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Part 1: Brandon White Raises $1M for an Online Fishing Newsletter
Brandon White is the Host of the EDGE podcast, where business owners share their stories and behind-the-scenes tips to scale their businesses. Brandon has been an entrepreneur for over 20 years and unlocked the solution to greatness: align your body and health — and create a plan for success!
Brandon is the founder of two business exits, an angel investor, former venture capitalist, and worked in marketing management at America Online (AOL). Previously, he was the President and CTO of Tidal Fish Ventures, an Associate at Updata Partners, and CEO at Worldwide Angler. He graduated from Washington College with his master’s in psychology and UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School with his MBA.
Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:
- [05:20] Brandon White talks about his background and growing the largest social network and e-commerce website for fishermen
- [10:33] A unique way to engage consumers and create an in-flow of traffic to your website
- [14:45] How Brandon created a business plan and began his career in business capital
- [19:42] Brandon shares how remaining authentic began a partnership with one of the largest companies
- [28:20] The power behind chivalry and modesty to maintain and scale a brand
- [31:43] How Brandon’s background as a venture capitalist aided his route to entrepreneurship
- [34:13] Why not all businesses are the right fit for venture capital
In this episode…
Every business starts with an idea. Where can you go to build that thought into a blossoming and scalable business?
For Brandon White, it began with a hobby — and he cast the line and reeled in a success story. He promoted his fishing website through unique methods that drove traffic and invested in stocks to grow his capital. By creating a business plan (and remaining authentic and humble), Brandon knew the value of recognizing the difference between a successful company and creating wealth. Eventually, he was able to turn his idea into an enduring enterprise.
In this episode of the Quiet Light Podcast, Joe Valley sits down with Brandon White, entrepreneur and Host of the EDGE podcast, to talk about firsthand experience and lessons learned from turning a thought into an actionable plan. Brandon shares an innovative way to cultivate online engagement, how he built a business plan that hooks, and an in-depth look at venture capital for a rising entrepreneur. Stay tuned!
Resources Mentioned in this episode
- Brandon White on LinkedIn
- Build a Business
- EDGE podcast
- Quiet Light
- Quiet Light on YouTube
- Joe Valley
- Mark Daoust
- Quiet Light Podcast email: [email protected]
- The EXITpreneur’s Playbook: How to Sell Your Online Business for Top Dollar by Reverse Engineering Your Pathway to Success by Joe Valley
- Michael Moritz on LinkedIn
- Greenberg Traurig, LLP
Sponsor for this episode
This episode is brought to you by Quiet Light, a brokerage firm that wants to help you successfully sell your online business.
There is no wrong reason for selling your business. However, there is a right time and a right way. The team of leading entrepreneurs at Quiet Light wants to help you discover the right time and strategy for selling your business. By providing trustworthy advice, effective strategies, and honest valuations, your Quiet Light advisor isn’t your every-day broker—they’re your partner and friend through every phase of the exit planning process.
If you’re new to the prospect of buying and selling, Quiet Light is here to support you. Their plethora of top-notch resources will provide everything you need to know about when and how to buy or sell an online business. Quiet Light offers high-quality videos, articles, podcasts, and guides to help you make the best decision for your online business.
Not sure what your business is really worth? No worries. Quiet Light offers a free valuation and marketplace-ready assessment on their website. That’s right—this quick, easy, and free valuation has no strings attached. Knowing the true value of your business has never been easier!
What are you waiting for? Quiet Light is offering the best experience, strategies, and advice to make your exit successful. To learn more, go to quietlight.com, email [email protected], or call 800.746.5034 today.
Hi folks. It’s the Quiet Light Podcast where we share relentlessly honest insights, actionable tips, and entrepreneurial stories that will help founders identify and reach their goals.
