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Derek Andersen is the CEO of StartupGrind.com, who has a mission to educate every entrepreneur in the world.
That’s a huge mission, and they’re crushing it in 175 cities!
He’s also done a great job of getting all the heavy hitters in the tech startup, venture capital, and entrepreneur space to speak.
In This Episode, You’ll Learn:
- How Derek built a multi-national organization that’s educating hundreds of thousands of people.
- The top lessons Derek’s learned being in the action of Silicon Valley.
- How Derek overcame the adversity of having less than $5,000 in his bank account to selling his company that funded his next venture.
- How to know if you should keep persevering or pivot to another business when you’re not getting the results you want.
- Why it’s important to get advice from people that aren’t financially invested in you.
Links & Resources From This Episode:
- Visit Derek's Website
- Follow Derek on Twitter
- Required reading for entrepreneurs – Founders at Work and Four Steps To The Epiphany
Subscribe To The Pathways To Wealth Show:
Itunes | Stitcher | Soundcloud | YouTube | Email
Chris Dunn: Hey everybody. Welcome back to another great interview and today I have Derek Andersen who is the founder and CEO of Startup Grind. Derek, how are you doing?
Derek Andersen: Fantastic.
Chris: Thanks for being here man. I know you run a pretty big organization. You guys are in what? Like 80 countries in 170-something cities.
Derek: Yeah. Startup Grind, our mission to educate every entrepreneur in the world and we do that through events that we host. We have hundreds of hours of footage from top entrepreneurs on our YouTube channels and on our website. And so, what started out in my office a few years ago, just kind of as a way for me and my friends to help each other and get to know each other, and talk about each other’s businesses, that organically grew until people started saying “Hey, this is cool. Can I do this in my own city?” And beyond our friends and then to them and now were in a couple hundred cities and doing the same thing we were always doing but just on a bigger scale.
Chris: Nice. I was looking at your lineup for your upcoming event. You’ve got all the heavy hitters man. You’ve got Mark Andresen, you’ve got Dustin from Facebook, Erin from Voxx. This is the premier meet-up I guess or seminar or conference. What would you call it? Conference?
Derek: Yeah it’s a conference. It’s our global conference, so if somebody’s looking for it, it’s startupgrind.com/conference. You can check that out. Basically, once a year, we needed an excuse to bring everybody together, so we said, “Hey, let’s do it here in the valley, let’s do it in February when flights are cheap and the weather’s not terrible” compared to a lot of office in the world, it’s not Texas but it’s alright and then let’s just get the smartest people in the world to come and try to suck out of them what we can. It’s really fun. It’s a couple of days and we would recommend anybody to come that’s building their own business or wants to get a business going and just wants to learn from the best. There’s something about seeing someone and listening to someone in person that you just don’t get. You get different things like a podcast. I listen to podcasts on my way to work. It’s got this good form factor for certain use cases and live presentations or live interviews have their own place. For me, there are definitely different interviews and people I've heard speak that have made a big impact on me and a lot of those were live, so it’s somewhere definitely on a podcast, somewhere on a video I watch on YouTube but there is still something really special about seeing somebody in person.
Chris: Yeah and I guess the people that you meet in an event like that, you just can’t get through watching it online. I know some guys that have gone and they’re like, man, it actually completely changed my business because I met this person who introduced me to this person and now they're my CTO or whatever.
Derek: That’s what I say in my events. I say after we hear from a really successful, interesting, entrepreneur, venture capitalist or something, I’ll say, “Look if you walk out of here without meeting somebody, you should consider yourself a huge failure. If you didn’t help push somebody here to the next level for their own business, the value of Startup Grind are super simple and really it’s the heart of what we do and that’s when people come they’re going to help someone first, they’re going to give before they take, and that they're going to make friends. And so, if they just come like “Hey, I'm gonna listen to a speaker and then I'm gonna have some food and then leave” you're just missing this whole other element of what you can get out of this and a lot of times, it is that relationship that you needed. It’s that partnership that you make and those things can change the trajectory of your business if it’s the right person at the right time and if you're not there, then you’ll never even see that opportunity. Like South by is the same thing down in Austin and I'm sure a lot of your listeners have been to that or go to that every year maybe. I mean, I bumped into this CEO, he wasn’t the CEO at that time, but he was the founder of Intuit on the street in Austin and that led to a conversation where he started speaking at our events and they sponsor our events. If had stayed home, I would never had that opportunity, so getting out there and meeting people and just trying to add value to the people, it’s good business.
