Ep. #1221 - Building Your Empire: Brand, Network, Income
Today’s episode of Startup Hustle features Matt DeCoursey and Alysia Silberg, Founder and General Partner of Street Global VC. They have an engaging discussion on constructing your empire through brand, network, and income. Tune in as Matt and Alysia explore the concept of being unemployable and the significance of passion in business leadership.
Covered In This Episode
Building a brand is step one of business success. Street Global VC ‘s Alysia Silberg provides insights on building an empire through branding.
The author of “Unemployable: How I HIred Myself,” Alysia is highly accomplished in several arenas. Listen to her and Matt discuss her backstory and what it means to be unemployable. They agree entrepreneurs should be passionate about building their brands and networks. Both provide advice on networking, the double-edged sword of being likable, and defining a good business idea.
The conversation turns to whether you need a co-founder to build an empire and the importance of being a strong leader. Matt and Alysia exchange ideas about creating your own environment and reality.
Are you interested in being unemployable? Join the conversation in this Startup Hustle episode now.
- Alysia’s backstory (1:36)
- What does it mean to be unemployable? (2:12)
- Be passionate about building your brand (7:05)
- Building your network (12:48)
- Advice on networking (14:30)
- The double-edged sword of being likable (22:03)
- What is a good business idea? (28:51)
- Building an empire: Do you need a co-founder? (29:57)
- The importance of being a strong leader (36:14)
- Create your own environment and your own reality (42:47)
You have to be all in. I get so many people that want to start a business, and they want to do something, and they’ve got one foot in the door. That’s it. They don’t know if they want to quit a job or whatever. But that never gets it done because 50% of your focus usually ends up being about 25% of your desired result.– Matt DeCoursey
If you don’t have a growth mindset, and you’re not constantly improving as a founder, constantly learning and adapting, you’ll die.– Alysia Silberg
Do I want to be liked, or do I want to win? Often, you can’t have both. If you want to do this, you’re gonna have to have some tough conversations. You’re going to have to decide in the end because you’ve got the CEO hat on. What is the right decision to make and live with the consequences? The business may go bankrupt based on that decision, and you need to be okay with it.– Alysia Silberg
Execution is the true currency of entrepreneurship and startups.– Matt DeCoursey
Scale up your business by partnering with Full Scale for your software development needs. With Full Scale, you can access highly vetted and tested world-class developers, testers, and leaders. Additionally, Full Scale’s platform will allow you to manage and scale your team anytime. Talk to us, and let’s start building your team quickly and affordably.
Need more help? Our Startup Hustle partners offer solutions for your other business needs.
Following is an auto-generated text transcript of this episode. Apologies for any errors!
Matt DeCoursey 0:00
And we’re back, back for another episode of Startup Hustle. Matt DeCoursey is here to have another conversation I’m hoping helps your business grow. You listen to this show because you are an entrepreneur, you want to be an entrepreneur, maybe you know an entrepreneur that’s on the show. But one thing I know everyone wants to do is build an empire, a brand, and a network, and hopefully, some income that goes with it. That’s what we’re going to talk about on today’s show, which is powered by FullScale.io. Hiring software developers is difficult, and Full Scale can help you build a software team quickly and affordably and has the platform to help you manage that team. You can go to FullScale.io to learn more. If you weren’t aware, that’s my company. We’d love to talk to Startup Hustle listeners. I’ve got an amazing guest. It’s got a whole bunch of knowledge to share. And we’re gonna see who can extract more of that knowledge out of each other. With me today is Alysia Silberg. She is the CEO of Street Global VC and also the author of the book Unemployable. If you listen to the show, you know that I want all of you to be unemployable. Stick around. We’re going to talk more about that. If that didn’t make sense. I guarantee you it will by the end of the show. Straight out of San Francisco, California, Alicia, welcome to Startup Hustle,
Alysia Silberg 1:17
Hi, Matt. I’m super excited to be joining you. I’m a huge fan of you in the show.
Matt DeCoursey 1:22
Thank you. I’m a huge fan of anybody who understands the term unemployable, as well. And we’re going to talk about that some and more. Prior to that, let’s get a little bit more about your backstory.
Alysia Silberg 1:36
Grew up in South Africa, difficult circumstances from a very early age. And you wanted to come to America, you know, born and bred American through and through and went on a journey and startups, I believe saved my life. And I believe that anything’s possible using technology. And that took me on this journey from the deepest, darkest Africa to Silicon Valley, where I get to partner with extraordinary people like you, building startups. And that’s my life’s purpose, I couldn’t think of anything else in the world I’d rather be doing, and I’m officially the queen of unemployable, so be there to?
Matt DeCoursey 2:12
Well, we, and for those of you listening, Alysia and I had a very vibrant minute before I hit record talking about unemployable. And I think if you want to build a brand, a network, and your income, you need to make yourself unemployable. What does that mean? I’m gonna let the author of the book go first. I have my own take on it. But let’s hear yours.
