Stephen Tse, is founder and CEO of Harmony.one. Harmony is a blockchain-based open source development project with its own cryptocurrency.
Stephen has been obsessed with protocols and compilers since high school. He reverse-engineered ICQ and X11 protocols, coded in OCaml for more than 15 years, and graduated with a doctoral degree in security protocols and compiler verification from the University of Pennsylvania.
Prior to founding Harmony, he has worked a researcher at Microsoft, a senior infrastructure engineer at Google, and sold his startup, Spotsetter, to Apple.
In this conversation, Stephen and Aaron discuss how a blockchain project is like a traditional startup, the technical tradeoffs of blockchains, and how Stephen expects future projects to work together.
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Tse: The broader picture the harmony is in or where technology is at novel blockchain. It's really about a FinTech revolution.
Watson: Hey everyone. Welcome back to going deeper there. And Watson, my guest today is Stephen Tse Stephen is the founder of the harmony blockchain project. It is not only a cryptocurrency, but a internet protocol that is focused on connecting different. Blockchain projects together to create more liquidity, faster transaction times and lower fees for everyone involved.
It's a pretty lofty goal. It is definitely technically. Complex and above my pay grade, frankly, uh, but tried to make sense of it and get some wisdom, insight perspective from Steven in his position, operating the project. Uh, if you are a completely unfamiliar with how Bitcoin works, how Ethereum works, then I would hesitate to recommend continuing listening to this episode, I'd recommend either visiting past episodes of this show that we've linked in the show notes.
Or other resources around the internet to familiarize yourself with those projects. First in my experience, most context around cryptocurrencies and blockchain. Start with understanding Bitcoin follow by beginning to understand and Ethereum and then everything kind of spirals outwards from that. But once you have that context, I'm fairly confident that you will find this both valuable and insightful. And I hope that you enjoy it. Here is Stephen Tse
Watson: All right, Steven. Thanks for coming on the podcast, man. I'm excited to be talking with you. Thank you, Aaron. So excited. So I'm going to start things off. We we've done different like crypto Bitcoin, blockchain, different types of interviews in the past. And you are the CEO and founder of a independent blockchain project called harmony.
And to try and start things off, maybe we can just try to explain what harmony is and where it falls in this landscape, because there's so many technologists, there's so many, you know, coin market cap. A thousand different cryptocurrencies out there. It is exceptionally hard for people like me to keep it all straight.
So where does this harmony and your project fall in that ecosystem?
Tse: Thank you, Aaron, for actually your audience, having a background in technology, um, and a little bit about Bitcoin, but understanding what is the entrepreneurial journey? Uh, that bring harmony of the project. And why is it different from maybe some of the blockchain projects that some of you may have heard before?
I think it comes from the main. Right. Uh, I think it's interesting that finally, um, there was many technology breakthrough that allow people to collaborate together and subsequently, uh, uh, around the open source project. Well, um, I think the theory I'm in harmony coming into places now, can there be a different platform that said, oh, we may have a contract to do freelance and we may have a global business.
Like, um, different community that not only this community can come together, but they can build an economy out of it. I think that economic aspect it's interesting because finally people can share anything online and open source contribution comes into any, uh, any like a WhatsApp group or, um, telegram group.
Well, how many really want to emphasize this? Can the epi community that can create an economy, if not?
Watson: And so it is part of the preset position then that the coordination that's enabled by a shared ledger, a trustless ledger, uh, much, much in the way that Bitcoins trustless, this allows every transaction to occur without that intermediary that can be applied to just more activities beyond a simple, you know, transport of value for some external agreement.
There's, there's the idea here that if every sort of agreement is codified, Okay. And those, um, qualifications can be executed quickly. Cause that's another, another issue here is, you know, basically from a, from a psychological standpoint, most of the mind share to the general public is Bitcoin and then maybe a theory, um, and then maybe like blockchain or crypto beyond that.
And the reality is is that there's this, um, there's this impossible Trinity, right? To be trusted. To be secure and to be fast is very, very challenging. So, so you kind of are pointed at that, correct?
Tse: Right. Well, thank you, Aaron. You summarized it better than I did. Uh, but most of all, bringing out some of the key topics, both technical, but also like why, right?
Why is this different? Why there has to be another system rather than just a bunch of my consortium or liars? Try to figure it out. Why couldn't we do it on Bitcoin right now? I think what you've mentioned about, uh, there are still, uh, deep protocols. Uh, but I think your audience would love to know why that matters.
I think the amazing thing is people finally find it will community or even open source project, or even Cisco into a Kickstarter to really find a way of making a difference in the world. What people couldn't figure out is, wow. It was possible 10 years ago. 12 years ago for Bitcoin to top up money or investment or store value.
And then you can improve that as possible to that anything can be on it or it's not possible. And why we take this route is we are a bunch of Silicon valley engineers infrastructure guys does it cannot be that. Expensive or slow that we are still in the dial up era. I don't know whether you ever use a slow modem and play with life like windows period of time, where they carry your map off you it's just too slow to do anything.
Why would anyone do it that style compared to just go into the office ticket box? It's where we are exactly right. It is okay to tell the user and say, oh, now you can create money to your own community. But it's not so easy to lose money. It's not secure. It's so slow. It's so painful. You'll rather just like mail check, right?
If it's so slow and then worst of all is it really doesn't work for people other than the few thousands people that'd been playing with the technology until I will say condition.
Watson: And so to try to provide more clarity of where harmony lands in the ecosystem. You know, the, the different things that I'm aware of are the concept of like layer one layer, two layer layer three in the, in the traditional analog sets.
So I might have cash and I might hand that cash to the bank, and then I might get a credit card somewhere else. And when I'm swiping that credit card, the money isn't immediately moving out of my account. Those kind of transactions are reconciled later on down the road, out of my bank account and that credit card.
Is optimized for speed. And the cash is kind of optimized more towards being secure cash that is relatively stable. It's Fiat, the whole everything is that there's yacht, but it is still a well-worn technology to you, a Fiat based currency. So, so where can, can you paint, uh, maybe using that medicine? Where harmony lands
Tse: really actually, it's a really great hierarchy.
If not an Archer to think about it. As a matter of fact, maybe it's telling the audience I'm on entrepreneurship fundraising, if not a little bit investment, the broader picture the harmony is in or where technology is at alpha. Blockchain is really about a FinTech. The financial technology and solution, right?
For the longest time, we can only play with my personal computing or what technological information. I think this decade, the entire time. It's exactly to what you just said, right? Different stacks, different layers of, uh, of our day-to-day life related to our economy activities. Most of our financial instruments, wherever the Capital has been provided, the only government you will trust to solve the problem.
This one, you mentioned about different layers. So let me quickly touch on that. I'm not going to go into like the whole money supply waste of money coming from how the fed is printing money, I think is pretty well known by now. Well, it's the naughtiest going and we're how many position maybe you give me a good framework to clean.