Joe Valley 0:32
Hey folks, Joe Valley here. Thanks for joining me for another episode of the Quiet Light Podcast. This particular podcast, we’re gonna break up into two parts part one this week, part two, next week, it is with a serial entrepreneur, calm, cool, collected guy that had me on his podcast and I just loved talking to him. His name is Brandon White. He’s done all sorts of things from being, you know, a young college student decided student and deciding to start a fishing newsletter because he loved fishing and there was nothing out there about fishing in his area. And of course, he failed that it never really got it off the ground because he didn’t have anything more than $850 in his count. It took it online, back in 1994 1995 talking way back, ended up raising a million dollars just by happenstance, by being honest and open and authentic. A friend of his connected with somebody that they went to the same college, and Tom from Sequoia Capital happened to subscribe to his online newsletter and read it and was efficient in and learns through a connection that they had a friend in common and reached out to Brandon and said, Hey, I’m a reader of your newsletter. You may not know me, Tom from Sequoia Capital we did you know this deal that deal Cisco so on and so forth, with it, naming them all off. And meanwhile, Thompson is $115,000 house that he and his wife scraped together every penny and he’s running the newsletter business out of his spare bedroom. And Tom wanted to come down the next day and meet him. He’s like, okay, yeah, he got this email. This is after he wrote a 55 page business plan and FedEx did into this one of Tom’s partners at Sequoia Capital. Tom showed up the next day knocked on the door. He said we’ll show it let’s let’s go to the office and Brandon starts walking up the stairs and Tom goes Where are you going? is good to the office. He walked upstairs and Tom’s like this is it. Meaning you’re doing what you’re doing. And this is all you’re doing it with. Meanwhile, Brandon’s like horrified going, Yes, I’m so sorry to waste your time. They grabbed lunch. And on a whim, of course, Brandon is like where you want to go fishing. We’re here. It’s the tides out let’s you want to go fishing and went fishing. And on the way back from the fishing tip trip, Tom pulled out his checkbook and wrote him a $50,000 check. And that was the beginning of raising a million dollars from some very, very qualified investors. He also Brandon also, it wasn’t a perfect journey, by the way, he ended up having to buy it back. And then for work for two venture capital firms. He worked for AOL in the early early days, has hundreds of 1000s of visitors to his collection of different businesses. And he runs a podcast now called the my EDGE podcast. And he actually has a physical newsletter that emails out in the mail as well. This is this is a long intro, but it’s because I hardly talk in the podcast at all. I asked a few questions here and there. But it’s really all about Brandon’s journey. And we are going to break it up into two parts. So enough of me flapping my jaw. This is part one of the interview with Brandon White. Here we go. Brandon White. Welcome to the Quiet Light Podcast. How are you, man?
Brandon White 4:25
Hey, Joe. Thanks for having me, man. It’s great to have you here. Yeah, it’s fun to be here.
Joe Valley 4:30
You were kind enough to interview me for the EXITpreneur’s Playbook on the EDGE podcast. And I just loved the conversation that we had and some of your entrepreneurial journey and thought that our audience full of entrepreneurs and would be entrepreneurs could learn a lot from you. So we’re just going to have a good conversation. But it’s got to start with who the heck Er what you’ve done that kind of stuff. So rather than me doing it, can you give the audience a little bit of background on yourself?
Brandon White 4:58
That’s a really good a serious question for early on the West Coast Joe.
Joe Valley 5:04
I know and it could take based upon your, your, your profile and what you’ve done, it could take about 45 minutes. I’m
Brandon White 5:10
not I don’t want to go on for 45 minutes about it. The longest short story is is that I’ve been an entrepreneur most of my life. I’ve had a really interesting career that I’ve been really grateful to have. And I started it. When I went back to school I had done my undergraduate in psychology, I told everybody that I was going to become a lawyer, because mainly that just got people off my back in college be quite candid, and I don’t test well. I didn’t really think I guess I was going to become a lawyer. Long and short as I didn’t get into law school. I’m a National Honor Society students with graduating with honors from everything I graduated second in my class in high school, I graduated top of my class in college, president of the psyche National Honor Society, and I can’t test where the crap but I didn’t get into law school. I went back during a summer job, my mom who spent a lot of time and money raising me from being a single mom, I think, said, Hey, look, you gotta get out of this cycle. And she said, just go back to school. So I went back to get my Master’s in Psych. And I started a company, I fished my entire life. And I wanted to build a fishing magazine. So I’m really going into my story. And how far
Joe Valley 6:40
back was this fishing magazine, there was a while ago, when there weren’t any I just started to read a little bit about it. So throw some dates and times at us as
Brandon White 6:48
well. So this is I started my first company in my mid 20s. So this was 1996 9596, I decided to go back to school. To get my masters in Psych, I decide that I want to start a fishing magazine at the time, print magazines, were still in, I went to the local printer. And through a series of questions that he asked me realize that the $885, in my bank account was not enough money to print a first edition. And there was this thing called the internet. So I had been playing around, I was self taught. I hesitate to use word engineer because engineers these days real software engineers are really sophisticated. But I taught myself on Vic 20 and Commodore 64 and said, Why can’t we put this magazine, quote unquote, on the internet? And at the time, that was it sounds like Oh, of course, Brandon. That’s where everybody is now. Well, revolution. Yeah, nobody, it was called vertical network. There is all sorts of buzzwords that were going on at the time. And not even at that time. But long and short, is I put that magazine on the internet and created a bulletin board, message board, wall, whatever you want to call it. And it grew to become the largest social network and an e-commerce site on the internet for sport fishermen. Which at first glance, it sounds like fishing, Brandon, well, about 52 million anglers. I’m a little rusty on the stats, because I sold that company about a decade ago, but and $57 billion market. That’s, that’s in the US. That’s an even worldwide, so huge.
