Resources for Buying and Selling Online Businesses

Part 2: Brandon White Joins Two Venture Cap Firms

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Brandon White

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:

  • [03:29] Brandon White discusses the importance of establishing a balance between family and work
  • [07:37] Managing expectations during the early stages of entrepreneurship
  • [11:38] Brandon’s unique strategy to maintain a connection with his audience
  • [16:58] How newsletters and subscription bundles can help your brand grow
  • [20:32] Brandon explains how to resonate with your audience using the power of a paper newsletter

In this episode…

How can you turn your business into an enduring enterprise? Is it possible to connect with your audience through the brand-building process? 

As an emerging brand, it can be difficult to reach your audience, especially if you’re new to the entrepreneurial world. For Brandon White, it was about setting expectations for yourself and balancing work and life. It was not always smooth sailing, but he discovered a competitive advantage that raised his brand and still resonates with his audience: work hard and don’t stop. Brandon actively curates a paper newsletter to remain connected and generate a better response rate. Listen to this episode to learn how. 

In this episode of the Quiet Light Podcast, Joe Valley sits down with Brandon White, entrepreneur and Host of the EDGE podcast, to discuss how to keep the momentum and growth of your brand scaling upwards. Brandon talks about engaging in work-life balance, regulating realistic expectations for your brand and yourself, and why a paper newsletter isn’t just a thing of the past. Stay tuned! 

Resources Mentioned in this episode

 

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.

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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. 

Episode Transcript

Intro  0:07  

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 on a another episode of the Quiet Light Podcast. This is part two of my interview with Brandon White, a serial entrepreneur who had early investors in his online fishing newsletter from Sequoia Capital, and others raising a million dollars in capital back in the mid 90s. Having to buy it back when the bubble crashed, never giving up getting a job paying somebody to run the newsletter from the job that he had full time ended up having five people they were profitable within four months eventually sold the business, I think 1015 years later. And this episode that you’re going to listen to is just more of his journey. He has a master’s in psychology, he’s got an MBA, and a lifetime of business experience. And it’s just a really cool guy to listen to. One of the reasons why he’s been successful over his years is because people have given him their time when he felt as though he wasn’t qualified to earn their time and reserve their time. But people did it anyway. And that’s more of what he’s doing in this podcast. Again, in this one, he talks more than I do, we talk a little bit more in this one, I went on a little bit of a tangent on venture cap money, and if you should accept it or not, if it’s right for you or not, because Brandon’s worked for two different venture capital firms in his life and his career. But this is, again, a great interview with a guy that has been at levels that many people never get to and connected with many people that we all hear about in the news. So let’s go to part two of the interview with Brandon White, here we go. Mark has eight children and one on the way brand. And he’s not necessarily cut out for it either. He wants to spend time with his family. That’s what I met, not everybody’s cut out just to take the VC money and ride that shit because you’ve got another spouse that you have to or partner that you have to answer to. Yeah, and I think it’s, it’s a combination of is your business, a fit for VC? And are you and it is, I’ve done it. I’ve been on both sides of the table. I’ve gotten venture funding from top firms from such going for subsequent companies. And it’s it’s a it’s a grind, there’s no real balance. I mean, balance is a joke, in my opinion. I mean, I just don’t understand how greatness. There’s nobody who I have met, who I think we would all agree is exceptionally great. Who has balanced. There’s people who do really well and better. But it’s not 3333 Mind Body business type thing. It’s it. I mean, I just I’m watching the NBA Finals, and I don’t know when this will come out. So maybe they’ll already be an outcome. But you know, Steph Curry and become the greatest shooter in the NBA. By having balanced Does he love his family? Does he seem to keep a good engagement? Sure, but you can’t play at four regular season games and then play into the playoffs into what is effectively the playoffs end in June, and then go back to work back to work in six or eight weeks and and have balance. I mean, yeah, and I

Joe Valley  4:01  

agree. I agree. And the problem in today’s world, and we’re going on such a tangent, but it’s so critically important is that Steph Curry appears to have balanced because of a great social media team. You know, I watched the game five last night stuff. He went to college half a mile from where I live my son’s going there in August Davidson College. So even though I’m from Maine and should be rooting for the Celtics, I don’t know any of the Celtics players at this point in my my life, but I’m a fan of Steph Curry. So I’m rooting for the worse. So on my feed this morning, I’m seeing you know him doing some lovely thing with his wife. It’s social media. He has no balance can’t be she you think about she’s raising those kids for the most part most of the time all by herself. You know, so I totally agree with you. There’s no balance and that’s you have to pay Do you want to have balance in your life? Or do you want to be, you know, steer the rocket ship of 100, I’m sorry, a billion dollar company, because that’s what the VCs are looking for. I think it’s one or the other, do you have a different view,

