Bionic Co-Founder and CEO
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How did you get to where you are today? What incidents and experiences shaped your career path? What inspired you to work on this startup idea?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Fri Nov 20 2020
So I've been on Entrepreneur now for 25 years. This is my fourth company have started. The prior three were all venture back sass companies or service companies had three exits to successful, one painful and, uh, spent a long time just reading books about mindset and the question like, How do you bet your life? And those two books the business books were the startup playbook and knew the bank, which just came out this last year. I started working in as an entrepreneur in college. I got my start from a general and build Gillette the Idea Group in Rochester, New York I studied our i t and we began with working on building his company and I got the bug. I realized that I didn't wanna work for anybody else, and it had no interest regulated big company. And and so we started. Uh, you know, it was the dawn of the Internet in 1996 so it's a little bit of right place, right time, and we It was a transformative age, and so we built our first come and still that a couple of years later, and then continue to repeat that process in the last 20 years, learning how to get good at the job of being a founder. Some people have good fortune and extraordinary outcomes early, and we were We were similar to that. But you know, entrepreneurship is a career, it's a job, and it's as much about how you think is as you work. Um, there's a stain that says that Success is a bad educator and eso I've learned mawr in the failures that I ever have in the success. In fact, when you talk to entrepreneurs who have had any success, they always say that, you know, it was good, fortunate timing despite how hard they worked. It's usually something that is about an outside force, a supposed to, you know, just on your own power. So lots of things we could talk about today about the startup journey and what means to do this job. But I've been very fortunate, and, uh, and I've had its ups and downs and the ability to restart, and we found yourself. While the journey is a critical skill in doing this, doing this job well

What is the elevator pitch of your startup? What problem does it solve? How were your customers solving their pain point before your startup?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Fri Nov 20 2020
So this company I started about seven years ago, it's called biotic and Biotic is a collective entrepreneurs who drive the mindsets and systems for growth transformation larger, larger organizations. It's the idea that big to bigger organizations are about efficiency and growth lives in discovery. In the same way MBA administrates for good reason. The big to bigger and large organizations growth was a discovery, which is largely a skill that venture capital entrepreneurship do as a form of management. And so my company is the pioneer and the idea. The venture capital and entrepreneurship are management, and we do this. For large enterprises around the world that leads to transformation. Companies like P and G and Nike and General Mills and Microsoft mothers have driven a mindset and a growth mindset and growth systems movement that Bionic has pioneered.well, primarily because they don't grow. So if you're a large organization and you don't grow, you are what we call a rich in pain customer. And one of my prior investors was a very famous BC from the Founders Fund. And he said, You always wanna focus on super customers who are rich in pain, and when you have large organizations that don't grow, they have tremendous accountability to their boards and Wall Street, and they need growth and our model, and our work solves that challenge.

Can you walk us through your first few weeks when you started working on this project? How did things change over the next few months?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Fri Nov 20 2020
well months I would edit to be years. Classic start ups typically take a least three years to figure out the exact customer problem and a revenue stream. So very often, you know, the first idea never survives. First collision with a customer, and secondly, very often the first revenue stream is not the right revenue streams. So the Internet for entire first three years is just about learning, discovering what is the problem? What is the need and how are we going to solve that? But there's actually a deeper question in the first year or two that you have to ask yourself and this this work comes through. Ah, book I wrote called the Startup Playbook. We interviewed about 40 entrepreneurs, some of the best in the world. Elon Musk, Sara Blakely, Reid Hoffman of LinkedIn, who wrote the foreword to the book to ask them, How do you bet your life and what they all said consistently across all 300 hours of those discussions. What There are five lenses, five criteria that get answered in the first three years that lead to disruptive growth and the first lens is proprietary gift. The question of why you What's your secret? What do you know? That no one in the world knows about solving this need? And that has to be true. The second lenses extreme focused. The more things you do, the less good you are, right. Optionality is the enemy, and that's a scary idea, because an entrepreneur you want every option to win. And it's counterintuitive, But the ability to invalidate options to get to the answer is what the job is in the first three years. Extreme focus. The third lenses. You gotta build painkillers and not vitamins. You want Richard and paying customers chronically lifelong that you're solving need for vitamins, air features they're not cos they're, you know, fingers crossed. Wishful thinking that the marketplace loves you when in fact it's just something to try and put down. So painkillers help you define who is the customer and what is the pain and how we're going to solve it. The last two lenses are about execution. The 10 next is the fourth lens, which is what aspect of the business is impossible to replicate. How can that 10 x factor become something that no one role that can do and you wanna asymmetrically invest in that which leads the fifth lens, which is You wanna build a monopoly where you can create permanent life, the customer to stay with them for long periods of time, typically one of three years. The job in the first two or three years. The company, not even months, is to frame the question of what is the need, the world. What is what's our proprietary gift in many cases, why now? And you use those five lenses to think about how and what to execute them.