Alysia Silberg 2:34
For me. I went for a job interview at a fancy bank. And they I did you know, a test in it? And they said, You’re unemployable. By that point? I’d been a founder, basically my entire life due to survival. And it was like an existential crisis being told you can’t work here, because you’re unemployable. And I was like, What do I do with this information? And it was a very, very tough thing to own. At the same time, it was the truth, and it was a gift, a gift that will serve me for the rest of my life. And what does it mean to be unemployable? It means that I don’t have to work for anyone else, it means that I did hire myself, the title and the subtitle are 100%. True. And there’s a generation of people out there just like us who are like, You know what, I don’t want to work for someone else, I want to build something of my own. And I can basically create substantially more wealth for myself, I can use my own superpowers to do it. And it’s a lot more fun, a lot more interesting. And they get to partner with people like us. And so I think unemployable basically means choosing, choosing your own path and loving it.
Matt DeCoursey 3:36
Yeah, and the word unemployable could certainly go two different directions. There are people that are unemployable for reasons that are different than you and I. You know, I learned several years ago that the Vikings would arrive to whatever shore they were headed towards, and you know, they were conquerors, and whether you like him or not, that’s not the point. They would get to where they were going, and then they would set the boats on fire. There was no turning back, you were there, there was no escape. It was live or die. And they would do one or the other. So I’ve always looked at like the unemployable side of things as that, like, you have to be all in I, I get so many people that whether we’re meeting at an event, or they’ve reached out or it’s a phone call, or whoever, they want to start a business and they want to do something, and they’ve got one foot in the door. That’s it. They don’t know if they want to quit a job or whatever. But that never gets it done, because 50% of your focus usually ends up being about 25% of your desired result. So in order to become unemployable and build a brand and get investors from venture capital firms similar to yours, if I show up at your firm with a pitch deck for a great business, but I am have my loving arms wrapped around my career of working with someone else are you going write me a check?
Alysia Silberg 5:02
You’ve got it. Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant said. And that’s, and you see it in the weirdest ways. Like, I had no choice. It was my truth. It’s in my DNA. And someone very early on saw it and was like, Yep, I can’t work for someone else. I think my standards are extremely high. I’m very demanding. I work very quickly. And I expect everyone around me to constantly level up. Because if you don’t have a growth mindset, and you’re not constantly improving as a founder, constantly learning and adapting, you’ll die. And what’s interesting with them with like, if I think about from an investing perspective, we’ve had founders pitch us where they’re working at, like a big tech company before that. And you can actually see, just like you described it, where it’s like, I love the idea of doing this. I’ve got a potential co founder who wants to join me, but I’ve still got one foot in the door. I’m still like, Okay, I like working with a big tech company. I like getting my nice lunches. I like getting my nice salary. I like all that stuff. But I want the startup thing too. So i want it both ways. And I think that’s been a really interesting thing in terms of ensuring that I use that that DNA inside of me that you have to that gut instinct, where it’s like, is this person going to live and die by this thing. Like, I’ve had a founder, who he was building, and he literally, he went beyond sleeping on people’s couches. He was sleeping in his car. None of us knew this. But like, when he was sleeping, like in a bed, it was like cockroach infested. He was so determined to succeed. And his burn rate was so low at every time, like he went through difficulties. It was like you’d see these investor updates, and you could see their passion and that drive, you’re like, I’ll help this person, no matter what it takes, I want to help this person because this person has gone all in, and they’re not going to take no for an answer. And someone like that. He’s very proud to be unemployable. He’s Yes, he went to an Ivy League, he dropped out, he’s like, I’m going all in on building my business. And for me, that’s very inspiring. And a process like, I’m going all in and everyone around them is like, I’m going all in because the person literally wants to do this more than anything else on Earth.
Matt DeCoursey 7:06
I think that’s a key ingredient. And you know, I love entrepreneurs that have scars, and what you described are either scars or, or wounds preparing to be scars. I think it’s, it’s a big, a big part of your identity as a lot of the things that you’ve done in the past, but also the short memory that might come with some of them. You know, when it comes to athletes that you know, sometimes make errors in front of millions of people on TV, they need to forget about that and move on. But sometimes, you know, you got to you got to you got to own it. You’re not going to see them in an interview after the game. So Oh, no, I didn’t drop that ball. Well, we all saw you drop it, you know, it’s not you have to own it and move forward. When it comes to like the scar side of things. Like first of all, I love the story about I feel bad for the guy living in the car, but I want to write that guy check. Because that level of determination and and perseverance. Well, that equates to passion. And I don’t think so here’s a question for you. Can you build an empire a brand and network and income without being passionate about what you do?
Alysia Silberg 8:11
Matt DeCoursey 8:12
I don’t think so either? Yeah, I think that that passion is what, you know, passion. being passionate about something doesn’t make it feel like work it makes you get I described self discipline as doing the things that you need to do at the times that you want to do them the least. And if you’re not, so that’s another thing, too, you look at like the person that has one foot in the door and one foot out if that that person may lack passion. If not, and you talk to a lot of people at you know, at your at your firm. And you know, if someone shows up to Street Global VC, and they’ve got their pitch deck, can you smell and just tell when they aren’t passionate about what they’re doing?
