Devin MillerThe Inventive Journey Podcast for Entrepreneurs
The Inventive Journey
Starting and growing a business is a journey. On The Inventive Journey, your host, Devin Miller walks with startups along their different journeys startups take to success (or failure). You also get to hear from featured guests, such as venture firms and angel investors, that provide insight on the paths to a successful inventive journey.
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did you know that 50 of companies that race series aid never raise capital again so if i just focus on that short period of a company which you know could be a couple of years there's an enormous amount of complexity there's a lot of things that go wrong there's a lot of things that have to go right and so if you're not passionate about the problem that you're trying to solve and the solution you bring into market to solve that problem then you'll never make it to series [Music] hey everyone this is devin miller here with another episode of the inventive journey i'm your host evan miller the serial entrepreneur that's grown several startups into seven and eight figure businesses as well as the founder and ceo of miller ip law where he helps start us in small businesses with their patents and trademarks if you ever need help with yours just go to strategymeeting.com and grab some time with us to chat we're always here to help now today we have another great guest on the podcast uh greg collins and there's a quick introduction to greg so first career was a soccer player signed his first contract at 15 years old which to me at least sounds young but i don't know i don't know maybe that's old for soccer players but sounds like a young time uh gave him a lot of business insight into how professional careers work while i was doing soccer also in gun education i think it was in computer science and a business degree and certificate in finance um and then started working in a for an i.t business in mid-20s um that business got acquired by ibm worked for ibm for a period time then went to work for hp um with hp moved over to the for for a while i'm decided wanted to go do his own thing uh for about six or seven years at that started an online events business sold out his stake and then started a technology company cyber security exited that company as well due to a divorce and then started a consulting business that uh wanted to come into the us um advertising uh to a number of entrepreneurs and sitting on a few boards and uh also helps other businesses raise money so with that much as an introduction welcome on the podcast greg wow thanks devin that is a huge introduction and very honored and privileged to to be here today and and talking with your audience absolutely so and i just took a much longer journey and condensed into 30 seconds so let's unpack that a bit with your journey starting when you uh signed your first uh soccer contract so how did that go uh well i played soccer for many years uh prior to being at the age of 15 and signing my first contract i started when i was about seven or eight mom wouldn't let me play rugby or rugby league rugby union because she was worried my teeth would get knocked out so soccer was considered a safer sport so yeah i started playing soccer just loved it and like this is a complete aside and curiosity isn't soccer the one that has the most concussions of any sport i think that would be nfl wouldn't it am i allowed to know i think if you look at the stats is because people hit the soccer ball with their head do they actually get more concussions you know it's interesting you mentioned that because it's something i've started looking into a little bit a little bit later because i got this no no no just kidding um no in all things i just was curious because you went to it's supposed to be a safe sport that's what i've always heard you get the most concussion so didn't mean to interrupt your journey so go ahead you know you never know where these things are going to go so i'm going to quickly take things off course because neuroscience and the brain are an important element and um of course soccer players are heading a ball and there i think there needs to be a lot more science thrown at this topic because the nfl have have looked into it and various health and medical professions and industry bodies have looked into it and there are a serious disease from concussions and so i think it's something that soccer needs to look into a little bit more because it is a really problematic and and serious um health issue that i think does warrant uh more investigation and research no i i'm in agreement with you and i think there's certainly a lot more work that can be done now we will now that i've completely shifted it aside well let's get back to your journey which is so you decided that soccer whether or not it was actually more safe at least if you're your boss in mind was a more safe sport so you got into soccer started playing there and uh worked your way up to getting contract at 15. that's right so i played and um lived in five different countries and that being australia singapore sweden uk and and now america and traveled to over 61 countries and and soccer's been a big part of my life taught me a lot of uh important philosophies not only for you know being a professional footballer but also in the land of business as well which is a big part of our life we spend so many time so much time in the workplace in the office working trying to make money and so i was really blessed and and lucky that a lot of the key philosophies around leadership communication teaming um solving problems the psychological elements of you know professional football they came with me into the world of business whether it's working for hp ibm hpe those global fortune 50 companies or you know some of the things i did a little bit later on in my late 20s and 30s which was co-founding and exiting to technology businesses and and now getting involved and helping out with a bunch of others i'll jump in though just because we just went over all of your journeys so now we've