Canada, Silicon Valley, Founder discussed on Venture Stories

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Made me look very sophisticated and sizeable And in reality it was just me and my underwear flipping my parents basement. I was good at talking and done so much business. Throughout my teen years that I was actually able to convince people to pay me a reasonable amount and give me a chance and so very quickly. In the first couple of months ago I started making twenty thirty forty thousand dollars a month and I'm going will. This is amazing. You know I can do whatever I want. I get to work on all these amazing problems with really interesting startups And you know I'm getting paid. Us dollars living in Canada. And so I had pretty high profit margins and I just kept doing that. I never moved to Silicon Valley. I kept getting more and more clients just through word of MOUTH BECAUSE AGAIN. No one was doing what we were doing. And you know we were pretty good at it and I started hiring first couple people. And that's how mental. I've got started and so what ended up happening was Was Living in Canada. I slide on Silicon Valley I would do a whole bunch of meetings and I just never mentioned. I was in Canada. I wouldn't hide it if someone asked me. But people just assume based in San Francisco and so and there was kind of a market price discharge so we charge the market price. So I'd fly down Silicon Valley. I do all the client relationships. Close all the deals. Fly back up to Victoria. Started building a team here and in Canada in Victoria. Especially you know we could pay exceptional high market salaries but still make a good profit margin so agencies typically are actually not very good businesses. They usually have like five percent margins we could operate with much higher margins and so. I had a good problem Which was we were profitable in. We're sitting cash. And I had no idea what to do with it. And around that time I started being about base camp and falling Jason Freedom David Hanson and I looked at these the SAS business that they were building and I was so jealous my business I had to get on planes. That had closed deals. There was always You know you always put the train down the track down in front of the train and win your next project with their business. They could build soffer once and they could sell it to people passively on a self serve model and make money while they slept on a recurring basis and so that appealed to me and so I started building my first SASS product. Which was called ballpark. And it was basically suffered a help me. Run my agency so metal. We're constantly sending estimates doing time tracking so logical thing was. Hey why don't we built some south for to help us with that? And I'm sure there's some other agencies want the same thing so we launched it and it was. It was Okay Success. We made you know a reasonable amount of money for what it was and how much it costs us But I started realizing you know. Some of the challenges of SAST are Indian competing with venture. Businesses I ended up. Starting another SASS. Company called slow Which was very early. Project management kind of astonishing editor which we still own today And then I also started a business called Pixel Union where we partnered with shop affi- back when they were about ten people to help them power to bisky helped power their themes marketplace. So we brought great designed to the shop five platform And built a whole bunch of games for the platform and that was kind of an accidental business. We kind of thought that was something that We would do as a favor to the team shop like you really liked them. And maybe we make a little bit of money. But it ended up turning into a very sizable business. And so we're that left me was I was running. An Agency is writing to Saas software companies as running a rapidly growing digital goods and themes business And I had a bunch of other business ideas which I there are too stupid dimension. So winning all these different companies You know I had like fifty employees or something by this point in kept doing that until the twenty twelve and in two thousand twelve. I just hit it complete wall. I was running too many companies once. I didn't really understand how to higher executives All the companies were jumbled together and I really was just kind of unhappy overwhelmed and so I was pouring her heart out to a friend of mine that he said Nude One. You just saw one of these companies that will take the pressure off. That'll put money in your genes. You can kind of figure out what you WANNA do next. You can start investing and so I did that. I ended up selling Hicksville Union to family office and suddenly I went from you. Know I'd always had cash flow but I suddenly had money on the balance sheet had cash a pile of ads to do something less and I realized that it wasn't sustainable. To just keep growing more and more starting warm or businesses I realized starting businesses with very very difficult and you know I really needed to just focus on the existing companies that we already had and so I started looking at stocks real estate conventional investments and those things. Were always very foreign to me. But I always heard the name. Warren Buffett and. I didn't really know. Think of him. And when they picked up a book about him and started reading. And when I read about this guy who has seventy seventy plus businesses four hundred thousand employees but spends all his time reading talking interesting people buying new companies and really doing whatever the hell he wants. All Day he famously brags about Having nothing on his calendar I just didn't understand that it was possible to have so many different businesses and have some be doing so many things without actually running them all and that sounded pretty good to me and so went deeper and deeper and continue to read about his company. Berkshire hathaway in the history of that. And I went you know. This doesn't seem like rocket science. I think we could actually do this. And we had over the years spoken to private equity firms. And you know we'd gotten stab you know in shut? People have been interested in buying the businesses and over and over and over again. They just made it way too hard to do this. Kind of miserable three to six months trudge of you know really really deep. Diligence you know auto tons and tons of in-person meetings in generally just a lot of wasted time and energy and renegotiation and so I started thinking about what would the founder focused version of this. Who WOULD I have wanted to sell to if I sold my business and so At that time You know my business partner. Chris in our formalized Are Holding Company tiny and we started buying businesses instead of starting them and so We hired CEO's to run all over existing businesses which had a few speed bumps but for the most part Went really well and we started buying these wonderful Internet businesses. That were found to run and we realized we just had this great advantage because we're founders ourselves and we're operators and we know the problems it founders have and what they do on a here and don't want to hear and you know ultimately people will realize that people want a great home. They don't just want the maximum amount of money on the best terms that they actually also care about their employees. While being longevity of the company the company will exist in five or ten years that the brand would be tarnished and really that their life's work will be protected and so You know very quickly. We're able to kind of establish this brand and start working with You know the founders of dribble and all sorts of other incredible businesses to figure out you know a long-term home for their businesses. And so we've been doing that for about seven years We're up to twenty five. I twenty five businesses twenty to twenty five something like that and And then on the side just as a result of working with a lot of interesting You know venture. Investors have equity investors entrepreneurs. We've also just passively made a bunch of venture investments and so he made about eighty venture investments. To be honest. A lot of that was more just to support people on our network and it was just kind of a happy happy accident. Tests putting down roulette chips on people like to support them But you know over time. That's also become a sizeable portfolio and so at the end of the day You know fifteen years later. I've kind of stumbled my way from Freelancer.

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