Two people will understand it become by now. I hope I feel it should be by now. It is really like the gold, right? Like digital gold. You need to trust it. You know, it's going to be there. It will be limited supply. You can really, it's just like, it's not going to disappear. People cannot make it right. Good, uh, limitation.
So people consider that a slow value. That's all good, but people can normally do any sane about it. Right. We cannot create new economy top all at different application or contract the way that internet enabled Twitter, Facebook. So you do them to stop. Right. The second layer of allowing people, not just about me sending you a package, which is like a network.
You have an eye on the internet, they can sent you a package, but, uh, nuclear might allow you to say, oh, now we can have email. Right. Very slow. But at least we can exchange an email. Well, how many will you want to be able to use? It should be allowing to do anything right now. You're doing on entrepreneur, but it has a value attached.
Well, we're still very far from there, right? Otherwise you would be doing somewhat form four, even though my mom and pop. Right. The hardest of all is you sell, dealing with banks and government definitely base we'll work with flushing. Can we have that love for that? Everyone can really use that. How many, one position at that layer or level on top of harm?
Uh, do you want me to mountain top Bitcoin at that? That's all to say that while it will be your day-to-day life, uh, not just the product, but like any other things that you want to do with the community. People you don't need to trust, honestly, but in you transact.
Watson: And what's so challenging to kind of wrap your mind around here is in the same way we used these layers of legacy financial rails to illustrate me swiping a credit card.
There's also layers and layers of technology that helped me, you know, set up this zoom call or send my emails and use the G suite within Google or use Google maps. And so th-the way. I'm trying to kind of like force myself to think creatively is, you know, the analogy. The other analogy is the first time that they set up a website for a new space, it was basically the front page of the newspaper turned into a website.
There was, there was like side stories and the story in the middle. And eventually we realized that's not the optimal way to consume something in a digital format. We had to kind of rethink it. But the first step was to just take something from the old world. And push it into this new paradigm. And then we have to kind of start to learn how this changes, maybe the constraints or the obstructions, and allows us to go in some of those different directions, right?
Tse: exactly. That's great analogy. People don't remember how we even do email sharing information before like web right. People that should go and remember that they, uh, day-to-day uh, to hold they were taken with other phone. Uh, I was right there. Right. I was using like developing, operating system called Linux in my high school, first version, and then doing web development.
I was on the cool maps team when people didn't even think it was possible to be a, such an application out on their website. Right. Just click the click. You can already direct allow that. 12-12, 15 years ago, I'm showing my age. And then the last one, the mobile, right. I have my iPhone one lighting out for a few years, all the way to add like 12 models of iPhone.
That to talk about blockchain now is really early. You have to really believe that something is wrong. Something you can do it differently. That what you said about like, kind of your day-to-day life, all the systems that you use now can just be slapped on now. I would say yes, but no. Right. People asked, can all that AI data, privacy and disrupting all of the companies be possible.
Now in blockchain, I would say yes. Okay. Not now. There are people that are trying really therapy all the time. The last few years. Tens of millions of are pouring the space. That is really not a lack of ambition, passion or that temps. But the amazing thing is, um, there are really builders to left, um, that keep going.
And, uh, it has been exciting the last few months.
Watson: So I want to talk a little bit about the start and then we can kind of catch up to where things stand in the present. Because another thing that we've explored a lot on this show are these basic kind of two-- One much very well-worn in one relatively well-worn paths of entrepreneurship, the ones, the most common you bootstrap, a company, you find something to sell.
You sell it. You keep doing that at a greater and greater scale and you grow from a one person shop into a a hundred person company. Then there's the model of the traditional VC, which is you go in and you have an idea. Maybe you have a concept for technology. This is something that you've done in the past. You get a seed investment, you start to develop that project and you're hopefully on this like hockey stick-stick type of ladder where you, you grow super-fast and you get a big series, a and a series B and some form of an exit via an acquisition or an initial public offering.
These cryptocurrencies, these blockchain based projects don't really work in the same way. And they're tied into the open source software movement, and they're tied into these kind of very, uh, you know, digitally native communities type of framework. But can you kind of paint more of a picture of your story, which was you sold a company to apple.
You decided to leave that position and start this thing and what you needed at the beginning in order to get any sort of momentum.
Tse: Yeah, thank you, Aaron. Again for like we still talking about, well, the overall structure that people can still get on the startup journey and actually knowing what's ahead of them and what is possible now?
Um, I think you need a slurry. Any entrepreneur, we map back to what we just said, right? It was so different 10 years ago for web and mobile. And now even for entrepreneurship is very different, right? As we know, Kickstarter and all kinds of online platform for a freelancer are quite possible. Right now.
Whether you have a project, a hardware to ship, or you just want to get people to pay you monthly, even though you don't get sharing community fishing. And I would say the core of entrepreneurship, at least technology entrepreneurship in Silicon valley has also been quite. Okay. As well because of blockchain because of technology.
Uh, so just to backtrack a little bit, uh, I, when I finished my PhD, I went to Google maps to work, and then it come to say goodbye to my first startup. At that time, I was fairly new to Silicon valley to know like, what are VC. And we went through that round. We raised more than a million, and then we sold to apple for google itself.
Uh, but then, uh, both of AI and blockchain really changed my perspective. Do I want to repeat the same? Like, if you have to write a website again or to new podcast again, Completely different paradigm of tools you can use. It's not a blockchain, allow us to do it. So we quickly raise 80 million within a few weeks.
It's not because of the, of the money is because now that you don't need to be so focused on just regional and, uh, That have certain trash in for certain GC said lots of people failed after getting a few tens of millions. Um, we were just so a little bit quite hardcore. I was just like having to build a mentality where you said like, oh, they're still users, even though you build that, it's still a true question.
You only need to ask revenue. You don't need to show the chart, but you still need to keep in mind that it's not just about the train, but the product that make impacts people's lives. So for us, we quickly go on that journey to raise it on plot in about Money, but also feel it community. And I think that's.
Melissa product or like a startup didn't even talk to the customer until, I don't know, six months or one year later, they don't even feel accountable to pop up to public five, seven years later. And blockchain kind of compressed all that into more than a year.
Watson: And so would you call that an initial coin offering or is that not how you explain it?
Tse: It was a, so we have to, we have to figure it out. So there are two way to think about it. Like, what is like, what does the IPO box slide after five, seven years? Usually you have to, you only figure out when you're five, seven years do the training. So you have to kind of figure it out in the first five.
It's not five weeks. So if it could that be quite the token. Meaning all your community investors, your customers, how they will use this currency of this tokens is what people call it. The initial coin offering of the tokens token is just mean exchange of your share if you know, setting up C corporate measure.
The other thing that we did is once we figured it out, we still want to keep it to the public now. And
Watson: that's a really important idea there because there's like this, this risk or default to go it's paradigm, shifting everything is different, totally different. But at the same time, this idea that you might need to determine the economics of your project, right?
