The saying goes that your network indicates your networth. Pascal Guyon of Hyperloop Transportation Technologies knows this all too well. Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, also known as HTT, is a transportation company inspired by famous entrepreneur, Elon Musk. HTT promises to save you time by cutting down travel time between popular cities using high speed, low pressure train tubes. Guyon, a music producer, spoke to MillionaireMatch about networking his way up and working with HTT. HTT has raised over $100 million including in-kind investments and services rendered.
“I like to say I’m a creator. I like to create things,” Guyon said about his life as an artist. Guyon, who is French, has always loved music. That love for music led him to become Head of Audio for HTT. Guyon has worked with some of Hollywood’s finest including Walter Afanasieff, who wrote the song Hero, which was sung by Mariah Carey. Guyon also worked with the hip hop artist Heavy D, which lead him to receive two Grammy nominations. How does a guy who loves music, but lives in the French countryside, finds his way to Hollywood? Network. Network. Network.
Guyon started to build awareness for himself at a time when many music artists were on MySpace. Guyon would post videos, and reach out to people introducing them to his skills and passion for music. “If people see you have a clear brand, message, and following that already triggers admiration,” Guyon said. “You need to create original content on social media that’s going to grab people’s attention,” he continued. Soon enough, he was being asked to work with some famous talent. After being flown to Los Angeles, and asked to work with some major players in Hollywood, Guyon knew he couldn’t go back to his quiet countryside.
Already with some great connections, Guyon made a goal to meet even more people. He was intentional about improving his environment and making new friends. MillionaireMatch asked Guyon for a few tips for those looking to network up. He offered, “The big mistake that most people do is they act needy. That’s a huge mistake. However, if you provide value that changes everything. Do your homework. Become an expert in something, so that you interest somebody else. Those who always need help will find that those who are busy are not going to look at you.” Guyon continued, “Find what you love, what you are passionate about. Work on it. Become an authority in that. Busy people are going to look at you in a different way, and potentially trigger business opportunities.”
After meeting new people and being introduced to some decision makers, HTT’s Dirks Alhborn asked him to head up all audio for the project. “This is something I really talk about with artist nowadays. A lot of them are stuck in the mindset that they want to make their songs, they want to get signed and have a great life. It doesn’t work that way anymore,” Guyon said about creating a business out of your passion. He knew from his early years that you have to create different lanes of business when it comes to being an artist. Guyon had no problem coming on board to HTT. “This is one of the most talked about technology projects,” he said.
The company has grown to almost 500 people. HTT is planning to build a five-mile demonstration track. The tube is estimated to reach a top speed of 800 miles per hour. For more information on HTT, visit http://hyperloop.global. You can keep track of Guyon at pascalguyon.org.
It’s a new year, and you may have already started working on those new business plans. You have claimed that this will be the year you open up shop, and launch your dream job. But some get stuck right at the thought of leaving their nice salaried positions to go all in on being an entrepreneur, not knowing if they will find an investor. MillionaireMatch got the chance to talk to Kash Shaikh, CEO of the inspirational brand #Besomebody. He gave us the scoop on taking the leap from a 10-year position at Procter and Gamble to getting up everyday to inspire millions of people around the world.
Shaikh, who was recently on the hit show Shark Tank, got his first round of seed funding with just an idea. In June of 2014, Shaikh received $1 million in funding after presenting his idea via PowerPoint to investors. We are sure it was his passion to help others live the life they want that convinced the hearts of venture capitalists. But, before he boldly took on the journey of entrepreneurship, Shaikh was working for a major corporation like most entrepreneurs.
Right after graduating from the University of Texas, Shaikh landed a position in marketing at Procter and Gamble. All was well, but upon his 7th year there he began to feel the urge to do something else. Luckily, a new position was created just for him which allowed him to travel to 43 countries. During those travels, he was touched by many people striving to create a life they always dreamed of. He began to share those encounters with people over social media using the hashtag, Besomebody. It was a term that he and his friend would use to create some kind of call to action, whether it be going hard at the gym or having the guts to approach a beautiful woman at the bar.
