Take Advantage Of Every Introduction
The Inventive Journey Podcast for Entrepreneurs
Take Advantage Of Every Introduction
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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along that product market fit you've got to get out there and take advantage of every introduction that you can get and to talk to those potential customers or those potential uh you know they may not they may not actually be a customer this may be someone who knows something about that domain or has tried it before or has seen these things happen before a competitor even but get out there and take advantage of every introduction you can get to have those talks and learn from them [Music] hey everyone this is devin miller here with another episode of the inventive journey i'm your host devin miller the serial entrepreneur that's grown several startups in the seven and eight figure businesses as well as the ceo and founder of miller ip law we help startups and small businesses with their patents and train marks if you ever need help with yours just uh reach out to us by going to strategymeeting.com and we're always here to help now today we have another great uh guest on the podcast and it's vance and is a revive not quite but close just look great right make it easy that's right so vance started out uh his life with the goal that he wanted to be prime minister didn't quite hasn't made it there yet but that was an initial goal i went to went to school or went to university um got a political science degree and uh and a master's i think in public administration if i'm not wrong worked for the treasury department um was doing everything in print uh caught er and then he kind of found his first love with technology and so from that started his own or his first business as a startup um went to that i think it was with web design and development and it was at the height of the tech boom sold that business off timing was good at the height of the tech boom and then continued to work in the tech consulting and i think it's banking and travel for a period of time did another startup um with a different or with a business partner sold that off after seven years went back to consulting did another startup took a break then went into creating an app which is i think involved into the the junction ia dot ia that you're doing now today so um with that much is introduction welcome on the podcast vance great thank you very much great intro i really appreciate it and excited to be here today absolutely so excited to have you on so i kind of gave a brief you know brief overview of your um of your journey but now take us back and talk back a bit in time to when you originally wanted to be the prime minister and how your journey started from there yeah i mean i you know i've always been fascinated by business and politics and it's one of those things i'm just addicted to what's happening in the political world around us all the time and what's you know where things are going and the trends that are trends that are part of that and um uh you know so i i always saw myself as being that politician and um but as i i guess i guess move towards that career part of your life i started realizing that i enjoyed being on the the back end of things a little bit more and understanding and working in policy areas things that made a difference and um i felt made you know could make a difference very tangible very practical things and that that actually carried over i think that's probably sort of an ethos that drives me because as i got introduced into technology world again that same sort of like well what difference can i make like can i have a practical impactful relatively quick difference on people's lives their work lives in that case um that sort of that sort of followed me along from the from the political arena into the digital technical arena so now and now go and we'll get to the technical reading just a minute but you did you know you went all the way through school you got an undergraduate you got a master's and you went to work for the treasury so you were at least kind of getting into that politics realm and doing that and you did that for a period of time now what was the point where i said okay although i've always wanted to get into politics i want to be prime minister i'm going to switch and be in tech instead was it just kind of happenstance was it hey i saw a good opportunity or kind of how did you make that transition from where you originally were setting off to do with the what you got with your degree to what you're doing as far as business i i think the driver was the project i was on at the time we were looking at you know we were printing just streams and rooms of paper and books and stats and information about government you know progress and policies and spending and budgets and all these sorts of things and there's all this talk of innovation and talk of change and we were certainly innovative for what we were doing at that time but i guess i just had enormous impatience because i could see how the whole digital economy was rolling out at that time and the immediacy of things and i didn't want to spend years in a project to get digital i wanted to go and be digital now i didn't want to you know have endless meetings about how we'd get there i actually wanted to do i wanted to be on it so um i i did some retraining at that point but i realized my my skill sets that i'd learned from being a treasury and certainly in the university was that ability to to um you know really understand things and get a way of getting around things quickly and understanding things quickly and then to organizing those you know those approaches so it landed my it lended i guess to becoming a project manager in that way and with that