At the very earliest stages, it's somewhat different. But at the same time, you start at, you have a startup and you say, okay, We're going to have a, a four year vesting period with a one-year cliff, for anyone that joins our company in order to have equity in this project that we're building together. So really this is just more variability in the model, more creativity for how that might be formed and where the kind of initial investment might come from and how people get a piece of it.
But it's not really that different in the sense of like, Yeah, that's how it started. So I've always worked by finding an economic model that gets everyone together, working on the project at the same time.
Tse:. Yeah. I still, you, you, you, you are really good at making analogies and I think that's what people need. I love it because like, it helped me to tie all your frequencies new as some details. What happened is, is exactly the same thing, right? It's exactly the same IPO, your customer acquisition strategy, but now you've put a incentive to it. It's just so many the technology has changed. So say having a website or newspaper allow you to publish by minutes in sublime one week later or the next day.
But once the moment it goes out, everything's you soon check off track. You still get to have the distribution. There's nothing that allows you to get around, but how to do share and distribution. So coming back to Boston is a symptom, the money still really fast. I'm talking about seconds. Right. They are like, uh, two years ago, they are like, uh, 50 million guests sold in mid, like insane sort of timescale changed because of the technology.
But what you said about the structure of an economy of a product of a company really haven't changed, but just compressed.
Watson: And so can you talk from like a community standpoint about the incentivization of developers? Because the traditional model is, man, we have to figure out how much equity are we going to give this developer on?
Is it one is a, three is a five is a 10% whatever. And you know, that's, that's the asset in order to get this thing built in the early stages. But now it could be something where maybe I'm full-time, maybe it's, maybe it's one of your old, when your old colleagues at a Google or an apple or something like that.
Who's really technically sophisticated. Kind of can put in there 40 hours a week and one stack have some sort of project on the side and maybe it's 10 hours of contribution, but there's the motto where that works.
Tse: Yeah. Um, I think that's another fundamental shift in this last year. If not this decade, I also see the FinTech revolution only because technology is changing, but humans behavior in humans, jumps to engagement is completely different the last few years, and last year, just push it all over, over the edge of it.
So I can talk a little bit. Harmon you think about that, but I also can say how blockchain and napalm different level of freelancing, if not even open source. So I-I'm happy to a couple of both, but let me do a little bit more specific, probably you know, about freelance podcasts during audience, anyone, but, uh, but the open source and technology is also very, very unique and way more crazier than what I knew three years ago in the stock is apart.
We know that open source is really where the future research human creativity company. Right. Everyone just contribute what people, if we could figure it out, it's just incentives, right? If every go and source, like how much did I get many open source prototypes because of it community couldn't stay together at one vision incentives doesn't make sense.
No money there. The flip side of the coin is even though you figure it out, people can just copy it. Right. Just like podcasts. People actually do better as curator or distributor. A lot of them, the one actually doing the hard work of putting a content and philosophy technology together on some code. So in open source or in particular for a blockchain project, the hardest thing they call it a forging.
Of a community or a project. Um, it just means that I copied it exactly the same. You, you put it out. I copy it. There's nothing wrong because we learned from the one before us as well. And we copied just as much, but how to keep them the value of the community and keep the incentives. Um, I would say it's actually still experimenting, like, as we talk about at the hundred million scale in the timeframe of the few nicks.
So if you catch anything about decentralized finance deep by last year, that's exactly what happened. People just exactly copy it, but let me just boil it down and bring it back to the excitement to top our world, the product. This is truly where things are going or research or source code development or technical department mine, or the digital economy are very cloneable copy about.
So I think it's actually normal. What they, what people would never have is a style level of capital injection. To make all these experiments worthwhile. I think back to your point, Kim, I can, I attract my colleagues that were going to come out to work on some new, to increase the risk giving is what, uh, this whole economy enable, um, many people on to try to last week.
Watson: And so in terms of like your role, once again, it's like the CEO of this project. How is your. Like, how has your blending of responsibilities? Cause back to like old paradigms, you, you gotta do sales, you gotta have product, you gotta have some customer support. And to some degree you need to be driving the technical growth of the project.
you need to be recruiting talent to be a part of the project, but then you also need to be pitching this as a sales person. To the potential, the people that aren't gonna be building are acting, they're just investors trying to speculate and make a return, yep.
Tse: Well, speaking of pitching, let me pitch that anybody interested in technical or marketing for harmony, please come into on us, I know this is true.
I mean, I used to be academically and research, but now it is everyday telling about. And I'm not sure whether you touch on one heart that dilemma is. We, uh, I call myself finder a lot more thinking about the CEO started this project, right? At the end of the day, this should be a community project. It should be an open project.
Anyone can contribute, but also ticked out on the ship going forward. Right. I've been pulling my time. I've done it before. I've done one startup that I know that it really just heads on everything I saw entrepreneur. But what is difficult now is it's like, you have to, like, you have hundred of your podcast partners to do this project together and you want each of them to drive and in the future sustainable, I think that's the hard one of it become.
Watson: It is at the same time though. So interesting. It's an insight into human behavior that both of these trustless, huge community, widely known projects, both Ethereum and Bitcoin, they both have like a figurehead, right? Satoshi, Nakamoto, and unknown character is the figure of the Bitcoin. The talk Buterin is the figurehead of Ethereum.
So there is this like weird tension where you want to stimulate community, but at the same time, There's probably a human default to like, like we just had an inauguration here. Like who's the guy or the gal.
Tse: Exactly, exactly. I think it is for sure. Like what are the typewriting divisions? So good. I would just follow even the same division or metallic, right?
His yard. He's smart. He still eat it everyday. And he's. Uh, I think not only about having the right vision is not efficient to be a leader, but whether it's stay anonymous, pseudo anonymous, or just complete public, it's also the biggest challenge, right? The more involved you are hands-on and even doing the 30 that data, the more harder to be sustainable when it's with the value right.
And the same thing, we have anonymous and public, right? Uh, there are quite a few successful project being a pseudo anonymous, all completely anonymous, but the trust may be so much higher. Right. And there are bad actors in this space. So I think back to the point about a public company only in Banda, what 200, 300 years.
Right. If the point was, it's not about a founder that make all the decision for the next 10. If you read that case from here, I think it still makes sense.
Watson: Um, so talk a little bit about like what you guys have been rolling out and working on lately. I know that interoperability is like one of the buzzwords.
I don’t quite completely understand what that means. Tell me a little bit more about what you guys are.
Tse: Of course. Yeah. That's all great here. And I think that's where, uh, you didn't miss any ethical. The price is not too high yet. This is still a good time to feel, uh, would love to tell you more like, like we, you can easily learn what happened.
Uh, two or three years, if not 10, but what is exciting this two, three months, if not this year, maybe you would jump to this share. Maybe you'll learn something that connect back to, um, uh, the, uh, like other way of doing like, uh, entrepreneurship for your audience. I think blockchain is only a compressed, uh, landscape of my wife's possible genuine technology.
