Jump In & Get To Work

Jump In & Get To Work

Alex Burkhart

Devin Miller

The Inventive Journey

Podcast for Entrepreneurs


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Jump In & Get To Work

"You have to keep jumping in and working on things. I think too many people want to sit behind a desk or in a huddle room and just noodle out on a whiteboard this 'big vision.' A lot of people can articulate that vision. They see the empire they want to build. They see that scale, but they don't know how to take one step forward."

The Inventive Journey

Starting and growing a business is a journey. On The Inventive Journey, your host, Devin Miller walks with startups along their different journeys startups take to success (or failure). You also get to hear from featured guests, such as venture firms and angel investors, that provide insight on the paths to a successful inventive journey.

ai generated transcription

just have to keep jumping in and working on things i think too many people want to sit uh behind a desk or in a in a huddle room and just noodle out on a whiteboard this big vision and a lot of people can articulate that vision they see they see the empire that they want to build they see it at scale but they don't know how to take one step forward [Music] hey everyone this is devon miller here with another invent another episode of the inventive journey and i am your host evan miller the serial entrepreneur that's also the founder and ceo of miller ip law where we help startups and small businesses with patents and trademarks and today we've got a great guest uh guest to come on his name is alex and uh alex started out uh with a few different startups or there was uh tixers or i think it's tick servers and he might correct me if i say it correctly but where you can trade in your tickets and you uh for new events or you can get credits for it and then he's also works for uh png and then now he's he's uh actually one of the things i thought was interesting and he's in the business now and it's a kind of an interesting startup it was with and again i'll let you talk or tell much better your introduction but um for those of you that may remember so amazon prime a while back um was looking to shift away from necessarily ups or usps and actually um offer a kind of a startup uh opportunity for those that are wanting to do delivery and otherwise wanting to manage the uh the la the delivery of many of their packages and so with that alex started the the prime prospects which is just that and taking advantage of that opportunity that amazon did in order to do his uh current startup so with that welcome to the podcast alex i appreciate it thanks for having me so yeah i gave a short intro i'm sure i slaughtered it and told everything incorrectly it either embellished it not enough or too much but with that intro uh maybe tell us a little bit about your journey and kind of where you started and we'll probably to where you're at today no that's perfect i appreciate it yeah so for me um you know i'll kind of even go back a little bit to college you know i always knew i wanted to be an entrepreneur and actually before college just grew up with a family of entrepreneurs and just knew that's what i wanted to do with my life and uh so i went to study it at uh xavier university in cincinnati ohio and they were one of the top ranked entrepreneurship programs at the time and and when i got done with uh school i i realized that i needed to go get an actual job and no one was gonna give me venture capital money to start my own business and so i went to macy's corporate offices here in cincinnati and learned a lot of the fundamentals of business and then while i was there i knew that uh i wasn't going to be an entrepreneur or i wanted to be an entrepreneur i wasn't going to be in the corporate world forever and so i took a leap started the company that you mentioned called tixers it was a wild adventure i had no idea what i was doing at 24 years old at the time learned everything from you know building a technology product from scratch motivating a team doing you know uh giving the just the short introduction so what is textures or what was the idea i gave a very short intro but maybe just give a little bit of background as to your first startup kind of what that was yeah i mean it was the vision was is you know obviously stubhub existed everybody knew what stubhub was our differentiator was you could trade your tickets so say you couldn't go to a cincinnati reds game you could trade your tickets in and go to a cincinnati bengals game or rack up credits and go to the final four or the super bowl or a marquee event and we started to expand into concerts and and other venues and so uh that was the big vision and the differentiator behind tixers and what was unique was you know it's for cash on stubhub but then you know you left the platform with us you were able to get an instant value and that's what was sticky for a lot of customers and they would come back time and time again and we could kind of preserve some of that value and take a lot of hassle off their plates and so i raised some angel capital with it and and rather than continue to go and raise more capital i had the opportunity to sell the company you might have sold the company a little bit soon in terms of the trajectory but from the time of my life from where i was at and learning everything about how to build a business end-to-end and ultimately get acquired it was it was a good opportunity and it was a complimentary company that did professional sports apps uh that acquired us and we started to embed some things with tixers uh within their platforms and ultimately just like a lot of acquisitions are uh you know it was time for me to move on and i wasn't quite ready to start another company i had gone through the gauntlet of the roller coaster of starting uh a business and i decided to hone in on some more skills and went into procter and gamble uh learned marketing just to jump in so before we jump to procter gamble just had kind of one follow-up question so far to look at um or if you were to look at when you're exiting the the tixers and we kind of said well i may have sold early or maybe but it worked out well how did you make the decision you know to sell was it hey they