Joe Valley 8:36
You sold a few years ago now. 10 years ago, 10 years ago, so 2012. So you ran around for about 1215 years? How did the first How did the first year go? Did you make any money? Or did you think that you were doomed for failure? What was it like?
Brandon White 8:52
I didn’t know what failure was? I’m extremely competitive. So I don’t even know that that was even in my vocabulary, quite candidly. But it was slow to start. I did all sorts of tricks I didn’t have I wasn’t trained in these tricks. I just nobody was talking on the forum. So talk to myself. And I read a case study recently where these innovative companies like Reddit and some other companies did these hacks to talk themselves. I’m like, I sort of did that a long time ago. But I literally talked to myself because if you show up to a forum or a restaurant for that matter, and nobody’s in there, you don’t go in, and I just started talking to myself and answering questions and people came so
Joe Valley 9:36
did you have different usernames, I need to just focus on this because you have a degree in psychology and you’re talking to yourself online. Did you did you have multiple usernames and you were just creating conversation where it was literally, you know, Brandon white asking a question Brandon white answering the question.
Brandon White 9:52
Well, I think for the record, I think people I can speak for myself I probably got an undergraduate in Master’s in Psych, and then did postgraduate work at a school out here in Northern California. Because I was working on myself. But to answer your question specifically, I had different usernames. And that’s how, okay, that’s how all of the sites that have since done that Reddit did something very similar. And they did it for the reasons that I did it, which was to get traffic. But they also were able to set the tone. I didn’t realize at the time that I was setting the tone, I was just trying to get traffic. And then when someone I mean, these are just sort of the basics, Joe, but everybody wants a shortcut, and there’s no shortcut when someone would come on, I answered them, and I made sure they got an answer. And I became, I was good at fishing. But I became an expert at fishing, I posted all my fishing reports, I caught fish, I posted the pictures and men, all humans are predictable animals more predictable than people understand. And if you don’t think that’s true, and you’re listening, then just think about magic. Magicians understand exactly what humans do, and how they react and how they behave and how your senses work. And that’s why magic works. So in this case, fishermen want to all catch the biggest fish. And I knew that if I started posting once we got people on there that I caught a lot of fish in bigger fish, that that was going to spark some competition. And that’s what I did. But going back to your original question, I absolutely was talking to myself, I didn’t know the answer. I had fishing books, I still to this day have books right here to answer questions for people, because you just can’t know everything. And I put really good content up and people wanted it. And at the time, there was really no other source. I mean, we were probably one of two, maybe I’m being generous three phishing sites on the Internet at the time. So it was it was early. And it was, it was a lot of fun. It was the Wild West. I mean, here’s the story. We in the early days didn’t take domain names, because we didn’t think it was right to take a domain name that we wouldn’t use or that we didn’t, quote, putting air quotes for listeners own the copyright or trademark to because we didn’t think it was right. Once we while realize that that was a bunch of horse crap. We started buying a lot of domain names, but it was really interesting time and going through your question was I making money we weren’t making. We were making money on building websites. And where we really made our money back then as I traded stocks with our money online and traded it on margin. I’m not suggesting that anybody listening do that, at all, trading is risky. I give all the disclaimers for your show, Joe. But the fact is that that’s what we did. on one screen we had the site we were building and on the other one, we were trading stocks. And I had recruited the top computing lab, kid out of Washington College where I was at the time and told him that I would pay him by the hour. Then I got another job working on a spinach farm of all things, one of the biggest finish farms in the country, doing managerial, finance and counting stuff. And I use that money to pay him and that’s that’s how we got started. And then we started trading stocks.
