Earlier this year, I decided to provide a free, 45 minute coaching session to 100 entrepreneurs looking to grow their business. The spirit of this project was to give back to the tech community. When possible, I tried to help minority and women entrepreneurs, as they are generally underrepresented in the startup community and are likely in a position to benefit the most from helpful advice.
Here are some stats from the project:
81 companies reached out to me
71 of the meetings were scheduled and delivered
About 110 entrepreneurs participated in these calls (some companies had 2 or 3 attendees from the founding team, most calls were single entrepreneurs)
Here are some learnings and observations from the project:
It’s actually quite time consuming to do all these coaching meetings! I averaged two of these per week throughout the project
Most entrepreneurs were very prepared about the topics they wanted to discuss
Most entrepreneurs found out about my service randomly, mostly on Linkedin
Several Alchemist Accelerator companies took advantage of the coaching, thank you Ravi and Danielle for promoting!
A few Pear.vc companies took advantage of the coaching, thank you Pejman and Mar!
15% of the founders are female
25-30% of the founders are minorities
20% of the founders are overseas
My “guess” on these companies’ overall chances of success is as follows:
10% are going to be very successful, I have already seen some of them in the press, making progress, growing, and receiving funding.
10% are going to fail, very clearly – I did suggest on a few calls to either shut down the company/idea and/or shift to a completely new direction. Those conversations were a little uncomfortable because I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but thought it was best for the entrepreneur to hear the unfiltered, candid assessment.
80% are in the middle, and look promising, but are still very delicate and anything can happen.
I did receive permission from these companies to record the calls, and I am now thinking about creating a new blog with specific observations and learnings (where we redact the company name). Let me share the high level topics that folks were most interested in:
How to negotiate a better position and salary
Finding market fit
Deal coaching on our first big deal
Deal coaching on our first pilot
Going upmarket to the enterprise
Growing sales team, how to be a sales manager
From traction and repeat usage growth to revenue
Funding, sales, generalities
Discuss hiring VP of Sales & COO
Sales and product market fit
Increasing pipeline for mid-market and enterprise accounts
How to grow the sales team in a measured way
Selling the company or financing it
Go-to-market on vertical vs horizontal
Venture capital strategies and tactics
Building your executive team, scaling your company from 10 to 100 employees
How to address challenges around people? How to scale services business?
Obtaining product market fit
Pricing for our platform
Pitch feedback, business model
How to create a clear plan for developing and growing a company
How best to approach structuring your core team
Need some advice figuring out what I need to do (scaling teams, scaling myself, where to focus)
Getting your first 10 customers
Building a startup in the HR space; market differentiation and positioning
Career advice with companies/organizations doing good for women and minorities
Positioning for fundraising
Pricing packaging, selling strategies, growing company, investment consideration since we are bootstrapped
Establishing a consulting business and how to get those first clients
Getting your first 10 customers. Pricing and packaging. Hiring your first few salespeople. Raising seed round capital. Navigating the long sales cycles in HR. Early-stage oriented
Gaining your first sale, going from great demo –> closing the deal
Moving from B2C towards B2B
Going from 10 to 100 customers, hiring the first few sales people, building the executive & advisory team
Getting our first 10 customers
Transitioning company from B2C to B2B, assets of the B2C company have made it possible to build a B2B solution
Getting our first set of quality customers
Scale, go-to-market in the US, fundraising
Thank you Miranda for helping me keep all these meetings organized! It was quite an effort to stay on top of all of this! Nice way to wrap up 2018!
This year Leah and I took the kids to Australia for a wedding. My cousin Ellie got married to a fine chap named Eric, and they had an intimate wedding 2 hours south of Sydney in the bush (Australian forest areas). It was great to see so many Duggans after so many years.
Prior to the wedding, we decided as a family to go to Northern Queensland for diving, spearfishing, snorkeling, and sailing. I have previously been as far north as Noosa, but this time we were able to go into the heart of the GBR (Great Barrier Reef)!
Here are some pics and vids of the trip. Colin speared his first fish eva’, which was fantastic. And the corals in the outer reef of the GBR were awe-inspiring. Sure, there were some spots that had been devastated by either coral bleaching (warming waters) or by typhoon, but there were also many spots that were wall to wall corals as far as the eye could see.
Aidan and Colin diving
Diving near Lizard Island – this is where Captain Cook climbed the hill on Lizard Island to see the reef passage points so that he would avoid another wreckage on the reef during his return sail to Europe, after discovering and mapping the East coast of Australia (New Holland).
Spearfishing, one of my most favorite activities… we were diving 30-40 feet at a time and had to get the fish out of the water quickly due to the white tip and black tip reef sharks!
Diving in the outer reef (the corals are not bleached, they are browns and yellows that don’t appear well in the GoPro footage, all here is amazing and thriving)
Playing with this Potato Cod
Leah had her birthday on the trip. I owe her big time for humoring me for going on all these adventurous trips! She knows what makes me happy and I love her for it.
During a break in between dives, we threw the fishing lines into the water. I picked up this large dog tooth tuna and spent a few minutes fighting it, when the line went limp. Kept reeling and suddenly saw a large shark eating my tuna… by the time we pulled it into the boat, this was all that was left!
