Seven reasons why you should coach for next year’s STEP-UP Achieve High Tech Innovation Day

Caitlin Headshot newestThis past Saturday I had the delight of volunteering as a team coach at STEP-UP Achieve’s High Tech Innovation Day, held at CoCo’s downtown office in Minneapolis. High Tech Innovation Day is a one-day experience for high schoolers interested in careers in technology where they hear from a career panel as well as a speaking coach before inventing and presenting pitches of their own.

If you’re a current CoCo member I highly suggest that you consider coaching a team next year. Here are seven reasons why:

1) Support the work of STEP-UP.
STEP-UP is a job readiness and placement program that has placed thousands of teens and young adults in paid internships in the Twin Cities over the past 5 years. It’s an amazing program. Aside from hiring a STEP-UP intern at your workplace, coaching is a great way to get involved as a local professional.

2) It’s ridiculously fun.
Our team was brainstorming electronic shock collars for spending, robots that sit on you and dollars that melt. There’s a lot of laughter in the room.

3) Free lunch.
We’re not talking PB&J, we’re talking Pizza Lucé.

4) Low time commitment.
Coaching is just a one-day gig. Maximum fun with minimum long-term obligation.

5) You don’t need to be a tech specialist.
As a coach your main role is to be a friendly adult facilitator, helping to guide your team as they invent hypothetical solutions for specific design challenges. This isn’t about hacking or soldering, it’s about helping the team formulate and prepare to share an idea from scratch. And handing out Post-It notes.

6) Get Inspired.
The energy and enthusiasm in the room is contagious. Speaking of business opportunities: If you could bottle up and sell the mental effects of volunteering with this group, you would be set for life. (Feel free to steal that idea!)

7) And of course, the incredible young people.
Each of these youths has a story to tell. I met a nineteen year old girl who had just immigrated from Yemen in January. Another student I met was one of 22 siblings. You’ll meet young people interested bioengineering, law, medical technology, game creation and who knows what else.

These teens are ambitious, talented, passionate, smart and hilarious and if you’re lucky enough to get the chance to spend some time with them, you won’t regret it.

Caitlin Rogers is a CoCo member and co-founder of Next Day Animations and Simplicity Metrics.

Posted in Collaboration, Education, Entrepreneurs, Event recap, Google for Entrepreneurs, Innovation, Minneapolis, Startups, Technology

DreamCast Episode 12: Dan Phan

Dan Phan, Founder of The Late Majority

Dan Phan, Founder of The Late Majority

If you were the only person in your department to survive a layoff, what would you do next? Most of us would thank our maker and cling desperately to the paycheck.

Unless you were Dan Phan, who after surviving “a round” promptly gave his notice.

Dan has since launched a training and consulting business that specializes in a huge but much neglected market – late adopters to technology. He has also plunged right into membership at CoCo. I first met Dan when he attended Jump! Day and am proud to call him a Jump! success story (although he came to class with the idea pretty much formed in his head). Give this podcast a listen and you’ll hear the voice of a motivated entrepreneur who learned a lot on the job and is now taking that expertise to market.

Show notes: selected links from the episode:

Twitter:  DanielPhanMpls

Website: www.thelatemajority.com


Links mentioned:

Jump! School

Diffusion of Innovations

Monkey Island Inc

Wix


Interview Transcript

Don Ball [DB:]: Welcome to another CoCo Dreamcast. Today we have a special guest – a Jumper, someone who’s jumped. And whether there’s people holding a net below is yet to be seen, but Dan–

Dan Phan [DP:]: Um-hm.

DB: Dan Phan. I was really happy to hear that you had split where you were workin’ at Target Corp, just because you had attended Jump! Class and you had a really cool idea.

DP: Yeah.

DB: And then it seemed like no time had pass[ed] that – other than Garrio said – that you were on the outs. And I–

DP: Yeah.

DB: . . . was like, “Wow.”

DP: Yeah.

That’s fast. What I was hopin’ is – could you tell us your jump story?

DP: The timing was just right. So [I’d] been at Target for about 10 years, and over the past three months I’ve been doing digital consulting and education on the side with a lot of the vendors that I worked with at Target. Target’s been in the news lately for some not-so-fun things, like layoffs, and we had some big re-orgs. And so I was kinda rethinking: Do I want to stay at Target? I still love Target, it’s – but I think the timing was right.

I went to Europe a few weeks prior to the class just to kinda decompress, be off the grid. But not totally off the grid, ‘cause I think that’d kill me if I unplugged everything. So it was nice being seven hours ahead of everyone ‘cause I wasn’t checking social media all the time. But just to make sure – Could I do this financially? Because, you know, I haven’t saved up a lot of money for that, and this is not an industry where you get investors or anything like that. So, [I] figured out, yeah, I could do this, not become homeless. And then I attended your class; and then all the messages just came through; the timing was right; and I think it was the week after I put in my notice and said, “Why not?”

DB: Then there’s a weird thing about the timing, ‘cause I remember you were in the class and all the talk that week was of the Target layoffs. And you were like, “Yeah, I’m the only one left standing.”

DP: Yeah, yeah.

DB: So you hadn’t even been back to the office yet to see what was, like, I think–

DP: No.

DB: . . . you had said that you were–

DP: It was the day after the layoffs, yeah . . .

DB: Yeah.

DP: . . . that we had the Jump Class.

DB: You were the only one of how many people in your department?

DP: Well . . . it’s seven, the way that we were orged out is a little different; it wasn’t everyone in my whole pyramid or division, but everyone on my immediate team, yeah.

DB: That must have been crazy.

DP: Um-hm.

DB: So you’d kind of made up your mind already, though? Or at least had a real strong leaning, huh?

DP: It was a strong leaning. I wouldn’t say I was 100 percent there, yeah.

What’s the idea that you had cooked out in your head at that point [after leaving your position at Target]?

DP: Well, so what I did at Target for the past years was lead digital education and consulting. That is something I became really passionate about, because I love being a lifelong learner, and always learning new things. And in this industry you could read everything and be really up to date on some new tool, or some new process, and then Twitter might announce something, or Google might announce something, and then you have to go back to the drawing board and reread it again. I wanted to continue that work, and I would say that’s what I wanted to do. And there wasn’t a place for me at Target at the time to do that, so I did it on my own.

DB: What are you calling the business?

DP: It’s called The Late Majority.

DB: The Late Majority.

DP: Yes.

DB: It has an interesting idea behind it.

DP: It wasn’t really well thought out. When someone asked if I had a company, and I said, “Yes, let me send you all that information,” so I quickly made a website and I had to figure out what to call it. But, in the diffusion curve of innovation, we start with the innovators; then we go through the early adopters; then the early and late majority; then, finally, the laggards. What I noticed is that the industrial giants, like a Proctor & Gamble, a General Mills, or Target – they can really buy their way up to that innovation curve, to the front of that. So they can be the disrupters – they spend a lot of money on fancy consultants. I noticed a lot of my friends who were at small to midsize businesses, or owning a small business themselves – they couldn’t pay, you know, $4,000 to go to a fancy conference, or hire a team of consultants. So I didn’t really think that was fair that just because you’re a big company you can buy your way up to the front of that innovation curve. I wanted to create access to everyone to really understand how the digital world works, how business is changing, and how we can thrive in it together.

DB: Do you think that’s a function that – is it just money? Or is it also, like, if you’re running a small business, do you have the time to be–

DP: Yeah, it is – I would say, number one, it’s money; two, could be time; three, I also notice it’s a sense of belonging, or intimidation. If you pull up some similar companies, their websites, there’s a lot of pictures of hipsters with their macbook pros coding – a lot of my colleagues in the retail industry, they don’t really associate themselves with that. So it might be even intimidating to take a class like that.

DB: Yeah.

DP: I wanted to bring these people out of the late majority, who don’t necessarily need to be the disrupters of the industry; they just want to move forward.

DB: That’s really cool, and it’s really…it’s kind of empowering. You’re–

DP: Right.

DB: . . . already telling people, like, “This is for you, too.”

DP: Yeah.

DB: That’s really cool. Were those a lot of the people – the people you were training in Target – were they also people who needed to kind of catch up?

DP: Yeah. You think of Target as a really innovative company, and we certainly are, but business has changed a lot in the past 10 years. There needed to be that understanding, and I needed to bring people out of their comfort zone to change. ‘Cause change is very, very personal.

DB: Um-hm.

DP: And really understand why. ‘Cause a lot of new companies have a great digital strategy, or a great omni channel strategy. But if they don’t have the culture to support it, that culture’s gonna eat that strategy alive.

DB: Mmm, um-hm.

So when you figured out that you could do this, I mean…‘cause you say you didn’t have a lot of savings. Do you line up early work? What did you do?

DP: I do have some existing clients that will basically keep me from not going homeless.

DB: Gotcha.

