@0:05 - Gabriel Flores (The Shades of Entrepreneurship)
Hello everyone and welcome to The Shades of Entrepreneurship. This is your host, Mr. Gabriel Flores. Today I'm here with Tom Stevens of Tombot.
I am, I gotta say, folks, I'm actually kind of giddy about this. When I saw this come across my desk and I looked at this website, I was like, oh my goodness, I gotta get this.
I gotta get this product on the show. So before we get to all that, Tom, go ahead and introduce yourself, give us a little background, career journey, any personal experiences that have helped shape your entrepreneurial journey.
@0:39 - Tom Stevens
Thank you so much for having me, Gabriel. It's really a treat to be here. I'm Tom Stevens. I'm CEO and co-founder of Tombot.
And this is Jenny. Jenny is a fully interactive robotic emotional support animal and she'll be the first to be both an FDA medical device.
And a remote safety and health monitor. My background is I've been in the high tech industry for 35 years.
My two Tom Bach co-founders and I built a Friar startup in one of the world's largest litigation automation companies.
We were successfully acquired in 2011, which gave me the freedom to think about other things. Unfortunately, that same year, my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's And that started a string of really difficult interactions for us.
The first was having to move in a full-time caregiver. She hated that. The second was taking away her car keys.
now she had to ask permission to go anywhere. But lastly, and by far the worst was the day I realized that I had to take away her dog for safety reasons.
The good news is the dog still enjoying a full-time caregiver. A wonderful home with a new family, but my mother was devastated and angry.
Every day was, where's my dog? Why can't I have my dog? When am I getting my dog back? And it destroyed our relationship.
I went from being the Golden Boy son to being the villain in her life. So I started looking around for substitutes for live animal companions.
She hated everything that I brought home. So I realized that there might be a gap in the marketplace. That launched me on a multi-year research and education journey, which culminated in a master's degree from Stanford University.
And along the way I learned that my mom's story is shared by tens of millions of other seniors with dementia around the world.
And about a billion people in total that suffer from some form of serious mental health and diversity. Many of these people, like my mom, cannot safely or practically care for a live animal.
So we launched in Tombot in 2017 to help those people.
@3:07 - Gabriel Flores (The Shades of Entrepreneurship)
So folks that are listening at home that may not be too familiar with if you're just listening and not on the video, what Tombot is is actually an interactive, maybe Tom I'll let you explain it a little bit.
@3:21 - Tom Stevens
You bet. So just to give you a slightly longer explanation.
@3:25 - Gabriel Flores (The Shades of Entrepreneurship)
@3:27 - Tom Stevens
So this is actually a very well researched area over 150 peer-reviewed studies done today, going back as many as 40 years.
And they show that where a senior with dementia can form a robust emotional attachment to an object. Traditionally, that object has been a human baby doll or a stuffed animal.
That senior gets a great deal of relief from the behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia, loneliness, depression, anxiety in my mother's case, violent anger.
And we also see a significant reduction in the need for psychotropic medications. Psychotropics include anti-depressant, anti-anxiety, and anti-psychotic medications.
And not only do are these medications, you know, do they turn seniors into zombies, but some of them, particularly the anti-psychotics carry grave health risks.
study out of the Veterans Administration a few years ago found that as many as 25% of their seniors were actually killed by the anti-psychotic medications.
people need to find alternatives to the psychotropics. But the problem is most seniors, including my mother, don't form the necessary emotional attachment to the traditional objects.
Research on robotic animals show they significantly outperform the traditional objects and have the added benefits. They're reducing pain and the need for pain medications.
The problem there, however, is existing products are either simple children's toys, which have been re-branded for seniors, which once again, few seniors enjoy.
Or on the other end of the spectrum are prohibitively expensive robots. This whole space was actually invented by a company out of Japan called Paro, P-A-R They make a robotic seal and it's an excellent robot, but it costs over $6,000.
Most scenic facilities can't afford one, alone the individuals who need one for themselves to form that emotional bond. So I was armed with all this information when I launched the company.
