VC | Creative Artist.
If you're going to play, be the best.
Yo, what's happening? Here we go, Fresh and Raw Episode Eight. The cutting edge or the bleeding edge. This is our topic for today.
Sitting around here by the fire lakeside and just been reflecting on something that came up last couple days and something that comes up regularly as it relates to guiding, assisting and mentoring entrepreneurs and start-ups at getting the business that we're in, getting the work that we're in to the level. To the level, what? To the level that encourages confidence, to the level that breaks barriers, that disrupts inefficient patterns, that inspires people, that improves the world, that assists people in their lives in ways that we haven't been able to before.
These are all characteristics of cutting edge activity, and the bleeding edge of work. Is stuff, is ambition, is building, is effort towards the greatest possible reach we have in a particular direction, where the greatest possible reach we have in a particular endeavor, or activity, or technology, or style, or process ... There's so many different ways to look at this.
And when I'm working with start-ups, it's so important for me to reinforce that that's where we want to be. It doesn't matter where we start from, and this is a real source of paralysis for many entrepreneurs. It's like, "I'm here and I feel ..." What? Do you feel lack of confidence, shame, embarrassment, so on and so forth, for wherever you're starting from, and you feel that you can't start unless you move past this level before you begin?
There's certain people that operate that way. Right? They won't begin, and they won't start anything until they feel that everything's in place at that level. I approach business, and I approach opportunities in a different way. When I look at opportunities, I look at what's possible, what they could become from where they are, not necessarily where exactly they're at in that moment. What does the company look like? How is it structured? Who owns the company? Where are the partners in the business? What are the assets of the company? Technologies, intellectual property, physical assets, creative assets ... What about the people? The people are assets, right? So, what about the intellectual capital of a company, or a partnership, a venture that I'm taking a look at, either to invest in or to assist with and to assist on in the growth of. Right?
So, none of these things matter if you are not yet at the bleeding edge or if you are not yet at the cutting edge insofar as ... They don't matter as a point of resistance to begin. Everybody has different entry points as far as investors are concerned, venture capitalists are concerned, bankers are concerned, brokers, and all this kind of stuff. Everybody has different entry points, right?
There are those that will only touch blue chip companies that are worth more than a billion dollars, or those that will only touch technology companies, or only touch real estate companies, or only work in resources, or what have you. Everybody's got different qualifying criteria, but ultimately, we're all trying to go to the same place. We're all generally trying to head in the same direction.
Now, a couple things here, right? As an investor, I look at it and say, "Well, where am I going to get my list?" Right? Where am I going to get the best possible return if I am participating in a company that has these pieces in place and is moving to have these types of pieces in place. I know that even though early stage comes with risk, that understanding certain levels of experience that I have and others around that I often work with on the ventures we embark upon, that if it doesn't exist at the beginning, with the right conditions present, we can introduce and establish a process or a road map of what is required to move into that state of being and that state of vibration. Right?
What does that mean exactly? Well, is the management team open? Do we have a leader who has the open-mindedness, the sense of humility, and the flexibility to work with teams to improve the venture and the company from the place that it is currently in and where it needs to go to really stand up and be noticed? Or doesn't it? If it doesn't and the management team is really stuck in its ways but I don't feel that they are operating at the level, then that's something I will likely pass on because the team has to be open in a whole bunch of different ways.
One, to include the right people in their team to continue to grow; to be flexible to adjustments or changes in strategies, techniques, processes to continue to grow, to change focus on different types of assets or refinement of their portfolio. These can include acquiring and divesting, which means selling some of their portfolio of assets to realign the portfolio in a way that continues to set the tone and support the journey and the path towards this place; and then continuing to do so. Right? Once they've started to do that, they continue to stay open and allow that to happen. Not just because there's money coming to the table, not just because they're just trying to hook someone in. It's because they actually legitimately believe, understand, recognize where they are at in the grand scheme of things and the pecking order of the niche, the environment, the world that they're operating in versus where the game is happening.