After leaving P&G, Shaikh went to lead social marketing at GoPro. “The biggest thing I learned at GoPro was the camera was the least important part of the ecosystem. I learned that the content, and the community was what was building that brand,” Shaikh said. He took what he learned at GoPro, and applied it to #Besomebody. People began to catch on. “I started diversifying and expanding the content I was creating. I went from writing to videos to inspirational cards. I started doing meet ups every time I would travel. It really started to grow,” Shaikh explained. Today, they have a readership of 10 million.
There are a lot of bloggers, and content creators working to build an audience, and possibly make money they can live off of. Shaikh was able to understand early on what was needed to go from side hustle to dream job. “If you can’t monetize your passion, you’re always going to be doing it on the nights and weekends,” he said. “Being open, real, vulnerable, really connect with people,” Shaikh explained on what attracts an audience. “Whenever I was the most nervous to hit publish on a blog post that’s how I would know it would do well,” he continued. But he admits, it wasn’t all strategy. “I wasn’t trying to change the world, I was trying to help myself,” he said.
After getting clear on his purpose, Shaikh decided to leave GoPro, and put all his attention on his new company. He was the first person to quit the company, leaving 75% of his stock on the table. “The irony of purpose has nothing to do with you. You weren’t born to do something for you. You were born to do something for others and for the world,” Shaikh explained on why it was time to go. “As soon as you start to focus your heart, mind, soul, and passion the universe starts to open up doors and unlock windows you never thought possible. What do you love? What do you enjoy doing? You gotta go do different things. You gotta go experience different things,” he said. And so he did, bootstrapping an 18-month trip around the world that included speaking to over 200 schools.
His advice to those taking the leap this year, “You have to fight through the struggle, and suffering before you get to success,” he said. “Trust in your vision,” he added.
Since launching in 2014, Shaikh has made a pivot with the company, and will be launching Learning Paths on January 11th. Learning Paths will connect big employers looking to hire, job seekers, and instructors who will teach courses for job seekers to gain the skills they need to land the job they want. It’s a vocational marketplace that Shaikh describes as a, “destination for people to live their passion.”
“I’ve always had lots of ideas, but two weeks, a month into it, I always talked myself out of it. This one I couldn’t come up with a reason why I shouldn’t be doing it,” said Susan Feldman. Does this sound familiar? Luckily for Feldman, she didn’t give up on her hunch to start One Kings Lane, an online destination for some of the most luxurious finds for the home. Feldman, who worked in retail for many years before launching One Kings Lane, took less than $100k and built an empire. “This one [idea] I couldn’t come up with a reason why I shouldn’t be doing it,” she continued.
Starting a new company isn’t easy, especially when you are bringing a new model into an industry. How do you raise the money to back your awesome idea? How do you find your audience to guarantee a return on the investment? How do you build brand awareness for something people didn’t know they needed? Well, MillionaireMatch got the scoop on how Feldman and her co-founder, Ali Pincus, created success with a new way of upgrading your living space.
Feldman was introduced to Pincus over email. After a few email exchanges, they both agreed to be partners in creating One Kings Lane. Pincus, who brought a background in public relations and marketing, was a perfect match for Feldman, who had experience managing several teams in retail and working previously as a buyer. “We had very good chemistry. We started sharing really good ideas. We made a decision pretty quickly. It was really a leap of faith,” explained Feldman. A perfect match, but launching a business in 2008 wasn’t the ideal time. Since the recession had hit, venture capitalists weren’t so giving. The two decided to bootstrap it, investing an equal amount that was less than $100k.
But having a little cash was just the beginning. How would they get people to become members of this new online retail shop that sold chic items at a discount? No one knew about them. Their first customers came with the strategy of making a list of ambassadors. They offered their ambassadors a $250 credit on the site if they shared an email about One Kings Lane. This strategy gained them 5,000 members by the day it launched in March of 2009. To give them an extra boost, Daily Candy, which is now defunct, released an article on launch day. This publicity got them another 20k members. On top of that, they offered new members a chance to win a $1,200 Hermes throw. Was it successful? Well, they made $1,300 in sales on day one. But by day two, sales rolled in at $32,000.