First thing I wanted to do is understand why any of these objects worked in the first place. And what was...
The that stimulate positive changes in the neurochemistry in the brain. It's a complex neurochemical cocktail, but what's thought to be hardest is oxytocin.
Oxytocin has been shown to reduce stress, reduce anxiety, and to reduce pain because it interacts directly with our internal opioid system.
The human body naturally produces oxytocin. It seems most commonly in a mother, giving birth to a baby, or breastfeeding.
It's shown in parents on even adopted children so that genetic connection is not necessary. And it's also been demonstrated with humans interacting with live animals, and most of research there has been done with dogs.
And so our challenge became to develop a better emotional attachment object, one that would consistently stimulate those positive changes in the neurochemistry.
What would be available at the price that most people could afford even without healthcare reimbursements? We conducted multiple rounds of customer studies, and we'll talk a little bit more about product markets, think.
we conducted multiple rounds of customer studies with over 700 seniors with dementia. Developing different prototypes. In the first study, we were able to affirm the hypothesis that seniors would prefer objects that move over objects that don't move.
In the second study, we were able to confirm that seniors preferred objects that, first of all, were familiar to them.
So dogs and cats, as opposed to wild animals, were fictitious creatures. And in the third study, we were able to demonstrate that confirmed the hypothesis.
This is that seniors would prefer greater levels of realism as opposed to toy like a cartoon like or stop ammo like shapes.
We reached out to help with this to the animatronics community in Hollywood and teamed up with Jim Clemson's creature shop.
The people behind the Muppets and SESN. Yeah, yeah. So, of the design, we tested what you see in front of you now, is Jenny, which is what we believe to be the world's most realistic robotic animal.
We like to call her Kermit and Frogs youngest sister. Scientifically designed to stimulate through behaviors and appearance the emotional attachment.
And then once that emotional attachments in place, we become a unique platform for monitoring that senior for safety. So with that, it's very long-wind.
She is a model after an eight to ten week old Labrador Retriever puppy. This one has the yellow fur on it, but she'll be available ultimately in all the natural colors that Labrador has come in, which include black chocolate and a pale chocolate.
Looks like silver, very similar to the Weimarander dog, that blue-gray color. And she's fully interactive. So like any of us, she has a sensory system.
She can feel how and where she's being touched. She can understand, she can hear us talking and understand voice commands.
She can feel herself being moved and a variety of other sensors to try to understand her environment, make an inference about what's happening in her environment, and then exhibit a behavior that is consistent with that.
@10:04 - Gabriel Flores (The Shades of Entrepreneurship)
So folks, again, just to make sure we got this clear, we have a robotic dog and it looks just like a dog.
Let's move it's head. why I can tell. doing all the dog things. The back you might have heard it in the background.
Barking a little bit. It's the coolest thing I've ever seen in my entire life. It's so cool. Now, Tom, let's take a step back for a minute.
Let's go back. Back to the beginning of your entrepreneurial journey. What motivated to get to entrepreneurship?
@10:36 - Tom Stevens
I didn't set out to do this. So I had the great luck and it really is nothing more than that of falling into the computer industry when it was brand new.
The personal computer industry was brand new in the 80s. Before Microsoft was a household name before any of the world was household name.
At that time, the industry was going through explosive growth, which meant that anybody who had a pulse could not only get a job in the computer industry, but would be quickly promoted beyond their own competency.
I'm so many others that describe my journey. I turned around after being in the industry for several years and realized that I had a lid on my future development.
I was in terms of career progress. I was working for a company called Novel at the time. The company made what was then the leading network operating system software, very technical product, which was really good for me to learn.
But I was at a director level in the company. I was in my 20s and there was no way.
They should have. I realized that was going to be my path for the next decade or more. I was recruited by some good friends to join a fledgling company, startup company.
I was doing the novell network operating systems in the legal vertical. Basically what I looked at that is a chance to make the leap over to a smaller company, actually be able to deliver some value that they might appreciate and quite selfishly enjoy some I the opposite side of the company performed.
