General and Managing Partner at Cantilever Investors Fund
Steve Tokarz | General and Managing Partner at Cantilever Investors Fund

"If you don't have that direct feedback, that punching upwards, the naysayers, the curmudgeons. Seek those people out but make sure they're productive. They don't attack you. They attack the problem. They help you see things you can't see. Those are talented people. In their own right, they tend to be very successful people who want to give back and are willing to work with great early stage entrepreneurs."

- Steve Tokarz

Steve Tokarz – Getting Feedback


Steve Tokarz is an experienced C-level entrepreneur, fundraiser and business developer and has been active in early-stage company and product development for the past 30 years. In his most recent corporate role at Masco Corporation, a Fortune 200 company with revenues of $7+ billion, Steve served as Sr. VP of Product Development and Engineering for several of its domestic and international operating companies.

He then transitioned to the start-up world where he developed his own companies, investing & raising $20+ million for start-ups and early-stage companies while establishing relationships with investors from the USA and Asia.

He is founder of Cantilever Investors; a blend of the best of Venture Capital and Private Equity to invest in and provide support to early-stage companies. Cantilever acts as both investor and, for the select few, operators in the company. Cantilever also has close relationships with the Tech Transfer offices of the University of Michigan, Michigan State, Western Michigan & Michigan Technological Universities, previously serving as Entrepreneurs-in-Residence. Cantilever successfully spun-out five university companies, raising over $5M in nondilutive capital.

Through his connections with Cantilever, Steve has adopted roles as investor, CEO and board member in several of Cantilever portfolio medical/life science companies including:

– StabiLux Biosciences a spin-out from Michigan Technological University. It’s platform technology enables biomedical researchers to detect what was previously undetectable by utilizing high brightness dyes in bio-medical imaging.

– Peptinovo Biopharma, a patented drug delivery platform, Peptide-Amphiphile Lipid Micelle (PALM), that selectively targets higher doses of proven chemotherapies into tumor cells while keeping the chemo away from healthy tissues. PALM prevents serious side effects like peripheral neuropathy from occurring, improving patient outcomes by eliminating dose limiting side effects while improving safety–something no other chemotherapeutic has been able to accomplish.

Request Intro

The full #OPNAskAnAngel talk

Jeffery: Welcome to the supporters fund ask an investor I’m your host Jeffery potvin let’s please welcome Steve tokarz today general manager General and managing partner at cantilever investors fund LP as our investor for today welcome Steve it’s a real pleasure and honor having you join us today.

Steve: Hey same JP good to be here

Jeffery: Super excited today Steve I know I probably see this about every guest that I get the opportunity to talk with but today you kind of bring this whole different element to the investing side and maybe that’s just because on our show we get to speak to a lot of different people all over the world but you kind of bring this really cool element of that biosciences and I know this is a real tough space and it’s a long game play so I’m dying to dive in and learn a bit more about your background and talk about all the great things that you’ve accomplished throughout your time and of course the time you’ve been spending in the last few years working and operating in the early stage space but maybe to kick things off the way we like to kind of start things turn it over to you if you could share a little bit about your background all the way back to your University of Michigan Michigan days um your MBA all the way up all the great CEO jobs and the businesses you’ve built and then a little bit about what you’re doing today and of course one thing about you that nobody would know

