Have A Personal Board Of Advisers
Devin MillerThe Inventive Journey Podcast for Entrepreneurs
Have A Personal Board Of Advisers
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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as i surrounded myself with i think it was around six people who i call them personal board of advisors and they were basically people who expected nothing from me they were getting no financial gain for spending time with me they just wanted me to be successful and each of them brought to the table a different set of experience and often compensated for skill sets that i didn't have or i was developing and i spent time just rotating through them and talking with them and grabbing coffee with them on a regular basis and sharing openly where i was at and i would recommend that is one of the most powerful tools that entrepreneurs and people who are are joining startups can leverage to really help steer their success in their success of their business and the success of their careers and it's one that i learned so much later in my career that i wish i did so i would just recommend you know leverage this powerful tool of boards of advisor [Music] hey everyone this is devin miller here with another episode of the inventive journey i'm your host devin miller the serial entrepreneur it's going several startups into seven and eight figure businesses well as well as the founder and ceo of miller ip law where we help startups and small businesses with their patents and trademarks you ever need help with yours just go to strategymeeting.com and we're always here to help now today we've got another great guest on the podcast joe kinsella and as a quick introduction to joe so he grew up in central new york um didn't pay much attention as to where he wanted to go to college hit the point where he's deciding uh what he what he wanted to major in and decide decided to go into computer science and get a degree there all the jobs were in silicon valley in boston so went to boston and got a job at i think it was easel corporation um and then was part of the first ever scrum for those of you in the software industry as well as the first uh stand-up meeting so for those of you not the software industry probably don't know what that is if you're in the software industry you likely do um left easel did a startup called pro cd and then did another startup called firefly had a longer run with another company called silverback and then in 2010 he was wanting to get into uh cloud help was told that was a bad idea so it went to another company for about 18 months um decided that that was enough for that he was going to do cloud health anywhere anyway um went and did build some products for another company helped him build it did vmware and then uh jumped over from there and is doing what he's doing or is doing what he's started what he's doing today so with that much as an introduction and hopefully mostly accurate welcome on the podcast joe thank you devon and it sounds so much easier hearing my career from your words instead of how i lived it well i i take i take a much longer journey and a much longer career and i can dance into 30 or 40 seconds and so it makes my job easy but it doesn't do the story justice so with that let's unpack your journey just a bit more so tell us a little bit about how your journey got started in central new york yeah so it sounds great yeah so i um i growing up i i really had one passion which was baseball and i found a second passion when i was 11 years old my dad came home with a personal computer it was a apple ii and dropped it on a desk and i started playing with it and suddenly realized that it just you know it was like a creative spark went off and i realized just the potential of what i could do in my mind with a computer and uh and that really started i think my lifelong passion of both writing software but maybe more importantly building products and uh and so from there i actually um you know continue to write code and spend a you know substantial amount of time around computers and the funny story of my early career was i didn't really think much about what i was going to college uh for and and so like my default answer if someone asked me was i was going to be an aerospace engineer and uh when my dad asked me when it came time in my junior year i just you know spouted out aerospace engineer and he's like well what about computer science and i honestly had never heard of computer science as a major and so in the end i ended up going off to um to school for computer science but it was something that you know shortly before that i had no idea that was the trajectory my life was going to take now one question just a bit out of curiosity so you say aerospace engineer was that just kind of picked out of a hat random this one sounds like a cool major so that's what i'll tell everybody or what made you decide to go to aerospace or originally say aerospace engineer so so as a young kid i was a bit of a space geek so i was um you know i used to um gather everything i could on all the different explorations that of you know of planets that um that uh that were happening in nassau and i used to you know in fact i actually used to talk with somebody who worked at one of the jet propulsion laboratories um she lived in my hometown and and she would share data that came out of some of the jpl satellite missions and and so i i just always assumed that would be the direction my career would take so now so you get in there and say okay this is where originally i'm going to take and then you say okay maybe i don't know if i actually want to be an aerospace and engineer jumped over to computer science and then went down that route now as you're doing computer science you're coming out of school and i think when we talked a little bit before you're saying hey i can either go to silicon valley or go to boston at least at that time you know that's kind of where the the the jobs were where the opportunities were so then how did you decide where you're going from there yeah so when i landed in boston it was uh it was during a recession believe it or not there was a time in the past when it was hard to get a job as a software engineer uh it's and it may be hard for most people to believe but but uh i had trouble finding my first job which is um you know it was a definitely an employer market at the time and so i'd moved to boston and i was looking for a job and uh you know and i almost gave up and headed back to central new york i think i'd spent two weeks looking for a job unsuccessfully and i finally got offered a job uh from this company called easel corporation