Up until that time I was fairly risk and burst but this was a bold leap. was a young wife at the time and we were kind of gun hoe to give it a try so I did.
That company ultimately evolved into a litigation specific vertical within the legal. Then we, like the PC industry, just happened
To be there at the time when email and other electronically stored information started blowing up lawsuits among the big corporations and the man.
@13:11 - Gabriel Flores (The Shades of Entrepreneurship)
@13:12 - Tom Stevens
But we were well positioned to capitalize that opportunity and grew it to a substantial rate.
@13:20 - Gabriel Flores (The Shades of Entrepreneurship)
Now, one of the things you mentioned, again, you have a very unique product, right? It's something that you have to find the right customer for.
How do you gauge product market fit for products or services?
@13:35 - Tom Stevens
Well, it's a really important question, Gabriel. I'm thrilled to have chance to talk about it because it's like so many things in my career.
@13:44 - Gabriel Flores (The Shades of Entrepreneurship)
I learned by doing things the wrong way. Don't we all? Don't we?
@13:52 - Tom Stevens
I actually started listening to other people after making enough mistakes as a headstrong youth. And And became much more data driven.
I think the first sort of product development 101 or product marketing 101 is to very narrowly define your customer.
A general products for general products for the most part don't Because they don't please anybody. The reason why we don't all drive pickup trucks and perhaps some of the listeners do drive pickup trucks.
But the reason we don't all drive pickup trucks is because that's not that pickup truck doesn't have customer product market fit, customer fit for our needs and wants.
So even though it probably provides equally capable transportation to a sports sedan or a sports car or a subcompact or SUV or what have you.
So first of all very narrowly defining the customer. And then finding a here on fire. They have to solve this problem today or their life is worse, whether that's a B2B sale or a B2C sale or a medical device, this case, have to define that problem.
And then see if you can come up with ways of solving that. You have to really understand the problem.
have to become an expert on that problem. And then sort of take your own opinions out of it. Interition is helpful, but it can misinform you too.
And start testing things. Try to construct tests that are meant to have a possibility of failing. Because then the risk associate that gives you some confidence that if they succeed, there's actually the data that's developed.
@15:47 - Gabriel Flores (The Shades of Entrepreneurship)
There's actually meaningful.
@15:49 - Tom Stevens
As I mentioned, I had an intuition that replacing my dog, my mother's dog with a dog might be something she wanted, but I didn't allow that to my partner's
Didn't allow that. To really cloud our judgment on how we approached identifying the customer problem. And then product market fit.
There are a lot of ways you can define what that means for Andreessen Horowitz, the venture capital for an Amazon Valley.
It's having a product that your customer loves in really great market, a rapidly growing market where there's substantial opportunity.
Well, love for us isn't love like you love your coffee maker. Or love like you love a favorite pair of shoes.
This is literally love. In order for this product to work, the user has to fall in love with it, has to care about its well-being, has to look after it every single day, like they would, a real animal.
And so trying to try. I think it would be objective about when we reached that level of interaction and of interest was important.
And then minimum viable product. This product could have been far more sophisticated than it was and has far more cost.
But if it's any, if it's a dollar more of technology beyond a minimum viable product, then that's a dollar of cost that your customers don't value.
And it makes you vulnerable to somebody else coming out with what's truly a minimum viable product and a price that you can't afford to produce.
@17:38 - Gabriel Flores (The Shades of Entrepreneurship)
That's a very, very good point. In fact, you know what I think of that is very interesting about your story is you really took your own personal experience and turned it into a profitable business venture.
Let's talk about that. How did you take your personal experience and turn it into a business?
@17:55 - Tom Stevens
Well, I was fortunate that I had the financial freedom to take a few years off and... And not go, you know, jump, you know, either continue with the company and with its choir, actually stuck around for a year, but I didn't have to continue beyond that.
So it really left me wondering what I should do. And it was a personal journey as much, or not more than it was a professional journey.