It wasn’t just about offering the free perks. It was also Feldman’s ability to identify their customer.
“She’s 35-55 years old. She’s incredibly passionate about her home and entertaining. If there’s someone that likes their home, wants it to be orderly, but not passionate about what it looks like and it being an expression of who she is, she’s probably not so into us. She might show up if she needs something, but she’s not obsessed. She lives in metropolitan, major cities and surrounding areas. She’s well educated. She’s quite wealthy, almost $150k income. She likes to shop,” she described. This kind of clarity also led to making decisions on what items to offer. “Having real clarity about what we were doing, who we wanted to speak to, what our brand was, made it very easy to make a million decisions on what’s our brand and what is not,” Feldman said.
For those who are clear on what they offer and who their audience is, but are in need of financial backing, Feldman has maybe a not so popular idea. “Go get money when you don’t need it,” she said. After getting on a great track and hitting $1 million dollars in monthly sales by November of their launch year, Feldman and Pincus began the funding rounds. They have raised over $200 million in five years. “If it makes sense for you, when things are getting well, and you don’t need the money, that’s the time to raise money,” she added.
Then there’s the actual pitch. “It’s how you present yourself, the actual business idea, and how well you describe what you are doing. Be clear on what you need the money for.”
If you fit the demographic or just got an itch for upgrading your apartment or home, head over to www.onekingslane.com . I’m sure you will find something amazing.
It should be no surprise that the gaming business will reach $107 billion in revenue by 2017. With games like Warcraft and Grand Theft Army, more and more people are spending cash on the next hottest games. But there is one game that helped the industry create such a profitable turn, Guitar Hero. Creators and brothers Charles and Kai Huang created Guitar Hero, which made quite a disruption. The popular game that allowed anyone to live out their dreams of being a rockstar, eventually led the brothers to make a billion dollars in sales. MillionaireMatch got the scoop on how the Huangs disrupted an industry at a time no one knew who their names.
Charles and Kai created RedOctane in 1999, when startups were blossoming everywhere. “Everybody was in a startup. It was just the thing to do,” Huang said. Huang who was born in Taiwan, moved to the states as a child. He worked in a grocery store owned by his father in New York. After five years of concrete city, his family moved to Mountain View, California, where he was introduced to the world of gaming and technology. After graduating from the University of California at Berkeley, Huang went back to working with his dad. This time the business was importing auto parts, which gave him experience with manufacturing and hardware.
During the early times of RedOctane, not only was everyone working at a startup, but finding money was no problem. “It was a unique time, window that you could start an internet business in almost any field and almost any background. I would say with just a PowerPoint you would get a million dollars in funding. If the PowerPoint was any good you would get two million dollars,” Huang said jokingly. But at the time Guitar Hero would be launched investors began to shy away from investments, making it impossible for Huang to secure funding.
Not having venture backing forced Huang to operate differently and to make different decisions. He couldn’t afford to have Guitar Hero on the shelves due to a 60 day turnaround of seeing any of the revenue. Instead, he opted to sell the product online. “Profits were important, but cash flow is what kept our company alive,” Huang explained. This decision and the decision to keep things lean kept them afloat. “I try to do everything myself, because I want to be in that frame of mind to do everything to make it work, because a startup is so hard,” he said. So hard, there was even a time he had drafted a letter to lay-off his staff, because there wasn’t enough money to pay them. Luckily, sales from Black Friday put Guitar Hero on the map.
Though the game, in it’s 4th version, went on to bring in $1.5 billion in sales, Huang said he continued to operate just like he did when they had no money. It was an interesting time where he was faced to ask himself important questions. “We were forced to ask ourselves, should we be in this online game rental business. We quickly realized, no. We are never going to get funding, and a business can’t grow. So the next question, what business should we be in,” he said. Switching his focus from the game rental model he started to creating gaming software took RedOctane from $3 million to $9 million in revenue. Huang did receive one other piece of advice. “Our number one rule to surviving those years, somebody told me, just don’t go out of business. Don’t die. As long as you don’t go out of business, smart people will find a way to make it happen,” he said.
