Steve Hoffman, also known as Captain Hoff, is the captain and CEO of Founders Space, one of the world's leading startup accelerators. Founders Space was ranked the number one incubator for overseas startups by Forbes and Entrepreneur magazine. Steve is also a venture investor, a serial entrepreneur, and he's the author of several award winning books, including Make Elephants Fly, Surviving a Startup and the Five Forces. And we're going to talk about going in depth a little bit on surviving a startup today.
NOTE: Complete transcript available at the bottom of the page.
Screw The Commute Podcast Show Notes Episode 482
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See Tom's Stuff – https://linktr.ee/antionandassociates[04:54] Tom's introduction to Steve Hoffman [06:31] The business idea isn't the main thing [08:29] The biggest mistake you can make is thinking you know it all [10:59] Use “dull edge technology” unless your business needs cutting edge [15:39] You've got to have a team that's smarter than you [22:33] He is actually a “digital nomad” [26:36] How to build a great team [33:03] Sponsor message [34:59] “Captain Hoff” and Hollywood [43:03] A typical day for Steve
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Episode 482 – Steve Hoffman
[00:00:09] Welcome to Screw the Commute. The entrepreneurial podcast dedicated to getting you out of the car and into the money, with your host, lifelong entrepreneur and multimillionaire, Tom Antion.
[00:00:24] Hey everybody, it's Tom here with episode four hundred and eighty two of Screw the Commute podcast. I'm here with Steve Hoffman. Steve is the CEO and founder of Founders Space. And I got to tell you folks, I'm rarely impressed when I check out a guest. I mean, many are good, good, solid people, entrepreneurs and OK for the show. But, you know, I've known this guy about ten seconds. And I'll tell you what, I was I was really impressed with his massive enthusiasm for entrepreneurship, which I hardly ever see the level of this guy. And and also combined with his depth of knowledge and experience, I mean, I could use the whole show reading his bio. So really excited about having him on. The only problem I have with this guy is that as a kid, he was on a losing kind of bad news bear Little League team and and they finally won the championship. But I just don't think it was fair. He was still 20. He was 26 years old, still trying to get that championship. So so he'll tell us a little bit about that. All right. I hope you did this episode 481. That's where I told you about YouTube short. See, everybody's chasing tick tock. Instagram came out with rels and now YouTube said, wait, wait a minute, where is everybody going? I'm going to do this, too. So I gave you the ins and outs of getting started with YouTube shorts. Now, how'd you like me to send you big money.
[00:01:46] How about that. Well if you get in my affiliate program or my referral program, all you have to do is email me at Tom and screw the commute. Come and we'll give you details about it. But you can make anywhere from eight dollars and fifty cents, which you can blow at Starbucks stepto more than 5000 for a speaking engagement. So in everything in between. So put a few of those together, you can make a pretty good living. Just referring my stuff and you never get refunds because we take care of our customers. Put it that way. Now pick up a copy of our Automation eBook. This ebook we sell for 27 bucks, but it's yours free for listening to the show. And just one of the tips, folks, and this is not an exaggeration. We actually estimated a couple years ago just one of the tips in this book that cost twenty bucks to implement has saved me seven and a half million keystrokes. It's allowed me to ethically steal customers from people too slow to get back to prospects and just knocked my workload down to nothing, allowed me to handle up to one hundred and fifty thousand subscribers and 65000 customers without pulling my hair out. So grab a copy of it at screwthecommute.com/automatefree. And while you're at it, pick up a copy of our podcast app at screwthecommute.com/app. And you can put us on your cell phone and tablet and take us with you on the road.
[00:03:10] Now, I usually tell you about my school now, but I want to tell you about something way bigger than that. Now we have a pilot program going to help persons with disabilities, get them full scholarships and get them not only trained from home in a highly in demand skill, but get them hired and or or both start their own business. So it's a pilot program. And when I prove the concept, I'm going to go after guys like Steve and his ilk to get big money to to help loads of people with disabilities. You know, we got kind of handed a ah, they got handed a hand. That's not, you know, a lot worse than what the average person does. I mean, if I want to go to 7-Eleven, I'm there and back in fifteen minutes, it might take them an hour just to get ready to get in a vehicle. So I'm going to do this one way or the other, but I'd love to have your help. Check it out at IMTCVA.org/disabilities. Click on the Go Fund Me campaign. You'll see progress of some of the folks in the in the class. And we're also going to use some of the money to hire folks with disabilities to help run the program. And I got to tell you, I've saved us a lot of money for a lot of for homeless kids and for dogs and everything on Earth. But as I look back, man, it's I kind of look at it like a Band-Aid, like those 500 homeless kids I felt in Las Vegas for a year.
[00:04:37] What happens after the year? And there's kind of a Band-Aid. So this I want to change these people's lives forever. I'm going to do it one way or the other. But I'd love to have your help. It's kind of like get your name up on a library, you know, because you contributed to something that's going to last and last and last. So love to have your help.
