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David Kidder

Becoming Successful and Discovering Who You Are


In this episode

Welcome to another episode of In Search of Excellence! My guest today is my good friend, David Kidder.

David is a serial entrepreneur, active angel investor, advisor to Fortune 500 companies, sought-after speaker, and author of four books, including two New York Times bestsellers, “The Startup Playbook” and “The Intellectual Devotional."

David has been a co-founder and CEO of three venture-backed startups, including Clickable, SmartRay, and Bionic, where he is currently a CEO.

We are talking about his background and early years, college experience, his first company, how to be successful as an entrepreneur, how to overcome the fear of failure, and what the future holds for our kids in this constantly changing world. Tune in to learn more!

Time stamps:

02:15 David Kidder’s background and early childhood

  • Wonderful parents, psychologists, and writer
  • Grew up in Upstate New York in a small town called Del Mar
  • Two older sisters and a younger brother
  • Started playing tennis at 10
  • Wanted a Wilson sting he couldn’t afford
  • Took a paper route at 5 in the morning
  • After 2 years managed to buy it
  • Mile markers on the way looking forward

05:22 What is Montgomery Ward?

  • It's equivalent to a Sears or Kmart
  • Small town retailer
  • Disappeared because of the big retailers like Walmart or Amazon
  • Financial engineering of Sears
  • What happened when a hedge fund manager took over?
  • Eddie Lampert's idea to acquire that company and then try to create value out of a dying asset
  • A famous HBS case study where a private equity company bought Harley Davidson
  • The thought is – we have retailing, but more importantly, we have a footprint, warehousing, and distribution systems that we could leverage and create value
  • Private equity model as a refunding model vs. a conviction type of investor

08:26 The advice to companies that get offers to be bought by private equity firms

  • When you sell a part of your company, you sold your company
  • Money has a voice and control
  • Sometimes you need capital, but once you sell even 1%, it’s no longer yours
  • The job of founders is:
  • To have a vision
  • To put the right people in the right seats for the right amount of time
  • To never run out of money

11:45 How to hire the right person for the job?

  • Randall’s bad experience with hiring a consultant
  • Timberlake years model
  • Justin Timberlake had a great career, similar is with Taylor Swift
  • Each company has hallmark moments where it moves forward and no longer looks back
  • Nostalgia is the enemy
  • Each of the chapters needs different talent
  • Context and permission alignment in your organization has to be basically perfect
  • If you have a misalignment, you have to fix it immediately

15:26 As a young entrepreneur, how to figure out what is good?

  • On vs. In
  • How much time are you spending working in the company versus on the company
  • Your assumption should be that you're dead trying to become undead
  • Am I selling to the customer or am I solving with them?
  • Selling is important, but the first stage of selling is to solve with them
  • Look at what customers do consistently, always solve with them, and build an organization that can scale in and out

19:30 The story of uncle Roger Franchi

  • Developed a philosophy called Becoming thanks to him
  • Uncle Roger was a very successful entrepreneur and psychologist and advisor
  • A great philosophical leader
  • Successful entrepreneur
  • Sold his company and passed 7 months later
  • Mentored David since he was 16
  • Don't focus on who you are to the world, focus on who you're becoming
  • Changed his life and launched an incredible mindset shift
  • If you want the truth, people have to be able to take risks
  • If you want people to take risks, they have to be forgiven
  • 7-to1 Rule
  • We believe in high standards, but no one will ever actually reach them
  • We want you to take risks but assume that when you make mistakes that our default state to you is to forgive you

23:25 How important are mentors for success?

  • A lot of mentorships are cheap advice
  • Real mentors that change lives don't give you cheap advice
  • They give you their hardest truths about themselves and about you
  • Mentors believe in you and have expectations from you
  • Ideally, they actually have done it before and have empathy and understanding
  • True mentors let you learn yourself

26:02 How important is the college experience today?

  • Very active conversation in David’s life
  • His son is preparing for college
  • David does not want to raise excellent sheep
  • The college experience is not for accreditation of our intellect but for our growth and life experience as humans
  • You own your life, your parents are imperfect, failed humans, doing their best
  • Getting the degree is almost a waste of time
  • The ability to think, learn, and solve hard problems is what matters
  • Also, to elevate the ability to solve problems beyond your intellect - to understand the tools and the way to think about solving problems (AI)
  • David’s college experience – studied industrial design
  • Started his first internet company
  • Worked very hard
  • Raise your kids to think independently and use the great tools of their generation

30:24 How to advise kids on caring for their mental health?

  • Almost never considered GPA when hiring
  • Did you hustle, create value, were you curious …
  • The most profoundly important thing to teach kids is curiosity
  • You don't grow without curiosity
  • Is lower GPA a proof that the applicant is lazy and doesn’t work hard?
  • Radical curiosity, challenging yourself, and “becoming” are more important than a GPA

35:04 The advice to students on how to deal with mental stress and negative thoughts

  • Our lives and reality we’re struggling with are an outcome of our choices
  • The fatigue or the exhaustion of fixing yourself will eventually run its course
  • Our conscious life which we're trying to fix is just the top of the iceberg
  • Choices are really just intentions

43:28 The start of David’s first company at 19

  • Got exposure to entrepreneurship and the freedom of time young
  • Worked for a small sports shop called Mike Rossi sports
  • Joined a startup called The Idea Group
  • Became a problem solver in the digital world
  • Started a first company and sold it for a moderate amount of money
  • Went to New York, started another company, and sold it
  • Took some time off and traveled the world
  • Came back, got married, started another company, and failed badly
  • Developing the ability to build things and solve problems
  • You have to be able to solve things, even if you don't know the answer
  • Keep taking shots until you it's you're forced to learn it

46:55 What is a roll-up?

  • A roll-up is when you have a hypothesis or a business plan and you raise money for it
  • There are many of similar companies in the world
  • It could be technology engineering services
  • At the beginning of the Internet, a lot of capital went to businesses that could solve technical problems
  • Today in AI era, people solving generative digital challenges for big companies will be similar to that

49:40 Fear of failure and how to bounce back from failure

  • Clickable company experience
  • From 2007 – 2012, built a software company focused on data and machine learning related to search and social advertising
  • Raised 30+ million dollars over a period of six years
  • Made one fatal mistake
  • Build a Siamese twin-headed kid in the world - solving two marketplaces at once
  • Realized, it was not one company, but two companies - lost focus
  • Had to sell the company
  • Worked 80-100 days a week, almost died - had an acid reflux heart attack
  • His chief revenue officer called him and said “This company is about you, which is why it's failing”
  • Realized all of the possibilities are possible. Failure is equally possible as success. You can’t control it

Sandee | Bliss: Beaches

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