And if you recall from my last podcast, if you had a chance to hear it - In my last segment, if you had a chance to review it, it's about Getting in the Game. Are we in the game, or do we think we're in the game? Where is the game? And this takes some evaluation. It takes a bit of research, and it takes a bit of exploration, and that's where you can find very, very seasoned, technical people that have a lot of experience in a particular niche. Myself, being a venture capitalist, more of a generalist of the fundamentals of public venture capital in particular ... Most often recognizing how to make companies sing, how to move companies from these places of obscurity and struggle into those of major traction, and support, and interest across the early stage of a public venture capital community, among others. Right? And how to stand up in the niche that they're active in, credibly as professionals as opposed to outsiders, and hacks, and wannabes. Right? How do you move a company into that place, and why?
So, what happens at the cutting edge, at the bleeding edge? I mean, this is the environment where the collective thought leaders of an environment may be competing with each other and then also collaborating with each other and challenging each other through their various entities and ventures to move the yardstick of their environment forward. And this happens naturally.
This is like an evolution of technology, of processes, of techniques, of systems, of innovation. Right? And they happen in all these different areas around us all the time.
I'm staring at a campfire right now. We could talk about the innovation of outdoor equipment, of the cutting edge of the latest greatest fire tools, or barbecuing tools, or camping tools and equipment, the latest and greatest boating equipment and tools. I'm staring at a hot tub right now, the latest and greatest hot tub equipment ... What is it? Right? What are these things? We can go deeper? The latest and greatest software technology, the latest and greatest food technology, the latest and greatest mining processes for mining gold or other commodities.
There's so many different areas. I mean, every area has their group of experts and their realm of experts that are at the frontier of that environment. And the people I may be working with in a particular niche or sector may not necessarily yet be at that realm, but they have a burning desire to participate in that community and to contribute in a powerful and influential way in that community to help move the yardstick forward. Of course, not necessarily just in a benevolent way, but then also equally in a profitable way as well, by bringing some new combination of magic, some new structure, some new paradigm to the community, some new perspectives that they haven't previously had or held.
And part of that is also bringing those members of the community into the ventures that I am embarking upon. Right? And then, the ventures I'm participating in so that they understand and recognize the potential levers that exist from the types of entities we, and I operate with, support, and build to create a space for them to begin to participate through this entity and contribute with the latest and greatest in their realm and in their communities.
Now, not just in their communities, but let's say this as well, to the prior community, to the global community, to those that are interested in these products and services. If camping products, to campers all over the world. If software products, to software consumers all over the world to small businesses.
In relation to mining, to mining companies all over the world, a particular realm, as an example, is innovative and socially sensitive techniques for mining, different types of commodities in different parts of the world that minimize and mitigate the deepest environmental impacts. Right? There's an example. That's a broad stroke. What is happening specifically in that realm, and who is the individual to talk to specifically in that realm if that's the type of venture that I am embarking upon? In that case, I'm looking to work with those who have a passion, who are socially sensitive, environmentally sensitive techniques and methods for mining and similar technologies. And this is the type of people I would want to work with and the type of team I want to build around that venture so that we're at the level. So, these guys know. These people know where the best of the best are and what the best of the best are doing, and how we compare to the best of the best in our niche, in the work that we're doing, and how close or how far away we are from that.
This is the journey of an obscure, unknown, small, little start-up company moving into a world-class powerhouse industry leader. You need to be on it. We all need to be on it, and every venture I start has that vision in mind, but the biggest thing that people don't do is just begin. Right? They start, but they also satisfy themselves at mediocre levels of development. They try and do too many things themselves. They try and do things they are not experts in, by trying to be a little two chief or a little too lean. What we need to do is we need to find the best of the best in our nation. We need to continue to attract them and invite them to work with us on the work we are doing.
In alignment with a clear mission, an outcome, an objective of what we're actually trying to achieve, and in doing so, that objective needs to be aligned with moving the yardstick at the cutting edge, at the bleeding edge of the business. If you want to be taken seriously, if you want to actually move your own net worth, and not of your shareholders, and not of your stakeholder, and better the world on the wholest function of these efforts, you need to have that vision of going to that place. That can be achieved by growing your team; making strong, strategic moves, improving the portfolio of assets that you have and the people around you inclusive that moves your work to this fringe of where we're at with this niche of where the cutting-edge work is happening.
