Episode 47 - Entrepreneur Experience: Gary Tong, First-Time Entrepreneur

EPISODE 47

Entrepreneur Experience: Gary Tong, First-Time Entrepreneur

In today’s episode, we get to talk to first-time founder Gary Tong, who is a dentist by trade and an aspiring entrepreneur by choice. Our conversation ranges from whether the entrepreneurial spirit is generational or not, to how to find a painful problem to solve as an entrepreneur, to whether an introvert can be a successful entrepreneur. If you’re waffling and wondering what taking the plunge looks like in its infancy, then Gary’s your guy. Listen now!

In today’s episode, we sit down with a first-time startup founder whose journey is in its infancy for a rare look at what it looks like at the VERY beginning. Gary Tong, dentist by trade and owner of rental properties in several states, came honestly by his entrepreneurial journey when he discovered how difficult and uncomfortable it was to find a good property manager he felt he could trust. Thus, his journey into trying to solve this problem for small portfolio property owners was born. Our conversation starts out with a dive into whether entrepreneurship is generational and easier to take on if you had it modeled in your home as a kid. (Hint: We think you’re good whether you’ve seen it done first hand or not!) We also talk about what makes for a good idea for a company and how to find a good problem to solve with a company. And then Gary turned the tables on our CEO and asked her some lingering questions he had about what it looks like and feels like when you have to shut your startup down. We also talked about whether an introvert can be a successful entrepreneur, or is it absolutely required that you have a big personality and be outgoing and gregarious. (Oh, and new word alert: You just might be an “ambivert”, but you’ll have to listen to find out.) And if you ARE an introvert, Gary offers some strategies and advice for how to talk to (gasp!) strangers who might be potential customers. (You know, because of the customer validation you do in the Precursa process, not because we just love talking to random strangers!) Gary’s vulnerability is refreshing and offers a new look at this thing called starting up. And it just might inspire you to finally give it a go. Check out Gary’s recommended resources: The Pitch podcast, by Gimlet Media Xbox documentary on YouTube Mixergy podcast Masters of Scale podcast Y-Combinator on YouTube And Gary recommends searching YouTube for demo days or pitch days and watching some folks handle all the things real-time. Find and follow Gary on LinkedIn or through us at Precursa. Be sure to like, share, and subscribe to Precursa: The Startup Journey on your favorite podcasting platform and tune in for the next episode! Email us with any questions or comments (startup@precursa.com). Check out our website (https://www.precursa.com) for more information on getting your startup rolling.

(00:04): Straight to you from Denver, Colorado, this is Precursa: The Startup Journey. We share the ins and outs of building a tech startup from inception, to launch, to revenue and beyond. If you’ve ever wondered what building a startup from scratch really looks like, you’re in the right place. With full transparency and honesty, we reveal it all about Precursa on our ride from idea to exit: the wins, the lessons learned, and the unexpected twists and turns. Hello everybody. And welcome back. This is Precursa the startup journey. And today I have a different kind of guest. My guest today’s brand new to the startup world. He’s just starting to get a clear vision of an MVP to put out into the market. After months of engaging with potential customers around product market fit. He’s a dentist by trade a real estate investor on the set side, and he is looking to help small portfolio property owners find good quality property managers. So without further ado, Gary Tong. Welcome to the show. (01:12): Yeah. Thank you having me on Cynthia. You’re welcome. (01:15): Pleasure. You’re welcome. All right. So why don’t you start by telling us a little about yourself and how did you become an entrepreneur? Like what about this sounded like a good idea. (01:25): So I was, I’m originally from New York and I was, you know, born and raised there. And I guess I’ve just been surrounded by entrepreneurship. My parents are entrepreneurs. They have their own laundromat business and had a couple. And I kind of been around that my whole life, but they, you know, they wanted me to go in a direction that was not, not hard working as theirs <laugh> so, (01:52): So they said go to medical school and become a dentist. (01:54): Yeah, the typical, the typical Asian route of try get good grades, play the violin <laugh> and then get into a good college and try to get into like a med school or law school or astronaut school, whatever <laugh>. So I wound up being a dentist, took a while, actually went, got my master’s degree, worked in a bio lab for five years and then went back to dental school, became interest. And then I kind of realized, you know what, maybe my dream, my goal is to, to be an entrepreneur. Yeah. So it took a while, but finally kind of made the decision to, to start this journey. Yeah. And then I met you. (02:44): Yeah, yeah, yeah. Do you still play violin? (02:49): No, not at all. No. (02:50): Were (02:51): You good at it? He did up a long time ago in high school. Yeah. <laugh> first, first chair. Nice. Whatever that means, but no, I gave that up a long time ago. (03:02): Nice. So in fourth grade I played the violin for six weeks. And at the end of six weeks, God blessed my mom because she never told me I was terrible at it. She just told me, keep practicing, keep practicing. And at the end of six weeks, I was like, this is not getting any better. And I don’t like it. She was like, okay, great. Then you should stop. And I did (03:22): <laugh> same thing happened for me with the guitar I played the guitar (03:25): For. Oh yeah. (03:26): <laugh> probably about the same amount of time. And I’m like, no, you know what? I don’t think this is for me. (03:31): <laugh> let me do the violin, which is so much harder than guitar <laugh> (03:36): Yeah. And so much cooler (03:40): And so much cooler. Yeah, that’s true. <laugh> (03:43): It got me so little chicks. Nokin (03:47): <laugh> oh, that’s awesome. So despite your parents urging to go into something, let’s, let’s say more stable and put that in quotes. You know, you, you do have that, right. You are a dentist, um, which, which does gives you, which does give you a good income and it gives you a good career while you’re pursuing this startupy thing. But I mean, here you are. Right. So it, you know, is there a generational thing to entrepreneurship, do you think? I mean, does that make it more accessible