And I will say one thing that I realized in the process, I didn't necessarily realize it from day one, was that you don't have a personal stake in succeeding.
If you have that level of passion to get you out of bed and work seven days a week and endure all the stress and anxiety and setbacks that you will undoubtedly go through, you probably won't see it through.
You probably will not have the resilience to see if it's true. Solving my mom's father and quite selfishly. Saving our relationship was a substantial motivation.
I also became really curious about this. became curious about, first of all, I thought it was just my crazy mom.
mean, I that now my mom was always here an eclectic person, but she was she was a special education teacher.
The kind of person you do anything to anybody without without. You know, hesitation. She's also the kind of person that would expect that anybody would do anything for her without hesitation to.
@19:36 - Gabriel Flores (The Shades of Entrepreneurship)
So kind of lived in an unusual world growing up, but it informed a lot of my values as well.
@19:45 - Tom Stevens
But when she changed when dementia, the Alzheimer's changed her personality when she became me nasty vindictive and directed at all me.
It was substantial motivation. See if. I could make her life better.
@20:03 - Gabriel Flores (The Shades of Entrepreneurship)
What would you say has been the most enjoyable part about your entrepreneurial journey?
@20:09 - Tom Stevens
Well, the easy part about, and I can separate my previous company from our current company. I was just talking about her current company, Tom Modick and Jenny, I'm boring her.
@20:19 - Gabriel Flores (The Shades of Entrepreneurship)
She's going to go see.
@20:20 - Tom Stevens
She just, without question, customer reaction. Not just from the process, the very purposeful process of getting the voice of the customer.
That's critical. customer tells you what their problems are. But just seeing how appreciative people are that you're paying any attention to them at all.
Seniors with dementia, for the most part, is an ignored space from a technology standpoint. Technology that exists today is more of a diagnostic front.
Innovation is more of diagnostic front. And then on the therapeutic front, actually treating people for this. the seniors are so, so appreciative that actually getting people to participate with customer studies was effortless.
We talked to a few senior care professionals. They talked to a few senior care professionals and suddenly we had over 700 seniors chomping at the bed and bump us with our studies.
that's every day I get chance to interact with her through email or Zoom calls like this or before and after the pandemic's worst times during an osu!
person. And without question, absolutely the most enjoyable, just quick anecdote. We're working with little bit of nation's largest skilled nursing facility operators doing some studies with them.
And you come in the front door, I have to walk down relatively short hallway, 100 foot-long hallway to get to a meeting room.
It took me 15 minutes because I'm so tired. I think that somebody, whether it's a visitor or staff member or a resident there who just has to know about this.
then it's just fun and it's enjoyable and it's rewarding and the potential to do good there really really feeds of me.
@22:16 - Gabriel Flores (The Shades of Entrepreneurship)
Yeah. And I get it. I agree. You know, I work in the healthcare industry and we see the value of pet therapies.
In fact, we have several pets that come through our hospital and they have their own name badges as well.
And they go through the go through rooms that the pediatric hospital and the adult hospital because healthcare is challenging and especially, you know, the Alzheimer's It's that disease in particular is such a difficult disease.
And I know we're making strides every day to kind of help support that community. But to your point, that's a that's a community that sometimes is neglected.
In fact, sometimes patients with illnesses in general are tend to be. We've been neglected because of this invisible stigma we have on things we don't know.
We were very cautious creatures.
@23:11 - Tom Stevens
Now, what are some of the, obviously entrepreneurship comes with its fair share of challenges? Could you give us some significant hurdles that you've encountered either in your previous entrepreneurial journey or this one maybe as well?
Well, so I will make a quick point and park that and we can come back to it as well.
But nobody is immune to macroeconomic forces. The biggest setbacks to my previous company endured were macroeconomic. They weren't technical.
They weren't mismanagement, although I'm sure there's plenty of that. It was macroeconomic and understanding that that is going to happen because the business cycle is a normal recurring event.
