You Don't Know Everything & That's Ok

You Don't Know Everything 

& That's Ok

Jon Romm
Devin Miller

The Inventive Journey
Podcast for Entrepreneurs


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You Don't Know Everything & That's Ok

"It is ok to move in a direction for something where you don't know everything about it. But I do think that there need to be elements of it that you know a lot about, and you need to be able to surround yourself with others that know about the areas that you don't know."


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

it is okay to to move in a direction for something that you're you don't know everything about okay but I do think there should be elements of it that you need to know a lot about and you you need to be able to surround yourself with others that know about the areas that you don't know about everyone this is Devin Miller here at another episode of the inventive journey I am your host Devin Miller founder and CEO of Miller IP law where we help startups and small businesses with patents and trademarks and also a bit of a serial entrepreneur and love to talk about talk with other entrepreneurs and startups about their journey and what they've done so today we have a great guest on John ROM and he will talk a little bit about his inventive journey to give you the very high highlights he is a he did his first startup where I'm from 2017 to 2018 so for what 11 years and raised a good amount of money did an exit and now he's on to his next startup and so with that I will that's as much introduction as I'm gonna give you so that you could tell your story a whole lot better than I can but welcome on or welcome on John well Devin appreciate it very much so thank you very much for having me and yeah so you know I like others you know it started off in a career that was Mason made basically centralized around median entertainment and the contribution and distribution of content and I did that it was related to satellites and fiber and telephone operators etc and then as you appropriately stated in 2007 founded in my first business and it was all around content aggregation rate shape metadata insertion and distribution of content both linear and on-demand content for cable headends telephone operators and over-the-top providers so Hart if I jump in because for those that are less technical we'll break that down for that would almost be Netflix with as Netflix is that a fair assessment or whoa how would you characterize that Netflix is a distributor of content right so for all of us who know them they started out with DVDs in your mailbox now providing streaming services you know depending upon you know those orientation that could either be over the top meaning that it goes from directly as a cord cutting approach or bottom which becomes the supplemental content to existing content cable operators have at the point you're making which is the right point which was this was the way to get rich content prepared for consumption on second and third screen opposed to just the television set when you date back to 2007 that's fairly early on for that what and I didn't you know I shouldn't know this because I just actually read a book about Netflix but what year did they start with streaming right on or abouts that time period 2008 time period the beginning of their stages was really mired in legalese of could they get throughput to the home throughput to the home was it gonna happen because the cable company was gonna share some of its bandwidth or was it gonna have to appeal to you know Congress and lawmakers to give them access and then once that started to happen then the distribution of DVDs to the mailbox could go away and the real business could really get going no that's interesting you know now jumping back to your business so you just like you differentiate it and we'll get into what you're doing a little bit later today after that first visit surely not that for just a minute so it sound like you're doing content aggregation as opposed to the streaming so what did you know is there a difference there or what were you guys doing there you know was it Netflix did it better than you guys if you guys just failed or did you guys have a different business or how did that go and kind of where did that go for you know we were the engine that was preparing the content for delivery for like seven Netflix or a Roku or an Apple TV but more appropriately for the client base we were servicing ninety seven percent of the cable industry and a portion of telephone operators AT&T u-verse or you know verizon fios so you know that just happened to be our clients that opposed new entrants to the market okay make sense so far to do that and I think when we talk a little bit it's kind of almost a bit of a difference between how you did you first start up versus the one you're on now is on this one if I remember right you did you raised quite a bit of money and then eventually did an exit is that right yeah so so that business because there was such a large amount of content that needed to be repurposed it required a significant amount of capital to be able to have the workflow management to handle that amount of throughput and so in that business we did we raised a substantial amount of capital upwards near about 85 million dollars when it was all said and done it just was a different approach it was what that business model needed it's when we've been far more frugal in our approach we we've raised about 12 and a half million dollars to date we haven't used institutional money per se and this one it's been more family offices a bit of institutional venture debt for the most part it's just a different model in a different need so hard to do because that's the one that you know you're at a couple things will die abated I want to get to your story but I have this is also I think pretty interesting yet so 80 I think it's at 85 million right for the first first startup or the last one and you know first of all everybody always seeks oh you raised a ton of money that means you're rich right you you have huge paychecks and you have nice cars you have the company jet and everything else and I assume maybe that's correct but I assume that's not correct so when you do that how does you know first of all how did you raise that much money or how do you go about finding those people that