and ease for you? Do you think than other people who maybe didn’t have that example? (04:23): I mean, I don’t think so. I can’t describe it. I don’t know if it’s, I don’t know. What do you mean by generational thing or (04:30): Change you got so, um, so like for example, more people are doctors who have doctors in their family than people who don’t, cuz it’s like, it’s such a big thing to overcome and such a big thing to do that it’s easier to see yourself doing it. If you see someone else do it, who, you know, and you know, you can sort of like get who they are. Right. So I, I wonder if like entrepreneurship is easier or more in your bones if you’ve grown up around it. (04:58): Is that something you’ve seen? (05:01): Hmm, that’s a great question. I, I mean, my mom owned her own business for a lot, a large part of the time when I was younger, you know, it wasn’t until I was probably in fifth or sixth grade that she actually went to work for someone else. Um, I think she burned out. Um, I definitely hear, uh, a lot of will say, well, you know, I didn’t grow up with people who were entrepreneurs and, and a lot of those have like a professional degree or something like that, but then they marry someone who ha you know, their family are entrepreneurs or they have like a best friend who is that they get to know in college or something like that. Yeah. So I don’t know. (05:39): Yeah. I guess based on, you know, my own and childhood and how I grew up, I mean, I would say no. I mean, I was surrounded by my parents who were, you know, entrepreneurial, but they sheltered me a lot from that lifestyle. And they wanted me to like study and get good grades and not being the long mat. So although I was there, you know, sporadically, I don’t, I don’t know if it rubbed off on me, but I don’t think so. It wasn’t until I was just way older and I was, and I kind of felt it for myself that I’m like, I think this is what I want to do. (06:12): All right. I, I like that. So tell us about what you’re working on right now. (06:17): Yeah. So as you know, we, you know, when I first, when we first met, when we first started, it was a whole different idea. <laugh> and I’ve, I’ve had so many ideas, uh, even before we met. Um, but the whole journey, the whole kind of like journey of different ideas and pulling from different areas of my life and pulling from what I know and what, what pained me got to the point where, as you, as I told you one day, it was like a, an oh shit moment of, this is what I, this is what hurts me. And it was the process of trying to find equity manager for the real estate, uh, that, that me and my cousin manage. And it was such a, such a process that, you know, I was just thinking, is there something that exists that could make that process simpler? (07:17): Yeah. What, what is it about that process that’s so painful, do you think (07:23): It’s, I think it’s the unknown, like giving, first of all, kind of giving your property over to somebody else, letting them control it and, you know, finding the right personality or people. So for me, cuz I was leading that, uh, process, it was just interviewing so many people and then kind of narrowing it down and interviewing some more and trying to see which person would work, would work well. And, and even then you’re signing a contract and you’re hopefully seeing that relationship works out well. (08:01): Yeah. (08:02): So it was a tough process to navigate, um, like just trying to pick the right one, which you don’t ever know if it’s the right one until you start working with them. (08:14): Yeah. And for most people who are in the, in the kind of realm that you are trying to solve for, which are the smaller portfolio people, right? So I have two or three houses in a market or something like that. One, it’s a lot harder to find those people, those property managers who want that small business, but it’s also a lot bigger portion of your overall net worth your wealth in those cases. I feel like. And so handing that to someone that you don’t know can feel pretty risky, right? Like here’s this thing that I’m using to build my wealth and maybe half my wealth or three quarters of my wealth is sort of wrapped up in it. Please treat it well and please put good people in there. Like <laugh>, you know, (09:03): Right (09:04): There, there’s a lot of concerns when, when you hand over something like that and I’ve heard, I’ve definitely heard a lot of horror stories about property managers that just run, run off with their money and not, you know, just Going off the face of the earth. So it’s definitely a nerve wracking process. So trying to find a good credited, one was difficult when you don’t know where to start. (09:33): Yeah. So what would you, you say is the most important lesson that you’ve learned as an entrepreneur so far in your journey? (09:42): So many, (09:43): So many <laugh>, (09:45): Um, Most important. I mean, Can I give you top three, I guess, (09:52): Yeah, please let’s do it. Um, (09:55): Do something that you know, or that is a part as a part of your life. Cause I think not only for your, your benefit, cuz then you’ll stay motivated. I think a lot of people, if you’re trying to eventually sell what you’re doing or pitch what you’re doing, a lot of people kind of feel that authenticity <affirmative>, it’s coming from a part of your life. Yeah. As opposed to, I’m just trying to hang out and meet friends and drink beer, you know like (10:23): <laugh> everybody (10:25): Wants to do that. (10:27): Um, (10:29): That’s that’s funny an important one. Um, No, I’m trying to think. I’m actually think of another one. What was the question again? It was (10:44): Most (10:44): Important. Most important lesson you’ve learned. Yeah. Anything about the product market fit process or anything like that. (10:52): Oh right. Was important. Um, (10:57): Inspiration has stress. You’ve stumbled upon a great idea that you just know will change the world. So now what at Precursa, we provide the best tools to help founders and entrepreneurs. Just like you turn their great ideas into great companies that solve real problems for real people. We believe you are the change makers, the innovators and the force that moves technology forward. All you need is an experienced guide to keep you on track and help you navigate the turbulent waters of starting up Precursa is that guide. And with us, your roadmap to successful launch is more direct with far fewer pitfalls, ready to change the world. PREA has your back. (11:47): Yeah. The, the problem that you think you’re solving might not be the problem you think you you’re solving. <laugh> (11:54): <laugh> say more about that. That’s really good. (11:59): Uh, yeah. You know, I, I come up with a problem and I think it’s the problem, but until it’s in the hands of the people that need