Steve: Hahaha well interestingly I’m not a bioscience life science kind of guy I actually my degree is in engineering physics is the bioscience call guys call me I’m the hardware guy you know the guy used to pound metal but um you know I grew up in Chicago I’m a Midwest person and then you know I came to Michigan to go to school here and the reason I ended up getting an engineering Physics degree is not because I’m smart but because ultimately I really saw in the 1980s what was starting to happen I mean when I started at the college I was carrying Punch Cards to the Mainframe Michigan had the biggest Mainframe next to University of Washington we know what Gates did with that Mainframe but I was literally carrying Punch Cards to the Mainframe at a time I finished my senior design project we were doing CAD cam where literally taking the early CAD programs you had to use a calculator to get things to work on the screen and making functional prototypes and that’s when I realized you know this whole Business Development this whole product development regime it was in a whole Revolution the convergence of events that were happening then were exciting and you know by getting that degree it gave me a tremendous amount of flexibility to do a lot of different things so when I started at Lincoln Electric you know we reinvented the product line there the president of the company then said he wanted to you know change every every product the company had sold over the last you know 50 years within the next five years I mean think about it businesses were were taking five to ten years to launch products launch new business units today if Starbucks doesn’t have a new coffee cup and a new product line they’re out of business and we got to enjoy the cusp of how that grew but fast forward and I ended up working for Masco Corporation after that and Masco was tracking you know 14 billion dollars in sales and I got to move into the project management side but that’s what really moved me toward Business Development Innovation development working with you know Tech Scout up and then moving into the finance side of life to kind of round things up and Masco at one point we created an internally funded Venture Capital group called Innovation Grant where literally we’d have you know our operating companies petition that and we created businesses inside the business so a few folks hear this but I was what we would call an intrapreneur the person inside the large corporation fighting Technologies building business units around it and we would literally recreate our operations when we launched these new core products you know for the divisions I work with and then across the platform we had a plumbing products platform we had a building products platform masco’s Delta faucets beard paints at one point it had a mill guard there was a mascul Canada there’s a Masco Europe it’s a big company but they go by the brands not necessarily the corporate name but um as all folks it was great to be there until it was time to leave and that’s when I started my first companies and you know when I was at Moscow we were finding great great business opportunities that Masco for rightful purposes had no business supporting like we found LED lighting in 2003 when Creed was just starting to come out we saw the Advent the 3D printing and what could happen there in rapid prototyping and then we saw Wireless and batteryless technology that could go into homes for different types of functionality it was the precursor of Nest which obviously everyone knows today as ring and other things in your
home but um you know Nest ultimately sold the to Google for you know hundreds of millions of dollars and so these are the things we were seeing and at that same time we all could all remember you know Tech Stars was starting to evolve you know 500 startups things of that nature so when when I left and created our first companies we looked a lot like text Tech Stars and 500 startups but it was 2008 not a great time to form out new companies so we get we saw four million of soft committed Capital vanish overnight even though we were tracking with the University of Dayton Research Institute and the great things they do there and the University of Michigan we had a hunker down focus on one and ultimately you know we we had us you know spin out the others and stop supporting them because we didn’t have the financial resources at that time so we we um like all entrepreneurs will see is you know I love how Mike Tyson said it you know everyone has a plan they get punched in the nose you will get punched in and always repeatedly so you know we got our punch then and we focused on one company which was energy efficient lighting we launched with the first uh solid-state electronic lighting which was inductive lighting that’s Tesla’s genius it’s a great story if you ever read about it just a phenomenal design and what he did it’s also known as inductive fluorescent some of the Crispus clearest light you can produce and then we moved to LED and ultimately we grew that company to about 10 million in sales we had 50 employees we had operations that we moved to Clarksdale Mississippi to take care of some of the opportunity zones and help spur that community’s development and um you know I’m the guy who likes to build the plane I’ll I’ll fly it while we’re building it but you know I’ve always handed things off when it came down to the time of scaling it or you know running the operation day in and day out so when it comes down to filling out I knife I-9 forms and making sure everyone shows up to work and did we followed white quality management system today um I think you know that’s where I start to unwind and others who are really good at that can can you know take it to the next level so we sold that company after raising about 14 and a half million to usho America which is part of an International Lighting Company Uso of Japan and we sold that for evaluation close to 25 million uh when it was time to leave I started what we’ve come to know as cantilever and I met another gentleman called Mark Smith in about 2015 and you know we started sharing these crazy ideas but ultimately the vision we have is to create an early stage emerging technology Enterprise and
I’ve kind of dubbed it a startup Factory and what we have now is within myhq which Mark Smith is really spearheaded and put his heart and soul in we have an innovation campus in Ann Arbor Michigan right by the University of Michigan that has close to 80 companies in 200 000 square feet three different buildings there’s a community center in the community center we host uh investor forms like Michigan Angel fund karetsu we just hosted the Michigan Capital networks monthly meeting and then we started to bring a collaborative mindset around that but myhq over the last six years has grown to the point where now we’re creating what we call the myhq enterprise where our vision is to create a number of these Innovation campuses across the Midwest so the second campus opened near the first in Ypsilanti well we’re going to open our third and then ultimately there’s enough need to have a space to come and work in especially wet lab space so imagine you’re a biotech company JP and you just need a bench to work on to start your company and get it moving to the next Direction stablex biosciences we spun out a Michigan Tech we started with a bench at my HQ but if we couldn’t find that bench at my HQ company doesn’t exist we can’t get to the next level we fast forward three years after we spun it out of the University now we got 2 000 square foot all the instrumentation seven full-time employees and we still work within Michigan Tech to make the nanoparticles but use the the operations facility in Ann Arbor and bring the best of both elements together so you’ll see that story over and over and over of early stage companies being in this collaborative mindset it’s not just the building that you rent it’s kind of like a retail outlet of early stage companies so there’s all of these companies around talking to each other sharing ideas some of the companies form new companies to analytical labs and another guy formed a Cannabis Testing company you know it made perfect sense that cannabis company is now in myhq but while Mark was working inside the buildings and we were trying to grow the vision of many campuses across the Midwest we were working outside the building and that’s when we created cantilever investors and it’s structured like a venture capital organization but it really is a group of investors and we had to start out small to show people what we could do so it was started as a microfund size they had three million in committed Capital we deployed a million in 22 companies b ut our value
proposition is that we’re active investors we’re that smart money behind it so for the select few we come in in a big way but I actually even though I manage our our fund you know this Investment Group are my own money’s in it I insist of an entrepreneur you need to put your own money in everything you do so I’m an LP in the fund I’m a GP in the fund and then managing partner and um you know within that you know I we can serve as not only investors in the companies but also operators in the companies so if you look at our portfolio we’ve invested in three Canadian companies two in Ottawa and one in in general Ontario we’re don’t just invest in Michigan or in the midwest there’s a majority of our investments are there but we invest across the North America and what does that do it builds a national network of investors we get like-minded individuals we can share diligence we can double that deals but then you know for some of them they’re so good in Opportunity they don’t need our help they look like us and we love to network with those groups but what happens there is they’re investors co-invest on what we’re doing and all of a sudden you get this exponential increase in the companies that earn their way through meet their Milestones will get you know the network of funding that that ultimately helps them raise the capital they need and then you know there’s a middle group we’re on the board of directors you know we come help as advisors we help them raise money and then that group we go in big yeah you know but they have those companies we go in big have to have great teams that have no ego a platform where we can have multiple exits and then a huge huge opportunity I love people how they say disruptive or you know game changing but it’s common sense to me of Pepto Novo can take existing chemotherapeutic drugs put them in a platform delivery mechanism that tricks the cells it looks like HDL the cells need that to grow well cancer cells are fast dividing they grow very quickly healthy cells don’t necessarily need the HDL and so this selectively targets receptors that are on all cancer study cells studied primarily on cancer cells and not on nerves not on healthy tissues and then it goes inside the cell and delivers the chemotherapeutic drugs so we’re taking existing proven materials putting him in a targeted delivery mechanism but also providing both limiting side effects so the Holy Grail is efficacy how can we improve patient survival well if they can get the dose they need or they can get a higher dose that’s going to improve survival well that means get rid of the side effects and that means a healthier quality of life so we you know people say impact funds but I want to see benefit to people that we can all benefit from and so our fund comes in our group of investors comes in in big ways where we think we can help those companies and make a difference to getting a successful company and commercialization to the market now when we help those companies you know we come in as Talent so we have a group of advisors a national number of networks so you know our companies ultimately hire us as independent contractors to help ruin the companies or support them or we just got ways to bring in fractional talent and so this startup Factory needs a place to work especially if you need Wet lab space it needs capital A group of investors who are smart money and it needs Talent fractional Talent that’s the best talent you need when you need it but not necessarily not and you gotta find that quickly that’s the vision we’ve created that’s the startup Factory that we’ve been driving towards and so far you know it seems to be moving along.

Jeffery: I love it it sounds like there’s a lot of moving parts and we’re gonna peel out some of those and chat to them uh but before we do one thing about you that nobody would know.

Steve: yeah yeah some of my Wisconsin folks don’t like this but we’ve had seasoned tickets to the Chicago Bears since 1959 my dad got him and you know he was you know rambling and rousing around they played at Wrigley Field then and then ultimately they went to Soldiers Field in the remodel and um so yeah I I know we still have the tickets um we still go there but think of that that’s a lot of time now my dad got a plaque for 50 years of having Chicago Bears tickets to the day he died it was one of his most cherished you know pieces of memorabilia so it’s yeah yeah.

Jeffery: that’s that’s incredible yeah they’re uh especially how that team has gone well probably had more Downs than they’ve had ups but uh yeah

Steve: And there’s the biggest rivalry I think in in football yeah Ohio State Michigan is huge and the SEC contest but the Packers Bears goes back to the 19 odds right you know and uh it’s got a special little rivalry so uh we have a major uh family office alligator Holdings a guy Mark Smith he’s great he’s big part of our our investor group and you know he’s got season tickets for the Packers but he will never give me tickets to the Packers Bears game and he’ll never go to a Packers game we have a signed unspoken fact we don’t talk to each other during that game.

Jeffery: that’s awesome that’s a great story uh to kind of go back a bit through your transition I guess from when you’re working as an engineer Hardware guy and and moving more into the the biospace what was the what was the piece to kind of Drew you into that like what got you excited about it because it is such a big space again it’s a Long play for anything and being an engineer a software engineer or Hardware engineer being a gadget guy it’s tough to kind of say well maybe I should switch over to this space like you said you kind of fell into it but maybe you share a bit about that because I think that’s pretty interesting.

