Give Yourself A Try
The Inventive Journey
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Stop Procrastinating Just Do It
“stop procrastinating just do it, there is so many lessons like you and I with our businesses have learned. There really is no other way to do it, other than when you're up at midnight trying to understand tax law for your parole, there just is no other way."
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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stop stop procrastinating just do it there's so many lessons like the you and I right with our businesses have learned there really is no other way to do it you know then when you're up at midnight trying to understand tax law for your payroll you know like there's just no other way hey everyone this is Devin Miller here for another episode of the inventive journey as as your host I'm your host and the patent attorney that does patents and trademarks for starters and small businesses and we're walking you through another exciting journey of dennis underwood so he'll be a great guest and we're excited to have him on as a quick intro dennis is a bit of an accidental entrepreneur he worked at he did did some compañera competitions with competing people with TechCrunch he's been served in Iraq did it work for the NSA and now is doing a bit of things for on his own for us on data security so I'll let him give a much better intro that I did at least I sets it up so welcome to the podcast Dennis yeah thanks something I appreciate it so so why don't you maybe we'll start out I did a very brief intro but every but you can certainly introduce yourself better than I can so maybe walk us through the kind of a bit of your journey and what's brought you up to this point yeah and then I stay allegedly better right so actually it was accidental getting into sorting a business when I was sitting in an interview room and there were a bunch of people there that were much lower than me at the time I was like 20 probably they were now age I am now which is kind of scary but what happened was in the world every every day every birthday it feels like I used to think these people of my age were over that now out there it's like doesn't feel so old this is getting very serious now I had to be an adult right right all the gray hair but either way yes so how it started was I was competing for at the time was a college kids IT help this job and I saw a bunch of people that were recently laid off and I needed money to pay for Pitt at the time and pay for housing and things like that and I knew I wasn't gonna win the interview against folks with 20 years experience so I had to figure something out quick so I actually walked out and a couple days later walked back in as Dennis Underwood incorporated and you know I had nothing to lose I was 20 and in college and paying way through school right and I ended up making more money and had flexibility to complete the tasks on my schedule which you know got a couple more clients ended up being a good thing and fast forward you know went to went to Iraq came back of course the services businesses don't do well when the founder in the principal is gone fighting a war but came back resuscitated the business moved down to Charlotte at a time with the white you know I was married by then ended up graduating from grad school had you know had a couch at that point you know family to dogs so I'm gonna I'm gonna dive in for just a second because you jumped back a whole bunch of interesting things so you start first of all interesting your great that you went into the visitor when it to the interview and said hey I've not never gonna have this job because everybody has a whole bunch work right here to experience so I just gonna go and start another business and it does well but then what during that so that was interesting in and of its own and then you decided so you were you in served in Iraq it was that wish arm a branch with the military was a I was Army when I was 17 joining field artillery and shooting stuff sounds really really cool not a good career move necessarily except for the lessons learned like school part knocks yeah yeah so so you did that was he signed up and then you got our Iraq happen did you and went sir so I'm like you know love or thank you first of all for serving your country and then you can go deeper Canada right yeah well I think that there's a there's a lot of good the a lot of much better to serve your country than the alternative so thanks again for serving he came back and so as you're coming back because you have a lot of people that you know they're going to the military you serve your time and you come back and it's hard to transition or hard to figure out what you want to do you know kind of job wise work wise some of the skills transfer well sometimes they don't so how did you did you decide hey I already started this business before I got called up I'm just gonna go back to that kind of thought or how did you kind of make that transit transit back yeah yeah it's kind of crazy so I ended up bringing a whole bunch of sands and other security books I already knew I was getting into security before was really a thing I was gonna find the hackers and figuring stuff out and in between missions and and journeys well over there I would pool the Santa new mice and security text books out from my rucksack and would study because I knew that when I go back yeah this is temporary and when I get back and get out I'm gonna need to bring everything back to life right fun little fact you see all the qur'an's over there that are like thread bound very fancy so my sans books where my textbooks were glue bound glue does not work well but it's a hundred thirty degrees outside so I was