Episode 20 (Part 2 of 2): From Board Shorts to Billions: Justin Wilkenfeld, CEO of Kindhumans and Employee #4 at GoPro Shares the Secrets to Building A Billion-Dollar Company the Hard Way

In 2007, Justin Wilkenfeld left a stable corporate job in the Finance industry to help his college buddy sell wrist-strap cameras to surfers. Seven years later, he was a core part of the most successful US-based IPO of the year as GoPro reached legendary “unicorn” status.  What started as answering phone calls in the one-man customer service department and building furniture for trade shows around the country, turned into negotiating brand partnerships, scaling marketing teams, and signing iconic athletes – always with a focus on building real relationships. And throughout it all, Hoost was the glue that helped build and protect GoPro’s unbeatable culture. Today, Justin – in partnership with his wife, Suzi – has combined his passion for growing businesses with his calling to build community to create Kindhumans, a new platform to connect commerce with compassionate causes across the globe.

On this Episode of The Besomebody Podcast:

12:31 Our hiring criteria. “The three things that we hire for are passion, coachability, and cultural fit. We can teach everybody everything else, but you have to have that passion – that burning desire and excitement to be here. You have to be moldable and open to feedback, learning, and growing. And you have to be able to live and breathe the culture, or it’s not going to work.” -KS

21:23 Kindhumans. “At a high level, we’re trying to create the intersection of community, content, commerce, and cause. We want to build the biggest community of kind humans possible. We want to tell stories about kind humans and profile kind humans and the good work that they’re doing across business, or individual effort, as well as non-profit effort. And really highlight the people that we feel like are good role models for society.” -JW

36:36 Greedy for good. “Greed wins because greed is hungrier than that altruistic behavior sometimes. Even as we’re progressing our brand and business forward, I try to impress on my team that we need to be greedy for good. Greedy for the better good. We have to play the game like the other players are playing the game. Let’s hustle, let’s build a business. We can give back and do great things for people, but let’s be a real business, let’s make real money, and let’s make some real noise. Let’s not be like ‘tin cup,’ like, ‘Hey can you guys help us out?’ Let’s be disruptive.” -JW

47:11 Survive, live, thrive. “For me, there’s three components to life, at a basic level. There’s survival mode, there’s living, and then there’s thriving. Our hope with Kindhumans is that we can help shift things and be a part of that conversation of shifting more people out of survival mode into and through living mode, into thriving mode – where you’re able to be a master of your own destiny, to follow the path that you want to follow, and to participate in a way that is a bit freer. So many people are desperate just to survive – and that blinds their truth. They’re not able to follow their heart and where they want to go.” -JW

57:03 Recognizing past mistakes. “It wasn’t until I left GoPro and started to build on my own with Besomebody that I really started to realize all the mistakes that I made. And started to realize, ‘Now I understand when I left at 5pm and everybody was grinding, they looked at me differently. Now I understand when I used to come to the events and not roll up my sleeves and get my hands dirty and start setting stuff up, they looked at me and rolled their eyes. Now I understand when I used to be the guy on TV, being interviewed in front of the media and getting the publicity but not really having the history and the heritage with the brand and the company, why people got frustrated.’ I took that to heart and told myself, ‘Now I’m going to do it differently. I’m going to be respectful of the process. I’m going to be grateful for the grind. And I’m always going to honor the people who have been there from the beginning.’” -KS

58:44 Kash’s One Big Thing: “To me the biggest lesson is you can completely screw something up, you can be totally off base and still turn that into a win if you’re humble enough and aware enough to acknowledge where you messed up. If I kept denying the fact that I did something wrong at GoPro, I wouldn’t be where I am today, we wouldn’t be here. It was because I embraced it, learned from it, and made it a part of my story and my journey that we got to be a path of growth ourselves.” -KS

Episode 20 (Part 1 of 2): From Board Shorts to Billions: Justin Wilkenfeld, CEO of Kindhumans and Employee #4 at GoPro Shares the Secrets to Building A Billion-Dollar Company the Hard Way

In 2007, Justin Wilkenfeld left a stable corporate job in the Finance industry to help his college buddy sell wrist-strap cameras to surfers. Seven years later, he was a core part of the most successful US-based IPO of the year as GoPro reached legendary “unicorn” status.  What started as answering phone calls in the one-man customer service department and building furniture for trade shows around the country, turned into negotiating brand partnerships, scaling marketing teams, and signing iconic athletes – always with a focus on building real relationships. And throughout it all, Hoost was the glue that helped build and protect GoPro’s unbeatable culture. Today, Justin – in partnership with his wife, Suzi – has combined his passion for growing businesses with his calling to build community to create Kindhumans, a new platform to connect commerce with compassionate causes across the globe.

On this Episode of The Besomebody Podcast:

18:03 The value of relationships. “Building bonds like that ends up being more critical to my future than the schooling or the education, because I met people, I networked, and built a family of friends that has carried through for decades.” -JW

24:44 Leaving for GoPro. “It was an opportunity to jump ship from a path that I didn’t feel like was going to fulfill me. It was a critical move for me, and I feel like it was a pivotal moment, and it’s been a seminal moment that I couldn’t have anticipated. The beauty of it was taking a chance on doing something else. That’s one of my biggest takeaways – having the courage to leave that comfort zone. And at 32, taking a risk on something that on paper probably didn’t have much of a chance.” -JW

26:03 The different stages of the journey.  “In your twenties you’re just trying to figure stuff out. You’re just trying to have fun, do different things, explore different things. You’re not really thinking about purpose or passion, you’re just doing stuff. When you get into your thirties, you realize, ‘I think I can do something more. I think life is about something more. What is my purpose? What could be my impact? What could be my legacy?’ Then that’s when you start to ask the smart questions that lead you to the right answers – the tough questions that lead you to the right answers. In your forties, hopefully, if you did it right and if you were focused and you were blessed, then you know it, and now you’re full force into your path.” -KS

28:44 Failure vs. regret. “My biggest influence and inspiration in my life is my mom. She’s taught me a lot of things, but the piece of advice that she’s given me that has always stuck with me and rang the most true and powerful was that failures fade but regrets last forever.” -KS

45:47 Building with authenticity. “What made a difference for GoPro in the end – and still does – is authenticity. It’s a genuine connection and a genuine relationship with these different communities. We went vertical by vertical – crawl, walk, run strategy – and we built the brand by getting to know people. And that loyalty that you gain from those relationships can transcend the brand.” -JW

52:42 Working with friends and family. “When you come in as a friend and/or as family, it’s like having the coach’s son on the basketball team when you grew up who got playing time. You’ve been on the teams before where the son got playing time because his dad was the coach, and he wasn’t very good, so you always resented that fact. Or, he was actually the best player because his dad was the coach, coached him all the time, and pushed him. I always say, ‘I want you to be the latter, I’m going to push you, I’m going to spend more time with you, but I want you to be the best. I want you to be the top of the crop. Then that earns you credibility and it protects our culture.’” -KS