really quickly i kind of found my fitting that as a project manager i could translate sort of the needs and wants of the client or the you know the end user with what was you know the the people building or creating or the doers of it and i really really enjoyed that space and and that's what i guess triggered me to go you know what i'm i'm gonna be you know i'm gonna love being in the digital world because things happen quick number one uh you can see the results really quick you know quickly but also there's a need for that person that can play that bridge that can talk the technology role but also translate that to the business people that need to use this technology and get ahead with it or find ways to you know improve their processes save some money improve their revenue whatever it is and that that's sort of just how that's how it evolved from that point um no it definitely makes sense so now as you get into that and say okay i want to be the one that's building technology have the impact be able to do that as opposed to kind of waiting for others to do it if they ever do and is if it's if it's anything like the us to be able to get anything done in government takes 20 times longer than what if you do it privately or do it yourself you know private industry so you decided to do that for a period of time you know as you get into technology and start to kind of work that out what was the kind of the first business you got into i think you said it was web design and development and those type of things yeah so i moved to wellington new zealand i've been an exchange student in new zealand when i was a kid at 15 for a year and i loved it and i knew i wanted to go back and so i just saw an opportunity when i got there i had a lot of friends and contacts there and so a business partner and i a friend of mine and i we became business partners um she had already been working in the web industry i had as well and some contracting and we thought you know we want to create a web design and development company to help businesses you know get their products online and and do all that wonderful things that they can do with those e-commerce sites and engagement sites and with government clients and things like that as well um and you know it was just uh she was a she was an expert in the internet and leading figure at that time as well and i came with my project management and business background it was a really good marriage from that point of view and getting a business up and going fast no that definitely makes sense so now you get you know you so you figure that out you kind of say hey i want to be in technology i want to be able to figure it out i want to be kind of part of it and be able to build it you build up the business and do that for a period of time and then what kind of you know and that you see that was kind of up to the point of the the height of the the tech boom or you know before the bubble burst so to speak as you did that you know how did you then deci what made you decide to sell and kind of how did you what did you do after you sold i think you know there was a couple triggers on the time to sell like we were very young you know we were in our 20s yeah that whole thing you think you know everything then and uh you know you know you know there's something you can learn but you you've got a lot of moxie and confidence then and you think you know so uh we realized quite quickly as we were growing um and we grew really fast um we were getting these offers from consulting companies that were trying to move in this area and so we did take advantage of that because you know for both of us at that age we could see our lives were going to go in different directions and and that you know it just was a good opportunity to take us up to that next level you know get money obviously the sale you know gave us both um some money and that would free up options for you in life to do what you want to do next and um that really i guess resonated for both of us so uh we took advantage of that and um you know and also we could see where the technology was going we knew we needed um to have a stronger and bigger back um office function you know more developers and you either have to go out there and get a lot of investment to make those investments and then you know they pay off as you get those new clients or you know you have to bootstrap it the whole way or stay small and i i think at that point we didn't really know how to get big at that time and there's a bit of an art to that right and you don't so we didn't really know how to scale at that time we didn't really know how to get investors in or you know sell part of the company for you know promissory notes or investment whatever it is these days that we is so easy but then it wasn't as clear and as common so we didn't i don't think we knew how to scale and make it big so it just was good timing no it definitely makes sense you know that's so you know when it's always in the timing of hey you've reached to a point a lot of times with a business a lot of times you'll you'll reach to a point where hey we've kind of built this or we're hitting a bit of that the glass ceiling type of thing where we you know we've kind of there's different individuals it's interesting as you kind of look and study businesses and some people are mentor wired or geared towards doing the startup a small business and figuring it out and getting it up and going and doing it but aren't necessarily don't it's not the same skill set as really growing the business into a huge thing and some people can do both some people love both some people are saying hey i just really love the song the small side of the small business and so i'm not going to work or i don't want to get into that having to deal with you know