We call it the inter-opera. I think it's really the end game of what open system or blockchain . So they are finally not just Ethereum, but multiple networks finally have a product, not just talking about like the token economies or like the ambition that came online just last year. I'm talking about the last six months.
Right. Funny enough, he is, they all talk in their own way, their community in suddenly competing in some, but, uh, uh, like, uh, don't work with each other, but the broader vision to harmony, again, back to that, we can all work together. If we don't even get a few blocks to new work together, a lot of chances to get other communities, other, I don't know, gold of mine and, and banks to work together.
Finally, that it makes sense now that we can should. Um, you and your team should be able to connect two different networks. If the use of the choose to, to work on any applications, we call it into the opera ball because it is still very hard. You need to go to something called centralized exchange, finance, Coinbase.
That is great for like protecting users, getting educated by the end of the day, the choices of another system allow you to easily move any of the application. Most of all your data, your money, who is not bad. I mean, I worked there before apple. It's not bad, but you want the choices and it's only possible if it's interoperable, right?
Just like back in time, you can port your phone number to any other new.
Watson: Here's another metaphor might be appropriate. It might not be, we use Zapier, right? So we have this document management system and this invoicing system and this project management system, and they don't have a natural symbiosis, but they all have public facing API APIs that you, that zap you're not used.
The app you're allows you to make relate to one another. And I created this document. So create this action over here on this software and save myself some time. Is this. Is Zapier more, the current exchanges and you're trying to replace them or you're trying to be the Zapier for people to use.
Tse: Yeah, it is exactly that analogy.
Uh, the whole idea of actually blockchain itself should be about that. Even if you just go, people are still fading, just like Facebook PTP, whether they are an API, that's open up, pay for logins time, it should be permissioned or permission loves. Right. So what we said about Sapio is the person nausea, right?
Everyone wants that. But they couldn't figure out how much you open up, how much limited, how much it captured the value per API. Right? So is that the, that's a great analogy because it forced us everyone to see that by opening up, you actually capture far more value for most users from a usage. Right? So we also played a role to be the SAP here, but anyone can do this now, the API and the schemes and incentives on committed on.
Watson: I, I think, um, I think I'm starting to get it, Steve, and I appreciate you.
Tse: Uh, it's really good.
Watson: Yeah. I appreciate you answering all my questions. Um, I want to ask our standard last two questions here, but before we get to that, anything else that you were hoping to share today that I just didn't give you the chance to?
Tse: Yeah, I do. I do think that's, uh, it is not about people will find it, you know, that, uh, of course it has to be there. Yeah. I think, uh, the product message, I really felt like that, uh, the future can prepare. If you see the change of technology, and if you see some of the brightest minds that work on this problem and this problem, it's not particular, we're not just trying to figure out how to make something called faster than calling it gone.
We actually think is quite fundamental that we can control our own, uh, economic health. It community should be having its own, say how to form and how to create wealth together. I think that's a broader in such way.
Watson: I take that and I, I hope, uh, it comes to fruition very soon, folks that want to follow along, uh, and just kinda see what you guys are up to getting both in some way, shape or form.
What did you coordinate? Do you want us to point people towards.
Tse: yeah, please follow me on Twitter. I promise my team and the company, not just about talking to yourself and like the broader picture. And I have a really, really short too in the console. You cannot miss it. It's just. And then T S E. So I turned to it a long time ago when I see imagined.
So my name is Steven. My last name is T S E so Kimmy on Twitter. Our website is called harmony dot one, H A R M O N Y dot O R G. So we really liked the branding. Uh, so check out some of the technical stuff, but like subscribe this here. We used to bring a little bit more industry insight, not just talking about the particular technology.
Watson: Right on, uh, we're going to link that all in the show notes for this episode can find it in the podcast link or in the description behind the video, wherever you're listening to this right now, I'm also going deeper there and.com/podcast for every single episode of the show. But before we let you go, Stephen, I want to give you the mic one final time to issue an actionable personal challenge for the audience.
Tse: Oh, yeah. Personal challenge. Huh? I think many of us have like a new year resolution, but I would like to add one that, uh, really kept me, uh, Going for the last few years, in some way, it changed me. I used to be a CTO researcher, but one thing really forced me to be a little bit more about the broader message.
So now it's writing a month new phone, uh, not everyone would do well. Uh, as a matter of fact, that's what my first VC told me to do. It doesn't matter what you do. It's just how to even follow the audience down the entrepreneur or having VC to appear candidate.
Watson: And even socially, just socially, like people are once they controlled paradigm versus the new paradigm, you send a Christmas card once a year, because that's what was affordable to like print and send to everyone.
And in this type of environment and you can kind of do quarterly or monthly or whatever type of update. Yeah.
Tse: Yeah. I would say challenge yourself to do it. Maybe it could be to some, the audience must not be like, just be monthly accountable. By the end of the quarter, which is more likely before April 1st, write a letter to 10 people that maybe a few pages, six pages on some style, because it really impacts me the first time I received such a letter from my last school, but also I go feel that really change the way I can make it
Watson: Beautiful. Stephen, I love the challenge and I appreciate you spending so much time with us today. Thanks for teaching us about
Tse: Clara and you will send me one, right? Absolutely. Yeah, Absolutely
Watson: thank you. We just went deep with Stephen Tse overnight. There has a fantastic day.
Tse: Thank you so much, Aaron. Love you guys. Thank you. I'd love to be here again.
Watson: Hey, thank you so much for listening to the end of my interview with Stephen. If you enjoyed this, then make sure that you've listened to all of our past interviews with other blockchain innovators and entrepreneurs from Joe Lubin and Roger veer talking about Ethereum and Bitcoin back in 2016 to pump talking about the 2020 pandemic financial crisis and other associated issues.
It's all here. It was going deep other great interviews. Very soon.
Tse: Thanks for listening. Connect with Aaron on Twitter and Instagram at Aaron Watson, 59.
Joshua Lisec has been a ghostwriter for a decade. Public figures hire him to write compelling books, newsletters, and tweets in their voice, so that they can build their media platform.
He has helped to write best selling and critically acclaimed books and teaches the best practices publicly online. Joshua coaches his clients to offer higher-ticket services, courses, and products in conjunction with book sales to build a sustainable business.
In this podcast, Joshua and Aaron discuss the business model behind most successful books, why traditional publishing deals are hard to get, and how ghostwriters are like actors.
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Joshua Lisec’s Challenge; Use the ‘Jobs to be Done’ framework to evaluate your business offering and improve it.
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Joshua's Ghostwriting Website
If you liked this interview, check out episode 226 with Ed Latimore where we discuss writing online and personal growth.