Chris: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, it’s so easy to be a hermit as an entrepreneur and just put your head down and grind it out but it’s amazing what happens when you open yourself up to opportunities like that and like you said, “Give first, help first, add value first” and then you’ll naturally attract people to you. So tell me a little a bit about – we have a lot of first time entrepreneurs that watch the show and listen to it on the podcast. Is there any kind of theme that you noticed from first time entrepreneurs that they get from Startup Grind? What would be a most important lesson that you would suggest that people walk away with? Is it how to raise capital? How to build a strong management team? Or is kind of all the above?
Derek: Everybody in whatever cycle they're in has their own specific needs. I think as general principles of entrepreneurship, foundational blocks, the first thing is that you can't give up. I mean, every single successful person I’ve interviewed, dozens, hundreds of the most successful entrepreneurs in technology, every single one of them has at least one but most of them have many many many moments where they could give up, they should give up, but they don’t. Most of the people I meet with or that I interview are not geniuses, maybe 2% I’d say that dude is a genius. Most of them are smart but even if some aren’t, you’d be like, “Jeez, how did that guy start that?” or “how did she start that? I'm smarter than him, I'm smarter than her.” I wrongly have that thought all the time but that’s a motivating thought, right? Just say, “Hey, if she could do it, I can do it.” But I think this idea of just saying “I am not going to give up. I am going to find a way.”
I had a point about 3-1/2 years ago, right at Start Grind was starting to get some traction, I was working on another business and we’re running out of money. I mean, I read about these things and I always think it’s just a bunch of bull, but honestly, I had a check in my wallet for a few thousand dollars, I had less than $5,000 in my bank account, much less. I don’t know the exact number but I can comfortably tell you it was less than $5,000 and we were shutting down servers, we were shutting down services, so we didn’t have to spend money on this product we’re working on which was basically dying and somehow, by some way, I thank God every day, I'm sure it was just him, but by some method, we figured out how to make some money and sell the company. We sold the product and that gave us enough money for another eight months.
And the moment that that was signed, the was like the valley of the shadow of death and I remember exactly where I was, I remember I had this long drive after it happened and I knew at that moment if I could survive what I had just survived over the last 6 months, that I could survive anything. Nothing could be what I had just gone through and then we figured it out. It was a miracle and most people would’ve just gone home and give it up or gotten a job and we are all employable people. Everyone has that moment in some way or another and some people have it a dozen times, so that’s one thing.
The other thing that I would say is that patience is the friend of an entrepreneur. Nothing happens quickly. Great products don’t get built quickly. Customers don’t get found quickly. Team members and relationships for teams don’t happen overnight. These things take a long time to mature and materialize and if you're going to run out of money in three months, and you just started, you're screwed and it’s your own fault. You have to create a way for yourself to have time and that could be with your family. If your wife is going to tell you, you have 3 months or I'm leaving you if you don’t start bringing in money, that’s your fault. You can't ruin your family because of your job, so you have to create a scenario for yourself where you don’t run out of time, you don’t run out of money, you don’t ruin your family. You hold these fundamental things intact while you have enough time to figure it out and everyone I have spoken with has created time for themselves to get to that point where they eventually had success, they eventually had product marketed, they eventually found customers that wanted their product but nobody does it quickly and for some people it could take 5 or 10 years. Facebook was business that took 7 years to build. When you think, “Hey, I want to make a million dollars this year” or “Hey, that would be cool, work myself and make a million dollars,” or “I want to make $10 million dollars” or “I want to make $100 million dollars” these things just take time. It starts with a thousand and then $10,000 and then $50,000 and then $100,000. It just takes time and you have to create an environment where you won't kill yourself.