DP: So I’ve been in full sales – sales rep mode right now. But one thing I learned working in the business was different than I think you and I were trained growing up, on how to manage finances. I noticed that a lot of us had to – or the – the way that we are trained to manage money was set a budget, and then at the end of the month you look at how did you compare. A lot of us would overspend our budget and not track it along the way, and then have to readjust, and we kinda had the “Oh, crap” moment. Well, being in merchandizing at Target, I learned how to look six months, a year, 18 months in advance; and what levers I could pull, doing a lot of
what-if scenarios. That’s what I went to Berlin for; is to make my crazy Excel grid of looking out in the future to think, Okay, what would I have to do to not be homeless? What would I have to do to maintain my current lifestyle? What would I have to do to grow? Coming out of that, and then attending the Jump Class where we did that activity of, you know, 10 times or 100 times, I thought, Wow, I could really, really do this. And it’s not as scary, then, when you really lay it out.

DB: Yeah, you kinda demystified it somehow.

With the way you have it set up; will it just be you doing training? Or do you end up bringing people into it?

DP: No – that’s a good question. I would love to have all the money to hire, ‘cause I would love to provide new opportunities for others. But right now I just have contract speakers. So when I have a client or a workshop that I’ll need support on, I’ll contract them out.

DB: Yeah.

DP: So I have a mighty team of four right now that will help us on different topics.

DB: Okay. But that could scale, because–

DP: Yeah.

DB: . . . then it’s not you having to be the presenter, or–

DP: Absolutely.

DB: . . . the instructor at the time.

DP: Um-hm.

DB: That’s awesome.

DP: Yeah.

DB: And is the money decent in that field?

DP: I think it is. Some of the feedback that I got – because, you know, I wanted to open this up to everyone and not charge an arm and a leg – but then I have some of my old colleagues saying, “You’re way too cheap,” or “You should charge more.” I really have to pay attention…I don’t want to say what they’re willing to pay for; but how much value would this provide to them, as an organization? Then we can work something out. I don’t ever want to deny someone this opportunity because they can’t afford it.

DB: That’s interesting. So…something you’ll be figuring out over the next weeks and months–

DP: Right.

DB: . . . how elastic that pricing can be.

DP: Yeah, absolutely.

DB: That’s awesome. So you – you came back from the class . . .

DP: Um-hm.

DB: . . . it sounds like you – they were trying to figure out where to put you.

DP: Yeah.

DB: Like, what do you do? Then you come back and there’s nobody. Their boss is gone, even?

DP: Yeah. So I got put on another team. I was meeting with my new leader – which, I’ve worked with her before – and it was really great. We were just kind of chatting and she said, “What would you like to work on?” At that moment, I said, “I think I’m gonna put in my notice.” [Laughs]

DB: [Laughs]

DP: And she didn’t really believe me. It was a Friday I believe….I sat there – Well, think about this over the weekend, we’ll come back and revisit this. And they knew it was time, and everyone’s very happy for me, too. They’re sad, but they can’t be sad for me. I was just blown away by the level of support, too–

DB: Oh, that’s cool.

DP: . . . by my team there.

DB: You had some good colleagues it sounds like.

DP: Um-hm, yeah.

DB: How would you describe the – one thing I’ve always thought was interesting is, you know, Target – while you might say that they’re an innovative company…and certainly in some of the things where they do need to be innovative, you know, in the brands that they associate themselves with, and the lines and things like that… But to run an empire like that, you have to have people who are like – you’re not hiring ‘em for their craziness; you’re hiring ‘em because they can rock spreadsheets–

DP: Right.

DB: …and figure out risk ratios and all sorts of things like that, right?

DP: Yeah.

Overall, what was the culture of that organization [Target]?

DP: I think the culture is very, very good. I still love the Target culture because it is – you have a lot of general athletes who can manage a spreadsheet, or manage risk and – or manage processes. Because when you’re a big machine, you do have to have the people to make it happen, to execute.

DB: Absolutely.

DP: And especially at the store level, too, where most of our employees are. I think that’s part of – that was my job at Target for the past two years; is bringing the culture to a point where we didn’t really understand what consumer changes were happening to that – okay, now I get it, now. Or we saw that we made 40 percent margin on every single thing that we did, now, in this new ecosystem that’s affected by the digital world – What does that mean? Am I okay to put money in this area where it might be a little bit riskier (knowing that we’re gonna get by on our customer lock-on in a different way)?

DB: So sounds like they had to be careful not to play it too conservatively because–

DP: Right.

DB: . . . it’s–

DP: Right. And the toughest thing for a big Fortune 500 company that’s public, too, is shareholders.

DB: Yeah.

DP: How do you educate them? How do we transform while we also perform, too?

DB: Yeah. I don’t envy them that–

DP: Yeah. It was time.

DB: . . . to be in that spot – it’s pretty tough.

DP: It was tough.

DB: Do you imagine that they’ll come back?

DP: Oh, absolutely. Yeah. And I would go back to Target in a heartbeat, too. Yeah.

DB: Oh, that’s–

DP: I didn’t pull my stock out yet. Let’s just say that, yeah.

DB: That’s a big endorsement. [Laughs]

DP: Yeah.

When you were startin’ to tell people that you were leaving, besides your colleagues, did you get anybody – you know, relatives – who [were] like, “I don’t know if that’s such a good idea”?

DP: No – and that was the really surprising thing: the level of support and energy , almost more confidence than I had in myself, which was – people were bigger cheerleaders than I was on myself. I thought that was really – I was just extremely grateful. And, you know, people coming out of the woodworks on LinkedIn to say congratulations. Now I have a lot to prove.

DB: Yeah. [Laughs]

DP: Which – which is good, yeah.

Going into this, what do you feel good about?

DP: I feel good about where I’m at in my career. I’m really thankful that I had those years of experience at Target; from running a business to running training programs across the organization, and building up my network there, too. So I feel good about having the connections, the business knowledge, and then also the passion for learning – that’s one thing that is, I would say, second to none at Target: everyone is a lifelong learner there, and always challenging themselves. And…I would say just knowing how to learn.

DB: Um-hm.

DP: And constantly being open to challenge.

DB: Is Target a potential client for you?

DP: They could be.

DB: They would hire out for this kind of thing, perhaps?

DP: Um-hm, they would.

DB: Okay. Now that’s not a bad strategy.

DP: Yeah.

DB: I remember when I first quit my corporate job – my first and really only corporate job – I ended up doing a lot of work back into the company I had left.

DP: Right. Which is sometimes–

DB: It’s not a bad way–

DP: Um-hm.

DB: . . . if you suspect that’s a possibility, you know, no guarantees, but–

DP: Yeah.

DB: . . . at least it increases your likelihood that you’re gonna have a soft landing.

DP: Absolutely.

What do you think is [going to be] challenging in the next few months?

DP: I think it will be getting back into that sales rep mode. I’ve been used to having projects handed to me, or at least direction given to me. Now, I have to pick up the phone, or I have to e-mail a lot of people and constantly tell them what I do. And sometimes I can’t explain it simply, so that makes me revisit – Do I really understand what I’m doing well enough? I thought it was gonna be the motivation part of getting up every morning. I mean, I’m only on day three right now and I’m still waking up at the same time, so hopefully that’ll continue.

DB: [Laughs]

DP: But I’m really glad I have resources at CoCo, too; actually having a place, so I’m not sitting at home every single day in a lonely environment. ‘Cause I was always one of those people who had to study in a crazy environment. I like doing solo work, but I need background noise around.

DB: So you still have a work routine?

DP: Yes.

DB: And people to ignore.

DP: Yeah, um-hm.

DB: You know what I mean?

DP: Right.

DB: It’s why coffee shops work for some people.

DP: Yeah, absolutely.

DB: ‘Cause…you’re not goin’ to interact with anybody, but the fact that they’re there and being noisy helps you kind of focus in.

DP: Yeah.

How do you approach sales? ‘Cause, for some people, that’s a dirty word.

DP: Yeah. People are generally interested, and I wouldn’t approach someone if I didn’t think it was the right fit. There’s people that I’ve said, “I don’t think this is right for your business right now, so I’m not gonna take everything just because it’s a dollar in my checkbook.” It’s reaching out to people on LinkedIn, and Twitter, and, first, just telling them what I’m doing.

DB: Yeah.

DP: And seeing what their response is. And not really selling them on anything. Then also just asking them some questions to see how can I help.

DB: What’s the shortest description you have of your shortest pitch?

DP: Oh, gosh. I have different ones for different people and different industries.

DB: Sure.

DP: I would say it is focus on transformative change within organizations and individuals to really understand the new consumer mindset.

DB: Um-hm. We have a robot makin’ an appearance here – [Laughs] the Garrio-bot. Have you been comfortable with sales conversations? Does that go fairly well for you?

DP: Yeah, I have because I never – well, one thing is I don’t have a set number that I’m gonna go in with at all. And, number two, I – all of my meetings have just been asking questions: How can I help? Is there opportunity there? – Let me give you some advice. Maybe I can help you. Or maybe someone else I know can help you. Because, you know, even if it’s not a sale at the end of the day, they might know someone in the future that will help me out.