or hundreds or you know tens or hundreds of employees and doing a big business i just like the small kind of figuring out aspects so definitely makes sense and so now as you sold the business as you're saying okay we sold it off and we're transitioning i think you went into consulting for a period of time you know what made you go into consulting as opposed to doing your own business or you know but starting a new business or something of that nature i i the the drive for the consulting side was really wanting to do deep dives in a variety of different sectors and see how they were using innovate you know innovative technologies to transform their businesses so i was really interested in where banking was going because obviously they've been a leader in you know online banking and i wanted to be part of that so i worked at a major bank um traveled the same thing i mean there was so much change happening there um with you know with all of that moving online and that taking over the traditional role of the agents so again i wanted to get my feet wet there and government as well i mean the big spenders in technology and again you know my government background you know it touches everybody's lives and the more that's digitized you know renewing your license online or getting those permits online or whatever it is those sorts of things i wanted to really dig deep and learn the ropes on all of those areas so i had some strong sectoral understandings of what you know what the what the needs what the product is you know how to make a product fit for those markets and so that consulting was really valuable for me and then you know i went on with my a new business partner at that time to um then create a web hosting company and um specialize in in hosting you know high volume transactions and e-commerce sites and high volume engagement sites and things like that that just you know that immediacy and speed was so important all right no it definitely makes sense and so now you do that you know do that consulting gig for a period of time and you know or kind of go down that route now as you kind of transition into doing another startup what made you decide to you know move back away from consulting or otherwise say hey i want to go do another startup or was it hey had a great idea or somebody approached you or you were kind of getting that itch again or kind of how did you decide okay now that i've taken a break so to speak done consulting you know step back from a startup life now i'm going to get back into it and kind of because you did that a few different times right yeah three different times yeah every time i have this little retirement period after or whatever and then the third one i had a fairly significant retirement period after i you know moved to latin america um while i was selling the business while we were selling the business and then spent some time you know living in costa rica and just sort of enjoying a retired life but every time i do this this process i find i get bored really quick i mean i'm always fascinated by what's happening so i just need to be busy i need a project i gotta have something that i gotta get my you know sink my teeth and get going on and um you know so i did some work and you know i built some houses and sold houses you know i thought i got to try that so but of course technology called me and i had some ideas that i had formulated and that led to you know um what junction ais today and i'm fascinated by data because as we all know you know the growth in data and how it affects every every system now and every technology implementation and and how it works and you know that it just seemed to be an area where um i could see a really big difference could be made and it was just interesting i found it fascinating and interesting i mean all the way back in university i remember doing those stats courses where you you're analyzing data and trying to figure out the connection between whatever and this and i i enjoyed it then but i didn't realize that you know 20 years later wow i wish i would have paid a lot more attention and probably done some more advanced courses in that area so i just went in for the practical reasons i thought you know what i'll do some online stuff but i'm just going to get in there myself and get really practical about this and learn about data and um so junction ai really did start uh as an app before that that was a b2b2c app for marketers um that was about you know looking at data and how we can use data to understand everybody's personal preferences you know if i'm at the corner of second street and and third avenue or whatever it is i want to know that the stuff being marketed to me is very specific to what i want to do care about want to see want to engage in i don't want all the rest of the stuff and um we knew that data had the answer for that and you know it was just like an addiction i got going into it and then junction ai happened i didn't go into this with this idea of becoming an ai person i never even thought of it really but um as we looked at this data we just thought there's a wonderful technology tool ai wow machine learning let's start let's start using that and see what we can do hmm no it definitely makes sense so so now as you kind of say okay we've got you know an idea i think you know having more specific marketing or intelligent marketing and kind of based on the individual and maybe where they're located or what their preferences are and kind of taking you know that targeting to the next level in a good way in the sense of rather than just blasting people with a whole bunch of ads that they're not going to care about or that aren't relevant to them or you know that aren't going to have that return to make it a more specific or tailored experience to