[00:04:55] Let's get to the main event. Steve Hoffman, also known as Captain Hoff, is the captain and CEO of Founders Space, one of the world's leading startup accelerators. Founders Space was ranked the number one incubator for overseas startups by Forbes and Entrepreneur magazine. Steve is also a venture investor, a serial entrepreneur, and he's the author of several award winning books, including Make Elephants Fly, Surviving a Startup and the Five Forces. And we're going to talk about going in depth a little bit on surviving a startup today. And if I spent the whole time on his Hollywood resume and everything else, the thing would be over by now. So, Steve, are you ready to screw? The commute?
[00:05:38] I am you ready? Yeah. Yeah. And I was you know, a lot of people know me is not a BSR. What I said in the beginning is true. I have not seen anybody with the depth of experience and the excitement to help entrepreneurs on this Earth for a long time. And I've been seeing a lot of people. So congratulations and thanks for being part of this.
[00:05:59] Oh, my pleasure.
[00:06:01] So tell us about founder space.
[00:06:04] So Founder Space is actually a startup, incubator and accelerator, and what I mean by that is we take startups at a very early stage, entrepreneurs with their idea for a company. They usually have a business plan. Sometimes they have a product that's almost ready to launch or in the market. And then we help them raise capital, go to market, connect with people, strategic partners all around the world so that they can grow their business.
[00:06:32] Now, I've heard you say that now you just mentioned the word. They have an idea for a business. But I think I've heard you say the idea isn't the main thing.
[00:06:42] It isn't the main thing. So everybody thinks, oh, I have to have the most brilliant idea. I have to have this epiphany before I start my business. Otherwise, I shouldn't start. Well, honestly, usually the idea you start with, no matter how brilliant you think it is, usually there's some flaws in it. It doesn't actually work in the real world. So if you look at the great companies out there that we admire so much and we're like, oh, they had that idea from the start, it's not always the case. Now, let me give you two examples that might surprise your audience. Everybody thinks Google, like those guys, knew what they were doing when they started. Well, actually, they thought they were building a non-profit Google, a nonprofit, because they didn't think they would make any money yet. It's one of the most profitable companies that ever existed. Now, that's a big thing. What they were doing at the beginning is they were actually making a tool for academics to find research papers online. Well, that sounds like a good nonprofit business. However, once they started going down that path, they realized that their search engine could not be applied just to academic papers, but to the whole Internet. And their business exploded. YouTube, YouTube. When they started YouTube, they weren't thinking of building the largest video broadcast network in history, what they were building with a video dating site, video dating. But it didn't work. Nobody really wanted to video date. However, they figure it out. Wow. People do want to upload their files and share them with friends. What if we made that easier and they became YouTube?
[00:08:19] Yeah, I think it started on a bus somewhere, too. There was a video that that started on a bus. I think it was in Asia. I'm not sure. But but anyway, this kind of rolls right into your your idea that the biggest mistake you can make is thinking, you know it. All right. Exactly. If they weren't open to change the. They wouldn't exist.
[00:08:43] Now, if you think you know it all when you started, then you're doing something that's already been done that everybody has done before. If you're doing something new, that's going to really have a big impact, like the investors I work with want to invest in. I mean, we all want to invest in the next unicorn, the giant company that that goes public. Then you have to be doing something different, very different than everybody else. And that almost invariably means when you start out, you don't quite know how it will work. You have to go into the real world and start experimenting to figure it out.
[00:09:15] Yeah. In the end, I don't know what you were doing at the time because you've done so darn much stuff. But, you know, I've been selling on the commercial Internet since there was one nineteen ninety four. And I remember the the dotcom bubble burst and where they were just throwing money to these young wet behind the ears kids that were just buying pool tables and they all just disappeared all that money down the drain. So what's different now with investors that want to invest in the business? I'm sure they're more savvy than that.
[00:09:46] Well, I lived through the dotcom bubble bursting. Yes, and and it was pretty dramatic, but that was just the beginning of the Internet. The Internet has been evolving ever since. Now, there are a lot of businesses in the early dotcom days that didn't make sense at the time. But today, those same concepts are making huge amounts of money. So in the early days, there were people who tried to do what YouTube did and they failed because broadband wasn't here yet, because advertising online advertising wasn't here yet. So those businesses failed in the dotcom meltdown. Later, you know, you find YouTube and they're incredibly profitable. They're huge businesses. There is a company called Webvan that actually did online grocery deliveries. They raised four hundred million dollars. They disappeared because they were too early. So it's really timing because everything is changing over time. Consumer behavior changes, markets change, technology changes, all the infrastructure changes, all of these changes combined make things possible. And in the future, we will see many, many, many more opportunities because things keep progressing at such a rapid pace now.
[00:11:00] Now, one thing I've been living by Steve, the reason I don't have very many setbacks is because I live what I call double edge technology. So when something new comes out, I'm not the first one that jumps on it. Mr. Guru here. And I'll tell you why I remember MySpace, which was the end all be all the biggest, baddest of everything. Boom, gone. I didn't even get on Facebook till they had a billion users. So. So, yeah, I'm a little more conservative, especially in my old age, to to jump on this stuff. But do you have stuff that's that's really unique anymore or is it just twists on the established concept?