Alysia Silberg 8:57
Yes. And I think it comes from a lifetime of creative like I’ve been building since I was five years old, not because I was like Elon, we both grew up in Pretoria, South Africa, but he was like this genius. I was just a survivor. So I used building companies as a means of survival and earning an income and actually just not living on the streets. And I think it’s that constant reflecting on and at times those pitches look so good. You know, like they’re like, like, everything looks perfect. You know, those kinds of pitch decks, it’s got the everything, the problem the size of the market, that everything, the founding team, everything, absolutely everything. And then you, you have to, like I do a lot of meditation. And I use the meditation for times like that, where it’s like, I have to drop deep and I have to be like something, something doesn’t feel right. And it often shows up inside my body somewhere. And I’m like, everyone’s saying yes to this person, but I can’t say yes. And it’s like this tiny, tiny, tiny thing, but it’s there and I think learning to trust that more and more over the years where I’m like, you can see it, you’ll see a come full circle, it will take time. And you’ll see it by means of just like, you’ll hear from the person five years later, or whatever the case may be. And they’ll be building a new company or, but it’s like that. And the sad part is, it’s not, it’s not a disservice to us, it’s a disservice to themselves, because you can’t get the time back. I think that’s the saddest part is they’ve convinced themselves because they’re seeking approval from someone, we don’t even know who that someone is, often they’re not aware of it. But they want that validation of what society defines as, it’s cool to be a founder, and therefore, I’m going to build this thing. We’re not 100% passionate about it. But if they, if they stuck with it, if they thought about it long enough, they would find the thing that they are passionate about, and they probably have extraordinarily more success. But it’s like, did they do that personal work upfront to define? Did they have that undying passion? Like you said, like, are they willing to work for free? I’ve worked for several several years for free, because it was like, it’s pretty easy. Am I willing to give everything to this thing for free? If I fundamentally believe in it? That’s a very basic question to ask yourself, if you’re not willing to don’t do it.
Matt DeCoursey 11:08
I think if you show the passion, though, you’re gonna find people that will help you not have to necessarily do it all for free. Exactly. That’s okay to like, for those of you listening, like, you don’t always have to do it for free. But you might need to. Would you? Is a good question. Would you make the sacrifice? I’ve done that with my company, Full Scale, you know, we were, you know, you know, coming up on six years old now, and the pandemic comes, and we had finally become profitable and of course, lost a big client the month before the pandemic, and then the pandemic. And, you know, you talked about this fundamental mind shift of like, going from like, cashing checks to writing them. And is that, okay, that’s where passion is going to test you. That is where resolve is going to test you. And I think the main thing is, is if you want to own a business, regardless of how big or small it is, are you ready to do that? Are you ready to Okay, so with being unemployable, I’m also absolutely not afraid to go broke, I’m never gonna go broke because I’m good at making money. And I’m very confident in that. And that will fix it. Now, being good at making money or being good at something doesn’t always mean you’re going to have it. Can you live without it? We talked about the guy that was sleeping in his car. I mean, I want to know who that guy is, right? I want to know who that gal is. And there’s just a level of determination there that exists. So like what we’re talking about here about building an empire building the brand, your network. So okay, well, let’s talk about the network side of things. So we haven’t really talked about that. I feel like people like we’ve been describing have a very easy time building a network.
Alysia Silberg 12:47
I believe you’re 100% right. People like that, right? Absolutely. Like, watch this that. I told you about the band founder. His name is Dan. So what happens? Okay, so I think he’s awesome. I’m very proud of him. Like you talked about your story during during COVID. And what you did. So in my mind, I’m like, Oh, wow, like, you guys will hit it off in a big way. Whatever comes of it doesn’t matter. But someone like him wants to know someone like you and vice versa. You’ll have a lot in common. And at some point or another, some incredible opportunity will come as a result of me connecting you guys. And I think it comes down to, like you said, dedication to your to everything, like you describe it so well in terms of discipline. And it’s like, it’s pretty easy to connect people when you fundamentally believe in them. And they fundamentally believe in themselves. When you don’t want to connect people, like when it comes to founders is like when they screw around where they like, as you said, they’re not all in on their business. And they’re like, often it’s fear. Often it’s like, they’re not even aware of the fear. But then they asked me and it happens frequently. Please only make this intro please. Okay, well, investors, anyone knows, inside my LinkedIn account, if I bring them something, if I bring them a startup, that startup has been very, very, very well vetted, and I won’t mess up our relationships. So when I bring someone who’s extremely successful, like you something, you’re gonna stop what you’re doing, you’re incredibly busy, you have a lot on your plate, a lot of founders demanding your attention, you’re building a big business, and you’re gonna be like, Alysia sent me someone, I value this relationship, I’m going to pay attention to what you send me. And if the founder wants a call, I’ll give them time of day that came from several steps along the path and never just happen by accident. That person had to earn my trust in order for me to say, I will leverage this very valuable relationship of trust in order to make this connection.