approached me and you know they made a good offer and i wanted to take the money and run so to speak and it was a good run why it lasted do you think you're reaching you know reaching the peak of the business it was on the end on the way down you wanted to make a new business or you know kind of what made that transition going there it was a combination of things i think one is we were in a really good space at the time and i part of me as a young entrepreneur was like hey somebody else going to come knocking on my door uh but i also just really saw the vision right where yes i could continue to go and get more teams so we had some partnerships in cincinnati but how do i scale to more partners faster one big reason the other big reason was um from an investor's standpoint right i was young and you know taking on money from people and i wanted to return that capital back to them that was important to me as a as what i wanted to do a lifelong entrepreneurship journey so i knew that this wouldn't be my end-all be-all company and that was a big factor into to my why now i have a lot of investors i do some consulting for one now that actually was my first lead investor and now we have a really good relationship i help him out with his venture capitalist company that invests in startups across the country it's called kinetic ventures and so that was a part of my vision right is how do i not only yes i could have you know grown larger and and had a a larger acquisition and things could have been different but at the same time um you know i liked having a single rather than trying to hit a home run and striking out right that's kind of how i put it in my mind and then you know fortunately if i think about it today if i was still in that business today with cobia 19 hitting um my business would probably be bankrupt right um people aren't going to sporting events or events and obviously stubhub has been in the news for some you know difficulties that they're having you know weathering the storm and so i think that was a part of it just uncertainty what could come in and just you know chop my legs out and i have no business and as an entrepreneur that's just kind of the ongoing calculation i was always running in my head and just kind of took uh the opportunity that was at my my fingertips at the time okay so no that's a good insight because i mean it's always i think it's it's always a hard decision you know unless unless they just offer you so much money that it's an easy decision but 95 of the time it's always a hard decision hey do i stay longer did i wait too long do i time the market right do i have another opportunity so i think it's an insightful kind of you know what was the motivation for that decision so i interrupted but i'll go ahead perfect and you know the other last thing i was also at this personal journey too where i was getting married at the time i was buying my first home and so some of those things was like hey is it really worthwhile for me to continue to eat ramen noodles the way that i was and do what i was doing i mean it was kind of part of the decision making kind of came into play there as well so no i think that's that certainly makes sense so if you to do that then you go to uh procter gamble or as i said pmg is that right that was the next one yeah yeah and so a lot of them are sorry one question i'll intro into it so if you're to do that you know so you come out you do your startup and you said you kind of always you grew in a family of entrepreneurs you did your startup what made you decide to go to png as opposed to roll over reinvest to your next startup was it wanted to take a break from the startup world didn't have the funding didn't have the idea or what kind of made you to jump back to pmg or to a larger company so some of my investors in tixers worked at png and what they were talking about is you know i wanted to stay in cincinnati i wasn't you know even when we got acquired the company was out of florida and part of the acquisition was i wanted to keep my team in cincinnati and so i wanted to continue to grow uh here in the city and p g is the the largest kind of innovative company here in town and and i just had a lot of skills that i wanted to scratch off so for example at tixers we didn't have a stubhub size budget to uh do marketing and i was real real scrappy getting free you know kind of placement in local newspapers and television and so forth and organic word of mouth and social media but i wanted to know hey say i had a huge budget what would my search budget look like what would be my performance marketing and so i went into png to lead an effort there helped them launch a new version of their pampers rewards app so um you know we had over millions of downloads and just really got to see what it would be like to to have a startup at scale but within a larger company so i was in a unique group called startup pampers and so i was still able to uh be an entrepreneur almost in a sense but within a larger company but everybody kind of knew that i'd probably be not there forever and some of them actually had bets be like how long are you actually going to stay within this corporate job net and what's actually where it's come full circle is i still consult there today so i've actually done a couple projects still with png and help them think about a couple different ways of how they harness entrepreneurship within the company and also how they uh you know work in lean teams and build some cool products so i've been fortunate to be able to still stay involved and it's been great as well so that was kind of some of the decision making there uh don't regret that either but at the same time you know it kind of just what's the opportunity what's it look like and really it was a it was a learning phase you know as i was still in my 20s okay so and just out of curiosity so who won the better did somebody win the bet as far as yeah yeah a lot of people so some people said uh less than a year i made it about 18 months so uh so uh most people one won the bet you know within uh a couple of months or so so all right i was just curious so let me just say so so you did you decided okay you did png for a while got that experience had the bigger budget kind of had the opportunity to do that and then i think