At that point, as you create this, as you realize these people are coming together, then people will have more and more confidence in what you're actually creating. Most people, at the beginning, will just say, "Hey, cute," and they'll pat you on the head and say, "Go get 'em." Right? It's amazing. Even when you set your intention that that is what you're going to create, how many people are not paying attention or will not pay attention to what you're doing in the moment at the beginning of this activity.
But I will tell you, as you continue to put one foot in front of the other, staying on-path and committing to creating an opportunity and developing a company, and growing your overturn with these types of criteria in mind and this type of vision in mind, that perspective will change. And when you make moves along that path, you will get the inquiries. You will get more people interested. You will have a heck of a lot more people looking at what you're doing, and increasingly, trying to help because the more you show that you aren't going to waiver in that path and that you are moving in alignment with your objectives and your mission to make a difference in your particular area of interest, then others will recognize that. They'll see where you're going, and they'll say, "Wow, we need to be a part of this as well." And they will start making an impact with you. It's a beautiful thing.
And then, think of that ... As that happens, the size of this community that grows as you put one foot in front of the other (with a clear mission) as your company gets stronger, as your team gets more capable, as your products are more impactful, and more novel, and just of a higher caliber of quality. This is the journey. Right?
And somehow, on that journey, you'll attract investment if you so seek it.
We haven't touched much on this yet, but the art of raising capital is certainly to attract it more than it is to solicit it. We'll touch on this later, you will attract capital. You will attract strategic partnerships. You will attract customers on trial bases, and also for paid customers for writing great feedback on their products and services. You will attract media and promotional coverage. And you will attract potential suitors to come and actually take you out? Why would they take a company out? Why would they buy your company? Because your assets are the best there are, because your people are the best there are, because you're in competition with the products they're creating, and they want to be the best and they have the bank roll too. To assimilate all that are out there in competition with them. These are some of the reasons somebody would acquire you.
And so, to do this and set these sorts of conditions up, you need to put yourself in play that way, and you need to set your path that way that says, "I'm going to continue you to bring the best to what I do."
BUILDING MY COMMUNITY
So, for my part, I have ventures in a whole bunch of different areas. In some areas I'm personally more of an expert, and then others, I am much more of a novice. Regardless, in all areas, I commit to bringing the best of the best to my table to assist me with my activities, and that includes my website, my brand, my blog, my own product offerings, my YouTube channel, my podcasts, and so on, and so forth.
It includes any of my film projects. It includes any of my music projects. It includes my public venture capital projects. You know? My public start-up projects, working with public companies. It includes my personal health in a more personal, holistic level.
In every area of my life, I seek to work with the best, and the best don't necessarily also need to be the known best. They also don't need to be the best on paper that have already arrived. They can also be those that are on their way and have all the characteristics required of them to become the best.
These are often some of the best people to align yourself with because they still have something to prove. Right? And there's a great line that says, "They, with something to prove, will move mountains." So, we look for these people. I look for these people that have fire in them about wanting to move forward on something, achieve something, have been working in their basement or their garage building something, and they have nobody working with them, and they don't understand the other side of how to raise money, build teams, run companies, any of this, but they're legendary tuned into their niche. They've built something that blows minds, and they need certain added on resources or tools to help them get to the next level. I help people like this, for sure, all the time.
his is the work, but it starts with the focus and insistence on being the best. It's not good enough to be mediocre. It's not good enough to just exist.
Even in my performances as an actor. I had a great chat about this the other day, right? I was showcasing some of my work in studio, and the feedback was honest. Right? It's like, on this particular scene or whatever I brought, he said, "Hey. This is great," he says to one coach in particular. He says, "This is great. You've done what you need to do, you're doing what needs to be done on everything that's asked of you. You look the part, everything's here. You're doing the work. So, on paper, you should get it. But now, you're leaving yourself open, right? Because what could still show up in this casting process is someone else who is a total wildcard, who comes out of the blue, who looks different or maybe sounds different and plays this role in a riskier way or in a more surprising way that actually brings a whole new dynamic that was unforeseen and is really the cutting edge of the performance." Right?