actually chasing chapters from my books down you know as they blew away because the books literally would fall apart in my hands because the glue just turned into mush that bad I wouldn't have ever thought of him it makes perfect sense but I wouldn't have thought that all the glue that from books that you would have normally had a fire-type reading would have also that is a funny story yeah it's a bit of a mess because people would be you know hanging out near by Iraqis and such and it took me way too long to figure out the faster I ran after of my textbook pieces the more valuable they thought those were and I can never outrun them I was never that good right so I had to just let him go after a while and when I got back from my business backed up actually I could almost tell exactly where the chapters were that I had had gone missing right you know in in to the end of the country because I'd get to a section and say why am I not knowing this you know and then I go back to my text book and see this a big a big gap right where that chapters gone and literally gone with the wind you know so but I sorted that back up you know I was good at least academically in theoretically excited I couldn't really have my Metasploit you know kali linux laptop over there pen testing belly sounds book knowledge so i was able to pick things up back up very quickly and get my business started back up in charlotte again got a really good offer from from the department defense you know to go do work for them so they hired me on did that for a while but I'm sure it's a common theme for every one of your guests is that once once big an entrepreneur it's in your blood it's not it's hard to get rid of you know and so I tried that I am tried really hard to make the government do more and faster more efficiently than probably any government is capable of doing just like every other tech entrepreneur that goes you know to take a couple years in the government left became a consultant for a while but really what happened with the the invention part is I sat back and said well I'm not going to hire my way out of our security skill shortage that we have and it takes so long to find the art versus the science that person is really good at finding hackers you know so I said my only way out of this is to invent something now that's how it started told the wife she you know she said she's along for the ride you know it's always positive right you know and I mean fast forward five years we have four patents internationally we have a whole business focused on our products we have a couple more patents on the way and we're making it happen right and it's all about automating stuff that people can't possibly ever do fast enough or good enough hmm so no and that is a great sermon I'm gonna jump back because there's a couple cool things that you didn't get cool didn't touch on so when you went to the NSA before you started your own business if I remember right when we talked a little bit before the the episode you actually did it by winning a hacking competition is that right yeah there was this I think it's much more much bigger and more mature now as a collegiate cyber defense competition and at the time was much smaller and I remember so our team won regionals and it was companies like Price Waterhouse Cooper and Deloitte and other security consulting firms very you know very well regarded and I remember we won regionals so big I was a bit cocky with the recruiters that were there and kind of said hey if these guys are regionals who's gonna be in Nationals right so we want Nationals but I didn't see any recruiters I just saw people there that wouldn't tell me their name I didn't have main badges or swag and I remember going back to my wife and we were talking about having our first kid and you know had a house and I said honey I really screwed up like I gotta go back and apologize to all these people I was cocky and rude to to try to get a job right when I'm you know or at least get a contract with them and yeah and that was interesting but then of course it all worked out and we found out that they were somehow affiliated or or tipped off the government you don't want one way or the other so really realistically they're probably listening in to this podcast right now now that you've been on her bit on the nsa's list probably not it's not that it's not that interesting for them what elicited so all right so you one that you worked with the NSA for a while and then you decided hey with and dive into it so I mean I know that you kind of said that four or five years but you know if I heard it outside world you know not knowing attend about the NSA other than what I see on TV or movies which I'm sure is completely accurate and that's known in no ears whatsoever by understanding so NSA you know at least has a cool cool name to it everybody knows it seems like it'd be a cool job for you know cybersecurity or hacking and you know kind of working against the bad guy and all the things I see in the movie so jumping to that what made you decide okay I know you touch that lightly I'm at the NSA now I'm gonna go back in the private industry I'm gonna kind of do things my way or do something different what made you decide to make that transition oh wow so you put me on the spot here so what ended up happening and this is true for any government agency is that I got a little spoiled by you know walking back into that office at but you're 1999 or 2000 or whatever and because when you're a consultant and you're an inventor and you're have your own business you can move as fast as you want to move right in it it's all about self motivation and it larger that could be true or else you can stead of a rock right self-motivation right mmm so I get back to