And preparing for that, even when times are really good, is critical for survival of your customers. But you can have a company that's absolutely blowing up today in the 12 months from now, is completely upside down and you're going to get out of it.
being a product, I've lived through enough of these business cycles, it's been last since 2008, there's really only been the pandemic one.
It will impact you. There's nothing you can do to prevent macroeconomic events, but you can take actions to mitigate the risk.
But speaking with this company, this is the easiest product I've ever been involved with in my life to sell.
It's a dog. So people, people, it's a dog and dogs are good and fun and interesting. So there really isn't much of a barrier, much of a pushback.
Some people will say, oh, what about the AI and things like that? But we're very thoughtful about the ethics of all of this.
So sales-wise, it's really not that big of a risk. Fundraising has been unbelievably difficult. Without question, the most difficult thing I've ever done in my entire life.
And the reason is, and this is for all of you, flooding entrepreneurs to know, I went into it quite naively.
I didn't pay. I built a big business before with huge success. I brought my partners from that business into this new one.
We know what we're doing. It's a great idea. The customers are really into it. Surely fundraising is going to be a straightforward process.
was so naive. First of all, 90 plus percent of institutional investors, 90 plus percent. Sir, you need funding, it will take about $10 million to bring this product all the way to market.
It's capital intensive to bring robots to market. Where is that $10 million going to come from? From institutional investors.
The single digits of the institutional investors that will invest in hardware or robotics. it's even higher bar. Generally, they're not investing them prior to first customership.
So interesting. So, you know, every company that succeeds goes through a growth trajectory, a valuation trajectory that looks like a hockey stick.
@26:48 - Gabriel Flores (The Shades of Entrepreneurship)
You know, you've got this really, it was hockey stick laying on the ground. Right.
@26:52 - Tom Stevens
this you have this really flat period while you're traversing the handle and then you get to the blade of the hockey stick and then you have this inflection point.
We go almost straight up. Institutional investors have been trained to wait until you get to the blade. And at beginning of the blade, well on to the blade.
They would rather pay 10 times the share price for a company that could give them 10X to 50X returns than pay earlier, potentially passing up 100X or 1000X returns, but also have a substantial risk that you actually never bring the product to market.
So it's been a real challenge to get people on board. We've had some luck there, but it has shortened my life without the exact right time to raise the funds to keep this company going.
@27:44 - Gabriel Flores (The Shades of Entrepreneurship)
And let's talk about that a little bit. How let's walk us through the strategies and efforts you employed to build and establish this brand?
@27:52 - Tom Stevens
Well, I had the good fortune during my master's at the Stanford Business School. And prior to that point in my career,
@28:00 - Gabriel Flores (The Shades of Entrepreneurship)
So why did I do that? First of all, I needed to learn a lot more about robotics and AI and animation and things like that.
And that school is great. The IDO school at Stanford's Phenomenal.
@28:10 - Tom Stevens
Yeah, but more than that, I was fearful to kind of have this risk of personality. I was fearful that even though I could lead a company in the litigation automation space, did I have the breadth of education, of training, to lead a company in a completely different industry?
Even though robots are computers that move and I've been in computers, it's different enough. And coming into the healthcare space was different still.
So going through Stanford, one of the wonderful things at Stanford is they have a lot of experiential programs. It's not unique to Stanford, lots of other schools offer the same.
For you as at a minimum, an academic exercise can be And run a startup while you're going to school.
And the two benefits to that, first of all, were that you learn, know, sort of the ABCs of things that you have to put in place at the very earliest stages of the company.
But it also turned me into a better selective listener for the education that I did go through. So every class I went through, whether it was finance or animation or accounting or macroeconomics, whatever it was that I was taking at a given time, I selectively listened for information that was relevant to a startup company.
it really, I think I got far more out of the education than I would have otherwise. So I want to make sure I stay on the threat of your question.
@29:56 - Gabriel Flores (The Shades of Entrepreneurship)
One more point that I hope I've addressed in it.