[00:11:43] It there is stuff coming out that is totally unique and will literally blow your mind. So and it's OK not to get on early unless your business depends on it. So there are certain businesses, if you don't get on early, somebody else is going to get on early and they're going to come into your market and take it away like so. So for the average person, they don't need to worry about it. Right. It may affect their lifestyle a bit, but they don't have to be early adopters. However, for a lot of businesses. Wow, if you're not on that cutting edge, your competitor is. And before you know what, they're going to be way ahead of you by the time you realize it. So what we're going to see, to answer your specific question is we're going to see not just copy cat applications coming up. There are totally new transformative technologies entering the marketplace now that will really upend everything we know about the Internet, everything we know about our lives. Let me give you just three examples. Number One, A.I. A.I. is incredibly powerful. We can already see it rolling out into every business, making everything we do more intelligent A.I. It's going to become so smart over the coming decades that it will be able to do most of the jobs we do and that will transform our society completely. Another technology, gene editing technology like CRISPR, where you can actually edit the genes of living organisms, plants and animals creating new plants and animals. This is going to create an explosion in the biotech space. We are just at the very top of that iceberg. So it is enormous. And we're going to see plants and animals that we couldn't even imagine before being developed like they'll be they're developing right now at the University of Florida, cows that can survive in extreme heat. Why? Because of climate change. They're developing plants at university universities that can actually survive in drought conditions. Why? Because we're going to have more droughts. And that is just the beginning there. You're actually using gene therapy to cure cancer now and even blindness.
[00:13:47] So I can see since you have a Hollywood background, you got to see movies there where this turns into this monster.
[00:13:56] And that's not science fiction anymore. That's the science that we can do that now. We could there's George Church on my book, The Five Forces. He's one of the one of the guys I feature in there. He is one of the leading geneticists in the world. And he literally is recreating a woolly mammoth like bringing back its Jurassic Park. He's actually doing at Harvard.
[00:14:19] So you're in Omaha. You better get out there for some cow comes, in fact.
[00:14:24] Yeah, I'm just here for another day. Yeah.
[00:14:26] On the other. Get out. I have told them. Yeah.
[00:14:29] Before the cows. Warren Buffett comes after me. Yeah.
[00:14:32] I've always said, you know, from a small time before the cows come home. But now I'm going to think about.
[00:14:38] So these are some of the technologies I'll mention one more point.
[00:14:41] Three three Three. Yeah. The third is brain computer interfaces. We are literally now starting to connect our thoughts to the Internet and they're in research labs at Brown University, many other Duke University. They have actually implanted chips in human beings that allow them to directly communicate with the Internet. Now, these people are paralyzed
[00:15:00] Because of vaccination. I don't know what they call that.
[00:15:04] That's that's that's the whole Bill Gates conspiracy theory. But it's not that easy. If it wasn't easy, is it vaccination at all have shifts in our brain? No, but they are coming. Facebook's developing them. Google is developing and these products will be on the market. And you will you know, at a certain point, we will not be using cell phones. We will be communicating directly with our minds.
[00:15:26] Oh, Apple hates that. Well, there'll be enough. Yeah.
[00:15:29] So you asked me you asked me if things are are we going to see more of the same. No, no.
[00:15:36] I just, I can't wait to see that cow. That's what I want. So now I know you're you're a big advocate of teams and doing what you love. Now I have been I've rigged a lot against people. That's just delegate everything, do what you love. And I say, well, you know, if doing what you love is making you broke, maybe you should rethink it. But I like the principles to at least know what's going on before they farm it out so that they don't get ripped off because there's people out there that will charge a hundred times with something should cost because you don't know any better. But you've said that you got to have a team that's with people smarter than you. Right.
[00:16:17] That's absolutely right, you know, a lot of entrepreneurs in this depends on the size business here. You want to do it if you want to do a small business and you can do it all yourself and you can make good money doing that, go for like if that's the lifestyle you want, you don't want a lot of the you want the headache of the place. You don't need to do that. So many profitable, great small businesses. But if you want to come to Silicon Valley and get venture funding, they don't want a one person operation. Right. You never you never build a billion dollar company and take it public with one person. No matter how smart they are, they can be Elon Musk or Bill Gates, but they need other people. So what you do, the first thing you do when you start a company that you want to grow, the very first thing is look for the people. Don't worry about the idea. Don't even try to build the product. Look for the people you need to actually execute on this. Because honestly, if you're going to build something great, something new, transformative, you're going to have to have a players on your team. You can't have B players or C players. And that is hard because you're those eight players may be working for six figure salaries at Google or Facebook or somewhere else. You're going to have to convince them to join you. And if you think you can't do it, then don't be that type of entrepreneur, because honestly, that's your first test. Your first test is for you as a leader, being a great leader. Like we look at the team not just to look at the team, but also to look at the CEO and say, wow, is this CEO amazing? Can they can they convince people to believe in their company? Well, this is the first test. If they can get people who could have high paying jobs to join a startup on a dream and a promise, they have something.