this government agency and their timetables and timelines are much more in line with everything else in government all over the world you know much slower you have to work within a bureaucracy I love watching Parks Recreation because it brings back memories it was a little bit too raw at the time but now it's been a couple years right so I look back and think that's right you know so I guess the point was was that I you know I had been beating against you know government timelines were you know people some people actually do wait 30 years for retirement right you know so okay so I took a step back and said you know I'm tired of beating my head against the wall in this way I would like to do something different so I tried consulting because at that point I could have one foot in one foot out you know where I'm doing work but then I could go at night and do coding or something else then I got the point where I realized the consulting firms were also very similar you know as long as you were making them money by billing on government contracts they were they were happy mission accomplished mm so I said you know I really need to just leave and go in and you know do my mission so I actually was poking around and you know I think I created like an LLC you know it's nothing big and I said I should start looking at this more and take this seriously at the time my employer made it very easy decision for me I had the hazing but every good entrepreneur should have of getting walked out fired by your employer you know and then and that was it I was I said oh this is just like being back when I was 20 and sitting in the interview room and realizing I'm never to get that job you know it's like you're in for a pound in for a penny you know and so repenting for a pound and so hope you can edit that out you know but uh yes that's what happened and then I realized this is very real very quickly and I came home to the wife and I said we're doing this and and then we had a you know and then she was actually happy for me sounds cool so now I'm gonna dive deeper so did they and not to pour salt it would did they fire you did you quit was a mutual you know what so my question more of when you decided hey we're gonna do this was it kind of you made the decision and that was yours or you said hey this is now I have to do it I got to make it work and I think both their Amma or you know are good weight reasons to start by just was diving in a bit on that yeah so the that the leave from the government agency was just a normal thing I was overseas and I told the wife hey the this promotion position there's really no upward mobility to it so we're gonna hang out for a couple years and enjoy jolly old England and then the wife said well I really miss my mom and of course we had two babies at the time so that made the decision very quick you know very easy and then a contracting company picked us up and move this back within two weeks so that was good wife is happy kids are happy everyone's happy right that's how that started it was right you know very amicable of course nobody likes losing a good engineer yeah so there's always a little bit tension there but then be leave for my own business yeah it was you know that they saw that I was uh on the way out and potentially a competitor again that's that's not a new story right you know I kind of looked at and was like at the time and it was like less Thanks you know but um but that's just you know you're on a journey like at that point you're you're doing it yeah no I think that's very true I wasn't trying to force all through it I just thought it was an interesting thing just what you said you got you know I had the picture of you had the box of your head there we got the two security guys or they're walking out of the building so that was the idea so I had to get her just wanted to get a bit of clarification they kind of like invited me they said they had to meet me off site out of the building and then I ordered a drink and sat down and then they I thought they were talking we had in some new new contracts that I had brought to them and and then they were just like yeah you're fired and I was like oh well but a little differently than I thought yeah that was like I guess that's that you know but that's fine I mean I already had the LLC created right so I think within 24 hours I had work you know this is not as easy yeah so you know and sometimes I and the reason I ask is I also it's sometimes it almost that push right sometimes we get too complacent or you know what we could do better what you know and that's even you know me starting Miller IP law a few years ago I had a good job it was a law firm and if you ask my wife she said why don't you just stay there type of a thing cause you make good money you're you know you have good work and everything else and yet you're kind of saying you know I don't want to stay here I want to do my own thing and yet you know for a lot of people that ease of life or that complicity or that stopped you from doing what you really want to do or what you really couldn't even make a lot better so thought that was an interesting so you do that you know you know 24 hours later you already have your LLC started up and now you're trying to think you know you have some work which right good for you that's you know much quicker than most businesses start to get work in the door yeah it's easy with services right with products and inventions you have all those sunk costs right so I did bootstrap with services there weren't any really investors nearby of the type that every time I got an offer for an investment I would look at my ability to earn right whether it's through myself or or contractors bringing them on whatever and every time there was a