Steve: Well so you know I’ve always been a business development person and I could help support the technical side uh what what helped is is I think a few things you know first of all when you look at early stage companies biotech folks like the founders of Pepto Nova and stablex rent home and Pepto Novo joke in the app and then another funding member that’s Mia they know the technical stuff extremely well and when I was working within Masco for instance and I’d be the technical lead and the entrepreneurial lead on projects that’s a problem and so what started to happen is there’s no doubt I’m not the technical leader the technical expert on biotech and I can understand the physics behind it I can understand where it needs to go so it’s it’s a natural comfort for folks you know there’s a lot of folks like me who worked in industry and extended Tech scouting you know a biotech person can move into the to the physical side and back forward because we don’t have to be the experts now we know how to understand who the experts are and then we can compliment those experts with things that you know would be a waste of their time and the last thing I’d want to do is have Ren not inventing the next new drug delivery mechanism and going out and talking to Angel groups and trying to raise money that would be the worst use of his talent and so we could come in and provide the things that naturally benefit form the teams round out the operations book business models and play so I think the first thing that comes up is it’s a natural fit and it’s and it’s not a stretch because I we don’t have to be you know the pharmaceutical expert or the lead chemist or the lead physicist that’s already there we need to take those people and help them understand how to run a business and get this to be a commercialization no one cares about the technology they care about their problems and how you can solve them and we help people you know bring those two things together I think the other element is the impact biotech has now I mean in the simple nature it can have an influence on every person and every country throughout the entire planet and then you know it can move the needle on on on suffering and I know that’s a holistic high-end stuff but the point is the biotech biopharmical State biopharma space is is big and it can have a big effect on human life and so that naturally draws Us in and where we can help but you know from selfish purposes too let’s face it no one’s in perfectly idyllic it has huge financial return and then the third thing is it fits our financial investment thesis so we want to come into companies we put in early checks that could have large multipliers several years later we can follow on with checks that have quick returns a beautiful irr or Roi however we want to measure that and Bear Paws through our investment with keto you know 2018 there was a small check keto put in that had a 12 times multiplier from 2018 to this summer when beer Paws exited to um zohaidis because bearpaws works in the the animal veterinary space Zoetis is that vision of Pfizer people are aware with that but then we piled on a bigger check in December last year well that had a 40 return in six months and so the biotech biopharma lets us play that Playbook where we could come in with early checks yes they’re risky we defer and and de-risk that by being involved by having smart people who we can work with and then ultimately we get the high multiplier on the first checks and then the follow-on check said quick returns at higher quick rois that that have favorable um uh investment opportunities and you know early stage we know what’s going on with the company we get to come into these rounds when you know knowing the history knowing the opportunity and getting ahead of the exits and helping Bridge the company so they’re financially strong as we negotiate Acquisitions or or other exit opportunities we’re finding out IPOs aren’t all what they’re cracked up to be and so you know we try to to work to the the Strategic partnership level in that regard so bio attack biofire my medical device that we can help make those products you know through injection molding where you know those are Hardware type devices they really are when you think about it and and then when you get into the biotech biopharmicide when you’re looking at Medical tools well those those are instruments they’re they’re kind of like hardware and then when you get into the chemistry side of it the reagents and assays or the drug development sure that gets a little different but when you look at an FDA regulatory pathway it looks a lot like you know things that you have to have in ppaps for automotive or you know when you’re accredited to certain you know industry standards it’s just a lot more detailed and a lot longer time frame and there’s deep expertise and people who can run through FDA approvals so it’s not a stretch it’s a natural fit we can help there’s big opportunities and then you know it fits our investment thesis quite well it sounds like the way you describe uh this model and there’s a few pieces that I’ll I’ll bring up in shortly but.

Jeffery: It sounds like your time as being an entrepreneur has really helped you be an entrepreneur that the entrepreneur’s side of the way you analyze and work inside of the business building businesses and have that security around you of being able to find and solve problems internally has kind of allowed you to step outside your comfort zone and being able to work in this biosciences space as you said it’s not a far stretch and it sounds like it’s not a far stretch it is a far stretch it’s not admitting it’s a far stretch and the reason why it’s a far stretch is because it’s a challenge for you which means it’s more exciting for you to want to do it because you’ve already understood the basis of running companies building companies in and outside of the biosciences so now being able to take all the the things that you’ve structured around the business it really emphasizes the fact that this is what gets you up in the morning because you’re able to go in and make it impact but you’re also able to see the change which is also the change in yourself by learning about a whole new industry which is pretty damn exciting so I don’t know if that’s fair to say it that way but it kind of sounds like that shaped nicely on how you’ve uh I’ve grown to where you are today

Steve: No I think you nailed it yeah so yeah JP yeah I love challenges and that is what wakes me up but you know at the end of the day foundational structure really really is a big difference of where you’re going so yeah when I was an entrepreneur in a big Corporation used to drive the presidents of our organization nuts because I’m pushing things outside organizational structures that aren’t necessarily good when you have 500 people working in operation and roles need to be defined and so I felt like a tiger trapped in a cage and it was some of the you know my grade beards within Masco who’s I just had a conversation with Mike Campbell who is a group president at Masco phenomenal turnaround guy just he’s my Muhammad on the mount right so I go to him everyone needs this you need someone who could just you know you need a grandparent right you need a parent you and entrepreneur stuff you need you need your gray beards kind of just grounding you and and so these folks when I was a man ASCO basically helped me understand I need to get out and form my own company and and when you’re an entrepreneur you know you go out to the Jungle there’s no safety net but you have the freedom to create anything you want to create and I you know the way I try to understand it the folks is we all have the same goals working within a corporation you give up a little bit of your freedom for security working outside the organization you give up your security for more freedom but at the end of the day we all want Financial Security with freedom and so you move up the corporate ladder to do that and you sacrifice some of the grief that comes with that you know you you have to worry about paying your bills as an entrepreneur but you want to move up to the point where you know you have Financial strength everyone wants to be the Zuckerberg or you know the Bezos or something of that nature I don’t need to be a billionaire but my point is people it’s all the same goal and and um some people would say it that you know you don’t live to work your works or you can live that’s great when you work in a big company from the entrepreneur standpoint your work is your life you’re an artist and and that’s kind of I I don’t know if you’re wired that way from birth or you’re sparked that way or something drives you that way from opportunity standpoint but entrepreneurs have grit and entrepreneurs want that freedom they enjoy the creation their work becomes their art form and yes sometimes you’re the poor struggling artist trying to make a life out of this but um but that’s it and and um yeah I don’t think there’s a stretch too much you know when you look at foundational structures when we product development started it was chaos we didn’t even know to call it product development it was called machine design or machine development but you look at the organizational structures that exist across multiple Industries there’s a product development function that has product marketing and product engineering it’s across the organization there’s cross-functional teams purchasing manufacturing it’s not thrown over the wall everyone just accepts that takes it for granted and the same things happen on with business development in early stage and so you know you’re seeing is the macro level of early stage formation putting foundational structures in place so folks JP like you and I we could come in at the early stage and put foundational structures in that can either kill this thing because it’s no one wants it there’s no customer or move it down the path and get it to the customer to solve their problems and that’s what’s starting to happen with Innovation campuses that can help you know bring these ideas together fractional talent that could come in and then Capital at the right stages but give the capital they’ve earned and need you know you don’t give everybody what they want you give them what they need and then you get them down the path you know what would have taken them two years hopefully you can help them get done in two to four months it’s an acceleration model in that regard a force multiplier and that’s what’s happening in early stage so folks can go into Pharma who used to do Hardware right and and there’s so many similarities the differences are taken up by the technical talent and the unique things that go on with each of those individual Enterprises.