What were the challenges in building the initial team and how did you overcome them? How did the team's composition, dynamics, time, and resource commitment evolve?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Fri Nov 20 2020
Well, you know, talent is fatal, right? So if you get you hired the wrong person in the wrong job at the wrong time, it typically takes 90 days to find them six months to discover that truth. 90 days to get rid of them or replace them. And that's over a year, which means you're basically dead. So if you assume that talent is fatal and you have to get it right, then you recognize that you could make almost no mistake's for your 1st 20 employees 23 52 or three miss takes maybe one or two and then 5300 employees 5 to 7, so you don't have a lot of chances to get this wrong. So how you identify higher and on board the right talent is probably one of the greatest challenges of a founder and CEO. So backing that up means that you have to be able to know what is the job of a founder. The founder really has three jobs. First is vision that's true and a road map to get there. That's usually corrected on time for the first three years, but really correct in the first year on a quarterly basis, so your roadmap in 12 months is correct, but your vision is even more correct around market timing. The second is is talent to the point I just mentioned is highly right people the right time to fill in that vision. So you're hiring people kind of when the boundaries of sort of Mr and Mrs Right now for 12 to 18 months to live out the execution and the third thing is, is never run out of money, so you can either earn it or raise it. But very few companies raise it. In the United States, there's, you know, 2.3 million businesses started every year and only single digit thousands that ever raised venture capital. So we see all the success. But reality, most of it is failure, and very few companies ever get ended. So the fastest thing you could do to create safety of your company is learned about the need and the problem and how to get exchange value to create economic oxygen that is truly the founding job of vision, talent and capital earner raise. That's the job that helps you answer this question around team composition dynamics and on hiring

How did your venture get its first professional funding? What were the challenges and how were they overcome? How'd your fundraising efforts change in subsequent rounds?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Fri Nov 20 2020
well, having raised literally tens of millions of dollars in venture from some of the best feces I can. I'll just tell you that it's not easy. It takes a lot of meetings, and it's a skill. It's something you have to get good at. And so you have to do learning about how to set up a narrative, an architect, the story and the solution. The team is really central to this to this, to this job of raising capital, The last two or three startups have all been something that you build a reputation with a team. You develop relationships. People get to observe you for a long time on den. As a result of this, you able to form a trust relationship with someone where a market opportunity emerges and you can capture it. There are the rare outcomes where you can spark an idea and seed stage and develop a little bit of capital. Get it going. But typically the relationship you build with the BCS takes time. Um, the main challenges is really understanding their two dynamics in raising capital. There's you in the mix is you know, the question of why you right and why this team, and why now? But also there's fun dynamics that are always in the mix around. The partnership is have a fun, their own success, their own capital allocations. What vintage the fund is then, and so those dynamics are as significant many cases as your job to raise it. So you have a kind of a tango, a dance going on of unknowns. There's the unknown future you're trying to build or and they haven't. You have an unknown future of where that fund is in the journey, and so those air, there's a deeper understandings. As an entrepreneur CEO, you need to understand, to be able to do the job well on bond, be able to make sure you hit the right fund at the right time in the right stage with your idea. So that's not trivial. It's not random, and you need to think deeply about how you go after that.

