Pitching Your Startup To Investors & Customers with Tony Ratliff

Below is the audio and transcript of the most recent Smartups on January 17th with Dr. Tony Ratliff. Dr. Ratliff is an Angel Investor, Founder of MissionKonnect.com and a Dentist. Learn how he looks at pitching and how it relates to how startup marketers should think about how to position their business in the marketing place.

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Smartups January: Dr. Tony Ratliff, Pitching Your Startup by Smartups on Mixcloud

Full transcript after the jump.

Introduction: So I wanted to let you a little know about Dr. Tony Ratliff. Tony is a dentist. I think that’s his first thing, but he says at the end of the day he’s a dentist, but he’s really an entrepreneur. He’s got a lot of great insights, especially when it comes to investing, and investor relations, and pitching, and he will get into all of that tonight. But he is the founder of MissionKonnect which it helps nonprofits and faith-based organizations market themselves as well.

So between dentist, investor, teacher I think you can put in there, and entrepreneur all in one. So there should be a lot of great insights. I’m sure he’ll have time to answer some questions as well at the end and he’s going to do some breakout with us tonight. So if we could, give it up for Tony. [Applause]

Thank you very much, guys. I’m looking forward to this tonight. So I’ll start off here. My name’s Tony Ratliff, and I am a dentist up in Noblesville, Indiana. But I wanted to tell you why I like entrepreneurship. It’s something that’s really exciting to me. I love the vibe. I love the people. So I’m glad you’re all here tonight.

How many people have been to a Verge event? Can I see a show of hands? So a few of you. Those of you that haven’t been to a Verge event, I would highly recommend it. It’s a Meetup with a bunch of startup fanatics, entrepreneurs, investors. It’s just a great place to be, and hang out, and meet people that are doing things and making a difference in the world.

So let’s talk about entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship is awesome. You can change the world, build something of lasting value, improve the lives of your customers, and hopefully make a lot of money doing it. So I think that there’s a lot of people in this room that are making a difference. They’re changing the world. They’re taking care of customers.

There’s a lot of people that have ideas that will make a big difference, and there’s a few people that will make a lot of money doing this. So I really like entrepreneurship a lot. I want to tell you a little bit about – we’re going to talk about MissionKonnect which is a startup I did. I really hate this mic. You call can hear me, right? Can I set this down? Is the mic better?

I’ll just stick with the mic. So I’m going to talk about Lean Startup, a few principles that – I teach at Purdue. We’re going to talk about MissionKonnect which is a company I started. We’ll talk about investor relations and then some life lessons I’ve learned over the years. So let’s talk about my background first.

So I first started doing Lean and Mean Dentistry back in 1994. This was before the Lean Startup revolution came about, and I have multiple failed startups. I was involved a carpet company, a concrete coating company, a construction company, and a lot of those didn’t work out. Dentistry is my main thing, and me and my partner have owned ten dental practices, bought and sold practices. So we’ve done lots of startups within dentistry.

A lot of the other things I did just didn’t work. Various reasons. I had partners that stole money. I had just bad ideas. In 2009 I joined Gravity Ventures which is an investment group here in town. Everybody heard of Gravity Ventures? Has anybody heard of Gravity Ventures? Lots of hands there. Kristian Andersen and Mike Fitzgerald run that.

It’s a great group. That’s what got me involved in the startup world really. I went to a few Gravity meetings and I just loved it. Then I went to some Verge meetings and just had a blast. So I joined Verge, the Lean Startup Meetup, and the Speak Easy. Like I said, I lecture on Lean Startup at Purdue University. We also teach about investor relations up there.

And I started MissionKonnect in 2013, and right now it’s really cool because being a dentist I’ve finally broken out of my dental box and I’m actually being paid to do something else. I consult with a company in town called Defender Direct. They’re a marketing company. They market to consumers for ADT Security. Has anybody ever heard of Defender? A few people? A lot of people?

It is actually the largest privately held company in Indiana. They’ll do about $425 million this year. They’ve purchased five HVAC companies in the last year, and I’m helping them roll out a new business model. We think that we can implement some of the Defender techniques. So what Defender does and what they’re really good at is they know how to market to people.