Brandon White  5:13  

I’m not saying it can’t be done, and someone will write into your show. And I’m sure there’s somebody five standard deviations from the norm. But if we’re talking a normal distribution curve, it is extremely hard to be that good in that great, and not give up an enormous amount of other things. So I think that my main reason for talking about this is that it sets expectations, and then people become disappointed when they don’t attain it. And they think the other people are attaining it. And then they feel like a failure. Now, that’s sort of ironic for business owners and or entrepreneurs, because in general, your type in general, you’re a type A driven person who’s not actually worried what other people think. But there’s always this part in the human psyche that wants to be liked, even a little bit from people. So you see it out there. And like you said, in social media, it’s hard to exist. And then life is a lot of disappointment. And whatever is really about expectations. So there’s this expectation, then you feel like you’re not meeting it. It’s sort of like a lot of these people show talk about these companies, and they take pictures and jets, and they’ve got all these fancy cars. And, you know, I always want to know the story behind the story. Because I led a life in the beginning as an entrepreneur, when I started, that really looked to these things and actually believed it. It’s like, it’s like watching WWF wrestling and believing it’s real. And then you realize that when you get older, you’re like, No, that’s not real at all. So you don’t you get disappointed. So I tried to say, hey, look, my life isn’t? Do I have balance? I love my wife. I love hanging out with her. I spent, I’d make time. Is it balanced? If we went up to the bite whiteboard here and did the pie chart? No. But is that what it took to get? Just to sell a company to make a bunch of money to get a house and halfmoon Bay on the ocean? And do it? And did we agree that, that it worked? Yeah, we agreed. And we had a relationship, that I believe that relationships are something in addition to your already existing life. And if you don’t have that, fundamentally on a foundation, your relationships going to be really tough because you fall into codependency and these reliability type things. And in our relationship, it worked. And we both agreed and and there’s a level of trust there. But has it been equal like or balanced that now?

Joe Valley  7:58  

That’s life marriage with kids business, entrepreneurship, that failure? Same thing, my wife will say no as well. What are you doing now? You’re You’re and I really want to hear mostly about the newsletter because a lot of folks first think newsletters are dead. How do you start a new business in that space? In today’s environment, when everything is so competitive, it’s not 1994 When you’re launching a business online, right, a fishing magazine online the world is so different now. It’s so much more competitive. Most people just go to you know, I’m gonna sell stuff on Amazon. But you’re not doing that necessarily. You’re doing a small to medium business newsletter giving folks advice I think we

Brandon White  8:43  

talked about that before we so not only not only is it a newsletter, but it’s print which may sound old school but very similar to it. It’s in line with what we just were talking about. But in similar to the fishing story is I don’t know about you, but I grew up reading Entrepreneur Magazine, Inc Magazine, fortune, these and I, I just crave it, I still have I still read these magazines because I think that business owners, they want to get ideas they want to know what their colleagues are doing. They want to get some new insights, the end at some level, quash any any doubt that you may have. I think being an entrepreneur, or business owner is doing you have to do things you know you. You have to do things that you believe you can do that you don’t think you can do and you have to hold that thought simultaneously in your head. And if you don’t understand that, then you’re probably going to learn it but the newsletter came about because I wanted a newsletter. And this guy Mark McCormack used to write one called something success. That was the pulled the curtain back and said, here’s what’s really happening here. Here’s how much money I make. Here’s where I actually what I, what I realized is a lot of my friends make a lot of money, but they don’t know how to invest it. And then they go to some money manager who screws it up. And you can be a self directed investor. And I’ve done. And I’ve been lucky enough to have some mentorship on that. But what’s really happening in ad campaigns that you’re running, what, you know, you, you hear all this buzz, and you get some ad on Instagram that says, hey, we’re gonna teach you how to do your ads better, and you feel like shit, because your ads, excuse me if you have to beat that out. But because your ads aren’t performing well, because your customer acquisition cost is $17. And this guy’s getting or a woman’s getting it for two and you’re like, so I just wanted to have a newsletter that I could get as a fellow business owner or aspiring one. Because like E Inc, there’s us as people who aspire to be one and are in would just talk about these real things. So I started writing it, Joe and I, I, every month I tell exactly what stocks I’ve invested in why, what the premise is, how you can set that up. Psychology things like everyone’s like, Oh, should you sell in a down market? No, you should not sell in a down market. You’re an idiot to do that. If you have a long term, long term strategy. What we do, what are what we do and Facebook ads, which we run what is happening in our email campaigns, what we’re seeing in those email campaigns, the AB results, like real information, not marketing information. I don’t, it’s not I’m not trying to sell you anything, just like solid information, and then some stuff on I spend a lot of time on psychology on my mind and my body and, and have learned a lot of things. So if I can share that. So I started writing a print newsletter, and I did it in print, because I didn’t want it to be on the internet. I want.