number the number was never big enough I was like like give me 90 days I can do that you know and so that's this kind of house started and looking back five years later I'm like wow this is some serious money at play here you know that's cool so five years you know five years of being in the trenches now starting in a business how is that gone I mean it ups and downs highs and lows or how's that been for you lots of ups and downs absolutely I think I one thing I would advise people to do is find a new market from where your previous employers were that cost that cause a lot more fierce competition will say then if I had just gone to different market all together you know and maybe move out the area or whatever I have to do to get a fresh start you remind me in the army where you'd have like a there's a rank called efore in the automotive like specialists it's right below sergeant and sometimes you've got a hard time where they would leave and as a specialist just one of the guys and they also can come back as the manager I'm sure lots of places have this right and sometimes you end up it's a better experience by going to changing army units because then you're new and you're known only as the manager you're not you're not the guy who used to go you know go drinking with them and also not you're the boss you know so it was a little bit like that was it was a change in dynamic with the clients and with the peers in the competition so I do recommend you know doing that if there's any advice I can give anyone but yeah it's definitely it's been it's been a lot of fun a lot of highs and lows certainly make sure you have good lawyers make sure you have a good support staff the patent process we we were smart to invest in that we actually forgot a loan to pay our first patent and found I found a great lawyer didn't know you the time yet Devin you know but oh we great until you know Mia then it looks make them look like they're not right now yeah yeah yeah and then yeah and then I definitely recommend I love the idea of having a building something and putting your know your flag kind of in the sand to build something that is lasting and making money but more importantly for me last thing and having an effort beyond what myself or my employees could do personally and I think that's that's great because now you have something tangible right whether it's a patent whether it's the product in hand the code the widget whatever and even when I sleep at night or something god forbid would happen to myself or the business there's still value that was created that extends beyond me and that's really what I was going after with the product the services got us there you know it was a good one it is a good run but that's just not where the focus is right now all right no I very interesting so I'm gonna you hit the key word of patents and so you say you take out a loan so how would because a lot of times especially in your startup or small business you're saying hey we only have so much money well it doesn't matter how big you get either it so we always have budgets and concerns and where you spend the money and you know what makes the most sense and hey should I hire another person should I gotta go get a patent or should I hire you know should I go buy new equipment or should I get your software or we know where to spend the money so how did you kind of make that decision that this was it was important to have to go take out a loan or you want there you know that you want to invest in that part of the business yeah yeah so we first did the provisional patent and what was interesting is that there were people that were will say poking around our IP that we were already kind of figuring out and it was an R&D stage at that point right so it made it really easy to to make the decision and you know I read online how do you protect your code right and that was that was the best thing at this time we put in the provisional that protected us partially we had I think about virtual patent was probably 30 pages long it was my lawyer just kept having me write and write and write so and then we actually did the did the real one and well internationally and I'm really really glad I did of course is that so global nowadays that we we started getting hits from people overseas over in Europe Canada Australia Japan and and of course China but that's not where we want to be like don't don't if your tool works against Chinese hackers don't among others they're not as interested in your you know being a customer right good way by the way we took up loan it was the best investment I I probably made as far as like tangible non-personnel you know expenses that was I think originally it was what a 10k loan and then I paid that back right away and then of course the provision or the non-provisional patent a 10k is like the first taste I was like the teaser right and then many get hit with all the fees and fines and 5 but fees and in the expense of the patent attorney for the non-traditional the real one right so but it was worth it was definitely worth every penny and one day when I said all I know that that those patents will have value even if everything else goes wrong you know which hasn't thank goodness we still have that oh that's cool no I agree this is especially if you're into a lot of times as services or software that it's hard because code is you know code is one where people can make they can do the same they can code it a different way to accomplish the same thing right as they get a smart - smart coder to say hey we do this I can obviously you know they can design around it or they can recoat it in the sense that they you know every coder has a bit of a different way so that's why a lot of times you're saying hey you know how