each individual so you get that going and as you kind of you know figure that out how was it that um you know as far as getting the company up and going having done a couple startups and selling them and doing consulting and doing another startup and that doing this last round has been one where it's been easy and it's been the hockey stick right straight up or has it been kind of back and forth and up and down and figuring it out and pivoting you're kind of how's it going you know um i it's a bit of both because this is the first time i've gone into it with the idea that i would you know bring investors into this company the other ones uh they were bootstrapped and self-funded and approached it that way this one i knew i wanted to move a lot faster i knew that you know looking at the data world and the ai world especially these these are things that take a little bit more effort uh especially with a sas product like we are you do need to invest more up front because all your costs are up front uh and you you know it's it's hard to bootstrap that you have to you have to build that product up before you can start selling any access to it and so this one was a different one it was one where i had to go back to almost school in that sense and learn well how do i go get investors uh how do i make myself into that brand and that company that investors will want to jump in and be part of and at the same time build a product that customers want to buy and you know and engage with so um i did a you know we did a an accelerator called blue startups um in hawaii and i know it's just a horrible place to go do business and learn about business oh terrible who would want to do that everyone felt so sorry for me spending three months in hawaii at an accelerator but you know blue startups is a great experience so i learned a lot about you know what what what do you do when you want to open an investor friendly company and what are the basics that you have to set up even in that because it's different than when you're you're doing it a lifestyle or a bootstrap company and so that that was a big change for me and a big difference too and learning how to bring that money in and then how to spend you know to keep running really super lean because we are but also making those investments count so so now you did that and you know kind of had a mixture of both and that kind of brings us a bit up to where you're at today where do you see kind of the next six to 12 months going for you how does how does that look or where's kind of what's that direction looking like well i mean as you know from your own experience too product market fit is everything and um i've learned a lot about that too so um what we've really seen over the last year especially with the pandemic and the impact but as we started working with marketers in this data we really saw a lot of opportunity on the prediction side and helping marketers get more accessible on demand information and so that actually changed how we we approached our business a little bit too we we realized that there's a lot of value in the data and marketers have more data than just about anybody else in an organization but they don't have the ability to harness it and make you know to use it really quickly so we started um you know we started more on the idea of the personalization side of things and we tested that out but we realized quickly that the underlying infrastructure for really good personalization was well what's your creative saying for you do you know what the audience wants like what's in demand what are their interests what are their behaviors and then does your advertising creative even reflect that to engage them in the first place you're not going to make that e-commerce sale if that image doesn't actually engage your audience so we um we really you know we did a bit of a pivot then and that product market fit we kept working on it and so really over the next 12 you know 16 months we we see our opportunity mostly to be you know growing in that platform sense from the the product management systems out there the advertising platforms out there to you know integrate straight into them of course we do work directly with brands as well but and agencies but integrate into those platforms so that marketers have those on-demand predictions and insights from the ai as they're doing their work within their workflow so they're not having to go to an i.t department and go i need to book a data scientist or an analyst for some work and you know three weeks later they get this person like they need this today um no i think that definitely makes sense so well now that kind of gives us kind of where you where how you got to where you're at and then a little bit of where you're headed it's a good transition to always jump into the last uh or a couple questions always ask the end of the podcast and just as a reminder before we jump into those we're also going to talk uh do the bonus question we'll talk a little bit about intellectual property so for those of you that are interested in hearing that question make sure to stay tuned after the the end after wrap up the normal podcast but as we jump to the normal last couple questions they asked first question always is along your journey what was the worst business decision you ever made and what did you learn from it um you know i don't know if there was a worse business decision but there were decisions i made that weren't informed like they should have been or i didn't i didn't you know i guess one of my worst first decisions was um not you know not uh paying for the professional advice and this was you know again when i was in my 20s i didn't know any better um you know a friend of a friend's an accountant or a friend of a friend's a lawyer or whatever it is