Corporate Entrepreneurship and Overcoming Personal Adversity

Hosted By Matt Watson

Full Scale

See All Episodes With Matt Watson

Mike Stemple

Today's Guest: Mike Stemple

CEO - Inspirer

Oceanside, California

Ep. #1059 - Corporate Entrepreneurship & Overcoming Personal Adversity

In this episode of Startup Hustle, Matt Watson and Mike Stemple, CEO and Professional Ideator of Inspirer, talk about corporate entrepreneurship and overcoming personal adversity. Discover how your mindset can help you better face challenges and how it will help you become a more successful entrepreneur through adversities.

Covered In This Episode

Overcoming personal adversity is a hallmark of successful corporate entrepreneurship. Despite facing complex challenges, they find the strength to persevere and turn their struggles into opportunities. Moreover, they understand that success requires hard work, determination, and adapting to new situations.

Mike Steple and Matt Watson are here to discuss these topics, especially regarding leadership and innovation. Also, they talk about using psychological training and consulting to help executives innovate faster with smaller teams and capital.

Get Started with Full Scale

Inspire your teams to be innovative. Listen to this Startup Hustle episode.

Podcast for Entrepreneurs


  • Founder’s Journey (00:55)
  • Work on an idea with a credible claim (03:55)
  • The laptop vinyl trend (05:51)
  • Mike’s company exit and transition (09:07)
  • Building the car wrap business (10:12)
  • Mike’s health challenges and how he tried to overcome them (11:18)
  • Do it even when everyone around you thinks it’s stupid (14:07)
  • Long-term positive changes through diet and exercise (21:13)
  • Mentoring at Techstars and advising large companies (22:05)
  • Why innovation dies (27:17)
  • Why innovators die down in the corporate world and operators thrive (31:22)
  • The number one trait people need to have to be successful entrepreneurs (32:13)
  • Enforcing fear mitigation vs. risk mitigation (35:15)
  • A funny story about hiring the wrong people (36:57)
  • On going against standards (38:30)
  • Mike’s upcoming book (43:01)
  • Mike’s final tips for other entrepreneurs (44:39)

Key Quotes

Everyone in my life at the time just said, you know, accept your situation. Don’t be stupid. And I went against everyone’s advice. And I started training the very next day. Furthermore, I treated it like a startup and was highly disciplined about my diet. Also, I was highly disciplined about what was in my mind, my motivation, and everything. And I used to, and I started walking every day. Eventually, I got to the point where I was doing 10 miles every day with a pack with a race pack with everything I was planning on taking into the desert. And one day, I decided to run a little bit. And then, the next day, I ran a little bit more, and six months later, on a plane flying down to the Atacama city called Kalama, Atacama, I was ready to do the hardest thing I can imagine ever doing. Along the way, I stopped twitching in. The pain went away. And the shakes went away. In addition, I was healing somehow.

Mike Stemple

I always say when I go to hire software developers like if they come in and they’re the interviewer, and they’re wearing a suit and tie and all this stuff, and we’re all super professional and like this is not the person, but they come in, and they’re like super weird. They came in dressed like a Jedi Knight, whatever. I’d be like, you’re hired on the spot, like you’re the right person. Because usually, the weirder they are, the better they are. I’m telling you.

Matt Watson

I love the word disrupt because one of the exercises I do with corporate clients is what is the definition of innovation. And for me, the definition that I came up with is the human response to evolution. So things are constantly changing and evolving. And if you don’t respond to every evolution, then you are building up a dam of ignorance of the evolutions that are happening. And when you get to a certain point, that’s disruption. When you ignore evolution long enough, it will disrupt you, or someone will disrupt you because someone was paying attention to the evolutions that are happening.

Mike Stemple

Sponsor Highlight

Full Scale helps you find skilled developers quickly and affordably. We excel in constructing long-term teams that utilize cutting-edge technology for your software development venture. In addition, Full Scale has carefully selected experienced developers, testers, and leaders who are ready to collaborate with your team. Tell us what you need, and form your team today!

Moreover, visit our Startup Hustle partners for more business solutions that suit your needs.

Rough Transcript

Following is an auto-generated text transcript of this episode. Apologies for any errors!

Matt Watson 0:00
And we’re back for another episode of the Startup Hustle. This is your host today, Matt Watson, very excited to be joined with Mr. Mike Stemple. Today and his company Inspire. He’s done a whole lot of things in his career. And we’ll talk all about it. But we’re primarily going to talk about being an entrepreneur today and trying to be even more entrepreneurial. So excited to talk all about that. But before we get started, today’s episode of Startup Hustle is powered by Hiring software developers is difficult, Full Scale can help you build a software team quickly and affordably and has the platform to help you manage that team visit To learn more, Mike, welcome to the show. Man. I love nothing more than talking about entrepreneurship. So excited for the conversation today.