a problem solved, then that might change. And if it changes, then that’s okay and you have to be okay with that. You have to accept that and not be too stubborn or hardheaded that this is how I want, how I want it to be solved. You just kind of have to like let that go. (12:28): Yeah. I love that. I love that. (12:31): What, what do you, what do you think some of the most important learnings are? (12:40): Well, I mean, I think it’s different for everyone. It’s, it’s dependent on the journey that you’ve taken. Right? It depends on your background. Um, but the, the thing that I always say to every founder that I work with is your company is over until you say it is. And so for most people, the thing that makes the difference between making it or not making it is just do you keep going? Um, and some people get to a point where they realize either, you know, like you said that they don’t have a compelling enough problem. And they either decide that means are gonna stop altogether. Or it means they have to pivot, but the ones that keep going and keep pivoting and keep listening to customers and keep pivoting and keep making tweaks, those are the ones that are ultimately successful because you can’t be successful if you stop. Um, but, but only you can know if continuing to move forward is the right thing is the right thing or not. Right. I mean, nobody can tell you that. Um, so for me, it’s, sticktuitiveness perseverance. Like you gotta keep going that that’s like, that’s the big one (13:50): And I’m, and I’m gonna guess you’ve ran into those people that ultimately kind of just, I must give up, but just stop pursuing. Yeah. And not that I wanna know too much, but how does that feel? Like it must be (14:07): Hard me or for them, for them. (14:09): Oh yeah. It’s very hard. I mean, imagine like you’ve spent a, you know, years of your life raising a child and then it dies. You know, that’s probably a lot more dramatic in some ways and a lot more painful in certain emotional ways, but the emotional pain of giving up something that you spent years of your life and potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars of either your own money or investors money or both just giving that up and setting it down and walking away, it’s incredibly painful for most people, you know, there there’s, mm-hmm, <affirmative> a lot of time, a sense of freedom, you know, because like, oh my gosh, this thing I’ve been slogging and, and maybe the slog was wrong or maybe, you know, maybe it wasn’t the right company for them to be building. I mean, we, uh, talked to one of my past clients and now a very good friend of mine, William Le Pesco a few weeks ago. (15:02): And his first, his first startup failed. Um, he was building a consumer, uh, product in the pet tech world and trying to his, his fundraise, his, his next round of fundraising landed at the beginning of COVID. And this was a product about people traveling with their pets and nobody was going anywhere for, we didn’t know how long. And, uh, you know, I think there was a lot of other things that, that contributed, but he finally decided to set it down and as freeing as it was, it was also very painful. You know, it was nearly a million dollars put into that business when, when he set it down and that’s, it’s hard to give up on something that, you know, he spent six and a half, almost seven years working on. It’s hard to put that down and it, and it can be very painful and it can hurt. And, and, you know, the thing that I think people, men us is they don’t grieve. Right. Like they don’t, they don’t actually see it for what it is and, and grieve it in the way that they need to so that they can move on. So, um, so yeah, I think, I mean, I think, I think it’s really tough. I think it’s really, really tough. (16:08): Yeah. I was, I was about to bring him up, actually I’ve listened to that epic, so multiple times. Yeah. And I can hear, you know, the disappointment and pain in his voice and a little bit of free, uh, you know, kind of freedom also, but yeah. But you know, I YouTubed him, I listened to that podcast and yeah. He put a lot of work, an effort into it and (16:34): Yes he did. (16:35): Yeah. That’s, that’s tough. (16:37): Yeah, he really did. And I, I think he really loves what he’s doing now, so it it’s, it’s worked out. Um, and, and William’s the kind of person that like, he’s gonna keep going and he’s gonna find a thing and he’s gonna be successful at it be because he just, he has that perseverance. He just recognized that pub tech, wasn’t it wasn’t what does, what needed his perseverance? Like there wasn’t, he wasn’t getting enough wins, you know, the winds can be small, but you gotta have some wins to feel like you can keep going, you know, because otherwise you’re just, just slogging uphill. And it’s really, really hard. It’s really hard. Mm-hmm <affirmative> (17:18): So one, one thing I, I kind of wanted to know from that, from that episode, was, was there anything in hindsight mm. That that could have like, made him think a little bit more? (17:32): Mm. You know, I, uh, I, we did a whole postmortem, uh, and I don’t know if that’s the one you listened to, or if you listened the Precursa episode, but yeah. Um, I think the thing that he would tell you is that if he, if he knew at the beginning of his journey, what he knew at the end, he would have gotten a co-founder. That was a mechanical engineer, like someone who knew the hardware side, because that was the biggest drain of resources, money, time, energy, getting it wrong. So many times that, um, you know, invest were frustrated and, and customers were frustrated. And that was a big part of the reason why it took so long for him to get to market and get some traction. And if that had gone differently, if he had had a co-founder who knew the hardware side of the world, it would’ve gone differently. (18:26): And that may have changed pub Tech’s whole project trajectory. You know, that that’s, I I’m putting words in his mouth. Right. Just based on all the conversations that we’ve had. Um, but I can tell you that his experience now having a co-founder has really changed his, how he engages in the process, I would say. Um, and the great thing is his skills and, and this co-founder skills are just really, really perfectly aligned so that they both have skills that the other one doesn’t and it, and it’s working really well. You know, and that’s not to say that everyone should have a co-founder, you know, there’s lots of people who have been successful being solopreneurs, or, uh, being a solo founder and hiring teams and whatever. But, you know, I think, I think that comes down to like knowing yourself, right. Mm-hmm <affirmative> and understanding what do I do well, and what do I not do well? And are those things I can learn? Or are there things