condensed it too far so let's back up just a little bit so you got the soccer played that and you signed your first contract at 15. now how did you transition from doing that to going or getting education and uh going in and getting your degrees so you know as a soccer player you've got um a lot of time on your hands when you're not training not playing not meeting various media or club commitments and so there's a couple of ways you can go one is start being an expert in golf another is you can go off and get education or the third is you can end up in a lot of trouble and i didn't want to do the last one hanging out of bars or hanging around the wrong people um so i decided to go down the education path so while i was studying i was blessed sorry when i was playing professional football i was blessed to be able to study so i went off and got various degrees and studies that you talked about earlier um and i think the one of the big transition points or pivoting points for me was after playing in australia then to singapore back to australia to the uk back to australia i realized that soccer wasn't going to be with me forever there is a finite time period on which you can be a professional soccer player so i had to start to transition and um technology was something that i was really passionate about i love computer games i'd done some odd projects here and there for various companies in the technology space just love computers um spent a lot of time on computing and so as a natural course of transition for me that i went from you know being a soccer player started to gravitate towards my renewed or new new interest in what was the technology space and i love technology but i love people more i really love just working with people so you know i just gravitated more towards that sales aspect and started out um cold calling for a ibm business partner in australia um in in the sales game now one question i just was curious to back up just a little bit in journey then we'll jump back to where you're at when you were transitioning from soccer to getting the degrees was that you're doing that while you were playing soccer and the degrees were more of a backup you said hey i'm going to be professional you're saying hey while it'd be great to be a professional i need to have something that i you know i can do as an alternative or as a backup or kind of what made you say you know if you have i don't know the world of soccer very well i i watch it that's about it um you know but what made you decide to go for the degrees and then uh or shift away from soccer to go into more of the i.t related businesses devon you're gonna ask the hard questions aren't you so this one um you know plagued me for a while because when i was a teenager whereas early teens mid teens late teens i was always going to be a professional soccer player you know make it in england or in the spanish league or in the bundesliga in germany and earn millions of dollars well that didn't quite work out um and it was i think in my 20s you know i'd been in a situation where um i'd made the australian squad the australian squad and um you know i was very excited to play for australia well i never actually got to put on the australian jersey i never stepped foot on the pitch um with the australian jersey and you know just like business and you know whatever whatever your interests are if you go to a professional level whether it's in the entertainment industry business arts science professional sports you know there are and there's there's money involved there's always an element of politics as well and so um and and opinions and unfortunately i never got to step foot on the soccer pitch to play for australia so that was kind of a pivoting point for me and it took me a little while to overcome that um but that was when i was realized that you know what the there's no guarantees that i'm ever gonna play for australia there's no guarantees that i'm ever gonna uh you know play in the top flight for an english english premier league team earning millions of dollars and so it was a pretty tough period i think about six or 12 months where i kind of had to digest that um and kind of went in that journey into the the technology and sales so i kept playing football i was as what i'd call a semi professional where you're earning you know 700 800 a week playing football and um but then started playing uh sorry then moved into technology sales which is you know a game in itself and i did start full time there um with hp hewlett packard they gave me an opportunity there um so around that 27 28 year old years of age mark hp wanted me to start traveling whether it's to asia in the us and you can't you can't play semi-professional football train three four times a week play a game on the weekend and also travel in in the world of technology sales or for hp and so i had some trips come up i'd miss a couple of trainings and at that level you're not going to be able to just start um on the weekend in the starting 11 for a football club you know they they're you're going to be on the bench and i was i was in this kind of tricky space and at 28 decided you know what i think i need to to pursue my my interest now in technology and the sales game and focus on hp it's a great company um i can travel the world you know i've got this huge opportunity ahead of me and so that was um yeah a bit of a painful but exciting uh journey as i close one chapter as a soccer player and open a new one in technology sales no it sounds like it was a good part of the journey and it definitely uh makes sense uh why you make that transition so so now you make the transition say okay well i love soccer and i'm you know is still a passion yours you know on the business side and supporting yourself and looking towards the future decided to go down the hp route and he did that for i think a period of several years came to the us for a period of time now how did you kind of make the transition from hp over to um the i think the events uh events business right yeah so i founded co-founded two technology business one was the online events