which as you mentioned in the intro one of the odd historical facts of my career is that i was a member of the very first scrum team so people in the technology industry know what agile methodologies are and probably are familiar with scrums and stand-ups and and i didn't know at the time uh that that was the path i was going on i just happened to be right time right place with a really interesting group of engineers that that decided to do things differently in the industry and and so that was my first job it got me started in the tech industry it made me realize that i could actually make a living by writing software which at the time i remember as a 22 year old was just a you know unbelievable concept to me that someone would actually pay me for doing what i was doing for free when i was 11 years old so i was uh so i was i was really happy and i think at that point in time i think i had ruminating like this this drive in the in the back of my head that i wanted to start companies but i was just satisfied at that initial job just to have the opportunity to build great software products no i think that hey if you can find something that one will suit your passions or something that you enjoy and two they'll pay for it that's a pretty good combination so that's awesome that you were able to find that and be part of some of the initial you know things that are probably much more uh you know ubiquitous in the software industry now which are scrums and stand-up meetings and everything else and so sounds like it was a great opportunity so now you went and worked with eazl for a period of time now what made you decide to leave easel and go to the kind of more of the first startup which was the pro cd that you wouldn't work for yeah that's right yeah so when i joined easel it was right on the cusp of an ipo so so it had been a startup but but was no longer a startup and uh and so i think what happened is over the years the company ended up in really strong competition with with competitors in its market and then with microsoft as well and so i think uh over time the company really struggled and reached a point where revenue started to decline and the company started to go through layoffs and and i reached this point i i was with the company over four years and i remember just waking up one day and just um realizing that i'd be become kind of disillusioned with the company over the last couple years i was with it and i woke up one day and just realized that the company still had a great core it still had these this tremendously group of talented people but i had changed and it was really time for me to go do my next thing and part of what i saw as issues with the company was me really hanging on to staying at this first company i was at too long and so i decided to go off and do um the first of several startups i did a company called pro cd which ended up acquired by axiom which is big data provider based out of i think arkansas and uh and that was a uh you know interesting company it was all consumer-based software was a very you know big big change from what i was actually doing at easel which was really development tools and uh and that kind of set me on this path of startups and it was one of the things i think i realized later in my career that i found myself more comfortable in startups than anywhere else that i could be i just i like the clean whiteboard i like the hard problems that are unknown and you know and i really like the engagement with customers and trying to figure out how to deliver repeatable value to them that they really cared about no i think that makes sense and you know it's interesting as businesses of all sometimes you know even the founders are getting to the point of saying hey this is a great company i don't know that i you know it's not but it's not what i want to do anymore it's you know not you know it's going in a different direction and i think that happens from all the way from people that come on later to people that are the founders and you're saying okay i now i you know this is a great company but i want to go do something else so you went to ocd went and worked for a startup and kind of no i don't remember you know how long were you there and then what made you go on to the next startup because you jumped to he did pro cd for a period of time and then he did firefly and then he did silverback which i think were all startup they're kind of startup companies so mike made you kind of progress through those various startups that's right so uh so when i was at pro cd we reached a point where we were actually acquired by axiom and uh and at that point in time it just seemed like a good time to uh to look at my next thing and so so i i it also coincided with the emergence of the internet boom so that was uh the very earlier internet boom this would have been around maybe 95 96 somewhere in that time frame and uh and so i decided that's the direction i needed to head that was the next big thing and uh and i and i had some experience which is i built out some interesting um you know internet-based solutions at pro cd and i figured i could transfer that over to what i would do next and so i found this uh spin out of the mit media labs called firefly which is a company that no one remembers today but but would would probably s maybe uh a second or third to easel corporation was one of the highest density of talents you know that i've ever worked with at a company in fact firefly has one little footnote in history which is if you read any biography of amazon you'll you'll often see firefly mentioned as one of the early recommendation engines that uh amazon used in its very early days in the 90s and uh you know and i had a relatively short run there i i built out some really big back end distributed systems uh you know thoroughly enjoyed it and just reached a point where i just realized what i wanted to do was work for myself and i'd at that by that point in time i had really acquired a deep expertise and how to build big big distributed systems that could support high traffic at a time when everybody in the world seemed to be looking for somebody who could actually help them build high traffic websites so so at that point time i rolled out and i started my own consulting company which actually led to silverback which is i ended up at the end of the dot-com boom uh i ended up uh closing down my consulting company to go join one of my clients which was uh silverback technologies okay no it makes sense so you know you got a good opportunity with one of the clients and it kind of goes in the direction you want and so you say okay move over to them and you do silverback