DB: Yeah, you know, one thing I like about your idea is…it’s almost like you have both a mission and an audience built into your – just the name alone.

DP: Yeah.

DB: You know? You’re like, “We’re not serving these two other groups, or–

DP: Yeah.

DB: . . . or this certain group at this end”; it’s this one. And built into The Late Majority is the idea that there’s a need to catch up; or to know more than people in that group would typically acquire. So it’s almost obvious what the game is.

DP: Right.

DB: It’s like “We’re gonna have to catch up.”

DP: Yeah.

DB: Or learn what you’ve been missing out on.

DP: Yeah. That’s why I opened up classes – I’m hosting some at CoCo, too – on not just focus[ing] on corporate clients; I mean, that’s where most of my revenue will come from. The open classes are open to individuals who normally couldn’t afford a big training program, as well. So that’s not gonna be my moneymaker; that’s just supporting the mission of expanding this knowledge for everyone.

DB: The open secret, which you might have figured out here, is that while not every CoCo member would make an ideal client for you there’s a lot of people here who are one step away from somebody who could be.

DP: Right.

DB: So you could find some really good referrals out of this.

DP: Absolutely.

DB: The guys at Monkey Island have done this really well; they give away a lot of their information on like search engine marketing; they even buy the pizza.

DP: Okay.

DB: I’m aware of a couple of referrals, at least, that they’ve gotten out of that. So it’s like, man, not bad.

DP: Yeah.

DB: You give it away and then, you know, it helps that it comes back to you.

DP: Um-hm.

What are some things that you don’t know about that you’re gonna need to figure out? Is there anything that scares you?

DB: Taxes?

DP: Taxes, for sure. I’ve met with my friend who’s a tax lawyer, and I think I probably get one more free phone call with her until she starts charging – which is fine, that’s what she does. I would say taxes, and then I would think how to build an organization; like my own organization, but, you know, not be a manager.

DB: Yeah.

DP: That’s something that we talked about in the last session, too, where you gave examples of people who realize they grew too fast and they weren’t doing what they set out to do in the first place. So how do I balance that? That’ll be my next learning.

DB: So…you love the craft that you do, obviously.

DP: Um-hm

DB: So the ideal is that you don’t suddenly wake up and go, “Shoot. All I’m doing is managing other people.”

DP: Right, right.

DB: Boy, I remember havin’ a – one of my businesses where I had a realization where it was like, “I only have five people and I have politics”– [Laughs] “…this just doesn’t make sense.”

DP: Yeah.

DB: I was not a great manager, so that could have been entirely my fault.

DP: Um-hm.

DB: Since then, I’ve come to realize that managing people’s not what I should be doing in life.

DP: Okay, okay.

DB: You might be much better at this. It’s good to know one’s strengths and weaknesses.

DP: Yeah.

You got your website set up and everything?

DP: It’s all set up, yeah (Inaudible) been good, yeah.

DB: Easy enough for you, I suppose.

DP: I actually – so I do know HTML, but when I was doing it quickly, I went to WIX, because I had, like, two hours to do this before I sent it over to a prospective client, and I just actually stuck with it ‘cause it was a lot easier.

DB: That’s great.

DP: [Laughs] So I stuck with that. I have business cards printed out. I’m a sole proprietorship, so that’s filed with the Federal government in the State of Minnesota business, all that; business checking account, so all that – I’m ready.

DB: You’re pretty much good to go.

DP: Um-hm – um-hm.

DB: That’s great – that’s great.

DP: Yeah.

Just in case anybody hears this and might know somebody, or might be the somebody: How will I know I might want to call you?

DP: I would say if your company is going through some sort of change right now, mostly, or if it’s strategy or a culture change that’s needed, give me a call and we’ll talk about what that means.

DB: Okay…You might help them conduct sessions in which they will deal with some of these changes?

DP: Absolutely. We can bring their whole team in together, or it could be a train the trainer; bring a few leaders in, and how do you learn from your leaders, as well. Or just sending a few people to some open workshops so they can spread that knowledge.

What website can we find you at?

DP: It is thelatemajority.com.

DB: Alright, very good. Twitter handle?

DP: I have been using my personal Twitter handle, ‘cause that’s where I have my most
followers – I have 14,000 plus, so I thought that I have more clout on that. My Twitter handle is DanielPhanMPLS.

DB: Alright, great. Wow, 14,000. Wow, you–

DP: Well, I forced a lot of people at Target, through an activity, to follow me [Laughs] when they were getting on Twitter, so that’s good. I’ve given some big speeches, too, at other companies.

DB: Oh, that’s awesome.

DP: Yeah, um-hm.

DB: Good for you. Well, great. Thanks so much for joining us today.

DP: Yeah, thank you for having me.

DB: I mean, congratulations–

DP: Thank you.

DB: . . . on making a big move, and I wish you good luck. I will, but I feel like you kind of already have your own energy.

DB: Thanks for listening to another CoCo Dreamcast. It was particularly cool to hear Dan’s story just because he came through Jump School; we hadn’t met him before that, and it seemed to be like the last straw that got him out of, you know, out of what he was doing, and jumping into his own thing. If any of you out there listening to this are thinking to yourself, Yeah, someday I’d like to jump and do my own thing; do something maybe a little more bold than what I’ve been doing, I really encourage you to give Jump School some consideration. You can learn more at cocomsp.com/jump.

The class we have right now – each month we’re holding what we call Jump Day, and it’s just a day-long class where we move you through three concepts; we teach the concepts, then apply them through some exercises; and there’s also some kind of group feedback you can get from other class members.

We talk about Alignment; finding an endeavor that really is aligned with who you are and what your values and your motivations are. We talk about Audacity; trying to think about how you can play big as opposed to playing small. And then, finally, Action; so, instead of waiting for something – you know, for the stars themselves to align – that you actually start making moves right now; and there’s a whole bunch of things you can do to start taking action in life. So that’s what we teach at each class, and the feedback we’ve been getting has been really good.

Some people say it’s just great to have a day to focus on yourself and your goals, and not what you’re doing every single day to make a living. So, [I] encourage you to check that out, again: cocomsp.com/jump.

And in case you’re looking for more podcasts, we’ve been interviewing some really cool CoCo members, and even a couple people who are not members. You can find more podcasts at cocomsp.com/dreamcast. Thanks for giving us a listen. Really appreciate it and look forward to hearing from you if you have any feedback for us.


Recommended Book: Screw Business As Usual by Richard Branson

Recommended Book: Users, Not Customers: Who Really Determines the Success of Your Business by Aaron Shapiro


About the CoCo DreamCast 

Our goal for the CoCo DreamCast is pretty straightforward: we want to talk to CoCo members, find out what makes them tick and learn how they’re living out their dreams. Look for another episode soon!

Posted in CoCo DreamCast, Innovation, Jump! school

DreamCast Episode 11: Bradley Laborman

Bradley Laborman, Owner/Operator of Bradman Media Unlimited

Bradley Laborman, Owner/Operator of Bradman Media Unlimited

Bradley Laborman, aka Bradman, is certified. Not certifiable, but certified, on Twitter. (He’s also verified on Facebook.)

What’s that? Never heard of him?

Well, Bradley bills himself as an “E-list celebrity and comedian” and he’s been on a journey that has taken him from public access TV in his home state of Iowa, to early YouTube shows in NYC and now to Minneapolis, where he shoots “It’s All About the Crypto” from the floor of CoCo Minneapolis, often pulling other members in as guest stars.

Bradley’s a one-man whirlwind of curiosity, enthusiasm and hustle, which makes him impossible not to like.

So, if you’re still wondering, “who the heck is this Bradman?” then I encourage you to give this week’s DreamCast a listen!

Show notes: selected links from the episode:


LinkedIn: Bradley Laborman

Twitter: @BradmanTV

Instagram: @BradmanTV

Youtube: BradmanTV

Business: www.whotheheckisbradman.com


Links and people mentioned:

Cryptocurrency

Bitcoin Tipping Site – Cryptiv.com

Dogecoin

iJustine

Youtube Partnership Program

BRADMAN TV presents “I Made a Vlog”

I Dump for You

Mikky

It’s All About The Crypto

Joe Henderson

Jay Rajaratnam

Mat Cybula

Adrianne Prettyman

Kathy Choh

Eric Lopez

Aneela Kumar

Foursquare Day 2015

Minnesota Swarm


Interview Transcript

Don Ball [D]: Welcome to another CoCo Dreamcast. This is a wham bam episode; we have less than a half hour. Time is of the essence because we have somebody – we have virtual currency trader, Brad Laborman, here, present. Brad, I’m gonna ask a question that I think you’ve asked before:

Who the heck is Brad Man TV?