[00:17:55] Yeah. And that's that's a special person. And that's a special concept, because to get those best people, they're already making good money. I was I was amazed. I heard you kind of explain going more in depth on that type of person that that if they say if they just want to put their toe in and help you, that's not the right person, right?
[00:18:15] Absolutely. You know, you don't want curious people on your team. You want committed people. Like if they're just curious if they're dabbling and they want to help you out. The problem is, you know, you could get somebody in there helping you out. And then as soon as they get busy or as soon as the work gets hard, they're gone. So all the time you spent trying to get them up to speed is lost. I say find committed people. That's another thing. You know, it's the quality of the people and the commitment of the people that is going to transform your business, your business. What people have to realize is that your business is nothing but the people at the beginning. It is nothing about the people. They are going to make and build that business. So that is where you should be putting your time.
[00:18:55] Well, there's an interesting quote that I've heard you say. Why would I give you millions if you can't get people to join your team for free access? Good.
[00:19:09] I'm risking my money. I'm an investor, so I'm out there and entrepreneurs are coming to founders. You know, I'm saying you can't even get anybody to join your company and you want me to invest.
[00:19:20] So have you witnessed or done yourself a great personality that the idea was shaky, but you said, look, this person's going to figure it out? Absolutely. Yes, yes. Yes. I was going to I said maybe. Yeah.
[00:19:35] So, you know, I have seen teams that had a brilliant idea. They, like had nailed the idea. But the team was really shaky and invariably they started going and they dropped the ball. They always dropped the ball and then somebody else picks it up and runs with it. So a great team out there, like a really good team, they might start off with a really bad idea, but then they're going to pick up some ball and they're going to score.
[00:19:59] Yeah, yeah, I guess it boils down to that more in the end, and that kind of puts a little bit in the realm of relationships of I've heard you talking about different types of business. People, like Chinese people want the relationship. And the I got to tell you, as a as a Westerner, pretty much hardcore Westerner, it drives me crazy in that, you know, a contract is like, oh, that's just a starting point for negotiation or something. To me, that's the end deal. That's it. And that doesn't apply there right now.
[00:20:31] I did a lot of business all over the world, so I spent a huge amount of time traveling. I did business in Asia and especially in China. And I will tell you for them, it's just a whole nother world, like everything is about relationships and the contract, what they give you a contract as we're going to make a contract. And this is what we agree on now. But we will change this. This will you know, I honestly, if it no longer benefits me, I'm not going to pay attention to the contract because it doesn't benefit me. However, they care about relationships and what they mean by relationships is not what we mean. It's not a one on one. It's not whether, hey, Tom, I trust you. I like you. They don't think that way. They think, hey, Tom. Do you know all the other business people I know? How important are you Tom. Oh Tom is really important. Tom knows all the people I do business with. I better not screw Tom so I will make sure you know, whatever the contract says, you know, good or bad, I will make sure Tom is happy. You know, if Tom if Tom meets those criteria, if Tom doesn't meet those criteria, I'll do whatever is best for me.
[00:21:38] Yeah. And I've seen some people just ignore that. And they always come to me because I'm mostly, you know, digital stuff, low risk, high returns. They come and I want to I want to invent something and I want to go to China and get it made. And I'm thinking, oh, my God, God help you. Because, you know, if you're on your own going to China to try to negotiate with you just can't you
[00:22:02] You are are itching to lose a lot of money. Yeah. Honestly, just stab yourself.
[00:22:07] You know, you're going to save a lot of trouble
[00:22:10] Or find an expert who's done it one hundred times before and let that ex work with that US expert who kind of does cross-border business. Let them guide you
[00:22:21] Through, because then they know and they have some of the relationships and they don't want to screw that person.
[00:22:26] Right. Because all they have built that all the relationships, they know who to trust. They know how to get things done, which you don't know even if you think you do.
[00:22:37] So you're somewhat of a digital nomad. You actually have a home because you're you're never there, I think.
[00:22:45] No, I am. I am actually a digital nomad. So I travel around the world working with amazing entrepreneurs, helping them like helping them raise capital, helping them to keep on their businesses, figure out what's wrong, you know, get over those obstacles. That's what I do. And I love it.
[00:23:02] Tell them about the book, the latest one.
[00:23:05] Ok, so I myself have done three venture funded startups in Silicon Valley and to bootstrap once. And I've also and by that he didn't go for extra financing
[00:23:17] Folks. Now. Yeah, bootstrapped. I did it all myself. Made the money. And I have also, you know, every year I work with hundreds of entrepreneurs, so I see all the problems they have. Like I've seen my own problems and now I see this huge data set, all these different people struggling with these things. I took all that experience and put it into a book that is called Surviving a Startup. And it's really your survival guide, like it's everything an entrepreneur needs to know before they get started so they don't screw up like you don't want to make the mistakes that all these other people have made. You can make new mistakes. That's fine, but at least avoid the most common mistakes so that you don't lose your money and don't waste your time.
[00:23:58] Yeah, and I thought you were a Clint Eastwood from Dirty Harry or something. One time I heard you say a man's got to know his limitations.
