Tag

Start Up San Diego - Steven Cox | San Diego, CA

UCSD Students: Attend the Entrpreneur’s Panel October 23rd.

By Entrepreneur Insights, Speaking, Start Up San Diego No Comments

UCSD students – come hear a few stories and get some advice on building your own company. Hosted by Brant Cooper. Yours truly will also be participating.

The mission of the UC San Diego Entrepreneur Challenge is to foster community involvement and technological innovation by bringing multi-disciplinary teams of engineers, scientists, and business-minded students together with local area entrepreneurs and professionals in order that they might shape the world of tomorrow by securing the health of San Diego’s economy today.

 

My Interview on the Brian Britt Show: Part 2 of 2

By At Work, Speaking, Start-Ups, TakeLessons.com No Comments

I had the opportunity to go on the Brian Britt Show and talk about music and the TakeLessons story. Check it out below:

Listen to the podcast.

The transcription is below if you'd rather read.

Brianbrittshow

Brian Britt: Fantastic. So really what you're saying is you took your ability as a techie and obviously you were involved in a lot of start up companies. you took that ability and you married it together with a need for all these people who probably weren't very techie to be able to come together and find eachother, almost like a Match.com for teachers. And I met my wife on Match.com, and we have so many friends and even family members who have met their spouses on Match.com so, that's a perfect example of people who may have never found eachother who can come into the relationship knowing something about each other, in this case the student or the parent, who's going to be very protective of who they allow to come in their home, they can know a lot about this music instructor and know that you guys stake your reputation on making sure that this person had the proper background check done. I love it. So let's go back to the story, because this is such a fascinating story to me, So you had this epiphany, how did you go from, cuz we all have these kind of great ideas in the shower or the margarita bar, how did you go from that idea to putting it into motion. What were your action steps as the successful CEO you are today. What was your first thing you did to go from, wow, wouldn't that be cool to go to hey, I'm doing it! What did you do?

Steven Cox: I think if I take a look back, our first step, well the biggest thing was, we were driven by this idea. We thought it was a solid idea. We approached it from the viewpoint of hey, this looks like a very good experiment, let's try it out. And one thing that I tell startups when I have the opportunity to talk with them is that for the first couple years, really what you're looking for is proof of concept. Can you develop something that people will pay for, that people enjoy, creates a difference and has some kind of competitive advantage. So we worked on the idea and started fleshing it out. I had personally put my own money in on it to start with and recruited an incredible group of four or five people around me, and they're all still with me today. What was cool about this, and this is the way of life of a start up specifically in technology which we were based and how we were doing this; for instance, my VP of technology Chuck Smith, he went without pay for a year and a half and literally built the system. And so what's great about that is he came in and we found people who were really passionate about the idea of bringing services to the web as well as helping artists make a living doing what they love to do.

We started building it and I'd love to say Brian from day one everything went perfect, we had no issues…

BB: We would know then that you were not telling the truth! You have to make the mistakes!

SC: But the truth of the matter is that we started working out of a local Starbucks, three or four guys, we started understanding a little bit about the value that we provide to the marketplace went through three or four different iterations of what we do as far as the value that we provide and after about a year into it, we started understanding, after listening to the consumer, getting it wrong, listening to the consumer getting it wrong again, listening to the consumer, the value that we provide and honestly, one of our core values inside the company, is called perseverance. Basically, that means certainty in the face of fear and that's really the key to our success is that we just kept going.

 

My Interview on the Brian Britt Show: Part 1 of 2

By At Work, Start Up San Diego, Start-Ups, TakeLessons.com No Comments

I had the opportunity to go on the Brian Britt Show and talk about music and the TakeLessons story. Check it out below:

Listen to the podcast.

The transcription is below if you'd rather read.

Brianbrittshow

Brian Britt: I'm here today with Steven Cox, he is the founder and CEO of America's largest music lesson company, TakeLessons, the website is TakeLessons.com, which is an online service that matches music teachers with students in over 3,000 cities across America. I just think this is one of the neatest ideas I've ever heard! I noticed that your mission is to make a positive lasting impact on millions of people through music. How did you come up with the idea of TakeLessons?