when we talked before you then you went to your next another startup which is everything at the house yeah everything but the house so everything with the house was at one point the it was an article that went out was the largest venture-backed um company in the state of ohio and so i was another type of learning equation hey i'm not ready to be an entrepreneur yet i quite i don't have that idea but how can i scratch up another piece of my uh my resume which was i'll go in and help a large organization it's still a startup in a sense and and one of the reasons why i went over there as well is um the former cmo of dollar shave club his name's adam weber uh he was a png guy too we didn't know exactly um we didn't have a connection exactly beforehand but he was coming over from dollar shave to everything but the house uh the there was the the former ceo of zipcar that took them public we're going over there so i really wanted to work with some people in cincinnati that i respected and knew that i could learn a lot from as well and then also uh help help the company out so i got to do some cool projects there did a sale with the cincinnati reds was still able to do a lot of the things that i enjoy in the sports space so we literally went into cincinnati reds ballpark auctioned off um a lot of their old museum items and built up a lot of buzz and marketing uh within uh the city and nationally and so i did a lot of unique projects there and again was brought on to be an entrepreneur uh to within a larger company but it was still a startup in a sense and so that company had some up downs all around and end up you know actually getting uh sold back to the original uh founders of the company who i have a relationship with still today so it was cool to again kind of see another check mark of all right how can i go in how can i still be innovative and entrepreneurial but maybe not bear all that risk that you take when you're an entrepreneur yourself no and that's when the amazon thing popped up so uh when that opportunity came about i probably had 20 people that said hey uh calling all entrepreneurs you should check into this and i'm like you know i don't know much about logistics so to speak but i mean i love amazon uh respect the brand and would love to be a part of it so i was one of the first what they call pioneers of the delivery service partner program so i started last june um with literally five bands and about 10 employees and literally to this week almost is our one year anniversary and we have um you know 50 plus fans out on the road hundreds of employees and our our business is kind of booming with everything that's going on with the uh with the pandemic and the surge in demand because of that and so again it's another one of those things where it was i was ready um unchartered waters uh was kind of built up the past three years beforehand to recover from my entrepreneurial journey and it's been it's been a wild ride this past year again and so if i could go back i would definitely do this opportunity time and time again and what it's allowed me to do is yes i'm working on my amazon business and doing those things but i'm building cool businesses and around it uh and from a consulting standpoint still able to engage with png and the venture capitalists that invested in me so still getting to work on a lot of really cool innovative projects while uh i'm delivering that based business with amazon so and and we'll jump on both those but if you're to take the the base business with amazon so walk me through how it works and the one sense it feels like you know you've got the it's kind of the backing of a big company and yet on the other side you know they i think and i don't haven't dived into nearly as deep as you would know but they kept it kind of separate to where it's a little bit of arm's length in the sense that you're still your own startup or business or distributor but then they exclusively ship through you or how does that work or how does did it allow you the freedom of a startup are you still kind of bound within what amazon the company yeah it's a balance i mean it's definitely you know when i was going through the process is i i am my own boss at the end of the day the company is my company the employees work for my company but you know we have a unique it's a partnership right i mean amazon has standards uh that make amazon great and we have to adhere to those standards and so it's it's a give and take uh it's all about relationship building it's like it was any if any client right if say i'm doing work with png and i'm an agency in town um obviously i might work at that agency or own that agency and png's the client and there's ways that you have to do what the client wants but other times you can they're they're hiring you for your expertise and so how do you have a give and take relationship that allows both uh partners to win and that's how we've approached it it's a partnership uh first and foremost uh we we have to stick to our guns sometimes when we know our business a certain way even if amazon wants us to do things and more times than none we we partner together to to do what we are on a mission to which is to successfully deliver packages in the greater cincinnati area and put smiles on people's face oh cool no it sounds like a exciting and fun business and an interesting opportunity and so you mentioned so you do that and then you also kind of keep involved with some png with other investors and with other projects so are you kind of pursuing two paths one on the amazon side and then are you have other other things in the works or other business ideas that you're working on or how is that going yeah you know just anything that could kind of complement my business you know one big thing we're working on is just it's just this ecosystem of talent right and we're we're helping people obviously they come drive for our company and and they learn from the ground up what uh the best company in the world arguably is doing right and and and if i can keep them as drivers forever great uh but if i can't what can i do from uh a career perspective so i'm noodling around some ideas on the talent front how can we continue to harness our talent to help out other companies in town traditional like comparable to how