Jeffery: I love it and there’s so many good things that you shared there that uh really kind of line up the entrepreneurial journey and you know you I think the the best one was you give up your security for Freedom or you give up your freedom for security and you kind of have to pick which side of the fence you want to play on uh there is some in-between I guess if you’re going to be an entrepreneur but outside of that there’s not much uh wiggle room you’re on one side of the fence or the other and I think it’s that’s well shared and and I love the fact that entrepreneurs are an artist so just like a musician or um a painter whatever it might be those persons are going to struggle until they get to the craft and they get to be the best at it and I think that that kind of really lines up to what you’re saying is that regardless of how you start and where you start as an entrepreneur in this journey is that as you’re working your way through this you’re going to
become a better sharper quicker faster better artist and it’s all of these people and it’s the commercialization it’s all of these pieces around you that get brought into really hone in on that skill that you’ve created or hone in on that product or the art that you’ve created that’s going to really make it and exemplified forward to be something great.

Steve: No you again great Insight I often wonder you know how what you say how it’s perceived by others but no you nailed it my gray bear uh Mike Campbell when I first started my first companies it’s frightening it really is you know you’re you’re taking the leap of faith you’re out in the jungle and you know the show not Naked and Afraid or the guys out in the jungle and you know that’s how you feel but he helped me understand what you’re saying about straddling the fence it doesn’t work see you know it’s all plan a there is no plan B Because if my mind has a shredded doubt about oh here’s my fallback plan a doesn’t have a success so you’ve got to drive persistently that it’s all plan a and you’re going to make that thing work come hell or high water now that doesn’t mean you’re stubborn you pivot you change you listen to your customers but plan a means I’m going to launch this product it’s going to make this margin and I’m going to find a way to make that happen oh hey attuned biosciences they started with a device that can go down the esophagus and then it would do post-operative thermal management brilliant idea and works so you put something on the esophagus you run water through it in a simple Manner and now it’s going to help patients overcome post-operative surgery sepsis things of that nature customers weren’t adopting it what do you do so they took this device they started talking to more customers and they kept hearing from cardiologists that when they do a procedure called cardioversion which shocks the heart oftentimes the esophagus is damaged and they take images of the heart often through the esophagus so they’re used to putting things down your throat to look at the heart or they have to protect it when they’re doing procedures they pivoted into esophageal care fast forward the company’s on track the race to sell 10 million dollars in product this year they raise 4 million in Grants they got a matching four million dollars investment they’re cash flowing and reinvesting and now the FDA has asked them to perform a two-year study because not only does it protect the esophagus they believe it can actually improve the outcomes of atrial fibrillation and other arrhythmia because when you get these cardioversions shock the heart thirty percent of the patients are cured but it comes back 70 percent aren’t they think they can move the needle now so that’s what I mean about plan a it doesn’t mean you’re stubborn it means you’re persistent you got grit and you’re gonna find that customer and it also means you have to tell yourself the truth when you need to walk away and move on to the next project.

Jeffery: I love it and and I think what you’re defining right there is um what I used to call um well I’ll say that it’s the fifth year it’s the Michael Jordan’s the fifth year that they’re able to turn it on in the last second and win the match but it’s it’s being able to understand that and this is what we want to invest in we’re looking for Founders that have this fifth year they have the understanding that they need to communicate that they need to dive into the product you know they can’t sit outside and say well I don’t know why it’s not working they’re in and they’re testing it with customers they’re really trying to peel back the layers and find out where the real problem is and figure out how they can solve it because they’re just surface level if they don’t do that and if I think you’re you’re proving right there that the amount of time that a founder and the team really dived into the real problem of it and find where the real problem is and if they’ve got to Pivot 12 times to really find that it’s that they came in with a hypothesis and now they’re getting down and granular to the real problem and that’s what’s going to Define them as a business unit and a way to commercialize that in the future which it sounds like they’re there’s certainly working on.

Steve: And and the other thing is everyone thinks this is you know gonna happen overnight it doesn’t I like Malcolm gladwell’s novels The Tipping Point and you know but he talks about Mastery you know it takes 10 000 hours to reach a certain level and then another 10 000 hours and then another ten thousand hours so that musician who’s in the Detroit Symphony Orchestra which is a great Orchestra and his plan you know primary seat lead chair of a violin that just didn’t happen overnight and you know the other statement I love is you know oh it took ten thousand days for that person to become an overnight success so everyone sees the successes we need to talk more about the struggles and and it’s the struggle that matters the success is an outcome it’s a desired outcome but you don’t get to that and you don’t appreciate it unless you put in the hard work to make it happen and then that means you have to be passionate about what you do you gotta love what you do and my dad would always say find something you love to do and you never work a day in your life the entrepreneur has to feel that if this is too stressful if you don’t enjoy it if it’s all about the money then um then you’re gonna be miserable and you’re probably gonna be divorced because if your if your family isn’t behind us no yeah yeah there’s one to two outcomes your business dies or your family has significant alterations.

Jeffery: Fair enough and that makes complete sense that you’ll be a little disgruntled if you can’t find your positioning so I think it’s that Focus but it’s also trying to figure out from the beginning with the real meat and potatoes is of what you’re trying to build and I think you talked a lot about um the gray beards and commercialization and and I think a lot of these things um and building models I think a lot of this comes from taking the time to understand where you are today and where you need to be in a year or two years and that’s that planning part but I think if you really draw back into the the great beard side of it um and I’ll the graveyard analogy is just the the person that has uh the elders in the room the people that have the experience and being able to bounce ideas off but really opening yourself up to that uh controversy I guess that we all think that everything is going to run this certain way it’s going to run perfect and I’m great at what I do even though it’s my first time is that I think we tend to forget that in this journey and just like your journey as an entrepreneur all the way through the companies you created you always had people around you you’ve talked about lots of different names that you’ve mentioned from Mark Etc all of these people um we’re part of your journey they were part of the fence that you were trying to climb over they were the ones telling you you’re doing the wrong thing or this doesn’t make sense because you were open enough to share it or they were open enough to see where you were making your problems and I think sometimes we shell ourselves off and maybe we forget that this is what’s going to help us actually move faster uh we do need naysayers in our uh in our program we need people that are punching us down to our our level every day because if we don’t and it’s just a smooth Road when we do get hit with that controversy or the big problem we’re not going to be able to get over the fence is that kind of I think in your journey did you have come across a lot of that with the people that you’ve mentioned uh in our conversation that they were there not there to support you but they were there to punch you up a level which is to get you where you need to be and the only way you’re going to get there is you had to have some hard learnings in that Journey.

