Julien Smith
IMPACT INVESTING

Julien Smith

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Founder and CEO at Practice, Author and Investor

Storytelling – Julien Smith

“Have a combination of passion because you need to work on it for a long time with marketability which is the ability to actually succeed.”

ABOUT

I have spent the past 15 years riding waves of technology as they have grown in importance. This ability to read trends, alongside my ability to express ideas clearly, have allowed me to work with some of the most important names in technology. I have created work that has reached over a million people, in several languages, and made millions in the process for those I have worked with.

I am currently building Practice, a world class tool to help coaches build their businesses entirely on their own. Our team is small and awesome, and our customers love us. Expect to hear more about Practice soon.

My previous venture, Breather, was an on-demand flexible office company we built from the ground up starting in 2013. It was been covered by CNN, Fast Company (twice), TechCrunch, The Verge, and a ton of other publications. We raised over $150m from some of the best investors in the world to build it.

As Breather’s CEO, I was responsible for hiring world-class talent, raising funds, directing strategy, finding locations, building partnerships and much more.

Prior to this, I was (still am) a New York Times bestselling author of business and marketing books. My co-author and myself were among to the first to write books about social media and how to use it for business purposes, and many of the best practices you see in the field were first put on paper by us first.

The first book, Trust Agents, was written with Chris Brogan, was an instant New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller and won awards including Amazon and 800 CEO-READ’s best books of the year. We also collaborated on another book, The Impact Equation, published in 2012.

My second book, The Flinch, was edited by Seth Godin has been read by 100,000’s of people. It was published through his experimental Domino publishing project, a partnership with Amazon, and has remained one of the top downloaded / highlighted books on Kindle since the day it was published.

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THE FULL INTERVIEW

Julien Smith

The full #OPNAskAnAngel talk

Jeffery: Welcome to the Supporters Fund Ask An Angel. I’m your host Jeffery Potvin. today please welcome Julien Smith. How are you today sir?
Smith: Hey, thanks for having me dude. It’s great, having a good day.
Jeffery: Awesome. Well we’re super excited to have you today because there’s a few reasons. But the biggest one is that of all of the investors that I’ve gotten the opportunity to chat with, I’m going to say, you’ve probably raised the most money. So, there’s going to be a lot to talk about and I’m pretty excited to jump in and discuss all this. So, the way we like to start our show off is that we want to hear a bit about your background. So, if you can talk about some of the past experiences, your startups that you’ve built, even from your New York Times, way back YouTubing it, all these great things that you’ve been doing. I’d love to hear a bit of that and then one thing about you that nobody would know.
Smith: Oh man. Well I’ll give you the thing that nobody would know about. I’ll get to that. It will come to me but I’ll give you a sense of my history. a lot of people in startups come from certain schools or whatever, and that doesn’t apply to me. My father was an executive coach. It’s one of the reasons I run a coaching software company today. So, I grew up in an environment where you could do whatever you want with your life because that is what he would tell his clients. And they would be going through a career transition or something like that and he would bring tools to bear to be able to help that. So, one good thing about that is I felt that I could do anything. But the bad thing about it is, I didn’t feel that I had a path that was set for me and sometimes me and my fiancé talk about how envious we are of people that just become doctors, and they just know they’re always going to be doctors because it’s just set for them. And I never had that. So, my path to, let’s call it tech, it’s actually really circuitous and weird. It actually doesn’t begin with me really starting companies. It begins with me starting a podcast which is one of the first podcasts that ever existed and maybe the first of two or something like that Canadian podcast that ever existed and certainly the first hip hop podcast in the world which is a funny thing to say. But that’s in 2004. There were no podcasts and I started one because I had like a weird distinct unique voice. I was younger than most people that were podcasting. I was doing a bunch of things. I got picked up by Syria satellite radio. So, I ended up having that. It was the first time that I ever switched from having a regular office job that had nothing to do with tech like at all to working online and I was the only person that I knew that worked online like this. So, it was transformative for me. All of a sudden, my peers weren’t like people I sat next to in a regular office but they were other podcasters and other media producers. And I hadn’t really learned how to do that and just having a radio voice is what I get told that I used to do in radio commercials. So, someone agreed. So, that maybe was one angle of how I got there and then from there, social media was just coming in to start to exist. And my podcast was starting to pay me like a little bit of money. So, we ended up writing about social media and through writing eBooks about social media there. keep in mind, this is 2008 to 2007 type of thing. someone comes to us or to me and a co-author and goes, you should write a real book about this and we’re like okay. And we think that’s a super exciting opportunity because I’m 25 or 27 or something years old at the time. And I’m like I got to you know. I just want to do this and my co-author likewise we had big audiences. So, in the first week that the book came out, it was called Trust Agents published in 2009. It was considered by Amazon to be one of the best business books of the year and it was a New York Times bestseller. So, there’s a gigantic crazy transformation from being a dude that worked in some random call center really to a media personality that ended up on Sirius to a New York Times best-selling author and speaker. So, that happens in an arc that’s about four years which is a crazy arc now. I’m running internet businesses. Like a little bit at this time, I started a blog and the blog ended up being super popular. It’s about self-development and about a bunch of other things. And after about three books, I’m like maybe I’m done here. not really sure but I had an idea to start a business which ultimately became a business breather that probably most or anybody of the people that know of the things that I’ve done, even though I’ve written a lot of books that have turned out well, breather is probably the thing that is most commonly known by people that I talked to, raised 150 million dollars while I was CEO and raised more after I was no longer CEO. And I ended up at around 250 employees at the height of it with locations in 10 cities and all these things. And it was originally a meeting room business and later it became a commercial real estate tech business where you could slice up spaces using technology and open them using electronic locks with your phone. So, this business is like I had never started a venture business. before I didn’t know how to raise any money at all and I had made some cash a little bit in previous internet businesses. a little that this is the first time that I was like dealing with employees and dealing with a board and dealing