So I’ll just give you an example. Last week I know they were changing some stuff with ADT Security. So what Defender does is they basically market for ADT Security services, but they do the marketing, and then they go install the security system, and then they flip that contract over to ADT. That’s kind of the business model. So I report directly to the CEO, and we’re working in the HVAC business which is the heating and air conditioning.

We’re trying to duplicate a model where they can go nationwide and market replacement furnaces. So it’s something totally outside of my box of dentistry. It’s outside of my comfort zone, but it’s something that I’m enjoying. I’m having a blast doing it. It’s fun. I report directly to the CEO of the company.

Like I said, in these corporate meetings it’s something I’m not used to, but it’s exciting. So I’m just busting out of my dental box which is nice. So here’s a quote that I was telling somebody about. “Being an angel investor is like being a lifeguard at the swimming pool. You get to watch everybody swim and have fun but you don’t have fun.”

So that’s why I started MissionKonnect in 2013. I’ve been an investor since 2009. I’ve invested in quite a few companies – I think it’s 12, 13, 14, something like that here in town. So I would call myself an active angel investor, but it’s hard because being an investor, you can’t be involved in the everyday stuff that an entrepreneur gets to do.

So in 2013 we started MissionKonnect. My partner is here, too. This is Rick Radcliff. So it’s Tony Ratliff and Rick Radcliff. It’s hard to say. It’s a tongue twister, but Rick and I met in 2010, ’11, something like that, ’12? So here’s the big deal with startups and entrepreneurism. Most startups fail from a lack of customers, not cool stuff.

This is the big deal. This is the big deal of the day. There are so many startups out here, even in Indianapolis, nationwide, but the reason they fail is because they lack customers. So if you can solve the customer problem, I think your startup will have a much higher success rate. I know it will because that’s the big problem that everybody deals with.

They build some really cool stuff. I’ve got friends that put up really cool stuff, but then they find that there’s no one to buy it and that becomes the problem. So the big ticket here is figuring out how to find customers when you’re starting a business. So let’s talk about MissionKonnect for a little while.

Nonprofits, they do a lot of good in the world, but they really suck at communicating with their donors and their supporters. Over 65 percent of their customers stop donating every year. If that was a real business model, people would just have a fit. But that’s what the statistics say. Sixty-five percent of people stop donating every year. We created a company that helps them tell their story, stay engaged with their supporters, participants, and donors – that’s MissionKonnect.

We’re using technology like Formstack to do it. So this is something that we did starting this company that we started out from the beginning was we have this idea. We’re going to help people do a better job of communicating with their donors and their volunteers, but we’re not going to build any product. And we did that on purpose. We’re using technology like Formstack.

I want to talk about – there’s a hustler, a manager, a developer, and a sales guy. Those are about the four guys that you need in a business to start a business. We don’t have all of ours yet. We have the first three. We’re looking at our sales person. We talked to somebody this week, but that’s where we’re moving to.

But that’s kind of the four people you need to get a company going. We started with $950 in the bank, and we have $10,000 right now. So I did that on purpose. I was out to prove that you can still start a company on less than $1,000. And the way you can do that is you don’t have to go out and build a product right away. We went out and found our customers. That’s the key.

So we went out. We found a beta customer. We offered it for free services. We started working with this client. We’re getting ready to sign them on now. We were in beta with them for about nine months, and now we’re going to bring them on as a client for $1,500 a month. So we work on a SaaS model, but we built our first customer donation page, and we’re building a dashboard with an integration platform.

That’s what we’re just now building, but I went out and found our customers first. We have five customers I think, and that’s how we did it. So I want to talk a little bit about how we founded this and how it came about. In 2010 I invested in a company called Cause.it. They were doing marketing campaigns for companies, and I really liked the idea. I loved the company, and so I invested in the company and I said when you guys get this figured out, I want to use this in the mission field.

Because I’ve been on a couple mission trips, and honestly the people do a great job with their mission work but they just didn’t connect with me very well and they never asked me for money. I talked to my neighbor the other day. He went on one of these same mission trips where he went through Defender actually and built houses in Mexico. And I was like, “Did you ever hear back from them?” He was like, “No. I didn’t hear anything.” And I would have easily gave them enough money to build them a house or something because the experience was that good. They just did a poor job of communicating.