Mike Stemple 0:39
Well, I’ve been an entrepreneur my whole life. So I probably have a lot to say.

Matt Watson 0:44
Well, tell tell us about your journey. But before we get started here, you mentioned, it sounds like you were I don’t know, were you a professional athlete. You’ve been an artist, entrepreneur and a lot, a lot of different things. Tell us tell us about your background.

Mike Stemple 0:55
I have the most eclectic background. And I think that just leads me to be on the pathway to success I’ve been on. Let me start at the beginning. I’m ex military. I joined the Army straight out of high school, I was a combat medic. And listed in did very well. So well. They asked me to leave. They didn’t kick me out. They asked me to leave and offered to pay for my undergraduate to become a doctor and come back as a army surgeon. So I went on that path and got through my senior year of college. And I was in a car accident, and my head hit the doorframe of a car. And in a blink of an eye I lost both my military and my medical future. Oh man. And it was probably one of the best things that ever happened to me, other than you know, rupturing all my teeth and having root canals on all my molars and tearing my eye and my neck and everything. Part of my brain I hit on the front temporal on the right side is the creativity center. And I damaged an area adjacent to the creativity center, and it sparked creativity on an uncontrollable creativity. Every single piece of blank paper I saw around me I imagined artwork on it. So I started to paint. And six months after my head injury, I painted one of the largest murals in Colorado history. I’m from Denver, Colorado, grew up there. And it was a 40 foot by 80 foot mural featuring John Elway to Kimberly montembeault at the nuggets and Andreas Galarraga of the Rockies. And it became kind of a hallmark career setting a huge, huge project that became the most visible artists in Colorado and took me on a wild path. I started doing our work for pro athletes and created hundreds upon hundreds of pieces of art. Wow, in my late 20s. Yeah, so that was the first big exposure I had to working with brands like the pro sports teams and working with personal brands like pro athletes. And also just marketing yourself, how do you market yourself. And so this is the late 90s. And the internet was just kicking into high gear. And my younger brother had just graduated with a computer science degree and was telling me about this thing called the internet. And I looked into it and I became fascinated with how web pages were displayed. Just the code underneath making something visual. And so I taught myself to code and came up with some ideas and I got my first startup funded in 2000. And the first three failed spectacularly. And that’s okay, the fourth one did alright, I created a company called skin it stickers for cell phones and laptops. And it’s still in business to this day, and millions upon millions of people have ordered skins for their phones. And it kind of became my first big, big exit.

Matt Watson 3:52
Did you create a lot of the art for those?

Mike Stemple 3:55
I did it but skin it was this. It was I finally learned one of the secrets to being a successful entrepreneur is don’t work on, don’t work on an idea unless you have a credible claim personally to be involved in it. So for example, if you’re single and you don’t have kids, it’s probably not a good idea to make a build a company that helps parents manage their kids, for example, right? Because you don’t have kids so you have no real credible claim to be in that. Let’s get it I did have a credible claim. It was a marriage of technology and art and physical manufacturing on demand physical manda matter of fact, on demand physical manufacturing, and all areas I was interested in and passionate about and I had a credible claim to do it. And it took off like a hockey stick, and on November 11, 2004, we launched and profitable from day one crashed our web servers with orders the very first day took us three months to catch up. And to this day 1000s upon 1000s of orders happen every single day.

Matt Watson 4:58
So So is it your fault hope that everybody put stickers on their laptops now.

Mike Stemple 5:03
Yes. Before me go all the way back to 2000 floor.

It was funny. 2004 was like this pivotal time because all these consumer electronics even idea that the popular phones that was the Palm Pilot, yeah PDAs Blackberry phones, XM Radio just launched, so the little radio thing. Compact was still in business,

Matt Watson 5:28
I created mobile apps for some of those things you just mentioned. So I know my

Mike Stemple 5:35
company right before skin, it was called inreach. And I was in the mobile content business. I sold inreach to a public company that eventually went under, but I was doing the same thing. ringtones graphics and games, apps for those devices. And I just thought it was perfect.

Matt Watson 5:51
Well, go ahead, I guess I have to say I’m gonna have to speak for a lot of IT people out there, because I’ve been this guy that, you know, an employee leaves and they turn their laptop, and it’s full of stickers on the back, and I gotta clean that crap off. I’m blaming you for that.