Steve: Absolutely JP absolutely and I could I can I can reinforce that a couple ways the first is you know when Mike Campbell and I got together yeah we looked at our first business plan and you know he was kind enough to meet in person and he said look um you know I’m very direct don’t take it personally don’t be offended by it because I respect your time too much and time is the only thing we don’t get back and so it opens up the business plan and much to my shock he had it all marked up he had actually read it in great detail and he opens up the first page and he starts to say what the f were you thinking what are you doing what do you and but by the time we were done and he said I have no other comments um we we found a an energy efficient lighting where do you put lighting everywhere that’s a problem we found a market in gas stations where we could work electrical contractors who are also Distributors because that was all all about the pump and so Oscar Larson services this area of the country they represent one of the manufacturers of the pumps well they grew the business around doing everything so they installed all the lights they’re also the distributor for the lighting and we had their sales force we had a captive Market where we could put a retrofit kit in that could go into existing fixtures and if the customer didn’t like it they could remove it I can go on and they have a rebate programs they could literally get the paybacks within 10 months and have better lighting and lower energy costs and but without him walking me through that process I didn’t find that business model you know I would have I would have not understood it but the second thing that reinforces it is the classic buzzword customer Discovery right the NSF lean launch pad Steve block you know all you know uh the the business model canvas by Alex and those guys that I’m a big skeptic when it comes to these programs you know we used to call it the Bingo Pro you know Bingo flavor of the month and I hated all of that so when I first was exposed to this so I went yeah here we go again and then I realized wait a second that’s that’s fundamentally solid it’s the structure a business model we know your value proposition know your customer and it’s not revolutionary but you have to go out and talk to hundreds of people to figure out these models and when we work with teams before we invest in a company we make sure that’s done that they understand their customer and their business model but when we give feedback we call it relentlessly direct and so it’s punching your way up kind of we’re not here to harm you we’re here to help you because everyone wants to have their grandparents and their mom and dad tell them how cute they are when actually their baby baby it may be extremely ugly someone’s got to tell them what’s real and customers will do that listening to customers you know seeking there used to be a program called Columbo date myself but Colombo is a detective you’d always say why why why one more question one more question and that’s the idea you’ve got to continue to probe you got to be willing to use these your ears and then listen with your eyes as well it’s the things they do it’s how they behave it’s what they don’t say and so yeah if you don’t have that you know direct feedback that punching upwards you know the naysayers the curmudgeons seek those people out but make sure they’re productive they don’t attack you they attack the problem they help you see things you can’t see those are talented people in their own right they tend to be very successful people who want to give back and are willing to work with great early stage entrepreneurs.

Jeffery: I love it I love it we’re gonna I gotta ask one one big question because I think that to all the things that you’ve shared they’re they’re all awesome and they really align up to the mindset of taking someone either from the corporate world uh entrepreneur entrepreneur and being able to really build up a business and then finding the right groups that can support you and and I think that’s really important is that there’s a lot of groups out there that can help but you have to do your homework on it just as much as you do when you’re investigating customers or a problem you’re trying to solve when it comes to the process around bioscience and again this can be we’ll call it broad Strokes or high level um what what are the steps that you typically find that these early stage bioscience companies need to go through um and where you know you built wet Labs you’ve built a lot of process to help them which I think is brilliant what are the steps that you see that maybe if you look at the analogy crawl walk run if everybody knows what that analogy is then things would move really easily because people would realize that it’s so much better that a baby can crawl before it walks I think there’s a bit of a process here that we forget that these stages are built for a reason so when it comes to the biosciences side I’m sure people try to circumvent and get across and go quicker because they want to get to Market faster is there a process where you’re like look here this is the real way of doing this that’s going to get you through the markets a little bit quicker and with your process and what you guys enabled is going to help with that.

Steve: Yeah let me yes it’s a simple answer but again it’s Case by case but there’s fundamental elements I’ll keep going back to that that are true for a hard word cup metal bashing company to a bioscience new drug development and if you go back to product development in the late 80s 90s and how it evolved you know there was no process really but now there’s things people notice stage gate processing and the thing is you know no there’s five steps to your stage gate focus on step one with the vision of step five so that’s the classic Steve Covey you know begin with the end in mind you know and then you know you’ve got to basically focus on the things that matter so first things first is how cubby would say it begin with the end of mine you know there’s five stages first things first focus on phase one don’t necessarily have to be doing things in stage four and five now let’s apply that to an early stage company and a biotech company you know again there’s you have to understand you need to get to phase three let’s say drug development you have to get to phase three clinicals but you don’t have to necessarily be working on phase three clinicals and make a big size production runs I mean most people understand this but the simpler way to say it is before you spend a lot of time making product talk to customers even in the biopharma space you know we’re seeing this in car T therapies and immuno ecologics and and checkpoint Inhibitors great great promise can it improve patient survival we don’t know yet you know how will it be administered in the hospital setting what’s going to be the customer adoption curve where do you start now because it’s such a huge industry with great returns there’s it you know there’s all kinds of Consulting groups that will help you find the right Pharma partner or help you find you know the right regulatory pathway or help guide you through from pre-clinical all the way to clinical or you know are you a a predicate device uh a a de novo or or what kind of 510k you’re going to need to go through for you know medical devices because those markets are so big because they have such profitable margins because the profit returns can be high and there’s risk associated there’s all kinds of groups you can work with that way but be careful they’re expensive so not everyone’s a Silicon Valley West Coast Enterprise we can get 10 million and then you know spend million dollars on Consulting fees so you’ve got to choose people who you know you meet through networking and who are
willing to to be that you know evangelist early adopter angel either as an investor or as an advisor they’re giving to you freely because they don’t their return is is personally gratifying and and they see something in you that they’re willing to support and help along so it you know it starts with let’s begin with the end in mind ah gotta get through phase three first things first how do I know I have a customer how am I going to find the right talent that can help me think this through what’s the fractional talent I bring in in the only way you find that is you just go out and you start talking to folks and you go to these incubators and accelerates and you network and you go to these events and it takes off on its own one person will introduce you to another um when I started my first company one of the guys I worked with was at the Michigan Economic Development Corporation he heads an accelerator in downtown Detroit called techtown uh his name’s Ned Stabler and as I was leaving corporate America he said I would meet people believe it or not 6 37 in the morning to understand if I wanted to do this and he said every time you’re thinking Network you got to be networking people with networking with people networking with people and so that’s what you need to do at that very formative stage you just get out of the building you need to talk to people you need to find these people Pepto novel you know here’s Ren his third startup we’ve got all kinds of talent we already know we’re working at a University of Michigan team through one I think one of the best programs Dave Brophy ran at U of M where it was a practicum and the mbas and the bbas come together and form a six-person team and their final is to present and Pitch the company to venture capitalists and that’s how they get graded and so you they have to go through a mini version of this but even then with folks of us who’ve done it we find Fred Brown he becomes part of the the Pepto novel board Fred introduces us to a guy from Roche we talked to him he introduces to another guy from rosh that guy then introduces us to a contract research organization who then introduces us to Glenn Meyer who Glenn’s now an investor but he’s also a 30-year veteran and he’s running our whole product side that gets better we need one particle we need to find a better way to Source it he knows a guy in Italy who’s been in the business this 30 years who can make this semi-synthetically which gets us much clearer path on the product side new intellectual property and helps put all kinds of things on the Linker one of the most critical elements That’s The Power of networking it never stops oh that guy now in Italy he knows a patent attorney that patent attorney now knows is the subject matter expert in this space and we’re going to get better patent filings it’s Global look what happened in four or five conversations and we do this all the time I’m never I cease to be amazed at the power of what it does so you got to start out by networking you got to start out by finding Talent you got to build a team around you and you gotta you know you got to be willing to say you know this this isn’t going to work there’s a lot of people who have cameras on intubation devices or there’s a lot of people moving into space I’m three years behind where the market is how do why do I win if even though you got a great idea the market may be ahead of you the market may not adopt it there may be no need for it you know don’t look for a problem or solution finding a problem look for a problem finding a solution so you you know it’s those those gray birds around you will help you share those kind of messages so yeah there’s a process doesn’t matter if it’s biotech or not some are more defined than others starts with you know begin with the end of mind keep it simple that’s the other thing we didn’t throw in there but but begin with the end of mind and first things first first things first start talk to people Network find out the things you don’t know today even though you think you know them.