Steven Cox: Sure, so we very specifically picked those particular words, if you look at our mission to make a positive, lasting impact. So, first of all, positive. When we first started off, it's something that I personally believe in as well, if you're going to make some kind of impact, let's make it as positive as you can on as many people as possible. I think that some folks are built to make a good impact on 5 people, on 50 people, but we personally believe we have the option to make that sort of impact on millions and millions of people all throughout the nation. I come from a very musically oriented family. My grandparents cut records, my parents cut records, all my brothers are still session players and they play, they're very very musically oriented.

BB: You had no choice did you!

SC: I'm actually the least musically oriented out of the entire group, to be honest with you. I kinda got the half music gene and the half business gene.

BB: Which means you can actually afford to buy instruments.

SC: Yeah, so what's really cool about it is I played in bands all my life and djed to pay my way through college in clubs and those sorts of thing and just been absolutely involved in music since I was probably four or five years old.

BB: Did I see a pic of you playing guitar on the website?

SC: Probably, yeah, guitar and bass and a little bit of keyboard and all of those things. In between I had done internet startups. That's my true, real business and I had been doing that for about 15 years. After the second one I had done I had taken a little bit of time off and was able to do something I was passionate about as well as internet companies, and while I was doing that, all along this time I had been in bands. I remember this very specific band I was in, we were a two piece band at the time. It was me and my buddy Enrique and we were here in San Diego and he was really, really awesome at music, he had a masters degree in music performance, incredible musician as well as an awesome, awesome person, and here I was, I was kind of okay, pretty good, but not quite as good as him. And after a gig in Encinitas we went to drink margaritas which is what we did after gigs and he said hey, I have to quit the band. And I'm thinking, you're the only one who's any good!

If you quit the band, this is really bad for me! So I got to talking with him and he had just got married. He and his wife were trying to buy a house in Encinitas, which on a musician's salary.. well, on anyone's salary quite honestly is tough to do. He goes, "I just found out I have a little baby on the way and I can't make a living as a musician, so I'm going to go take a job at Chili's as a busboy to pay my bills." And here I am thinking, here's this incredible person who has a passion, 6 years of experience in school trying to make a living doing this and that's horrible!

BB: Kind of an epiphany for you. You saw the lightbulb, like this is not right.

SC: That's exactly the case. I was doing it more for fun, he was doing it for a carreer. I said are you trying teaching? He said, I've got my poster it's hanging up at the local drug store and nobody's calling me. I said, why don't you use the internet for that? He said I don't know how. I said, well, I've done a couple start ups, that's kind of my gig, so why don't I help you. And the more we got into it and this was 2006 at the time, it happens to be a three billion dollar industry completely ignored by technology per say.

BB: So music lessons is a 3 billion dollar industry? I would have never guessed that in a million years and I'm a money guy. I would have been way off on that.

SC: It's giant, there are so many of these, they call them niche markets, that happen to be multi-billion dollar industries. We took a look at this and in essence there was a theorum that we had that I had along the way that we had seen product move to the web in a big way. We had seen Amazon, Zappos was selling shoes; people said no one's gonna buy shoes on line but here it is. And so we had a general thesis that at some point in the future services were going to move to the web in a big way, similar to the way product had moved to the web and we thought, wow what a great idea to test. First of all, it helps Enrique stay out of Chili's and make a living doing what he loves to do

BB: He could actually afford to go eat at Chili's instead of having to be a busboy!

SC: You got it. And the second thing was, that it's very very difficult to try to find a great instructor. And when I was doing some research I had a good friend who had a nine year old daughter and she was a single mom and I said, hey, how would you go about finding an instructor? And she said, well, I guess I would just ask my mom groups, that's about all I could do.

BB: Or maybe from the schools or what have you?

SC: You got it. And i said you could do that online, you could go to maybe, perhaps Craigslist. And she looked at me like my head had popped off. She's like, are you crazy? There's no way I'm going to go to Craigslist and find some long haired dude with tattoos to invite him in to my house to spend time with my kids.

BB: Wow, isn't that true. So there's a safety issue here in people's minds.

SC: Exactly. She goes you know, it's very very creepy.