What major challenges did your venture face in scaling operations? How did you overcome those challenges?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Fri Nov 20 2020
Well, if you if you told me in my career I'd be surviving the dot com crash the great recession in 2000 and eight and now a global pandemic, I wouldn't believe u S o you know, getting through these crises is a skill on DSO. It's a skill above how you lead yourself as the CEO, but also how you lead the teams, right? And so we've faced, I mean, ah, lot of great challenges and have overcome a lot of them. But and some of them, um, some of them were more fatal than others. The factors outside where you can control dynamics in the company market. You know, timing are things that are, in fact, easier to solve. You know, the pandemic is is well, it's difficulty. It's not nearly as hard as fixing of fatal strategic decision that you made is a company. So let's say, for example, I could say I speak from experience. Let's say you've your 54 or five years into into your growth of your company, you have raised tens of millions. You have several 100 employees. This is my own first experience, Andi, you determined that years ago in this case Two years ago, you made a commitment to a partner that basically built to companies at once and not one. And the problem was is that we didn't know it. Yeah, but we realized when that partner pivoted into a new sector that took our entire company off course. And so we end up having to split the company into because we didn't control that decision. And so there are lessons that you learn in building companies around focus and integrity, your revenue, the integrity of your customer base that if you get wrong, are very, very difficult to fix their almost, uh, cancerous. Uh, not because of any you will, but just that It's a decision that you made. Maybe your board didn't understand it. Maybe it's a market dynamic, um, that you either could have controlled or in medication. You couldn't control that just, in fact, the outcome. So I've been through those moments and they're extremely hard to fix that aren't structural um operational challenges outside forces like the dot com crash or the pandemic or 2000 and eight are ones. Ironically, you have more control over because you can lower your cost. You could do fewer things you can, you know, you can focus your clean. Those sort of things are decisions you make. You know that air in the moment as opposed to ones that you made long ago. That air now entwined and entangled the whole company, so overcoming them is a totally different strategies sort of speak in each case. But I'll tell you, this last thing about this, which is the key to overcoming these challenges, is to lean into the truth is to not hide it from the team. And the reason why is because if you come with the answers and the team doesn't get to participate in solving that, there's always gonna be a gap in the room of the actual commercial truth. And it's much more likely the team knows the commercial truth, and you do because they're with the customer. And so the bridge back to you as the leader is to create a dynamic and ask for the truth and part of your team is to solve it, as opposed to coming with the answer. And that's difficult for founders to do because you're the optimist. You're the visionary. Your you have the answers. But in fact, you know the fastest way to lose your team is not to show up and part of them to solve these challenges. So that is a leadership lesson that, you know, entrepreneurs typically are light and learning. I've been on the same side of that sometimes, and what you'll find is is that your teams really wanna wanna win with you, and you need to help engage and ask them to do that well.

How did you set the scope for your minimal viable product? How did you get to product-market fit? How did your product evolve over time?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Fri Nov 20 2020
well, and you know, the latest company is a product table service company. And some of them are have been Sottsass cos I would say that I I look for extreme high fidelity signals. Um, contracts, revenue painkillers. I don't use low fidelity signals in setting up MVPs. I try to raise the bar very quickly to see if their adoption signals so that I can stop running cycles on validation early in the process. So I care more about the the sort of contracting outcomes of the product that I do about the features and functions that could create addiction, so to speak. Um, just because I think the cycles are much, much longer in terms of the learning and the outcome. So that's my bias. I mean, some people who are building, you know, products that have vier ality or our network driven or quite frankly, you know, just volume driven, um are different M v p model. And I think for what the type of companies that I mentioned building the signal is much higher finality and early in the process, and less, um, you know, long tail, so to speak. Um, you know the product evolution piece is, uh, one of you know, this is not rocket science. It's one of just looking at the, you know, the use, right? We the vital versus painkiller question. Um, ideally, you want to anchor around the painkiller or the Stigler pain girl color as fast as possible in the early phases. Um, despite the value in vitamins, they ultimately will never be exchanged for revenue. You have to find the thing that has the revenue signal. I don't care if it's pennies or dollars as early as possible and you concentrate. Your resource is around that.