Chris: Yes. So the seeds I got from that, were patience and perseverance the one thing that I hear from entrepreneurs is, how do you know when you should keep pushing and just stay the course and how do you know when you should pivot or quit because at some point for some companies, they're just not ever going to succeed. Do you have a piece of advice or something that you would look for in a business to say, “Okay yeah, this isn’t worth working on” versus “No, you should just stay the course and keep persevering.”
Derek: If an entrepreneur asked me “Should I keep going? Is it time to hang it up? I would completely flip the question and say “Is it time for you to hang it up?” “Have you pushed it as far as you could push it?” It’s not a question that anybody but the entrepreneur should ever answer, and look, there are outside factors that come in that make it the only option at times to do that, whether it be can't make payroll, I've mentioned the family thing, some of those scenarios you don’t have a choice but it’s impossible to say unless you're the entrepreneur but there are examples of people that keep banging their head against the cement wall and eventually it breaks and there are lot more examples of people that break their neck doing it.
You have to trust your gut, you have to be realistic, you have to step back. I'm not very good at a lot of things but one of the few skills I'm really grateful that I have is that I'm not on the platform as it burns into the ocean. I'm passionate. I have a chip on my shoulder about everything. I take everything personally. I'm paranoid. I'm all of those things but if I'm building a product that sucks, I'm smart enough and can pull myself out of this situation enough to say “This is going really really badly. Turn and walk away” or “turn and move” and a lot of people, they just stand there and watch it burn and they're trying to get buckets of water and they’ve got an inferno around them and when they need to just move on and then they waited until it’s too late, and then it’s too late.
I would just say be realistic. Have great advisers. Have people that are not financially invested in you giving you advice. Some people have their parents, some people have their college professor, some people have spiritual leaders, some people have their sibling. People that are close to you that are not trying to make money off you, get advice from those people, smart people on what you should do, mentors on what you should and what their advice is and then do what you think is best. Get lots of great advice and then do what you think is best and what you're passionate about and that will ultimately be the right answer is, it’s what’s best for you.
Chris: Yeah, I like that. People that aren’t incentivized to have you steer in a certain direction. Derek, let’s go back to that company that you sold. What industry was that or what product was that?
Derek: The product was called Common Red and in 2010 we started building a product. It was a professional social network designed to take your online social data, take someone else’s online social data and match the things up that you had in common, so before we chatted today, I could’ve gone and looked in 2010 or 2011 and seen all the people we knew and come across all the social networks, all of our common traits, all these things—similar places, similar languages we might speak, places we’ve lived whatever. And so, at that time, we’re sucking in all this cool data that was available but it wasn’t in one place and so this seemed like a really great idea. There were a couple of problems. One is that—also LinkedIn, who I'm just generally a huge fan of for a number of reasons, it just seems like—even still, it’s gotten much much much better but I don’t know what connecting means with people. People walk up to me a lot of times, “Hey, can I connect with you?” It’s like, “We’re talking, isn’t this—“ like, can we connect right now. It feels like a game from high school which I'm just not interested in playing anymore, and so, the relationships I have, they're not on LinkedIn. Anyways, so here I am, I am monologuing on LinkedIn. I don’t hate LinkedIn that much anymore, but we thought, “Hey, this LinkedIn is not solving any of these problems. Let’s try something else.”
What happened at that time was when we started LinkedIn at 50 million users and when we finished they had 150 million users. We made this very basic and critical mistake which was not recognize that LinkedIn had already won the market and it didn’t matter if what we’re building was 10% better or 20% better, they already had the network effect. They already had critical mass. And so what we did was after a year and half we built this really cool technology and we had talked to different people and had a few people ask about it, and say, “Hey, what are you going to do with it?” They knew we weren’t taking off with users but the technology was good and somebody said, “Hey, I’d like to buy that technology and use that for one of our products and so that’s what we did.”
Chris: Nice. So you had an exit at the very last minute.
Derek: It really was. It really was the very end of—I don’t know what we would’ve done. We were trying to figure out how to start right. Starting right was getting some momentum so we saw “Hey, there’s something here.” We’re spending one day a month on that and it was getting all this traction. We’re spending 29 days a month on this other thing that people didn’t really like even though we thought the technology was pretty good. The sale became basically our own angel funding to get Startup Grind going.