Mike Stemple 6:07
Know what I do now? Every time I just I just got a new MacBook. And I buy a plastic shell. And I stick it on the back. And then I put my stickers and there you go. But what’s funny is, yeah, because I figured I’m gonna, someone else is gonna get a hand me down somewhere in the next couple years. And not everyone has the same personalization. But the nice thing about skin it I pioneered, I worked really hard with three M, and we had that vinyl, we still have the vinyl, the skin still has the vinyl, gray Bapt adhesive, it appeals clean, there’s no residue when you peel it off. It’s high end. And it was just man, that company was a blast to build and the things we’re working on were the first of its kind like being able to upload a photo and position it on top of a product, and then end up getting that exact design custom and shipped to you. There were no Sass platforms for that there was no ecommerce code, I could buy two to enable that there were no plugins for that. So that was all custom coded stuff back in the day. And it was a fascinating company to build though it was just this marriage of personalization, the trend of personalization, and technology. And our clientele skewed heavily women, because if you think about it, most consumer electronics, by their very nature are more masculine, they can silver, black, feminine, very masculine, traditional person. Most of our clientele was women. So we allowed for the first time women to express an electronic accessory and personalize it to them. And so that was always fascinating. Most of the media we got was in feminine oriented media. And I knew I was onto something because my mom got excited. And my wife at the time was excited. It seemed women were more excited about skin and at the start. And that that changed heavily. When we got into licensing when we started licensing a ton of brands. To this day skin. It’s one of the largest licensees to be pro sports. Okay, all have Disney Marvel, I mean the whole cache, and then you can move and grab that artwork and pick your device and get this custom cut sticker to make it as unique as you and I hadn’t been done before. I mean, so it was it was it was weird working with the licenses. Because we kept they kept on saying send us a sample of your lot. And we’d like we don’t have lots we don’t buy in lots we make each one at the time of order. We have rolls of vinyl that are white, I can send you that or I can print out some skins, do you and so that was always one of the challenges getting them to start thinking about on demand manufacturing.

Matt Watson 9:01
So So tell me about, you know, your career as you as you, you know, went went past in it.

Mike Stemple 9:07
Yeah, so I just get it. sold it to a actually one of our licensing companies bought it all of us. San Diego bought it. And we spent some time in San Diego and fell in love with it. And it’s where I live now in San Diego. So I leave skin it and I decided to do skin it for cars. So I created a company called original wraps, which was basically taking the same business model of skin it but doing it for large car companies. And so I partnered with just about every large card company in the world. My older brother and I he led the company and I kind of helped on the bizdev stuff. And we got between a billion dollars of revenue between the between the car companies and the smaller company called 3am. And so suddenly out of the blue car companies were signing personalization deals to power ramps for cars directly enrolling into the financing of the vehicle. And three and three ended up buying original ramps. So we’re navigated that. Excellent.

Matt Watson 10:12
So were you guys focused on actually doing the wraps or making the materials and then selling it to all these other people that did the reps.

Mike Stemple 10:20
The two big areas we focused was the technology platform. So we had a seamless engine that I built at skin it so most of the skins revenue came from third parties. So we have powered like Disney skins or T Mobile skins. We did the same thing with the car company. So when you were on VW as website and suddenly you saw an advertisement on there that you can personalize your VW. They ended up on a piece of code that okay, we powered in RAM. Okay. And then we had all the licenses and designs and we did it both b2b and b2c, so b2c with a consumer that can get pinstripes for their car. But the b2b one was really interesting, because if you are a painter and you bought a cargo van from Ford, right, yeah, you can get this wrapped directly from Ford. And I went into financings

Matt Watson 11:13
Yeah, Mike painting or whatever, like we’ve all seen those before. Absolutely, yeah.