Who were your early users? What marketing channels, approaches, and marketing tools did you use to contact users? What worked and what didn't?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Fri Nov 20 2020
you know, in the beginning, through the user feels beginner, typically fights. They're weak signals. And so I, you know, we used I've used direct inside sales efforts, ecosystems, no content. Final content. Outreach. Um, it's always been helpful. Um, alternatively, you know, if you feel stop actively, believe in Richmond pain Super customers, I must. That's more of a relationship and ecosystem outcome opposed to direct sales and testing. I don't care if it's Google or league dinner or whatever, but they're typically weaker signals. I personally like to look for Angkor. You know, pilots with anchor customers that are super customers. Because if you win PNG or Nike, you're more likely when the whole space supposed to small customer no one knows about, and so it's easier to come down, then go up. We're going to spend your time and energy, anchor the top and get small tractor, build great traction and build down into the market place. I'm one of the thought is, if you have relationships, is to leverage one relationship to get three more. So I like the idea of, um, how investing in an outcome So, for example, by four customers and say we're all taking this challenge on together and we're gonna scatter learning they're much earlier as opposed to say I'm right, you know, you know, join me and being right say we're gonna learn together is a really great way to get people to start beginning with you. And so it's It's not about, you know, making sure the product has the right answer. It's that you're learning so you could lower the costs, build a group of companies and then get off the ground. And then that signal to go marks is to say, we have these four top companies solving the same me Do you want to join us? And that creates momentum of very unique right, because

What changes would you attempt in customer targeting, acquisition process, and marketing tools in the later growth phase? Why?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Fri Nov 20 2020
I mean, today there's there's enough viral inexpensive, you know, platforms to go out and get customers with having to spend a lot of money. I mean, I would not. I wouldn't be buying customers in the early stages. I'd be earning them through thought leadership linked in, um, Instagram to some extent, you know, And you know, if you have if you come with someone who comes from an industry with similar relationships and permission, you can make a higher that could take you into space. So you know, not all companies need, you know, thousands of customers to be successful or million's some do. And when you're talking about tens of 1000 millions, Ah, lot of that performance based channels will work from the beginning. You know, sometimes your whole marketplace is a zey, a network of 1000 people that might be yet, and so the question is as How do you build a relationship with 1000 people, you know? And that's a very different, you know, path than millions. And so maybe the 1000 leads to millions. If you think of as a platform inspector, maybe it's selling into a large organization that leads to millions or millions that lead the large organizations. But whatever path you take, I think in the beginning I'd focus on earning the value versus buying the value. You're just gonna most likely turnout those customers because you have, you know, the whole solution.

How'd you hire, incentivize, and track the progress of your sales and marketing team including agencies and part-time workers to scale user base?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Fri Nov 20 2020
So I just say upfront these air Great questions. But each one of these questions could be a book in themselves. So I either these air massive, massive, complex questions. So I'll do my best. I'm trying to give two minute answers on things that people don't hold careers and stopping. So you know this job of building, you know, a sales and marketing team. Um, it's sort of like a world peace question, right? How do you solve world peace? Because every company is totally different, right? And so it's mostly about where is the customer? Where's the need and how to reach them? So that I think the most important question, even before answering this question is, Where is the customer? Where is the need? Where's that decision being made? And then how do we organize ourselves to meet them where they are in that journey? So there's incredible dimensions around. How do you build that audience? How do you reach that audience? Who's the stakeholder? Where's the budget? What's the what's the decision cycle? Who who are the owners or influences of that? All of those elements determine where and how we sell inside sales Outside sales direct consumer direct to be to be through partnership channels. Like all of those answers are designed to ultimately create a kind of a climbing genetic algorithm that meets that person rate. Is there making that decision? So you're part of the choices they have. That could be random because you're trying to create a big you know, you know, big pot of opportunity that, you know, things jump out of. Or it could be a filter where you're structure to be able to sort of sift through the decisions that collect those signals. So you end up being one of the considerations at the right place, right time and ultimately that's That's the science of understanding your marketplace. So s. So that's the external work of organizing the company to produce that. Then the question is, how do we pay for that inside, Right? Have you optimize our human talent or systems to meet those silver bullets to come out of that machine? And so and what's the value they create? Where's the work being done? Who actually contributed to that outcome is the team is an individual. Do you need to pay incentives? Do you not all of those dimensions is really subject to the marketplace in the company and kind of built. So I'm gonna focus on more on how to think the lenses of the job than the answers to your questions. Sometimes, because the answers are too specific, it's more about mindset, and the job to be done is a leader.

