Pick Good Advisers
The Inventive Journey Podcast for Entrepreneurs
Pick Good 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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uh surround yourself with really good advisors i know that said really well but let's talk more about how to pick advisors i would say that as a founder define your philosophy for how you're going to grow your company how you're going to treat your people the people you're going to support and find advisors who are experienced in the area where you have gap go to accelerator programs go to your local co-working space go google spaces if you don't have any in your community and search out people that have had success in the areas you'd like to have success that you're not very good at and then offer to comp them well for being in the company and in that relationship over a couple conversations you'll figure out if they're just trying to get equity or get compensation or if they're really in it for a mutually invested interest and the vision you're trying to [Music] drive [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 in the seven and eight figure businesses as well as the founder and ceo of miller ip law we help startups and small businesses with their patents and trademarks and if you ever need help with yours just go to strategymeeting.com we're always here to help now today we've got another great guest on the podcast uh william mcguire and uh william uh went initially went to school at uh in north carolina state and uh went into i think aerospace and business and then did the charity fundraisers for a period of time um as well as i think grew hops for beer and also did some programming in i.t work um as well as uh some event productions and the charity er and the charity events um then worked for a staffing company uh for a period of time and did some i.t work for them also went to work uh for did some media work in general for a while moved to another company and then moved to an investment and uh crowdfunding company uh founded in in in now i'm going to pronounce right and colo is that right that's correct all right just look and wanted to make sure i did produce pronounces so better than colo and uh working on the founder on the founding community for companies to help to grow and to make exits and um and to make the companies investable and whatnot and he'll dive into a lot more of what that all means but with that much as an introduction welcome on the podcast william i appreciate being here thank you devin so i gave kind of the the brief high-level introduction or run-through of your journey but let's go back a bit into uh to where your journey started and kind of tell us how you got going in college and how it went from there that's pretty good i mean you covered it so i don't know if i need to i'll cover it a little bit so when i was in college you mentioned uh street festivals yeah i was doing aerospace engineering at time minor in entrepreneurship and i had a lot of friends that we were with engineers without borders and we decided hey what would it look like if we shut down one of our major thoroughfares uh hillsborough street for all day street festival and raise money for charity so we did that two years running had 40 000 people second year show up uh became a kickoff for street construction that people can still see today and there are many other groups now that do street festivals there so that's fun and then when i was in college too we were trying to in our entrepreneurship class work on a project together so we said what about a beer production because at our time there are only 34 micro breweries in the state now or then i don't even know how many it is now it's probably over 400 or something but we're like north carolina was looking for a cash crop and we said what about hops for beer production we got lots of agriculture space so we looked at that and then i was application programming uh with some buddies um and just doing that while i was in college so it was a lot of fun and then that flash forward uh i followed my wife who is in ministry and i said well as long as she doesn't get a calling to alaska then i can do all three of those at once i can do event production i can do you know grow hops and can still program so luckily she got a call to virginia we moved up there i worked for a group that was a founding b court member so for people that don't know what a b corp is it's basically a company that wants to do more with their profit than just give it to the man and so people probably recognize ben and jerry's patagonia newman's all those types of companies that those are b corps so i worked with a founding b corp member that was part of that whole movement and management i.t consulting and then uh moved over to i was it was 2016 and found this whole world we call investment crowdfunding and all that is is that now anybody can be an investor in early stage companies or be an investor in their backyard and companies like main street or you know apartment complexes or anything that's going up so it's it's a pretty cool world and we're trying to find a way to get back down to north carolina and i thought i was supposed to get a job but i was sitting in the innovate raleigh summit downtown raleigh 2018 and i was listening to about 800 founders complaining about a lack of access to capital and this was this was two years into after my wife and i had been investing in this world for a while and what i couldn't understand was that there had been 120 million raised i think at that time been several hundred founders who had gone through the process and i think a total of 10 founders out of north carolina my home state had raised capital in this way i could not figure out why so i did a long story short and some other personal things going on in my life that i could share a longer story on that was going on with my dad my mom and a couple other things i found i was supposed to be an entrepreneur again so i moved out of being a consultant and i'll call it more corporate america or for corporate america to be an entrepreneur again and trying to get find a way to get all the resources a founder needed to build an investable company which i define and say look even if you weren't raising capital people want to put money in your company and then helping the founder understand all the different ways that they can potentially get funding into their company whether that's offer revenue or off these new models so that's my journey so now i'm going to go back because you jumped over a couple parts i thought were maybe or at least questions i had along your journey so you you know so you graduated you got into hops you got into i.t got into event planning and said hey