So that happened in 2010, and I thought, “We need to do something here. We need to improve this marketing,” but in 2011 I got the buy-in from my wife. That was a key point. If you don’t have buy-in from your spouse when you’re an entrepreneur, you’re going to be in trouble. So me and my wife went on a mission trip down to Cancun to work with orphanages, and we came back and I said, “We can write a check to this company and give them our donation, or what I can do is take this money and we can just go start a company and start helping nonprofits and other charity organizations.”

And that’s what we ended up doing, but I wanted to talk about that because having the buy-in from your wife, or your husband, or your spouse, or whatever is really important. In October, I met with Rick. We were introduced through a mutual friend and found a cofounder, and then in 2013 in February, we launched. We didn’t get anything started really until March.

We started our beta. This is when I talked to that first beta client. By June we had two paying customers and then by August we had four, and, like I said, we have five now. But we’re building our – we just started building our first product. We’ve been in this business nine months and we’re just now coming up with our first product, but that’s how we started so cheaply.

And then in January now we’re just looking for new customers. We’re getting ready to hire a sales rep and move that way. Here’s a great article I read that it’s about super successful startups. So if you’re in a business, you have a company or you have an idea, these are some key points. The author had studied some startups and here’s what he came up with and I agreed with all of them. The founders are obsessed with the quality of the product and the experience.

Just something you’re obsessed about, making it a good experience or a good product. You’re obsessed with working with the best talent. So it’s all about the team. As an investor, I invest in a team, for sure. I just had a meeting with a guy tonight, right before we came here, and we went to the 10-01, is that right, in Broad Ripple? Has anybody been there? It’s kind of a nice place. I had never been to it, but I met with a guy, and I was so interested in his talent that I want to invest in his company, but I was like I’m really invested in you because he’s the guy that can get this done.

After a while you learn something called pattern recognition where you see these startup and these people with ideas and you figure out who’s the people that you really want to invest in, and this is one guy. He’s obsessed with getting the best talent. So he’s in a startup and he’s hiring his first developer. He’s paying him $150,000. For a startup, that’s huge, but he knows that he can get a good developer that can make him ten times the money in the back end.

Can explain the vision in a few clear words. This is one thing that’s really important because there’s a lot of times when we sit in Gravity meetings, or I’m also involved with a group called xCap Angels, and you listen to these pitches and you’re like, “Wow. That was great but I’m so confused.” So I think the founders need to be able to explain it. Generate revenue very early on. That’s a key.

A lot of people will have a freemium model where they’ll give their stuff away for free. That really doesn’t give you the feedback you need. I think you should come out of the gate. Maybe you got this free version that gets people excited with ten free accounts or something like that, but you have to get real users to really get good validation of your product. Keep your expenses low. That’s just Lean Startup and being lean in general.

Make something a small number of users really love. You want to make something people really love, and be focused on growth, and just grow organically. Prioritize well, and get shit done. All these properties are of good startups.

So let’s talk about investor relations, but before we do that I want to have you guys get in some groups. We’re going to do kind of a little group breakout session here, and there’s two reasons for this. One is to go over just some easy pitch stuff that I want you guys to start thinking about pitching to investors because the whole idea of me being here was really to talk about pitching to investors.

So you guys need to know – even if you don’t need to know it now – you’re going to need to know at one point when you go out to raise money how to pitch to investors, how to sell your ideas, and how to bring in money. What we’re going to do is we’re going to break up into some groups, and the part two of this is just some social interaction and getting everybody to get a little bit out of their comfort zone.

So what I want you to do is get in groups of three or four and you can’t be in a group with somebody you know. So that’s all the rules are. Groups of three or four. You can even be five in a group, but you can’t be with somebody that you know, and the idea is just to mix this group up a little bit and get people to know each other and go on from there and then I’ll tell you what we’re going to do.

So break up. Count off, whatever. Get in groups of three to four people but you can’t know anybody. This is only going to take about 10-15 minutes. [Side talk] This is a pitch exercise. One person in the group needs to define a problem. I don’t care what it is. It can be a silly problem. It can be a problem that you see in the workplace.