Who were your competitors when you started and how did the competition evolve? How did you create a competitive advantage and a unique selling proposition?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Fri Nov 20 2020
Yeah, so in, I mean, one of my greatest investors again, Peter Thiel, the founders fund. He also had a competition is for losers, right. If you're going to the marketplace, that's super competitive. You need to understand that you're in a features or outcome arms race. And to do that to be in the spaces is, uh, your son outcomes. And so you're you're gonna have toe rapidly differentiate yourself to show unique about, and so you could do that. A lot of ways you can you can position yourself and signal to yourself as a type of company that's different in in a radically different way. Or you can tattoo your customers that they're differentiated by a liability, right? Sometimes being the anti of something that is gonna saying that you're the best right, and so creating a different defensive distinction that you need uniqueness in existing marketplace is very critical. We got right. Alternatively, in the spirit of Peter says that competition is for losers is basically not to chase a fractional part of it existing marketplace, but to build a new industry. A building industry means we're looking to win 80% of it. We don't want 5% about all of it. We want to define it and create it so that our perspective is we don't even pay attention to competitive landscape because we think so radically different. And we care more about this need and were scalded or proprietary gift that it doesn't matter what the competitors dio. I built companies on competition, the losers might set and the our faces competitive features. And I can tell you that it takes much longer to big build an industry and dominate it that does toe participate in whether what exists. But the rewards are much greater for the ones that you create and you dominate. So I think it's really good about myself. How you think of this. I personally think you should not chase marketplaces on suffer from the Senate comparison by your competitors. You should be doing that. You build a wall of one company in the world

What were the major exciting and memorable moments? Were there also any moments that almost got you to quit? How did you get past them?

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Fri Nov 20 2020
you know, I mean, I think exits are short lived. You get to the top and you realize there's nothing there. Um, I you know, I have learned that, and I teach my company is that if you have to really focus on the becoming who you're becoming the learning devolution, the grind, right, that heart hardness of the journey is where all the reward lives the becoming of of, of learning Thio about yourself learning about the marketplace, how to solve auto wind together how toe lose well together to struggle That's where all the joyous and when you get a big exits all over and you want it right back to the becoming. And so that's a really important thing. Thio, you know, focused on as a as a as an individual as a company s Oh, I'm very focused on that outcome. The most memorable moments have been through the hardships you know, having to admit mistakes and have a team forgive you for them but also winning big deals together as a team as opposed to individual, the OSCE versus the mean almost and also, quite frankly, the transitions into you know, the company's own transformation where you go from individual stars. Two people start to make everybody around them better. And that vertical, the horizontal shifted organization, really just helps you get past those challenges. So I have lots of lots of great moments and pictures and imagery in my office here of of the outcomes, the joys and equally, you know, I've you know, I've laid in the ground and cried and, you know, give give it over to the team to help solve. And so all those things define you and ultimately, are the major milestones all the way.

Can you tell us something about your latest book, either published or upcoming? What is it about? Do you have any specific audience in your mind for it?