now you stayed with silverback for a reasonable amount of time and i can't remember is why you're a silverback or after you their left silver bag you got into the cloud computer you started to get interested in cloud or cloud health and so with that you know kind of how did silverback go when you're going you know kind of following one of the clients and doing that or that journey and what made you kind of decide to say hey maybe i'm going to at least start thinking about doing my own business yeah that's right you know i think i would say uh i joined silverback it was really my first true foray into the infrastructure market which is you know some people call it infrastructure management or it management and i uh including the time post acquisition it was probably a decade of my career uh spent in that space which made me a deep expert in the area of infrastructure management but i joined silverback and i would say silverback was a um it was a you know middling success which is you know we we ended up building a business that was delivering remote management and monitoring to um to to manage service providers and bars and and resellers and and built a uh you know a fairly severely decent-sized business with good growth and overall healthy business and ended up in 2007 acquired by dell and it was part of an initiative by dell to start to deliver managed services and uh and so i spent three years at dell uh i i like to say i spent two years you know two of the three years i can explain in the third i don't really know why i stayed uh it was just one of those uh situations where dell had a lot of great people uh you know tremendously you know valuable company a lot of respect for everything that's been done at dell but at the time dell wasn't a software company dell was very much a hardware integrator and it was a very hard thing to be a software person in a hardware integrator and uh and you know i think dell today in 2021 is a completely different company than the one that i saw in 2007. so i spent um three years there and i think i was two years in when i realized that the next big thing maybe a year or two in i realized the next big thing was cloud computing and it was very much like the internet it was going to be this tsunami that was going to sweep across every single industry and it was going to transform everything that we did and i realized that probably somewhere at the intersection of my two areas that i was deeply interested in infrastructure management and cloud computing was probably an opportunity to start my next business so no and i think that definitely makes sense so you say okay you know but one i think that you know working in a as a software person a hardware company is always a bit harder to you know even if you're great at your job it's just you know it's a different culture and trying to prove your value especially the mindset as hey we're selling hardware that's what we do to say hey there's a value in software it can always be a bit of a pull in there you know pull and tug but then in addition to that you're saying hey i think this is the next upcoming area so you say okay cloud computing in general and then cloud health is going to be an up and coming and i think you said you're going to get started you're getting excited about it and starting to explore it and then you have people start to tell you it's a bad idea so you kind of put it back on the back burner for a period of time before later revisiting it is that right that's right so in 2010 i started to go out and talk to venture investors and i talked to you know people i knew in the industry and in the idea was to build a monitoring and management company that was just purpose built for the public cloud and that was uh considered a really bad idea by almost everyone i spoke with in fact in you know most investors told me that they really thought the market opportunity was in the private cloud not the public cloud and so that i was i you know i really if i redirected my idea towards the private cloud maybe i had an opportunity and i think i i took that at the time it was one of those things where you realize entrepreneurship requires a certain amount of emotional fortitude that you have to push through a lot of the no's to get to the yeses and uh and i made the mistake of just believing that maybe they were right maybe i was wrong and so my plan b was i was recruited by a former board member to um take a vp of engineering role in this you know fast-growing startup that was doing archiving in the cloud and uh as that became my plan b as i decided to join that company and you know i think my entire time at that company was 18 months but i was six months in and i realized once i was scaling in the public cloud that everything i wanted to build was exactly what the market needed that i effectively was customer zero of what i wanted to go build and and it was just you know great affirmation i think it was affirmation that i needed to have that final bit of courage to just you know make the move and go start my next company no and i think that so he's you know and i think there is always that bit of courage that you know it takes to go out on your own and you know sometimes if you have a lot of encouragement makes it easier if there's a lot of naysayers that are saying no it's you you shouldn't do it or it can't be done or you're going to fail then it makes that already high level of anxiety that comes along with starting your own business even more more difficult so nonetheless so you said okay i'll go and work for this other job for a period of time do it for 18 months and say okay you know got to go do my own thing got to go try it out even if it failed it doesn't work and say yeah go and you start to do your own you know start to say okay i'm going to start a business or i'm going to do a startup and do my own thing so how did that go how did that start and was it rocky was it difficult i think you just it was just this last may if i remember right or it was fairly recently decided to go that route is that right yeah so so when i when i made this decision it was uh 2012. i actually quit my job i had uh two boys in elementary school i can't think of a worse time to actually be quitting my job but i quit my job and i just decided that somehow i was going to make this happen that i was absolutely certain that i was right with the idea i had in 2010 and i was going to make it happen in 2012. and uh so i started writing code i started running experiments um you know lean experiments trying to prove out different hypotheses i had in the market and you know i think i took a very different approach i think one