When we put the LS3 Corvette motor into the 1990 Porsche (911 is what most people call it, but the specific model designation from Porsche was 964), we obviously knew we were going to get more power.
It turns out that after dyno’ing the car, we went from the stock power level of about 220 horsepower at the wheels to 410hp, doubling the power output.
The G50 5-speed transmission that comes with the car is able to handle the power increase, given how well they were made. However, recently, I did end up rebuilding the tranny with hardened parts given the car’s racing use and the extra wear and tear on the transmission at high RPMs and high heat.
This video was taken some time ago, but gives a good idea of the ride height and the sound…
Went spearfishing out of Carmel with my buddy Jesse. I made one of my 2018 goals of shooting a 30″+ ling cod with this monster here, coming in at 32.5″. And it’s only March! Legal size for this fish starts at 22″.
Other records for me for the day were diving to 41 feet and a breath hold of 39 seconds at depth. I’ve been to 66 feet before but that was just freediving, not actively spearfishing.
We had a great day all in all with a solid take of fish and 25 foot visibility. It was raining while we hunted for the 3 hours in the water, which made the experience even more serene.
After getting home, cleaning my gear, and prepping the fish, the family feasted on pho soup made with stock from the fish bones.
Notice how the filets are blue until cooked. This is because ling cod eat octopus and squid and the ink colors their meat. And check out those teeth!
They are quite like pre-historic monsters, aren’t they!
Wow… pretty awesome to see my RWB racecar get featured in Speedhunters. It’s a popular e-magazine for car and racing enthusiasts, and getting covered is a big time bucket list item for me. Thanks to Trevor Ryan for doing the shoot at the Laguna Seca racetrack recently.
For Christmas this year, we decided as a family to go to Fiji. I am an avid diver/snorkeler/freediver, but had never been there before. The family decided to get PADI certified before the trip so we could all go diving together!
Leah and the kids did their coursework in California along with their pool dives. PADI provides a “referral certification” where you do your remaining four ocean dives at your diving destination. Here is the family on one of their first Fijian dives finishing their certification process.
We stayed on the island of Savusavu. A bulk of the island has protected waters and about an hour boat ride away is the coveted Namena Island with its marine reserve status and protections. Above are some pics of the dives we did; many, many different types of stony corals (Acropora genus mostly), soft corals, fans, and more. The fish life was abundant as well; anthias, chromis, and lots of critters everywhere.
In addition to diving and snorkeling, one of my hobbies is reefkeeping. I’ve had reef aquariums off and on for the last twenty years. One of my old websites (not maintained anymore but still running) is www.berlinmethod.com which details a few of the tanks I’ve had. No longer running is a website I started in the early 2000’s which was called frags.org and enabled reef enthusiasts to share propagated coral fragments with each other, to avoid taking new pieces from the reefs. Anyway, the point of all that is that I love stony corals, and can identify most of them to the species level when diving! And I’ve kept quite a lot of the different types of fish and critters in my tanks over the years that you see when diving.
If you go diving, I strongly suggest a flashlight and gloves. LED with 800-1000 lumens can be purchased on Amazon for $35 or so, and allow you to see all the vivid colors at depth. Gloves enhance diving as you can grab onto pieces of rock without worry of cuts.
I also had the honor to meet Jean Michel Cousteau, son of Jacques. Jean Michel has a resort in Savasavu that caters to divers particularly in the tradition of his family. Jean Michel continues to do his father’s work by leading a variety of environmental programs globally to help drive better reef and ocean sustainability. You can read more at Ocean’s Future Society and Cop 23 Global Warming UN Conference.
Here are two short videos I made while diving with the family out there…
We will certainly be returning to Fiji to dive more and spend more time with the fantastic people there. See you in the water!
I started the year with an illness related to a car accident from 2016.
About six months earlier, we took a family road trip with a two car caravan to Oregon for the July 4th weekend. My wife drove her car with Colin, and I took Aidan in my car. This arrangement allowed me to drive my two-seater Porsche 1990 964 Carrera 2 which had recently been rebuilt/redone.
5 minutes before the accident
Close to the California/Oregon border, a CHP officer rear-ended my son and me in our car when we stopped at a cross-walk to let a couple pass. The officer stated that she was looking for people on their phones and became distracted, causing her to drive into us at about 20 mph.
The illness that followed six months later was a fluid leak in my spinal column, which caused the Cerebral Spinal Fluid in my brain to get low, causing my brain to sag in its skull.
The symptoms were a daily debilitating headache and intracranial bleeding. It took three surgeries and three months to solve.
The daily headache pain ranged from 3 out of 10 to 8 out of 10 depending on the day, and when it was on the higher end, I sometimes was vomiting from the pain it was so bad. Because of my blood thinners, the doctors were really worried about the impact of the brain sagging for too long.
I was very fortunate as my family and I found one of the best doctors in the nation to handle this case, Dr. Ian Carroll. He was just down the road at Stanford.
