I recently announced my plans for a 12-month Founders Live world tour. This post covers the last month and other lessons from my journey and what I have learned from taking the biggest risk of my life to date. Follow along here on this blog and here.
In month four of the Founders Live World Tour, I found myself in Dallas for most of the month of April. I must say after 2 full months of living in Texas, I now have a much stronger appreciation for the Lonestar State. It’s much greener and more beautiful than I expected and during the spring months, the weather is pretty darn good (outside of a few crazy loud thunderstorms) which were amazing to see and hear. And the startup talent could hold it’s own against many other Founders Live cities!
We arrived in Dallas on a Monday and got settled into the Bishop Arts area, our new neighborhood for the month. We stopped at a coffee shop to work for a while as we waited to check in at the Airbnb. I looked around and quickly thought “A new city and new adventures are in front of us, I wonder what crazy shenanigans we’ll get into here?!”
The first week of April was Dallas Startup Week so we had a central location to go to each day and check in with what was on the agenda. For this first week, out homebase was Ross Tower in Downtown Dallas, which was the location of Founders Live Dallas event to happen on Thursday of the week. I didn’t partake in much of the startup week activities but there were many talks and panel discussions on startup and community topics. I tended to be heads down working on Founders Live, as well as gearing up for the event and filming to happen on that Thursday.
This is The Great Sand Dunes of Colorado… I just like the pic so I put it first. I’ll get to that part of the trip later!
Founders Live Dallas was held on April 4th during startup week at Ross Tower. It was an awesome event, with roughly 125 people in attendance and great energy in the room. Our city leader David Ezell (and his supporting team) did a great job leading the event. It’s been fun to stop through our cities and observe how the various city leaders run the events. Of course, me being present at the event influences and changes how they approach it in some ways, but still, it’s a cool way to not only quality check but to pick up nuances and pointers from the leaders on how to best run the events.
The winner (featured in the image above) was Moments By Design, by female founder Leslie Flores: Moments By Design – Making life easier with custom curated parties in a box! Leslie’s pitch was very crisp, on point and well within the time limit. She earned every vote and came out the winner of the night. All the pitches were great, the other companies ranged from a smart connected robot quarterback for pro and college football teams, to a bulletproof clothing material, to a company which collects online Food and Recipe Videos for healthy eating. All the presenters were impressive and on point, which I attribute to David and his team for the excellent training.
Monarc really impressed me and I was able to get to know the founding team a bit better over the course of the month. They’re designing a robotic quarterback – the idea here is that receivers will be able to practice routes and drills entirely independently by utilizing their tracking tag with the robot that will predict their path and throw them an appropriate pass. As we continued to talk I started to see how this and other intelligent systems are the future of sports. Well done gentleman!
Another interesting founder I met was Jacqueline Twillie and her company Zerogap.co. She is focusing on Leadership Development and aims to decrease the pay gap and gain equal representation between executives at companies large and small, which I very much agree with. “Success in Leadership Engagement requires consistent learning and development. This allows emerging,mid-level, and executive leaders to innovate new concepts. The Fortune 500 companies with the highest representation of women on their senior management teams had a 34 percent higher total return to shareholders than those with the lowest women’s representation.” Jacqueline will go on to do great things.
During the Founders Live Dallas event, we filmed a sizzle reel for Founders Live. This will require a bit of backstory I am hesitant to divulge too much but oh well, here we go! I recently connected with some people in LA and we have a growing conversation about how to turn this world tour into a more established TV show. When they heard about what I was doing on the road they asked quite obviously “why is this not a TV show?” Think of an Anthony Bourdain type of show where I travel to a new cities, investigate the innovative nature of the city, highlight five new early-stage entrepreneurs, help them through their process and then culminating in a big pitch competition where one is voted the winner.
It’s The Profit meets Shark Tank, with the local flavor of Parts Unknown, and the authentic sentiment of Undercover Boss, through the innovative lens of the app generation. Yep, I like the sound of it too!