@29:58 - Tom Stevens
hope it won't stop the stay out. I'd probably the one piece of advice that I got that has been better than any other piece of advice in terms of organizing yourself to start the company.
First thing you want to do is create a pitch deck for investors. Pitch decks are fairly standardized today. Ours is probably longer and more boring than pitch decks that other people should bring out.
But the standard questions that you have to anticipate investors asking and therefore have to have content in a pitch deck are exactly the strategic conversations that you should be asking yourself about your business.
What's the market size? How are you going to get to market? What are all the engineering risks? What are the financial risks?
Who are the competitors? It goes on in on the other hand. Maybe see some pitch decks, but there are plenty of resources out there for sample investor pitch decks that starting there is more than good enough.
But it caused me to change my behavior and focus on things that were not just product centric, but really business centric because at the end of the day, I had to have investors that had confidence not only in the team and the product, but the company's viability to return an investment.
What's your exit strategy? Well, things like that. Well, I'm a run the company. We're going to make money. Now we've got to have an exit strategy.
understanding the fears and needs of investors and creating a pitch deck and answering all those questions was a tremendous exercise.
And you can do it before you have a, you know, before you commit to a real company. So just do it as an exercise.
Because if, if you can. Till your company by not successfully answering those questions, you can bet an investor can.
@32:07 - Gabriel Flores (The Shades of Entrepreneurship)
Very, very good point. That's true. But one of things you mentioned too is AI. AI, something that started to come up often.
fact, I had a guest recently that talked about AI too. There's room for AI in every industry. How has Tom Bot's leveraged AI's algorithms?
@32:27 - Tom Stevens
Yeah, it's a great point. AI, if you're thinking about going into a business today, that's where you want to be.
If you want to start a business that is going to attract investors' attention as your first goal, and you get, okay, within this world, where do I find things I care about personally?
It's probably a good idea to first go and get into software and do something that's related to AI. Because most of the money today in the investor world is going into AI.
AI types of startups. So AI is, obviously it stands for artificial intelligence. It's not used correctly. Technically speaking, it's not used correctly.
AI is sort of a dream. Artificial intelligence is sort of a dream. It's a very long way off. But machine learning, deep learning, which are the tools that underpin artificial intelligence, those tools are mature today and are very applicable to anything.
But when you think about machine learning or deep learning, you're not thinking about building a brain that can do a myriad of different things.
You're thinking about unique tasks. For example, facial recognition. Facial recognition isn't creating a smart entity that can, hey, I met you before I recognized you again, but rather is comparing your face to a whole lot of other faces and saying,
I've seen you again. Yes, I have. You're in this category. Natural language processing, which is a lot about what JF-GBT can do.
Text, cognitive capabilities. A lot of what we're doing. So, it's AI is focused. We're going to use that term, broadly.
It's really focused about doing very specific tasks. And so, in our robot, we're using, with our first, our minimum bio-phopo-product, rules-based algorithms to be able to make inferences about things.
And then, after it's run through a calculation about what this combination of inputs mean, and then says, therefore, and then exhibits a behavior in a particular category of behaviors.
But, ultimately, machine learning, deep learning will be used. We're already being used for things like balance control, emotional detection, gate recognition.
So just an incredible number of applications for these that will be different tools on the tool belt of what gives the robot the ability to understand its environment.
But the idea that the robot has this sort of central core that really gets it is so far off that it's sort of beyond even the sit around and thinking about.
@35:36 - Gabriel Flores (The Shades of Entrepreneurship)
Yeah, you know, one of the former guests, one of the things you mentioned, which I was like, yes, thank you.
For example, AI has solved math. if you're a teacher out there and you're if you're teaching long division law multiplication, Pythagorean stop stop teaching us the Pythagorean theorem.
I do not care if the division or the blood of the. Minus or what comes before if it's a posse?
I do not care, but you know what I care about more than anything. want these kids to learn more than anything.
Excel. Teach them how to use Excel because guess what? AI has solved math. It's called Excel. You can put any formula you want.