Mike Stemple 11:18
Yeah. So we worked on that for quite some time. And around a year or two after that, my hands started to shake one day, and didn’t really notice. Just that I was tired. But it progressed to twitches all over my body. And then the pain started and I got really sick. And so I bowed out of original abs, turn it over to my older brother to run and monetized. And I spent the next six months of my life trying to figure out what was what was wrong with me. And long story short, at the end of that six months, the doctor said, high probability of either Parkinson’s or Ms. Which is something when you’re in your late 30s, you don’t want to hear Yeah, and so they gave me this advice. I remember that doctor’s visit to this day, if there’s anything physical you want to do with your life, now is the time to do it. And so the very next morning, I woke up, and I have a different code that aggregates a ton of content. So it’s kind of a feed reader of sorts. And the very first story on my feed reader that I used was a review of Paula colos, the alchemist. And in that, that story, there’s this quote, what would you do with your life if you were not afraid? And it was just vividly displayed on my screen? What would you do with your life if you’re not afraid, because I just spent the previous six months chasing down my fear, trying to figure out why I was physically sick. And it was just fear after fear after fear, MRIs, CAT scans, all these all these awful things. And I decided in that moment, sitting there that I was going to pick the hardest thing I could imagine to do physically. And I was gonna go and achieve it. And so I realized I couldn’t climb Everest. I have no background, and I have no credible claim the climbers, right? So I, I couldn’t I didn’t feel comfortable being on a bike. So it wasn’t gonna cycle across America. And I figured I could walk. And if I can walk, I could probably run and figure I used to run in the military. And so I googled the hardest foot race on the planet. And the very first result was a race that’s run in the Atacama, called the Atacama crossing the Atacama Desert in northern Chile. It’s a high desert. So it’s around a mile high. So it’s similar in elevation to Denver. And it’s the driest place on Earth. 400 times drier than anywhere else. It’s just immensely dry as a rain for 400 years. Oh, wow. It’s just brutal. And it’s a salt desert. And it used to be the ocean floor. And I got pushed up in the Andes reform. So it’s layered in salt everywhere. It’s a beautiful, beautiful place. And I’m reading about this amazing race. It’s 156 miles, 250 kilometers, self supported. You spend basically a week in the desert with a pack with everything you need to survive a week, traveling 156 miles. If you ask for a band aid, you’re out. So everything has to be in your pack. The only thing they’ll give you on the course is water. And people die doing this race, or these type of races. And I was just fascinated with it. I was just like, this is this is hard. This feels like building a startup. This feels this is daunting, this is utterly impossible, and I’m going to do the impossible. And so I saw it was running in the fall of the next year. So this is October. And I see it’s it’s running in the fall of two The next year and so I entered it green with think twice, I entered it, put my credit card in, got the confirmation. And only then that I noticed that I had made a big mistake. The southern hemisphere has a different fall spring summer cadence than we do there fall is our spring. And so I, I was like, Oh, I only have six months to train for this race. I have to go from sedentary and sick to ultra endurance athlete. And my doctors are called My doctors and told them what I was planning. And they all said it was stupid. And the family all said it was stupid. Everyone in my life at the time just said, you know, accept your situation. Don’t be stupid. And I went against everyone’s advice. And I started training the very next day. And I treated it like a startup. I was highly disciplined about my diet I was highly disciplined about was in my mind, I motivation, everything. And I used to and I started walking every day. And eventually I got to the point where I was doing 10 miles every day with a pack with a race pack with everything I was planning on taking into the desert. And one day I decided to run a little bit. And then the next day I ran a little bit more and six months later, on a plane flying down to the Atacama city called Kalama in the Atacama, and I’m ready to do the hardest thing I can imagine ever doing. And along the way, I stopped twitching in. The pain went away. And the shakes went away. I was healing somehow. And I ended up on a plane ride flying down to run the hardest foot race appointment.

Matt Watson 16:50
So how did the race go?

Mike Stemple 16:53
On the flight down I was taking my my race pack, the big North Face bag out of the overhead. someone bumped me from behind the bag flipped over behind my head with my hands stuck in the handle. And I rotated my shoulder and tore one of the one of the ligaments on the old your clavicle to your scapula. Yeah, and and those ligaments popped off. And so any weight that was put on my shoulder will cause the scruciating pain. So this is the day before the race this happens. And I go and see the race doc. And he presses down. And he’s like, Yeah, okay, you’re disqualified. He was like, You don’t understand I start crying. I’m not ashamed to admit this. I was like bawling. I was like you have no idea what I’ve been through to wind up here today. And what this means for me. And I think he took some some pity on me. And he goes, You’re that tech guy right? There. We have to submit a bio. There are about 100 athletes who do this race. And so I had to submit a bio and I go, yeah, he was you good with math and they go, I’m pretty good at math. He goes, how many feet are on a mile? Are you 50 to 80? He goes, What’s your stride length? You’ll probably around three feet. Because this is 156 miles. I was like, okay, he goes do the mouth. And I was kind of crunching he goes how many strides you’re going to take over a quarter million he goes, you’re going to separate your shoulder 250,000 times over the next seven days. You can excuse me handle that pain. I’ll let you run. And he goes and by the way, you can’t have any Advil or any Tylenol in your pack. One when you’re dehydrated, one will damage your kidneys. The other one the damage your liver. So no painkillers on this one. Because if you can can do that, then you can do it. And so he worked with me to rig my pack, okay and take some of the weight off. But it transferred everything over to my other shoulder and my hips got out of alignment and it was just a brutal, brutal seven days. And on the last big stage it was 50 miles. I almost died. I got my electrolytes got out of balance. My heart started to beat irregularly. And I thought that was it. I thought I didn’t pardon me, I think now in reflection over the years thought that I was kind of depressed and suicidal and wanted to go there to wanted to push myself to the brink and die. And I almost did. And it was an amazing another amazing pivotal point in my life is when I was sitting on the floor of the Atacama watching a sunset. And I saw the most glorious sunset I’ve ever seen in my life. It was just solid gold. All the salt crystals got the perfect reflection is felt like I was sitting on a plane of gold. And it was just an amazing spiritual moment I am because I looked around and asked for help. And there was just you spread out really far in this race and I was down on a bone. And as far as I could see, I couldn’t see another human being, and I realized it was the most lonely I’ve ever been. It was the furthest way I’ve ever been from another human being in my life, and no one was going to save me. And it was also the loneliest I’d ever been with myself. And I saw that amazing sunset and had this kind of out of body experience. And something clicked in my brain, something just changed again. And my heart started to calm down. And I realized that if I could just stand up and take a one little step in that moment, then that would be an achievement. If I could just face the end on my feet, that would be awesome. So I got up and I took a little step, and it worked. So I hobbled a little bit more, and I got a little bit further. And I looked back, and I could see where I was sitting in the dirt. I was like, maybe if I just hobble the rest of the way, I can actually finish this thing and the time up. And I did, somehow I made it to the finish line. And I ran under fitting well hobbled 156 miles, and achieved one of the hardest things I could ever imagine doing.