[00:24:07] A man must. That's like the first mistake most people make. Like, you know yourself, like I can hear it Tom like, you know who you are, you know what you like. You're doing the type of business that makes sense to you. There are other people like they're not they should they should stick to running a small business because that is their nature. Right? It's in their blood. There's there's people who don't like to manage people. Right. They just hate to be managers. Well, don't put you don't don't start a big business. You're going to have to be managing. And there's other people who don't like uncertainty, like they like everything organized and planned out. Well, if you're doing a real startup like in Silicon Valley, it is crazy. It is absolutely nuts. There are people who don't want to take financial risk like they get really stressed when there's financial risk. Again, you know, if you're doing a startup where you have to lay out a lot of cash in the beginning, you're going to be. Ringley, stress, and because you're stressed, your failure, your chance of failing goes way up. Now, on the flip side of the coin, there are people who are perfect to run these businesses.
[00:25:10] There are people out there like I have three criteria that make for great entrepreneurs who want to run big businesses. No one leadership, like I said, you need to be able to get people to do what you want them to do, whether it's to give you money, buy your products, join your team, follow your orders, you need that ability of leadership if you're going to start a company. Number two, it pays to be curious. You want to be the person out there trying all the latest stuff, because each time one of these new innovations in technology comes into being, it actually opens up a door for entrepreneurs to remake a business, to totally change the game and actually disrupt a business and become big. And the last thing you need really important is persistence. Like everything in life, it's not easy. It's really tough. And you haven't made it until you've made it. And when you when you're down, I'll tell you, I've been there. It's hard to get back on your feet. But if you're an entrepreneur and you want to succeed, you have to be able to do that.
[00:26:14] Absolutely. And get I do a lot of interviews that people say, what's the key to? What's your key to success, persistence and consistency? Just the junkyard dog. I just keep clawing along, expecting obstacles. And when when I'm on your show, I'll tell you more about my dad, how he taught me to overcome obstacles before I could even walk. Yeah, it's an interesting story. Now, roll this into your Little League story. It was messing with you in the beginning there. I guess that rolls into your teams and the relationships. All right. So tell me about that.
[00:26:49] A lot of entrepreneurs ask, how do I build a great team? Like what makes a team really go? And there's been a lot of research in this. You know what? What makes great teams from mediocre teams? And surprisingly, it wasn't the talent of the people alone. So they did a study where they had some teams that were like superstars on and they had other teams that had, you know, average people. But sometimes the teams with average people would pass up the superstar team. Now you ask, why does this happen? Well, let's go back to that Little League story. When I was in Little League, you know, we had the bad news bears. We had the team where everybody was really not very talented, including myself. I was maybe one of the least talented. So all of us were there out in the field for two seasons. We came in last place, but by the third season, something magic happened. We just loved playing together. We really trusted each other. We had gotten competent at what we do not great. We weren't superstars, but as a team, we just worked incredibly well together. And you know what? We not only made the championship, we won it, we won the championship.
[00:28:06] Now you take this and you apply it to companies, as researchers have in teams within organizations found the same thing is true, teams that really function well, our teams where everybody likes each other, where everybody has each other's back, they have that trust. So, you know, if you say something stupid, they're not going to poke fun at you. If you know, if you need something and you're kind of in a crisis, they'll be there for you. These things are what define great company culture, great teams. And if you're going to build if you're going to win, if you're going to be David versus Goliath, you're little tiny startup is going to displace these big guys. You need to start with a team like that, a team of you where, you know, the superstar teams that I talked about with the super talented people, often they had superstar egos, too. So they ended up backstabbing each other, trying to get credit for their work from each other, not cooperating, not trusting each other. That's why these these teams of people who weren't superstars could actually pass them up.
[00:29:09] That's amazing in them. And that kind of rolls into a topic of a firing. We talked about finding the best people. But but the darn thing is that sometimes you got that weight. And, yeah, if you're if you're some giant company, you can have a bunch of losers running around and making one hundred grand a year and and survive. But if you're a startup when you don't have much money, then dead weight will sink you real fast. So what's your thoughts on that?
[00:29:39] Let me tell you a story. So my friend, my very good friend runs a small business. He has 15 people and is in his little company and he has one. One of them is was a salesperson. He had the sales guy. He really wanted the salesperson to succeed. So he did everything he could to support that salesperson, salesperson go out there. But the salesperson couldn't close deals, just couldn't bring in the money. And he's paying this guy a really good salary. And he comes to me and says, you know, this sales guy is in performing, what should I do? And I was like, get rid of him. Like, get rid of him because he's such a nice guy and he's trying so hard. And every time I talk to me, he listens and he really tries. It's like, you know, he's been with you six months and he's not performing. Get rid of him. Six months later, he comes back. He's like, oh, this is really tough. Like, this guy is driving me crazy. Like, you know, he's making some sales, but he's still not doing great. And I was like, get rid of him. And I like the first time you came to me. You should've got rid of get rid of him. He still didn't get rid of me. He's going to give him one more chance. Just one more chance. If he doesn't if he doesn't shape up, I'm going to get rid of him. Nine months later, he gets rid of them, finally gets rid of the guy. You know, he should have done that nine months ago. They didn't have a huge amount of money, but know kept giving the guy a second chance. But when he gets rid of them because he's a nice guy, he actually tells the guy, look, I know you had some commissions outstanding on on some of the work you're doing. Look, normally, if we let somebody go, they don't get the commissions. But I'll tell you, if you if those deals come in, if you help bring in those deals that you've already started, I'll give you the commission. So it's really nice to the guy.
