The Inventive Journey
Podcast for Entrepreneurs
Research FirstResearch first. Do your research, do not jump into something without a deep dive into something that you have interest in. A lot of times these interest come from things that happen to you, and that's great. Before you go diving into things I have a perfect example to share. I was competing with virtual private networks. So virtual private was a much better play because they were making money. They could sell where as I was free. I was stuck in the browser world which is free and I could not figure out how to make any money. So as I said do your research before you do anything.
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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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research first do your research do not jump into something without a deep dive into something that you have interest in now a lot of times these interests come from things that happen to you and that's great but before you go diving into things like a perfect example i was competing with virtual private networks so virtual private was a much better play because they were making money right they could sell this virtual and i was free and i was stuck in this browser world which was free i couldn't figure out how to make any money so as i say do your research before you do anything [Music] hey everyone this is devon miller here with another episode of the inventive journey i'm your host devon miller the serial entrepreneur that has built several businesses or startups into seven and eight-figure businesses as well as the founder and ceo of miller ip law where he helps startups and small businesses with their patents and trademarks if you ever need help with patents and trademarks just go to strategymeeting.com and grab some time with us to talk about them now today on the podcast we have another great guest jeff and i'm probably going to mess up his last name close berman it's closer man all right i was i was kind of close uh but jeff is a quick introduction so he started uh or he was a a tennis player or ten or got a tenant scholarship i think to usc and when even went on the pro circuit for a short period of time and then after uh going on the pro circuit for a bit he went to uh teaching tennis for a period of time and then decided hey i've had enough with tennis i'm not going to probably make that as a whole life it and went into the real estate industry for a quite a bit of time and did that and built it up and then decided okay i've had enough with the real estate industry now i'm going over the tech industry and so i moved over the tech industry weaved his way through it a bit and that's where he brings us to what he's doing today that we'll chat a bit more about in the podcast so is that much as an introduction welcome on the podcast jeff thanks devin i want to clear something up at usc i was the greatest bench sitter of all time hey if they're if they'll give you a scholarship to fence it i want that scholarship so i i take it is i'll take it wherever you can get it this is pretty funny you know you go there at usc and you're going to you know one of the best schools for you know universities for tennis teams and you end up you're naturally ranked and you end up sitting on the bench the whole time i i i really consider transferring but i love southern california so much it was like you know it's i'm one of the 33 million that came from back east and sat himself down and it was like nah i'm not going anywhere and here i am later still here and and yeah the rest of california is still asking me to go home but uh you know go back to new york you know wherever you came from you're just a pain but uh hey i'm happy to be here that's happening see you again and uh happy to be on your show so thanks thank you we're excited to have you on so with that correction you were still got a ten but you still got a tennis scholarship right so i was technically correct so you played tennis for a period of time or at least fence it but was on a scholarship to usc but maybe walk us through so you're coming up you're finishing your finishing up schooling and he went to a pro circuit for a little bit right did a year of the pro circuit i probably made about 17 000 but really most of my money was made selling tennis rackets as i was going along or whatever i could barter so when i went for my first job interview at coldwell banker which was a big real estate company at the time the brokerage company they said well what kind of sales experience did you have well not really anything but for a year i just had to figure out how i was going to make a living with not making much money on the tennis circuit and i was buying and selling things well we were kind of interested in you then so i'm not sure it was just for my si my sales skill but you know i gotta i got to work for one of the best at the time one of the best companies and even there i actually came up with some innovative ideas for the company and i'm kind of proud i launched some things as a as a a guy who just walked in the door came up with a great idea for coldwell banker and then of course i i went into the sales and i worked for uh tom selleck's dad bob selleck which was a really great experience and i learned a lot from him and then decided uh i wanted to be a real estate developer which is a fairly natural thing from people who want to be i want to be in the real estate business to become developers and operators of office buildings and other things it did that for 25 or 30 years and then as you mentioned i decided i was very much annoyed i'm one of these self-doubt guys where i'll go do it myself and i was very annoyed at the internet where i was getting these emails from people i didn't know they were you know asking me silly questions i was getting viruses malware and i thought well maybe i should jump in and see if i could do something better and that kind of led to a full career in the last 10 years of working in the tech industry and i finally learned somewhat the acronyms which i never could figure out but now i understand a few of them and here i am and i think we're i think i'm being blessed into a great space um something new and innovative and i came out of a really i guess i was somewhat before my time