BB: Because any serial murderer could advertise on Craigslist and say hey, I'm a music teacher!

SC: It's not just with music teachers, it's with all services in general, it's a very… not to knock Craigslist, they don't control necessarily the content, but there's a lot of shady things that happen.

BB: It's just like a community bulletin board online, no background checking, no nothing.

SC: Exactly. So that's really the problem that we look to solve. Number one is how you make it drop dead easy to find a safe certified instructor that is background checked that has references, and that's what we do with all our instructors. The second thing is, how do you help artists make a living doing what they love to do and keep them out of Chili's. The whole premise of the idea was that we want to empower people to make a living doing what they love to do and music has personally affected my life, it's affected your life, it's probably affected the lives of nine out of ten of your listeners in a positive way. That's something that we wanted to do, kind of as a life mission, is to make that positive lasting impact on people.

The Digital Frontier – A Showcase of San Diego’s Entrepreneurial Innovation (Clip 8 of 8)

By At Work, Start Up San Diego, Start-Ups No Comments

On Wednesday, 4/18, a few local tech entrepreneurs spoke at the 6Degrees Breakfast Speakers series on digital startups and innovation here in San Diego. Pleased to be with great entrepreneurs including the guys from Classy.org and Mia Tidwell, San Diego Dating Coach and Matchmaker.

Moderator: One final question, not that it’s in the near future, I would assume, because, just the passion that you all have put forward here, and I don’t want necessarily hardcore specifics on this. What’s your exit plan? Where does this go, and when do we move on to something else or deal with a change of life or whatever, alright we’ll start with you.

Scot Chisholm: I mean we definitely have though about that certainly in the context of investor discussions.

But more honestly we don’t put a whole lot of time thinking about what is our exit strategy. We focus much more on how we build a scalable and value adding company to our customers and trust that there will be an exit eventually, whether that’s being purchased by someone that may find use of our technology, or customer base source, or its IPO, or whatever it is.

We trust ourselves with that opportunity and the option’s on the table eventually. Right now what’s much more important for us is just keep our heads down and focus on our customer base and making sure that they’re getting value on their product.

Mitch Thrower: Having gone through different liquidity scenarios, Active went public of course this year.

And going through building a new company, I will definitely say that a private liquidity event would seem a little bit more appealing. But the structure that you should think about as an entrepreneur or a business owner is to think build the best business for creating the most revenue with the greatest margin that you can and liquidity events will come.

We actually had an offer for…And, it’s not, a liquidity event isn’t always selling 100% of your venture. A liquidity event could be defined as like change of control of more than 50%. Because technically you’re no longer driving. And so, you know, be aware of those dynamics too because that is also a sort of liquidity event.

Steven Cox: I think there are two or three reasons why you would consider selling early. Number one is there’s an 800 pound gorilla about to eat your lunch. That’s a good time to sell. Number two, you’re burned out and you don’t want to do it any longer, or number three, you can’t get the value proposition right for the customer and at that point you need to decide kill it or or do something else or keep going on.

But so those are kind of the avenues that we.. [break] because we are having a tank load of fun building a business. And we have two big goals. One is we want to a billion dollar business and number 2, we want to be one of America’s top 100 companies to work for. That’s our big big goals and with that you know we’re more interested in an acquiring instead of being acquired.

Jimmy Hendricks: Yeah, I guess we’re all in different stages of picking up an exit. Like I said Steven there’s two ways to exit, exit for money or exit for a job. So that, you know, so, we focus on building business that’s sustainable. It’s all you think about, is thinking about value-representation.

If you can build a model that works, some of them find value in that. Or we can atleast sustains ourselves and hire employees we love and make a good living or if we don’t figure that out we’re forced to get a job. You know one’s positive, one’s negative but if we focus one what we should be focused on, which is building a business, it will work out.

Lars Helgeson: Yeah, I have to say that we really aren’t interested in that exit. I look back at that table back there at the people that work in our company and I see some of the most incredible people I’ve met in my life. And I feel very fortunate to have met them and have them be part of our team. And to me, the idea of leaving the vision that we’ve collectively created… It would be, I don’t know, kind a sad, you know because you put so much of your life and energy in and exiting is usually if you’re failing and you feel like well it’s not going to work and you have to get a job that’s kind of out of necessity but if you exit for money I guess everyone’s different.