Joe Valley 13:45
That’s kind of a true entrepreneurial story where you just have to hustle and work hard and figure it out as you go. And you also stumbled upon something called Amazon affiliates. You were one of the original Amazon affiliates is
Brandon White 13:58
that we were I got Jeff Bezos send us a t shirt. I picture on my website of one of the original Amazon affiliates. And we we were it was awesome, because we’re like we can build a bookstore on our site of fishing books. We don’t have to carry any inventory and we get to sell them. And we actually made a lot of money selling books and other affiliate programs at the time. Back then. It was hard. It wasn’t as easy you actually had to get couldn’t just sign up for stripe or PayPal. You had to go get a merchant processor. It was a total nightmare job. But we hooked all that up. And we made a lot of money on affiliates. And I just stumbled that if you have an email list and you send that email list out and you promote those things and you drive traffic that people buy things and it was it was a really cool time to be around because it was so small I mean, Yahoo was at that time being done by hand by Jerry and David, for the most part, it was hand programmed. And you had a right to them to get into categories. And we used to write because we realized that if we got into those categories that those links were very heavily weighted, traffic wise so and then, one day I was in the library, I was still going to school at the time I dropped out. I eventually finished my master’s. But I was reading in Time Magazine, there used to be I don’t know if you remember this in the front of Time Magazine, there used to be shorts about sort of tech cool things happening. And it was just one page in the first three or four pages of Time magazine was sort of the tech crunch of the print media at the time. And I read an article and it said, Jerry, these two kids from Stanford, Jerry Yang, and David Philo just raised 1.7 on, don’t quote me exactly, but I can look at that page right now. Look how impactful it was on my life at the time. And they just raised 1.7 or whatever, from Sequoia Capital to build a phonebook on the Internet and Internet phonebook. And I looked at that one day and I said, Hmm, I think we can raise money for this thing. And I had no idea how to raise money, zero, I mean, zero. And I said, Well, I think I need a business plan. My girlfriend now wife at the time got into her Acura Integra red, Acura Integra and we drove to Annapolis, Maryland went to Borders Books. I, she picked out the book because I was so many books on business plans, I didn’t know what to pick. And she’s like build by the one that says, write a business plan. And that’s the one it’s still on my bookshelf. Remind, I keep it to remind me how I got started. I read that book in a weekend I wrote this crazy, stupid 55 page business plan. I say stupid, because it’s just that is not what you really want to do. In because it’s dead the day you write it. But nonetheless, that was the standard wrote this business plan. I put it in a FedEx envelope, and I send it to Mike Moritz at Sequoia Capital and then read an article. So that was the start of us raising money. And then I read an article in the alumni magazine about a guy who said that he was getting into venture capital. And he was older than me, I reached out to him. And I said, Hey, man, we’re we know each other you I read the article that you’re raising money me and this other guy from school are started this fishing site, would you be interested in he became interested in we were talking about him putting some money in and then,
Joe Valley 17:44
uh, you know, how are you connected with him?
Brandon White 17:47
I emailed him at the time because he wants to we went to the same school. Okay. So we went to the same school in the alumni magazine, it said, so and so’s getting into venture capital. It was sort of, you know, these alumni magazines, and they talk about what people are doing. Yeah, yeah. So I just reached out
Joe Valley 18:04
to you really didn’t know him. As my point. You really weren’t friends with him. You. You weren’t your cousin wasn’t married to his sister.
Brandon White 18:10
Oh, yeah. No, no, a client. But I had that connection of going to school with them.