in the privacy mode so no and i think that's an interesting journey so maybe hitting on a couple things so you mentioned diving back just a bit into your story so you're doing tennis you know you had to figure out how to do sale you know to support yourself as you were pursuing the tennis career and then you got into real estate so how was that transition from going from kind of athlete athletics into and you know competing to real estate was it you know different jungle same kind of game where hey it's still competitive marketplace and you're going to real estate or was it a different transition or how did you kind of manage to go from tennis to real estate and how was that transition for you so the thing you should know is my feet hurt when i got into shoes because i never wore shoes before i wore tennis shoes all the time right i like to play tennis and and go to go to classes um so that was first thing i recognized was oh this hurts because wearing shoes i was not used to and so that was one of the experience but you know it's interesting you you bring your skill set which is tenaciousness um creative because you got to be creative on a tennis court you got to figure out what the guy what his strengths and weaknesses are and you got to do that quickly uh you have to stay at it that's you know a tenacious thing so it was relatively the same that i think the biggest problem i had was asking for orders you know i could tell you something but then you have to finish up with going hey well you know do you want to sign a listing with me or can we get that lease signed that was a kind of a hard transaction because in in the athletic world you don't ask for the you know the order but that's the thing that uh i can give you a quick story so when when i went to work for coldwell banker and i finally got i was a i had a training session for a year at the main office and then i worked for bob selleck and i was so proud of myself because i had just gotten my first listing and bob said uh he says oh you got the listing and i said yes and i got a five percent commission and he said no you you're supposed to get a six percent of the first sum of money and then five percent thereafter didn't you get that i said no did he said you asked for it i said no i just didn't it's another 2500 bucks it wasn't a big deal he made me on a friday go down to it was like two hours away el segundo in the middle of a traffic day go knock on the sky door and and kind of apologize and say you know i didn't ask you for the full amount and the guy said god all you had to do was ask me for it i would have given it to you all you have to do is ask but if you never ask you're never going to get it so that is a funny story but it kind of and i like the kind of you're saying there is i think transferable skill sets across a lot of different types of you know industries and you know too often we kind of tell ourselves oh i've been doing this for for x amount of time and this is all i know and so you never really let yourself say but how can i reuse these same skills that are equally applicable in other industries so i like how taking minus the ability to or learning how to close and how to ask for the full amount kind of or stealing the deal at least the tenacity and going out and getting the deals and figuring that out was interesting so now we'll keep going to the story already told uh so he did real estate for a period of time and then he said okay i hate technology or technology doesn't work how i think it should so how is that again that transition from going from what would be real estate over to a tech industry and making that pivot so it's been it's actually been much harder than going from being an athlete to real estate this is a much harder transition and it's difficult and the sense is difficult i'll tell you what's in common and i'll tell you what's different so all the acronyms are different all the speak is different i don't know how to code anything so you're kind of living in a world where you don't understand a lot and i would say the first three or four years when i was in the business i clearly didn't understand a lot of stuff i mean today i you know today's a lot different but back then i certainly was at a loss i mean i could barely turn on my computer my son had to come over here dad let me push the button for you i was like what you know so that was that was a struggle and i made a lot of mistakes which you know if you can recover from your mistakes you're good you need to admit where you make mistakes and i'm readily able to do that and say okay well just don't make that same mistake twice that's kind of my rule of thumb make it one time and hopefully you don't make it again but it is a lot harder no and that's interesting it's interesting the difference so some skills are more easily transferable and some take or take more work to come up to speed on because i think it's interesting that dichotomy of hey i went from tennis to real estate and that was a other than or you know figuring out to ask for the money and the final close it was a much more easy one to jump into and yet when you go to the technology it's a different skill set and you're having to say hey some of these are transferable and some of these aren't in that that dichotomy but none so nonetheless you made the jump now to the uh tech industry and i think he did that when we talked a little bit before the podcast about 11 years ago or so is that right yes about right so i have the longest startup ever existed probably uh but that's true but that's part of the tenacity now my skill set was sales so i knew how to sell something and honestly you know i won't sell you something i don't believe it i'm not i'm not that kind of salesman and that's what was hard for me at the beginning was to try and sell something that i didn't believe in and i could never do that that was one and the other thing i brought to the table was financial skills so i understood how to do it excel i don't i can't do excel but i understand totally i i understand very complicated computations in real estate like irr returns all types of very fancy types of things i understand mortgages and a lot of the technology and real estate understood i could bring that to the market but what i couldn't anticipate which is where you kind of