Matt DeCoursey 14:30
I think that’s a key ingredient. Because what you I’m the same way that our mate. Oh man, I have had many people get frustrated with me or say things to me, because, man, I thought we were I thought we were boys. I thought you got my back. I’m like, Yeah, but you’re asking me to introduce you to my most valuable connections that I have cultivated for years and your pitch deck sucks. Like this is not good. I’m not gonna go take this and show it to my friends because well, why not? What do I need to do better, I just told you what to do better. Now, go fix it and come back and show me and then what just helped me out, let me talk to a couple of people, let me get their feedback, no, because the first time I put crap in front of anyone, the next time, you end up in the maybe pile. And then if that’s not a burner, then yeah, you’re probably just not even getting any attention at all. And I think when it comes to, okay, if you want people to help you, first off, you have to make it easy for people to help you. Right? So you will get more help from the world. And this isn’t about this, this is about life, if you make it easy for people to help you, then you will get more help. But, you know, along with that, like you gotta you gotta come proper. You gotta, you gotta make sure it looks good, gotta respect people’s time and all of that. And just because I know someone that you want to know doesn’t mean that I’m going to put that out there. Now, you know, the networking side of things, I think over time, I’ve really kind of changed my perspective of it, because I’ll be honest, I don’t really like going to events anymore. So I started creating my own, right, these little small box things like founders only, or something will do different nights or different things. And we’ve done them all around town. And it’s like, I find that when it comes to networking, if you can’t, if you can’t find the right environment to go to, don’t be afraid to create one yourself. I think entrepreneurs respond to other entrepreneurs. I mentioned like having something where a bunch of founders came, I don’t mean a bunch, I don’t mean like 100, because I don’t like events like that, I ended up having 97, meaning, non-meaningful conversations, where if I can go to something with eight, nine or 10 people, it might be a little different. Now as far as the networking goes, I think it’s important to let people know your past and what you want. And, and you if you want to try to pull value out of anything, you need to understand that you have to make withdrawal, you have to make deposits before you can make withdrawals. So you know, if I fit in this is just advice folks like to like, take this wherever if I meet Alysia and we, you know, like we just did. I’m not immediately asking her to give me stuff i What can I do to make your life easier? What can I do to help you solve a problem? Who, you know, where can I add value? And if you go in with that mindset doesn’t mean you have to say those exact words every time. But if you go in it with that mindset, you’re going to, you’re going to build a trust account with a lot of different people that who knows, you know, there’s I mean, I’ve probably got hundreds of people on that less than I’ll maybe never reach out and make a withdrawal from, but I let those accounts keep accumulating and accumulating and accumulating. And I provide myself as as some kind of valuable resource. But I want you to do the same. What’s your advice when it comes to a new network and how to present yourself and I don’t know, handle all of it.
Alysia Silberg 18:04
You’re incredibly wise. I hope founders listening really pay attention to what you’re saying, because I think a lot of information is available on internet, but it’s the stuff that makes or breaks companies, these things you’re talking about that there’s a level of etiquette that if you just engage us, like you do this kind of thing, you’ll be very successful. I think there’s two things that I want to touch on. I think about I spoke at Google at Google in 2018 in London, and there were a ton of sounders there, and I was very nervous, you know, it was kind of an intimidating thing to do. And was incredibly special, because they were all like African founders who, you know, move to the UK and, and met so many people. But there was this one founder, his name sliding. And he had challenges with his business, like, you know, several challenges wasn’t an easy business hardware business. But he made up his mind that he was going to build a relationship with me. And he had that belief, like you said, when He cultivates a really good network for himself, investors, journalists, whatever, but he was always willing to share. And whenever we bought, it went from potential investor potential startup investment to very close friends over the last five years. And I hear from him once a week, once every two weeks always updating me. What do you think about those same was with the book, I went to him, and I’m like sliding, you’re the reader. I need you to read this once, twice. And it was really bad in the beginning of the book. And it became a very close relationship where there’s basically nothing on earth I wouldn’t do for the founder because he never came in with an attitude of entitlement. He came in with an attitude of like, I’m a generous soul. I want to build a relationship, and I’m sure he behaves toward everyone around him the same way. And I think that’s incredibly important to do, just as you said, because I watched how, how close we got and how I’m willing to leverage every relationship in my network, even when he still has challenges with the business. Everyone knows how hard hardware is, and the probability of failing But he has proven the kind of person he is. And then I’m willing to take a risk to help him. That’s the first thing in terms of building a network. I’m the same as you like, I couldn’t stand going to all these events like that. That event I told you about where you don’t actually know anyone by the end of it. Like, it’s really tough to build close relationships, and our host parties, and I believe in serendipity. So I’ll say to you, okay, let me know when you’re in LA next. And you know, you’re busy in those things. And you’ll be like your message when you were like, I’ll be in LA in two days time, I’ll be like, you know, he’s cool. I went from the founders to meet him or message a bunch of founders. And I’ll be like, I got a really cool person coming to town, just come to my house, and the food will arrive at the last minute, everything will be at the last minute that evening and serendipity. And the right people will always show up. And that’s where the magic happens. For me, people say like, what’s your investment process? Tell me about your due diligence. And I’m like, a lot of this is about energy, serendipity, the right people. Just, that’s how it works. It’s about luck. And it’s about the fact that the right person you show up there I found shows up you guys hit it off, you understand the problem? They’re solving better than I do. I’m like, what do you think you’re like, this is a really interesting problem. I want to get involved. I sit there with you. And you’re like, like, take me through it. Okay, you said what value can you add to the company? And we have those conversations where it becomes something going back to what you said about passion? Are you passionate about it? Am I passionate about it? Is the founder passionate about? Can we create a group of people who will do everything possible to enable this company to succeed, and the rest, they keep on going they’ll have those problems and yet, but it’s got the right DNA, it’s got the right ingredients in order to make it a success. So