Brad Laborman [B]: Yep. Who the heck is Brad Man? You know, here I am. I started as a public access star in a small town in Iowa, and went off to New York to do a TV show at one point, and just started doing all sorts of different things; got my hands involved in all sorts of social media along the way, and now I’m here in Minneapolis to do event planning and social media and teach people about Bitcoins and cryptocurrency, too.

How do these things [event planning, social media, teaching people about Bitcoins and cryptocurrency] tie together?

Can you explain?

B: They don’t. They–

D: [Laughs]

B: It’s just that I–

D: It’s just that you like them.

B: These are the things I want to do. I told myself a long time ago: I want to do what I want to do, and I want to have fun doing what I want to do. So as long as I’m having fun doing what I want to do, that’s all that matters to me.

D: And it doesn’t have to make sense to somebody, right?

B: It doesn’t have to make sense at all.

D: Do you have different audiences for all these different things?

B: I do, I do. The nice thing, the interesting thing, especially when I was in New York – I’d go to events and I’d have social media events, gatherings. I’d tell some of my friends that are working with me on my television show – I’d be like, “Hey, you should come with me to this social media event.” And it was nice, because people started to mix together, intermingle. I had one situation where one of my friends met somebody who met somebody, and then he ended up getting to do the app for Jimmy Fallon when he had the Late Night show – before he went to Tonight Show. He had like an alarm clock wake-up app, and my friend got to design the app because he met somebody who met somebody because we all started to intermingle between the media people and the social media people.

D: Cool. And then you add in the cryptocurrency – is that a whole other world?

B: The whole cryptocurrency thing sort of started for me in full around October; November I really started getting involved with it. It sort of works in great because of the fact that you can send money over Twitter [e.g.] you can tip people when they’re doing a good job. You can even send it over Slack now. I think you can send it over Yammer – there’s different ways you can send it to people. And it works out good, ‘cause when you’ve got somebody working on a project, you’ve got a tech person working on a project – a developer or somebody – and you can tip them for their work on GitHub.

C: What do you tip ‘em in?

B: Bitcoin.

D: Bitcoin?

B: Yeah, you can send –

D: Not Dogecoin?

B No Dogecoin for that.

D: Okay.

B: I have Dogecoin, I can send out Dogecoin. Believe me – I’ve got Bitcoin, I’ve got Dogecoin, and I’ve got Vericoin. Those are the three I’ve been working with right now.

D: Are there more?

B: There are more. There are a lot more. Numerous, numerous, numerous – a lot more.

D: We should point out – so you’ve got your phone here.

B: Yeah, I’ve got my phone.

D: And you’re not being rude, but you have a transaction you need to take care of today.

B: Right, right.

D: And is that kind of how it goes down that, all of a sudden, it’s like, you know, 2:00, and you’re like you need to make some shit happen?

B: Oh, yeah, yeah, that’s exactly. That’s just like–

D: So what’s the scenario today?

B: I had a gentleman who wanted to buy some Bitcoin from me. I have another, but he wanted to buy a lot of Bitcoin from me. And because of that, I have to get two different codes. But I have to verify that both the codes work, ‘cause he’s buying ‘em from me and I’m gonna–

D: Um-hm.

B: . . . and sort of get into PayPal. The problem is: PayPal will only let you verify one code a day. So I had to have one of my interns – who’s working with me in, actually, Connecticut – verify the other code; verify the other code to make sure it was working.

D: Ah, so it gets a little complicated.

B: It does get a little complicated at times: I want to release the money; I want to make sure it’s fair to them. I don’t need to redeem the codes right away. I just need to make sure they’re valid so that I can, in fact, give him the coin so he’s not sitting around waiting for it.

D: So, let me ask you this – you’ve got, like, some 25,000 followers on Twitter?

B: Yes.

Where did those people [25,000 Twitter followers] come from?

Which of these three worlds you’ve described?

B: They came from my social media world. Early on, when social – when Twitter started, and all that stuff started, I was an early adaptor to a lot of that stuff, thanks to my friend, Justine Azrek, who later became iJustine, I guess.

D: Um-hm, um-hm.

B: And, early on, I started web streaming my show. I also started doing this thing where one of the girls, that was my cohost at the time of (Inaudible), said, There’s this thing called YouTube and you can put videos on there. So we contacted YouTube, and they said, We have this thing we’re trying out called The Partner Program, where we will pay you, in advertising money, to put videos up on – if you have regular content – on the thing; we’re gonna try it out and see how it goes. It went really well because now the Partner Program is a big thing. But, in the early days, it was just a simple thing; they gave you advertising money and they let you put up our (?) videos. That was – because, back then, you only do 10-minute videos – that was the, uh–

D: So you could do a whole show, basically.

B: Yeah, you could do a whole show. I’d say, I’m gonna put a whole one-hour public access show on every week. So we started doing that. We also started podcasting it on iTunes, and then people started saying, There’s this Twitter thing now, would you like a Twitter account? We’re beta testing this, we’re beta testing that. And, as things started to come in, I would beta test ‘em; some things would stick, some things would go away. Currently, one that went away… PWN; it was P-W-N. And it would – I think it was like a URL…

D: Well, safe to say it’s in the dustbin of digital–

B: It’s – it’s gone.

D: Yeah, it’s gone.

B: It makes me sad.

D: [Laughs]

B: It makes me sad. ‘Cause I watched it on video where I’m seeing about all this social media, and half the stuff I’m seeing on it doesn’t exist anymore.

D: But you would sing about it?

B: Yeah, I do parody videos on my YouTube channel – something like that. But I did one where I was like “I’m Downloadable”, and it was to the tune of “I am Beautiful”–

D: [Laughs]

B: . . . by Christine Aguilar. Please feel free to go look up all my videos – I apologize for them.

D: We’re gonna listen to that one.

B: Okay.

D: Yeah [Laughs]

B: I want to say, feel free to look up any of my YouTube videos on the Bradman TV Site; Bradman TV on YouTube. And check out my old channel, I Dump for You, which was the channel that I actually went to New York to do the television show about – where I was working with some YouTubers, and I said I’m gonna make a channel where there’s no video; it’s just all audio. And they said, That’ll never fly – everyone wants video. So I made this channel where I would call people up and I would break up with them–

D: [Laughs]

B: . . . for other people. And [it] blew up, it went great. Got some time on the Today Show; got to do some Doctor Phil segments out of it; got to do some Fox News; CNN segments out of it; Rachel Ray had me on once; Wendy Williams had me on. It was a good time. It was a – I did an Australian thing. It was interesting, and because everybody loves the breakup stuff.

D: Did it involve glitter?

B: What?

D: Did it involve glitter bomb?

B: No, no, no, no.

D: It was pre-glitter bomb, then.

B: Yeah.

D: Okay, okay

Since you’ve been here – and you haven’t been here very long at CoCo – but you, kind of – boom, you showed up, and you were a presence.

B: Oh, well, I try.

D: Yeah.

B: I try to do that wherever I go.

D: And you don’t try very hard, so don’t worry.

B: [Laughs] I want to say this about CoCo. When I first moved here, I had been in New York. I remember working on something, and I had to go back home for some family stuff. So by the time I got up here I was kind of beaten down, ‘cause I’d been back in small-town Iowa where they don’t really . . . promote me as much as they do everywhere else. So, I was looking around for different offices, and there were a couple other ones I had looked at. Then one of my friends said, “You should come to CoCo.” And I gotta be honest with you, from my New York experience – in dealing with the snobby hipster kids that would run the places that I would deal with there – I was like, I don’t want to do that. But…I went anyways.

And the tour was fantastic; and people seemed honestly interested; ‘cause I was talking about Bitcoins and things like that. I think Mikky gave the tour and she was just extremely interested in it. And people were asking me questions, and other people on the tour were asking me questions; and I thought: I can dig this. Maybe it’s not as bad as I thought.

I started coming here, and I then started thinking I want to do. I got contacted by the producers who had done my other show, and they said, “Well, do you have any other ideas for a show?” And I said, “I think I want to do like a reality show like The Office, where you follow me around and you see me try to push Bitcoin on people – and cryptocurrency.” And so they said – the producer said, “Okay, we’re gonna start pushin’ that and start finding somebody to pick up that show; that sounds like a good idea.” But, in the past, it takes two years for them to do anything, so I said, “You know what? You do that. I’m just gonna start the show now and then when you guys get around to your end, I’ll already have a bunch of episodes that we can reshoot.” So, I started doing the YouTube show and involved some people from Downtown CoCo.

D: So the name of the show is . . .

B: It’s All About the Crypto.

D: Okay.

I’ve seen a couple episodes [of It’s All About the Crypto], and you’ve got some costars on this.

B: Yes, I do have some costars on this.

D: Do you care to name them?

B: Mikky Daub does some stuff; Joe Henderson does some things; Adrienne Prettyman does some stuff; Samantha Carlson, who’s just joined the (Inaudible) media, working with me on stuff, is part of the show now…I’ve got people saying to me, “Can I be a part of the show? Can I be in an episode later on?”

What do you accomplish with the show?

Do you have an unstated purpose?