Jeffery: Brilliant I love it I like the the little addition there of keeping it simple but I think it’s also just making it uh lean and clean and just figuring out how to approach things in a simple format but just talk to everybody and it’s amazing the more you talk to people the more things you’re going to learn about your business that you didn’t even think were there or your business will shift into what you’re going to learn from talking to people because they’ll give you uh new ideas or areas where they felt there were bigger problems and you might actually find that the hypothesis you came in with is gonna shift just from talking to 30 people and they’ll probably pull out a gem at the end of it so I love that network network network.

Steve: JP to kind of add on what you’re saying when when product design I knew we were successful and people would look at and go well I could have done that Simplicity and Design is poetry and so what you just said there resonates and stuff and then on the customer Discovery side when we helped run these programs we’ll work with you know the universities here in Michigan matter of fact Friday we’re launching a customer Discovery program with the Western Michigan University School of Business and their Innovation Center Sandra Cochran great great person there she’s so much energy but when we start those programs I say at the beginning so look there’s no guarantees in life but I will guarantee you this and I’ve never been wrong what you’re thinking now in that hypothesis will not be what you’re thinking after you talk to 30 people it just doesn’t so to your point you go out there and you learn more you’re gonna pivot you’re going to shift you’re going to make it better and it never ends it’s a journey

Jeffery: Totally is it totally is and and I feel that just um ourselves uh going through that same process they’re always pitching but I think when you have pitch with conviction and you’re listening that’s where you’re going to get the best results at the end um and you know you can’t say it more than uh a thousand times a day but to every founder just pitch everywhere you can even if you don’t want to pitch just go pitch them they might be saying oh let’s just go for a coffee and chat about life no I’m gonna pitch you you always are pitching you always have to be on because that person may give a nugget that you didn’t think about and that’s going to change your world.

Steve: And we we when we start these programs we have someone stand up cold and I say tell me about your business you got 30 seconds go and then we go around the room and say does anyone understand what they’re doing and they have to do it three times to most people can understand what they’re doing I say okay now you got 15 seconds now you got 10. by the time they’re done they do a better job in 10 15 seconds getting everyone in the room to understand so to your point you’ve got to be ready to pitch too and you’re not selling your your your discovering and and sometimes you may get lucky and find someone that who you made a sale.

Jeffery: You’re not selling you’re discovering I like that it’s so true well it sounds like Steve we could talk forever I’m not gonna lie it’s been a great conversation and we do have some other segments we’ve got to jump into but I want to ask one last question just because of again of your background and the things that you’ve done uh and I love all of the things that you’ve kind of shared around your journey but the one thing is from the patents and the products that you’ve created from Palm all the way through and all these great things that you’ve been part of how much of the university college experience is still shaping today’s world and Innovation is it still happening is it a big player is it really morphed its way out of this space there’s been a lot of talk about you know just go out and build it you don’t need University you don’t need college this isn’t going to do anything for you how much of and maybe not just the biosciences but all Sciences all of uh we’ll call it any product that comes out to Market is innovation still happening at the University level and is it still just as valuable today as it was 20 30 years ago or is the Innovations kind of jumped into places like yours what you’re building is that more of where Innovation is happening and I know it’s a hard-hitting question but for me it’s you know is there a world for all of it and where does it really start.

Steve: So you probably folks are used to the term technology Readiness level where it’s translational research not basic research so we are very fortunate to live in North America McMaster University I respect that University immensely Mcgill and then of course I live in I think one of the best universities research institutes in the nation at University of Michigan you know Stanford and Michigan our number always like number one and two in research dollars Michigan just got 1.6 billion dollars in research across its programs so the simple answer is yes there’s tremendous Innovation going on at the universities it’s going on at Western Michigan it’s going on at Michigan Tech it it goes on even at Eastern Michigan which isn’t even a research institute because you bring in the right elements now how the university boards reagents and how the presidents and how the leadership goes there you know obviously big organizations and they have their own structures and academic purposes you know they they have to service other missions as well and so it’s important that Tech transfer offices within universities can bridge that that mission of academic purpose and then how do we work outside the university when I first started working with universities in the late 90s it was a joke we’d come in there and they’d say yeah give us a hundred thousand dollars we’ll hire a postdoc and we’ll give you a paper and oh no no don’t we don’t want to dis you know we feel we the university shouldn’t be helping businesses because you you know that’s like we’re we’re sending out this intellectual property that that’s you know it’s a conflict of interest fast forward that doesn’t exist anymore and you know really started to break loose in 2008 9 and 10 and now you’ve got these you know universities Harvard MIT U of M they’ve got Innovation campuses and they’re starting to understand that basic research has a genuine purpose translational research is where the Innovation starts to become potentially commercialized and at stage one and two of the technology Readiness level it needs to be inside the University Michigan State I think has come up with a really great way of doing this Spartan Innovations through you know its foundation funds you know a group of people to work inside the university as entrepreneurs and residents or CEOs and residents to find out if there’s a there there and they’ll give them a little bit money to go down the path until they can find other money grants investors strategic partners and licenses maybe and then of course that has to move to another level of get outside the university and that’s what we bridge when they you got to get outside the university to be successful as a commercial entity and so let’s not confuse the Innovation that can naturally occur in all of these brilliant universities with commercialization of no one cares about your technology they care about their problem give NSF a lot of credit through their i-core program and now what they’ve expanded Across the Nation with hubs that used to be nodes that you know then became sites and now all of these universities are starting to understand the fundamental practices the best practices of is this Innovation is it worth time how do we get it outside the university so yes the universities have great Innovation some of them actually can be commercialized um but it’s all depends on the culture of the University how easy they are to work with and then how committed are they of not just writing papers and and not just trying to find a way to get student Revenue which is very important but how does this complement their academic Mission because it’s not a conflict it’s funding we give publicly to universities wouldn’t it be great that the Innovation there could actually come out and that funding could have a return of its own that’s what I think the Innovation role is within the University and you’re finding alumni you know creating funds that’ll follow on and talent that will come in and follow it and business models that are you know being developed that can service you know humanity and a
larger Prospect and.