Yeah, I mean, some people are very motivated by that, you know, maybe the idea of making a lot of money and starting something new is an attractive thing. To me, I guess our vision has been to create really valuable software that can help any size business be successful. And if we can do that for the rest of my lifetime, I’m fulfilled.I guess it just depends on, depends on what your personal goals are.

For us, I feel like you know, we are creating value. I’ve surrounded…you know, our team is made up of some really amazing people and I would not want to lose that.

Moderator: Well said. What a fantastic panel, aren’t these guys incredible?

The Digital Frontier – A Showcase of San Diego’s Entrepreneurial Innovation (Clip 7 of 8)

By At Work, Life Lessons, Start Up San Diego, Start-Ups No Comments

On Wednesday, 4/18, a few local tech entrepreneurs spoke at the 6Degrees Breakfast Speakers series on digital startups and innovation here in San Diego. In this segment, the panelists talk about finding work-life balance while starting a business.

 

Question from the crowd: (barely audible) What's the [xx] business model? They're all similar because they're online. What are your additional challenges? What are you doing to raise capital in terms of raising capital for growth…?

Jimmy Hendricks: I guess being, I mean it's interesting if you look at a lot of business models, we're connecting two people. Every business model if you guys look at it, we're all different, and a lot of us are actually very similar in trying to connect two people together as most business models. It's connecting non-profits with donors, connecting customers with businesses, music lessons with students.

But always the biggest challenge is figuring out if your business model is scalable and provides value. I think that's the outcome of it, it's not about what industry it's in, it's like TakeLessons. I know it's gone through some iterations and they've really figured it out based on pricing and a bunch of other factors, but a lot of times it's that concept tweaking every single month the biggest challenge is finding sustainability because if you don't find sustainability, raising money gets you from point A to point B. But if you want point A to like N, you need to find sustainability, which is how do I provide enough value so someone pays for it.

I think Lars got that right, that when you're building your own business that it's grown organically. And we have not got to that point. Some of us have raised more capital. A lot of us haven't gotten to the point where we can one day say, we don't need another dollar, and we will grow as long as we want to do this.

So, that's always a challenge.

Scot Chisholm: Yeah, I would just add to that, finding who your target customers is a big challenge of ours and they're constantly trying to find exactly who that is. There is 1.5 million non-profits in the United States. Originally, we thought that all of them were target customers but it's not necessarily the truth.

It took years really for us to understand that certain type of segment of the non-profit industry really would get most value out of our product in the short term, and provide that ROI that we'd be able to charge for and have a sustainable scale of business. So, that took a long time and we're still tweaking it every single month we're changing our pricing say we're figuring out how can we optimize this for scale.

So, I definitely agree with something that was a continuous challenge for us.

Moderator: Let me ask a question. You guys are. It's very clear and very obvious, you all work very hard and get your companies where they are today, and for a lot of people that company becomes their life. If you don't mind, what is your outlet? What do you do when you're not at work? What is the thing that allows you to escape and lead a somewhat normal life?

Lars Helgeson: You know, it's funny because I was just talking to, I just met a gentleman, Jim, here before this.

Moderator: Well that's trouble you met Jim.

Lars Helgeson: Yeah, right there you're having problems… and he said something really funny, you know when you're an entrepreneur you get to work half days: you get to chose the twelve hours you want to work! And it's kind of true. I don't know, for me personally, I have to get myself away from the office otherwise it will suck you in and possess you for your entire life and you'll never leave your office.

True. Yeah, I think having a work-life balance is really important. It doesn't matter what you're doing, where you are in your business orientation, it's important. Especially, as an entrepreneur when you're having to deal with things that happen 24/7. You have to figure out ways to disconnect, so you'll get the spot too.

You bet. It's a lot of different things. I think it's just time to take care of yourself. I think that's what make it sustainable, because if you don't, you'll burn out.

Moderator: Good point.