Joe Valley  12:01  

There’s no subscribers online at all. It’s 100% print. So how did you find the audience? Well,

Brandon White  12:10  

I learned early on about this thing called an email list. This is a very novel idea. Very, very, very novel. But I kept that email list for people who are interested in Brandon. All along all the brands that I’ve had. And I emailed them all. And then I did this crazy thing. I actually started podcasting in 1997 wasn’t called podcasting. It was called Brandon got tired of writing 4000 word fishing reports and put an audio file on the internet, which seemed a lot easier, which it did. But I just started a podcast and your question about are there newsletters? There’s a lot. Are there podcasts? There’s definitely a lot. But here’s what I hear. Here’s my competitive advantage. competitive advantages is that I’m not going to stop. And if you go back and look at podcasts, and you look at newsletters that started and you look at, you see this with Quiet Light businesses, you probably seen businesses that that got off to a great start a lot of momentum, momentum wanes, behavior stops, that’s simple psychology off to BF Skinner on this, actually BJ Fogg, I’ll give him credit because I studied with him as a professor at Stanford and the persuasive computing lab, but it’s really simple stuff. So they quit. And what I learned from starting a company, bootstrapping it, raising money, having to close it down buying it back, was this last man standing wins, just like investing. If you are reacting to the down market right now, you will lose money, fidelity did a study their highest performing mutual fund over like, I think Peter Lynch manages don’t quote me, if anybody’s interested, you can email and I’ll give it to you. But they did a study. And he was the highest performing money manager, the fund outperform the market out of 20 years, 30 years, it only missed like four times. But guess what, Joe every most of the investors in that fund actually lost money. You know why they lost money because they took the money out and they tried to time the market and you can’t time the market. In business. You can’t time the market. So I believe that I’m going to I’m not going to stop. I’m not going to stop like to be honest right now. I feel like we’re not growing as fast as we want. We have a small base of subscribers under 100 But near 100 and I give it to friends and family. And I just know I could dump a lot of money into marketing in which we we do try to market but here’s what I know if I I just stay the course, steady Eddie, over five years, four years, I’m going to make it and I’m going to, I’m going to make it because I’m going to listen to the market. And I’m going to adapt, just like you probably did with Quiet Llight, or, and this in your show is you listen to what your listeners want. And then you tailor it. It’s not rocket science, but you got to listen, most people don’t listen. So my competitive advantages is that I work hard, and I’m not going to stop. And I’ll be the last man standing. And I’m also different, like who who does a print newsletter. Not a lot,

Joe Valley  15:41  

I get one from Rise25, the people who produce our podcast, that’s it. And their, their main motivation is to connect and be in touch and be different and be in touch in a different way than most people are. And I think it’s awesome. So what’s the name of the newsletter for listening audience, it’s

Brandon White  16:03  

just EDGE. The EDGE newsletter, it’s I don’t know if that domain name is, but it is actually functioning. But if you go to our podcast, which is myedgepodcast.com, we have the information there. So mypodcast.com myedgepodcast.com.

Joe Valley  16:22  

I’m going to subscribe, if you don’t mind. How do you make money on the news newsletter, do you not yet,