why not do all three as long as my wife doesn't go to alaska i should be fine you did that for a period of time now if i remember and we chatted a bit you also when worked for a staffing firm and did it development for a period of time is that right that's right yeah right before i jumped into the the management i.t consulting firm i worked for a company that got sold to a global company similar to it or ceo of our company was dying of cancer at the time and so he was looking for a match for people to sell a company to and uh found this company they he sold us to and ended up working for them across uh one of the largest media companies in the us that went through berkshire hathaway's acquisition a part of their assets that hence at anything it's working for a merger and acquisition for mainly coordinating their website development and then also working for the largest renewable or hydro renewable energy company in the us and canada and it was a lot of traditional management i t consulting work worked with a lot of great people and like the management iit consulting firm that i moved to after that just better aligned with my values for the way they were conducting business and the way they did things wasn't there is anything necessarily wrong about the previous company it was just more line from a vision perspective so it was really it was a nice segue um so now so you do that for a period of time and then i you know and it worked for some of the companies and you touched on it briefly but you know what got you into investment crowdfunding making companies fundable helping them to grow and doing your own going your own way in other words you'd work for other people for a period of time that you know you had success you'd managing multiple things what made you decide okay i'm not going to do consulting anymore not going to work for others i'm going to work for myself ken what was that was it a trigger point was there something that just stood out to you was it more of a slow evolution or kind of how did that evolve well it was it one of the one of the triggers for that was when i was in the innovate raleigh summit in there and i went back home and i was concerned with my wife you know we're personally benefiting from this knowledge we have of this industry i mean we've had several exits off the founders that we've invested into on these public models um at the time we had it because everybody was still questioning whether or not this world was going to work or not and it's working really well but uh there was also this this thing i had in the back of my mind that maybe i'm not supposed to be an employee anymore so one thing that's happened with my dad and mom at the time was that my mom and dad were traveling from wilmington to johns hopkins university johns hopkins hospital because my dad had pancreatic cancer and he kept going past all their expectations of oh you're gonna live three months so you got six months to live he ended up living two and a half three and a half years through that whole process but it was the weekend that i got on the innovate rally summit and i came back it was the last weekend that my dad and mom needed a place to stop halfway our house was halfway in richmond virginia on that drive that's the last time they had to do that every three weeks and it just all clicked at once i said hey liz if we really want to represent and be authentic to our values with our kids and so we're really trying to create a better world the management i t consulting firm i was working with they had an awesome model our equity was gifted as a for-profit entity our equity was gifted to two public foundations so upon a dissolution event that became seed capital for other companies i said well that that's impactful that's super impactful because it impacts people picking and choosing where that capital goes but i said what if in the investment crowdfunding industry where literally anybody can put money into a company um imagines might have had the opportunity to put a hundred bucks in uber when they first get started when they went ipo i mean 100 bucks in uber or a thousand bucks and numbers worth 1.5 million even after dilution and everything in between you know nobody in the stock market where people are trading on robin hood or anything else had access to uber until they were valued at 80 billion so the majority of the wealth the size of the private markets is about five times larger than the stock market if not larger than that the majority of the returns are made in the private market so i said what if instead of having a centralized entity pick and choose where they're going to you know potentially drive impact in community if we just democratize the the ability for the community to invest in these companies if we make them aware this is even a possibility i bet people will put part of their returns back in to carry on on areas that match with their proclivity and i said my child you know our two children have different proclivities and my wife and i have different interests for where they want to give back you probably do with your wife and children everybody does but if you just make them aware there's this this this market that's been there for 80 plus years they haven't had access to or we're not aware of and allow them to choose how they want to participate allow them to choose how they want to make impact and so that's a long story for kind of where it resonated in my philosophy but that that was why i started the company i wanted my children and other friends their friends and other people on the way to have access to capital and have the ability as you know not only americans but as humans to basically choose where they want to drive impact and have more resources to do it with so now you have that kind of idea and they say okay i want to go do my own thing i got a bit of the you know the mission what i want to change and make improve and make better so you go out and you start that now did it you know you started it took off like a rocket ship and it was just all you know all upward trajectory was there bumps and you know ups and downs along the way was the figuring out did you have to pivot any or all the above oh yeah absolutely so when i first started out uh back in 2019 uh the industry was still pretty young i'd say it's still pretty young now and i thought hey look if i just go make people aware i make founders aware that they can leverage these funding models and just provide them education around here here's how you can go after it then they'll just do it right because it's amazing it's working california and texas and boston that's not how things work every year people people have to see it happen in their backyard they have to see their friends