Chris: Derek, what was the biggest challenges you faced building Startup Grind? I know you said you used the sale of that first business to start Startup Grind. After that point, what were the biggest challenges you faced building that?
Derek: One of the biggest challenges we faced is just keeping everyone on the same page. You’ve got people that are volunteering. You’ve got people in dozens of different countries. You know, they’ve got full-time jobs, so they're doing this as a side 20% project. They're doing it because they're passionate about it but they got other stuffs they need to do. What we decided very early on is everything was going to be as simple as possible and everything was going to be suited to the person that had to run it. For two years, I ran my own events and every month, we did something different to try to make it better for the end user, better for the speaker, but also better for us, so it’s like you're solving three people’s problems. But I knew if it will feel as easy for me, then I would do more events. If it became really hard for me and took a lot of time, then I was going to stop running these events and then it would die.
Everything inside Startup Grind is super simple, like our events, we only one type of event. It’s a fireside chat, it’s 3 hours long. It’s really really easy and we just don’t make exceptions to that. We don’t do panels. We don’t do Ted Talks. We don’t do hackathons. Those things are all great. It’s just not what we’re good at, and so that’s A.
The intangible of that has been that pretty much if you attend a Startup Grind in Austin or in Pakistan or Iran or wherever you go, it should feel like Startup Grind. It should feel the same way wherever you go and I think that’s pretty hard to pull off and that was one thing.
The other thing is that the mission and the goals because they were so simple, it ended up becoming really really clear. And so people, you either stand for something or you stand for nothing and so this idea of people saying like “Hey, can you do a workshop for me?” It’s like, that would be cool but we don’t do that or a sponsor or something else like “Hey, can you run a hackathon for me?” It’s like, “I know three or four other great groups that you should run a hackathon with. It’s not us.” And then—
Chris: You identify exactly what you guys do and then focus on that and let everybody else run all the different types of events like hackathon—
Derek: Exactly. And that’s like a series of a thousand different conversation where we probably came off looking like jerks but “we” as in “me” like “Jeez, Derek always says ‘no’ to everything” and I'm like a pretty mellow, easygoing guy. I don’t like conflict. I like saying yes. I'm not good at saying no to stuff. I ask my employees and if they ask for stuff I usually give it to them because I'm just not good at saying no but I knew that for Startup Grind, we would not lose focus or we would die. We had so little money. Even still, we have so few resources, every dollar has to be spent almost perfectly and every program has to be good and we still make lots of mistakes but when we make mistakes, it’s when I say “Oh, we should try this” and we try some new thing that is not […] what we do. Those were the big mistakes I have made and it takes me 3, 4, or 5, sometimes 6 months to realize what I've done and then I just bring it right back to where we were and just keep plowing ahead with what we’ve been doing and then the machine gets going again in the right direction.
Chris: Nice. So what are your revenue streams? I know for the conferences you have coming up, you sell tickets to that. Is that your main source of revenue for this or do you have a licensing model for all the branches around the world?
Derek: Yeah. Our revenue model is super simple. We take a percentage of all ticket revenue and all sponsorship revenue that happens in the local chapters. We are not a franchise. We don’t charge anyone to use our product upfront. It’s not about revenue for us. We are an impact company. It’s a bootstrap company, so we are not answering to shareholders. Of course, we want to be successful but we don’t have this time sensitivity that we have to sell by this day or our investors aren’t going to get their money. We work with great people, so we’ll work in a big city like Dallas or Austin and then we’ll work in a small little village in Somalia just because we think that if we find the right people, then we’re doing the right thing.
So yeah it’s primarily tickets and sponsorships. 75,000 people attend our events this year at about 1200 events. We get a lot of people. We have a small team here that runs global operations and engineering team who to build tools that help make those events in those communities easier to run and to manage and then we have our conference.
Chris: Nice, man. That’s great. You guys are everywhere. What’s one piece of advice that you would give to somebody looking to start—let’s go two parts with this. So maybe just a tech startup, if somebody’s a first time entrepreneur and then maybe if somebody wanted to follow in your footsteps and create a global brand or something that was hosting multiple live events.