fall down was i hadn't really made a plan of how i was going to make money i came up with this great idea of how i was going to make a great browser better than anybody else made but i had forgotten probably the most important ingredient was boy how are we going to sustain ourselves and i had to keep moving around pivoting pivoting pivoting i finally after seven or eight years i was about to throw in to tell because they're really you build a browser there really isn't a way like i think maybe brave has figured it out but on the most part you don't make money off of your browsers you make money other ways but your browser's not one of them and it took me a long time to figure out that my my browser the way i designed it was not going to make me any money and you get as much as you'd love to like say well i just love what i i built it's really hard then to give it to the world and not have something to keep it up and running you need some money to otherwise it was just a great idea and nobody would back you the investors didn't like the space i was in they didn't like you going up against google which is chrome or going up against any of those guys and they all remembered you know seven or eight years ago they still remember the internet wars or they are the i should say the browser wars and that sound a lot of investors like well i like your idea but i don't want anything to do with you and that is a hard one but i think it's a good one to learn from is you know you can have a really great product but if you don't have a path you also have to have a path to monetize it otherwise it's always just a passion project or something that you do as a hobby but you're not going to be able to support yourself off of advice for so i think that that's you know a good cardinal rule to learn so as you made that realization just saying okay you know i can make the world's best browser but you know and probably my guess is it'd be hard because chrome comes for free or at least you know for free in the sense you don't have to pay for it same thing with this internet explorer and all the you know all the other ones and so it's going to be hard for people to say i'll pay for a browser when i'm used to getting it for free and so you know as you kind of come to that realization how did you pivot or adjust or what did you do to say okay we have to make money we have to support ourselves what are we going to do to make this profitable kind of how did you make that transition or pivot yes so that was that was the lights on aha and i would tell anybody who's an entrepreneur that if you're even about to give up if you have an idea uh you know try and work through it and sorry one of the phones are ringing but just ignore it um try and work through that idea before you throw in the towel and that was i'll tell you that's exactly where i was i still have a wife at home telling me you should quit when i know we're very close to a very successful idea so what happened was i had the browser in place and i was to the point of shutting it down and saying i just can't figure out and you know here's the thing all of your and i want entrepreneurs to know this you cannot take whatever your consultants or your employees are telling you you really should not listen to them because they have their own self-interest and so if they say well just do this for a little bit more time or do that that doesn't make it going to be a success it could very well make it that they're just going to get paid and so you have to be very careful about third parties telling you how you're going to make money without use without you doing the research yourself and saying aha that makes sense and maybe i can do that because for years people told me that cocoon browser don't worry let's do this let's do that none of those things worked and you know literally spent millions of dollars really learning a lesson well luckily i can afford it but learn a lesson so when it came to cocoon i was just about to shut down and i said to my son i was talking to him telling you know i think i need to shut this down it's not making any sense and he said well you know dad have you ever thought about people's data itself and i was going like no what are you driving at he said well you know that's valuable and nobody's getting paid for it why don't you if you know how to build a browser why don't you build a browser that allows people to get paid and i was like oh my god what a sensational idea and of course i jumped on it and got into the research and then there's lots of pitfalls in it by the way no there's nothing that's perfect in these things and so there's still pitfalls in it but the idea and the concept which seemingly is working is allow people to to become more of a democracy over your uh internet and a lot of people the people to profit off of their own work so what's happening right now is all the big companies google twitter chrome all these companies oh chrome's part of google they're kind of fooling you they're saying you get to use our browser for free but we're collecting billions of dollars between search and your browser and data that's collected on you you know you never see your google things say it's 15 minutes to work where they're collecting that data as well and so that data is being sold or used to get advertisers to advertise to you so what's really happening is you are the you the user are the product right and i realized that well what that doesn't seem fair to me what seems fair to me is the user should get part of the profit could i make that work and so my math skills of course then i sat down and went well wait i think i could make that work and so that became my next passion which is it's kind of odd you go from privacy which i'm a huge fan of to something that says eh you know i don't know if there's that much privacy left in the world anyway why don't we sell our data and get paid for all right it's a real dichotomy be going from privacy to well let's get paid if because you have to realize there really isn't a lot of privacy left and no matter what the government does companies are going to find their way around those things because and the reason why it's never going to go away is because the internet is built on free but free is not free free is somebody's taking that data and monetizing