[00:31:20] Yeah, he's being totally.
[00:31:22] A month later, a lawsuit lands on his desk because in the state of California, if you cannot make somebody from a full time employee into quote unquote a contractor, the commissions. Hmm. He ends up in this lawsuit because he was trying to be super nice to the first, held this guy on for nine months thinking he was a nice guy. And then he like offers in the commissions and now he's getting sued. This is what he went through. And, you know, he ended up, they had to say, settled out of court, but it really taught him a lesson. Oh, my goodness. And you're a small business like you. You either somebody is working or they're not like it doesn't matter how nice they're and some of them people seem nice and they're not really nice after you let them go. And like in this case, you have to just cut the losses, let them go, tell them why they're being let go. Like you. These were the criteria you didn't do, to be totally honest. Let them go. You don't have to be mean, but you don't have to be apologetic like this is the life we're business. We need to survive. We need people who can deliver.
[00:32:26] You know, it's even worse when a family members are involved. So many kids might go under because of that.
[00:32:33] This is why I tell another piece of my advice is don't hire family members. Just don't do it like you want. People you can fire, like that's who you need. You need people you can get rid of, because if they're not performing, you're a small business. And to do or die.
[00:32:47] See, we've had some really high end tax people on here and they're saying, yeah, hire your family, you can do this, that they only see the tax part of it, not the other
[00:32:57] From a tax perspective. That's right. Let's face it for the rest, you know, from a management perspective, not so good.
[00:33:06] So we've got to take a brief sponsored break. When we come back, we'll ask I like to hear a little bit about Steve's Hollywood exploits. He's been you'll be amazed when you hear some of this stuff and what a typical day looks like for him. But I'm afraid to ask that says he's a different place every day, just about so. So, folks, about town. And about 23 years ago, I kind of turned the Internet marketing guru world on its head. And the guys at my level were charging 50 or 100 grand up front to help really small businesses. And I knew a lot of these guys. You give them 50 grand, they'd be hiding out in Mexico. They'd never help you at all. So I said, you know what? That's too risky for the small business and not not really fair. So I just started charging an entry fee and then a percentage of profits that's capped at 50000. So for me to get my 50000, you had to net 200000 and plus you had to pay an entry fee, because if I just let them in for free, they'd be lined up from here to the sun. I don't know. But everybody loved this.
[00:34:11] And 7500 plus students later, it's still going strong. And it's very unique in that we have a retreat center, Virginia Beach, where you spend an immersion weekend actually living in the state. Here with me, we have our own TV studio. And you also get a scholarship to my school, which is the only licensed, dedicated Internet marketing school in the country. So people really love this program. And and they know I'm not going to disappear on them because I want my 50 grants. So it's been going a long time with no lawsuits, no refunds, nobody bitching and yelling at me. And, you know, because I come from a small town and we take care of our customers, your handshake meant something. I mean, maybe I'm part Chinese. I don't know. So check it out at greatInternetmarketingtraining.com and we'll help you out if we can.
[00:35:04] All right. Let's get back to the main event. We're here with the prolific captain. Half of and I was asking him, are you in the military? What is this captain stuff? You have a ship or something that you know, it's his gaming stuff. So you were a gamer, huh?
[00:35:20] Totally. I was a gamer and Captain Hoff was my gaming handle, still is, but it's also my nickname in Silicon Valley. That's what people call me.
[00:35:30] Yeah. So tell us about the Hollywood stuff. I've had my brief stints in Hollywood. A couple of things. One is I have a show in development called Scam Brigade because I'm somewhat of a consumer advocate in the seminar world. There's a lot of scammers. So I started going after him. The Brian Grayden Productions is in charge of it. He used to be MTV president, but they said Tom, we love the show, but don't quit your day job because they haven't sold it yet. That's one thing. And then, oh, here's something Steve and I don't want to brag. All right? I don't want you to get all jealous. All right. But I Tom Antion am up for a part in the remake of The Blob movie.
[00:36:11] Oh. Oh, my God. All right.
[00:36:13] I am jealous. Oh, autographs. No autographs. Yeah. I did a fundraiser for a ladies organization and saved them from going bankrupt. And her husband is is a producer of the original Blobbed movie. And she said, Tom, I'll do whatever you want. You saved our organization. Thanks so much. And I said I said, I'll do anything. I will milk this for the rest of my life. If I'm anything to do with the Blob, I'll be the blob. I don't care. I'm sag after, so I guess I could be the blob. So. So that's coming up. And then this. This documentary they're doing about my life and my dad's life, so so that's my forte, but you got that to blow away like crazy. So tell me a little bit about your time in Hollywood.
[00:37:00] Well, you you have a lot of projects in development. That's pretty cool.