Matt DeCoursey 21:38
Well, speaking of the right people, finding expert software developers does not have to be difficult, especially when you go to FullScale.io. Or you can build a software team quickly and affordably. Use Full Scale as platform to define your technical needs and see what available developers testers and leaders are ready to join your team. Go to FullScale.io to learn more, you’re smiling, you see what I did there. So
Alysia Silberg 22:00
I loved it. And I should hire you guys, like,
Matt DeCoursey 22:02
I take a lot of pride in that I’ve been getting, I’ve been getting a lot of thumbs up and accolades on that. And I needed to be more humble and just let it happen and not acknowledge it. But anyway, know that you’re right. So I just spent the weekend in Asheville, North Carolina, which is a beautiful part of the country where I got to visit the Vanderbilt home which 175,000 square feet hard and one family lived there. But you know, I’m hanging out with a bunch of people I know. And I worked in the music industry for a while. So I get some interesting access. And I’m standing backstage at a rock concert, and some guy comes up to me and he knew who I was. And he said, Well, what’s your what’s your approach to entrepreneurship? And I said, well, first off, I tried 10 things, hoping that one works. When it does work, I tried it, I found that crack. And now I try to shove an elephant through and they go well, yeah, but how do you have the idea? I said, I just keep talking with people about ideas and tell they and if they feel good, we keep talking about them. And when they don’t feel good. We quit talking about them. And that’s the process. Well, how long does that take? Sometimes infinity, right? Sometimes infinity, sometimes eight minutes in you never know. And this won’t Well, well, how do you approach this conversation? With full honesty and transparency. Like, I’m going to tell you if I think the idea is not good. And I’ll tell you why and then you know, sometimes people want to argue with you about it. And I said, Hey, I’m not here to argue about it. I just maybe it’s not for me, I don’t see it going there or going here. But I think that’s how you build the network with people too. It’s like you mentioned like you’re the founder, you were just talking about, you get to know people, I’ve developed a least a mildly acutes that sense of this person’s going to be a winner. You know, there’s some people you can just tell are gonna win. And also at the same time, though, I think you have to separate people from okay, there’s a superpower that exists and I don’t have it. But there are some people that are just so likable, that they could tell you that your baby is ugly, and you thank them for the feedback. You might be like, you know what, we weren’t even planning on having a third kid. But I want to show you that we can make a beautiful baby. You know, but but those people are sometimes different. There are key players on a team. But they also might not be like there’s a difference between that sometimes in the person, Hey, be likable is is important, but it also sometimes prevents you from being the person that has a tough conversation in some regards. So I’ve also had to learn to separate that now. If you were nodding your head when I said there’s some people you can tell just will win. Do you think that they can be some time I’m confused with, like, what’s another quality that can appear to be that way, but maybe still not be all the way in that boat?
Alysia Silberg 25:11
What I found really interesting if like, if I look at my portfolio, now let’s take, I want to take a step back, you mentioned something very interesting again, that like, this concept of being likable, and a point I got to my life was, do I want to be liked or do I want to win? But often, you can’t have both? And I think that’s comes down to what you notice in a lot of the founders? Are they willing to be disliked? And a lot of people say, I’m willing to be disliked? Absolutely. No, are you truly willing to be disliked because if you want to do this, you’re gonna have to have some tough conversations, as on a daily basis, whatever the case may be. And there are times where you’re going to have to go it alone, purely because your your your viewpoint, as you said, about taking feedback, when they come pitch you and a sec, you may go and talk to 40 people, and they all may be really good at what they do. And then we’re also different, different advice, you’re going to have to decide in the end because you’ve got the CEO hat on, what is the right decision to make and live with the consequences, knowing you have employees, whatever the case may be, the business may go bankrupt based on that decision, and you need to be okay with it. And that comes down to a lot of I think, personal work, where you like, Okay, I know myself well enough that I don’t need everybody to always like me the whole time. Because as you said, when people are like when they’re starting a company, for example, and they’re coming, it’s very easy to say, Oh, you’re doing such a great job. This is fantastic. Yeah, the person leaves, they’re smiling, they’re happy. They’re like you, but have you really added value to that person’s life? No, it was an easy option to just be like, this is a great idea versus sitting down and saying, Okay, these are all the reasons I think this won’t work. And come back to me. It’s much more, it’s much more work to actually say, I don’t like it for these reasons. And so you’re right. Likeable people, it’s a double edged sword. But at the same time, I think what I’ve seen with the portfolio is the founders that succeed the most are the ones that are very comfortable being disliked, where they’re like, I like the number of times I’ll go to one of our founders, I’ll be like, can you do this? Or can you do this? Give me advice. No, I’m busy. I can’t do it right now. And like, for a while, it was like, Hey, he’s being rude. No, he’s not being rude. He’s focused. He needs to do what he needs to do. Because this is his priority. I bet somebody who knows what their priorities are, they focused on winning, they focused on building something very valuable. And they don’t have time to answer my questions. And that’s okay. And that was an interesting experience because I had to learn. This is not about him liking me or not, this is about priorities. And you can only have so many priorities in life at the same time.