recruiting and staffing companies operate but how can we do it in a unique and innovative way and so i'm definitely noodling around some things with that um and and that's where obviously uh ironically where i'm at right now is university of cincinnati uh which is where i teach a course on innovation so definitely got my hands in a lot of different pockets but i'm able to harness a lot of that creativity innovation um and just organically see what happens through the connectivity that i'm getting from the amazon business my consulting and then as a professor uh just seeing the the the youth and all the different verticals of of talent how they're coming together and how we just continue to do things you know point people in the right direction there's not one clear path to where you're going but if you can instill the right mindset and the right courage and uh the right type of hustle that anybody can do anything whether it's starting your own business from scratch going to work at procter and gamble or something in between so to answer your uh question i'm not there exactly on what it is yet but there's something really brewing into this kind of fractional talent space and how you continue to help navigate people to where they want to go okay no i think that makes good sense so now if you're to look at the next six months to a year where do you think it takes you to continue to grow amazon make it better chase and pursue another idea kind of where do you where do you think the next six to 12 months of your journey will go yeah i think um i think that definitely amazon's the priority and that business is is a busy business right um and so i don't know if we'll necessarily grow a lot more with amazon this next year we'll see i mean i'd love to see what other things amazon has in the works that they would want to come to me as a delivery service partner to help with so we noodled with some other uh pilots that they had been doing internally on the delivery space and so would love to grow as much as we can as much as amazon would allow us to uh within the amazon framework uh if that doesn't and also then on the quality and you know we learned a lot this year delivering you know 13 000 packages a day there's a lot of things that go out on the road um and and definitely focusing on safety and a lot of the preventative measures that we can put in place so that we we don't have to learn some of the things that you have to learn the hard way by getting in the logistics space so definitely focusing on that business making sure it can be wired up and be quality and it will be an always-on going thing i think i think if i were to talk about anything else that's just really fascinating me outside of the talent space and it kind of halos back into amazon but just if there's opportunity for some kind of autonomous delivery right i mean we've talked about drones we've talked about um you know a lot of different things that are happening and the ecosystem would love to figure out especially with covid and everything that's going on shortening that gap between the distance of a physical presence whether it's a doordash delivery or um anything else in between how do you shorten that gap and i think there's something really interesting going on in this space that i'd love to continue to tinker on whether it's through consulting arrangements whether it's through things that i do uh with amazon internally would just love to continue to try to solve that problem and see what the next wave of innovation is going to be on that front cool no i think that it sounds like an exciting time on multiple friends so plenty of uh good good journey to go yet so so as we kind of reach towards the end of the podcast me i'll uh kind of i always ask two questions so i'll hit on those now um so the first question i always ask is what was the worst business decision you ever made um the worst business decision i would say one of the funny things was and it kind of turned into be a book good and bad but i'll tell you a quick story uh we it was a super bowl it was the seahawks versus the uh new england patriots couple years ago it was a really big um super bowl and they actually you can read articles on it where people would literally um sell tickets before they actually had the tickets a lot of brokers and stubhub had to pay millions of dollars well we were like let's do that too right we've got someone that's got racked up credits and and we'll be fine uh we'll guarantee people just a seat into the stadium well what happened that year and you again you can look on forbes i think there was an article where i got quoted on what was kind of happening is the the there's 65 000 tickets into the uh the phoenix arizona uh stadium and they they the market sold about 80 000 tickets so there weren't enough tickets to satisfy demand so the price just kept going up and going up and going up and luckily we only sold two right where a lot of the other brokers sold a lot more and i literally was like i can't break my promise like one of the things that we live on is you can rack up your credits and you can use them for any event you know nationwide and so i literally had to fly to phoenix arizona with my wife at the time uh and we and we we we went there together and i'm still married to my wife but at the time we were you know i i should preface that we uh we went there uh flew flew to phoenix stayed with her cousin and literally met the people at the uh at a denny's and said hey i have two tickets i guarantee you i promise you uh the tixer's commitment that will get you into the game however i'm gonna lose a lot of money on these tickets i'll pay you money not to go to the game i'll literally pay you money and a profit so i can sell these tickets again and at least hedge my bet and these fans were so stern and so die hard seahawks fan they said no we want those tickets so i gave them those tickets and long story short it hurt the bank account at the time as a startup but it went back to our true mission which was uh if we were gonna guarantee someone tickets into a game we were gonna do whatever we could to do it and we did that but uh man if i could go back i would tell one of the guys on the team at the time do not approve that ticket like request they have their credits but we