Matt Watson 21:13
That’s, that’s incredible. So incredible story. So the So ultimately, through all of that exercise, and changes your diet and all that, did it ultimately have a long term effect on your your health issues that you had.

Mike Stemple 21:27
So we fast forward again, so I come back from the desert, I decided I’m not going to do startups like the way I’ve been doing them. I create a company called Inspire. Because I had this, this, this word in my head, the greatest thing you could ever do was to live a life worthy of inspiring others. And so I decided to come back and inspire people and get out of my comfort zone. I’ve never liked being in front of people. I never like being on stage. I never like being interviewed. And so all those things was a new goal of mine is to get myself out there and out of my comfort zone. And I started mentoring. So I mentored at founders Institute, became a director of founders into them start mentoring at TechStars and was giving back heavily he was doing keynotes on stage and started getting second. And what and saw doc, and the head of Ms. One of the top ms doctors in the world. And he kept on having these interns come in and run all these tests on the same thing over and over and over all day. And then finally he comes in he goes, I have good news. And I bet you should pick your choice to use the good news is you don’t have Ms. Like okay, that is awesome news. Because the bad news is something’s damaged, that’s causing something’s damaged in your neck that’s causing all this. And when I said oh yeah, by the way, I was in a car accident when I was 24 hit my head against the doorframe, and he just kind of rolled his eyes and go janitor, you probably damage something along your spine. And that’s just good that the symptoms are gonna rise and fall cascade up and down. And so I realized that, once again, this amazing moment in my life will have repercussions both positive and negative forever. And that’s one of the things I think a lot about is these moments that I’ve had in my life that at the start of them, they looked tragic, they actually ended up amazingly awesome, because I chose to make them awesome. I chose to find the silver lining.

And so go ahead. Go ahead. Go ahead.

Yeah, so I go through this amazing discovery process. And I am advising corporations at this time. With my consulting business. It started randomly. As head of a CTO I knew asked me to come in to this large multinational, and tell them about the startup stuff I was doing and why startups act the way they do. And what do startup founders think, and how do they go through their ideation process? And how did they build things? And so it’s asking me 1000 Questions about startups. And it was just this once again, stepping back into the corporate realm. So when I was on skin and original apps, I partnered with every license, every large company, you can imagine every carrier hardware manufacturers like HP, Dell, all the car companies, I had worked with all these innovation teams before as a service provider, creating a white label technology solution that they would then slap their logo on and make available to their customers. Now it was on the other side. I was working embedded in an innovation team looking at the startup community trying to figure out what startups could could help these large multinationals or whether they should just do it themselves. And in doing that for a decade now, I’ve been what they call an entrepreneur in residence for hire, I stepped in as a consultant, I embed usually for two years. And part time, I’m not an employee, for sure. And my job is to help executives within these large companies so they can have more entrepreneurs, and really take into account and understand just how dangerous the startup community is to their future. I think a lot of executives in these large companies just completely discount how dangerous in aggregate the startup community is to them. And so that’s one of the big lessons I tried to teach them is, here’s a here’s a fun exercise. Usually the very first meeting I have, I’ll do some research ahead of time, I find three startups that are competing against mega Corp. And I look at the headcount on LinkedIn at these three startups, and I look at job titles. And I come up with a number of how many people within those three startups are solely focused on innovating from that startup, no other role, right? So they’re not a receptionist, or they’re not a salesperson. They’re creating code and creating intellectual property. Then I go in, and I meet with a group of senior executives. And I say, these three startups have this many people, how many people do you and megacorp have solely focused on creating innovation, creating intellectual property, whether it’s patents on new products, new things, and they’re just shocked to find that there’s more innovators within three startups than a $6 billion entity around the globe? And then I told them, This is just three startups, you’re in what 10 different markets around the globe, and you have 1000s of startups that are eating away at your margins every single day, and you’re not taking it seriously. And go ahead.