Derek: Well, if somebody wants to do a startup, I would encourage them to solve a real problem and don’t just quit your job and say “Hey, I'm just going to start something.” Be thoughtful about it. Make sure there’s a real problem. It could be a small real problem and that’s great but make sure it’s a real problem, and then, build your team. Let’s take the instance that you're not technical, you're not an engineer, what I would encourage you to do is go have lunch with about 75 engineers, go attend meet-ups, go attend Startup Grind, go attend other things where you can meet people, reach out to everyone you know. Ask them to introduce you to any engineers that they know and take them to lunch and don’t expect anything. All you should do is try to add value to them, and if you do, the advice I got [unintelligible 00:24:58] for somebody is that you should find the best 2 or 3 and beg them to work with you and that’s I think great advice. So if you want to go build a startup, your core has to be technology. No one’s going to buy your company, no one’s going to buy your product if you have bad technology, if you have team members that can’t build great technology.
So solving the team problem and solving a real problem, if you do those two things, you have a chance. Startups are, you are a dead body on an operating table until proven otherwise. You have no pulse. The body has no pulse. There is no chance of success. People always say, “95% of startups fail.” No. “100% of startups fail.” You might be able to succeed, but it’s going to fail, just plan on it. And somehow you got to get a pulse, so you get a great team member, get a good co-founder, you give them a generous amount of equity that that’s over 4 years, you got a blip on the radar. You find a great designer to work on the team, who will work for part for equity, you just blipped again. These things, it needs a hundred blips and then you move from ICU and maybe in a year they push you in a gurney into another room in the hospital where you're kind of in and out of a coma and eventually if you're really really lucky, you might get out of bed and walk around the hospital. At which point, you’ll be sent back to bed for 2 days. This is what doing a startup is like. Find a way to get a pulse. That’s my [unintelligible 00:26:54].
Chris: Assume that you're dead from the start and then keep working to get out of that. I think a lot of people start off too optimistically thinking that they're running wherein they're really dead.
Derek: Yeah. I'm going to be the Mark Zuckerberg. I’m the next greatest thing since sliced bread and you need that kind of blind optimism, but at the same time, I mean, look I thought I would’ve been on a cover of a magazine 3 years ago or else I’d probably would’ve quit my great job that I had. There’s nothing wrong with a reality distortion field. We know that, we’ve seen it time and again. But do what you need to do. Life is not enough. I heard somebody say this yesterday that they're very optimistic that life just tends to work out, I said, “No. Life works out when you make it work out.” When you show up every day—if you don’t go to the gym, you're going to get fat. This is not brain surgery. If you don’t hustle and work every hour of every day in the beginning, you will die on the table, and just plan on it. You're already dead. Anything else is—“Boy Derek, you really set your bar low.” If I succeed, you're one in a hundred, one in a thousand. And there are different levels of success, so success in tech startup might be some big exit, Google buys your company or something, but other great exits might be, hey, you run a million dollar business, you run a 250,000 business and you have one employee, and you take care of your family and you go on vacation when you need to go on vacation, like that, and you live in Texas you live like a king. That, to me, is more successful than most of the startup people I see mostly on tours.
Chris: I'm glad you said that because a lot of people think that they have to be the next Zuckerberg or they have to create the next Instagram but there’s nothing wrong with creating a business that makes you a few hundred grand or a few million bucks a year. A lot of people, I think, would be happy with that. What would you consider that? Would you consider a million dollar business still on the table with no pulse or would you consider that you're running?
Derek: No. You're running. If you're doing that, you're getting people to pay you a million dollars of money in a 12-month period of time, you have something very special. I had a really successful wealthy guy here in the valley [unintelligible 00:29:46] one time, I was talking to him about, oh, this person had a $10 million dollar exit or something, I kind of said it negatively and he said, “Do you know how many people have $10 million dollars in their bank account?” He said, “Basically 0%” so pull that back a little bit. How many people have a million dollars in their bank account? Still almost no one, right? Okay, I literally live on the same street as Mark Zuckerberg. He lives 5 or 6 houses down from me. I rent, so don’t get any ideas. To his credit, he’s not this arrogant flamboyant guy. He is in a totally neighborhood. It’s not a gated neighborhood. It’s Palo Alto so it’s beautiful but he lives within 300 yards of some apartment complexes that are places you probably wouldn’t want to live. But if I compare myself to Zuckerberg who lives 5 houses down from me, guess what? I'm going to hate myself but I'm not competing against Mark Zuckerberg who went to Harvard. I'm competing with Derek Andersen who went to BYU and who started his career on electronic arts and video games. I'm competing against the guy who moved around all of his life and did what he had to do. I'm trying to be that guy. I look at it as, if you know those old video games like Mario Kart or the games where you have the ghost and you can raise the ghost—
Chris: Yeah, yeah, beat your previous lap, right?
