You have achieved so much at a relatively young age, how do you begin to describe yourself in a short sentence?
I live for life experiences; I want to live out as many experiences as I possibly can in the short amount of time that we are on this earth.
With such a long history in sport, how did you get involved in tech?
Wharton Business School was my bridge from professional athletics to tech. It was there that I learned the basics of how to start a company and where I should look to invest the capital that I accumulated in sports.
What skills and values did you learn from your sporting career that have been transferrable to your business success?
I played for two very different NFL Teams. The Philadelphia Eagles managed with a top down philosophy and leveraged fear to try and motivate the team. This lead to a disconnected locker room full of players focused more on protecting their own job rather than doing the things necessary to gel as a team. In my two seasons, we never went past the first round of the playoffs. Conversely, when I played for the Pittsburgh Steelers they employed a bottoms up approach to managing the team and this led to a locker room where guys could lock arms and set the goals and objectives for the team. To me, it made sense why in 2008 the Steelers won the super bowl with a roster that was not as talented as the Eagles. I’ve taken the same management approach from the Steelers to [marketing software business] Integrate. I very much believe in a bottoms up management style where you focus more on empowering your workforce to be the CEO of their job rather than always telling them what to do.
Your marketing software company Integrate was named ‘Best New Company’ at the American Business Awards. In your opinion, what lead to this award?
We are filling a massive gap in b2b marketing. Our customers are large enterprise companies like Dell, HP, Cisco and Salesforce. We help marketing departments and sales team understand which leads are marketable and which leads are not. We also inform them which leads are in a buying cycle and which leads are many months away from a purchase decision. All of this happens inside the Integrate Cloud.
You are the Founder of Wish of a Lifetime, what inspired you to start this?
My grandfather was my first ski instructor and he use to throw miniature sized candy bars down the mountain. If I was good enough to ski down to the candy I was allowed to eat it. Needless to say I loved skiing from a young age. I started Wish of a Lifetime because I don’t think we do a good enough job respecting, supporting and reminding the oldest generation that they are important. At Wish of a Lifetime, we focus on granting wishes to 80, 90 and 100+ year olds.
With so many simultaneous projects, what are your top tips for time management?
You have to stay organized and have people around you who can fill in the details. I enjoy thinking at a high level, setting long-term goals and figuring out how to overcome large obstacles. I don’t enjoy the tactical side of these efforts so I have surrounded myself with people who can help fill in the color below the big ideas.
Do you think an Entrepreneur is born that way, or can develop this way of thinking?
I think most people can learn how to be an entrepreneur. The two things one must accept prior to starting their own company are:
1. You must be able to operate in an environment where the highs are very high and the lows are very low. You will wake up thinking you’re going to take over the world and around noon you will wonder if you will be able to make payroll. If you can operate in this environment you’re ahead of the game.
2. You must be comfortable jumping out of the airplane and assembling the parachute on the way down. This of course is an analogy but it rings true for almost all startups. It’s very rare for a startup to know exactly what they want to do from day.
3. It takes months and sometimes years to find your path. Consider that the Airbnb founders once sold cereal boxes to help fund their company.
There is a real trend towards working smarter, as opposed to harder, with emphasis on mental health. How do you maintain a clear head?
Priority number 1 for me everyday is health. I don’t sacrifice a workout, no matter how busy I am and I eat healthy whenever I can. I also very much believe that in order to think and be creative you must take time off and clear your mind. At Integrate, the team has unlimited vacation days and I encourage the team to take time off and learn new skills.
Any advice to provide to Founders who are in the early stages?
Stop focusing so much on raising capital and go sell something. I love the advice that the father of the founder of RXBAR told his son when they were starting out, “go sell one thousand bars and then I’ll talk to you about your business.”
What interests you about coming down under to Myriad?
Australia has always fascinated me and it’s been near the top of my bucket list for many years. I’m excited to get a taste of the culture and meet new friends.
What will you be speaking about at Myriad 2018?
My journey from the NFL, to the Olympics, to startup life. It’s been a wild ride!