Matt Watson 27:17
Well, so I was gonna say, you know, I, the first company I had I started in 2003. And I sold it in 2011. It was a CRM system record dealers. And to this day, it’s the number one product in the whole industry. It hasn’t changed in 10 years either. And, and I think it’s the same effect, right? Like, people acquire these things, or they build these things. And then they become operators of it and become expert operators of it. But the innovation part of it slowly dies away. And so, you know, love to hear your opinion on why do you think that is you think it’s just the talent that did that left the people the product vision left, nobody wants to take any risk, like, we’re, they’re too big to change, like nobody has the willpower to cause all the change that has to ripple through if something has to be changed, like, what are the things that drive that?

Mike Stemple 28:07
What I’ve found is there’s two personas that I look at and people so every one I kind of put in one or two buckets. You’re either an innovator or you’re an operator. And so what I mean by that is, and I’m not disparaging one or the other, but innovators. But the analogy I use, the innovators build racecars, the design tires, they, they live in this abstract world of science and molding into technology and making it into a tangible consumable thing. Right, so they build the race car. But then you have operators, the people who drive the race car and the pit crew that services the racecar, two different, two different valuable things, but they both need each other. So a great racecar driver can squeak out amazing performance from a well designed and well engineered racecar. So you need them bulk. The problem is, most companies prioritize the operator roles. Because it’s easier to track, it’s easier to create KPIs, it’s easier to understand. And so the typical operator, I always use an MBA Masters of Business Administration. It’s a title, Masters of Business Administration, administration, the same as operation. So most MBAs are trained to be great racecar drivers. They’re really good at operating that machine. And they’ll squeak out every ounce of performance from it. They’ll find efficiencies and they do just very bright and talented individuals. The problem comes when that machine is no longer competitive, right? Yep, that somebody else creates a better machine. It is there are a lot more operators in the world than innovators now, which is fascinating. And so companies predominant only have a psychological difficulty. So my background is in psychology. So I always think of this from a psychological problem. If you’re an executive and business chief level, let’s just say you rose to that, usually through an MBA program, you you probably went and got an MBA somewhere along the way, the majority of executives and in corporations around the world have a business administration background. And there’s this blind, there’s this this bias that people have where they think the best person to solve a problem is someone similar to themselves. And so they keep on bringing in administrators or operators on to create innovation. And nothing against anyone that has an MBA, but I’ve met very few people who’ve gone through that type of program that can have the free association creativity needed to create the next next. They constantly want to look at the data, they constantly want to look at facts, they constantly want to, to use Excel to innovate. And unfortunately, innovative ideas don’t have facts yet. You have to go and create it and get first party data. And your innovation itself should be the first data that’s ever ever created around that idea.

Matt Watson 31:22
So let me so let me ask you this. So you know, I’m, I’m definitely an innovator, I’m not an operator, last thing I want to do is drive the race car around in circles. That’s boring. I want to build the race car. So do you do you think part of the problem is the innovators just also can’t survive in this corporate world? I mean, do you think that flushes them out ultimately, as well? Or, you know, why? Why? You know, is there something to that to?

Mike Stemple 31:50
Most definitely, I mean, look at Elon Musk, he’s a great innovator, I would argue, probably not that good of an operator. He’s talented, he has very smart people around them. But he’s always stepping on people’s toes, he can’t operate a business, like most people would expect you to operate a large multinational, like he’s built with multiple systems, multiple of his companies. And so I just think it’s a natural resonance. And what I found, and part of its in my latest book, which is there’s these 20 traits that we have, that I’ve identified the innovators have. And our personality traits are things that are built on top of I won’t bore you with all this, but it’s built up from experiences and other things. But there are these 20 traits, like for example, Curiosity is one of the traits. So curiosity to an innovator is a very powerful tool. If your personality if you’re naturally curious, and want to go explore and see things and just understand and learn new things. It unlocks innovations eventually. Now, if you’re an operator, Curiosity is a tax. Right? So curiosity is inefficient. Curiosity is expensive. Curiosity creates fear, uncertainty and doubts. So curiosity is not a good personality trait on the operation side. So unfortunately, when you have these companies that are led by predominantly operators, they suppress actual traits that they want their employees to have that spark creativity. Another one is fierceness. When people ask me, what is the number one trait people need to have to be a successful entrepreneur? What’s the number one trait or the number one trait number one difference between entrepreneurs or startup founders in innovation, corporate innovation, and that’s fierceness hands down. It’s fierceness, the definition of fierceness is a powerful and heartfelt intensity. Now, in a startup, there is a lot of fierceness going on. There’s a lot of intensity. There’s an it’s a lot of heartfelt there’s just a lot more emotion in startups and the entrepreneur community as a whole versus corporate. If you go into corporations, they hire Spock’s you go into a startup incubator, and it’s filled with Kirk’s. And so there’s just a lot more passion, a lot more of the raw ingredients of where creativity comes from. And in the corporate environment. There’s just a lot more logic, a lot more operation mindset. The cool and calculated operators, what we epitomize, when we talk about success in the startup community, we’re always as any of the recent startup stories that we’ve seen in media play out. There’s always these impassioned, crazily broken founders that create these amazing businesses. And I think that’s what’s really interesting about the two is, most large companies do not allow their employees to think and act entrepreneurially because they don’t I want them to have the personality traits of the innovator.