Derek: Beat your previous lap. Personally, that’s who I'm competing against and I ever start to get distracted, I start to compete with Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, or anybody else, I’ll lose. Everybody loses that game. Even the guy [unintelligible 00:31:53] running billion dollar companies they lose that game and I've heard them. I've heard guys who are running businesses that were making tens and millions, hundred million dollars, say “I wish I had that company” and refer to somebody else.
It’s always greater. Unless you're satisfied with being who you are and creating what you're creating and personally I'm extremely comfortable in my own skin and building what I'm building and not worrying about what other people say. Of course, I want to be huge business, who doesn’t? If you're in this space, of course, I’d like to be on a magazine cover. Of course I’d love to be honored, and this and that, of course, but those things do not define my success. My success for me is defined as my wife is not going to leave me, my kids love me, I can pay for and take care of my team members and employees and I can personally live a good life. I can live comfortably. I live in Palo Alto, compared to the rest of the world, I live pretty comfortably. I don’t drive a Tesla but I live pretty comfortably and so that’s success for me. I'm sorry where your question was. I don’t know where I am now—
Chris: I'm letting you go man. This is all great stuff.
Chris: Not at all. What’s next? What is the end goal for the big vision for Startup Grind or are you there now? Like you said, you’ve identified, I think, what true wealth means to you, where are you on the spectrum of where you want Startup Grind to be or go?
Derek: Well I want to preface this by saying this is not where, if you would’ve asked me 6 years ago, February is when we held our first event, a friend and I started it and there was 9 people there. If you would ask me that night where do I want this to go? I would’ve told you, I hope that we do this next month. I would not have told you what I'm going to tell you now, which is what our mission is and our vision is for now is that we aspire to educate every entrepreneur in the world.
This is something I learned over time as I began to see what we could do, but I do see it now. I see clearly now that we have an opportunity with the timing, the place, the brand, the values that we share in our community that we can do something really special and help educate and create the world’s next generation of entrepreneurs. I hope that the next Mark Zuckerberg attends one of our events. That would be the dream and that that has an impact on him, it might be like “Man, that almost made me quit.” But that’s what we aspire to be and it could be the entrepreneur in Tehran, it could be the entrepreneur in the Gaza strip who only has power 6 hours out of the day, it could be the entrepreneur trained in Tel Aviv, it could be in Austin. It could be wherever. We want to go where the entrepreneurs are and my experience is that great entrepreneurs live everywhere.
Chris: That’s a powerful mission, man. That’s really really powerful and it’s great that you guys already have such a global reach. Derek, what would you say, so there are two camps, you have one camp that says put all your eggs in one basket and have one source of income and you have other people say, diversify and have many sources of income as possible, which camp are you in?
Derek: Oh man, this is where my reality distortion field comes into flight. This works for me and what works for me is that I bet on myself. I believe in myself. I put everything into myself. I don’t have stock. I don’t have publicly traded stock. I started writing about companies too and you should know your companies you write about, that was years ago, but since then, I've never repurchased—I just don’t spend time and energy following the market. I do try to put money in the 401k but outside of that, I am fully betting on Derek Andersen, and I am my biggest investor by far and my wife. She is also a big investor in me and in us. It’s not just me, it’s us.
Chris: And when you say investor in you, does that mean Startup Grind or more intangible stuff like your education and stuff like that as well?