B: It gives me a couple things: it lets me show the atmosphere at CoCo; it lets me have fun and do some sort of regular YouTube content; and it lets me educate people about cryptocurrency without actually being too sing-songy about it.

D: Yeah.

B: So that’s–

D: Yeah, it seems like demystifying it.

B: It’s like you’re learning stuff but you don’t realize you’re learning stuff.

D: Very cool.

So you have this other project…

B: Foursquare Day.

D: Foursquare Day, thanks.

B: Foursquare Day. Well, when I–

D: Is this typical of your social media business?

B: Well, the deal was – I do events, and I like to do events once in a while that not necessarily help other people, but more highlight what I can do; Foursquare Days is an example. ‘Cause Foursquare Day is an event and they’ll support you along the way, but they don’t really pay for it; they don’t say, “Let’s do this and here’s the money to do it.” It’s like, “Okay, you want to do it – you can run it, and you can show people what you can do.” So, I was working with the restaurant downstairs, Bar Zia. I wanted to bring in some new crowd for them. And it was nice, because Foursquare will do that, because the more people that come to the event will check into Foursquare, and it’ll help it trend a little bit. The idea is that it’s just a good time; it’s just a way for people to, in the social media areas, and other tech industries, to sort of get together, celebrate this app, have a couple drinks, and party.

D: The thing I thought was cool is that you find a bar that…they need some love, you know.

B: Right.

D: They need some attention, so you’re gonna help ‘em generate that.

B: That’s why the…I kind of have an affordable price on stuff because that’s what I do. I find a bar or a restaurant or a venue that, you know, isn’t busy on a Tuesday or a Wednesday.

D: Um-hm.

B: And I turn around and I say, “Let me bring you in a crowd of people on a Tuesday or Wednesday.” So then you’ve got an app developer who’s just starting out who wants to do an app launch party that can’t really afford a big event, and can’t afford to do it in in a venue – can’t afford the venue rental. So now I’ve just found them a venue for free and helped them cut some of the costs. It’s helping them out; it’s helping the restaurant out; it’s helping some other person that wants to piggyback on – maybe a liquor company I’m working with wants to do a one-hour open bar. Come on in and do the open bar for this app launch event. You’re gonna have all these people that are on social media trying your alcohol, and they’ll probably Tweet out about it, or Facebook about it. And that’ll give you some promotion there.

D: I love it. And then for this one, so what’s the date?

B: April 16th.

D: Foursquare, at Bar Zia?

B: At Bar Zia.

D: Which is kind of on the bay; it’s on like the base level, the first floor of–

B: Yeah, I think it’s like 420 4th Ave – 4th Street–

D: 4th Street.

B: Right. Right next to the bail bond.

D: The bail bond.

B: Yeah, that’s what people say.

D: Get your bail bonds and then come and get a drink to celebrate that you’re out of jail.

B: Right.

D: Why not? I do that every time I get out of jail.

Do you have any guests that you can talk about who are coming [to Foursquare]?

B I – well, I–

D: You’re workin’ on some cool stuff.

B: I was talking to the mayor. Usually an event like this, the mayor, from the city that the event’s at, will come in and make a declaration that it’s Foursquare Day and that it’s an official thing. I was fortunate to be at the Buzz Feed event, and meet the mayor, and she’s very, very tech savvy.

D: Um-hm.

B: So I just got on Twitter and said, “You want to come to the Foursquare event?” And she said, “E-mail me over the invite and everything.” So, I sent that to her. So she’ll be there and I’ll have like a declaration for her to read, saying it’s Foursquare Day. And [I] talked with some various athletes from different Minnesota sports teams, and some other different people.

D: So maybe you’re gonna get the Minnesota Foursquares?

B: Yeah, well…I have talked to the Minnesota Swarm.

D: Very good.

B: Because Foursquare has another app called Swarm. So I thought to myself that would be cool to have members of the Swarm come in, because there’s an app called Swarm that we’re actually havin’ a party for.

D: Okay, so a good percentage of our audience does not know their sports at all, so tell us what the Swarm represents.

B: Are they lacrosse? I don’t even know (Inaudible) they’re lacrosse. The – they’re lacrosse.

D: It could be billiards – it could be our billiards team. I’m not sure.

B: Do we have a billiards team? ‘Cause I was amazed that there was a professional lacrosse team.

D: Go figure. [Laughs]

B: Yeah. I’m from a state where there are no sports teams – there’s nothing. The only thing we have close is like the Iowa Cubs, and that doesn’t even really count ‘cause they just end up going to Chicago.

D: That’s like the corn shucking team.

B: Yeah, right, right. There was a team that they pulled the Cubs out of. We don’t have anything for that. When I went to New York, we had two football teams. I was like, Who do I root for? ‘Cause we have two football teams; we have two baseball teams; we have two basketball teams – I don’t know what to do right now.

D: Well, that’s how they know you’re not from there. Don’t even have to ask that question.

B: It was very overwhelming, yeah. It was like, Who do you root for? What do you mean who do you root for, you should know this.

D: [Laughs] It’s like the Cubs and the Sox.

B: Exactly. You know once you’re there where – Who you should be rooting for, or lock your door at night.

D: [Laughs]

Is this [Foursquare Day] an example of something that you might do more of?

B: I want to do some more of this stuff. Maybe we’ll get some feedback to see if this is an interesting idea – in New York, I do a lot of stuff. We did two things: one was called Tech Drink Up, where we would hang out once a month and have drinks. And it was open to anybody in any sort of field. ‘Cause sometimes you get like all the developers hanging out, or all the Twitter people hanging out together; this is sort of to get ‘em to all intermingle and talk to each other.

D:Yeah.

B: And we had another event – the same thing, called Obliteratie (?) – which was sort of the same event; a little bit drunkier than the first one. But that was two examples.

D: [Laughs]

B: I know we were looking to do some more events on Mondays at CoCo.

D: Yeah.

B: I had mentioned doing something sort of like a “Monthly Monday Mingle.”

D: Yeah, yeah.

B: Where we would do something sort of like that, where anybody could come in.

D: Right.

B: And it’s just, you know, free. Nobody’s gonna be talkin’, it’s just networking.

D: Just a peer social, yeah.

B: Just peer social networking.

D: Yeah.

B: I think that’d be a nice, fun thing to start doing here. Especially, you know, it’s a great location down here, the Downtown area. I think it would be a good way to get people who don’t know about the facilities to learn about the facilities – learn about CoCo.

Of all these things you’re doing, what pays the rent?

B: Ah, I made a joke, ‘cause I just moved into the new space here in Downtown. But this is the office that Bitcoin built, so I’d have to say . . . the show and Bitcoin, in general, have been the most, right now.

D: Yeah.

B: Because I just really started doing the event stuff; I just decided I’m moving into a bigger space and I’m doing the event stuff full time. Because I went to New York to do an event with somebody for Fashion Week, and then I got there and they said, “We need you to move back.” So I was in the process of, in my head, moving back, and then I thought, Why can’t I just do this same stuff in Minneapolis and St. Paul? I can still go to New York if I need to, and I can still go to LA if I need to. But this is a better location, and I’ve got a good core of people. The reason I’m even doin’ this stuff now, and excited about doing stuff again is because of these people, and because of this place. So, I don’t want to abandon it because it sort of brought me back up from the dead.

D: I’m glad to hear that – that’s really cool.

Are there opportunities to actually make money trading [with Bitcoin]?

B: Yeah, I think so. There’s always some good opportunities to make money trading; you just have to know what areas, [and] how to do it. I won’t give out any of those tips over the…you have to come find me and ask me.

D: [Laughs]

B: I gotta keep something mysterious about it.

D: It’s true, yeah, you can’t reveal everything.

B: Right, right. And there are people in town that buy Bitcoin.

D: Yeah.

B: I log in and I see there are local people. And there’s a whole Bitcoin enthusiast meet-up group that I didn’t know existed when I first started moving here. Now I know they exist, too.

You were talking about getting a Bitcoin ATM. Are you still thinking about that?

B: I still am interested in a Bitcoin ATM. There’s the logistics of the thing, and I guess there’s also a wire transfer – a money transfer law that is kinda hazy on Bitcoin. So we’re waiting to see how that goes through.

D: Ah.

B: That’s an Al Franken situation, and hopefully he’ll be at Foursquare Day and I can push him into – well, okay – this sounds like what this is what you should do.

D: [Laughs] So you invited him, too.

B: Yes. That was more self-serving. Because there is a Bitcoin transfer/wire transfer money issue going on, and he’s one of the people that can help clear up that legislation.

D: Yeah.

B: So, definitely.

D: Alright. Well, Brad, I think we’ve hit our limit. Appreciate you droppin’ in.

B: No problem.

D: I hope you have a successful trade today.

B: I hope so, too.

D: You know, and maybe you’ll be buying a round of drinks tomorrow if it really goes well? I don’t know.

B: There are days like that. There are days when I’m like…social hour’s on me, there you go.