Joe Valley 18:17
Yeah. College icebreaker. Yeah, yeah. So
Brandon White 18:20
I definitely. I use that. Well, one day, we’ve been talking. I get an email from him. And it said, Hey, I met a guy today that you really, I think you should meet. He said, I know that you and back then it was we were very protective of our ideas. Like the idea was, if I told you my idea, Joe, you were that was the end of all end all and and now the cat was out of the bag. Meanwhile, we’ve got a site on the internet that anyone could see. But nonetheless, he said, Hey, I’m respectful of your paranoia. i He didn’t use that word, but that’s mine. And but I do think that you should meet this guy. Can I make the introduction to you? And and I said, Yeah, sure. So two hours later, I get an email. And I said, Hey, this is Tom from Sequoia Capital. You might know us we did companies like Yahoo, Cisco, Apple. Now, if you can imagine I’m sitting in a spare bedroom with a house that cost Yvette Nyes my wife’s house first house cost $107,000 that we scraped every last cent every last cent to buy. It’s a hell of an email you got and yeah, do you believe it? So I wanting to believe it, but not completely believe? He said, replied back and he said hit he had said I had heard that. You have this fishing site and I use it. I’m a fisherman. Can I come see you tomorrow. So I wrote back I was like, Hey, man, thank you for writing. Yeah, here’s my address, blah, blah, blah, South Street, Easton, Maryland. I’d love to see I do want to tell you that I sent the business plan to your partner, Mike, and I never heard back now. You’re laughing and everybody’s laughing? Because that’s not. I mean, you can take that chance. But you could imagine how many FedEx box shows every day with a business plan that lives
Joe Valley 20:27
in a 55 page business plan. Yeah. Which he had plenty of time to read, I’m sure. Yeah, of course. Right.
Brandon White 20:32
So, I mean, I did provide an executive summary. I think that was three pages. But nonetheless, I said, Here’s the address. I’ll see you. Well. The next day, I’m sitting in the spare bedroom on the desk that I built. And I hear a knock at the door. So I walked down the steps, I answered the door, and he’s like, Hey, I’m Tom. Like, oh, hi. At this point, I’m excited. I’m scared. I’m in disbelief. And I’m just thinking, Okay, let’s just roll with it. So he comes in as a small house, they’re pretty small house and he’s, we chatted for a second. He’s like, hey, let’s, let’s go to the office. And I walked upstairs and he looked at me like, What are you doing? I was like, come on up. The office is upstairs. So we walk in. I go in first. It’s small. I mean, from the stair to the spare bedroom. Joe, I’m thinking in my head because we still own that house is, I don’t know five steps. You know, it’s it’s not this grand entrance to upstairs where you walk down this hall. It’s right there. So I walk in, and he walks into the spare room and he’s tall, he’s over six foot. He he’s just stares. And he looks around and there wasn’t a lot to look at. There was a easel with a whiteboard, there was my wife, a nice desk with computer. There was a fly time bench. And there was a laser printer. That was my wife’s from college that we were using. And he said he looks me right in the eye. He says this all you have. So now my temperature is going up. And now I don’t know Joe 30 degrees. My
Joe Valley 22:19
one thing you’re thinking another I think he’s thinking, is this what you have given? You’ve achieved what you’ve achieved with this? You’re probably thinking he’s horrified with what you’ve done.