do it and even then like three or four people have to do it before they're even interested so instead of chasing after founders and letting and trying to convince them how great this new model of funding was and also seeing there's also another combination there was a lot of what i call offerings on platforms that i was just like those companies don't seem like they'd ever return any money they're just not structured properly you know i really wanted both if more people are getting to the model how great would it be if people had the opportunity to put money into companies but those companies have a high probability of potential return or higher probability than they would be not not the one in 10 model that the 8 and 10 model are successful so in early 2020 we pivoted to only working through partners those people that are invested in the long-term success of the founder community and we also found a way that it's not just about people raising capital it's more about the founders ability to grow a really successful company while having access to race capital or to fund their company in any way that is beneficial to them so as a result of that pivot i haven't done sales ops as i would traditionally call them all of our founders that we work with come from referral partners they all come from other founders that found success in the model and we've had far more founders have actually ended up growing off of revenue and through partner channels and sales channels and they have offer raises and to me that that's an ultimate success story because a founder can find the needs they need for their company in a way that resonates with both their philosophy and their strategy that's when a company's successful not just trying to drive them towards an investment rate so that was a big pivot i'd say that's kind of like a big pivot in our model but it was a it was a major pivot in philosophy but it was a it was a minor pivot in in practice if that makes sense no it definitely makes sense so so now you know that kind of brings us up to today now looking a bit in the future you know what is uh what do you look and say what does the next six 12 months look like for you guys that's great question i mean really we're doing two things we're just helping surround founders with the resources the community the experts they need so they can basically do what henry t4 did where he had a push button on his desk and if he had to question something he could just push a button and find an answer to it because there's plenty of other stuff to guess at than having to know everything and then making sure that founders are aware that they have this ability to grow their companies seek investment get funded however is beneficial to their company so in that i mean we took on we uh performed two acquisitions of two companies december 31st right after closing out private round rebranded from crowdfundingceda and koto all in a quarter and we did that all for the benefit of the founder community so now we've got expertise and verticals around marketplace founders like the next ubers airbnb you know gig economy founders of the world we have a pretty industry agnostic approach to how we help founders gross go and exit one of our one of our last founders right now they have a 90 profit margin on the software they sell and we helped them put in a sales strategy model for that and they've already deployed it and they're drawn like crazy it's only been a couple months and one of our other founders just launched his first location for a commissary kitchen back in december it became profitable in february so everybody's like how do food premiers survive during copenhagen and it's you know he's helping them do that as well and grow and scale their businesses and he's opening up second location so it sounds like when i talk about what the founders are doing it sounds like a lot but it's really centered around just four primary ways of drawing a successful company and we just hold in on those with the founder community and make sure that founders have plenty of founder to founder interactions and experts that they need to find those resources so they're not guessing so they can really just focus on growing successful companies so it's a lot of fun that does sound like a lot of fun sounds like a fun trajectory to be on so well now that kind of brings it up to where you're at today you know a little bit where you're heading in the future and we'll transition to the two questions i always ask at the end of each podcast and just as a heads up to all the listeners we also have the bonus question we'll talk a little bit about intellectual property as a follow-on to that so if you'd like to hear a little bit about that uh let's make sure to stay tuned but otherwise the first question i was asking in a podcast is if a longer journey what was the worst business decision you ever made and what did you learn from it oh great great question um trying to build a business without a sales and marketing team was probably my worst decision ever so my one of the things that's common in some companies but not all others but as a entrepreneur i tried to build a company and i thought that if i had a good technology stack that would build the company nobody buys tech they they you know people sell because you have something of value to provide them and you're able to generate awareness around that android so that that company completely flops so that's probably the worst business decision ever made with a partner but from the learning of that have been able to incorporate that knowledge to a lot of founders and save a lot of founders tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of dollars because they take a technology for you know first approach to building something i'm like why am i just going to test this out real quick and it might cost you 30 bucks and they find out within less than a month whether or not they can sell their product or service and then they can spend money on tech no you know it's always funny you know it's kind of the old movie you know if you build it they will come type of thing you get so enamored with the technology say oh if i make the world's best technology of course people will buy it you know we never learned from betamax or we'd ever learn from the you know the a-track or cassette or anything else that just because you know we have the superior the better technology isn't the only aspect of it yet you know it's funny how often you kind of start to drink your own kool-aid and think how cool it is and people would of course pay me for this and yet you have to get it out there and you have to get the word out there and convince them and help people to know what it is and why they'd use it how