Based on experience at: Co-Author, New to Big (Currency)
Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Fri Nov 20 2020
Yeah. So I color co off this with a woman named Christina Wallace who's the professor Harvard and formerly worked at Biotic. And honestly, the whole company I've always done things is collaborations. Christine is wonderful. Super smart, great writer. I mean, we, uh the the book really represented kind of the Colonel the one point of the bionic story in the work that we've done to transform large companies. And yeah, the audience is really, you know, in the top, you know, it's an audience of 1000 right? It's the Fortune 500 leadership, typically the CEO or CFO or C m. A very small group. And it's really about how to change their mindset and the systems that create growth. And so, you know, new too big really sets the stage for the core fundamentals of that work that then we drive the skill into in scale. So it's ah, you know, it's a powerful story. It's the last book that Clay Christensen endorse before his passing. Adam Grant is a huge a za fan of ours and then bursar and adviser General Crystal others So Linda Hill really amazing group. People have come come through this and really move there. Their work into our model to help organizations make unbiased decisions. And here's why. When you're going for growth, about 70% of all the money you ever make come from comes from 7% of the capital deployed. So I make 100 bets. So I spent 100 million. 7% will be all on battle returns and everything else. So go to zero. And so the question is, well, how do we make those decisions? And when you go back to the beginning and you look, they have two qualities. What is high conviction, which is really about why us? Our proprietary gift for market timing Number two is non consensus. You make all of your money from the ideas with the highest disagreement, right, because it's fundamentally new learning to you. So, conversely, when you have consensus, you're basically screwed, which is why learning is hard, right? It's just it's uncomfortable, but you're building a company company. Do not seek comfort. Seek discomfort with your ideas with the problem with the need with the investors. Eso that you know you're getting new learning because that is where the gold is and so getting the mindset. The mechanics to be able to do that systematically at its scale is what the book talks about.Yeah, this this reinforces the message I've been sharing, which is, you know, for our business were a network of 1000. You know, we're the C suite. The leadership teams in the Fortune 1000. The world that's our goal is to be meaningful and important and in relationship with them. So that's the answer, that question.

Can you talk about your research, feedback sought, and time spent in writing your latest book? How was this process different from the one for your older books, if any?

Based on experience at: Co-Author, New to Big (Currency)
Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Fri Nov 20 2020
Well, a lot of the other books have been around, you know, ideas that existed but were curated. So they're curating stories and they're synthesizing This one is truly original idea. And so it's the first, like, business true original book that I've ever written. And I did it as a team. You know, there's very few eyes and almost always in these stories. Um, and so the feedback has really been creating peer review inside. And so I think if you could stand in front of your group incredibly claim with integrity that, um, you know, you did this together and they all believe it. Your your It's a good test. And so those were those air processes of writing and creating that where this is original ideas opposed to a curated, synthesized ideas. This is an inside Africa, and outside in that process was different, and one where we could be proud of the work was really came from the signal of the team

How much of your first book did you write before pitching it? How did you pitch it to agents and publishers? How challenging was the process to get your first contract?

Based on experience at: Co-Author, New to Big (Currency)
Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Fri Nov 20 2020
eso. The first book I basically built a prototype of it was almost like a product. It was, it was called the intellectual Devotional was a multi New York Times bestseller. It's been printed in 18 languages, has done very well, but we did five of those in a serious but basically created a prototype of it like it was almost a product. I wrote a treatment around it, and then I really try to frame this around solving an existing demand for this right? And when I went, I pitched it to a couple agents, all of them, um, and up stepping in and wanting to represent it. But I found someone who her name is Joy to tell a from David Black agent. She she's amazing. She just was someone who I felt like I'd be in business with for my whole life. And I think agents are not transactional. They're like, there you're the artist and they're they're like your director. They're there to conduct you to help grow, to give you direct, candid feedback sometimes. And she's my collaborator in that regard over 15 years, so we've done seven books together, aan den. We pitch publishers we said, This is how we're going to support this. You'd be surprised because the publishers air really relying on you as the creator and the distributor. They're kind of packaging and making the book, But in reality, you know, you're the one who is who is the one who's really, you know, creating it and making it through to the world.