Episode 19: David Willbrand, Partner at Thompson Hine LLP, on the Dumpster Fire That Is Your Life, Why Venture Capital Isn’t for Everyone, and the One Piece of Advice He Would Give to Aspiring Entrepreneurs

After graduating from Harvard, David Willbrand was tired of working in jobs he hated. He convinced the University of Cincinnati Law School to admit him past the deadline, and spent the next sixteen years making his mark in the startup community. As a Partner at Thompson Hine, LLP, David chairs their Early Stage & Emerging Companies Practice where he has helped thousands of aspiring entrepreneurs figure out what really matters to them, how to get the deal done, and the true meaning of risk.

On this Episode of The Besomebody Podcast:

10:24 Kash on VC funding. “I don’t believe in seed stage funding because I believe growth capital is where you should be thinking about raising money. At that point you’ve already proved product/market fit, you already have a business model you believe in, the customer base, and the elements of a strong business. Then you’re just trying to pour some gasoline on the fire.” -KS

14:46 Defining your version of success. “When I sit down with entrepreneurs for the first time, I always try to ask the entrepreneur, ‘What is your definition of success? What are you trying to achieve? Why are you doing this?’ Nine times out of ten, I get the rote answer, ‘I want to go raise venture capital,’ ‘I want to build a unicorn,’ ‘I want an IPO,’ ‘I want to build a billion-dollar company.’ When I then ask some follow up questions, what I find is that’s actually the case truly with very few entrepreneurs. When you think about what’s involved in that and what it means from the perspective of meaning, lifestyle, the kind of company you’re creating, and what you’re trying to achieve – that’s a very narrow band of entrepreneurs. And most, if you press on them, you can say, ‘That’s not really what you want. Let’s talk about what you want because this is your life. Let’s figure out how to help you manifest your version of success.’”-DW

26:59 Luck. “You’ve got to do the work and put in the effort to put yourself in the position to have luck. Then you have to keep your eyes open and always be aware – pivoting back and forth and managing your peripheral vision – so that when luck appears you grab it by the throat, and you don’t let it go.” -DW

55:49 What makes news. “We do want to be on the stage and the plane of some of those hyper-growth companies. We just want to do it our way and take the road that you didn’t see on TechCrunch or in the headlines, which is the news out there of people raising money. Let’s have our news about the impact that we make, number one. Number two, the amazing culture that we built and co-created, and number three, the money that we make, not the money that we raise. I believe there should be a shift in glamorizing the part of entrepreneurship or the startup life of raising money and it should be more on impact, growth, financial independence, and things like that.” -KS

1:03:06 David’s advice for aspiring entrepreneurs. “It’s a difficult existence. If you’re going to undertake it, only do it because literally there is nothing else you can do to be happy. That’s what I would say to aspiring entrepreneurs. I love that you’ve got this idea, I love that you have this vision, but frankly, if you can be happy in a day job, it’s an easier life. You should only do this thing, you should only chase this thing if you can’t sleep, if it’s keeping you up at night, if it’s eating at you all day long, if you feel like you’re wasting time because you’re not spending time on it.” -DW

1:07:30 Kash’s One Big Thing. “In order to go down this road – whether it’s a dream that you have, a business you want to build, or something that you want to pursue – it has to be this burning fire inside of you. It has to be that thing that wakes you up in the morning, and that thing that stops you from sleeping every night. The thing that literally sets your whole being on fire, that’s the epitome of a calling. When I left my corporate job to go build Besomebody, Inc. that’s how I felt. I felt like every day was one day too late from me jumping on what my true purpose was, my true calling. I knew I was leaving a lot on the table; I knew I was leaving comfort, stability, money, and some relationships. I knew I was having to give up a lot, but the feeling inside of me wouldn’t let me let it go. I started to feel so heavy every day that I waited. When I finally made that decision to go for it, it felt like this release. The journey has been way harder than I could’ve ever imagined. I’ve had to give up a lot more than I ever thought I would. There’s ups and downs, but I still feel so in sync and so true inside with the calling.” -KS

Episode 15: For the Love of the Game – Jared Zwerling, Founder of CloseUp360, on His Passion for Basketball, Creating Great Content, and Rebounding from the Pandemic

After a successful career in sports journalism at Sports Illustrated, ESPN, and Bleacher Report, as well as a key storytelling role at the National Basketball Players Association, Jared Zwerling launched the first dedicated media platform focused on sharing basketball players’ lives off the court. 