are going to invest in you and then what do you actually do with that money when you get it when you hit those kind of hurdles right so I'm not sure if what you explained is other people's way of being able to do it was not mine okay and I will let you know that the the money that was raised for that was specifically relate was raised for the business itself and it was used in that fashion so it was around making sure that we had the right kinds of people with the right levels of expertise and professionalism and it required a significant amount of hardware and software and and and you needed to be a company that had longevity and comfort around the amount of money in to be able to do business with the kind of customers you were doing business with and so it required that kind of a money raised it was not money that was used for individual benefit outside of the fact that you know we all paid ourselves our salaries and what we did but you know I would like to think that we worked really hard to make sure that we are in the monies that we were no companies yet there was no company no no we we spent a significant amount of time especially early on on you know spending a lot of time on middle seats going from Washington DC to Seattle where one of our investors was and California and then a matter of fact that business different than this one not totally different but somewhat different in the sense that we had acquired five to six companies in as many years so it was pretty much a roll up strategy which all some of that money's to be able to do it roll up to you would be going around acquiring other businesses that can then integrator you can air roll into what you're doing right right and you would hope that those companies give you additional market share and capability and you also hope that it's a creative in the sense that you're able to you know either gain enough revenue that one plus one equals three and not two you're able to take out enough cost that then it's a creative in the sense that it's very profitable to what you're doing so that was the mentality behind that business at a time period where there was a lot of people out there that either had content or kind of relationship but with cable had n providers from a software hardware standpoint and if you start to you know amass those different companies are putting together you basically are getting market share and delivery okay no that makes perfect sense some of those are just trying to make sure that the terminology for listeners that may not be as familiar of it that they can get an idea of what that means so that's a question so thank you so then I think you said around 2014 or that you were you decided to leave the company they're doing a bit of remaning and eventually got acquired tell me a little bit about you know or let's walk through a little bit about kind of how that worked as far as you kind of got towards the end and you're saying okay I'm ready for my next event you're ready for my next thing and how did you make that transition or decision and how did you go on to your next venture yeah I mean I you know first of all there's a lot in that question right so you know you know the first thing that happens is you know we had a large institutional investor in the name of Carlyle Group who came in in 2012 and you know them alongside with the early-stage venture group you know they they had a little bit of their own opinions of what the future was going to look like and you know we talked a little bit about the roll up just a moment ago and it was clear that there wasn't going to be much more of that going on and you know they wanted to do a management transition and you know and they did so and and you know it's look it's not an easy thing for entrepreneurs to recognize that there are sort of chapters over and it's time to move on but I do think it's an important you know lesson for people who are entrepreneurs who are getting into it that you know it is about you know your you know your shares your options your investment what you're given to grow the business and if there's somebody out there who can drive the business for that next chapter and make your value in the business as good or better you know you have to understand that you know it's certainly worthwhile given that a look and that's what happened here so they brought in somebody who was going to run the company and she had been working at Warner Brothers for a long period of time and had some thoughts and ideas of where to take the business and so that's what she did and I'm sure ultimate was they ultimately was able to take that business to exit and early eighteen as you said and you know for me you know I was able to take 2014 to think about what was next and you know operate properly within my non-competes and non solicitations which is an important message for other people as well sure that you adhere to those things and do what you need to do but then in early 2015 March of 2015 another opportunity presented itself to me and that was then okay so hard to unpack that it cuz there's a lot in there right service I'm packing that so if you just say you know so was it a lot of Peter if you get if you get into far enough and just and a pound or start up eventually it seems like you know a couple things happen one is the company out rose you or you outgrow the company right in the sense that one is what is you know I'll back that up a little bit one is is hey you know some people are very good at startups and they can you know figure out how to solve the problems how to enter new market how to build a company and the company gets so big and they're saying okay we really need a different skill set to take the company in the next level which is one thing and the other could be is hey I I like to do startups I like to do small business that's what I enjoy I enjoy solving those problems and when it gets to a bigger thing I don't want to do that anymore is it loses the fun for you right and so you know how did you and I don't you know it kind of sounds like a little bit of both how did you decide okay it's time for me to move on or I'd like you is it was it kind of more they decided it was time for you to move on or you decided it was time for them or kind of a mixture you know something of that nature well I I think literally okay I think they ultimately decided okay but I think