D: Alright, so pleased to know you.

B: Yeah, I guess. [Laughs]

D: [Laughs]

Where can we find you, Brad?

B: If you just go on the web and go to WhoTheHeckIsBradman.com – that’s my website; everything’s right there. You can always just follow me directly on Twitter@BradmanTV, and pretty much all my social media @BradmanTV, that’s the best way to find me.

D: Okay, great – entertainment guaranteed.

B: I hope so. I hope you’re entertained.

D: I’ve been so far, personally.

B: Yeah, good.

D: Alright, thanks, Brad.

B: Thank you.

D: Well, thanks for listening to another episode of the CoCo Dreamcast. We’re trying to crank ‘em out fast and furious at about the rate of one a week. And, maybe with the last one we just did – not Brad’s, but the one before that, Chris Farrell – it was occurring to me and Garrio, sittin’ here, that maybe we’re gonna start bringing in some folks from outside the CoCo community; people who have interesting stories. Chris was certainly an example; a golden-throated radio personality. We may not always get those, but we’re on the lookout for interesting folks. So if you have any suggestions let us know. You can find the rest of the CoCo Dreamcast episodes at cocomsp.com/dreamcast. We’ll talk to you next time.


About the CoCo DreamCast 

Our goal for the CoCo DreamCast is pretty straightforward: we want to talk to CoCo members, find out what makes them tick and learn how they’re living out their dreams. Look for another episode soon!

 

Posted in CoCo DreamCast, Community, Coworking, Uncategorized

COCO and Matchstick Ventures partner to support regional startups

Matchstick_SansTexture-02Minneapolis, April 6, 2015 – COCO and Matchstick Ventures are combining forces to give startups more exposure to funding and education about startup financing.

The partnership calls for Matchstick Ventures to headquarter out of COCO’s downtown Minneapolis space and hold regular open office hours, where entrepreneurs can seek advice on their business ideas and growth plans. Matchstick Ventures will host and have a presence at COCO events, including workshops, lunch and learns and happy hours. Matchstick Ventures will also give local entrepreneurs exposure to prominent startup founders and investors who visit the Twin Cities.

COCO will also provide Matchstick Ventures with access to all of its current and future locations for working, meetings and events.

Matchstick Venture’s approach is to demystify the financing process for entrepreneurs and make the financing process more approachable.

“This partnership helps achieve a goal that we feel strongly about — breaking down the barrier between entrepreneurs and funding sources,” said Matchstick Ventures Managing Partner Ryan Broshar. “We want founders to know that we’re open for business. We’re curious about their businesses and really do want to write checks, he said.

Until now, COCO has not had an association with a venture capital firm. “This is an important step for us,” said COCO cofounder Don Ball. “While there are no guarantees that our members will get funding from Matchstick, it can only help a startup to have close-quarters exposure to investors and to learn about the fundamentals of startup financing,” he said.

COCO recently announced “Startup Suites,” a series of closed-door offices aimed at startups, which are due to open in the coming weeks and are nearly all spoken for. “Startup Suites, combined with our partnership with Matchstick Ventures, really helps shore up our offering for startups,” Ball said. “We realize that startups can always find cheap office space, but we want to keep finding ways to provide them with resources and access they can’t get elsewhere,” he said.

About Matchstick Ventures (website | Twitter)
Formerly known as Confluence Capital, Matchstick Ventures is a Minneapolis-based venture capital firm. The firm invests in early-stage, Web- and mobile-enabled tech companies. In Minnesota, the firm has invested in Apruve, Boom Boom Prints, Homespotter, Kidblog and Elevate Research, among others. Matchstick Ventures has also invested in startups in other cities outside Minnesota.

About Ryan Broshar
Ryan serves as Managing Director for Matchstick Ventures. He helped found Matchstick (formerly known as Confluence Capital) in 2013 as a vehicle to support and interact with fellow entrepreneurs. Broshar is also Co-Founder of Beta.MN and Twin Cities Startup Week. Prior to Confluence, Ryan founded University Guide, LLC,  a university-based publication business that was sold in 2008.

About COCO (website | Twitter)
COCO is a “dream accelerator” where startups and independents come to pursue their passions and build new ventures. At its four locations in Minnesota and North Dakota, COCO offers workspace memberships and hosts regular events centered on entrepreneurship and technology.

Contact:
Don Ball
don@cocomsp.com
612-810-3153

Posted in Collaboration, Education, Entrepreneurs, Minneapolis, Partnerships, Startups, Technology

DreamCast Episode 10: Chris Farrell

Chris Farrell

Chris Farrell, Economics Columnist and Author

Billionaires, U.S. Senators and Representatives, mayors…we’ve had our share of celebrity visits at COCO. But someone who’s MPR-famous? This was a first.

A couple weeks ago, we got a call from Chris Farrell, MPR’s longstanding economics editor. He was doing a piece on entrepreneurial Baby Boomers. Did we have any at COCO? So, Chris dropped by our downtown space the next day and talked with members Jeff Brown, Dan Wallace and Kris LaFavor for an article on PBS’ Next Avenue: “The Cure for Working At Home Loneliness.” And then he agreed to sit down for an episode of DreamCast!

Many of us have enjoyed Chris’ clearheaded advice on MPR and Marketplace for years. I’m pretty sure Chris has talked me off the ledge during at least two economic crises. So, it was a delight to get his perspective on entrepreneurship. Is it growing? If so, why and how? And as a personal finance writer, could he warn us about the classic pitfalls of being an entrepreneur?

I think you’ll agree that this show is our slickest so far. No “ums” or “ahs” here, because after decades on the air, Chris is skilled at delivering good info in seamless, entertaining narratives. Enjoy!

 

Show notes: selected links from the episode:


LinkedIn: Chris Farrell

Twitter: cfarrellecon

Volunteer: www.geekettes.io

Blog: www.chrisfarrellblog.com

Contributor: www.marketplace.org

Contributor: www.bloomberg.com


Interview Transcript

Don Ball [D]: Welcome to another CoCo Dreamcast. Today we have a special guest; it’s a little different than our usual format where we interview members. We have Chris Farrell, and you’ve got some bona fides behind your name, here, Chris: Senior Economics Contributor at Marketplace; Economics Commentator at MPR; Columnist and Author. So you might win the prize for the most credentialed person we’ve had on the show. But welcome–

Chris Ferrell [C]: Now we’ll see what I say, but thank you. [Laughs]

D: And you were here today on the floor at the Minneapolis Great Exchange interviewing some members who are Boomers.

You want to tell us about the piece you’re doing?

C: Yes. I’m writing an article for Next Avenue – which is a PBS-related online magazine geared toward Baby Boomers, and then it runs on money.com. The article that I’m writing is about more and more Boomers going off and starting their own business. Now some of that is you have no choice: you’re 55, 56, 60 years old, you get laid off, and it’s hard to get another job the traditional way – or get something similar to what you were doing.

D: Right.

C: So you become a consultant, or you – you know, I guess we would have, in the old days, said “hang out your shingle”; today, it’s “create your own website,” right?

D: Right, right.

C: But then, also, people are getting older; they have a dream, they’ve thought about something they’ve been wanting to do, and – boy, you know, time’s getting short, and if you’re going to do it what are you waiting for?

D: Um-hm.

C: In many cases, it’s also a combination of the two. One of the things that’s really exciting about what’s going on is what you’re involved with at CoCo . . . is the rise of, you know, co-work space. And it’s also part of a larger trend you’re seeing with incubators, and accelerators, and, you know, people sort of creating space for people to test out their ideas and not to be alone. It’s sort of a sharing economy; so you’re sharing space, you’re sharing ideas, you’re sharing some energy, you have some financial commitment so that people do show up and do take it seriously.

D: Right, right.

C: But it’s not like the old days where, you know, if you weren’t an entrepreneur from age 20, or whatever, you were never going to be an entrepreneur.

D: Yeah, like a binary decision–

C: Right.

D: …You either were or you weren’t; whereas now, I think, there’s a lot of us who are, you know, playing in this space and discovering that if you can put something together, you just might have a shot at having some control over your future.

C: Well, there is, you know – and people love to complain, and I think a lot of these complaints are really wrong. I mean, here’s one way that the world has gotten a lot better – in two ways: One is . . . if my dad had said to me – which he never would have done, and I love my father and my father loved me – but if he said to me, “Do you want to go into business together,” he would have run out of the room and I would have run out of the room.