On this Episode of The Besomebody Podcast:

6:30 It began with storytelling. “I had my first gig as a newspaper writer from my middle school at 8 years old. I wrote my first article about an ambidextrous pitcher who could pitch both 90mph, lefty and righty. I was so fascinated by that story and by athletes and how they got into their craft – the story behind the story. That’s what set it off for me. It came very naturally, just telling stories.” -JZ

24:24 The impact of the pandemic on the sports media industry. “We have often talked about the yin and yang, the bipolar nature of the effect of the pandemic on different industries. At first glance, we’re like, ‘Quarantine must have been the best thing ever for CloseUp360,’ because players are at home and they have all this free time. When you add on the layer that you’re also now competing with ESPN, Sports Illustrated, Bleacher Report, Uninterrupted – everyone vying for that free time because there is no ‘on the court’ time – your point of difference became a little less prevalent.” -KS

26:37 The need for GREAT content. “Everyone has to be super creative and offer as much value as possible. Because we work directly with players, we just can’t create content just to create content. We have to go to a player and say, ‘This will create value for you and here’s why.’ The level of access and the level of ideas we come up with have to be greater and more compelling for a player to say, ‘You know what, I want to work directly with CloseUp to do that.’ It’s a different approach to just being a traditional media outlet in that regard.” -JZ

45:05 The startup grind. “When you work for a startup, you have to be able to sacrifice and push through the grind. It’s not going to be easy all the time. It’s not a corporate job where you have a steady paycheck and benefits. It’s a different mindset when you work for a startup. You have to be able to be ready for anything and pivot.” -JZ

48:20 Advertising as revenue. We used to always talk about how difficult the advertising as revenue business is within media, and how margins become very tight and tough. That’s always been hard. Now with companies spending less on marketing, less on advertising, with more content platforms out there, and a lot more conglomerates purchasing media platforms – it’s tough. At Besomebody, we’ve been a media company for a long time. We’ve never monetized it because our strategy has always been to use content as a growth platform for audience size, and then figure out what to do with the audience. We took a couple cracks at it and weren’t as successful as we hoped to be. And now we’re back at it again after we pivoted and built a core revenue stream. As Jared talked about, passion is the lead, but then you’ve got to pay the bills.” -KS   

50:46 Kash’s One Big Thing. “We need to start thinking of new business models. We need to start thinking of new ways to generate revenue that haven’t been built before. You can’t use the old ‘tried and true’ models anymore. We have to do some things differently – whether that’s how we partner, through shared revenue, through media and licensing agreements, or through looking at venture capital in a different way. The game has changed, so we have to think about things very differently. The companies that are emerging right now and the companies that are going to succeed are going to say, ‘How do I have to play the game differently moving forward?’” -KS

Episode 5: From Spirits to Sanitizer – This Entrepreneur Pivoted His Entire Business to Help First Responders & Healthcare Workers

Eric Baumann did everything from wash kegs to clean floors as he worked his way up the Brewery world. Today, the Karrikin Spirits Co-Founder and Master Brewer is spearheading his team’s efforts to switch production from alcohol to sanitizer for healthcare workers & first responders.

On this Episode of The Besomebody Podcast:

7:39 The official launch of BSB Group International (plus: we’re hiring!“We said we’re going to ramp up our hiring. Most people are not hiring right now unless you’re a grocery store, delivery driver, things like that. Because you want to be careful about your cash in hand, your cash outlet. But we said we’re going to take a step forward and be a little bold, we want to expand our team.” -KS

16:16 Becoming a Master Brewer. “I started with home brewing…I just wanted to get my foot in anywhere. I was willing to wash kegs, make soda, do whatever I could do to just get in a brewery. And fortunately, we found a brewery up at Grand Teton in Idaho and that’s where I started just washing the kegs, cleaning floors, and learning from mentors.” -EB

23:57 How the pivot happened. “Overnight, we changed the company. You know, the immediate thing was we really wanted to get [the sanitizer] out there to help society. That’s the main relief effort, to get the sanitizer into people’s hands that are essential to everyday life and business, and that are going to have the biggest impact on people. Like Amazon or Kroger or places where [the employees] are in contact with hundreds and hundreds of people daily. So, that was the initial thing, the humanitarian side…Then it became a whole thing overnight, it’s wild.” -EB

30:48 Layoffs, revenue & rethinking investments. “[Layoffs], honestly, are awful. It’s something you never want to do as a business owner. It’s something you never thought you’d be doing. It’s a very surreal moment, but we were faced with no choice. We’re a startup, we started a year and a half ago. Everything we’ve made we put back in the company. We don’t have the war chest. Even companies that have a war chest, nobody really knows where this thing is going to end, or when, or how.” -EB

35:44 The silver lining of innovation. “One of the other silver linings of this pandemic is it’s forcing all of us as entrepreneurs and business owners to be much more maniacal about the details, the strategy, and the decisions that we are making. We have to take it to a different level because we understand that we are working within an environment and a climate that is so uncertain. Every choice matters so much right now. Some of the aggressive choices we might have made six months ago, we’re thinking differently…but I do believe we’re going to see great innovation out of it.” -KS

43:23 Kash’s One Big Thing. “There are only two points that matter: the moment and the vision…the moment is what you are doing right now. What are you focusing on, what are you pouring your energies into, what are the strategies that you are turning into execution to ensure you’re doing the right thing, right now? The vision is that beautiful place that you want to get to, that beautiful thing that you want to create. Everything in the middle doesn’t matter. You can’t get attached to it.” -KS