Jeffery: I love it I thought you would like it that way yeah no this is good and I I think we’ll we’ll end that segment with stay in school kids there’s a lot of innovation and learning you’re going to get from University and college even if you’re only in there for a year or two you’re going to find your way around and if you’re going to be an entrepreneur then you’re going to jump the fence and you’re going to start building and look for uh like-minded uh businesses like yours where you’re you’re building a massive ecosystem that can help float and really take them uh into the stages that they need to go so that’s uh it’s pretty exciting.

Steve: Some of the best university startups were students who worked within that Innovation post docs that followed it and then formed the company when it came out there’s and know I I would I would eat my left arm to have available what students have today when I started in the 80s or my wife you know she started you know she’s got a PhD she did a postdoc she spun out a company with her advisor they they failed because they didn’t understand their customer go back a step it’s important to say it is Jeff you know your family has to be behind this when we decided to create our own companies it was our companies not just my company my wife’s dad started a company her grandfather started a company she said she was allergic to Corporate America you know and so you’ve got to have people supporting you at all levels and it’s because of my family my wife who’s also part of what we do now we never anticipated that to happen um yeah you’ve got to have that and think she was a student she was a doctoral candidate she did follow her company the support that exists now for students wasn’t like it was in 2004 wasn’t like it was in 1987 88 or 1995 it’s it’s it’s so so encouraging for entrepreneurs that go to college you can find your company and the university would love to see you jump in and run it.

Jeffery: Well I’ll say I totally agree with that all right we’re going to quickly move into uh the segment where we share a quick kind of story around what it takes to be an entrepreneur and I think throughout our chat you’ve certainly shared a lot of what it takes to be an entrepreneur maybe you have one that resonates with you um kind of back of mind or something you’ve been through or a startup that you’ve worked with where she or he you know really you didn’t think was going to make it and they turned it around and made it successful or not but there’s always that story that kind of invigorates all of us to say you know this is what it takes to be an entrepreneur maybe you have something top of mind you can share.

Steve: Oh my there’s so many of them I mean the quickest one that comes to mind I I only worked with this company in passing they were at a local incubator here in Ann Arbor called spark I think it’s one of the best incubators in the Midwest and her name was Lisa McLaughlin and she started something called work it health I thought what the heck is she doing I saw her at this pitch and it was all about you know she you know she personally had you experienced not herself but friends addiction and social counseling and I thought there’s no business model there give me a break you know and and she talked about how it was difficult for people to get the Social Work Care that they needed and she was just adamant about what she believed persistent dogged there’s been studies about this over and over and over and there’s just a recent study done by this Consulting Group on the west coast they said what does it take to be a successful company a successful entrepreneur a successful early stage what did those Founders have they looked at all kinds of categories intelligence funding University background you name it and what always came up regardless of the industry regardless of the success story regardless of the path and and the funding they had was Grit grit you know persistence dogginess willing to to make it happen but not grit with a confirmation bias grit with a willingness to learn and and that was their their novel spin that yeah you had to have all that but you’ve had to be willing to listen and that’s what Lisa had now she started this company she went to the accelerate Michigan Innovation competition she started getting recognized she won some awards she started some putting some people together and now she’s had the network the community helping her where um other groups came in and and they just closed a 20 million dollar raise or some ridiculous thing like that they got three or four Venture groups behind them they got a national presence I don’t I can’t keep track of money I think they’ve hired 400 500 people and they’ve changed the care for addiction because think of Telehealth she was ahead of that I’d give her credit I kind of saw what was happening in Telehealth maybe she did too but we all stumbled into it and she’s got a Telehealth platform with a national group of social workers who could be contacted and it’s a Community environment where these people can work together in group checks and blogs and support networks and and then you know it’s a national thing and it’s a highly profitable because it costs the insurance companies less and yet people can make their market rate and they can get the margins they need being that aggregator hey I’ve got patience I got social workers I’m going to introduce the national network of each to the other on a platform that makes them easier to get their job done uh it’s uh it’s yeah she she was impressive um I could go on and on though.

Jeffery: Now that’s a that’s a great share and I think it really like you said in throughout the chat the grit that fifth gear really makes a difference in an entrepreneur but I think the biggest one inside that grid and you said it was that they’re willing to learn and listen and that’s what’s going to help them keep changing and growing and also bringing other people in in their Journey they’re going to start to really layer in more people that are going to support them because they start to understand the vision and the direction they’re taking and she’s proving that by solving a larger problem and and saving money but making money for others so I think overall it’s uh it’s a great story and it really defines what perseverance and grit takes to uh to run a company so uh kudos to her and amazing to hear the great things that she’s doing.

Steve: Yeah work at health is the name of the company check them out uh I haven’t checked them out in a several months so hopefully things are still going well.

Jeffery: I’m sure they are I’m sure they are um all right we’re gonna pivot quickly into our rapid fire questions the way this works is you as the investor will pick one or the other so what is more favorable to you and to how you invest and then we’ll jump into the personal questions are you ready to roll.

Steve: Yes

Jeffery: All right first question founder or co-founder

Steve: A Founder

Jeffery: Unicorn or a four-year 10x exit

Steve: Four-year 10x exit by far

Jeffery: Tech or cpg

Steve: uh word tech people

Jeffery: Nfts or web 3.0

Steve: Um probably web 3.0

Jeffery: AI or blockchain

Steve: AI all the way

Jeffery: First time founder or second third time founder

Steve: Wow second and third but we’ll help the first that’s not fair

Jeffery: First money in or series a

Steve: We’re always with the first money in but we’ll come in series a afterwards

Jeffery: Angel or VC

Steve: We we are Angel group investors investor groups that get it ready for the VC so Angel early early investor groups okay

Jeffery: Board seat or Observer

Steve: Uh board seat when we run the company’s Observer when they just need a little
more help

Jeffery: Safe for convertible note

Steve: Safe to start best instrument

Jeffery: Lead or follow

Steve: Will lead early we’ll follow late

Jeffery: Equity or interest payments

Steve: Equity Equity Equity I formed my first company on debt doesn’t work

Jeffery: Favorite part of investing

Steve: The people

Jeffery: Number of companies invested per year

Steve: uh per year about six over the life of an investment thesis uh 15 to 20.

Jeffery: Preferred any preferred terms

Steve: Uh yes you need to um be careful convertible notes and and what boilerplates you get that’s why the saves better keep it simple keep it simple keep it simple earlier have the preference of later investors

Jeffery: Agreed vertical is a focus say it again verticals or focus

Steve: wow so we’re Tech agnostic we get pulled into Health Care as you’ve heard but we’re seeing emerging Technologies in AI pattern computers and a good example at if you look at that.

Jeffery: Okay two qualities of startup needs in order to stand out to you.