business that was my first one and the second one was a cyber security business tailored around the oracle solution so i think working for you know hp hpe i'd been through 11 acquisition and divestitures so a lot of m a a lot of machinery of business it was all fantastic i i got to work in asia and then they moved me over to the americas in various regional and global leadership positions um and you know i just have this enthusiasm for adventure as i mentioned i've lived in five different countries traveled to over 61 and so i just started getting into the startup game um you know working with various organizations in different capacities and so it got to a point where i'd always wanted to do my own thing and eventually i struck up the courage to go out there on my own obviously with a co-founder or two co-founders actually um we had this online events business and um one of the founders um you know their family uh had a fair amount of capital that helped fund the business i brought to the partnership the technology background the sales the go to market helping with product market fit and things like that so it was you know a really natural fit for us and yeah as you mentioned earlier sometimes in things sometimes in life things don't always turn out as planned and so it wasn't long for me a year or so after that that i ended up in a tricky personal situation where i was getting divorced and sometimes those things aren't so great for business especially early stage businesses now one question because that was i think the divorce is one the cyber security so what made you or is that correct when you were doing or going through that divorce i mean decided to exit but when you got into or what made you was the you had the online events business and then you had the cyber security so i think he originally sold out of the site or the event online events business and got into help me understand that transition yeah so so you are correct um and at the time um you know and obviously discussing personal things it can be a little tricky sure um but this is something in the past and um you know i think maybe this can help other people as you go through a separation a personal separation if you're obviously engaged married to someone um but at the time yeah i was married and and my ex-wife um you know lovely lady um but we had some tricky circumstances and often you know in our personal lives we have our business we have other family we have investments and various interests and sometimes those things don't always work out so in that first business things didn't quite work out and um so we had to have an exit there which you riley pointed out i was still you know married at the time um and then in the second situation when i started this this other business the cyber security business um yeah that was going really well um and unfortunately um even though the business was going very well um it did get caught up in a very messy divorce situation um and uh yeah the choice was to exit uh that that uh activity and that business and um yeah so unfortunately sometimes divorce does prove terminal um for some investments and and businesses now and i and i think that you know you hit on it's a it's a hard balance i think when you get i think everybody deals with it but you know you get into a startup as a small business and they can occupy a lot of your time a lot of your efforts they can you know and it and you have to you know figure out what that balance is and some people are you know works out well with the relationship so you can find that good balance and other times it can cause that you know the the party of ways and that but i think that that is one where you have to anticipate it or look for it and you know even if it's not your fault it can still have replica or you know ripples into your personal life and business life aren't always easy to separate so it definitely makes sense and uh we can you know other people have been there as well so now you're coming out of you know did the online events you've just done that devon i just want to emphasize two points because you make two really good points there one is the time and the second is the the finances and um you know while financially we're doing great when you've got this movement of money going around you know with with business you know it can prove tricky because it is a roller coaster some months are great other months not so great and it can put you know some pressure on the financials and the second is the time which you make a really good point you know i was working really really long days um you know juggling various businesses and yeah it can put a strain on things yep and i think that's you know everybody deals with that and finds out and you always think you know the ideal is you watch the movie or you read the book the tv show it's like oh when they start their own business they're going out to lunches all the time and they're taking vacations and they don't hardly work at all and then you get into and you're like this isn't how business really works unfortunately yeah it's 11 p.m 1 a.m 2 a.m exactly and never stops never tires and everybody always you always are trying to have somebody that needs something that you're dealing with so so now you've done that you said okay you know unfortunately that ends with divorce you're exit the business and you're looking to come out and do something you know coming off of that and doing something else so then yeah i think you started into doing it more of consulting for businesses and you wanted to come back to the us is that about right i'm not so i've been in the u.s the whole time i've been here eight years um various trips obviously back in fourth from australia um to the u.s um but usually once twice maybe three times a year uh but always i think is wanting to come into the us is that right that's the consulting business you got it so i started doing i was approached by the australian government the australian trade investment commission and um they asked if i wanted to be a mentor and advisor to companies that wanted to land and expand here