that I could hire or are those things that I might need a co-founder for, you know? (19:27): Yeah. And what was he a, so non-technical goal like myself (19:32): <laugh> yes. He was, as a matter of fact, he, uh, through the pub tech journey actually taught himself how to code, because he realized how much money he was gonna have to spend. Um, he actually built most of the first few prototypes of the actual hardware device. So yeah, he, he was for early non-technical. I mean, he was a, he was a geologist. Right. He knew rocks Anders. That’s (19:56): Right. (19:57): That’s right. So, yeah. So, so Y so as a non-technical founder like yourself, um, what is it about technology that is interesting to you? Like, why was that whole? (20:14): So I realized this probably five or six years into my career as a dentist, I, that I wanted to reach more people. I wanted it affect more people than, you know, my skills as, as a dentist in a small community. Yeah. And technology allows people to do that. Yeah. You know, it can affect more lives or affect, you know, do more things with technology and then than what I do. <laugh> (20:45): <laugh>, (20:46): I mean, I granted yes. I help people. Um, but I, I, I want, I kind of had that idea to, to wanted to do more. (20:55): Yeah. I love that. What do you think is, is, um, an important like personality trait or characteristic that someone needs to have to be able to do this entrepreneur? Like, what does it really take (21:09): First? I said, you don’t need anything. I take that back (21:11): Now. <laugh> (21:13): I take that back. I think, you know, one needs to have humility and the, just being able to like, not know what you’re doing. So not, not being the smartest person in the room cuz you know, you you’re gonna have ideas, you’re gonna have thoughts and you’re going to, you’re gonna say it to other people and you’re gonna, you’re gonna get feedback. You’re gonna get criticism. You’re gonna get, you’re gonna get a lot of things and just being able to take it all in and just seeing for it, for what it is. Yeah. I think that’s what I think that’s what you need cuz then that’ll help you learn and grow and pivot and get to a point where you’ll be able to build something that people want. (22:03): Yeah. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. I love that. One of the things about you that I think is, is really cool. So a lot of times when I’m working with people through the Precursa process and the roadmap and product market fit and all the things that we’ve been doing, they’ll say, well, you know, we get to the point point where they have to like find real people to talk to, they’ll say, well, how do I do that? I don’t know that you’ve ever asked me how to find people. Like you will say, okay, there’s this conference in Kansas with like all these people and I’m thinking I’m gonna go talk to some folks, help me design an interview. And I’m like, heck yeah. Or you’ll say, I know people, or I remember one time you were like, I walked into a bar and I heard these three women sitting at the bar who were like chatting about something. And this might be when we were still back in the dentist world. And you were like, yeah, Hey, would you guys mind if I just talked to you and asked you some questions about something and like you’re, you’re super brave when it comes to just like talking to people and, and asking for opinions and like getting into people’s minds. I think that’s awesome. I wish I could give that to people. Yeah. <laugh> (23:09): Well, see, the thing is I, yeah, I have good ideas until I, until I actually get there. And the thing that, you know, you, and, you know, your listeners need to know also about me is that I’m quite introverted at the same time. So yeah. I mean, like I’ll, I’ll go to Kansas and I did go to Kansas and you know, I kind of sat at are, and just kind of waited until the conference. You know, people kind of came out and it took, took some courage. It took some nerve to still be able to talk to them cuz you know, I’m, these are people that are quite well situated in the industry and I’m kind of just starting to get in. So, you know, I’m still nervous at the same time, but I’ll go (23:50): <laugh> yeah. <laugh>, what’s it take to overcome the nerves? I mean, do you have a shot before you do it or are you like, do you like tell yourself something you have like a mantra or something or is it just sort of like dive in? I mean, I, I’m kind of an introvert myself. Um, and, and I’ve heard this new definition of introvert, which I introvert introvert, which I really, really like, which is that it’s not that introverts, aren’t social and it’s not that we can’t talk to people and it’s not that we don’t even like talking to people. Like I love people, right? I mean, my job is coaching entrepreneurs. I love people. The difference is extroverts. Like my husband re-energize with people and introverts re-energize alone. So like for me, I can go be social for a whole day and I can do coaching and I can speak on a stage and I can do the podcast. (24:43): Like I can do all those things, but I then need downtime by myself to regroup and to gather my energy back and to feel like myself again. Right. So, so for myself, you know, when I’m in those situations, my motivation is if me being uncomfortable and having a conversation that stretches my, my comfort zone I out or, or goes outside of my comfort zone means that one more entrepreneur might get what they need and might be more successful and might have an easier time. I will do it. Like that’s my motivation. Right. So, so how do you do that? And then for you, what’s your motivation? (25:26): So yes, I’m similar to you. And, and the term I heard recently is that we are ambiverts (25:34): <laugh> what does that mean? (25:36): Introverted and extroverted together ambiverts (25:40): Okay. Okay. What I heard making up words. I like it. Yeah. (25:46): I guess in, in UN in uncomfortable circumstances, you know, if it’s, it’s always helpful to, you know, be able to be at a bar or, um, cuz they’re, you know, you’re sharing some commonality of drinking and kind of just having fun, you know, if you’re in a office or conference type setting, it’s a little more difficult for me, you know, cuz I, you know, I like to find some sort of commonality between who I’m talking with. Um, so sometimes it’s very difficult, but the overall, like for me, I know the overall goal is in order to develop that courage. I like I have to do it like yeah, Suck it up and just, and just do it. And there’s not much more that, you know, one can really tell themselves, but if it’s just, I guess you gotta do it. I mean, like, I don’t know. (26:40): <laugh> so Nike had it right. Just do it (26:42): Correct? Yeah. (26:44): <laugh> oh, that’s funny. Do you think it’s possible? This is