I worked at BetterWorks through this entire experience, except for the three periods immediately following the three surgeries where I had to lay flat for 72 hours. Yeah, that was fun…
It turns out that Steve Kerr, coach of the Golden State Warriors, has the same CSF leak condition. I believe he has had similar surgeries to help solve the problem.
Going through this process was quite a difficult one. I ended up turning off social media, playing a lot of backgammon with Leah and the kids, and really just trying to make the best of it. I was depressed at times, and was really worried about ever getting cured. Knowing how dark some of those days were gives me an appreciation for staying the course, and just knowing that things can and will get better. I am really thankful to my immediate family and my parents and sister as well for the amount of support every one of them gave during this period of my life.
A few months ago, I started spearfishing. My buddy Jesse got me into it. I was always intrigued by the idea, and heard even folks at work talking about it (ahem Graham-bo).
I have always been a water person. I love fishing, snorkeling, freediving, holding breath underwater, and scuba. In fact, my Uncle certified me in PADI Scuba in Australia when I was 14 or so. He is one of top certified PADI instructors (Divemaster level) in Australia with over 6,000 recorded dives.
So the idea of challenging myself, holding my breath to depths of 30 feet or more, hunting for fish in the crisp water of Northern California in nooks and crannies of the undersea-world, and enjoying our natural resources is very appealing. What set me over the edge was our Duggan Dude’s annual fishing trip this year was in British Colombia, where we fished for salmon and lingcod. Bringing up monster lings from 100 feet on fishing line was so fun, I thought it would be great to dive down and find them in their natural habitat with spearfishing.
Pictured above is the gear you need to go. Actually you kind of need a lot of equipment. Gun (Pathos Open Laser 75cm), special extra long freediving fins, mask and snorkel (spearos use a very small mask to limit the amount of pressure equalization required and also a very simple snorkel to avoid getting caught in the kelp), weight belt, 7mm wetsuit with hood/gloves/booties, float line, float (Banks board pictured above), freedive watch, flashlight, and other misc gear. You can see Jesse here about to hop in the water.
The process is pretty straightforward. Find a beach access point. We go in Carmel-by-the-sea where there are quite a few spots that are easy parking and immediate entry. Suit up, swim out to the kelp, tie up your float to the kelp, and start freediving. Keep the speargun always pointed down, you don’t want to shoot your buddy. If you get seasick, take a Bonine pill that morning. It is really amazing to look up from the bottom of the ocean, see 30 feet of water column above you, see the kelp forest unfold in front of you, and capture the light coming through the water and kelp.
We spend about three hours at a time in the water. I can usually achieve about 60 dives during that time. Dives for me last about 30-35 seconds. There is a process of preparing to dive, called “breathe up”. Then you duck dive, head down, and try to conserve your energy as you look under ledges and rock faces to find fish. The fish we hunt are lingcods, cabezon, and rock fish. They are great eating. For lingcods, legal size is 22″, cabs are 15″.
I always dive with a buddy, and have met some amazing people on Spearboard.com and Norcalunderwaterhunters.com. People in the community are super helpful and go out of their way to teach noobs. Thanks to Finn, Sage, Ulises, Robert, Steve, and of course Jesse.
My personal bests right now are 31 feet and 36 seconds. I am trying to break 40 seconds soon. My goal right now is to shoot a 30″ lingcod, that would be a beast. My next goal after that is a Vermillion rock fish, they are quite hard to find and you have to go deeper.
There was a recent shark attack at Pebble Beach. It occurred actually 5 days after I had dived in the same spot. Because of that, I have a few safety rules that I follow. Place the fish on top of the float, not in the water and definitely not on your waist. The smell attracts them. Avoid making lots of splashes at the surface, that can appear like a wounded animal and they sense the vibration. I also now have started wearing a SharkShield, which emits an electrical signal around the diver and distorts their electrical sensors. It is said that it won’t protect you from a shark that is actively hunting you (since they attack at 25 mph from the bottom usually), but it will protect you from a curiosity bite if they are just cruising by. Additionally, because I am on blood thinners for an unrelated health issue, I carry a tourniquet on my float just in case. I have also been thinking about adding a camouflage paint pattern to my wet suit, to avoid looking exactly like a delicious seal. Also, speaking of avoidance, avoid areas that have lots of seals.
Here’s an example of a rock fish coming out to inspect me, right before I shoot it. Sometimes they hide in cracks and crevices, and other times they will stare you down. The key is not to make sudden movements that scare them away. Knocking metal parts together underwater also can draw them out. The other pic above is a large seal that came out of nowhere at quite a fast clip and scared me!
My buddy Finn above with a nice cabezon. And on the right, a typical haul from the ocean after a half day’s work. 4-5 fish can be filleted nicely and will feed a family of 4-5 with endless fish tacos.
Here’s my buddy Steve shooting a lingcod. Note the teeth. This is a pretty good size one, mid 20 inches. One thing I learned recently is to look for schools of blue rock fish, as you will typically find lingcods hunting them around the area.
Next up for me in the hobby is getting a Level 1 Freediving certification. I’ll be doing that in San Diego in January, to learn better practices around breathe up and deeper freediving. Looking forward to it! See you in the water!