460 How a Refounder turned a Failing Business into a Massive Success w/ Patrick Colletti (Net Health)
Patrick Colletti is the founder of Net Health a $100M+ cloud-based provider of specialized software that serves specialized medical facilities like wound centers, senior care, and occupational therapy.
When Patrick began his tenure as company president in 2001, Net Health was experiencing significant financial turmoil resulting in laying off all but 2 employees.
By utilizing a Refounder mindset as a framework for success, Patrick was able to spur rapid business growth and cultivate a flourishing corporate culture. He has spent two decades serving in multiple leader positions at Net Health, including the president, chief revenue officer, and
chief operating officer.
Now he wants to share what he has learned.
In this episode, Patrick and Aaron discuss selling to private equity, building a company culture, and scaling the company.
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Patrick Colletti’s Challenge; Regardless of your experience or seniority, recognize that you can be the change that you want to see in your organization.
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4 Disciplines of Execution by Jim Huling Chris McChesney, and Sean Covey
If you liked this interview, check out our interview with Dr. Chris Howard where we discuss leadership and the role of universities.
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Watson: To start things off, let's just take people through what Net Health is. So, my understanding, and you can correct or add to, or men, whatever I say here, it's a saas company and the software that you guys sell helps with the operation of specialized medical service providers. So, a senior living center, an occupational therapy center, a wound care facility probably has a different model or way of operating than maybe kind of a conventional, a practice or a large hospital. And your solution is kind of tailored to the needs of those types of facilities.
Colletti: Yeah. That's a good way to think of it. So, you know, imagine that 20 years ago you went to your doctor's office, and they had a, you know, they had a paper record, and they may still actually, and they went through it and they filled out the information and it wasted your time and it wasted their time. And that the data was essentially valueless because there was no way to report or trend on it. And so what, what we did was find these really specialized markets where the largest vendors weren't paying attention to because they were focused on how do we just get prescriptions digitized. And we found quite a few of them, unfortunately, or for good, for good purpose. And we focused there and the idea was to find these areas where specialized care was, was needed, where outcomes actually measured. So, what I mean by outcomes would be, for example, if you have a chronic wound, it's going to be 12 or 15 visits until that wound is healed, or, more likely, if you don't get the proper attention you're going to end with an amputation.
So, it's meaningful to see in between visits, how much of the wound is healed or, or wound velocity or healing velocity. Those kinds of areas are the ones that are ripest for big data and for artificial intelligence. And of course, we weren't doing that back then. We are today. Those are the areas we focused on.
Watson: And to some degree, what you're also saying there is somewhat constrained, right? Like if I had those 12 visits, we know that I'm coming there to have the wound be addressed. And so therefore, we kind of know the limited scope of the data that we might be collecting. Versus if I have 12 general practitioner visits today, I have a cough tomorrow, I have a twisted ankle, the next time it's a receding hairline or whatever the thing may be.
Colletti: Precisely. So, we're very intentional about finding these markets that were underserved and they were complex and through the enablement of technology could be improved. And so that was really our focus. So, a specialized approach towards the healthcare problem.
Watson: And so the company is about 25 years old and you joined it back in your twenties. That's correct?
Colletti: So the company, yea you could say it's 25 years old. I think we got serious right around, 9/11. So, you know, it's about 20 years old from what we would consider the turnaround. So those earliest days where everybody was laid off and there were just two of us, that was the week of September 11th, 2001.
Watson: Wow. So, there's a lot there. And for someone my age, it's hard to necessarily have the visceral memories of everything that was going on. But if you know your business history, you know that the .com bubble, the .com bust, 9/11, there was a kind of very short window of time in which a lot of these things occurred. And so, can you maybe paint a little bit of a picture for where Net Health was at that point in time that led to you having to lay off a bunch of people and really, you know, re-ignite the company from the ground up.
Colletti: Yeah, so in many ways it was a typical .com startup. So, three folks had an idea, a doctor, a lawyer, and a computer scientist, and they wanted to build a company. And so that's, that's the way a lot of these things got started. Investors came in, debts were created, and we were attempting to pick a direction. I came in a few years after, you know, that part, and with a small group of people tried to try to pick a lane, but as many people in startups know it's difficult, you know, sometimes you tick and you tack until you find a customer or a problem.
And so, you know, this business, then known as Synaptic, it was no different. And so, after September 11th, I think a combination of a bunch of facts burning too much cash investors were nervous. People didn't want to put more cash into the business. We hadn't really hit a groove. I got a phone call from a fellow who was just appointed to be the chairman, and said, 'here's the deal. Everybody's laid off. We will give an opportunity to you and to Chris, who is today CTO, and we'll give you 90 days, we'll fund payroll for three months. And if you can figure out a path, get it to break even or flourishing within 90 days, you can go ahead and run it. And if not, we're going to close it down.'
Watson: And so just to paint a lot more clarity there, the burn rate was high. And that's very common with startups, right? You take investment in saying we're not going to make money now, but we're building something that will spit off cash in the future. Was there any revenue coming in? Was it just kind of disjointed and going into many different directions? Like what was the state of the union?
Colletti: Yeah, so there was a trickle of revenue, so that at the time, the company had a couple of product ideas but a very small trickle of revenue in the business. And obviously it was overwhelmed by the expenses.
Watson: Gotcha. And so, what path specifically did you choose? And, and frankly, like what were those 90 days like? Because that's that's about as in the eye of the storm, as you can get.
Colletti: Yeah. No doubt. Well, I relived them in the writing of the book Refounder. And so recently I've been thinking about them, but it was, it was a combination of, you know, horrific thinking about if this doesn't work I'm going to have to go look for a job. And I was young, I was 27 years old. I had just gotten married and I was not in the mood to go look for a job right after September 11th, 2001, which in many ways, looking back, felt a little bit like when COVID hit in March, you know, the world shut down, people reprioritized and reconsidered.
And so, Chris and I took a hard look at what needed to be done. We literally did things like enter bills into QuickBooks because there were a hundred or more bills that hadn't been opened. And so we had to get to the bottom of what was the problem and how big was it? So we did some basic things like that. We also looked at who was interested in the products that we had, and we had three or four product ideas at that point. Where was the momentum. And we ultimately picked a lane in chronic wound care, but pivoted from a couple of the other product ideas and candidly said that the market, we thought the skilled nursing market was going to be the market.
It turned out there was a very, very small, but growing business in outpatient wound clinics. There were about 300 of them at that time, difficult to find, today there's well over 2000 and we thought, you know, 'what if we've got some software that can track wounds? Let's go right to the place that deals with wound care, as opposed to places where wounds are one of 10 things that they deal with.'
So we picked a lane and then the third thing we had to do was get serious with the debt and avoid bankruptcy. And so at that point we had 27 vendors that the company owed a half a million dollars to in total, and so any three of them could force us into bankruptcy. And so we had to be transparent and candid rapidly with them.
And then we had to deal with the shareholders. Shareholders were skittish and concerned about the business, rightfully so. Didn't want to put more money in and didn't see a vision for the future necessarily. So we had to, we had to do those steps wise.