It can be a problem that you just make up, but you’ve got to define a problem. Then you’re going to choose a name, come up with a quick solution, define an audience, and talk about a secret sauce. So we’re kind of going to do this Startup Weekend thing in about five or ten minutes. So come up with a problem. Then you guys can figure out the rest, and then one person from the group is going to stand up.

I’m going to give you another line here, another slide, and you’re going to fill in this slide. My [company name] is developing [define an offering] to help an audience solve a specific problem with a secret sauce. So I’ll go back to this one and then somebody from your group is going to stand up and tell us this. So the problem can be anything. Just come up with a problem.

This is just a group exercise for fun and to get everybody engaged. It’s too quiet in here. Let’s have some fun. Let’s have some fun. Go. [Group exercise] That wasn’t too painful, right? That was all right? Good ideas. You get to meet some new people. Start thinking about investor relations a little bit, and get this party started. Let’s talk about some essentials for fundraising.

If you’re going out to raise money, these are some things you need to have. You need to have your elevator pitch, an executive summary, a PowerPoint presentation, a prototype or demo, and financial models and projections. If you’re going out asking for money, you’ve got to have these five things. This is the minimum.

You’ve noticed that a business plan is not on there. I haven’t read a business plan in three or four years, since I’ve been investing. I’ve never invested with a business plan. Always an executive summary or a slidepoint presentation, something like that. So these are the things you need. Let’s talk about three goals of the pitch. So while you’re pitching to an investor – and this could be a friend or family. A lot of times when you’re raising money, the first thing you’ll do is do a friends and family round.

That’s just with your friends and family. Then you might do a seed round. Then an A Round, B Round, C Round, something like that. It doesn’t matter who you’re pitching to. As entrepreneurs and startup people, you’re always pitching. Whether you’re pitching to get an employee to come and join your company in your new idea, whether you’re pitching an investor, but these are some things that are some goals of the pitch, especially if you’re pitching to investors.

You want to give the investors an overview – an overview of what your company does, what it’s all about to get them excited about your company team, idea, product, and solution. You’ve got to remember, a lot of times investors don’t have this problem that you’re trying to solve. So you’re trying to solve a problem and they don’t have that problem.

So you just want to wet their whistle, get them introduced to your solution, your problem, introduce to the team, all that. Then you want to get them to take the next step. There’s a lot of times when I sit in meetings or talk to people that are looking for investors where they’re trying to get to the end too quick, how much money they want.

The whole idea of that investor pitch is to just introduce us. Introduce us to yourself, to the product, and then get them to take the next step. Here’s a few things you need to know before the pitch. How much time do you get? What other investments have these investors made? What type of investors are you pitching to?

How should you dress? Will there be a question and answer session? So there’s a lot of times people come in pitching ideas, but you really need to know who your investor is. What kind of ideas do they like? If you come and pitch to me a new restaurant, I’m probably not interested because I don’t typically invest in restaurants although I have done one, but it’s not my thing.

I like technology. I like seed stage, early stage investments, things coming out of the ideas. I’m not a good investor either at a $10 million evaluation because it’s just too high because my $50,000 to $100,000 isn’t going to buy much. So I like early investments, but you’ve got to know who you’re talking to.

Let’s talk about the slides. So this will be a 10 point – or I think there might be 12 here – so a 12-point slide presentation, just some things that you need to have included in your slides. The intro slide. Brief background information. Tell us who you are, what you do, and why you do it in as few words as possible.

A lot of people will get up there and pitch and they’ll talk forever and ever, and you’ve got to remember that a lot of the investors in the room have a very Type A personality. So keep it short and sweet. Tell us your story. Leave out the boring parts. It’s all about a story.

You have to get us engaged to why are we investing in your company? Why are we investing in you? Why are we going to spend your dollars? And get us into that story. Like I said, your problem might not be our problem, but get us involved with the problem. How did you discover the problem? Tell us about that.

That background information is awesome. Slide 2 should talk about your team. Talk about the team and tell us why you’ve assembled this team. Highlight any expertise in this area. If you’re coming out of a – you’ve got an idea with a company. You’re starting something and it’s coming out of an idea where you work. So say you work at ExactTarget. You’re solving this little problem.