Matt DeCoursey 27:50
Yeah, I would definitely if someone said, and you know, all right. I’m realistically someone that usually gets the answer I want. If I ask, and I get that occasionally, you know, like license person replying. I think it’s okay. I think for the sake of your networking and your relationships with people. I know that most of the people that I know that I consider peers, if I if they asked me something, and I want and I want to provide that value, I want it but sometimes you have to be laser sharp and focused on on stuff and, and be able to tell someone, hey, look, I I’m gonna get back to you. But I need a week. I need, I need two weeks, I need something. I think if you just tell people that up front, I think that any entrepreneur that doesn’t understand that hasn’t been an entrepreneur that long, you know. So, I think that that that’s part of it, when it comes to building everything. You know, we keep talking about ideas. So let’s talk about ideas even more for a second. What makes a good one?
Alysia Silberg 28:51
I’d say that other people are willing to pay for you to pay pay you for it. I think if you keep it super simple, that’s what it comes down to.
Matt DeCoursey 28:57
And that the root of that is it’s got to solve a problem. Absolutely. A valuable problem. Absolutely. And then, but a good idea, in my opinion, is it really worth a whole lot, if anything, if I don’t think you can execute on it. I got a whole shelf up here of books and notes and stuff that somewhere in that there’s million dollar ideas everywhere, which aren’t really that exciting to me, or I wasn’t passionate about them. Or maybe we didn’t feel like we could execute on it. And I think execution is the true currency of entrepreneurships and startups. You know, like, I mean, this isn’t anything new here. But you know, having someone that’s visionary in your company and having someone that drives execution are two different things. Do you think if you want to build an empire, you have to have a co-founder or can you go in alone?
Alysia Silberg 29:49
I know that people listening who are going alone, and they want to hear me say, it’s great to go it alone. Yeah, to some extent, it’s great to go it alone, if you don’t have a co founder, and you want to do and you want to keep on going, keep going. And but if I look at what I see firsthand, like with a portfolio, you make an extra ordinarily tough on yourself, like you really do because you went so many hats, and there’s no one to talk stuff out with this. It’s just, you’re burdened. And then when it comes to investors, you make it much tougher on yourself, because the investors are like, how is this person going to do all this stuff versus, like, I’ve listened to interviews with you and your co founder, where it’s like, you can see, you can see you both very comfortable with each other, you both know what your responsibilities are. And there’s a level of comfort that just from an actual day to day management of building the business growing the business, and now that it’s critical, like it’s really tough, if you want to build a really, as you say, Empire, you want to build on those businesses is going to be really tough to do it. And then if you’re going to do that, I know I heard you were one of your one of your podcasts talking about it was excellent, excellent insights, in terms of, okay, if you’re not going to give them equity as a like a fab, as a co founder, you got to bring on a founding team, and they got to act as if they are co founders. And that’s it. Like, we can dive into that. But I can see the strain they take. And it’s at the point where it’s almost painful to watch. If it’s a single founder trying to build like a VC funded business, like it’s just too much, because it’s just just to hit your milestones. And now like, it’s really tough, like when you’re recruiting, you need to be doing this, when you’re doing this, you need to be doing this. There’s not enough time in a day. And there are people that do it incredibly well. But at the same time, if you do make a tough on yourself.
Matt DeCoursey 31:47
Yeah, I think it’s difficult to emulate, and simulate the founders viewpoint without actually being one. You bring in, you can bring in a C-suite and great advisors and stuff like that. And if they are not fully like, if they don’t have a vested interest, and this is why so many companies set up early option pools and stuff like that because I’m a big believer in this, by the way you should have it people have a vested interest in the success of the enterprise. And they feel that you have a different point of view, always from the ownership seat. And it’s just a little bit different. And there have been times where I have made decisions that were painful financially. But they were not selfish. And we’re better off for our company. I think that that stuff without and I don’t go out and put those on a pedestal and brag about them to the employees, they happen, oftentimes, quietly, and without a lot of people knowing but I think what trickles down, you know, I’ve got over 300 employees worldwide now. And there is an AI AI person well, according to highly anonymous employee engagement polls, there’s a strong belief in the management team at the company to do things that are positive, and, and not selfish. Essentially, I won’t get into like the 10 different categories we asked. But I think that’s an important thing. Because for those that are employable, you want to work for people that give a shit about what you’re doing. And like, you know, it can’t just always be about you, I think one of the more poignant kind of things that comes with with being a founder is you have to develop the ability to during the worst times of the business to shield everybody from it and take it all you got to take the bullets, the arrows, the punches, all of it. And then you have to learn how to step away at the good times and let everybody absorb the rays of sunshine and positive everything that are coming down. And you know what, you’re not going to be good at that right away. You’re not good. It takes a little bit of time. But But with that, what you will find is there’s going to be yes, there’s going to be a small handful of people that won’t notice or don’t care. But the other people that do it cement it begins to build a head on to the legacy of sorts, you know, just meaning like there’s if there’s belief in the people that run it, and you look at all these great companies that are out there, and there’s the founders a persona that matters and that company like you know, there’s people that work at Tesla that are just they love Elon, I don’t know maybe you like him, maybe you don’t but I there are a ton of people there that believe in the mission. They believe in the output. They believe in the product. They believe in all of that. But that starts from the founder level. And then you look at alright better.com managed to finally go public. If you’re not aware of that story that went with that, you know, that CEO came under a high level of scrutiny for like firing 900 people simultaneously through zoom or something like that. Oh, my God, what an uphill climb. Had to come with that. So you look at like the the founder persona and where that comes from, like, that was a bad decision, clearly didn’t do very well for the company, but then you had to climb, get up and climb out of it. So, you know, founder personas can go both ways. There’s certainly I mean, guy, we could probably do a whole episode called Bad founders, we could do a whole series and a whole month worth, because there’s a lot of them too. But these are the things that talk about building building. Okay, tell me someone that’s built an empire without having that strong persona that went with it, it’s difficult to do. What’s a major company somewhere where no one knows who the founder is, or the CEO or the leader, that’s an important part of things. I think that does definitely come with trust.