Watson: And so one thing that you'll often hear with companies in these types of situations is talking about recapitalizing the company, which means if you are going to go and get some sort of outside funding in some way, shape or form, that means that equity shares change. That means that there's a lot of sales that have to happen. But frankly, just kind of like political management of all these different stakeholders with their different objectives, because this investment firm might have to, you know, show a return or liquidity in a short window of time. This other one might be, you know, a friend or a family that, you know, maybe back to you and had this kind of personal relationship and belief, like what was, what was that like?
Colletti: The politics early on were very simple. The company was about to die. And so at that point it was can we, can we be a going concern? Can you make it two more months or three more months or four more months? And so at that point there wasn't a lot of jockeying for position or for more equity. It was, 'can you resuscitate this thing? Can you breathe new life into the business?' So I'd say for the first year or so there was none of that. It was just, 'can we survive?'
Watson: Gotcha. And then did that change down the road?
Colletti: All things change. You know, we've been through four sets of shareholders at this point over 20 years. So we've had lots of different investors and, you know, as any organization goes from small, you know, when we, when we took over, it was a, it was about a quarter million in revenue. And today it's obviously much, much larger than that. And so there are cycles with investors and there's a duty that management has to provide a great return for investors. And for their teammates. So all those things are really part of the equation. They all have different levels of drama and enthusiasm and highs and lows. And I think that's just all part of it.
Watson: Of course. So, another thing that as I was kind of looking at the timeline and my understanding of some of the things that net Net Health has gone through, there was, you know, get back to break even, you know, address this wound care market. And then you benefit to some degree from just having that focus. And then the secular tailwind, I forget the original number, but the increase in general wound care facilities. If you're the preeminent provider there, that's a kind of a wind at your back, so to speak. And then as you start to see more money come into the bank account, see that growth happening potentially have a better case to solicit that future fundraising, you are on an acquisition spree. You acquired one, two, three, four, five companies over the last decade. Can you talk about the decisions, or basically more like the window when you realized, okay we're no longer in survival mode. We're no longer and just like, keep this thing running and now we're in strategic growth, pick a direction and go execute it.
Colletti: Yeah there was a time, you know, when we crested three, four, five million dollars in recurring revenue that we felt off to the races and we had been growing 50% a year since, you know, essentially the turnaround, and we had grown with margin as well. So we weren't losing money. You know, we had kept a 20 or more percent margin from that point forward. So we were actually saving money and thinking about what we wanted to do with it. And that was part of it. You know, it gave us the ability to be more strategic, but job one really was to do the absolute best we can in this initial market where we've planted a flag, and let's actually make a difference in the lives of these patients who have chronic wounds. And part of it was the sobriety of seeing patients who have diabetes, 15% of them are going to get a lower extremity wound. And then about 15% of them are going to lose one of their legs. It was getting acquainted with those kinds of statistics and seeing a patient, meeting a patient and recognizing that we were creating patient engagement through the tools that we developed.
And we were making the caregivers that treat them, we were making their lives a little bit better and easier to do their job. It was getting really focused and excited about the problem. It wasn't so much that we thought we had the killer product or the killer app. It was going a few layers deeper in the problem and actually becoming a part of the ecosystem.
And so doctors and nurses and associations, they wanted to be associated with us because we were really solving a problem in the healthcare industry. So I think step one was really going there. Doing it well, not taking your eye off the ball too early, because you're focused on growing to a hundred million or 200 million in revenue.
Watson: And it's so easy to do that, too. As soon as you get any sort of success like, 'Oh, and this and that and the other thing.'
Colletti: Sadly, it's typical. And so a lot of companies are destroyed and value is destroyed in those early stages by anxious investors and sometimes anxious managers who say, 'okay, great, we're at two, three, four, five, $10 million in revenue. We've got to pick the next five things.' But I think we really, we went deep, and we got right recognized for that in that particular business. And then once we crested 10 million in recurring revenue, about 3 million in EBITDA, that's when we started working with private equity businesses and, you know, they have a particular thesis that's, you know, it's, it's clear. They'd like to double, triple, quadruple or more their money in five to seven years. That's pretty standard. But the benefit, first of all, as you get to work with some amazing people, you have access to capital, both equity capital that they can provide, and debt facilities.
And so it's there that you become a platform. And the difference is a lot of companies have one product. And yes, you can argue that that's a company, but a company tends to have multiple services and multiple products. And so taking that leap from a very successful company, with one product, to a company, with multiple products that provides a diversity of things to a, to a constituency. That's the leap.
And so getting involved with private equity, for us, really represented that, and working with my partner Anthony represented that. So, that was the difference between, you know, Turnaround status, worrying about dying, really going to flourishing in a particular industry, and then multiplying.
Watson: And can you give us just a picture of, of timeline? So you said late 2001 was when the big layoff occurred and you had that 90 day window. And then how long from there until you started to in any way, shape or form engage private equity and start to go in this other direction?
Colletti: Yeah, so it was a little more than a decade later, so 10 years, and had grown by 50% a year, every single year. So we're doubling every 15, 16 months, so it was as we crested 10 plus million in recurring revenue, about 3 million in EBITDA, is when we engage with private equity.
Watson: And, and that's disciplined too. Like it's very easy, like we're approaching three years and I'm starting to get excited and bring my head up a little bit. And, but it's true that there's a lot of work yet to be done on the kind of core problem that you're addressing before you can start to go in this other way.
Colletti: Yeah. And developing some, some roots, both in terms of a business, what kind of company do we want to have? You know, what do, what do we want it to mean? If you come and work here, how do we live in community with each other? Like getting those fundamentals right while growing rapidly, it's tough but it's worth it.
Watson: And I would also imagine though, if you've had folks that maybe they weren't there from like the absolute first minute of that 10 year cycle, but the ones that came on in the second, the third, the fourth around 10 years, roughly, there's also a degree to which maybe the executive lineup for this company in particular is full or nearly full and there's rising stars or there's talent that you want to continue to provide an upward trajectory for otherwise they might leave. And in which case then diversifying into those different products helps you do that.
Colletti: Absolutely, yeah, that growth while scary to start is just an opportunity for other great people that have come up. You know what, in the early days I would cringe when one of those, you know, up and comers, what I would call Net Health Next, would leave. And then after a little while I recognized that we gave them an opportunity. They had a platform to learn and grow and they're going to do something great. I mean, our responsibility ultimately is not to retain them, it's to grow them and help them flourish. And so if they do that at your organization, fantastic. And if they go somewhere else as well, it's part of their journey. So I think there's a scarcity and abundance mentality. You can have there and don't get me wrong. I mean, you need to retain employees. They have to want to be there, but in the bigger picture, there's something beautiful about knowing they learned some things at your organization and they went out and did them elsewhere.