I don't need to know how to do it. I don't need to know that the multiple comes before the posse.
I don't care. I don't care. See me the formula that I need to know to figure it out. I don't need to know the backgrounds.
I need to know the entire app. I don't need to know how to get to the solution. That's really what AI is helping us do.
It's helping us push forward. When folks are using chat GPT to write a novel, use it. It's there for a guideline.
Don't use it word for word. Go through that. Use your own edits. Make sure that your own voice is added to those blogs or newsletters or whatever content you're creating.
It's just there to help you be a guide. But at the end of the day, it can't do Do the task that you're going to do, right?
It's still can't do it. Still can't go pump my gas yet, right? It still can't make me peanut butter and jelly sandwich, right?
It can do tasks. It can do tasks, but it can't do the job. So just just be mindful of that.
Cause I always see like folks like it with AI is like, it's going to take over my job is it won't take your job.
It'll take over task that you do in your job, which is great. it allows me more time to do other things.
@37:27 - Tom Stevens
Right? Well, and that's such a great So I've been around long enough to see the migration from the typing pool and the office environment to them using word processors to.
@37:42 - Gabriel Flores (The Shades of Entrepreneurship)
Yes, great point.
@37:44 - Tom Stevens
know, the desk of the executive and and she or he generating their own first drafts of, you know, polished documents.
Um, is, nobody is longing for bringing the typing pool back.
@37:59 - Gabriel Flores (The Shades of Entrepreneurship)
know, so it's so.
@38:00 - Tom Stevens
Good job, Mr. Preffless. But what it does is it allows people to move into higher valuing situations. as you say, writing the book is a great example.
Chatcheting, you can write a book, but I can't write a good book. Use it as a grammar checker. it as initial ideas.
We use it in software coding. But I guarantee you there are going to be some horrific mistakes that are there.
You've got to have the understanding of it. And it's a fine thing. So it's another way to accelerate things.
I agree that we're not looking at the whole work force.
@38:38 - Gabriel Flores (The Shades of Entrepreneurship)
Yes. Yeah. And that's a great point too, Tom. you use JAT TPT as an editor. In fact, I do this often.
write blog posts, shot out to my wife who used to edit my blogs a lot of time. longer has to because they fully JAT TPT doesn't for me.
But yeah, use it for a source of creating a better you. But don't use it to be you. Right.
Because you still have to have your own personal branding to it. Now Tom, what advice, you've been through the entrepreneurial world for some time, so with your valuable experience, what advice or tips would you give our listeners who are aspiring to be entrepreneurs or looking to start their own venture one day?
@39:21 - Tom Stevens
Well, I've already added, thank you. This could be the rest of our conversation, so I'll try to restrain myself.
We've already talked about having a problem that you're passionate about caring. I'll say that that's number one. So what are two, three, four?
have people solo entrepreneurs rarely succeed, unless you're talking about a small, boutique business. for those of you that are listening to this podcast, I suspect you may be listening for advice and ideas on how to build what's called a venture scale type of business.
If you're going to go out and get institutional funding, how will this business deliver the kind of returns that investors need in order to take the risk or investment?
How is this company going to be worth a billion dollars on Sunday? How's it going to get it going?
So if that's the world that you're living in, doing it by yourself, probably not succeed, unless you've got some crazy capabilities and unique knowledge about a niche space that is desperate for solutions, you probably need a team around you.
And once again, I'm old enough to learn that anybody who has great strengths also has great weaknesses. Find teammates that aren't exactly like you.
You don't want two or three or four people with the same great strength and the same great weaknesses. Put people together that are comfortable venturing to each other.
And the easy place to The start there is organizing yourself into the different silos. Silos, like I handle all the marketing, all the sales and the chief financial officer, the CEO, of about the outward face to the company.
I have a chief operating officer who wants none of that. But it's so much better than I am at management and details and anything's done on time.
Our third member, our chief technology officer wants neither of those. Right. Very good point. But his is an inventor and his curious learner and just constantly pushing the envelope on where the technology that could potentially be useful for us might come from and you know, AI again there.