Alysia Silberg 36:14
Congratulations on what you’ve accomplished, cuz it’s almost difficult to touch on all the elements, again, all these nuggets of advice you share with these founders, and you’re doing like a public service. Yeah. those tough times where you carry the burden, and no one’s aware of it. But that’s when the rubber hits the road, when it comes to founders, where it’s like, as you said, like, it’s about trust, and they put their trust in you, and their families put their trust in you. And you’ve got a strong personality, you’re a leader, like you said, How do you know when a person has it, and it’s like, just listening to you talk your clarity of thought, and it probably didn’t happen overnight, it took a long time for you to figure all this stuff out and to, to give, to give the room when things are going well, and at the same time to to not create fear to not create doubt or to be that that leader that they’re so it’s so very much need you to be I can only imagine what COVID was like with you going through everything that you’re going through, and you’ve come out so successfully at the other end. And I think that’s part of what people don’t get when it comes to building these kinds of companies is the qualities? And do you have like, if you think about yourself, and if somebody said to you 10 years ago, what qualities do you have, that would make you a good leader, while you wouldn’t be 100% clear on all of them, I believe you would be probably eight out of 10, you would be very comfortable being like, you know what I like a strong personality, I know where I’m going. I’m very goals oriented, can all make things we can all get better at these things. But I think it takes a certain type of visionary to bold, very big companies. And as you said, they’ll always be people that take it for granted, what the leaders done will always be people who aren’t appreciative. But like I think about Bryan Armstrong, for example, when they were going through such a difficult time at Coinbase. And he was very clear who he wanted on his team. And it was very clear that if you don’t fundamentally believe in the way we’re doing things here, it’s it’s no fault of yours. It’s no fault of ours, but you don’t belong here and go and find something better to do that’s a better fit for you. And I think comes down to values as well. The people that follow you have a shared value system. And you were clear, obviously upfront when you were hiring because you wouldn’t be so successful. And like I think about Sam Altman, and he talks about her even to this day, like with everything happening at OpenAI, he’s involved with every hiring decision, because it’s like, it’s so critical that, that that culture you created, which was not accidental, I can like, I would imagine you gave a lot of thought to every decision you made because you’re the kind of person that I would believe is very reflective, in terms of things you did well in the past versus things that you could have done better. And I think that’s the kind of person people want to follow. And I look at where your business is now. And we have this, this have this conversation five years, 10 years time. My bet is you’ll be very, very, very successful. But you’ll have done it in a way that honors your integrity, honors, your values, honors, all your stakeholders, whether it’s your employees, your customers, your investors, but if people think that’s accidental, they asked me what do you look for? I don’t look for mercenaries, I look for missionaries. And there’s a very big difference between the two.
Matt DeCoursey 39:42
I recently had someone asked me where I worked and I just pointed at my head. I kind of was maybe feeling snarky at the moment, but it is where I work. Well. Where do you go to work? I just pointed out my rolled my eyes. I was like, yeah, and by the way, it’s a battle up there. I, you know, I know so many founders that have the ADHD quality that I have I’ve made I know how to put that lightning in a bottle most of the time. But yeah, for there’s a lot of days where my, my, my mindset sounds like a blender filled with bottle caps, you know, and trying to quiet that down. I think that’s, I think that’s the the challenge for the driven. Now we’re almost out of time, I’ll remind everyone, if you need to hire software engineers, testers, or leaders, that Full Scale can help we have the people in the platform to help you build and manage a team of experts. You know, we’re in defining the very best people we can have. You know, it takes 42 applicants for us to give a job offer so we’re looking for the very best people we can find for you and learn all about it, go to FullScale.io takes about two minutes, if a lot of former systems gonna match you up with a bunch of different people that hopefully meet the needs that you’re looking for. And we’re committed to helping you find the right people, not just people, there is a difference, folks, there is a difference. You know, I like to end my shows with what I call the founders freestyle. And I let my guests freestyle for a moment at the end. You know, these episodes, my number one feedback for any show is wow, that went quick. So there’s things that we forget to say. And there’s things that we you know, I don’t know, want to wrap up on and highlight on. Once again with me today, Alysia Silberg, CEO at Street Global VC and the author of Unemployable. And that’s, yeah, that that kind of turned into our theme today. But you know, at least what would you like to say on the way out. I’ll add a couple things on then we’ll, we’ll call it a day.