Jimmy Hendricks: Yeah, I think a lot of us can probably testify, the first two years you just try to work around the clock, you figure it's going to push the needle, and then… Probably this year is the first year that I started thinking, gosh, working all the time, and what am I doing past 5 pm that's actually driving revenue or driving customers, and started putting things in place case where I'm like I work 8 to 6.

There's nights when you  work, when there's a time when you have to do a proposal or contract, to do something that really needs to be done, but it's amazing when you actually start committing to even some personal time. Let's say working out or going to the gym, run, or just going to dinner with friends.

It's amazing. Your brain will actually switch and you start to get smarter because you're not like blinders. When you get out of your office, you're exposed to new things. Maybe talking to your advisors and stuff like that. You have to put in your time, I think it's important to work a lot in the early stage when you're modeling it, but it's with the right people.

And then once you start kind of figuring things out, it's also important not to work so your brain can rest, because your brain will get tired. I think four years in is when you start getting lazy. Your brain will say, "No. I can't do it anymore." You want to get it so you've got to start feeding your body and being healthy, eating right and all this kind of things that are obvious, but that makes the business better.

Steven Cox: I have a simple motto, and that is 'incredible experiences with incredible people' and so it's kind of built within my every day daily weekly monthly calender that I have my work time and i give it full force on that and when it's play time I might give it full force on that as well. You know, in our office we have a jam room where you can come in and play music all day.

Not that that's what people do in their office. But, you know after six o'clock they do quite a bit. There's a lot of outlets like that, working out those sorts of things and you need to do that. Like I said, it helps to keep refreshed one of the best, you know we closed a big deal with Best Buy where we are physically teaching inside Best Buy stores now, that happened when I was at the gym on a a treadmill and listening to CNBC and this dude started talking about it, from Best Buy, about how they were going to do that.

So just because I'm in the gym, out working out, you can actually work on your business as well. It's a really cool thing to do and I also add that I absolutely love working. I totally admit it, I totally dig the idea of building a world class organization. I know I get excited by doing that, so my work/life balance is probably a little bit different because I just totally love coming to work everyday, I do.

Moderator: There's nothing wrong with that!

Mitch Thrower: I think we've made all the errors when it comes to work life balance probably collectively among the crew, as well as forced work life balance. I actually have an apartment in the same building as the office which sounds great for those of you who commute and it sound horrible for those of you who have done it because of the leaving part, but at the same time you have to f
orce yourself to leave. And also enable an organization and enable a culture, like our creative director, Dawn, who is actually in the audience today is also a yoga instructor, so she'll take the team up on the roof in the mornings we do yoga, which we get to do a lot more often but it's great to have you know a group of folks that help each other.

Make sure that they go out and do something that balances them. Because everyone, you know, we have been in a culture where the rewards are for the people who never sleep, theoretically. They are the push, push, push go and people don't realize that they are probably only optimally working for a certain period of that time.

and if they are applying that to other things and not to your career and your job and what you're working on then it's different. You want to make sure that when people are focused, they're focused on building the business.

Scot Chisholm: Yeah I think I'm gonna have to take some advice from these guys. Still working on the whole work life balance thing myself. I think because we're so plugged in with technology, it's really hard to stay off email and do these other things. I try to make a rule for myself to not work on at least Saturdays make it one day out of the week and then hold it to Sunday night, so at least have some sort of constraint there helps.

It definitely is a lot of work and you put in long nights. We have such a fantastic team and we're so passionate with what we're doing that, and I agree with Steven, I love to be in the office. I think, I just had a son recently, about six months ago, and that was probably the one defining moment that made me you realize, ok, I've really got to put some things in place here so I can actually leave the office but its fine if your passionate about something. You love it, and whether it's golfing or surfing or doing something else, for me, I just love being there.

 

The Digital Frontier – A Showcase of San Diego’s Entrepreneurial Innovation (Clip 6 of 8)

By At Work, Start Up San Diego, Start-Ups No Comments

On Wednesday, 4/18, a few local tech entrepreneurs spoke at the 6Degrees Breakfast Speakers series on digital startups and innovation here in San Diego. In this segment, the panelists talk about making connections and improving the small business community in San Diego.