Watson: And if you have a kind of karmic point of view, there's also a degree to which if you did right by the people that worked with you and you maybe taught them a lot of skills, but also maybe like a specific industry, then they're probably gonna populate that same industry and other entities that can end up being business partners and customers and clients in the like.
Colletti: Indeed. And I've seen it happen through just about a generation and a half now where some people who early on at Net Health have gone on to do some really amazing things. It's great. I mean, in a way it's kind of like the right of a grandparent, you know, to see people grow and flourish, come back and visit you. Enjoy those moments that you had together, particularly if you had a good culture and they want to remember those things. It's one of the joys, I think, of being in an organization.
Watson: Now you've ended up in this interview and I've heard it in some of the other interviews that you've done, culture is a big deal, and that is part of the sustainability and the growth. And we've covered it so many, like, literally, maybe the number one thing we've heard from effective leaders on this show is that centricity on the culture that they build. And the culture, when you make these different acquisitions, Integris solutions, redox software, Optima healthcare, tissue, analytics that just occurred in may of last year, how do you manage that? Because you maybe, you have to set this standard and it's like, you know, it's like when someone comes and visits your family from out of town, it's like, we have a way that we like to move around this house. And then there's this other person, you know, banging around, making coffee at five in the morning or something.
Colletti: Well, one of the decisions that helped us to take on private equity investors was we believe we had developed a culture that really was pretty special. And when we'd gotten some outside validation aside from just best places to work, we've got the outside validation. And so part of it was we'd like to double down and see, can you grow this to an organization of a thousand people or 10,000 people? Is that really possible?
And so, as we acquired our first few businesses, we made lots of mistakes, just like everybody does, but we knew as we welcome new people to the enterprise, we actually had something beautiful to offer them. And the majority of people I know have worked in some pretty awful environments and they come beaten, battered, bruised from rough managers, bad cultures, toxic environments- the lot of it. And so I knew early on we had something special, so it was easy for me to greet them and smile and say, 'this is a good thing you're about to experience.' What's interesting is not everybody is open to accepting a gift. And sometimes even if you have something amazing to give someone, they don't want to receive it, or they've been too beaten up and battered to receive it that day.
Now over time, they'll see, taste and enjoy and understand that there's something better there, but it takes time. So that's one reflection I have on, in terms of culture and acquisitions and the nature of imperialism, so to speak. Another one is that although we had, we thought killer programs, and people practices and things like connecting where we brought everybody together, and net talks, which is our version of Ted talks, you know, we had these things that we thought were beautiful and wonderful. They had expressions that were important to them as well. And so if you're not paying attention to the cultural expression of that organization and maybe one or two things they did really well that they want to keep doing, then you're full.
And so you've got to pay enough attention to what they've done and what they do to recognize culture's big enough to absorb more things. And so you can bring those things in as well. So looking very carefully at some of the rituals and some of the things they did as an organization that are worthwhile and important to keep doing, embrace them as well, and bring them in.
Watson: So, you referenced the pandemic. And I would say, I wouldn't say, most people would say that the 2008 financial crisis was another kind of macro economic hurdle to try to overcome while you're holding the reins of a business. So can you maybe paint some similarities and comparisons and differences to, you know, 2001, really being kind of like the eye of the storm or rebuilding, re foundering this thing from the ground up? And then these subsequent two were not necessarily that you were maybe able to predict them precisely, but having been through one storm, how did that steal you? Or how did that prepare you to deal with it a second and a third time?
Colletti: [ Indeed. And I want to touch on something you just mentioned, which is every organization needs refounders. And many people don't recognize that they need it. But once people start to develop some success, it always happens. They get fat and happy. It's just a norm. People lose their level of competitiveness. They, as the revenues go up and the earnings get higher and you potentially put a flag in the ground and you're the leader.
Entropy occurs and it seems like it's inevitable, and that's why every stage along the way, companies need refounders. And so whether that's your next gen, whether that's people that have been there quite a long time, they need these challengers to shake things up in the organization. So to answer your question, you know, early on, it was easy, it was change or die. And so the refounder moment was black and white. It was the debt is going to kill you, you got to pick a product, you gotta make it happen. And that was just survival mode. Around 2008, when the next financial crisis occurred, it was batten down the hatches, and aren't you glad you saved some pennies?
Let's be really smart, that expense follows revenue. And that was a good lesson we learned early on. Which is, we're not going to live with a massive burn. We are going to go through this entire thing with some margin. And that's very unpopular. And there's times where it's important to not have margin, particularly when you take on a new market, you're growing quickly, you're getting market share. I get that, but for us it has been a discipline and helpful. And then in that next phase, it was how do you reinvent a business that has two, three, four, five product lines to have service bureaus and really be able to support multiple lines of business and get the leverage that you need out of it? Because you don't essentially just want to have five companies there.
You know, you want to get the leverage in the balance and the flywheel effect from it. And so it was, you needed refounders who had essentially been there and done that, or were willing to seek that new ground and take it.
Watson: So in 2017, the company was acquired by some really substantial private equity partners. The Carlisle group for the folks that don't know is one of the biggest in the whole game. And I would imagine that they, you know, to some degree, it's very hard to maybe wrap your head around this, but money is fungible, right? Like when you were big enough, when you are successful enough, there are multiple entities where you can potentially get capital from. And one of the, I would imagine, sales pitches from a group like that is that there is that we've been there, we've seen it, we've done it before. And this may be your time, Patrick's first time creating that flywheel, integrating these different business units, but we've helped umpteen dozen companies do the same. So is that part of the equation or where did you go to find the expertise in those rebounders that you needed for that period of time?
Colletti: Yeah. Yep. And prior to the Carlisle group and, and also in this round, we've got level equity and silver Smith as well, so just great, great partners.
Prior to them, we had Spectrum. So we went through an entire six year phase with just a terrific group of people at Spectrum with great resources, brilliant people, and a lot of the lessons that you learn along the way. So to answer your question though, how do we find those refounders, it's really two or three areas. So the first one is outside expertise. I'm a big fan of mentoring and being mentored. And, you know, you should have a personal board of directors. It's very uncomfortable for some people. And, you know, I just saw Simon Sinek posted about this the other day, saying that when you seek a mentor, you don't just walk up to some random person on the street. You have to have a relationship. And so it really does start from a relationship and it's a two-way street. And so, you know, the first part of the answer is you find refounders from people who have outside experience that can apply an analog to what you're doing and can teach you. And so that's, that's the first one.
And that comes in the form of independent board directors, comes in the form of advisors, investors, you seeking externally other people who have ideas and can apply those ideas to your business. But that takes humility. And so where I can point out how you find founders at each step, along the way, it's going to require some humility.