right and you do the best you can thinking you're saving money and they're giving you good advice but you really can't um you can't replace getting the proper you know professional advice and it may take you interviewing like i interviewed lawyer in this latest one i interviewed a variety of lawyers before i decided which lawyer i wanted to work with and things like that so you have to put the time and effort into getting the right advisors and the right people and the right professionals to give you the right advice because it might cost you a little bit upfront but boy oh boy that's going to save you a lot of trouble headaches and money in the future for the mistakes that you could have made so i didn't know that back in my 20s i know now and i know the difference it makes no and i definitely agree in the sense that you know what too often but it's understandable the startup or small business saying hey i don't have the money or i can figure this out or i can google it or i do it myself for any number of reasons and sometimes occasionally that's true but a lot of times what you end up doing is you either get half or you know half-baked advice or wrong advice or you think you don't do it how you should and then you either end up spending more time figuring that out catching it up correcting the issues and if you'd spend a bit more of that time up front to get the expertise get that information get that knowledge it would save you a lot of time in the long run so exactly your own research don't go in there don't ever go in dumb do your research but yeah do do get those professionals involved all right i definitely agree with you so now let's jump to the second question which is if you're just getting if you're talking to somebody that's just getting to a startup or a small business what would be the one piece of advice you'd give them uh it's along that product market fit you've got to get out there and take advantage of every introduction that you can get and to talk to those potential customers or those potential uh you know they may not they may not actually be a customer they just may be someone who knows something about that domain or has tried it before or has seen these things happen before a competitor even but get out there and take advantage of every introduction you can get to have those talks and learn from them and you're not going out there to push your solution you're not going to show them a demo you're there to hear what their challenges are what they want to do what would affect their job would make their business better whatever it is right you've got to really listen and you and it's not just once you don't just go out there and do those interviews or you know those those meetings and then think you've nailed it go build go start spending money in the tech whatever it is right you have to constantly be out there doing that and um you know for founders you get a lot of different founders as i'm sure you know some are more technical some are more the business development we all have our own skill set but it's really important that all those founders get out there and do those that that customer investigation and that research because it's going to make a big effect and you can't do any you can't do everything they're asking you for but you're going to pick up the cues of where your product roadmap needs to go so that you know you're going to have demand when you when you can afford to deliver that piece of the product or whatever it is yeah spend time you can't replace it no and i think that that you know too often you take your network for granted or you don't you know you have a lot of resources a lot of people you know and a lot of you know people that are a lot of times people are willing to you know provide a bit of feedback or their help or assistance or lend an error or give you that and if you'd only utilize your network and yet too often you're too bashful or shy or think oh i don't want to bother them or it's going to be an intrusion or is going to affect your relationship when most times they're saying yeah should have reached out i'm happy to chat with you for a few minutes or help you out you know you're spot on there i've been blown away by the generosity of my network but then the people they've introduced me to and their networks everybody has been more than happy to have that coffee or have that phone call or that meeting and then often a second and third even though i didn't you know i thought wow i'm really imposing on them but no they've actually been i've been so thankful for the generosity of so many you know business people and communities who have helped me and given that time so get out there and make those connections and listen and learn we'll definitely agree well awesome well as we wrap up before we jump to the bonus question and want to say thanks for coming on the podcast it's been fun and a pleasure now for all of you the listeners if you have your own journey to tell and you want to be a guest on a podcast feel free to go to inventiveguest.com plan to be on the show two more things one as a listener one if you uh make sure to click subscribe in your podcast players you know when all of our awesome episodes come out to also leave us a review so new people can find out about us as well last but not least if you ever have any if you ever need any help with patents trademarks or anything else with business feel free to go to strategymeeting.com grab some time with us to chat so with that now we get a transition to what i you know one of the points i and i love the whole podcast but it's always kind of fun i always am the one that's asking the questions and you know talking about your journey and now it's kind of gets a opportunity to flip the tables a bit and you know ask a little bit