D: [Laughs]

C: Now, I’m seeing a lot of multi-generational businesses being created where Boomer parents are going into business with their Millennial or GenX children, and they want to be doing this; they want to work together, and they’re creating a family enterprise. And I’m not talking about creating like a Cargill – but they’re creating something where they each bring something to the table; they like each other, they enjoy each other’s company, and it’s kind of, you know, fun to be doing that. The other thing where the world has gotten better is . . . so, when I graduated from college: 1976, you know – that was the year if you went off by yourself, you were an entrepreneur, well, big companies weren’t gonna look at you; I mean, you weren’t serious. And, you know, if you hadn’t left and gone to college and gone into a big company and started moving your way up, you kind of wasted your time. Well, that is totally over with. If you want to be taken seriously by a big company: go off and start your own company. And if it fails and you want to then turn around and work for a big company, boy, they’re gonna look at your resume seriously. One of the exciting things about the world today is, I think, people actually – they want to be entrepreneurs, but they may also want to work for the non-profit sector; they might even want to work for the for-profit sector; they may want to work for the government for a while – and it’s not an either/or, as you said, a “binary decision.”

D: Yeah.

C: It’s sort of stages of life, stages of curiosity, stages of opportunity, and entrepreneurship is a big part of that.

D: Yeah, it’s interesting. So 1976 you graduate, it’s also the year that the Sex Pistols came out and the punk rock movement was born.

C: Yes! [Laughs]

D: Okay, I mean, this is like the DIY when we had bands like Queen and Yes using a huge amount of technology, showmanship, and virtuosity; then suddenly you have people who think they can start bands in garages.

C: That’s right. [Laughs]

D: Right, so I think there’s somethin’ here. I was mentioning…we’re kind of serial instigators here at CoCo; we want to free people from the cubicle, if that’s what they want for themselves.

It’s hard to know, from this vantage point, how many of us misfits and nut jobs are there out there who are wanting to become freelancers, consultants, do startups, start small businesses. Do you have a sense for that?

C: Yes – and it’s surprising. So, if you think about just the misfits that you talked about, and also, I mean – a lot of it’s associated with the rise of Silicon Valley and technology– [Phone Rings]

D: And mobile phones, I might add – [Laughs] it’s okay on our show.

C: Yeah.

D: We would never do that in MPR studios, of course. Do they have a policy for checking your phone before you go into the studio? Do they really?

C: Yeah. So if you think about, you know, the misfits, the technology, Silicon Valley, Austin, Texas, South by Southwest – you would think that we are living through an era of an incredible entrepreneurial boom. But what the data shows is that we’ve had a long term decline in entrepreneurship and small business. What has been driving it is – you take a step back and think about the rise of the national chains; the Home Depots – they wiped out a lot of small businesses.

D: Yeah.

C: The CVS’s and the Walgreens’s – they wiped out a lot of the independent pharmacists. It’s been a long period of time where the creation of these national chains has really put a lot of pressure on small businesses; and people weren’t going into many sectors of the economy because it was just too competitive. What’s happening now is a revival in entrepreneurship, and I think – I’m in a camp that thinks this is a real revival of entrepreneurship. Now we can see part of it is with immigrants who have come to this country – and take a look at Lake Street, and what Lake Street was in the 1980s versus what Lake Street is today, and all those businesses – then University Avenue in Saint Paul. So you have, in many urban areas, a revival of entrepreneurship that’s driven by a lot of immigrants…opening restaurants, opening grocery stores, and then starting to reach out more to the mainstream society.

Then you have an aging population – this Boomer population – which, for a variety of reasons, is working longer; and in 2013, 23 percent of all new business formation was the 55-to-64-year age group – that’s up from 14 percent in 1996. Then you have the Millennial generation that actually is starting to reach that age – the oldest Millennials are reaching the age when people really do start thinking about starting their own business. ‘Cause, I think, yes, there are always people who graduate from college, and that’s what they want to do and they start. But many people, you know – they get a job, they want to pay rent, they want to be able to meet the bills for those apartments; they don’t want to be living in their parents’ basement – student loans, all that stuff. And they want to gain some experience and gain some knowledge. But, you know, they get to their early 30s; they actually have learned a lot, and that’s when you see a big surge in entrepreneurship.

My bet is that you’re actually on the cusp; you’re at the leading edge of a wave. We’ve had this long-term decline in small business in the United States, and there’s a big debate going on: is that going to continue? or are we – because of demographic forces, and better-educated population, and technology has made it possible to have a place like CoCo – that we’re actually at the beginning of a long-term revival of entrepreneurship? That’s what I think we’re seeing.

D: That’s encouraging. That’s encouraging. And I think you see that it takes different – there’s different flavors of it, too. I mean, for instance, food trucks, and–

C: Yes.

D: . . . and shared kitchen facilities, right? Because no one person with a food truck can afford to have the cold and dry storage and the kitchen and everything – but what if 10 of ‘em go in on it together? So we’re seeing some of those kinds of facilities – “fab labs,” right? – where people can work on 3D printing, and laser cutting, and things like that.

C: Yeah.

D: Nobody could afford those facilities alone, but together…

Have you seen evidence of other domains in which you’re seeing entrepreneurship?

C: Well, you know, in the music business.

D: Ah . . .

C: And the music business, you know, has been disappointing. There was a moment of hope that – with the rise of the digital ecology, and more independent musicians being able to maybe create an audience – that actually the independent musician was gonna make a decent amount of money. Now what has turned out is there’s lots of opportunity for the independent musician to play, pursue their passion, make some income, but there’s not a whole lot of money there. But that definitely – you know, we’re seeing the rise in there. Journalism is the same thing; there’s been a huge rise in the independent radio producer, the independent television producer. So, again, as technology has gotten cheaper, has become more practical, you need less money in order to put something together. So, it’s a really interesting economy, because the opportunities are great. You know, the person who creates the granite countertop–

D: Yeah.

C: Right? Or the nice cabinets…I mean, these are real skills – artisan skills. So, in one way of looking at it, it’s anything where you could use the word “artisan” or “craft”–

D: Um-hm.

C: . . . there is a genuine revival going on. Part of that is because of the digital economy, because it is more practical to be able to make some sales – and to a broader market if you’re good at your craft and you create it in your local market. There’s also a greater desire among customers in a world of national chains, and global chains, and to have something that’s a little more unique, something that’s more in fashion, and something that you can admire the craft and the skill that goes into it. And one of the questions is: How big does this become? A big part of it’s gonna be what kind of incomes will people be able to make; are they going to be able to raise their children? have a home? send ‘em to a college? take a vacation every once in awhile? And if that kind of life becomes more and more practical, then I think it’s just off to the races.

D: That’s exciting. I like that. Now you cover personal finance?

C: Personal finance and economics – yep.

D: Yeah, yeah. So, obviously, one of the implications is if you start your own business, you may do well; you may do middling; you might fail – like I did at my last business, you know. Like I told you – I’m still payin’ the price for this thing.

C: Yeah.

D: So it doesn’t always end really well. There’s things I could have done to probably put myself in a better position, and there’s things people can do.

Do you have any go-to advice for people?

– Who are, you know: “I want to do a startup, I want to start a small business.” How do you go about it, you know, so it’s not suicide?

C: One of the things I’m always surprised [by] is that people [who] have an idea and want to start a small business don’t go out and talk enough to people who are actually doing what they think they want to be doing – or something related to what they want to be doing. Entrepreneurs have this vision of being the independents, they don’t want to be in a corporate environment, and they want to be their own boss. And in my experience, entrepreneurs are incredibly generous with their knowledge and their experience, and they’ll tell you things that it’s kind of almost shocking. They’ll tell you things about pricing, they’ll tell you things about customers, and they’ll really share their knowledge.

So, take them out to coffee, talk to them. You’re thinking about becoming a small land lord: go to the land lord meetings, go to the association meetings, go to the trade group meetings. You want to become a baker: go to the meetings that the bakers have in every community, or, you know, the community near you, and talk to people – What do I need to be aware of? What are the risks here? How would you go about doing it if you were me and you were gonna be starting a business now? What questions would you be asking? The thing is, if you do that, you’re gonna learn a lot, and that’s the knowledge that’s gonna lower your risk.

Now, we also know that a lot of businesses fail, or it might take two or three times to really figure out what it is you want to be doing. So then, you also want to be spreading your risk. You may be doing something with family, you may be doing something with friends; you may be doing something where you move back home and you’re not paying rent, and you’re not paying for your internet access – and that’s how you lower your costs, there’s nothing wrong with that. If you have a purpose, if you have a reason, then lowering your costs is a really important thing.

That’s the final thing that I would say that has really struck me – and you would probably know better than I – but other people have gone out and started their own business: it really changes the way you think about costs, and you really do start thinking about – How do I keep my costs down? Do I really need this? The anecdote that cracks me up is a friend of mine went out and started a company, a successful company, and one of the first things he did is he went out and he bought a coffeemaker – a pretty fancy coffeemaker. He realized: that coffeemaker really bugged him about three months later, because he really didn’t need that fancy coffeemaker; he had better use of that money, and he should have just bought a cheap coffeemaker. That’s the kind of mindset that in making that transition from an organization, where there’s just all kinds of things – the paper, the phones – there’s all kinds of things you’re not really aware of the cost, even if you’re in an organization where people are pretty conscious of that. And most of us are conscious and don’t want to be wasteful, but you’re not really aware of the costs. When you go off on your own, all of a sudden, you’re spending a lot of money; and you want either to spend that money for a reason, or not spend it. So I also think there’s a shift in the mindset.