Finding people that are complementary to you, both from an expertise sample. But also from a personality standpoint, it's really, really critical.
It's not easy to do. And I will tell you that with three people, in our case, you will find a lot of reasons to disagree.
So, you know, your leadership team with an organizational culture that does really well with dispute resolutions. Not like you've got to talk people off the ledge every day.
But be comfortable with difficult topics. Have mechanisms in place where those difficult topics don't become, you know, a point of discord within the team.
everybody wants to be heard. Everybody wants to feel like they're contributing value. Getting defensive about your points of view, getting your feelings heard.
of that's helpful in these environments. And every startup, no matter how well fun. What it is or how good this founding team is, what, how experienced you're going to have, is going to be in a pressure cover.
Which means that every little thing that goes wrong is going to have outsized importance to you until your company is stable at some point, and really stable at some point in the future.
One of the courses I took at Stanford had a guest lecturer, one of the co-founders of Trulia, the real estate online program.
He said, people are always coming up to me going, wow, you guys had this amazing success. This must have been the best journey ever.
What was that like? He said, I don't know where people get that idea. Literally every week there was a near-death experience.
That's the company that blew it up. You will, I feel that every week, every week. How do you and company
Your lunar 15 coke with near-death experiences and be resilient to what you're doing through it. So advice number one, pick a problem that you care about, Ashley.
Advice number two, find two, three, four teammates that also care about that are very different people than you are.
You can bring additional skills to your team. And then thirdly, wrap a culture around this that enables you to succeed near-death experiences and other trials and tribulations because they are inevitable.
@44:34 - Gabriel Flores (The Shades of Entrepreneurship)
Yeah, I got to say my biggest talent is actually working with smarter people smarter than me. That's basically my goal is to identify, I know enough to be dangerous, but I also know my limits, right?
My zone of genius, right? my person, my zone of competence. And I got to tell you, in regards to crucial conversations, Tom, you mentioned, know, having this crucial conversation.
There's a great book, Crucial Conversations. It's actually utilized. And healthcare often because, you know, we have to have very crucial conversations.
And same with the business world, think understanding how to have those conversations and to your point, talking to the problem, not talking to the person as being the problem, right, to focus on the problem as being the, if I'm a solution to the problem, don't make the other people around it be the problem.
So, Tom, thank you very, very good information, great advice. Now, for the folks at home that want to learn more about you, maybe they want to connect with you online, they want to find you, where can they find more information about you.
@45:30 - Tom Stevens
Well, the easiest place to go is Tombot.com, T-O-M-B-O-T.com. You'll see a lot of information about Jenny there. You'll see videos and testimonials and the media coverage that we've enjoyed.
You'll see my mom and one of the early prototypes that she tested with there online. And then, first from there, we've got all the normal social media handles.
You can get to them through our land. Any page of our website. We have a ton of informed, if you're interested in this from a personal standpoint and lots of people who are affected by the health, so I encourage you to learn that companies like Tom Bot, not just Tom Bot, exist in there are solutions out there that can help you cope in mental health or help a loved one coping in the universities.
We have a number of interviews that are on our YouTube channel with experts that really aren't talking about selling Tom Bot.
They're really talking about what they do and the problems they solve and challenges that they run into and a lot of wonderful advice from experts, from families.
@46:40 - Gabriel Flores (The Shades of Entrepreneurship)
I encourage you to browse through that. love it. And so folks for those folks that are listening, this is actually a great time to plug the Shades of Entrepreneurship newsletter because this information will be on the newsletter.
To subscribe to the newsletter, please visit theshadesofe.com. You can also follow me at the Shades of It's a V on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn and TikTok.
Tom, thank you again so much for your time. really do appreciate it. Very, very cool. Very cool thing that the dog, it's just so, so neat.
So neat. I can't even explain it. So folks, I really hope you enjoy this episode and please take a moment to check out Tom Botts.
Thank you. Thank you.