Huang admits he didn’t know that Guitar Hero would take off the way it did, but he knew there was an audience. “It was a game that really sold the fun factor. You couldn’t explain it. You had to touch it and feel it. You hit five notes and it was like, this is really fun,” explained Huang. “We thought we were selling this aspiration of you being a rock star,” he said.
Guitar Hero was acquired by Activision Publishing, Inc.
More and more entrepreneurs are creating subscription-based businesses, but none have disrupted an industry quite like the Dollar Shave Club created by Michael Dubin. If you happen to be one of the few people on earth that don’t know about the Dollar Shave Club, it is a subscription-based service that delivers grooming products to your home. Dubin, who was in his 30s when he launched the business, was working as a freelance marketing consultant when he was approached by a friend who had an inventory of unused razors in a warehouse. Pulling his marketing, improve, and entertainment experience together, Dubin created a marketing video to explain his concept, which went viral That video became his marketing tool to his first round of funding at $1 million. MillionaireMatch got the scoop on how a former NBC page and waiter started a billion dollar business.
“It’s a blessing to do what you love. I always did what I loved. I always followed my heart and chose careers, jobs, or divisions in companies where I was gonna learn the most, have the most responsibility. All of those experiences lead up to the success you see,” said Dubin. Today, Dubin has 200 employees and 3 million members of the Dollar Shave Club. But during his first year in beta phase, his business only boasted about a thousand members. That didn’t keep him from pushing and creating video content to get more visibility. “We use humor as a tool. A lot of companies use humor, because it makes whatever you are doing more enjoyable,” he said. “I use the video as fundraising device,” he continued.
Using the skills he had acquired from previous jobs was the best thing Dubin could do. “I never raised a dollar of venture capital before, and I needed help. I had one friend that was a venture capitalist that gave me a bit of advice,” Dubin explained. “I think the key to raising money is first have a good idea. Is your idea presentable? Meaning can you get the idea across quickly and concisely? Are you good at presenting it? Then there’s the whole thing of presenting. It’s a skill you have to master. Keep the first pitch really short, and leave them wanting more,” Dubin shared. After raising $163 million in five rounds of funding, Dubin seems to know exactly what works. He admits, at the beginning when he was living in a garage, he would walk around and attend events with his pitch deck in hand trying to steal a moment with potential investors. He advises entrepreneurs that once they get a meeting, “Move quickly through it. Don’t dwell too long. The best points are simple points.” Dubin also added to take 30 minutes out of an hour to get your precise, concise pitch across and leave the rest for questions.
On being a CEO and leader of his business, Dubin is clear on the culture he wants to maintain for the Dollar Shave Club. “I think I’m good at knowing what I am good at and not, which is key. The things you aren’t good at, with open arms welcome other people into the fold and let them help you build your business, because you can’t do it all,” he shared honestly. “I think the best ideas are ones you collaborate,” he added. He’s turned off by any sense of his team being territorial about their work and ideas. “Building your team is the most important thing you will do as the entrepreneur, as the CEO of the company,” he said. “Hire people that aren’t like you,” Dubin added. His team works in and comes from different parts of the country, all bringing a different perspective and ideas. For Dubin, this is the sweet spot.
Dubin also shared his thoughts on creating a brand, a word many entrepreneurs throw around. “Not everybody needs a brand,” he said. He explained that companies like Uber don’t necessarily need to be a brand. The product gains awareness just from word of mouth due to its function. “If you want to build a brand, you have to do more than just copy somebody else. Whether it’s to create confusion or not, you have to strike out with an original idea,” Dubin added.
He doesn’t leave out the strengths that he brings to his team, which are just as important. “I love bringing things to life, and watching people enjoy what we bring to life. That can be a television commercial, a video, a physical product, or digital products. I love the creative process,” he said. “At the end of the day, I’m a creative professional. I think I”m a really good communicator of ideas.” We couldn’t agree with him more. The Dollar Shave Club was acquired earlier this year by Unilever for $1 billion in cash. Not bad for a guy who used to live in a garage.