D: You’ll see that with some startups that we’re (Inaudible). I mean, startup methodology – you’re making due with so little to grow your business that you–

C: Yeah.

D: . . . you’re not really spending if you can help it. You’re not spending to create, you’re – it’s more time in the game than it is to just cash out… Do you find – I mean, with the recent spate of layoffs; Target’s too deep into the layoffs and the General Mills a little while ago…

C: That’s right.

D: There’s probably another one coming that we didn’t hear about.

Does that change the map?

– for people who, until now were like, “If I can get a job jockeying spreadsheets at Target Corp, in middle management – yippy skippy, I’m set to go!” Or…is it really a temperament thing; if that’s what you need, you better keep lookin’ for those jobs?

C: It’s a couple things. One, I think, for the younger generation – they see what’s happened to their parents, they see what happened to their peers, and there really is a sense that job security’s a thing of the past. Therefore, the relationship with the company is much more: What are you doing for me? What am I learning? What am I getting out of this relationship? And unless I’m gonna make a commitment to you for a long period of time, because that commitment may be severed unexpectedly because of nothing that you did. . .

D: Right.

C: . . . but just a downturn in the business and you’re out the door. Layoffs are just a routine part of management’s tool kit. So younger people, I think, have really seen this happen to their parents a lot. I think for the parents it’s still, mentally, a harder world to live in because a lot of them have worked for a long time at a company and then, all of a sudden, they’re out and they’re starting all over again; and it’s scary, and it’s not fun to lose your job, and you still have bills to be paid.

But I do think generationally, there is a big change, and it’s for the better. What will accelerate this is . . . despite all the controversies around the Affordable Care Act, when I’ve done personal finance over the past three decades, there never was a viable individual health insurance market. And that was a real barrier, particularly as people get older, and they have kids, and started taking seriously [their] responsibilities – not having health insurance was the scary thing. There are people who did it; but it, for most people, was a scary thing.

We would come up – I’d get calls from people on the radio, and you’d come up with things: “there was this trade association,” or “try this,” or “try that.” But the fact of the matter is there was no good individual health insurance market. For the first time, we now have the creation of a viable individual health insurance market, and it’s getting better, and it will continue to get better. That, I think, has really changed the calculation that you can seriously think about going off on your own; there’s less of this health insurance job lock that was there for a long period of time.

That is also going to encourage more people to say, “Hey, I can cover my family; it’s gonna be expensive, we’re gonna have to tighten up, but they’re gonna have decent health insurance, and I can go out and try this business.” That’s one of the factors that I think, over the next 10 years,– not this year, not next year, but over the next 10 years – is going to feed into more people being comfortable with the notion of going off on their own. Then it’s gonna become a mindset of going in and out of companies, recognizing that sometimes you may go out of a company because a company expanded into Canada; it didn’t work out well, and people have to lose their jobs – that’s just what happens, so you’re out involuntarily. It may be that you’re gonna go out because, boy, you’ve met some people and they’re doing an interesting idea and you’ve been with this company for 10 years; and it’s a good company, good people – Hey, but this is kind of exciting and I’d like to try this for a while. But the fact is that big employer – they’ll look at you again, and that’s one of the good changes in this whole economy and society. Whereas, 30 years ago, it would have been–

D: You were tainted goods. [Laughs]

C: You were out – don’t ever come back.

D: Yeah, yeah, it’s true. You can almost imagine a future where people are really quite fluid in what engagements – where they work on their own idea; they go in under somebody else, in someone else’s house, because the engagement’s good.

C: Yeah.

D: That’s an interesting project, I want to go work on that – so I don’t care if it’s within a big company, or a small company, or… That’s a fun world in which you’re – it’s like you’re experiencing your talents way more fungible than it’s been in the past.

C: Yes. Then what becomes important is if you think about a lot of blue collar work – it has always been unstable. I mean, yes, there’s United Auto Workers. And if you remember, the United Auto Workers on an assembly line; there was a certain amount of stability there, although they’ve also had a lot of their issues, right? But the blue collar world has always been unstable world, in and out, and a lot of blue collar workers really know how to live with that instability. Part of the shock that has been going on is that that instability has entered much more of the white collar world. I think, as a society, if we work more and more and say, “Most people are going to live in an unstable job environment, and that doesn’t have to be a bad thing,” there’s a lot of good that can go along with that. But you have to have systems that make it easy for people to have health insurance, you have to have a system to make it easier for people to save for their retirement, and, systems that make it easy for people to get through these transition periods.

D: Right, right.

C: But there’s nothing particularly mysterious about this; it’s all out there, it’s all possible. We’re moving toward a world where so much of the way we think about the world has been dominated by: you have one job, one career, and you’re gonna be there for a long time. Now we’re moving toward a world where you have interests, and you have passions, and you have likes, and you have things you want to be doing – and we can call that a career. Or you can call it careers, and there are gonna be jobs along the way. And sometimes you gotta do jobs just because you gotta have a good job ‘cause you gotta pay the bills. But most of the time, you’re kinda lookin’ for a job that’s gonna be more rewarding than that. It can be a very exciting period of time, but it can also be scary during those moments when you don’t have a parachute, and you’re not exactly sure where you’re gonna land.

So for somebody who’s already jumped, let’s say, and they just need some more cash to get by – like Cortez, do you burn the ships in the harbor so there’s no goin’ back?

C: [Laughs]

D: Do you raid the 401K from your company? Or is that, like, “No, I would never do that.”

C: Well, okay, so if I’m wearing my personal finance hat, I say no – you don’t do that; what you do is you find alternative sources. There are two reasons to say no, you don’t do the 401K: part of it is you can’t get time back – it’s hard to save for retirement as it is – and so you shouldn’t do that. The other thing is: can you go out there and convince people to back you? And I’m not talking about a lot of money; I’m talking about small sums of money. Now family will usually do it because they love you. But I always loved Barry Gordie, who’s the founder of Motown, and so it was a family of 10 and they were all entrepreneurs and they had a family fund.

He had this idea that he wanted to create this record company, and so he borrowed $6,000, and I believe the interest rate was like 8 percent; he had to pay it back in a year, because it was always replenished and you had to make your pitch. Then he went out and he created this thing that we now call Motown. By the way, he paid the loan back to the family. But what has always struck me is that family loan; now you have things like Kickstarter. It’s interesting the way the founders at Kickstarter refer to the people who are investing the money – they call ‘em “patrons.” And it’s a model after a museum model; you’re a patron of entrepreneurs. It turns out, as you look at who most of the patrons are – I’m not talking about the really big money ones – but most of the patrons are family and friends and relatives; people who know you and they want to support you. Oh, you got a – “That’s a good idea, I’m gonna put some money in there.” But the thing is, you have to sell your idea.

D: Yeah.

C: And you’re not asking for a lot of money. If you’re asking for a lot of money, then you have to have a whole different structure – a whole different mindset. So we’re talking about: you have a good idea, you do need some money; as you mentioned, go out there first and sell it. My guess is if you’re not able to raise any money, then you have to really think about . . . am I right? And, yes, I know people who have borrowed from the 401K, or drained the 401K – they didn’t borrow from it, alright, they just drained their 401K, and it paid off. I also know people that it didn’t work. I was at a radio conference, and this couple, they had a brilliant idea; they wanted to compete against the cable companies and they wanted to use satellites. They drained the 401K, they sold their home, and it was a really good idea; they are what we sometimes call “prematurely anti-facist.” They were about three years early and they lost everything, but they had a good idea. So that’s the thing – again, you still want to protect yourself from the downside for most of these ideas.

D: ‘Cause occasionally that happens.

C: Occasionally it does.

D: [Laughs] I will testify to that.

C: Yes.

D: Awesome. Well, Chris, thanks so much – I appreciate you chattin’ with us. It’s just kind of a rare opportunity to have a notable guest, and it turns out the subject matter is one that you can really speak to.

Where can we find you online?

C: You can go to chrisfarrellblog.com, and then also you can find me at Minnesota Public Radio – mpr.org.

D: Okay. Fantastic, thanks.

C: Great, thanks a lot. That okay?

D: Well, you’ve just listened to another CoCo Dreamcast. Thanks a lot for tuning in. You can find additional Dreamcasts at cocomsp.com/dreamcast, and while you’re there, please sign up for our mailing list; we’ll let you know when – when new ones come out. Who knows? – Maybe we’ll get some more surprise guest speakers like Chris Farrell; we’re certainly gonna keep our eyes open. But, barring that, we will just keep on interviewing members and if you want to nominate somebody – there’s a lot of interesting people hanging around CoCo – so if you want to nominate somebody, drop us a line and let us know.


About the CoCo DreamCast 

Our goal for the CoCo DreamCast is pretty straightforward: we want to talk to CoCo members, find out what makes them tick and learn how they’re living out their dreams. Look for another episode soon!

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