You need some people from ExactTarget on your team. Talk about those kind of things. A list of advisors works well here too, and why are you the right people to do this? Why is this team that you’ve collected, why are they the right people to solve this problem? Let’s talk about the problem. What is the problem you solve? Who has a problem? How many people have this problem?

That’s a big thing. A lot of people will try to solve the problem but not very many people have the problem and as investors it’s not really exciting. So you want to try to find a problem that multiple are going to have, but I think you need to find a niche problem right in your workplace or where you’re at. There’s tons of problems out there and then what’s your solution? Why is it important to the customer?

Your goal is to get people emotionally connected to the problem and wanting your solution, and there’s a guy that runs [500] startups and he says, “Create a painkiller, not an aspirin.” So as you’re finding your solution, create the painkiller. People want the Vicodin, not the aspirin. So create that Vicodin type product.

Does your customer think the solution is important? That’s huge. So as you’re going out and finding customers, you’ve got to find – sorry. Let me get this fixed. Sorry, guys. Let’s see where I’m at. Eva, tell us what Formstack is. So I’ll tell you a little bit about Formstack. So back to MissionKonnect, when we started we were not going to be in the form business at all.

We were going to help people solve the problem of connecting to their donors and their volunteers, but what we found out is a lot of these organizations, especially the mission groups, they didn’t even collect emails. I’m like how are we going to raise funds or connect to your people if you don’t have the emails? So when we would go on the mission trip they would send you an e-mail with eight attachments, and you had to print out all eight attachments, and one of them you had to take to the bank to get notarized, wrap them up in a big package, and send them back to the mission group.

Then some lady there would enter all these people by hand into their computer or their CRM system. So there’s 4,000 people a year going on a trip, and it’s one lady’s full-time job to enter all these applications to go on this mission trip. What we did is partnered with Formstack, moved all eight of these email attachments onto one form online, and you sign it, hit send, and it goes directly to an Excel file. And we share that Excel file with them and they can upload all the data for everybody going on the mission trip.

That’s how we use Formstack, but I’ll tell you something that, Eva, you’ve got to cover your ears for a minute. We use that form now. It’s our best intro into new clients, and it works for what we’re into for MissionKonnect, but the ROI on Formstack for us is incredible. So I do those forms, and I pay Formstack $29 a month because I got the cheap, basic plan. I’ve got five users and maybe 15 forms or something like that, and I won’t increase it until I really need – we only have five customers.

So I don’t need to increase it. $29 a month it costs me. Two of my clients pay $200 a month for those forms. That’s a good ROI. So how about that? $200 a month we charge for the same stuff that you charge $29 a month for. So it works, and you know what? The clients love it. They absolutely love it. They can’t believe it. They want to pay me the money.

They don’t care because it has made their lives incredibly, incredibly easier. The one company that we’re working with, they get to let an employee do other mission work and get away from that desk because we’re building an integration with Formstack that will integrate Formstack to their CRM system. That’s going to eliminate a whole job, but that person will be able to do other stuff in the company. So it’s like a $15,000 a year job.

So will they pay $200 a month for our forms? All day. So that was Formstack. Slide 4, the solution. What’s your solution? Why is it important to the customer? Your goal is to get people mostly connected to the problem and wanting a solution. Does your customer think your solution is important? Are your customers willing to pay for the solution?

A demo. This is great. Let us touch and feel your product, and if you don’t have a product, a short demo or screenshots work well. Make sure your demo doesn’t drag on and on. We don’t need to understand all the features of the code. We just want to make sure that it’s simple and it works. There’s a lot of people come and pitch and they might not have the final product, but they have a version and it’s great.

A lot of investors, they’re touchy feely. They want to touch and feel something. They just want to know that it works and it’s easy. So a demo’s really nice. An opportunity. What’s the opportunity? Explain your marketing strategy and the size of your market. Your idea is useless if no one uses it.

What is the size of your market? Size matters. What is the marketing plan, and what are your customer acquisition costs? These are just some ideas, things to be thinking about with the opportunity. Competition. Who’s your competition, and why do they matter? How many competitors are in the space?