Alysia Silberg 41:43
I think I’d love for your listeners to read Unemployable for a different reason to what they’d probably imagine. I’d love to read their stories. So if they could leave a review on Amazon, just in terms of their own personal stories because I think that’s really, really interesting. I love connecting with people. And seeing how people define unemployable. We’re trying to change the perception of what it means to be unemployable. It’s actually something to be incredibly proud of. And I’ve got a daily AI newsletter, which I’d love for them to read and getting value from. It’s something I’m very passionate about at them connect with me at Alysia Silberg, you can find me on LinkedIn. And I love hearing from founders. I love having these conversations. This is the you know, my life’s purpose. So just reach out. Don’t be shy. Like, I think that’s a big thing. Like, send me some cheeky message, like, something really cool. Those are the ones like there was this 15 year old that sent me a message and it Patreon’s had some healthcare technology. And he’s like, I saw my Patreon. And now I want to join your firm. And I was like, dude, like, that’s fantastic. Okay, I want to give a quote, It was like, so cheeky. But that’s how you get people’s attention bureau.
Matt DeCoursey 42:47
Well, that’s also how you make change. You know, there, I want to I want to close out by also on the unemployable theme. I take pride in that. And I do I mean, 100%. How many people that don’t understand the term, you know, and it takes like I will, if I bring it up to some folks that you can, and I said that before we started recording, and I was telling her I was like gonna say this to people all the time. And they just look they have like a glaze in their eyes. They don’t know what I’m unemployable. You could go get a job a bunch of Yes, I probably could. But you don’t want to hire me, I’m not gonna be that great of an employee. I’m just not. I mean, I’m a great employee at the company that I employ myself at. Maybe that’s just what it’s come down to for me is you can create your own environment, you can create your own reality. I do not believe in luck, people. Occasionally, they’re like, Oh, you’ve had a lot of success. You’re really lucky. I did not feel lucky during any 100-hour week that I worked. I did not feel lucky. Yeah. I
Alysia Silberg 43:51
You created that luck working 100 hours a week. That was the that you created. That didn’t happen by accident. Yes. Whatever came out of that. That was your creation.
Matt DeCoursey 44:00
But that’s not lucky. That’s not lucky. That you know, you I talk to people a lot that you will get some kind of press or something. They’re like an overnight sensation. When they talk. They’re like, Yeah, this was nine years in the making and assisting, there’s very little that comes very quickly. And I find that, you know, people that are determined to do things, usually do things, you do still have to have a good idea, you do still have to have a problem. Just because you’re determined to solve the world’s most worthless problem. Doesn’t mean it’s worse. There are still ingredients. You know, it’s like removing the flour from a cake recipe. Like there’s not a lot of ways to get around that.
Alysia Silberg 44:00
I love that example, by the way.
Matt DeCoursey 44:06
Alysia Silberg 44:06
Matt DeCoursey 44:07
The cake example?
Alysia Silberg 44:08
Exactly, exactly. There are a lot of people who are like, but this hasn’t been solved yet. And then you see it like in the supermarket or something, you’re like, Yeah, okay, are they testing it out? Let me know how it goes.
Matt DeCoursey 44:59
Yeah, I Well, I’ve also had a lot of people tell me they don’t have any competition, and two minutes of Google searches proves that not only do they have competition, they might have too much. But with that, look, you know, you shoot your shot. You’re gonna miss 100% of the shots you don’t take, according to Wayne Gretzky, and that’s a very famous quote. We’ll quote Mike Tyson too, because everyone had a plan until they got punched in the face. Expect all that to happen. I mean, it’s it’s really that really what’s going to happen. But get out there and start trying. If we’re naming cliche, big company slogans, Nike says, just do it. If you can, oh, my God, I talked to too many people that tell me they’re five years later still telling me about the same thing they’re going to do. They haven’t done it yet. Like, what do you think I need to do? Think you need to leave here right now and go start. Go start. As a book author, you know that most people don’t want to talk to you about your own book. They actually want to talk to you about a book they have yet to write seems to be a phenomenon that authors experience, and they’re like, well, what do you think I should do next? Go home and write something? Yeah, it’s that simple. Just getting started is the hardest step, and it is often the first one. But you’ve got to take it. It’s required. So
Alysia Silberg 46:13
You got to do stand up, like stand up, stand up, startup stand up like you really have to. It’s actually refreshing.
Matt DeCoursey 46:19
I have some good I tell dad jokes for entrepreneurs, and that’s how I’ll end one. So you know, as a VC, I think you’ll like this one. This one’s just for you. I wrote my pitch deck in Braille. I’m gonna get funded. I can really feel it. And that’s it. I’m out. Alysia, thank you for joining me.