in the americas companies out of australia so you know these australian companies these ceos have conquered australia or new zealand or various asia pacific region and um they want to land and expand here in the us and despite australia and america both speaking english they are very different countries and as you would know us being one of the largest geographies economies in the world the east is very different to the west the north to the south and so um it's a lot for for australian ceos and businesses to wrap their head around about just how different the americas are or america is and so i started helping out there you know coaching advising various ceos on how to land and expand here in the u.s and then i had the colorado government approach me around there around their advanced industries program which is a program that allocates funding usually about eight or nine million dollars a year um to about 20 or 30 companies colorado companies that is uh they're in the advanced industry sectors which might be technology bio life sciences aerospace advanced engineering manufacturing and i've probably missed one or two there but very exciting program working once again with with smaller um earlier stage businesses um which is something i love to do i love to create and build things and so that's how i've you know continue to to work in this startup early stage business sector no and i think that you know that this sounds like a great opportunity you know it is interesting you always think well if it's a different country different language you can say okay then there's obviously differences there but even within even if it's both english speaking there's cultural differences the way you know governments are set up the way regulations work the way that you know people engage and do different things and so i think that you know it oftentimes presents a a barrier but also as you found an opportunity to be able to help people to navigate that and otherwise make entrances and work their way into that i think it sounds like it turned out to be a a great opportunity for you so now you've been doing that and i think you're still doing that i mean then you've also kind of got involved with a few of the businesses or the startups you're working with sat on some boards and done a bit of investing is that right yeah so i'm advising to two ceos at the moment um one business there in the healthcare sector clinical consulting so they work very closely with pharmaceutical and medical device companies on helping commercialize and bring drugs and medical devices to market so working closely with the fda and the other business that i've recently signed up to to become an advisor to is a ceo and founder out of australia i'm originally from pakistan and pakistan is just exploding these days with technology startups and early stage businesses and also funding there's a very close alliance between the us and pakistan when it comes to funding technology companies and you're going to see i think pakistan pop up a lot more on the mainstream radar as they continue to mature and grow and so the business that they've created well the business that the ceo has created is um online recruitment and career consulting he's hitting about a hundred thousand visitors a month now to his website and that's growing at 90 percent kager for the last five years so pretty crazy growth he's on target to try and uh hit 200 000 active users per month um so yeah really excited about this business as well because i love career growth career journeys helping people you know take their next steps no that sounds like it's been it'll be it's always fun you're hitting on something that i always love which is helping startups and small businesses and that's always been a passion of mine hence why i um focus the law firm on it but i think that there you know it's just a fun place or a place to play in it provides a lot of opportunities you just get to work with a lot of cool people and a lot of cool businesses so it sounds like a fun place to be so well that was we've kind of gone through all you've gone through your journey caught up to bit where you're at today great time to transition to the two questions i always ask at the end of the podcast and for the listeners as a reminder we're also doing the bonus question where we talk a little bit about intellectual property after the episode so if you want to hear that make sure to stay tuned and listen to that but before we get to the bonus question on the normal last two questions first question is is along your journey what was the worst business decision you ever made and what'd you learn from it so i'm going to answer that from two perspectives one from like an angel investor and also the other from a founder perspective so from an angel in vector investor perspective like we always think our concepts are amazing and you know we we come across an idea or a concept we think oh this is fantastic it's going to change the world and so the worst decision i've made is probably putting too much money into some of these angel investment opportunities that i come across thinking they are going to be the next greatest thing so let's take that and now flip it and you know i'm on the founders side and probably the the biggest mistake that i've made is just really trying to understand uh the complexity of bringing a concept and idea to market so my advice there is that talk to as many people as you can i think sometimes when you when you start to develop your first idea or concept or your first couple you're maybe a little bit scared um to share it with people um and to talk to people about it because you're worried all they might go off and and and still your idea especially those that might be in that industry um but my advice is is you know get out there talk to as many people as you can um you know with those conversations so that you can really flush out everything that you've got going on and you're not going in there with your blinders on thinking that this is going to be the next unicorn yeah i've yet to meet an inventor or an entrepreneur or a