Brandon White 22:27
That’s exactly. You’re very good. That is exactly. And I started Paul, I say, hey, look, I’m so sorry, that you drove all this way to come. He was in Washington, DC drove across the Bay Bridge, which is just a hassle. Coming through Annapolis and all this. I said, Look, I’m really sorry. If you want to see the other office, my partner has a spare bedroom down the road. But this is this is all we’ve got. And, and he and he just interrupted me. He said calm down. He said, Brandon, this is how we found Cisco. And that still raises hair on my arms. Because that’s a real situation in a real moment, with a company that is still today one of the most successful largest companies on Earth. And Sequoia was actually the only venture capital investor in Cisco, if you can believe that. So it’s it’s sort of an unreal thing. So we talked and me just winging it. Yeah. I was like, Hey, do you want to go get lunch? So we go to Washington Street pub, in Easton, Maryland. And he flips over the place, man, I mean, I, I’m telling you this story is so impactful in my life, and we are still friends to this day. In fact, he best friends to this day, and I’m grateful for his friendship and mentorship and everything. But he flips over this placemat. And he pulls a pen out of his pocket. And he writes with these pens that not a ballpoint pen, but the pen that the has real ink and it can run if you know what I mean, if it’s on a piece of paper that absorbs it. And he flips it over and he said, Let’s do the business plan. Like I just wrote a 55 page business plan. So it’s to this day, I’ll tell you what the plan was. People market product financing, I don’t know what they did not not not in that order. But it was four he flipped it over. We went through those things. He we talked, we ate lunch. He put in his pocket and I was like, Hey, do you want to go fishing? I mean, so when I said earlier, there’s no rulebook. I mean, they don’t teach you this in business school. They don’t teach you this anywhere. You know what they probably would teach you is everything wrong like Well, you shouldn’t ask the guy to go fishing and my question would be well, why not? He’s a fisherman. We we run a fishing site. He uses it. But there I know there’s good fishing right now. Because the tides right The boats in the driveway. Let’s go. So he’s like, yeah, so we hooked up the boat and he had a choice to going back to the office or going fishing. He made the right choice. Yeah, like and you asked the right question. I mean, just being my I think just being authentic. Yeah. And do treating him as I would treat anybody who I love taking people fishing and I’d love to take you fishing and go catch a bunch of fish and big fish. So we go back to the house, we hook up the 21 foot Parker, we dump it in, we catch a bunch of fish had a good time on the way home. He says to me, How much money do you guys have in your bank account? Because I don’t know. He said, Well, what do you mean? I said well, we trade stocks every day and my partner’s probably done something sometimes we have a lot and sometimes we don’t but we’ve done pretty good. And if you trade stocks with the company money and so well technically I own the company but yeah, I do. And I said not only do I do that but I do it on margin because II trade it was TD Waterhouse. I don’t know if they still exist, but I still have their account maybe it’s E trade now. I don’t know they all merge but they used to give us margin like it was nothing Joe like, I mean, I had no money to backup that margin. That was it was done that what they did, but they gave it to us and we used it and we treated options made a lot of money but so he just shakes his head, I’m paying attention because you’re pulling a halfway big boat down the highway at 65 miles an hour. And he pulls out at a corner my eyes employer checkbook ratty as checkbook like not even some leather case, it was just you know checkbooks, I don’t know, some listeners may be too young to remember what checkbook is, but they still exist. And they they have this backbone, like a book. And when you rip them out, it sort of looks ratty and in his checks he had about halfway down in the checkbook, and he see him writing something. And I’m paying attention and he hands me over a cheque while I’m driving. So I looked over at a check for $50,000. And he said, Let’s do this. Let’s go. And we did a deal on a handshake. And actually my lawyers who he introduced me to which were Greenberg try reg GT, which is still a big law firm in this country. And Harry Glaser who I’ll never forget, we were we had done some other crazy things. I wrote a guy in Forbes magazine who they said retired. And they had a picture of him with a fishing rod. So I wrote I looked his address up. I wrote him a letter. Four days later, he called me asked me, if I had a term sheet like Joe a term sheet, you know, a term sheet is, but I went to I got on a plane, I went to his house came back with 100 grand. And when we went to close, which our first round was million dollars, the lawyer said Harry Glaser said, he said, I said, we got to account for this other 50 grand that Tom gave us. And he