they've used it why it's better and why they should pay for it and if you don't you know it's it's certainly a heart much you know they're i'm sure there are occasional successes there but it's a much harder road or road to host so that definitely is a great lesson to learn absolutely i mean i think at the end of the day even if we look at the bigger companies of the world that we buy from and you know everything's pushed above and by it we're still effectively buying from the relationship we see with the people their own platform not not necessarily the product or service the tech provides so it's an interesting psychology that gets incorporated absolutely so now we'll jump to the second question which is if you're talking to someone that's just getting into a startup or small business what would be the one piece of advice you'd give them uh surround yourself with really good advisors i know that said really well but let's talk more about how to pick advisors i would say that as a founder define your philosophy for how you're going to grow your company how you're going to treat your people the people you're going to support and find advisors who are experienced in the area where you have gap go to accelerator programs go to your local co-working space go google spaces if you don't have any in your community and search out people that have had success in the areas you'd like to have success that you're not very good at and then offer to comp them well for being in the company and in that relationship over a couple conversations you'll figure out if they're just trying to get equity or get compensation or if they're really in it for a mutually invested interest and the vision you're trying to drive and that's you know that's probably one of the biggest pieces of advice i would give no and i like that and i think there's a ton of wisdom there you know and that can it may not always be equity surrounding yourself with knowledgeable people that are that want to see your success and are willing to help out and that can be in the form of everything from a good board and a company to a good co-founder to good employees to mentors to people that you know that you can bounce ideas off of a good spouse you know there's a lot of forms but i think you know getting those people that are one that are in your corner that want to see you succeed that are willing to help out and provide that invaluable advice definitely can make a huge difference so i like that as a feedback well as well i was going to say that's a great extended list there devin absolutely so now as we wrap up before we jump to the bonus question um for all those the normal listeners don't want to listen ip and sometimes they don't blame you but now if you if you uh if you for people who want to reach out they want to be they want to be a customer they want to be a client they want to be an investor they want to be an employee they want to be on a board member they want to be your next best friend any or all of the above what's the best way to reach out and find out more uh just reach out to will at i incolo.io c o l o dot io all right that kind of has a nice ring to it i n c o or c o l o dot io you said it a lot a lot nicer than i did but no that's great i definitely went in color code just said when we're at the beach we can do a special event or something anyway that's funny all right well perfect well i definitely encourage people to reach out find out more now for all of you that are listeners if you have your own journey to tell and you want to be a guest on the podcast feel free to go to inventiveguest.com apply to be on the show two more things as listeners make sure to one we uh click subscribe in your podcast player so you know when all of our awesome episodes come out and two leave us a review so everybody else can find out about all of our awesome episodes last but not least if you ever have any questions about patents or trademarks or anything else with your business feel free to grab some time with us to chat just go to strategymeeting.com now now we get to go into the transition into the bonus question which is always kind of fun because one i get to talk a little bit about intellectual property which i always have a fun time doing um but all in in two is it flips the tables a bit and now rather than me asking the questions i get to answer the question so with that i'll turn it over to you to ask your top intellectual property question sounds great well i i sourced wisdom from my team on this one to see what question they had top of mind and i imagine a lot of founders do too with the rise of nfts these non-fungible tokens what do you think is the do you think they'll actually stand up in terms of people's ownership over those like what what are the biggest ip considerations around nfc in your opinion yeah and give or people just for or people that don't know as much about what an nft is it's an or none non-fungible if i can say it or without getting or a non-fungible token or sometimes you know assets if you wanted to broaden it out but non-fungible tokens and that can be everything from it gets tied towards oftentimes cryptocurrency and kind of how that works but even you can broaden it out and sometimes that you know it's digital art you know one of the things that people oftentimes will do is digital art or digital collections you know trading cards are now or maybe your digital or video game virtual items or another one they know it has a broad thing and it's a very evolving and unknown field in the sense that it's just if you look at the legal field in generally it always lags behind you know and there's a little bit of irony especially as your patent attorney it lags behind but the law is always slow to catch up with society so usually you'll have things that come about things that you know had or weren't initially considered in the law and then the law has to figure out now how do we deal with these things and i would put nfts in there in the sense that you know in one sense it's certainly an asset you know if you go buy an original work of art whether it's a painting and it's on the wall or whether you buy an original work of art that's digital or if you go by unique tokens in a video game you can own that or you know you should you you're somebody still had to create that there is still a intellectual property or to that but on the other hand it makes it more difficult to if they're easily copied that they're easily met or you know or reproduced then how do you know artwork is and will stick on artwork just as an easy one you know artwork there's only one of a kind you know i paint each painting by brush and everything else but now you're doing that how do you have that exclusive nature