Matt Watson 35:05
So So as you’ve worked with these big companies to be more entrepreneurial, how have you fixed that? You know, what, what do you do to get them to think differently or act differently?

Mike Stemple 35:15
Yeah, so the first thing I do is I usually they unload their secrets to meet all the new innovations they’re working on. And I’ll sit on these meetings, and every single meeting every single time, some operator will raise their hand and talk or some executive will say, Well, I think we ought to risk mitigate this further. And that’s always my cue. And I stand up because I usually I’m anointed by the CEO to interrupt because I’m trying to bring the startup viewpoint, or the entrepreneurial viewpoint into these meetings. And I was like, risk. That’s a fascinating word risk. The human emotion we feel when there was risk is fear. So let’s reframe that, instead of doing risk mitigation, let’s call it what it truly is, which is fear mitigation. What are we afraid of? What are you personally afraid of? The Why do you want us to go out and do more research and collect more data or hire Accenture to run some big reports and give us some, some artificially inflated data? What are you afraid of? And then that changes, they start to think differently, because I’m forcing them to be emotional instead of logical, it’s really easy to say, Let’s do risk mitigation. But it’s really hard to ask those same people to do fear mitigation work. And so what I do is I challenge people’s assumptions and start to break down some of the barriers that have that prevent them from being more creative.

Matt Watson 36:41
And so, ultimately, are they able to get their existing management teams and employees to do this new innovative work? Or do you also suggest that they create like new teams and new divisions to go do new things? Or how do you? How do you suggest to do that?

Mike Stemple 36:57
If the operational mindset if their culture really is, I call it a Spock culture, Star Trek, that truly is logical. And that’s really how their culture operates, then they need to have a different set of rules for their innovators. So one, they need to hire more innovators. Here’s a fan fan, a funny story. I was at this big company embedded, and they were hiring a chief innovation officer. And they asked me, and I was like, if I would apply, and I was like, No, but I was interesting. So I went looked at the app, the actual job posting, and I didn’t qualify. So the actual job posting, they came up. I wouldn’t qualify for it, because they required an MBA for the head of innovation. And so when I looked at these organizations, I was like, it goes all the way down to that level, your HR department or is hiring the wrong people. I was like, I have about 20 tech startups. I have a 40 Some percent success rate. I my technology, I have a whole list of accomplishments and things I’ve done and my startup community. I was like, talk to the head of HR. It’s like, how do you value this? She goes well, and I look at your resume, and it shows that you’re constantly switching jobs. That’s because I kill my startups quicker. And she goes, Yeah, but it just doesn’t look good on your resume. And I was like, so you’re self selecting away from people who are curious, and try new things and experimenting and failing and learning. Do you want people who are more what reliable more? I mean, what is it you’re looking for? And what they come back every single time it’s this list that describes an operator and not an innovator. They don’t want people like you, they know people like me. And that’s exactly what these large companies

Matt Watson 39:01
you’ll appreciate this. I always say when I go to hire software developers like if they come in and they’re the interviewer and they’re wearing a suit and tie and all this stuff, and we’re all super professional and like this is not the person but they come in and they’re like super weird. They came in dressed like a Jedi Knight, whatever. I’d be like you’re hired on the spot like you’re the right person. Because usually the weirder they are the better they are. I’m telling you.

Mike Stemple 39:23
i I’m lucky I was EIR Molson Coors. Right. So this is when I lived in Colorado. I grew up in golden and lived in golden. So being part of Molson Coors was just, I mean, I grew up in Coors was iconic throughout my whole childhood. So the chance to be an entrepreneur and residents and Molson Coors, which is too good to pass. And they had a skyscraper downtown and top floors of the skyscraper, and that’s the head of innovation was in the skyscraper, and his name’s Scott Cooper. And so he was my counterpart. He was kind of responsible global head of innovation. You and I would show up to meetings and jeans and a hoodie and a T shirt every single time. And no one else dressed that way. No. And once someone asked me is like, why don’t you dress to match your client? I was like, I dressed this way on purpose. Like, why do you dress this way on purpose, like a one, it’s comfortable, and I like it. But to me, I’m an innovator. And by my very nature, I’m going to dress differently than your operators to identify me as separate. Right, so I am part of the creative class, I am not part of the operational class, I need to fit in with my peers, I usually would leave there and go mentor at a startup program in Denver. And I was like, if I show up to the startup community, to mentor at a founders Institute, TechStars, picking me up in a suit and tie, no one will take me serious and don’t think I’m selling them something, they’ll think I’m I have no expertise. But if I show up in a hoodie, and a T shirt, and I have to rely on my experience, and my proven track record and be able to articulate better, people are just more receptive to creative people who dress a certain way than the operator side. And it’s funny because that’s part of our personality. So Right. So how I dress how I think how I evaluate, these are all things that I tried to teach these corporate executives to open up a little bit more. Stop being so Spock ish, be a little more passionate like Kirk. And over time, you start to see again, and again, and again, they start to see with my involvement, that my way is probably the better way that continuing to operate based upon logic and data only, by its very nature means that you’re missing out on creating the next next, whatever that’s going to be, you will always be behind. And usually in a company, because it’s just the process. So many people involved in the member meetings, they usually mean six months to a year to two years behind what’s happening in other parts of the industry. And that makes them very, very nervous.