said, well, where’s the paperwork? I was like, No, we didn’t have any paperwork. I shook his hand and gave him my word, we would do it and we need to account for that. And we need to be fair, he’s like, I have no idea that you are kid who he said, but let’s do this. And, you know, it was a it was a great ride. It didn’t, it ended well. But there’s a lot of other bumps. And I’m only telling that story for anybody out there. Whether you have a business, even to this day, and you probably already know you took some chances, but or you want to start a company like there’s no real rulebook. And I think there’s some some parameters of being rude and obnoxious and arrogant, that you don’t want to cross. But other than that, there’s just really, you’ve got to be yourself and make sure that there’s a fit, we had raised a million dollars. We had raised subsequent money, we got an offer to be bought by a global brand media company that we turned down, didn’t work out. And then the market crashed in 2001. We got sued by an employee, it was terrible experience. But I bought the assets back from the investors. I mean, when the market crashed in 2001, everybody thought it’s, in some ways, not different. It is different. But the same is what we are seeing today with this perfect storm of all these things happening, but it happened in 2008. And it happened in 2001. Quite candidly, it happened in the 70s or in the 80s with high interest rates and things like that. But the everybody thought the internet was going away and what had happened. I think, as I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of this internet thing for two and a half decades now is that things get built too early and too much money. And the funny part is is that the exact same business models ecommerce companies media companies app chat rooms, whatever you want to call it exists today that existed back then the difference was was that we just didn’t have enough people on the internet. I mean, that’s that’s just the truth. We that the population of people pets.com Well, what’s that company down in Florida that was sold to a big one. I mean, I keep going, I could give you every match for match or match. Geo cities watch geo cities as sort of like a Facebook right, or I could keep going down the list. But so the market crashed. I bought the company back from the investors, I decided that I was going to run it as a quote unquote, side hustle. I was pretty devastated. At the time is, but I was resolute that the internet wasn’t going away. I had been there since then. I mean, if you’re on the internet, when I was in college, and then way, way, way, way, early 90s, late. Yeah, so I guess it was or early 90s. And you see the growth in 1992 to 1996. thing you have perspective, that I knew that it wasn’t going to be linear, eventually it was going to be exponential. And I just believe that as like it’s growing. There’s it’s not going away, the money is going away. The business models were over invested in at the time that just couldn’t get sales fast enough to support a venture and investment. But the people weren’t going away. So I became a venture capitalist, I got lucky to get a great job. But I was running it on the side, I hired it. I hired people to help me. I ran it with only about five people we were cashflow positive in about four months. And I ran that for like you did the math probably 10 or 15 years why I was a venture capitalist and worked for two venture firms managing about half a billion dollars. I was an original early essay original. I was in America Online in the somewhat early days, not the earliest for sure America Online really worked in a office across I think International in Northern Virginia for 10 years before they really hit it. But the I worked in marketing analysis there. And then another VC firm, I went to business school because the VCs told me that while I’d gotten the jobs out of a lot of candidates, and I’m grateful for that, that I still probably needed an MBA, if I wasn’t going to sell a company for $100 million at the time. Now it’s probably a billion, but you needed your MBA. So I went and got an MBA, I quit the after I got my MBA, I quit the venture world, it really wasn’t a fit. I was much more of an entrepreneur, I really wanted to be in the other seat. But there’s a lot of a lot more to be in a VC. And quite candidly, there’s a lot of power when you have a checkbook. I mean, entrepreneurs and people will talk to you, whether they like you or not doesn’t matter. You have a checkbook, they, they believe they need money, and you have it. So it’s sort of an illusion. But what’s
Joe Valley 33:06
that part right there? You just said they believe they need money. Are you suggesting that not all entrepreneurs should take venture cap money, even if they feel they need it?
Brandon White 33:19
Well, you can’t argue with feelings. That’s a trick. But
Joe Valley 33:23
I’m talking to a guy with a master’s in psychology.
Brandon White 33:27
So if you want a quick tip, and you want someone to never argue with you, all you have to do is say I feel like Joe, you’re being very hard on these questions. And I didn’t argue with it. But I do that with my wife.