So first step in the process was to get a sizzle reel – or short film example (think pitch deck but for visual entertainment) of what Founders Live is all about, and what a full hour-long show could include. I put out a craigslist ad for a videographer and received more than 30 responses for a one day shoot! I picked one and we got to shoot on the day of the event – me talking to the camera, sitting down and interviewing each founder about their concept and their questions, and then real footage of the event. It was a unique and fun experience, although a bit challenging to coordinate it all at the moment during the day of the event. These types of things are what I need to get used to if I am to have a TV show. Having a camera one foot from your face is not the most comfortable feeling, but I know I can get used to it. At this point, I am not sure where this will all go but I can tell you one thing: we are laser-focused on doing what we can to highlight and share the stories of entrepreneurship around the world, however that can happen. We’ll see where it all leads!
This is us having a movie night at Eisenhower State Park in N. Texas.
Due to housing issues (and no place to stay for one night), one Sunday we decided to hit a state park for the and camp for a night. We drove up to Eisenhower State Park on the border of Texas and Oklahoma, worked on the water during the day, took in an incredible sunset, had a movie night outside and went on a trail run the next morning. As you can see Texas has stunning sunsets.
One thing to note – The weather. Dallas has the most intense thunderstorms I have ever seen. One minute it’s clear and sunny, the next you then see massive clouds, and here comes a crazy thunderstorm. Standing in the rain is like taking a shower, so much water at one time the streets just start flooding and little rivers are formed within 10 mins. Crazy stuff.
Another interesting aspect of visiting all these new cities is how you adapt to your surroundings and establish a routine and familiarity with the new community. In Dallas, our neighborhood was Bishop Arts, just 10 mins south of downtown Dallas. I quickly found my running route (3.5-mile loop around the area) and our go-to places for coffee, food and go out for a few beers. We even got to know some of the local bartenders at a brewery over the course of the month. It started to feel like we were locals, at least for a few weeks.
Many people have asked me what traveling like this feels like. It’s really really fun. But after being on the road for more than 4 months I can tell you there are downsides of travel – specifically not wanting to leave! Once you land and get established in a city you get attached to people and places and you don’t necessarily want to uproot and leave. Establishing a relationship and connection with someone can take some work, and once you do it’s very difficult to then turn around and just take off. The way I can describe it is you basically divebomb someone’s life, create whirlwind relationships and experiences, then you leave. This can be exciting and fun, but it tugs on your emotions as well. It’s something I have had to get used to during this intense time of travel. It’s actually very difficult at times.
The last week of April it was time to leave, and we drove in the bus from Dallas to Denver. Our first stop was Sante Fe – and take in the cool, artsy, random, eerie parts of New Mexico. I told Raleigh, “ya know, New Mexico is a pretty cool place and after all said and done with company growth and some sort of exit, I could see myself here!” It’s beautiful, crisp, warm, and off the path enough where you have space and time to be creative.
We checked out Meow Wolf (the neon pictures below), even saw a concert by The Midnight, Hiking to Hot springs and camped outside in the foothills. We then Drove into Colorado, and took in the amazing terrain and got some great pics. We stopped at The Great Sand Dunes, hiked up to the top of the dunes one day, and camped at what felt like the top of the world overlooking the entire valley. No words to describe this stuff, just look at the pictures below and think of your own words to describe it!
Finishing out the trip we stayed at Dakota Hot Springs outside of Denver. If you do enough research on this place you’ll discover it’s uhhh…clothing optional (that which we didn’t participate in!) but we both quickly realized that is the modus operandi of most of the hot springs here in Colorado. Cheers to seeing and experiencing new areas of the world!
On a sad note, this was my last week in the Van Gough Bus. Raleigh is now on his way back to the Bay Area for his next job assignment and to start the next phase of his life. I greatly appreciate the time we spent together on the road and his graciousness, hospitality, honesty, and friendship will be missed.
Now I am in Denver and looking forward to another incredible month, new relationships, experiences, and awesome Founders Live events! If you know anyone in the Denver/Boulder area and want to connect the two of us, please reach out.
Below is a group of images that I feel sums up the last month on the road.
On to the next!