of the great strengths of the approach that i took is a lot of people talk about pivoting uh you know and you have to pivot your idea you know when it when it's not working or you've hit some some dead end what i did is i called telescoping which is i started with this big market the big market was the intersection of cloud computing and i t management and then i just ran experiments telescope down to the specific business that i wanted to go star and that process probably took you know maybe maybe it was five six um uh seven months somewhere in that that range where i was kind of in the wilderness trying to figure this idea out working with some early prospective customers you know until i was able to close my first deal and you know it was one of those uh unusual moments where i really hadn't even incorporated the business i had no business entity i know as a you know as a lawyer you're probably thinking what were you thinking and uh and when i closed my first deal i realized it was by accident i didn't plan to close my first deal and i had to scramble and do all the logistics of putting in place a proper legal entity to go build the business but it was uh you know probably took you know several months of writing code building product working with customers before i really understood and had confidence that i knew there was a business idea here that you know a fairly substantial business could be built around no i think that that definitely makes sense and so he started out doing that and you know did it go well was it a rocket ship to the top and just loved every minute of it was it bumpy and uh you know kind of the up and downs or how did it go yeah i think everybody's elevator pitch when you have a uh successful company is that it was it was up and to the right and just tremendous success and everything went well the reality is is when you peel that back it's it's always a struggle and cloud health was no exception which is just to put it in context you know it grew to be one of the um largest sas companies in our in our segment of the market and uh grew from just me to over 500 people over the course of six years so it was this it was a tremendous rocket ship but before that rocket ship happened it took about 14 months of really hard work after i closed the first two customers to really get to true product market fit and it was just you know every day every week pushing through issues to get to product market fit and the ability to repeatedly you know sell market deliver that value proposition to customers and then after that the up and to the right happened and you could see the hockey stick in our revenues after that and then of course you confront the next set of issues which is in the growth phase it's very hard to constantly double your head count it's very hard to constantly double your number of customers and you know when you do that the the problem of doubling results in some things continuing to work that you were doing and some things that you were doing just completely you know the wheels fall off the the vehicle as you you know if you continue to do things the way you used to do them and and so we had all the challenges of growth and this went on through uh 2018 uh and we were acquired by vmware um a palo alto based public company vmware in 2018 and uh you know and then after that continued to grow um you know inside vmware until i uh left in may so now you did that and i think you were vmware for a couple of years is that right yeah two and a half years so now you say you know you grow that business gets acquired by vmware and you know that's always you know in quotes the the dream right you get you get acquired by a big business you make a ton of money and you go by your island and the caymans and then you're retired for you know for forever more and you don't have to worry about life because you made your exit which is again not probably the the reality for most businesses not that you can't make an accident it can't go well but you know there's definitely a you know a story after that of what or what you do once you make an exit so you make your you get acquired by vmware you work for them for a couple years and then you know what made you decide okay i'm gonna leave vmware kind of go back out on my own do this again go through the crazy of a craziness of starting a new business and how did you decide what you were going to do and i know that was a whole bunch of questions but kind of fill us in right what happened as you're leaving vmware what made you decide to do it and how it's how it's done yeah no i mean i have to say i i actually um i i actually enjoyed my time at vmware more than i expected because i'm i'm more of a small company person and being in a big company environment i didn't know i would enjoy it but i think i woke up one day and just realized that what my mission in life is is to build products that matter to customers with people i like to do it with like that's in many ways that's what i was doing without knowing it when i was um you know 11 12 years old and and i had the you know luxury of being able to do what i was passionate about as a young kid my entire professional career but i was no longer doing that which is instead i was running a large organization and um you know and it it was really straining really far from what motivated me and so i realized it was time to move on so i gave six months notice and recruited my replacement and tried to make a nice clean transition because i have like to this day i still look at cloud health as my baby it's you know it's my passion i created that that business and i want nothing more than it to succeed for decades into the future but for myself i need to go on and start something new so i took the summer off um just you know the process of building companies has a mental and physical toll that it can take on you and so i really enjoy the time off and just being able to wake up and spend my my day the way i wanted to spend my day for a period of a few months and i'm in the early phases now of um going back and starting my next business and super early it's it's just idea at this point and i'm starting right where i did it cloud health which is i'm i'm starting to run experiments and start to you know hone the idea and again following this telescoping process to figure out can i find the next big opportunity that i want to go dedicate the next decade of my life too no sounds like it's an exciting time it's always you know sometimes that's both the scariest time but also the most fun time is you're kind of in that hey what am i going to build what am i going to do next and what is that going to look