so it's interesting when you get into that whether it's cryptocurrency or other things how you deal with that with the intellectual property and the short answer is i don't know i don't it's the one where they're there's starting to get or case law around it about how you own it about how you can or keep it or it can keep it unique and different to everybody else and how you value that how the law do it but the short answer is there isn't a good how that's going to be treated as intellectual property now i think that you know it should be treated similar to every other type of asset where if you create it if you own it if you pay for it then it ha all the same or laws hold to it but i don't know it's a it's a fun question and it's one where i think that it should evolve into or similar to all other assets but it's one where it's the law is lagging behind it i don't there isn't a definitive answer so that wasn't a probably a fulfilling answer but it's the best one i can give so any more precedence that is what i'm hearing that that's good what can i throw a second one at you absolutely all right so i get this one from founders a lot too um i guess this can go both ways when when a founder hasn't trademarked their assets like their name i'm going to give i forgot but i'm going to interrupt your question just because i did have one interesting example of what i thought was an nft that was by nike and i don't know if you're aware of it so they just as an example and also for the listeners they had a what they call the cryptographic which was a digital asset for footwear so they would actually start to incorporate in their shoes that it was a digital asset so you'd have you know almost different icons you can do and then you pay for exclusivity to have certain digital things you know certain things displayed on your shoot that would have a little screen that would look cool and they actually did go get a patent on that and so it was interesting and i was going to mention then it slipped my mind was that you know that one's an interesting one where they the way that they authenticated the way they integrated into a shoe that was part of it and then it was also the nft that was on the it was a digital asset that was in a shoe that they only sold so many it was kind of that collectors items you know almost the michael jordan's but now it was a digital or an nft so there is some precedent and i didn't want to say there isn't any but there's certainly less much less precedent than what's out there so now i didn't mean to interrupt your question go ahead with your second one well now that now that gives me an interesting follow-up because we actually have a couple people that were doing like shoe arbitrage so i'd be interested to see what those shoes are trading for but anyway i haven't followed up but to see how much it's worth or where they've got or how much they've implemented it but i know at least on the patent side they went down that route of actually having that or that integrated in to make it a digital collectible or collectible version of a shoe so now you're going to talk or ask one other question he had about uh trademarks yeah i was curious when uh when a founder hasn't trademarked their brand their asset their uh you know just their name or their logo or anything what um what happens if they don't do that but it's been in use for a while how how does ownership get treated if somebody else comes in and tries to copy that for a similar industry yeah and there's there's i'll give you this standard lore answer it depends which is always how lawyers answer the question but there's there's some general i mean and it does depend you know this is general advice and so it does vary a bit situation situation but in general let's say i'd gone out and i made devin's restaurant now i'll you know i had a much catchier name which i can't think of often on my head one of the previous uh podcasts there that i was on um they talked about scooby dooby dooby doo what's their restaurant so maybe i'll use that as a name but let's say you went out and you started that as your restaurant and you got it going you know you you were doing it and then you and you didn't necessarily get a trademark on it but you were you've been around for 10 years and then somebody and then somebody else came along and let's say you were in chicago i was choosing a random place and you were doing that in chicago and then somebody else in california san francisco decided to do the same thing and you're saying hey well they're copying my brand you know what rights do i have and let's say to add on to that that part or that place in california now wouldn't did file a federal trademark on it so they did get that protection they went through went all the way through the process well then what happens is is because you are the first person to use it you have some common law or state law rights that go along with it generally common law rights that allow you to continue to use it in the geographic location you've been operating in but it stops you from expanding outside of that area in other words we if you're in chicago doing it in chicago first and you were you know and before the the other place in san francisco started doing it you can continue in chicago but you can expand out so now let's say you want to sell off your business you want to franchise you want to license you want to do something else or let's say you pass on your kids take over they have bigger aspirations or someone wants to merge or acquire you anything else it severely limits where your trademark coverage is to the current geographic location you're in so you can continue to use it but you can't expand out same thing with a person in san francisco they basically now have the rights to everywhere in the u.s except for chicago where you have those original common law rights so it kind of gives you limited protection but it can create a lot of headaches so once you have a brand go grab it that is that is a short take away from it if you have a brand that you are ever wanting to do anything with especially beyond just a local area or you know mom and pop shop serve the local community which are all great com businesses but if you're ever wanting to do that or you think anybody else will ever want to do that with your business make sure to grab the grab the trademark for it makes sense all right well with that we'll wrap it up for there and that was those were fun uh fun questions at chat about intellectual property thank you again william for coming on the the podcast it's been a fun and a pleasure and wish the next leg of your journey even better than the last i appreciate them thank you for hosting me this was a lot of fun [Music] absolutely