[00:37:04] Oh, everybody. So does every waiter and
[00:37:06] Say that that's Hollywood. No, I actually went to USC film school and and graduated with a Masters. Now this
[00:37:15] Is crazy. What engineer goes to film school and entrepreneurship? Most engineers are the last people you'd have as entrepreneur and most successful salespeople.
[00:37:27] Anyone I have to have to me. So I have the creative half when I what. Ever since from elementary school through high school, I made 50 movies like Commotions Friends. All these think, wow, I mean, I made over a hundred different games like board games, role playing games, computer games, you name it. So I was like had this creative side and the technical side. So my father was literally I'm not joking. A rocket scientist at MIT. So and then my mother and I'm not joking here was a starving artist. So I got the DNA from both. So here I am going.
[00:38:04] Call the yin yang right there.
[00:38:06] Yeah, yeah, yeah. I was going to engineering school and after engineering school, I was like, I got this technical stuff down. But my creative side, it's like been starving. So I applied and I got into the film school. So I went. The thing they don't tell you when you go to film schools, when you graduate, nobody's waiting to hire. Nobody cares that you went to film school, but only you care because you went there. So I didn't know what to do. So I thought, well, I have to take some action. You know, I ran up all these debts. This is crazy. I have to get a job. So I sent out one hundred and fifty letters to all the top Hollywood executives, producers and heads of production companies asking them for a job. And out of those one hundred and fifty, I got just three responses. The first one was Disney. The head of production at Disney brings me into the office and I like I got it made. I got Disney like I go into the office and I am talking to her and the interview is going great. And then she asked me a trick question. She asked me, what films do you like? And me being this naive kid who just got out of film school starts rattling off all these films I had seen in film school, these great classics and art films and experimental films. I'm just rattling them off. And her face dropped, just totally transformed because I didn't mention a single Disney movie. The interview was over. The second response I got was a phone call. And it was from the the producer of Star Wars Empire Strikes Back. And he calls me up out of the blue and he says, I really liked your letter, but I don't have a job for you. I just wanted to talk. So we talked about
[00:39:59] What relationship building at least
[00:40:02] Straight to the third one I got was from this guy called Chuck Free's. He had this big building at the time. It was right across from the Man Chinese theater in Hollywood. And he invites me in to get me a job. I go there, I ask him. I was like, Yeah, I want a job. He's like, Hoffman, what can you do? It's like I can write. I can write and direct because I don't know about that. HOFFMAN And then he gives me a job. But it's not writing and directing. It's reading scripts. You get paid almost nothing. And you read the script so that the actual television development executives don't have to do it. So I go into his company and I'm reading scripts like crazy and I'm like, wow, I did. I go to film school for three years to read bad scripts like not even good ones and write little synopsis of each one. No. So I ask him, I go back to him and say, Chuck, I can do more than this. And he's like, Hoffman, what do you want? You've been on the job two weeks and you're already bothering me. I go, yeah, because I can do more, so he gives me a job as a researcher and I go all out, I do an incredible job on researching these projects for him. And three weeks later, I'm back at his office.
[00:41:22] Chuck, you know, you saw the job? I did. Can you can you give me a job writing now? Hoffman, don't you ever give up? I'll see. You know, so I'm still a reader and I go back and it's only been like a couple of months on the job, I go back to pick up my scripts, the head of development, this woman. Looks at me when I come in the door, we've always had a very good relationship, but she is scowling like I see her scowling and she gets up and she points a finger right into my chest and says, you got me fire storms out of the room. That's like, what are you talking about? I go, I choux assistant comes and says, Steve, Chuck wants to talk to you. I go into his office and he goes, ofMan, you're the new head of development. Go for it. That's Hollywood. So it was it was like that movie Swimming with Sharks or Berten. Think if you've ever seen those classic movies, it was just like that. I lived it. I didn't know what I was doing. I didn't even I want to right now is in charge of development. And I didn't know what a development executive did. It was just the story goes on and on. But you get the idea.
[00:42:29] Oh, yeah, that's. But you were persistent.
[00:42:34] See, I was persistent. Yeah. I was confident that I could do more and see.
[00:42:41] Now, the one thing you said that I don't agree with, I like film school graduates because they have no work. I got one for three thousand bucks to create a video for me. That's made me thirteen million dollars. So I'm really happy about
[00:42:55] This for you. That's that's good. Oh, good for the film school because they got
[00:42:59] They got their resume item that they were looking for.
[00:43:02] Ok, ok, ok. Well I would rather thirteen million dollars on a resume and. Oh I
[00:43:07] Get it. I get it. So. So what's a typical day look like for I mean do you get up, do you have a morning routine like a lot of people. Do you eat healthy with. What's your story.
[00:43:17] Well yeah, I always eat healthy except when I don't. But what I do, you know, my main job is I travel around and I, I work with startups. I work with young promising entrepreneurs. I really go deep on their business. So I am with them and they, you know, whatever problems they have become my problems.
[00:43:40] How much is that being stifled? Because I know you like face to face. I do love. So how much has that been stifled over the past year and so.