it so the minute the government says you can't do that anymore minute i would say you're paying for everything on the internet no and i think that that i think that's a fair point it's kind of it goes back to the old saying or attitude or wherever it comes from and i don't know what remember it is you know if you know if you don't know who's if you don't know who's paying for it you're the product type of thing right in the sense that you know so i think that there's a i think it's an interesting you know you have that kind of aha moment of hey we're already you know we're getting monitors so to speak your privacy is going by the wayside and you know as a side note it's interesting how quickly that happened in the sense right you know for a long time people cherish their privacy and then comes out hey if you'll give me a free browser if you'll give me a free subscription people are more than willing to give up some of that data and that privacy but hey you're saying if that's already the place that people decided they want to go and then what they're willing to accept then let's at least see how we can't make that so it you you're receiving compensation for giving up that data so i think that certainly makes sense what was said to me i'm i've always been a small business owner and even in my real estate career we did really well but i've always believed you know that the i'll say the guy who no not the big corporations and i never want my company to act like this i know investors will hammer me but i have a real defense which is if my customers don't profit we don't profit which makes this a much easier thing to really have a great company because it's not you versus you know your user it's you maybe versus selling data or something of that nature but what i realized was we've all been sort of taken we didn't really realize i would tell you most people until 10 years ago didn't realize that they were trading their privacy in or the free internet they were the product and they were never told that no one ever that was kind of like a well this is like it reminds me of the of the uh drug thing that went on in cycling no one knew this was going on for years and years there was suspicion there was all these you know maybes until lance finally admitted it i mean lance armstrong admitted that yeah he was doing drugs and it's the same thing with the internet in my opinion none of these people really wanted to admit that they were taking they were giving you something free which wasn't free and taking all that data and using it and you didn't realize it most a lot of people still don't realize that that's what's going on no i don't know and it'd be interesting because you know i tend to agree in the sense that you know even people that think okay you know social media or social media platforms facebook or whichever one you want to choose they probably don't realize how much you know unless you would become a marketing and advertising go the back end and beyond the business side how much data they collect and how targeted they can get the ads and how they can actually put that as a platform so the ads that are popping up to you aren't popping up to everyone they're popping up to a specific subset that's being targeted so i certainly you know agree with you and it's interesting how how that is adjusted and how that's shifted over time well as we you know so now you if you've come to the conclusion that hey this is where we're going to pivot this is where we're going to make a profit and we're going to make a pro you know we're going to take the company so now where's the next five to 10 years take you we're not 5 to 10 or 6 to 12 months kind of where do you see how now how do you continue to pivot involve and bring that to the marketplace so we started this this is kind of a great story we started down the line of the desktop and we're still being guided by consultants telling us this and that and it turns out that what we thought we were going to get paid they didn't pay us for our customers this is not about me i don't get paid unless my customers get well paid and so we've had this problem on desktop where honestly i want to be honest with people we couldn't make a lot of money on it i think that dynamic will change as we grow and as as if this works and people say sure i'll accept a couple bucks to start and hopefully in a year it will double or triple um and you'll find that all the companies are in the space i think i'm unique in one way and i'll explain that in a minute versus some of the competition um so you that's the one problem that you really have but if you have multiple buyers soon enough or you find the right formula i think we can pay people enough money to get them interested and to grow it and the more we grow it the more money we end up making for you because the more buyers that want to buy that data they don't really care who you are they're not even interested in you they're more interested in your profile so to speak i care about your name and address in fact a lot of times your your email addresses are hashed meaning that that the if they sell your email they don't sell the just the open they hash it so somebody has to go figure it out and match it up now i can tell you a computer can probably do that but they don't they don't outrightly sell those and some companies i guess do but we don't so um the idea here is to the next six to twelve months is is to build the base um we're going to focus in on people who are commuters truck drivers and uber drivers and lyft because the miles it turns out that the miles they drive are very valuable and like a truck driver could be making at the in the first year 15 to 25 a month and that could grow substantially if he throws in his browsing time um and hopefully we'll have some other things you want to sell a profile you can um so this will turn into in my prediction two to three years could turn into a 40 or 50 a month uh opportunity for people to make some money off of their own data and that's where i see the vision the vision is the democracy of you deciding what you want to do with your data that's the first thing that you get to do if you want to just give it away for first of all if you want to make it really private go buy yourself a vpn that's the only real solution i can a virtual