or let your have you asked me a question and or talk a little bit about my area expertise which is going to be on the patent side so with that turn it over to you to ask what is your top intellectual property question yeah i guess for me it's really understanding um how i know uh or one i guess preparing and what do i need to do to to get to that position where i can go talk to someone like yourself or you know an expert in this area what do they need from me to understand whether there is an ip you know uh opportunity with what i'm doing like what what am i what am i potentially patenting or what can i patent and what do i need to have like what documentation or diagrams like what is it i can do at the very beginning or as i'm in this product journey and development journey to start building up that corpus of information so when i do talk to an expert like yourself they can look at this and go yeah you do have opportunity or there's value in this or yeah you can pitch this to your investors as a patentable opportunity so how do i prepare the groundwork that is like a a two or three hour answer but i know i know that's not fair i'll i'll condense it to at least a few thoughts as to how you might first thing is is to you know the more information the better is an attorney usually if you come in prepared and that can be everything from you know a patent is for is for a you know a something that has a utility a functionality it does something so if it's a patent and you're looking at hey i'm creating an invention or a widget or something else do your homework and you know get some of your documentation together what is my invention how does it work what have others done kind of what is you know what am i what is unique about mine what am i trying to solve and i wouldn't do an extensive amount of research but take five or ten minutes and actually just google it online you know and do a google search because it's shocking how many times i'll have people come in my office so there's a client will have a meeting and they'll be like i've got this great invention it's going to change the world and i'm like oh and they explain it to me i'm like you know it seems like i've seen that or it seems like that's probably already been done and we'll spend five minutes and say yep looks like there's already it out there you know and then the conversation really gets is okay if it's already out there are you doing something different are you doing something unique but you need to kind of know what's out there and do a bit of homework but come in prepared same thing with the trademark or brand hey have you done and look and see is anybody else using this brand is a url available because even if you get the brand and then you want the website you may not be able to get it and you do a little bit of homework so most of that is just really as a general do a little bit of homework and then gather as much information as you have and then go and talk with the attorney and they're going to give you some guidance because every situation is different if it's invention that you're needing you know help on they're going to walk you through hey it looks like you're too early on you know i haven't developed it far enough or hey you're being behind the ball let's hear and get caught up or whatever that is and same thing with um you know trademark they're going to say hey it looks like we can help you out and this is what i suggest so as a general rule get us do your bit of homework spend a few minutes so you're not just going in and not having done any homework and then second gather as much of the information is last thing i would do is also kind of you know going into saying hey i've got a business what what kind of intellectual property it's probably going to be a very broad question isn't going to they'll give you a good answer and i've had those conversations and we still help you out but what's the most productive is look and see what is the core of your business are you a product business and hey a patent is really going to be important to you because you want to protect the new whether it's software hardware and you know electronics or anything else but look and say okay this is really the core of our business this is where we want to focus on versus hey are we a brand business and you know brand and really what we do really well is we are great at customer service and we market better and we reach people and we have a better story to tell and yeah our products about the same as what's out there but our brand is awesome or as hey we came up with the world in the next best book and it's going to be the next harry potter tom clancy or whatever it is and we want to make sure we protect that because we're going to write a really great book or we've already written it so kind of whatever it is so takeaway is one do your homework two is to um government coming prepared and then three kind of gives some thought as to what is a core of your business or what do you really want to protect or what's important to you if you go into an attorney with those who you're gonna be above most of the people that walk in their door and it's going to make for the most productive a conversation and also give you kind of the best direction or guidance as to where to go awesome good advice i appreciate it so awesome well with that we'll go ahead and wrap up the podcast if you or any of the listeners ever have any other questions as i've already mentioned before go to strategymeeting.com and we're always here to help and answer questions and make sure to get it taken care of otherwise thank you again vance for coming on the podcast fun it's been a pleasure and wish the next leg of your journey even better than the last great thank you very much devin really enjoyed our talk today