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

Episode 18: Tai Morshed, Vice President at ONE Championship, Talks Ringing the Bell, Teaming with Heroes, and How He’s Helping Connect a Continent Through Mixed Martial Arts

When the startup he was working for went public, Tai found himself on the floor of the Stock Exchange and the center of the action. He thought he made it. Turns out, his career was just getting started. After taking a risk that led him to a job with Adobe in Southeast Asia, he found an opportunity at the intersection of his passion and purpose with ONE Championship. Now he’s empowering tens of millions of fans across Asia – and soon the world – to connect with athletes through storytelling and shared experiences.

On this Episode of The Besomebody Podcast:

18:24 When the risk pays off. “I took a risk leaving somewhere else where I was comfortable, and things were easy. I took a risk leaving Austin and going to New York. There were a lot of risks that I took, and that was really gratifying to see us IPO. I was there on the floor – I didn’t ring the bell, but I was a row or two right behind them, waving…It was a gratifying moment to essentially be able to own that space and say, ‘You know what, I deserve this. This is a hard-working team. I took some risks, and this is where it pays off.’” -TM

19:53 Believing AND building.  “It’s important to differentiate and to create that distinction between those who believe, but also want to build. Believing in the vision, mission, and principles is the price of entry – if you don’t believe, I don’t even want you to walk in the door of Besomebody, Inc. or BSB Group International. But believing isn’t enough – because you have to want to build. What does that mean? It means you have to be able to make the sacrifices, put in the work, produce the results necessary for the company to grow.” -KS

36:29 Building heroes at ONE Championship. “It’s not about the fighting. What they’re really trying to do is build heroes. They’re putting heroes in places where people need it the most. They need people who look like them or are like them to give them a sense of hope and inspiration that they can do more and be more in life.” -TM

42:31 The power of connection. “People want to be able to believe and see people and connect with people who look like them, who’ve been through what they’ve been through, who understand their history, values, and culture. I think that’s been one of the most exciting evolutions in marketing and advertising over the last couple years…When you think about now, the necessity for us to come up with – not just a white person, a black person, a brown person – but somebody who came up from your same neighborhood, who speaks your same dialect, who has the same challenges. That ability to connect at a niche and specific level is so powerful.” -KS

44:41 Uncovering the stories. “There’s some culture, there’s some adversity in life, and in all these places there’s these great stories. While we know if we just showed knockouts all day our numbers would be higher, but we’re not building the brand that we believe that can have an impact and that has long term value. That’s why we take the time to make sure these stories are unearthed.” -TM

59:04 Kash’s One Big Thing. “When you think about the ‘microstories’ that are out there that unify us and connect us, it’s way past the old school marketing days of ’45 year old white male’ or ‘single mom’ – it’s way beyond that. And when you can get deeper into those nuances of what makes people different, but also connects them, that’s when you can create that emotional bond with people. When you look at the future of content, the future of marketing, the future of storytelling – that’s where it is. It’s endless the amount of avenues and connection points that we have now on social media and digital. The companies that are going to be able to tell those ‘microstories’ in a personal, authentic, and relevant way, those are going to be the ones that are going to win.” -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 6: Olympic Gold Medalist and Two-Class UFC Champion Henry Cejudo Shares His Redemption Story

After working his way up the ranks of the UFC, Olympic Gold Medalist, Henry Cejudo, lost his first title fight. And it wasn’t close… Then, in 2018, he found redemption by defeating all-time great, Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson. Henry and Kash share their parallel paths and talk about their friendship that has endured the ups and downs of winning, losing, and coming back stronger.

On this Episode of The Besomebody Podcast:

6:17 Kash & Henry’s parallel paths. “If you want to be great, there are going to be a lot more downs than there are ups. You’re going to lose a lot more than you win on the journey to greatness.” -KS

18:31 Losing the title fight. “When you truly reach success man, you have to freaking really fall in order to reach success, because that’s exactly what that fight was. As an Olympic Champion, I was undefeated going into the UFC, fighting for the title, fighting the Pound-for-Pound Great. I’m a very confident human being, but what Demetrious Johnson was able to do to me in 2 minutes and 36 seconds…I ate some humble pie, maybe for the first time in my adulthood.” -HC

27:50 Henry avenges his loss. “It’s good to question yourself. You cannot be 100% confident or 100% sure on anything because that just means you’re not being challenged.” -HC

32:34 Fighting for the flyweight division. “It was my duty to save the flyweight division… As long as I became champion, the whole flyweight division, which is 57 people, was going to be saved. And the only way to save the flyweight division was to open my mouth and start talking, to amplify the [Triple C] personality. So, sure enough, after my fight with Demetrius Johnson, I called out TJ Dillashaw for the fight…the most important thing about that was I saved the whole flyweight division. That’s the whole moral of the Triple C story.” -HC

40:33 Kash’s One Big Thing. “But all I can tell you is we got knocked out. And we got knocked out so publicly. I didn’t want to go out or check my messages, he didn’t want to check his messages. But saying, ‘You know what, I’m gonna take the hit,’ you take the hit, and keep going. And that is the story of Henry Cejudo. And honestly that is the story of Besomebody.” -KS