Steve: They need to know their customer and they need to be honest under due diligence.

Jeffery: Love it all right we’re going to do uh the personal questions book or movie

Steve: Oh movie I’m lazy

Jeffery: Superman or Batman

Steve: Full book front to cover unless it’s C.S Lewis or something I’m the I need I read yeah movie

Jeffery: Right all right all right Superman or Batman

Steve: Oh uh yeah Superman

Jeffery: Restaurant or picnic

Steve: Picnic

Jeffery: Five minutes with Bezos or Oprah

Steve: Oh wow Oprah I guess

Jeffery: Mountain or Beach

Steve: Oh Mountain

Jeffery: bike or run

Steve: Uh yeah what day is it uh bike probably

Jeffery: Big Mac or chicken McNuggets

Steve: Big Mac

Jeffery: Trophy or money

Steve: Uh money

Jeffery: Beer or wine

Steve: Here although I’m a wine snob

Jeffery: A camera or mobile phone

Steve: Uh mobile phone

Jeffery: Uh king of rich

Steve: Rich

Jeffery: concert amusement park

Steve: Oh I like concerts

Jeffery: yeah me too uh fortune cookie or birthday cake

Steve: [Laughter] that’s a good one I’ll go with fortune cookie I always want to know what’s

Jeffery: Ted talk or book reading

Steve: Uh TED Talks

Jeffery: Tick Tock or Instagram

Steve: Tick Tock my eighth book

Jeffery: Facebook or LinkedIn LinkedIn

Steve: All the way I don’t have a Facebook account I don’t think I ever will

Jeffery: I love it my team runs ours so I don’t really pay attention

Steve: Well companies do I mean individually

Jeffery: Yeah most famous person that pops in your mind

Steve: Oh wow um so Churchill did you know some great things Einstein did some great things C.S Lewis um wow I can go on and on and on and those are the quick ones that come this morning those that have come to mind tomorrow asked me a question I’ll probably have two other three different people yeah Einstein was a simple that’s what was genius about him and then C.S Lewis could take fundamental truths and make them work um and then of course you know Churchill was dogged in his determination but he was also a funny guy very funny guy.

Jeffery: Yeah he had quite the personality favorite movie and character you would play

Steve: wow [Laughter] I don’t know that one well I guess uh the sting and I would be Robert Redford sting I have to look that one up it sounds familiar it’s Paul Newman Paul Newman and Robert Redford their shysters and they go back and get you know the Kingpin and they set them up on a sting but the whole movie is a sting to the audience as well it’s a great JP you just go and get the movie and watch it it’s awesome you probably heard the the theme music I’m not gonna try it anyway that it’s every aspect of that movie is is really cool and as an entrepreneur it keeps you on your feet all the time.

Jeffery: I love it I’m gonna look that one up for some reason I think I’ve seen it I like both of those guys they’re like one of my favorite flicks is uh um the Sundance Kid so yeah they’re both in it right so the great movie and uh anything with those guys have been great so yeah great great choice.

Steve: I’m sorry say it again

Jeffery: Favorite book

Steve: The phenomenon man believe it or not I I actually read that from the cover every now and then yeah so it’s it’s really thought-provoking.

Jeffery: phenomenon man all right I like it all right um we’re almost there first brand that pops
in your mind

Steve: Coca-Cola

Jeffery: Favorite sports team

Steve: Chicago Bears or Chicago Cubs depending what season it is not to be outdone by the University of Michigan football team.

Jeffery: All right the Bears the Bears all right what is the meaning of success to you

Steve: Uh fulfillment um you know meeting your ultimate challenge.

Jeffery: I love it last question what is your superpower

Steve: Networking collaborating

Jeffery: Well I’m gonna say that I will agree with all of these answers are are fantastic the conversation was brilliant I think there was a lot we learned today and Steve I want to take a moment and say thank you very much for joining us today uh we probably could have made this into two more segments and continue talking and diving into so much in the startup world and all the great things that you’ve you’ve done to date but I do want to say is again thank you it’s been awesome and the way we kind of like to end things up is we want to give you the last word anything that you want to say or share to the entrepreneurs or to investors we turn it over to you but again thank you very much for sharing so much today.

Steve: Yeah thanks JP I I you I don’t do this type of thing a lot but I really like your approach and when you explain this to me I said all right I’ll do it you won’t see a lot of blogs for me you won’t see a lot of podcasts and yeah you know it’s just a lot of times I I just yeah I I get shamed into doing it more than anything so I I really appreciate it I think what you guys have done in the structure of this is worthwhile and so I really enjoyed this but um I guess The Parting thoughts for entrepreneurs would be you know enjoy what you do and stick with it but be willing to be told and listen to your dream may not be reality and that means you gotta pivot and and and that tends to happen more times than not I mean you got to be a failure unfortunately sometimes to succeed my first company failed my second company failed you know but they weren’t they weren’t you know I thought we were gonna go into bankruptcy a couple of times ask people who are successful everywhere along their journey of a company cash flow meeting payroll something you know it’s just it’s not easy but it can be extremely fulfilling and and so you know just just stick with it be willing to to think on your feet pivot uh persist don’t don’t think you’re going to get rich overnight but you can be very financially secure absolutely that’s the goal freedom with Financial Security.

Jeffery: I love it Steve amazing thank you very much

Steve: All right JP hey thank you thanks for inviting me again

Jeffery: Perfect so there was a lot of great things that we just chatted about with Steve and everything from University of Michigan days all the way up until uh today and and um kind of what they’ve been building around the startup ecosystem uh in Michigan and working with Michigan University so much great stuff um you know I think there’s a couple of things that really kind of Encompass the talk and I think a lot of them go from you know in order for you to commercialize your business you really need to build models work with the graveyards which are going to be the experts and pitch pitch pivot learn pitch again do everything you can to get into the space and learn what’s going on in the market so you can keep pivoting and changing and getting to that key product you’re always selling so you need to be learning and understanding what your model is and what you’re really trying to to get out de-risk yourself as much as you can and the
biggest one that he emphasized quite a bit was talk to customers learn what your customers are really looking for so that you don’t fail because you’re being too stubborn on what your solution is and really talk to customers that’ll help you really build this forward um and then of course you know find the right Talent jump in Pitch everywhere you can and keep it simple keep it clean but overall fantastic conversation um and you can see that there’s so much uh detail and everything that goes into to being an entrepreneur and and you know a couple of uh keywords that he talked about which are grit and persistence willing to learn man so many great little pieces there but um I think we all got a lot of great things that takeouts from that so thank you again for joining us today if you enjoyed this conversation please feel free to share with your friends or subscribe to our YouTube channel follow us on Spotify Apple podcast and our Stitcher feel free to share an audio or video clip or on the show we may include it in one of our future podcasts find us at marketing your support and comments are truly appreciated you can also check us out at or for startup events visit thank you and have a fantastic day.

Watch Other Interviews

Contact us

Are you interested in meeting Steve, we will be happy to make an introduction!

Are you an angel investor and would like to participate in an upcoming show?