Joe Valley 33:39
I feel honey, I feel and then you’re right. She can’t argue with it. She does anyway, but that’s part of being married. Right. So going back to the to the question. Now let’s talk about marriage. Now. Go ahead. Back to the question. Well, we
Brandon White 33:50
can do that. I got 27 years of togetherness. So I think we did due diligence for 14 years. But the the truth on venture capital is in all fairness, it gets a bad rap sometimes. But no, not all businesses are a fit for venture capital. And that’s not bad. It’s not bad. You’re not a failure. It the venture community has built a marketing engine to make entrepreneurs and business owners not just starting but also current ones believe that they need it. Because the VCs need a pipeline. So they they need to see bad companies, they need all those companies. It’s sort of like going to Vegas, Joe here in Silicon Valley. There’s no other greater place if you’re in the tech business, in my opinion in the entire world. And I know there’s a lot of discussion with other regions popping up and I believe they can be strong but it will take 100 years because the ecosystem here is just too strong but it’s like going to Vegas is what I say is you’re gonna go to Vegas, you’re gonna make some bets. You’re going to win a little bit of money, you’re probably going to come out net negative, but you’re gonna have a good effing time. You know, Silicon Valley’s like that, that’s it’s, it’s, it will screen, it will screen people, but it is an engine that creates an incredible wealth. And there’s a difference between successful company and creating wealth. And that’s, maybe we can talk about that. But going back to, should companies take venture capital, they should take venture capital if they meet the requirements of what venture capital is, which is, if you’re going to if you’re growing fast, or you have an opportunity to go grab a giant market, then venture capitals probably a fit, but understand that that fit is. And this has been said many, many times. But it’s true. You’re you’re lighting the rocketship, I mean, that the VCs have a simple equation. And people may or may not have hurt your listeners, but it’s one or two and 10 make the return for the fund. The other ones, two of them probably go sideways, maybe they get a save on exit, and the other ones die and they know it. So you gotta have a chance to make a lot of money. I was pitching a, one of my subsequent software companies that I’ve done to a big venue, a huge venture firm on Sand Hill Road, and they said, we don’t think we can invest. And I said why. And they said, Well, we only think your $700 million dollar business said thank you very much best discussion I’ve had all day, thank you so much for your time, because they, they really need a billion dollars. If they’re going to invest the money, they need billion dollar exits, because the other ones aren’t going to they have to have the potential. That’s their thesis. So I don’t think everybody should take venture capital. But if your business is growing, you know, this Joe, you’ve done businesses and you sell businesses, you’re going to need some line of capital or some sort of growth, money, whether use factoring the bank, your personal money, friends and family, if your business is growing fast, the math just simply doesn’t work. Because you’re you need to or want to keep up with that growth. And that growth requires capital. So on a p&l basis, you look incredible on a cash flow basis, you suck. And in e-commerce businesses, and I’ve lived this, or any sort of any sort of business, but ecommerce or media businesses on the internet, you’re gonna get, you’re gonna have to have several merchant banks, they’re gonna hold your float, if you have returns and things. And on a p&l basis, you’re thinking you’re ready to buy the G five, and on a cash flow basis, you can’t even buy the mechanic to work on the G five. So the there’s, there’s gonna be time for money. That was a long rendition to your question. But sorry, I
Joe Valley 37:47
think it’s, you know, part of my point was that not every entrepreneur is cut out for VC money, some of them just don’t have the capability or desire to take a business from, you know, 10 million to a billion, right, they’re not cut out for it, they knew they could get it to maybe 10 million, but they know they’re not the person that is going to be in the seat to get it to 100 billion, or whatever the VC money goal might be, just because they’re not all cut out for it. And that’s not a bad thing. Right? i There are certain things within my company that I just don’t want to do, ever. And fortunately, there are people that really enjoy that, right? My business partner is technically actually the CEO, so many people call me the CEO of Quiet Light. I’m not Mark, the CEO of Quiet Light. So many people call me the founder, I’m not the founder of Quiet Light. Mark is the founder of Quiet Light. He and I became partners in 2017. If if it was just him, or just me, we wouldn’t have achieved what we achieved. So that partnerships worked out very well. But at this stage in my life, I have no desire to take VC money, I believe quiet like could be an extremely huge, extremely successful company. But not everybody’s cut out for it. Right. I’m 56 years old, I don’t have a desire to ride this rocket ship for the next decade or 20 years. Hey folks, Joe cutting in here. We’re breaking this podcast up into two parts. As I said, it’s an hour long journey, hour long plus journey of Brandon’s story and the second podcast coming up, we get a little bit more into what he’s doing now, with his physical product newsletter, his philosophies on business. Some of the things he’s doing, he’s writing a book, all sorts of different things about where he got to today. The first part of the podcast is to listen so far, has been more about his original journey as young man. The second part is more of a seasoned, experienced entrepreneur with some wisdom in the noggin, and we’re gonna go to that in part two of the podcast interview with Brandon White. Thanks for Join me in this one looking forward to having you join me on the second podcast with Brandon.
Today’s podcast was produced by Rise25 and the Quiet Light content team. If you have a suggestion for a future podcast subject or guest, email us at podcast at quietlightbrokerage.com Be sure to follow us on YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram and subscribe to the show wherever you get your podcasts. Thanks for listening. We’ll see you next week.