 

Moderator: These guys are fantastic. Let me throw it open for you all. If you have any questions you want to bounce off these guys, they're very candid, very open. So feel free to do it. Just raise your hand, or shout out. Nobody? Okay.

From the crowd: (barely audible)Do you think the small business community in San Diego…

Moderator: Question is, what can the small business community in San Diego do to help other small businesses? Any response?

Lars Helgeson: I think events like this. Encouraging people that are starting up, to learn from other people's stories to know that their ideas can turn into something of value; that their idea can go from just an idea to fruition. I think that so much of when you first start off is inspiration, you know, feeling like, okay, there's someone else that was able to do this.

We all took different paths, but we all made it to where we are through a lot of hard work work and made some good connections and everything but none of us are so extraordinary that anyone else in this room couldn't do the exact same thing. And I think that that's an important message that can be conveyed people that are starting businesses.

And whether that's done in an environment like this where you can meet other people that are in business or you know, other types of networking type of organizations. I think 6 Degrees is a great forum to do that kind of sharing of ideas. I think that's really the most important sense of that connection, that bond, that community, that, you know, we've been talking about, and just knowing that you can do it.

And it's gonna be a lot of hard work but we can do it.

Jimmy Hendricks: I was going to say just work the green room. I don't know, I think it depends on the business. I think there's different ones that are national, like Steven works with a lot of independent musicians, or Stay Classy works with a lot more non-profits that could really be tight and local.

I think it will be helpful. A lot of us all know each other, but it's funny, when we get out into the other networking world we really don't, sometimes we don't know who all the small business leaders are, who's running the Chamber, who's running like the Gaslamp organization for restaurants, and we'd love to connect with those guys.

For example, like we think Groupon, even though we're in the daily deal space, we think Groupon takes a lot more money from small business than we think. So, we're actually launching the thing called Take Back Local, it's an anti-Groupon campaign. So, you may see some of this in June; it may get us in a lot of trouble. But we want to help those businesses control their own marketing and make more money, because we think selling gift certificates is a good business, but they need to make it profitable.

They can't just be taken advantage of by these big national companies. And so we're trying to get empowered. I think mobile's really a good model for businesses. The businesses care about actually building something of value like Lars says, I think we can add a lot of value through small businesses helping bring new customers.

And really all of us can do that in some way. So we'd love to connect with those peers if you have some ideas for us.

Steven Cox: Small business community in San Diego. So I know that the bay area seems to be a little more aggressive when it comes to that, with specifically law firms, insurance, as well as capital, including non-profits and of course more that they engender this ecosystem the more it helps their own business.

So I think that's something that can be done. So any of you folks who are out there, we'd love to attend your events when you put them on. But what it does is it helps build not only just the entire belief system around what we're doing, but there are people in this room that I specifically can talk to, where they're like, 'Wow, I don't know if I'm doing it the right way, or sometimes I feel like I'm alone, out here by myself," and events like this help people feel like you are not the only one going through this.

In fact there's a bunch of other people, and that helps build the camaraderie among them. Definitely groups and some of those professional services, I think I'd love to see even more of that. We're doing a pretty good job and pumping up even more.

Scot Chisholm: Yeah, I would just add maybe get involved with the local incubators.

So one thing for us was going through Connect. We got a lot of great advice but the advisers that we were placed with weren't the most relevant for what we were doing, and it would have been great if maybe we could've tapped into a more relevant network right away instead of the process of learning about the non-profit community, etc., in town and other areas.

So maybe just getting involved with Connect or several of the other incubators that have started, becoming a mentor, intrepreneur in residence or something like that.

Yeah, and there's a lot of good ones out there. I mentioned Connex, Sebo, Nexus, those are great programs we should explore. Next?

The Digital Frontier – A Showcase of San Diego’s Entrepreneurial Innovation (Clip 5 of 8)

By At Work, Life Lessons, Start Up San Diego, Start-Ups No Comments

On Wednesday, 4/18, a few local tech entrepreneurs spoke at the 6Degrees Breakfast Speakers series on digital startups and innovation here in San Diego. In this segment, the panelists discuss their varied experiences with their mentors.

 

Moderator: When you were getting started, were there any mentors or resources that helped you achieve success?