startup that didn't think they're going to be the next unicorn or the next billion dollar idea and it does not matter what industry it doesn't matter how big or small they i think everybody has that sense and some people do they they certainly there are unicorns out there and even if you're not a unicorn you can get a successful business but i think to your point is you know there's also plenty of times where especially if you're anything like me you have 10 ideas before you get into work you have another 20 throughout the day and you probably have 10 before your head hits the pillow and so you've got all these ideas and most of them are really bad ideas and there are some that are good ideas within there but you have to have a system in place to where you talk with people you slow down the process you bet those a bit more and you weed out those ideas that really are good ones that you're excited about from those that you know just kind of get you excited but never really going to go anywhere so i think that that is a great lesson to learn a lesson to learn from the mistake made so now hitting on the second question which is if you're talking to somebody that's just getting into a startup or small business what'd be the one piece of advice you'd give them you gotta you probably hear this from everyone but you've got to be passionate about it because you know just touching on the funding cycle and the complexity of business is let's say you're successful in getting you know angel around from your family and friends you convince them the people closest to you that they should throw some money into your idea and then you go on and you raise let's say a precede or a seed round which is you know starting to bring that concept to to reality you know starting to get a working model whether it's a product or maybe a go-to-market with a service or something of that nature even then once you get some first customers and maybe some strategic partnerships or something of that nature you then get to say series a did you know that 50 percent of companies that raise series a never raise capital again so if i just focus on that short period of a company which you know could be a couple of years there's an enormous amount of complexity there's a lot of things that go wrong there's a lot of things that have to go right and so if you're not passionate about the problem that you're trying to solve and the solution you bring into market to solve that problem then you'll never make it to series a so hopefully that's a different way that maybe some of the other guests that have been on that may have talked about the passion element people can really visualize that and and really understand the meaning of what i say about you have to be passionate about the topic no and i think that i think that's definitely a great piece of advice and i'd add to that i think that you know i always look at it as you have to have passion you have to have something that people actually want to pay for is desirable the marketplace in other words you can be the most passionate about you know being here about soccer and yet if you're not going to be a soccer player then you know you may not you know it's not you need to find a way to adapt that passion to the marketplace in other words you can be very passionate about something but there's only going to be five people are going to pay for it not the best business plan on the other hand you can find something that people are going to pay a ton of money for and you have zero passion for and you're not going to be able to stick it out and actually get the business going because there isn't anything to drive you so i think finding that mixture a passion that maker couples with something that is wanted in the marketplace then you have that that perfect scenario to where you're going to enjoy what you do and people are going to want to buy what you're selling yeah and just on that like talking about the soccer it's like i can be training the hardest i've ever trained putting in the most hours but the end of the day it's the coach that decides whether i start come game time on the weekend and if i don't play i don't play and it's kind of a little bit similar with business you can put all this effort into your concept creating something amazing feel like you put your blood sweat in your tears but if you can't commercialize it you can't convince people to pay money for it then that unfortunately that concept you know is not is not necessarily worth anything or worth much yeah and i think so and i said i think that that sometimes where people get a bit you know forced through the trees you know or whatever place you want to let's say you want to use it sometimes it's that well i'm passionate about it i'm really excited about i think it's cool you got to step back and make sure that it's a great opportunity the marketplace that others are going to find it as exciting and cool as you are and if they do it's a great business so as we wrap up if people want to reach out to you they want to find out more they want to be a customer they want to be a client they want to be an employee they want to be an investor they want to be your next best friend any or all of the above what's the best way to reach out to you contact you find out more linkedin would be the best place to find me my email is greg at gregcollins.com uh you'll be able to find me on linkedin by that email all right well i definitely encourage people to connect up with you on linkedin reach out and make sure to to leverage all the knowledge and experience you have so with that we saw the bonus question coming up as we wrap up the normal product or normal podcast portion um thank you again for coming on it's been a fun it's been a pleasure now for all of you the listeners if you have your own journey to tell and you'd love to or want to be a guest on a podcast share your journey we'd love to have you feel free to go to inventiveguest.com and apply to be on the show a couple more things make sure to subscribe make sure to share because we want everybody to find out about our awesome episodes and