like and then you know getting that up and going and trying it out and testing it are all kind of exciting and scary all at the same time so definitely wish you um good luck on that any any teasers without giving away too much as to where you think you're headed or what you're going to do yeah i would say that i left several um areas of the infrastructure management market unsolved over my years so over in the last couple decades i feel like there's some problems that that 20 years ago were a problem in infrastructure management that are still not solved today and i think i'd like to go find out if the market's ready for a radical transformative solution to some of these problems and so so that's where i'm spending my time the answer may be no by the way devin which is you know i think one of the key things about good experiments is it's almost like a scientist which is you can't bias it with an assumption that you're right you really have to go into it and let the data and the facts actually speak to you as opposed to you know your your gut feel um scare you all right we'll be an exciting journey and we'll have to catch up in uh in a few months and see how things continue to progress for you so with that now as we've kind of got towards you know where you're where you started and hearing your journey and bringing these up into the present it's always a great time to transition and ask the two questions i always ask the end of each podcast we'll jump to those now so the first question is is along your journey what was the worst business decision you ever made and what did you learn from it i would say i would say that maybe the worst business decision i made was coming out of school um i i was an introvert i was risk adverse i was um i was uncomfortable putting myself out there and so i decided to spend the you know good part of my career associated with startups in in the trenches building startups but not building my own startups and so i think maybe one of my worst business decisions is i don't think i'm fundamentally more capable now than i was 20 years ago and i think i could have been just as successful as starting businesses back then i just didn't i lack the confidence so i think to anyone else out there uh sometimes you just have to put yourself out there and failure is really not as bad as it seems and you know and at the time i think that was one of the things where i just assumed you know starting a company and failing was going to uh be a you know a black mark on my uh my professional career and my professional success in many ways it's a bad badge of honor it's an opportunity to you know really have distilled concentrated learning that makes you better at what you do next no i think that you know there's it's always scary to fail you never like or people generally like to avoid the topic just because it always is kind of you know feels like an open wound in some ways it can be but on the other hand you know there is a badge of honor of hey i did a startup it failed i learned these things from it and when i got or got back up and did my next one i was that much better for it so i definitely think that that is something you know a mistake to be made but a great one to learn from so second question is if you're talking to somebody that's just getting into a startup or a small business what be the one piece of advice you give them i would say build your own personal board of advisors and everybody's familiar with you know boards of directors for companies but i think the smartest thing i did with cloud health is i surrounded myself with i think it was around six people who i call them personal board of advisors and they were basically people who expected nothing from me they were getting no financial gain for spending time with me they just wanted me to be successful and each of them brought to the table a different set of experience and often compensated for skill sets that i didn't have or i was developing and i spent time just rotating through them and talking with them and grabbing coffee with them on a regular basis and sharing openly where i was at and i would recommend that is one of the most powerful tools that entrepreneurs and people who are are joining startups can leverage to really help steer their success in their success of their business and the success of their careers and it's one that i learned um so much later in my career that i wish i did so um i would just recommend you know leverage this powerful tool of boards of advisor no and i think that's great and i like you know it doesn't always have to be a paid board of advisors or you know any and sometimes it is sometimes it's you have a board on their company but even just having those people that you know whether it's bouncing ideas off of whether it's you know thinking or having someone that can help you think something through or reel you back or give you a different perspective all can definitely be helpful and it's definitely worthwhile to find those people in your life that you're able to have or have that feedback and have those people to go to can make a big difference in the business so definitely is a great piece of advice well as we wrap up if people want to reach out to you they want to be a for the new business as you get it up and going customer or client they want to be an investor maybe they want to be your first employee 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 great so you will find everything i'm thinking if you go to joe consella dot me which is i i tend to uh post whatever is interesting me both on the personal side and professional side there and it also has my full contact information including my email as well as my mobile number all right well i definitely encourage people to reach out to contact you find out more and maybe make a new best friend so with that thank you again for coming on the podcast it's been a fun it's been a pleasure now for all of you that are listeners if you have your own journey to tell and you'd like to be a guest on the podcast we'd love to have you so feel free to go to inventiveguest.com fly to be on the show a couple more things make sure to like make sure to subscribe make sure to share because we want to make sure everybody knows about this awesome episode they're awesome episodes that we are able to share great journeys with and last but not least if you ever need help with patents trademarks or anything else with your business feel free to go to strategymeeting.com grab some time with us to chat well thank you again joe for coming on the podcast and wish the next leg of your journey even better than the last thank you devin appreciate