a little bit of a loaded question, but do you think it’s possible to be more introverted and be a little bit, you know, less socially outward and be a successful entrepreneur? You know, because I, I, I think, I think when we think of people like, um, you think of Steve jobs, right? I would hypothesize that he probably was very much an introvert, but he was so dynamic and he was so confident about what he was doing. Right. And you know, it’s, it’s very common to think the most gregarious, outgoing, biggest personalities in the room are the ones that are gonna be the successful ones. But I’m not sure that that’s always true. And I wonder what you think about that. (27:38): No, I don’t think there’s an always, you know, I think there’s a lot of entrepreneurs that, you know, you don’t know about her. I don’t know about her, but it was about that are kind of just living that quiet life. I mean the, the one that came to my mind when you’re asking that is, you know, the people that founded Googles, you know, what Sergey brand and yeah, right. I I’ve never heard anything about his outside lifestyle or even, you know, even anything, a part of Google. So I can only get only guess that he’s an introvert, but I think it, and being an introvert and being successful is definitely possible. (28:14): And how much do you think this is? Kind of a weird question. How much do you think extroverts use entrepreneurship is like a apply platform for becoming famous and I’m gonna put famous in quotes versus actually being engaged in the business of be of building a business. (28:36): Interesting question. It makes me think so I, you know, we talked about Michael Syal. We talked about why Combinator. Yeah. And he, he is a term for those kids. They’re called scenesters or he calls ’em scenesters people that are doing people that are doing entrepreneurship to be cool. So yeah, definitely. I think there are people out there that think it’s cool to be a part of a startup or do a startup without actually having the, to drive to, to do it all the way. (29:08): Yeah. It’s interesting because like, so in Denver we have Denver startup week and a lot of cities have something that’s like startup week, you know, in their city, Austin has something Nashville has some, I mean, they’re, they’re, they’re all over the place. So this isn’t like a new concept, but what’s interesting. Is it the number of people, people who attend and who are in that realm, like you said, like they wanna be, they wanna be around people and they, whatever who actually aren’t building anything. And, and like, I’ll be, I I’ve sat at seminars and sessions that are about how do you build sales teams and how do you do this? Or how do you know, how do you find product market fit or whatever. And I’ll be sitting next to somebody just kind of chatting before it starts. And they’re like, oh yeah, I, I probably wouldn’t, I I’m ne I would never be brave enough to be an entrepreneur, but I find this so cool. And like, I love being around these people and I’m just like, really? I mean, I guess it’s the equivalent of like groupies in the music world, right? Like, yeah. They’re like, oh, I’m not a musician, but God, I love being around them. And you’re just like, really why? I mean, what is it <laugh>, (30:14): I mean, you could be right. The other perspective is, is that I’ve kind of wanted to go outta curiosity. Like this is <affirmative> way before, you know, I met you and this was like me kind of just wanting to like, see what that world is about. Yeah. And it’s almost like a, for me, if I had gone, it was almost like, kind of seeing like, if I could do it mm-hmm <affirmative> so yeah. I’m interested in it. And it’s probably, maybe there’s some, you know, dream of theirs to, to, to do that one day and they don’t have the skills or courage or whatever, but yeah, I think maybe that, that could be another possibility. (30:50): Interesting. Do you think it takes courage to do this? (30:55): I think so. (30:57): Why do you think that? (30:58): Well, for me, it’s, there’s a lot of not knowing what I was getting my self into and that’s scary. (31:04): Yeah. (31:05): And for me, if I’m, you know, for, you know, fear is mental block. Yeah. So it takes a lot of courage to, you know, try or do something that is very unstructured and, and like dental school is a school. And you know, where I know at the end of four years I’ll graduate and there’s a program, there’s a system in place and entrepreneurship, or at least at least tech entrepreneurship, there’s no end. (31:38): Yeah. <laugh> so there’s no end. Yeah. It’s forever. <laugh> I, (31:44): So it’s, it is a lot of like, how do I get into it? What happens? Like there’s, it’s such a dark cloud and it’s hard to see through that. And it, if it wasn’t meeting you, I would still stuck, you know, be stuck in that, not knowing where to, or how to get in (32:00): That is such an interesting perspective. And it’s so true. And I’m never looked at it that way, but you’re right. You know, even, even, you know, medical school being, becoming an attorney, getting a business degree, like there’s things that you do eventually you will, you will graduate. You will be able to get a job and do that thing, but there’s like a path. Right. And the thing that I always say that I find so interesting about being an entrepreneur is no two journeys look alike. Now that’s not to say that you and every other person that you went to dental school with, and then your trajectory after that and everything that, that all those look alike either, but you all knew what you had to learn. You knew what classes you had to take. You knew the kind of material you knew, what tests you were gonna, like you knew each of the things that you had to, I’m gonna say each of the hurdles that you had to overcome in order to get there. (32:55): And the thing about being an entrepreneur is you have no idea. I’m mean I’m on my sixth startup and this is totally different than every other one I’ve built in terms of the hurdles we’ve had to overcome or have not yet overcome, have been very different than in the past. Right. It’s like, so it’s just really interesting, cause I never thought about it that way because we have a process for product market fit. Like you’ve been to product market fit school. Now, you know what that looks like and you know, what those steps are and that, you know, that’s what we’re putting into the Precursa platform is the first piece of that. But the reason that we call it a journey is because where you get hung up and where you get stuck and where you, where you figure out, you have to pivot and go back or, or change in, it’s gonna be different for everybody. Like, I can’t tell you that. So that that’s really, really an interesting perspective. I love that. (33:48): I mean like how do your other