Lars Helgeson: I'm probably an anomaly on this one because for whatever reason, I never actually had a mentor. I did a lot with what they were talking about with iteration, you know, where you try things and some of those, a lot of those, a-ha moments don't work. I guess it's a lot of hard work, at least from my perspective.

I never really had that person that I look up to and say, you know, this is someone that has so many years of experience and everything. I think that in some ways it's good, in some ways it's bad, you know? If you have a mentor, they can kind of guide you and tell you not to make the really stupid mistakes, but sometimes, without a mentor, you kind of figure those things out on your own and sometimes those mistakes end up being good things.

So, you're good and bad.

Moderator: Good point.

Jimmy Hendricks: For me, I've had several, I guess. I've been in and out of business. When I first got a job at active.com I took the job because my boss had been a manager at CitySearch. And so I knew, I'm like, if I'm gonna get on the internet, I gotta have someone to teach me about the Internet. I knew nothing about software.

I knew nothing about that. But then when we moved out here still kind of blind entrepreneurs, and actually a friend of ours Drew introduced me to Steven, he is the first person who challenged me on business modeling where instead of like, we can build it, blind success, you start with what about this and what about this, damn, damn.

What about this? What about your market? Have you thought about the challenges? Eventually, these things started to get my brain thinking out. There are some other advisers and then now we appear where we all like bounce ideas off. Mitch and I try to meet every month or two and Scot as well. Like, we get together and talk about how your business is performing.

How are you modeling it? Everything from pricing to recruiting and get all of that by and Steven's the first person that got me to actually start thinking.

Steven Cox: I'm very very big on learning. And in fact one of our company's values, core values is constant, never ending improvement. That basically means however you are today, it's just kind of a baseline for where you could be tomorrow.

So, I am constantly, probably these guys as well very curious, and always asking a lot of people a lot of information, as much as I can get my hands on. And there's been a couple key people that, specifically, even now, there's one of our investors that I look to a lot. As we continue to grow, business, and no matter what scale you're at, whether your one person moving to five, five moving to fifty, or thirty moving to a hundred like we just went through right, would consistently ask and say listen, so here's what I know, but what I'm more interested in is what questions should I be asking that I'm not even aware yet that I need to understand in order to get to the next level.

So there are people who have done that who will mentor you and will help you. And, you know, it's not about the money. They get joy out of seeing other people succeed. So I'm a big believer in finding those people and learning all you can from them.

Mitch Thrower: So, I'll take you back to when you were a kid. How many folks ever played the game Chutes and Ladders?

If you land on the number 28, you would be sort of catapulted by a ladder almost to the end of the game. Mentors really, you want to find there's two categories. There's mentors and then there's mentor catapults. People who you can get advice from and then people will open doors for you so, you know, Ken Potashner, who's was here in town is a mentor.

He took three companies to a billion and he's on a board of directors and I'll call him and we'll literally huddle around issues. And then mentor catapults are people who you can really, you know… Brian Messec, who was actually with the venture group up in L.A. picked up the phone when we were working with them on a project and make a phone call and the next thing we know we have a client with 17 million customers.

So that's a catapult and I think San Diego's a very rich, a very deep well of mentors. There's a lot of folks here that are very successful, hence they can afford be here and choose where they live, so find and seek the folks that are passionate about what you're passionate about and what your business is passionate about and then spend some time with them 'cause it's hard.

It's hard to pick up the phone because you're managing the team, you're managing financing, clients. It's hard to carve the time out and pick up the phone and call those mentors and share everything, the good, the bad and the ugly within it.

Scot Chisholm: I would definitely agree with most of what was already said. We've a couple advisers. The first group started by us going through the connect program, the springboard program. But each has helped along the way But I, now that everyone has talked about it, I'll take it from a different angle. You also have to know that not every adviser knows your business or you know your business. And you have to take things with a grain of salt.

Also you take people's advice but also come back to your team and yourself and really think it through before you make that decision. Just don't take someone's word and go implement it. That's something that we learned throughout and I think that's been something that's really helped shape our vision and our product moving forward is to take people's advice and then make it your own and really think it through and learn from the customer versus just someone's opinion.