Matt Watson 42:18
Well, I really appreciate you confirming my my myth about hiring.

Mike Stemple 42:26
You’re spot on. I mean, creative people are naturally if they have a personality that will allow them to dress a certain way, even to a meet. I mean, think about it, an interview is kind of a big, first impression thing. But if they’re open enough to express our creativity, what are they going to do in a code review?

Matt Watson 42:45
Sure. Yeah, I like it. So well, I really appreciated our episode today. And this has been awesome. I know you are also an author, I want to make sure you tell everybody about your your book as well.

Mike Stemple 43:00
Yeah, so I have to I have the the one that came out in November is called innovating innovation, why corporate innovation struggles in the age of the entrepreneur. So that’s the current book. It really is geared startups are tending to like it, because it validates why people become a co founder to begin with. But the corporate innovation crowd, I think, is getting a lot of value from it as well, it was a bestseller. So I’m really proud of that book. And then I have another one coming out in two months. So it’s January right now. So I’d probably be out in March or April timeframe. And it’s called Million Dollar Ideator, the surprisingly simple way to croute to quickly create profitable ideas. So it’s more of the workshop that I do with corporate or when I mentor at a startup, the process I go to come up with to create these million dollar ideas or ideas that have value. So that book could be out for a couple months.

Matt Watson 43:59
Awesome. Well, as we wrap up the episode today, I do want to remind everybody, if you need to hire software developers, testers or leaders Full Scale can help we have the platform and the people to help you build and manage a team of experts. When you visit All you need to do is answer a few questions and then let our platform match you up with our fully vetted, highly experienced team. At Full Scale, we specialize in building long term teams that work only for you, you can learn more at Full Scale that IO. So I really enjoyed this episode, and I really enjoyed your your, your story of about your adversity and how you’ve overcome that and curious if you have any, any other final, you know, tips, thoughts, words of wisdom for other entrepreneurs listening today.

Mike Stemple 44:39
I think going into this economic season, that we are there’s just a lot of fear. And I have the saying that scarcity breeds creativity, the more scarce money is more scarce time is more scarce talent is is unlocked something unique in the here have an experience where we just come up with new connections in scarcity. So abundance breeds decadence. And we’ve gone through a decade of that. So I’m excited about this next phase. And I think the age of the entrepreneur is going to continue, we might be in for a rough ride economically, but now is the best time I’ve ever seen to work on an amazing new idea. The world needs great innovators.

Matt Watson 45:24
Well, and as you mentioned earlier, it’s, you know, like using my company, as an example that I had sold hasn’t changed much in 10 years, somebody’s going to come by and disrupt them. Another entrepreneur will come by and see the opportunity, right? So it’s like every, every, you know, 10 years, whatever these things continue to turn. So

Mike Stemple 45:44
and I love that word dis Disrupt. Because one of the exercises I do with corporate clients is what is the definition of innovation. And for me that my definition that I came up with is the human response to evolution. So things are constantly changing, evolving. And if you don’t respond to every evolution, then you are building up a dam of ignorance, to the evolutions that are happening. And when you get to a certain point, that’s disruption. When you ignore evolution long enough, it will disrupt you or someone will disrupt you, because someone was paying attention to the evolutions that are happening.

Matt Watson 46:21
I think that’s, that’s absolutely great. And that definitely happens with you know, things like mobile or cloud and internet and all these different waves of things that happen that if you totally ignore them, they definitely will catch you off guard. That’s for sure. Well, thank you. Thank you so much for being on the show. Again. This was Mike simple. can definitely find you on LinkedIn, find your books. I even I Googled your art. I’m a little sad that you’re a John Elway fan. I mean, I’m at Kansas City guy. So

Mike Stemple 46:50
Kansas City stuff. Yeah, we look at the database, but

Matt Watson 46:55
so so go chiefs, but and your website is And

Mike Stemple 47:00
or you can go to Mike and that links out to everything. All right,

Matt Watson 47:04
cool. All right. Well, thanks again. Thank you for being on the show.

Mike Stemple 47:08
Yeah, thanks for having me. I enjoyed the conversation.