clients, like, how do they find you? Like, I’m going to guess that a lot of them are like me where they don’t know where to start and I don’t know what to do. Yep. And you know, it’s just, it’s just like amazed of, okay, now what, you know, what do I do? Like hundred? Do (34:08): I talk to hundred percent? Yeah. A hundred percent. I mean, so many people come, you know, find me or get referred to me or whatever. And they’re like, okay, I have this idea. I wanna build this app or this, this website or this software product, whatever it is. And the crazy part is a lot of them have built businesses before. Right. So not everybody is brand new who I’m working with. I mean, I’m working with a group right now. That’s building a healthcare app and he built and sold a huge national blood testing lab. Right. Like he’s not new to business at all. But when we, he was like, I’m not really sure what to, what to do. Like I, I’m not sure what to do. And I’m like, we gotta go talk to some people and figure out what their problems are. And he’s like, oh sure. (34:52): Like <laugh> like, right. So, and, and I’ll say, you know, I, this is my sixth Precursa is, my sixth startup that I, that I’m building. And, and we started from the beginning. I mean, there’s also no like shortcuts, right? It’s not like re I mean, the number of repeat tech entrepreneurs, tech entrepreneurs that I’ve worked with who are like, okay, I wanna build this thing. And, and for some reason, like I just can’t get traction the way that I did in my first venture or my last venture or whatever. And I’m, I’m like, well, have you talked to customers? Like, how’d you come up with this idea? Oh, right. I forgot about that part. Like <laugh>, you know, because you get so far down the road where, where you’re no longer building something, you’re running something. And, and it’s easy to forget what got you there. And some people do it organically and some people need a coach and some people just sort of stumble their way along and get lucky. Right. <laugh> (35:44): Right. I think that’s what makes it so interesting and so confusing at the same time, because, you know, with tech that is in, you know, you’re trying to like solve a problem that may or may not exist as opposed to that guy with the blood testing lab, where my parents with, with the laundromat, you know, they’re entrepreneurs too. And they built physical businesses that are solving existing problems. Yes. And that, you know, when I see them build their laundromat, you know, I get it know you, you can build it. People will come, people need that service. Yeah. As opposed to building a tech service that yeah. That may or may not solve what you, what you think. And that’s where I think you need to kind of like be humble and try to like adapt to what the people really are looking for. And that’s what makes it so interesting. (36:41): Yeah. Fascinating. All right. So if you could give other entrepreneurs one piece of advice, what would it be (36:48): Start now? (36:50): <laugh> (36:54): I mean, and then I say that in, you know, I say that because we only have so much time and time is a limiting factor and yeah. You know what, I’ve started 15, 20 years ago. Sure. I would’ve started, but we had this conversation before, like my problems 20 years ago would be so much different than our problems now. Yeah. And you, 20 years ago, I was busy, like hanging out and going to clubs or whatever. And I don’t need an app for that. Or maybe I would’ve back then. (37:28): Well, now we have apps for that. <laugh> true. True. (37:32): But I think with experience with, you know, with this time, like, uh, you know, I’ve discovered a lot of worked a lot and I, you know, came to a point where, you know, the problem that I’m trying to solve is relevant to me. Yeah. So time. Yeah. It’s, it’s really it’s time. (37:53): Yeah. So start now and solve the problem that’s in front of you. (37:57): Yeah. (37:58): Yeah. You, yeah. I loved when I love, when you said that, cuz you, you I’m going back to earlier, but you said, you know, having knowledge of the thing, you know, whether it’s the industry or the partic, you know, having experience with the problem you’re trying to solve, it makes such a difference because you have a level of empathy for your users that I think, you know, I notice is thing in people that are like, I think this needs to be solved and I’m like, okay, how, how are you related to that thing? I don’t know. I just see, I know people and they say that it’s a big problem. So I’m gonna go build a company around that it’s like, right. Yeah. But you haven’t experienced it. So you don’t know what you’re listening for and you don’t have a lot of empathy for it the way you do when, like you said, you own property and you have struggled to find someone and you’ve struggled with that trusting someone that you don’t know. And that makes it really different. Not only when you’re talking to people and understanding product market fit and how to build a product that works to solve the problem, but just in general, the anxiety and the, the, the intense pressure and all the, all the things around it. Right. Mm-hmm <affirmative> and that empathy really is the really can be the difference between building a great product that resonates for people or having a flop. (39:18): And, and I, you know, that, that is a good point too, cuz in addition to humility, empathy is you need to have empathy cuz you’re building something, not for yourself. You’re building for something for a group of people. And you have to put yourself in, especially in my situation with two different groups of people, you have to put yourself in many different shoes and many different situations, many different, you know, income levels and you know, all different types that it’s, you know, it’s, that’s a quality I think is also good to have. (39:52): Yeah. I love that. Okay. So I’m gonna tell you us stick and then I want you to tell me what you think about it. Okay. (39:59): Okay. (40:00): All right. 