fundamentally if you play out from 2012 to 2014 you know I had moved from my chief operating role meaning the day-to-day business and I had been doing more business development on what was next and how to extend it to different geographies and where to take the business next it's been a stint of about a year living in London and and running the last acquisition the company had made an on-demand group and managing that looking for other acquisition opportunities I had you know I've been traveling substantially and and looking at where the business could grow in other situations and you know as I said it was kind of clear that you know this probably wasn't going to be too much more of that behavior that was going on and you know you're you're right in concept of them which is you know from a high level perspective either you decide you've outgrown them or they decide for you but I think there are some other building blocks in there also which is different geographical stuff I was living on two coasts and the company was primarily being based out of the west coast at those at that time period and you know you we had run the business for the 2014 you know no startups normally have some sort of transaction inside that window and it hadn't happened so you know I don't think it's quite as black and white as either you know it was time for me to go or they felt like it was time for me to go I think you know you just kind of live a life line on it and you get to aware you know quite candidly it's in the best interest of the business to get some new ideas thoughts and blood and it's probably alright for those people who brought it you know as far as they did my co-founder and partner in left in 2012 so you know just happens that way I just think that's part of the deal no and I didn't life is very seldom black and white so right it's always easy to try and simplify data that's never how life is so so you do that you make the exit or you know you transition out you have the NBA you wait it out for you know about a year and then you say okay I'm ready for my next business right you know I waited out the NDA or sorry not the NDA did not compete way to be going and then how did you land on kind of what was your next thing or what the next thing you wanted to do right well you know so this has a bit of a storyline so in the prior venture that we just finished talking about that was actually my business idea and I found a partner because I felt like I needed somebody who was gonna help me in areas that were not my expertise and that was fundraising and at the time that's how I found my business partner at the time a gentleman by the name of Willie Potter uzu so in this specific situation this business idea was originally born from my current business partner in the name of carries Reba and she had come to me you know asked him for some help and support ironically to help raise some capital and do some stuff after I had done that yeah you know I looked at the business opportunity and I saw different aspects of it that she saw that you know I found really interesting and so between the two you know she was really just to the utility pieces of you know how to get started here I was really interested in that sort of next generation of gamification and distribution of unicast over broadcast content and between the two of us we felt like we were a good match and so that's why we started it so give everybody maybe just the 30 second to you know whatever overview of what what's the new business or what are you guys working on or what if what he been building I think since 2015 right what have you guys been building out yeah so so venue ties is a platform and it's a technology platform that focuses on basically four major areas right so it's focuses on deep level integration between a multiplicity of technology partners and companies and within that deep level integration it's incredibly focused on personalization what do we know the consumer and how do we gain that information and knowledge through the data and analytics that are presented and then we layer onto that contextual awareness where is that consumer and when they're in that location what do we know their buying behavior is and then of course the commerce platform and the the loyalty of mobile wallet so and you tie that together and you put it together with a hundred and seventy-five plus deep level integrations we're a company where our platform is married off with a UI UX meaning an application storefront so that's something that we provide or we use third parties to integrate into and we basically make larger venues smarter by using the mobile handset and mobile first technology so we do that within three major verticals one of which is sports and entertainment so large professional venues be there sporting events or concerts or other live events downtown district areas so a microcosm of smart city IOT play and then gaming in and casinos and the tie together between what happens in hospitality and gaming and casinos and then ultimately between those verticals using the bricks and mortar and the sports book tying together to day of betting and gamification so hopefully I didn't go too fast I'm happy to dwell happen on any area that you'd like me do but I just wanted to provide that overview so all right I'll try and simplify it and I'll probably slaughter it but we'll give it a go so if I were to say it basically aggregates would be different sports and other event venues to make it in a single place and then gamification I know that in general but maybe dive into what is it because gamification and my understanding is is more they almost make it kind of like a game name words you know you almost make it so people are incentivized you're you wanting them to interact longer you're wanting them to be on your app longer use it more often and make it kind of almost that game where you're having incentives to always play longer do more things so how do you kind of what does that mean this far as gamification versus aggregating right so so let me let me take that lead in that you're kind enough to provide me and then let me do some justice to to really why we got started and what we were trying to solve right and in a lot of ways as we had discussed prior in this in this podcast we essentially talked about how were we going to make products and services of entertainment better