do I protect software and that one can be a harder one so I'm I'm certainly biased and I've certainly promoted of protecting that asset if you're gonna put a lot of time and effort to build an asset out it's gonna have value patents are obviously a good way to do it I know that's why it's that biased advice for me because I have self interests that doing that but I still think there's a lot of value there so we're reaching towards the end of the podcast but I always end off with two questions for the podcast and so we'll hit on those now so the first one is what was the worst business decision you ever made Oh so I have to walk a thin legal line here even if you have to forego hiring the wrong person like like even if you think it you know trust your gut I guess when when someone's coming in even if all the advisors and all of the the books tell you that you need this profile it's not a good fit in your gut just don't don't waste your time you know that was probably the biggest expense we had and it's also difficult to then restructure the team you know there's damage during and then it's damage after right yeah and so that's having a good lawyer it would really help they're not actually IP learn more of like a HR lawyer to help you craft the story you know on the way in and yeah yeah that's all I'm gonna say about that you know and I won't go that you know I think that one is one there's and I and I made the same mistake you know I obviously don't have any think that's a Barbie from say anything but you know when you get into hiring police for a lot of people and myself included you always figure that everybody's gonna work as hard as you are and everybody's gonna do everybody's gonna be it is look you know is wanna make it building and build it up and want to do a good job and everything else and yet often times very seldom is that the case not everybody is like the founder or the co-founder the person started and people either in there for a paycheck or they're in there for a short term or anything else so I think that too often you you know you get your point where you want to rush in hire someone because you have the need and too often you hire the wrong person at the wrong and that one can be as costly in the sense of whether it's you know even if it's you know whatever the industry is you have to be an unemployment tax when they leave or you have to do you have to spend more time and effort to hire a new person a poor trained one and buy it or find them and everything else and so that's one that it's you know I think it's almost universal across that as taking your time to hire the right person and then making sure it's the one that not only may look at on paper but it's your company culture if it's the people you want and you think it's Hayes this is someone that I can will be there to help build the team as opposed to just they look good on paper so great all right so I think that I think that's a good lesson to learn okay and so I'll hit on now the second question which is if you're getting something that was wanting either just starting out to start up or wanting to get into a startup or a small business what would be the number one piece of advice you'd give them are we talking about a services startup or a product startup I'll let you choose Wow okay choose your services startups are easy to get into right you don't have really have any upstart costs you can just kind of go at it Irie now does someone hit me up and they have all these like plans they bought these books and they're gonna do MBA type things mmm you've got to step out there and do it I'm not saying get fired by your employer that that's certainly a tradition that a lot of us share which is fine but you know there's other ways I mean the point is it wasn't about that it was about me you know taking that step out so I recommend doing that and you know learn all those lessons on a service company but make sure that you're you're building that product everyone is different model they want the product company you know don't rush out to get investor there go ahead and just see if you can make it happen you know and especially you nowadays in my field where software is a big equalizer where you can really come out with the product you know and start adding value right away without you know needing to build a factory to build shoes anymore you know or shoe laces or whatever so I always tell people stop stop procrastinating just do it there's so many lessons like the you and I right with our businesses have learned there really is no other way to do it you know then when you're up at midnight trying to understand tax law for your payroll you know like there's just no other way you know I get out and I and I even went got the NBI I got way too many degrees but even as much as you know I got a law degree and MBA degree in engineering also you know and Chinese just to throw it in and for good for good measure but even with all that there is you know and so I think there's a place for education but it also stops in the sense that whether it's you know whether it's college whether it's wherever there's practical application and if you always you're trying to read are always trying to figure out the perfect plan or the way you know what's going to be the you know thing that makes you zero to a million and a week type of thing you know if you never get in and actually do it you're never going to figure out one if you like you know sometimes where people get in and they don't like startups or businesses and you learn that lesson or you learn the lesson that hey I I've waited way too long I got this going started to build it so I think that's a great piece of advice is jump yet going I definitely would have been better off with some