42% of startups ultimately fail because no one wants what they’re building. (40:08): All right. Um (40:10): <laugh> (40:12): That makes me think of a lot of things. It makes you think that you need to listen more to your customers Because if you said about 42% don’t yeah, (40:28): Yeah. Use they fail. Yeah. Cuz they’re they, no one wants what they’re building or building something that the market isn’t asking for the market doesn’t need the market doesn’t want (40:37): <affirmative>. Yeah. And that, that kind of goes back to my point of, you know, build something, put it out there and just tweak along the way and you have to tweak and if you stay kind of too narrow, uh, tunnel visioned or narrow minded, then you’re setting yourself up for failure. Mm. I, I think in my opinion, (40:59): Yeah. (40:59): What do you think? (41:00): Yeah, it’s interesting because you know, even the way I just said that about, you know, nobody wants what their building, nobody needs what their building, whatever. Technically Steve jobs built the iPhone, which nobody wanted either. Like, but only because they didn’t know. Right. And so there’s a, I think there’s a difference between solving known problems and shifting paradigms. Right. The iPhone was a paradigm shift. Now I’ll be totally honest. Right now I’m addicted to this dumb game called clockmaker. (41:36): Okay. (41:37): And it’s making me wish we were back in the days of pagers because this game is sucking so much energy out of my life. And I’m like, so addicted to it. Like last night I literally was like, okay, I’m not playing for more than 30 minutes. I said a timer, my phone. And when the timer went off, I like closed the game because I was like, I cannot be up until two 30 in the morning playing this damn thing. Right. But it’s a paradigm shift. I mean, we went from connection and talking to people, looking a particular way and yeah, we had cell phones and that was, you know, she is the next extension of a, of a cordless phone. Right. But going from phone to handheld, everything like handheld computer, that was a paradigm shift. And the phone is almost secondary to everything else that we do on our phones nowadays. Right? (42:32): Yes. Like, correct me if I’m wrong. iPhone was not the first of its kind. (42:38): Well, technically you’re right. Because the Palm pilot was actually the first of its kind, but it was not very good. (42:47): Oh, I thought it was the Motorola rocker. (42:50): Well or something like that. You, I don’t even know like, (42:53): Well, I, I know what you’re (42:54): Yeah, yeah. I mean, could be, could be, it would be interesting. We’ll have I have to go look that up, but we don’t remember that phone. Right? We don’t remember Motorola. We remember the iPhone changed the game. (43:07): Yes. (43:08): But if you had asked people and this is where product market fit is tough. Right. Because if, if Steve jobs had asked people and by the way he did, I, because I I’ve read a bunch of the materials, but if he had asked people, Hey, I’m thinking about building a thing. That’s like a touch screen and it calls and you can do text messages, but it will also like connect you to the internet and your email all and who knows, cuz I’m gonna make it so that people can build other things for it to do the way that your computer does. People were very mixed about it. Like it wasn’t a resounding yes. Until people had it in their hands and they saw the power of it. Mm-hmm <affirmative> so there is as much as product market fit is about, de-risking an idea as much as you possibly can, before you spend a ton of time and money, there is inherent risk in being an entrepreneur. And it’s your tolerance for that risk that will determine how far you go, how long you stick with it, right. (44:12): Yeah. For sure. I don’t know. Then, then again, when you’re apple, you can stick for, you can stick with it for a while. <laugh> if you’re a small, you know, you know, entrepreneur or, you know, small little startup burning money is a, is a, is a thing and you apple probably didn’t have that problem. (44:34): <laugh> well, you’re probably right about that. Although, although remember there was a time when apple was sort of like the redheaded stepchild of, of home computing, right. And, and the thought that anybody could ever compete with Microsoft on a home computing level was crazy. Mm-hmm <affirmative> and the reality is Apple’s bigger than Microsoft now. And, and they’ve done it through a lot of different avenues, but in, you know, revenue worldwide, Apple’s bigger. (45:06): True. (45:07): I mean, they’re both, they’re both part of the four largest freaking companies in the world, so we’re not, you know, it’s not like they crushed ’em, but they, they, it took what 40, some odd years for them to get there. (45:21): You know, it makes me think that some products or not, yeah. Some products and some ideas are definitely successful due to contrary thought. Mm. Like, and you know, I, you know, I listened to, as we spoke about like the pitch or entrepreneurial podcast, like some ideas you don’t want people to say, oh, that’s all, that’s a great idea. You want people to say, oh, that’s a bad idea. Like Airbnb, that was a bad idea. <laugh> when people, when people first came up with it. Oh Right. Having strangers stay in your home. Yeah. So, you know, I think having ideas that people don’t agree with is also a good idea. <laugh> (46:04): If that makes sense. <laugh> so throw out the role book. Is that what you’re saying, Gary? <laugh> (46:10): I mean, if peop I saying, I think if, yeah, yeah. <laugh> and if, and if people like it, people love it, then you move forward. Yeah. There’s a, there’s a documentary, I think, uh, you and maybe your listeners would be, uh, interested in seeing it’s on. I found it on YouTube, but it’s, it’s how the Xbox got started. It’s a documentary about Xbox. Okay. And it was basically this small dev team in Microsoft building something to compete with. I believe it was PlayStation and they just did it for, I think, because they were some, like, one of them were a couple of ’em were into gaming and they did it without telling bill gates (46:57): <laugh> and, (46:58): And then, uh, I mean, you need to watch it. It’s, it’s so interesting of like how bill gates eventually got to the point of adapting it and, and, and building (47:11): It sort of giving in. (47:12): Yeah. Right. Because he wanted this, a software company, he wanted to stay all software. You didn’t wanna be hardware. (47:20): Interesting. And (47:21): It led into this whole hardware (47:24): Mean Xbox is one of the large, is it the largest gaming platform? (47:30): I don’t (47:31): Know. Do you know? Yeah. I don’t know either. That’d be, it’d be interesting to, okay. All right. I’ll, I’ll find the link for that. And I’ll include it in the show notes for, for the, the episode. So you guys can, I I’ll watch it and you guys can go listen to it as well. All right. So three podcasts, books, or resources that you’d recommend for, for people in our audience who are either considering being an entrepreneur, but have never pulled the trigger or people who are seasoned veterans and, and have done this several times or maybe in the middle of their first, first adventure like you. (48:02): Well, number one is the pitch, which is on Spotify, uh, per seasoned or novice it’ll, you know, it <affirmative>, it’s like shark tank, but better. Yeah. The, the VCs on there actually give very constructive feedback and you know, it’s not as drama oriented and <laugh>, um, and there’s a lot of different like business bottles and that you can pull from lot