Brandon White  16:29  

we charge a subscription. So depending on what you get. So I bundle it with a course that I taught called How to well, it’s becoming another thing, but how to build a business plan and pitch deck in 13. Slides took me decades to figure this out. But after I wrote a 55 page business plan, but I’ve taught this course, to about 1500 students. So I bundle that. And I do a q&a once a month, and we sell it for depending on what bundle you want 997 or 9097. I teach the course live. And we charge more for it because it’s actually a college course. And it’s becoming, it’s getting certified so that you could actually get credit for it or get reimbursed for it. So yeah, we make money on subscription. And that’s the model and subscription businesses take a minute to reflect on the minute as in five years. Well, no. I mean, we have a podcast and that, you know, is hard. And it’s noisy. But I was looking through I don’t know, if you go through I go through my library. And a lot of the podcasts that I used to subscribe to I was looking back and I was like, wow, their last episode was in 2020. The last episode was in 19 2019. The last episode was in early 2001. And what happens is, is people quit. And because, as you know, building a listener base is really hard in the noise. But here’s here’s another analogy. I know, I’ll probably want to wrap up. I don’t know how long your shows are. But the I have a friend recommended the series on either Apple or just Apple I think where they go through. And they create scenarios of what if something happened. So the first episode was about what if Russia got to the moon first, would we already be on Mars? I forget what this series is. That series is in season three. And I just heard about it. And I’m going back to watch it. So it takes a really long time for this pump to prime itself sort of like the message board that we were talking about when I’m talking to myself. Yeah, I’ve been I mean, to be honest with you, I was talking to myself when I started the podcast, probably because nobody was listening. No, I mean, I send it out to this email list that I’ve had. But you know, nobody was it’s just one of those things. And then, so you just got to be there and be there and be there. And there’s a reason why these shows catch on after Season Two and season three. And it’s because the early adopters, so to speak, use word of mouth to tell other people and that just takes a minute. But you know, there’s there’s plenty of examples with this. And quite candidly, there’s a million examples of companies. Facebook didn’t happen overnight. I remember I used to get emails not from Mark but from his early partner who had left but like in 19 in 2004 I think they put you in see on there and I was I signed up but how long did Facebook exist? America Online sat in a dirty old office for 10 years doing this thing called dial up behind that used car. The car lot in Northern Virginia. Del didn’t happen overnight. I mean, sure, there’s some stories that that just shot off to the moon. But there’s plenty of stories that it took years for things to happen. So my superpower is, is I am stubborn, and I won’t quit. Now, I’m not saying there’s, that’s a whole nother podcast, like, sometimes you should quit, because the business sucks. And you really got to be honest with yourself about that. But for the most part, if you solve a problem, and you get some early people who, who say, Yeah, I love it, like the people who get on my newsletter. They say I love it, Brandon, I can read it when I’m in the bathroom for not going in graphic I, when I’m eating breakfast, it’s sitting there. It’s, and it’s proven science, that reading something on paper is different than reading digitally. Not to plug the newsletter. But if you solve these problems, you know, it’s gonna take a minute. And if you read the story that says that the guy got rich, or the woman got rich in three months, because they flipped some ecommerce company or something like you should just be really wary and not

Joe Valley  21:12  

they’ll be broken three months after they got the money. Simple as that.

Brandon White  21:15  

I mean, just put it out of your head, like, yeah, so it’s long. I’m a long term investor. I’m a long term believer. So it’s good stuff.

Joe Valley  21:26  

We are longer than most podcasts I’ve done and, and this is the one where I think I’ve done the least amount of talking in a very long time just because you’ve got a a calmness to you or tone to you. And it’s a great story. There’s no hype, it’s just the reality of your journey. Lots of different things in here. I want people to be able to connect with you and learn more about your journey in other ways, the newsletter, things of that nature. How can they reach out to you? How can they learn more about you and what you’re doing today and what you’re gonna be doing in the future?

Brandon White  22:01  

The best way, I’ll give two options, you can reach out to me on LinkedIn, which is Brandon C. I’ll give you three Brandon C White which I’m always  happy to talk, my email address is [email protected] And if you go to myedgepodcast.com You can reach out to me there you can see that it’s really the gateway into me, but I That’s my real email address. And my personal you know, it is because you and I communicated on it, you can reach out to me and I’m happy to talk to anyone and give more information or anything I could do. I said this to you earlier, before we jumped on a lot of people helped me in my career that did not need to help me. And that’s the God’s honest truth. And if I can help someone, just make a little difference, then I’m happy to do that.

Joe Valley  22:59  

Well, that’s awesome. I appreciate you sparing, you know, sharing over an hour of your day with me and the audience. Appreciate it. I look forward to next time and in the Bay Area that hopefully I’m gonna get to go fishing with you see those big waves and stay out of the water because the great white sharks, all that good stuff. So thank you once again for joining me, Brandon and thanks for coming on the podcast.

Brandon White  23:26  

Thanks so much. I really had great time.

Outro 23:30  

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 [email protected] 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.

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