling and touring around and he said you guys gotta meet so it was very exciting he was from Australia and it was great to meet Brian. We’ve chatted a few times, we were on a panel a month and a half ago and I had I got to get them on here and you know what there was a lot of great learnings from there I love the whole idea that they’re in a business and they’re now at 24 % and they’re working to get to 30 and they’ve been doing this for six years so you know what and the biggest thing he said was it’s the hard work, the hard work gets you where you need to be. You know entrepreneurship’s not glamorous everybody wants it to be, they think it is but at the end of the day it puts in a lot of grit, a lot of hard work you got to do the job that nobody else wants to do so work your way through that. I love the idea of being a Viking, a gladiator, knights of the round table, and then being the sensei. I think those are four great ways to line up your position with where you want to be in your business and where you got to start so had some great startups, some great information on how governments can really help out I really enjoyed it. That was great Brian, you’re a pro and we’re glad we got to chat with you today.

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