Which ones are relevant? Everyone has competition. I hate it when I hear an investor say we don’t have any competition. You have lots of competition. I don’t care if it’s the people buying the TV or your product, but you have competition. Don’t say that as an investor looking for money that you don’t have competition because you have lots.

Another thing, don’t do as an investor is just a side note. Don’t ask for an NDA. That’s a nondisclosure agreement. You can always talk to Brian, the attorney there, about that, but don’t ask me for an NDA. I fund too many deals – and I’m not even a big player – but I fund too many deals to be signing NDAs because what if somebody comes to me next week or in two weeks or in two months and has a similar idea and then it gets me in trouble?

So investors, a lot of the good investors, won’t sign NDAs. I’ll never sign one. What do you think about that, Brian? Do you have people sign NDAs? Do you write them? So Brian’s an attorney with business law and all that stuff. He’s a good guy to talk about, to talk to about your business. Let’s talk about Slide 8, competitive advantage. What’s your competitive advantage?

Do you have a secret sauce? Do you have any patents or IP? How will you out execute your competition? And how are you going to get users? That’s good questions to answer. Slide 9. The risk. Successful people understand their strengths and their weaknesses. Help us understand the risk involved with moving forward with this company, and everyone in the room is asking themselves this question.

What’s holding me back from investing or writing a check tonight to these guys, or gals? Will this idea really work, and does the team have the skills to pull it off? These are some questions that every investor is thinking at some time before they write their check. Slide 10 will be some financials. Show us some financials. We’ll know they’re wrong, but show us them anyway.

Financials. I’ve never seen a right set of financials yet. Things always change. Companies pivot. Ideas change, but at least get something down for us. Give us your best guess and use conservative numbers. It’s always better to under promise and over deliver. What will it take to double or triple your sales?

That’s the kind of questions that are nice to answer. How long to break even or cash flow positive? So how much are you burning a month? How long will you be burning it? And then when do you become cash flow positive? Slide 11 will be the status and future milestones. Let us know what’s happening up until this point. Don’t be afraid to tell us what’s gone right and what’s gone wrong.

If we know you’ve done some things wrong that means we know you’re learning, and I would much rather invest in someone that has done mistakes and learned from them. We know startups pivot. That just means you’re learning something. Talk about your progress and tell us about any wins. Tell us what your customers are saying.

That customer feedback’s crucial at early stage. So let us know what’s going on. Closing slide. Always leave a logo, website, e-mail, and contact information up there. There’s a lot of times I’ll sit in a Gravity meeting. People will be up there talking. They’ll be done. We’ll have a discussion afterwards.

Maybe we don’t like to invest in them or we decide not to do due diligence or invest, but you need this information up there so that I can write it down in case maybe I want to invest. I’ve sat there in the room and said, “Hey. I can take that idea and marry it with this idea and put these two people together and that’d be a great investment.” So always end with a slide with your contact information.

So some quick pitch bonus slide. So here’s a big problem in the world. Here’s an idea for a machine that I invented to solve that problem. Here are the materials I need to build and grow that machine. Here are the people that I need to put those materials together. Here’s how much it’s going to cost me to do it.

Here’s what happens when I put a dollar in the machine. I expect more than a dollar to come out. So that’s a good slide there. This is your quick pitch. If you want a copy of it I’ll give you a copy or we’ll leave it up or something. A few life lessons. We’re going to wrap this up real quick. I’m just going to share some stuff that I’ve learned over the years, a few good things – this is number one – is failing is learning as long as you don’t keep repeating the same mistakes.

So when I went to Purdue – I’ll tell a little story – so I went to this class and I had a biology class, and we were studying for the first exam. It was the first exam. I was in college. I was like, “Okay, I can handle this.” I did pretty good in high school. I can handle this. I get to my first exam, take my first biology exam, and I get a D. I’m like oh, shit. I’ve got to call my mom.

I’m like, “Mom, I don’t know if I’m going to cut it here at Purdue. I’ve got a D on the first exam.” My buddy, though, that I was rushing a fraternity with, he says, “Man, that was easy.” I’m like, “What?” He’s like, “Yeah. That was the same test they had three years ago.” I said, “What are you talking about?” He’s like, “Yeah. You get old tests.” I got to dental school.