It's what he's getting at, which is enriching. It's a new level, it's pushing the envelope. It's beyond what is expected into what is unexpected, beyond what is just okay, and do-able, and sufficient to something that is amazing, mind-blowing, and totally next-level. Right? The difference is obvious, and the point was well-made, and it was very cool because one, it was a great deal of confidence to recognize that I'm at a particular level in my work that shows, "Hey, I'm showing up, and it's pro, and it's do-able, and it's a real offer for these projects, and they're real." But then, the magic of the challenge to say, "But if I just crank that another ... What? 20 percent maybe. Another ... What? 15 percent or ten percent. If I just crank that over the top, not ..." As we say, not to over-act it, not to over-perform it, but just to dig deeper into it creatively and see how I could power the activity or those choices more to just bring something that's just dynamite like that, that's a fantastic challenge, and which I look forward to.
And so, in business as well. Same idea in other business. Right? That should be seen as a great challenge. That should be seen as a great opportunity. And so long and so far as you, as an entrepreneur, are committed to that journey of reaching that level in your activity or building a company that's in that realm of vibration in its activities, I will suggest that you should always be able to attract the tools, people, and financial resources you need to make it happen. And so far as your intentions are pure, and so far that your activities are honest, you will create and impact. So far as that is truly your intention, to create an impact, not simply just for the sake of raising capital from other people and then paying yourself a fat management salary, which happens and is not really what you should be doing. Right? The intention should always be to build a world-class company.
Very, very cool, this topic.
And at that regard, I guess I'll say this as well. It's interesting because you don't really need to be attached to these ventures either. As you start, you're the starter, you're the founder, you're the first person to get going with these things. But as they grow into these world-class and bleeding edge level companies building incredible things, what is the depth of your expertise in that at that level? And if you were surrounded by a number of people, a whole bunch of people that are in that environment and that capable and talented, how do you fit in with that? And what role would you play in the company at that stage? And are you open to adjustment at that stage for another person to come on and take over your company as a CEO and take it to the next level? You know?
There's levels as we grow these businesses, so at first, we start at this level where nobody knows who you are. You have the basic fundamentals and the tools to do something with it, but there's a lot still missing. And then, we bring the missing pieces to the table, and each of these steps you make level up the company. And at each level, new people join the company to take it to the next stage in the next level. So, just keep an open mind as it relates to that. Grow it with that intention. Don't fear what happens if you're not the CEO anymore. Embrace it. Right? May the best person lead the company all the time, and at first it maybe you, and later it may be someone else. But all of that needs to be in the best interests of shareholders and the company to continue to grow in alignment with that mission and in alignment with moving your portfolio of assets and offerings for the world to the leading, cutting edge, the bleeding edge of the business you're in, to be the leader in the work that you do. Right?
And on that path, as I said, you'll find capital will come to meet you there. You'll find suitors come to meet you there and make offerings to take you out. These things will come to the table because you will be increasingly, day by day, a force to be reckoned with in your realm and in your world.
And that is what it is about moving to the cutting edge, being and playing at the bleeding edge. It is not good enough to just settle as a mediocre entity because you will just be treated as such because your ambition is under-serving you in what's possible and under-serving your company in what's possible.
Those who look to invest or participate in venture and help others along, will instead go work with those who have the ambition to be the best in the world and the best in class in whatever realm, whatever industry, whatever sector you work in.
So, a little self-inventory:
This is Chad McMillan. Episode Eight, The Cutting Edge, The Bleeding Edge of Building World-Class Companies.
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Episode Eight, having a blast. We'll talk to you soon. Cheers!
VC | CREATIVE ARTIST
I have spent some 15 years building and financing startup companies, with a deep passion for positive social impacts and the creative arts. Now as I continue about my personal and professional journeys, I share everything I know and have learned with you here.