in the living room in the household was completely flipping it on its head and this is how to get people out of their living room and going back to venues and events what we recognized very early on was the inhibitor to doing that was the first part which was really the brainchild of my business partner and and what Carey wanted to solve which was the utility aspect of it it it was a literal pain in the neck to go to events right it's the traffic it's the parking it's even you know getting the tickets and transferring tickets to other people if that day was not a good day for you all the cumbersome aspects of actually getting to the event getting through the right turnstile and not walking in through the wrong gate area and then understanding wayfinding and mapping and you know how do you understand wait times when you have to go to the you know men's room or the woman's room or you know order food and beverage you know all the utility pieces but the second aspect of it was the aspect of how do you actually go to event and change that Leanback experience of entered me too that lean-forward experience of how am i entertained when I'm going to watch an event and one of the areas that we think is critically important to that lean forward aspect of you know providing a more you know interactive example of it is gamification who's going to score the next basket is the next play going to be a running play or a passing play how do we support the local sponsors and so if it's a sponsorship for you know the pizza company how do you do the you know the the virtual pizza toss opposed to chucking and pizza and somebody's lap and all of a sudden recognizing you just spill food all of them you know digitizing all the behavior of that lean forward experience so that your consumers are immersed in the event and then giving the opportunity either on their way into the event or on their way out that the venue in which they're going to is wrapped around a larger district for entertainment and food and beverage and you know safety and comfort around that area in that you're using and repurposing your loyalty points and what you've earned as a customer that's appreciated by the teams or the venue's or the leaks okay know that that gives a lot of great insight so right could die of a whole lot deeper in the technology but will almost leave that there so I'm gonna I always have my last two questions but my question before my last two questions is this one we kind of talked a little bit about before the podcast was almost opposite of you first in a lot of ways and again one is getting people to kind of stayed their house and watch things getting out but also on the kind of the institutional investors and how you decided to raise money and fund it and do reoccurring revenue and all that so kind of you know a short overview how did you decide which or how to fundraise and how to actually monetize and make this a profitable company and maybe keep a little bit more control and do it a little bit less conventional well you're right we did discuss this a little bit before so you know I I'll repeat a little bit of it and hopefully give it a little bit of a new Flair so that you don't you know you're you're not getting your money's worth here but you know what I would say is you know for a lot of entrepreneurs out there is you look you know you have to be willing to get it wrong to ultimately you know get it right at some point in time and so like the biggest mistakes that you can make is not making any decisions at all right so you know one of the things that I really learned the first time I went through this to this time is there's a difference between fundraising and governance okay and in concept I knew it but by behavior I didn't really understand it and and so I think you know you have to take a look at your business model and understand what kind of capital you need and then you also have to decide what kind of capital you want because they're two different things and you got to give yourself a little bit of wiggle room in there to be able to operate within what you need versus what you want you also need to make sure you surround yourself at the board level with people who are highly supportive of what you're trying to accomplish and to listen to the feedback from management who's running the business every day but you also need to protect yourself a little bit with governance and understand you know how you can use your board to be able to drive decisions for the business that's right for the people who are supporting the business your client base and be and continue to give your business the opportunity to grow and not stunt it mmm no I think that's all there's a lot lot in there and I think there's a lot of good advice in the sense I have the one will become is it I think you know you there's a difference between easy money or money you could take versus money you should take and you know too often you're saying hey any money on the tables and money I'll take because we need the money versus but it there's always you know handcuffs or things that come along with the money and sometimes you know good money and you can get good investors and people that are there for the long haul willing to build the business have the same dition and others you get the money and you know money's money does spend it is still green but then you're saying okay now I'm getting pulled in different directions I want to go I'm losing control of the company that I started or anything else so I think that there's a lot of wisdom and if and when and how you take money not just taking money because it's there yeah I know this is not part of your question I know we're getting to the end so I'll try to do it quickly but I will tell you in April 2000 19 which is kind of amazing based upon where we were in April of 2020 we actually walked away from an investment that was you know about nine million dollars and you know we walked away because we weren't sure the terms were the right terms for the business we were next to positive they weren't the right terms for the shareholder base that had already been there and we just didn't think that's what the business really needed and but to your point the bigger decision was we were well confident that it was going to pull and tug the business in a different direction than where it should have been gone and you know