of different ideas. It’s, it’s one of, it’s one of my favorite I, I go back to and listen to again and again, just to get different ideas or different, um, business models or something like that. (48:42): Yeah. I totally, I agree that the pitch, if you are an entrepreneur, who’s gonna start asking for money. Binging, all hundred episodes of the pitch will definitely gear up your mindset for where am I, where do I not have enough going on in my pitch? Like, where am my light on stuff that I need to be heavy on? Where am I reaching too far? Like, it’s, it’s literally being in the room real time and, and watching how process plays out. It also will make you feel better if you get ghosted by or, or, you know, an investor’s like, yeah, I’m totally gonna invest. Let’s talk more. And then that doesn’t, that doesn’t actually happen. Uh, it’ll make you feel better about that. Cuz that happens a lot on the pitch <laugh> (49:27): And they explain why there’s like a, exactly (49:29): Couple (49:30): Months follow up, which, which is nice. And they kind of just go through of like what happened and what didn’t happen. And, and so on the other one I would say is, Y Combinator on YouTube has a lot of good, it’s a good channel, a lot of good in information, a lot of good stuff. Um, the one I gravitate towards is Michael SI, who who’s a part of Twitch and social cam and the way, you know, when I listen to him, the way he talks is so much different than a lot of the other speakers that come from a engineering background. Mm. And I don’t know why, but I can hear his advice a lot clear and some of the engineers. (50:14): Yeah. Well, yeah, because you’re, you’re a non-technical guy building a tech startup. Right. True and true. And to listen to a bunch of techies who are like building cool stuff and then sort of, I’m gonna use the word accidentally turning it into a startup. That’s a very different experience than being like, okay, I don’t know anything about tech, but I got this idea. Let’s go see how this works. And I think the thing that Michael Sebel does really well is he speaks to the non-technical technical founder. <laugh> he does it exceptionally well, like really, really well. Yeah. And, um, yeah. And, and, and for those of you who don’t know why Combinator, one of the largest, uh, they’re the second largest, uh, accelerator program in the world. Um, second only tech stars, um, the, they are ver they’re considered the creme dire in the accelerator space and they make more unicorn. (51:15): They build more unicorn companies than any other accelerator in the world. They’re, they’re actually phenomenal at it. Now that said, so their unicorn rate is much higher than the average accelerator incubator program am. Their failure rate is actually also higher than the average startup community. Um, because the reality is when you, when you aim big, sometimes you miss really big too. So your chances, if you get into Y Combinator, very, very, very elite program, very difficult to get. If you do your chance of success and big success, not just, not just like regular average success, your chance of very big success is much higher and your chance of a huge flop is also higher. So take that for what it’s worth too. <laugh> okay. Awesome. Two more. Yeah, go ahead please. Yeah, go, go, go, go (52:08): Love it. So this is a more obsessive part of me, but I will YouTube search demo days. (52:15): Oh. (52:16): And like, I would just watch people pitch their demos and granted it’s all pretty formulaic on what they do, but it’s, it’s interesting to me kind of just seeing how other people come up with solutions and different problems. (52:29): Yeah. I love that. (52:30): And then last one is another podcast on Spotify, wherever you get podcasts from it’s mixer G mixer G. Yeah. This is actually the first entrepreneurial podcast. Oh, actually no. And the other there’s another good podcast. Oh, there’s so many. Um, (52:49): <laugh> (52:50): Um, there’s one with Reed Hoffman. I forgot it. Masters of scale anyway. Okay. Mixer G is podcasts about just startup stories. Yeah. And how people got into it and how they grew it and how they scaled it. And it’s like, it’s a very conversational type podcast on like random come companies, just small companies that are doing well. So I think that’s, your listeners might enjoy that. (53:17): Okay. That’s cool. All right. I’ll include all of those in the show notes. So, um, you won’t have to look too hard to find anything. Dear listener, Gary, thank you so much for joining us today. Thank you for sharing your story. Thank you for, yes, you’re welcome. Um, yeah, it’s been a great conversation. If listeners have questions or they’d like to get in touch with you, what’s the best way for them to do that (53:40): Best way would probably be linked in (53:42): Awesome (53:44): Or awesome. Just contact Cynthia. San Diego knows contact me directly. (53:49): <laugh> yeah. So I’ll make sure to include, uh, Gary’s LinkedIn link so that you can connect with him and reach out to him there. And, uh, if you do have questions or you’d like an introduction, um, I am happy to, uh, take your email and, and chat with you a little bit before I, before I pass you on. So that’s startup precursor.com. Gary, thank you again so much for joining us today. Of course. And, uh, anytime I’m looking forward to the next portion of your journey here, <laugh> (54:19): Doesn’t end. Like I said, it doesn’t end (54:21): <laugh> all right. Awesome. All right. So thanks so much for joining us folks as always happy entrepreneuring, and I will see you all next time. Thank you for listening to this episode of Precursa: The Startup Journey. If you have an idea for a startup and you want to explore the proven process of turning your idea into a viable business, check us out at precursa.com. Make sure to subscribe to this podcast wherever you listen to podcasts so you never miss an episode. Until next time…  

Cynthia Del'Aria

Cynthia Del'Aria is a serial entrepreneur and tech startup ninja, specializing in product-market fit and idea validation and helping new entrepreneurs reserve their time and money for the idea with the best shot at success. With two successful exits before 30, an active high-profit-margin SaaS in the commercial airline space, and two additional startups in the works, she knows what it takes to traverse the entrepreneur journey, the highs, and the challenges of turning a vision into a successful, viable business.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Precursa Logo
  • Denver, Colorado

  • startup@precursa.com

Copyright © 2021 Precursa  |  All Rights Reserved  |  Site Created by Natalie Jark

Precursa Logo
  • Denver, Colorado

  • startup@precursa.com

Copyright © 2021 Precursa  |  All Rights Reserved  |  Site Created by Natalie Jark

Scroll to Top