last but not least if you ever need help with patents trademarks or anything else in the business go to strategymedia.com grab some time with us to chat so now with that now as we've wrapped up the portion of your journey which was a great journey and a fun one to hear uh we always get a shift gears a bit for the bonus question which is talk just a little bit about intellectual property which is always a subject that's near and dear to my heart so with that uh throw or throw the microphone over you so to speak uh what's your uh top intellectual property question yeah thanks devin i appreciate you having me on the show today i really appreciate it and i've had a great time um i did touch on a topic uh you know in the show where i was talking about you know flushing out your idea and your concept and sharing it with as many people as you can to get that feedback so what would be you know your advice or perhaps some commentary around let's say you've started to get a concept maybe a working model and you start to feel like there is some substance that's something that could happen with this but you know that you still need to get more market intel more feedback from people within the industry what would be your advice around your intellectual property um and let's say you don't have any patents but you're starting to think well maybe i should payton this um you know what's your advice there to founders no i think that's certainly a fair question one that you know comes up with a lot of founders and people that are wanting to get a business going or have a great idea and they're saying what's the next step and you know first of all i'll give you the standard lawyer answer which is always it depends but now i'll give you the real answer um which is you know it does depend but i think there are a few guidelines you know it first of all it depends on where you're at within your budget in other words if you have the budget to you know within your business and you're coming off of an exit or you're looking to set up or you have a bit of investor dollars getting it a bit earlier on getting a patent earlier on or a trademark if it's a brand business or something of that is always easier and you know it's always worthwhile as an investment now the question is also if you don't have that budget or when you know let's say as a startup most of the time you have more things to spend money on than money to spend and so you're always trying to balance where did the where to allocate that money and so it's always a bit of a a risk tolerance or risk reward type of a thing in other words when you have an idea there are two reasons why you get a particular patent but why you protect your intellectual property one is for defensive in other words you're saying hey if i'm gonna put all this blood sweat and tears this money and effort to get a business up and going i don't really want someone to come along and copy it you know the magic trick is always easier once you know how it's done same thing with business or you know with an invention or a product when somebody can see how you've created it it's a lot easier to replicate it so that one's kind of one where you're going to say okay i want to have defensive purpose and i also want to have a lot of times it can work as an asset so it can be investible it can give you something that's proprietary that investors or other people can come in and actually have an asset they're investing in the business so there's motivations to get a patent now that's offset with is i'm worthwhile right now to invest or do i have the money to invest or when should i invest and coupled in all that and i'll give you my answer is also you have to look at the the landscape of the business as you're in is it a competitive landscape where a lot of people are working to solve or try and solve the same problem or is it one where there's not a lot of competition there's not a lot of innovation going on and you can wait because if it's one that's really competitive a lot of people are thinking on it a lot of people are working on it you're probably going to want to protect it earlier on if it's one where it's less you know less competitive less innovation going on you can push that line or that down the path a bit so now with all that as a background you know what is my rule of thumb usually i would say you know if you're getting to the point in the business and this can be different for everyone to where you're building it to the point of if somebody would come along and there to copy your brand or if someone come along and there to copy your invention or copy your you know your materials your with your copyright whatnot if you're at that point where it's going to be an ouch factor in other words you're going to step back and say well if they copied it this is going to hurt the business it's going to you know provide it we're not going to be able to continue we're going to have less sales it's going to otherwise be harmful to the business you're reaching the point where you should probably invest in it but on the other hand say no if they come along and if they copy our product or they copy our brand we can pivot we can adjust it's really not that much invested or it's not going to be that harmful then i would push that or ball down the road so that's probably the best rule of thumb i can get because it is a hard one where you're always balancing where to invest in dollars and there isn't an easy or right answer because every business is different every funding is different but that's kind of at least a few guidelines to get so with that if you have any other questions or any of the other listeners have any other questions that come up i always love to talk about intellectual property and small businesses and startups in general so feel free to go to strategymeeting.com grab some time with us to chat we'll go ahead and wrap up the episode from there appreciate coming on greg it's been fun it's been a pleasure wish the next leg of your journey even better than the last thanks so much devin i really appreciate you having me on the show today you