cannot satisfy the demand into the super bowl because this is an unprecedented event that's a that's long story short that's just one that popped into my head if i could go back i would have loved to tell uh that employee at the time do not do not hit approve well that isn't that is a pretty interesting story so now i i i think that's both a lesson learned and it's also a good i think a good business practice and even though the sometimes the mistakes you make the honor to make good on it to make sure that the customers and that are happy and satisfied sometimes while it hits a bank account i think it's the good and honorable thing to do and will pay off in rewards in the long run for the business so okay now if i jump to the second question i always ask is so um for someone that's just getting into startups or small businesses or wanting to get into that getting into them what would be the one piece of advice you'd give them i just think you have to do it you know you just have to keep jumping in and working on things i think too many people want to sit uh behind a desk or in a in a huddle room and just noodle out on a whiteboard this big vision and a lot of people can articulate that vision they see they see the empire that they want to build they see it at scale but they don't know how to take one step forward and so i always use the example with ticksters what i did is you know i i quit my job i got into an accelerator i obviously had some relationships to do that but rather than like spending a bunch of money and time building a sophisticated technology platform that i was going to have to throw in the trash which don't get me wrong i did learn the hard way a little bit on that front luckily i had someone that believed in my vision in town that ended up you know getting me on the right track but i just started doing it right i said hey uh someone found out i started this company and they said hey i have two tickets to the cincinnati bengals uh steelers game i can't go what do i do and rather than saying oh we're going to launch in three months i said hey where the tickets he goes in my my uh my office across the street i go go get him he goes across the street gives me the two tickets now what i go well i promise you that um you tell me another game that you want to go to in cincinnati and i'll get you tickets right so he goes all right i guess i'll trust you alex you know it gives me the two tickets i give them my contact information and i immediately then go sell the tickets on the side of the street to a scalper right and i got that money i put that money in my pocket and then i hope that guy wasn't going to call me for a while well he called me in a couple weeks later and said hey i want to go to the ravens bengals game i said okay where do you want to sit i said i can get you tickets here he says cool i bought those tickets on stubhub and i emailed him to him and he went to the game guess what um you know then he came back time and time again and leveraged my service and told a bunch of people about it right so i use that example that figure out whether you have the technology built just do things that don't scale there's a lot of people read about paul graham and some of his teachings on that i 100 recommend that now to an extent if you're doing that forever well then you don't have a scalable business but to start so you can learn and listen to your customers and build something accordingly i 100 recommend doing something like that no i think that that's two interesting stories and two lessons good lessons learned or two lessons taught so i think that that's uh both of them are very insightful so okay well as we reach the end as people want to reach out to you connect with you invest in one of your great businesses that you have either going now or in the future or otherwise you want to get engaged or involved what's the best way to connect with you yeah um so probably the best way is we have a website my consulting business it's called what is zookey.com so it's what is and then zookey z-o-o-k-y.com there's a little field that's kind of where people will reach out to us and say hey there's a problem that they want us to help solve and then that's how we kind of get get engaged whether it's you know something that we can noodle on together and at least point in the right direction or maybe my team can help build something from there or if it's easier my uh my personal email is alex burkhart my name aliax burkhart3 gmail.com so uh i also throw my cell phone out there i don't know but 419-566-8080 uh wherever it comes in from you know would love to i always love having a conversation with anybody and especially that's again that's why i teach too i some people have a passion to go home and watch netflix or you know play golf or do different things and don't get me wrong i like doing that too but more times than none if we can talk about what the next business idea or unique innovation is i'll stay up all night talking about it so uh definitely love the hustle all right i'm right there with you i enjoy it and i think it makes for a a fun and exciting life so appreciate you sharing that and certainly as people want to reach out get engaged involved or connect up with you or hear one of your lectures that will be all the all the fun to make those connections so well great well i appreciate you coming on the podcast always have more things that we could dive into that we never have enough time to but always a fun conversation i appreciate you sharing your journey for those of you that are wanting to share your journey and have a good journey to tell feel free to reach out to us at eventivejourney.com to apply to be on the the podcast for those of you that are listeners make sure to subscribe to catch this episode and all the other episodes and uh for those of you that need any patent and trademark help feel free to reach out to us and we're always there to help make sure to take care of the startup and the business community so thanks again alex it's been fun to have you on it was a great uh great to talk to you and good luck with the next leg of your journey all right i appreciate it let's stay in touch perfect you English (auto-generated) All Sales Recently uploaded

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