[00:43:48] Well, you know, we've had to make do with them like we all have. And it's not the best. I can still get stuff done, but you don't develop that personal rapport that you do when you're in when you're with somebody in the trenches. And I love to travel, meet people from different cultures and do that. And I love to invest in startups. So I do all these things. And I'm also writers. I've written three books and really putting that knowledge to work. So I like my mission in life, if you really want to know it is to get all this information, all these amazing ideas and knowledge from other smart people like the entrepreneurs I work with, the technologists, you know, people like you. I'm on your show. We're we're exchanging ideas. I'm always meeting really interesting people. And I kind of get that knowledge and then I share it again. So that's what I do.
[00:44:36] Now, I know you're driving now, but were you flying before or do you always just drive around and see the world now?
[00:44:43] I'm driving because of covid.
[00:44:45] Ok, ok.
[00:44:46] Yeah. And also because I think driving across the United States like I've been doing is a really amazing experience. And I wish everybody would do that. Like I've been dreaming about it for a long time, but never did it. And it's so easy. Like to get an Airbnb wherever you go. It's just so comfortable. It's like your home. So I'll go stay a week in each of these cities that I've never been to meet the people. Some are large cities, some are small, really fascinating. But, you know, when I do business in Asia or Europe, which it's been a while since I've been there, it's always flying. Yeah. I don't like swimming really hard, but I wish more people from the left and right coasts would do this because, you know, there's just so a lot of people on the coast that have never been to the middle of the country just don't know. There's just different. The people are different. There's things that are different. And and and, of course, the of the people in the Middle East, you go to the coast and see, you know, so we could meld a little better.
[00:45:48] You what you see when you travel around the country is that everybody's like really nice wherever you go. There are nice, nice people everywhere. And the the and you. Yes, you should absolutely go because that's how we become one country. Right. By exactly. Feeling like we know each other. Like we are all in this together. Not separately.
[00:46:09] Yeah. So so anyway, tell them how they find all your stuff
[00:46:13] So you can find my book Surviving a Startup. You can get free videos. I actually have a free video for your audience. It's called the Ten Commandments of Venture Capital. And if they go to this URL, they can get it. Foundersspace.com/ten. So my site has all the stuff there.
[00:46:44] And if you have a business plan, you can submit it to us. If you want to check out my podcast, Mentors and Masters, which Tom will be on, you can you can go there, too.
[00:46:58] Ok, and now somehow through your site, I got to a place called Just Spaces. Is that part of your organization or collaboration or what?
[00:47:07] Oh, they're one of our partners. OK. Why would you say
[00:47:11] You have 50 partners around the world or whatever it is? Now, what does that mean exactly?
[00:47:16] So it means a variety of stuff. So we in some countries, we have set up our own founders based buildings where we have our incubators and startups come and they work out of our spaces. In other countries. We actually partner with local incubators and accelerators, different governments around the world, different corporations helping to train entrepreneurs and helping people innovate.
[00:47:38] Ok, I was just thinking, how come you don't have one in Virginia Beach, the biggest city in Virginia, the whole seven cities areas got, I don't know, five, six million people.
[00:47:49] Well, we may we may have one someday.
[00:47:53] Because I like the idea. I mean, I tell them about the what exactly the spaces are.
[00:47:58] There's different things. There's coworking spaces.
[00:48:00] Yeah, that's what I meant. Yeah.
[00:48:02] Yeah. That's basically space where you can come in and you're an entrepreneur. You want to work out of this, you don't want to work at home. You want to work in a more official space where you can have meetings and collaborate. You just rent it by sometimes you can rent it by that month, sometimes you can even rent it by the day.
[00:48:21] Yeah, that was the cool concept, I thought, because usually, you know, those situations are so much a month whether you use it or not.
[00:48:28] Yeah, yeah. And you can rent the desk, you can rent the whole office. Very flexible. So it's really perfect for entrepreneurs.
[00:48:34] Ok, so if they got this stuff though but is there some organization that people join to be part of founders' space or is training you and what,
[00:48:44] What's it go. Oh yeah. Oh yeah. This is how it works. So any entrepreneurs out there, there's several ways you can engage with us so you can come to our site and literally just sign up and you'll get our newsletter and all our educational materials. Like that's the simplest way. No to you can submit your business plan and you could submit it to our venture group, which is a whole network of investors that look at it through our site. Or you can apply to our startup accelerator. And that is where we you actually come into one of our spaces. Or if we aren't open because of covid, you can do it online and we actually train you, we mentor you and we make introductions to investors. So that's willing to help early stage startups that are just getting going, figure things out and get to the next level.
[00:49:35] Amazing, amazing organization. I'm glad you got introduced to it. And you're an amazing guy, that's for sure. Like I said, I'm not easily impressed. You got all bases covered except for the Little League thing, because like I said, if you were twenty six and still playing little.
[00:49:51] Yeah, yeah, yeah. It didn't happen overnight. No.
[00:49:55] All right. So thanks so much, everybody. So Foundersspace.com/ten for your free video, but just foundersspace.com will lead you to all the great stuff that Steve has. Captain Hoff is who we're talking about today. So we'll catch everybody on the next episode. See you later.
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