so yeah it's really hard to walk away from money but I think in retrospect it was the right move all right well I think that's some great very great insight and advice so okay well we're hitting the end as you mentioned so I'm gonna ask my last two questions I always ask at the end of the podcast so the first one is what was the worst business decision you ever made you know I'm gonna take the question I'm gonna I'm gonna wordsmith it just a little bit me I hope you let that happen so you know I kind of I spent some time thinking about the worst business decision and and you know where I'd like to come back to it is I would like to say one of the things I wish I had done a better job at doing how about that that were yeah so thank you for Forel attitude you know one of the things that you know and I've done it twice really which you know shame on me but I wish they've done a better job at educating my family and my wife specifically of you know what it really takes you know to truly be entrepreneurial all the way through you know I think I've been a little unfair there because you know for us to do it you mentioned you do it as well you know there's such a an amount of undulation and peaks and valleys a day and we all manage it and we deal with it and we support it because that's what we do for a living and you get home and you're tired and you don't want to talk about it and so unfortunately those that are most important you they're not living it with you you know day in and day out and they're only dealing with some aspects of the insecurity when you get to times where it's like it's time to run for money or you got to do something a little bit I've tried to be cognizant of it I've tried to do a better job at it but that's an area where I and should improve and I wish I had handled it better no I mean there's a lot of that I mean it the spouse is along for the ride whether they want to be or not and sometimes you know opt you often you delivered on a day to day and you come home and the spouse gets the less fun part of it or they get to hear the stressful parts or the things that aren't going well or you don't want to talk about it because you're tired if you've had to deal with it all day you just want to relax and it's often times you know they get the brunt of it whether it's not it's always unfair so I completely get that one so that's great advice okay last question is if you get someone that wants to get into a start-up or small business or just starting out what would be the one piece of advice you would give them well that's hard okay - one piece of advice because to your point and you said it several times when we get into it there's a lot there and I'm not sure there is a singular you know approach to any of this but what I would say is you know it is okay to to move in a direction for something that you're you don't know everything about okay but I do think there should be elements of it that you need to know a lot about and you you need to be able to surround yourself with others that know about the areas that you don't know about okay so you know I think the most dangerous aspect is you know either having holes in knowledge in your management team or hiring individuals who won't tell you what they don't know yeah so as you know the information you can make qualified decisions for it along the way but it's really important to understand and face the facts and not be afraid to address those issues no I ain't that's some great and too often is especially if you're if you're anything like me and I'll just pick up myself is you always think you know a lot more than you know or the ear ear that you're you can do it all or you could you know you can you can figure it out type of a thing and yet too often time that handicap scenes in this Ensign one you don't know everything and even some of the things you do know you can't do but also to speak and you're better to get people they can do a better job and make you know get those things done cover them up bring a mic you know get them covered and bring them on the board on board and it makes a huge difference so I think that that's a great point of advice great white right there I'll go ahead I self evaluate endlessly okay and I have tried to you know improve my listening skills and take on board other people's opinions and thoughts you know I still very much run a company and and I set the the vision and I move towards it but you know I can't sit here and tell you that every idea and thought or mine and that's where they came from there's a lot of smart people that helped me get along the way no I'm in complete agreement so well there's always way more things that I want to discuss and we ever have time to and we've reached the end of the podcast but thank you for coming on it's been an absolute pleasure it's been fun to hear what what you've done and now where you're at and what you're up to now so what if people are interested whether it's investing you're getting involved or being a customer that what's the best way to reach out to you the best way to reach out to me is is on email which is jro mm at venue ties which is vias and victory is an elephant and is in Nancy you as in United States he's an elephant tease and Tom I as in Ingrid Z as in zebra is an elephant calm all right that was great perfect well for everybody that's listening that would like to either be a customer get involved or otherwise I reach out be sure to hit John up and I think that it's a great business and a great company and we're glad to have you on I'm for other for everyone else if you're looking for any help with trademarks patents or anything else legal advice feel free to hit us up at Miller IP law we're always here to help start out some small businesses and if you're looking to be a guest on the podcast certainly feel free to reach out and we'd love to have you on if you have a great journey to tell and you can just go to inventive journey calm thanks again John for coming on it's been a fun time and wish we had more but maybe we'll have to have you on again in the future and check on our check how things are going for you we'd like to be able to do that Devon so thanks so much for having me stay healthy in these time periods and appreciate you having me [Music] [Music] English (auto-generated) All Recently uploaded

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