some business education versus school of hard knocks and in whatever I sort of picking up a twenty but I'm begging the person to pay me you know that would have you know but it would have been better but when you're sitting there and it's time it's time you know it's one of those things doesn't matter if you bought the wrong shoes you're running now and even the the school part not even it doesn't matter how much education everybody gets to go through those school of hard knocks I remember sitting in here I know as an MBA class and once then this is all fluffy and I get into roar I'm like why don't we have those people teach the class because they're gonna know what they're actually talking about rather than the professors that never went straight from a Couture my students to academic and they never have that real-world application so I think that everybody no matter what path you take has the school of hard knocks and they get to go through yeah I agree and it would be good also to have a course material taught by someone like that because it gives you time to prepare emotionally because there might be a section that really is you know impactful that that week or or you're still not quite over yet maybe you've made a mistake and you had to you know recover from and having a Q&A by the professor is much you know where you're putting the spot all the sudden you know is much different than like I'm not saying you you know with with this but like yeah but having someone you know bring up an issue that you just see that can't talk about her or you haven't quite crafted that story yet that's that's constructive for the students to learn from I think having yeah having real life you know kind of in the trenches entrepreneurs it would be a good thing yeah and I even and now we get we go off on this tangent for a very long time but I will go down too much for Apple but I even look at you know people lot too often and you know exciting patent attorney so I played you know I worked a lot of startups and small businesses and the last a lot of times patent attorneys you know what you should do or what's business advice cuz you know you kind of get an overlap between should I do this should I not do this do you think this is a good idea not a good idea do you think sorry they almost sometimes ask as much business advice and I always say you know patent attorneys or you know attorneys in general give great legal advice and terrible business advice and that's because they most and they never done the business they've never actually been through and done a start-up or a business they've never had to invest their own money in a patent they've never had to make financial decisions and so there is a much different feel when you're actually out in doing it as opposed to just learning the theory of it so I think that's great advice thank read so cool well I want to thank you again for coming on to the podcast it's been fun time I always get to the end and I wish I had more time to go through all the rav holes that all the other things that would be fun to discuss but we're reaching the end but for people to want to reach out to you whether it's they want to be a client they want to be a customer they want to get to know things better any other reason to reach out what's a good way to reach out to you so I am very active on LinkedIn if you look up in asunder' would you get me and I think a pharmacy executive but don't go to the pharmacy very far yeah nothing like so find me hit me up on LinkedIn I'm always on there and I'm going to say hi you know just funding one of course now now comes the onslaught of staffing agencies but not because I've been right there with you so it's a laugh of compare of commiserating with you yeah there's a sympathy laugh I get it yeah no but yeah if anyone have any questions let me know and I'm glad to give succinct you know advice if they want me to sign an NDA first I get it's a lot of sharks out there that's fine throw me whatever I don't care I'm too busy to do anything else right now you know but yeah I'm glad to talk people and I'm glad to give some coaching I I would have to look behind me to make sure there's no one more senior there to coach that person you know when you're the last guy standing sometimes eventually I'll be the truth both of us right that's all right we'll hopefully be the last guy standing we beat out everybody else okay but yeah but anyway yeah look me up and I'm glad to give back I think it's start it's time to start doing that right so I'm glad to give back some real advice and may be introduced to some suppliers that I've learned I can trust that versus just random person and white pages well thank you and I'll certainly direct people to LinkedIn and that's always a great way specially in the business to make those connections thank you again for coming on it's been a pleasure and it's been fun to have you on for those of you that wanting to if you want to be a guest on the podcast we'd love to have you if you want to go to inventive journey calm feel free to apply and we're always looking for great guests so there's at least as good as Dennis or maybe better well if there's if that's even possible but appreciate everybody in all the listeners so if you want to be a guest let us know for those of you that are looking for a patent trademark attorney if your startup or small business and have some questions feel free to reach out to myself I'm happy to sit down and walk through those questions and for everybody else good luck on your journey and maybe a fruitful one thanks again for coming on Dennis it's been a pleasure and good luck with your future journey hey thanks a lot Devin appreciate your time you do [Music] [Music] English (auto-generated) All Sales