Derek: For me that means both, but at the moment, it’s Startup Grind. I believe in my own abilities more than I believe in the market’s abilities to make my family money. I'm 33, so I'm not okay on how you look at it. I'm either not that young or I am still young, but the world hasn’t hit me on the face yet for that. I had a great job 6 years ago at electronic arts. I walked away in the middle of the great recession because I bet on myself and I didn’t know the startup thing was going to blow up. I never would’ve guessed I’d be doing Startup Grind, that I’ll be doing something completely different, but this is where I'm at and I still think that the upside is in me, not in the market. And so, I don’t know, maybe that changes the next time we talk but for now I’ll just keep investing in myself, investing in my company, investing in my skills and hopefully I can become what I think and I can accomplish what I think have the potential to accomplish.
Chris: I love that. I'm a firm believer that the best investment you can make is in yourself. On that note, do you have a book that you think is required reading for every entrepreneur?
Derek: Yeah, Founders at Work. Absolutely the most influential best entrepreneurial book that I think exists. It was written by the co-founder of Y Combinator, Jessica Livingston. She had [….] some of the top technology entrepreneurs. Some of it is a little technical if you're completely not technical but mostly it’s not. This is how I actually did it and it’s very real and it feels very organic and tangible on how she talks about it, and so, I think that’s a great book. In terms of developing products and getting to something that people will buy, The Four Steps to the Epiphany by Steve Blank, it’s like a textbook but it is the step by step how you will pick markets, how you know customers like what you have, where you go from there, what are the steps that you go in terms of building a product and so I recommend those two books.
Chris: Nice, beautiful. We’ll link those up in the show notes page. You pretty much, I think, answered this but I want to ask it and make it explicit. What does true wealth mean to you?
Derek: That’s a good question. I'm not really that wealthy. I am not wealthy. It’s not that I am not that wealthy, I am not wealthy. I hope that I do become financially wealthy someday and I hope when I do I don’t lose this perspective, but to me, being the richest guy in the cemetery, all those kinds of phrases and things you hear, the rich people I know, they're not happy because of how rich they are. A guy that’s worth more than $100 million dollars, very famous athlete told me one time, he said, “Derek, after you pay for your cars and your mortgage, there’s not a lot else to buy” and I was complaining about trying to buy a house in Palo Alto which is, go look at it, go Google it, it’s ridiculous. But he’s right and so then what do you have? Like I said, if my wife loves me, if my kids love me— there’s another great book that I love called How You Measure Your Life by Clayton Christensen and he talks about this world, these guys that he went to Harvard with 10, 20, 30 years later came back to Harvard and they were famous and wealthy but their kids literally hated them and they live on the other side of the country and he talked about how could people from Harvard, the smartest people in the world, how can they let this happen and it wasn’t because they ever tried. They didn’t get married thinking I hope my kids [unintelligible 00:41:59] some day, it’s just because they just made bad decisions along the way or they made decisions that were not in the best interest of those goals. And so they weren’t bad decisions, the decisions were logical like, I'm going to work until 2 a.m. I'm going to sleep at the office tonight because I want to get a promotion because I'm going to take care of my family if I get a promotion. In the end, all those things add up to other consequences.
I think, to me, real wealth is that your family loves you, that you can look yourself in the mirror and be proud of your work. I think being creative is very important. To me, if I'm not creative, I don’t sleep or if I'm not being creative at work, I don’t sleep. When I'm being creative, I sleep pretty well. I think those are probably the main things.
Chris: Awesome. Thanks for sharing that. Any final advice for entrepreneurs?
Derek: Keep grinding.
Chris: Keep grinding. I love it. Well Derek, thanks for your time, man. I know you're a busy guy and you run an international organization and you have a lot of people pulling for your time, so I appreciate it. I'm sure a lot of people are going to get value from this.
Derek: Yeah, thank you very much and it is great to be on. If I can help anybody that’s listening, my email is [email protected]. If you’ve made it this far, I'm happy to share my email. That is my only email. That’s not some fake email and most founders, CEO, it’s usually the first name and then startups, so if you want to get a hold of somebody, go email them, it’s not that hard to figure out, but if I can be helpful, please email me if there’s something I can do.
Chris: Great advice and thanks for putting that out there for everybody and anybody that’s going to the event February 2016, I'm definitely going to be there, so Derek, I hope to see you there and when is that? That’s the 23rd and the 24th right?
Chris: Awesome. Well, thanks a lot of your time, man. I really appreciate it.