private network it's a real solution i can think of and have it on your phone have it on all your devices so it hides your ip address all the time uh on your phone that's a little different problem because they have your id on your phone and they can track you on your phone do you have all those apps by the way i hate to tell people but half those apps you have on your phone you know why they're free they're taking your data and they're sending it somewhere shazam's a perfect example of a company that's free and that data is getting sent and being sold to someone so really there is no privacy left i hate to give bad news to people but it's the truth no and i i think that they're you know facing reality and understanding it at the at least then you're able to say are am i wanting to do sell this and if i'm going to sell this or if i'm going to be the product let's make as you said some compensation for it you can yeah you can ignore the whole thing if you want and just pretend you have all the privacy in the world because you don't know any better but you'll see those ads that are attributable to the things you're looking at so as long as you want to ignore all that you know you can be an oblivious and you can do it well so as we and there are plenty of things that we can continue and lots of good rabble holes and tangents but as we start to wrap up the podcast and uh get towards the end of it i always i always ask two questions so why don't we jump to those now so the first question i always ask is along your journey what was the worst business decision you ever made and what did you learn from um well i've had a lot of bad experiences in the business and i would say i would say on the most part just in general listening to consultants because they don't necessarily have your best in mind and so you've got to be very careful about consultants who you hire that tell you a great story and then don't deliver or it doesn't just work out um no i think that makes sense no and i think that too often you hire you know i'll hire a consultant it'll solve all my problems and yet the consultants are are there to make money they are there to get an income and sometimes while you know that what they propose may not always be in your best interest or they may not know your business or those things well enough so i think that that's certainly some good wisdom second question i always ask is so if you're talking to someone that's just getting into a startup or a small business what would be the one piece of advice you'd give them research first do your research do not jump into something without a deep dive into something that you have interest in now a lot of times these interests come from things that happen to you and that's great but before you go diving into things like a perfect example i was competing with virtual private networks so virtual private was a much better play because they were making money right they could sell this virtual and i was free and i was stuck in this browser world which was free i couldn't figure it out and make any money so as i say do your research before you do anything no i think and i think that's great advice in the sense of you know too often you have a you have an exciting idea or something that you think will work out well you don't you don't fully understand the marketplace or all the ins and outs or how you're going to make money or monetize it or how you're going to take it to market or how you're going to compete with people and so you don't you know you just get excited with the idea and yet doing the research can one either better prepare you to dive into the business or avoid avoid the pitfalls of not diving into a business that you're not going to be able to compete or be successful and so i think that's both great piece of advice well as people want to reach out to you they want to be a user they want to be a customer of your product they want to be an investor they want to be your next best friend any role of the above what's the best way to connect up with you or find out more so if you want to be an investor contact me directly that's the best thing to do and i'm jeff i'm at my email is jeff at the like victor world w-o-r-l-d-c dot com we do have a crowd funding page so if you want to put in 100 bucks just to give it a whirl you could i you know i'm not allowed to recommend or not recommend in a sense but i can tell you you have a very tenacious hard-working honest a guy i think we're gonna this is good just gonna be a great um field for us and then the second thing is if you want to try the product unfortunately we don't have uh ios yet we have android so you can go to the android store or you could go to our website which is tri cocoon try cocoon.com and you'll see the product that's for sale i mean the product that will make you money download that on your android at the play store and go after it and you'll see not going to make you a ton of money to start but stay with us and we'll we'll eventually figure that all out our goal is to make you a lot of money uh and the the third way is uh is you can download our desktop which is both for ios or for mac and and windows so you have your choice of the desktop or the android all right well i definitely encourage whether you're an investor or want to try out the product and you have an android phone or any or all of the above to reach out find out more about jeff and his uh and his product and all that he has going on and definitely uh or something that's exciting that they're as exciting to watch as it continues to evolve well jeff thank you for coming on it's been a pleasure now for all of you listeners that are wanting to come on and tell your journey and share your story feel free to apply to be on the podcast by going to inventivejourneyguest.com for your listener make sure to click subscribe so you get notifications as all the new episodes come out and last but not least if you ever need help with patents or trademarks feel free to reach out to us at miller ip law by going to strategymeeting.com and we're always here to help thank you again jeff it's been a pleasure and fun to have you on and wish the next leg of your journey even better than the last thank you very much devin i enjoyed being here with you 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