So that's one way. Another is that it's right underneath your nose. And there are what we would call Net Health Next. There is a next level group of people. It doesn't imply that they're young, either that have experience and have ideas. And in many cases already know how to solve the problems. One of the examples I tell in the book is, you know, a young post intern employee challenged a group of us to read a book, and we had this late night email and I'm thinking, ah, what. What's wrong? This isn't good. You know, a 2:00 AM email isn't a good thing. And he challenged the executive leadership team to read a book, and it turned out he was right. We needed a gut check on a few areas. And we did. And so sometimes those refunders are, are right there in your midst. And you just need to really be able to listen to them.
Watson: What was the book?
Colletti: It was The Four Disciplines of Execution for DX. And really the main teaching of the book is the difference between lead and lag measures. And most businesses say they follow lead indicators, but they really just track lag indicators.
And so most strategic plans have a lot of lag indicators, not lead indicators. And so for us, it was a good reminder. And in some ways, a wake up call that you gotta be tracking the right thing.
Watson: Amen to that. Well, one of the characters in the book I believe is Dr. Chris Howard from RMU.
Colletti: Indeed. Yep. Dr. Howard comes towards the end of the book and he talks a lot about his VU car, world ideas.
Watson: So he is one of the most popular episodes that we've ever done of this show. He like, you know, people would talk about listening to the conversation that we had with him multiple times, because of just maybe just the bare tone of his voice, but also the deep wisdom that he has.
Colletti: So you're laying down the gauntlet right now.
Watson: Well, I'm just curious, like, you know, I'm sure that you spent much time outside of just, what was, you know, captured in the book that people will eventually read and hear. But like, what's your favorite Dr. Chris Howard experience or conversation or takeaway?
Colletti: Well, not as it relates to the book, but I'll tell you one of my favorite experiences with him. Maybe two years ago, my oldest son launched something called Free the Music PGH, and the idea was born out of seeing a publicly played piano. And he said, 'Hey, Hey dad, why don't we bring that to Pittsburgh? Like, why isn't that a thing?' And so we, we developed this plan. We got lots of people to donate pianos. We found lots of local artists, they painted the pianos. And I mentioned this to Chris early on, and wouldn't, you know it, at the launch party he was front and center with his wife and children, you know, showed up early, kind of stayed late and was part of this thing that was really my son's event. And at that point I had only known him maybe six or 12 months. So that's a story you won't hear from anybody besides me, but it talks about the character of this guy, Dr. Howard
Watson:And It tells you a lot about what is resonant to people, which is showing up not necessarily when you're called explicitly. Like that's, that's what creates memories for people.
Watson: Amen. Well, Patrick, I want people to make sure that they both check out the book, check out Net Health, check out the stuff that you're up to. Before we give people the digital coordinates that they can go to, to follow that stuff, anything else you were hoping to share today that I just didn't give you the chance to?
Colletti: Yeah. So the book is really an encouragement for people to rethink the places that they live, work and play. So yes, absolutely, it's a business book and many of the stories we tell are business books as well, but it's broader than that. And so there are people that need help in their relationships, and there are people who want to revive their neighborhood. We have stories in the book as well about that.
Watson: And often I would imagine if there's good bones in place or any sort of bones in place, you're actually at a head start relative to starting from a dead stop.
Watson: Right on. So for people that wanna check it out, they want to learn more about all the stuff that you're working on, what digital coordinates can we provide people?
Colletti: So for more information about the book Refounder, you can find it at www.Refounder.com. You're welcome to connect with me or follow me on LinkedIn, Patrick Coletti. And I think that's it.
Watson: Beautiful. We're going to link that all in the show notes, GoingDeepwithAaron.com/podcast or in the app where you're probably listening to this right now. Is 'refounder,' was that a word that you had already seen out there or is that like an original you've got like the rights to the term refounder?
Colletti: Yeah. So I've used that word off and on for about 10 years and it was crystallized for me, right around 2017, when I was meeting with one of our current board directors, Donna Maria. And she would always introduce me as the founder of Net Health, and I would say, well, I'm actually not the founder of Net Health, I'm really a refounder and it would give me the opportunity to share that. So I've used it in common conversation since around 2016. It's, you know, if you Google it, you'll find a couple of other people out there. I quoted one person in the book who wrote an article in 2017 but I think it's more common than people may think.
Watson: Gotcha. Well, it's a good corner to plant your flag on.
Watson: Like I said, we'll link that to everyone and they'll be able to check it out, but before we let you go, Patrick, I want to give you the mic one final time to issue an actionable personal challenge to the audience.
Colletti: So if you're in college, I want to give you an encouragement that there are amazing organizations out there that are trying to create a better future. If you're a young professional and you're getting cynical because of the organization you work in, part of the challenge is that you are the change and there's a way to do that.
And there's a stepwise process, there's an assessment profile that you may fit into, but it is doable. And so for those of you who are middle managers, or culture gurus in an organization, you feel like nobody's listening, or for CEO's who know something needs to change, there's absolutely a way you need refounders in your organization.
Watson: So it sounds like, you know, the important part is after just even recognizing that there might be something wrong is the belief that it is even possible, like understate, like believing that that change can occur.
Colletti: Yeah. So there's these four areas we think about in the book. And the first one is that you have to take a sober look at hard realities. And that's hard because a lot of people don't like to take sober looks and a lot of people don't like to look at hard things. And so combining those two things together as a big deal. Next is, to borrow a phrase, you've got to kill your darlings. And so this is a fancy way of saying selectively focus. We all have lots of opportunities and lots of things we could do, but there's really one or two things we need to do. And then the third is you have to imagine new possibilities just because you've taken a sober look at hard realities, and you've been able to focus, now you actually need to imagine how it could be much better and that creativity is key. And if you don't have it, it's your, the refounding that you're working on, won't ultimately survive. But the last and possibly the most important is execution. But, execution is an overused phrase, executing on the notion that you're creating better realities for people is the reason why there always has to be a just cause and a bigger purpose. And so just executing for executing sake will eventually fall flat. You got to do it for a bigger purpose.
Watson: Beautiful. What a powerful note to wrap up on.
Colletti: Thank you.
Watson: Patrick, thanks so much for coming on the podcast.
Alex Berman is an actual serial entrepreneur. Before the age of 30, he has built a 7-figure agency, completed multiple movie projects, and built a 50,000 subscriber YouTube channel.
Most folks feel content to throw that title in their bio as a way to summarize some half-finished projects.
Alex, on the other hand, builds systems in a focused and brutally efficient way. He has delegated leadership of his agency, Experiment 27, to someone else and has now set about acquiring more companies for his growing empire.
Further, he has generated millions of dollars of B2B services revenue with his cold emailing skill.
In this conversation, Alex and Aaron jump around discussing how Alex got his start, what makes a good cold email, and lay out the interrelated conglomerate Alex is building.
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Alex Berman’s Challenge; Find someone that you look up to and reach out with a cold email.
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If you liked this interview, check out episode 394 with Ryan Kulp where we discuss avoiding competition, thinking creatively, and how he’s built a business empire through acquisitions.
Also, Noah Kagan.