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