There were days when I took tests, I had ten copies of the last ten years. It was a huge thing for me in school learning that you study old tests because then you figure out what the professor likes to ask and he always ask a similar question. You know what’s important. It was great, but failing is learning as long as you don’t keep repeating the same mistakes.

Startup world. Do something you’re really passionate about. If not, find something else to do because in a startup, in a new company, there’s lots of up and downs. You have to be passionate because it has to get you through those down cycles. It’s fun picking out logo colors, and designing a webpage, and doing all that stuff. And it sucks when the bills are piling up, and you’re figuring out where you’re going to get money next time, and how I’m going to go out and raise money.

So, just remember, startups are like a rollercoaster. Find something you’re passionate about. It makes it a lot easier to do. Research shows that the happiest people aren’t lying on the beach somewhere. Instead, they’re happiest when they’re caught up in something challenging using their gifts. I personally believe we all have God-given talents and gifts. That’s what you’re here to do and use.

Another one. You’re only as smart as the people you associate with. In high school I hung out with a rough crowd. A lot of crazy guys, and it didn’t do me a lot of good. I got to Purdue, and I was studying in this genetics class, and I wanted to go to dental school. So I had to get good grades to get into dental school, and I wanted to pass this class and do well. And I decided that this was this group of people – kind of like these four people over here – and they look smart.

And I was like, I’m going to go hang out with them. And I started studying with the smart kids, and I couldn’t believe the questions that they would come up with. And I’d get to the test and it was the same kind of questions. It was amazing. So, anyway. Be careful who you’re hanging out with, who you’re studying with. This is something that’s easy to do as you’re younger. You’re partying with people. It’s kind of crazy.

You’re having fun, but start associating yourself, network with people that you want to be like and hang out with them. I told you about my new job with Defender. I love that with the fact that I hang out with these CEOs, CFO, CMO, all these cool people. They’re paid lots of money. They have big salaries, and we get to discuss things in the same room.

I love it when I go to a Gravity meeting and I get to hang out with all these guys and ask questions that I’ve never thought of. I’ll be sitting in a room. We’ll be listening to these investors pitch when all of the sudden Mike or Kristian Andersen will ask a question. I’m like, damn, why didn’t I think of that? Anyway, hang out with smart people. This is a good thing.

Number three or four. Social skills are more important than your technical skills most of the time. It’s not what you know. It’s who you know. It makes a big difference in the world. That’s part of the exercise tonight. Get you to know some more people, but social skills are important. I want to go over a couple key social skills. Smile. Be honest.

Be transparent. Be helpful. Listen more. Talk less. Be you. And don’t be a dick. I hate people that are a dick. I mean you don’t have to be a dick. Just be nice. Be yourself. Be you. Just some key social skills. Simplicity is actually quite complicated. I love simple things. A lot of products I look at, a lot of people with ideas, they make it way too complicated.

Just develop the thing that’s easy, just a simple part of it. When we started looking at CRM systems in the nonprofit world, they utilize 10 to 15 percent of what that CRM system does. They pay $5,000 to $6,000 to $10,000 a year and they’re only using 5 or 10 percent of what it does, in most nonprofits. This is everyone we found, and I keep fighting. I’m like somebody develop a simple CRM system.

Simplicity is actually quite complicated. I love these simple logos. This is just the creative side of me. Do you guys see the black cat? Look at it for a second. Do you see the eyes? Isn’t that cool. And then this is just [Ed’s Electric] but I love that logo. Just simple. This is cool. So simple is complicated. Albert Einstein, “Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.” You want to be valuable to people.

You want to be valuable to your network, to your workplace. Just be of value, and then seven is take care of your customers. If not, someone else will. Customers are key. And then life begins at the end of your comfort zone. I’ll just challenge everybody. Go outside your comfort zone sometimes.

That’s where life starts. For me it was a really big deal to cut back on my dental practice and step into this role at Defender. It was huge, but it was awesome because I just knew I was stepping outside of my zone and I was going to do it. It’s working out real well, and then just don’t stop believing. So I know a lot of you are in startups.

A lot of you are going to raise money. Some of you may never raise money, but if you do hopefully this helped a little bit and I’ll be around if you have any questions. Thanks a lot. Bye, now. [Applause]