Think Like an Investor with Paul DeJoe: How MUD\WTR Created a New Product Category and Way to Pitch VCs
December 20, 2022
May 10, 2023
min read

Think Like an Investor with Paul DeJoe: How MUD\WTR Created a New Product Category and Way to Pitch VCs

The Profit Forecast: The eComm CEO's Podcast

Episode #17: Paul DeJoe

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Ben Tregoe: Hey Paul, welcome to the Bainbridge Podcast.  

Paul DeJoe: Hey Ben. Good to see ya.

Ben Tregoe: Good to see you. I've been excited for this conversation. We've known each other now for what, two plus years I think when you we're a founder of MUD\WTR, the legendary MUD\WTR. And I know that you have a lot to share with the audience, but I'm not great at summarizing people's resumes. I would prefer if you could do that and give your background and what you're up to now. 

Paul DeJoe: Cool. Yeah, I hate resumes too. It just always feels like I'm more interested in stuff I wanna do now and what I'm gonna do as opposed to what is in the past.

But I think what's relevant or I guess interesting is I have an interesting background. I, I. I really wanted to play professional hockey and so oriented my entire collegiate career towards going to the only school that gave me [00:01:00] any sort of scholarship to play hockey. And I got to play overseas a couple years.

I lost a few teeth and I think I had no idea about this. Oh, really? Yeah. No idea. Most people, oh, you know what's funny is like how he introduced us and when I was telling him about that kind of background, he. . Oh, would you play for the Kings or something? And I was like, oh fuck no. I played in like the worst leagues ever in Europe.

And he's he was like so disappointed. man. This guy's like an asshole. , but he's,

Ben Tregoe: Wait, did you grow up in Buffalo?

Paul DeJoe: No, I grew up in Youngstown, Ohio. And which is like another funny scenario or situation just cuz. , Youngstown had one outdoor rink with snowboards and like it wasn't open six months out of the year.

And yeah, sure. My dad would just, my dad's from Buffalo, he would just bring me there in the morning and put me on the ice and I got hooked on it and I had to go away to prep school to play competitively. And I just wanted to keep going as far as I could. I think about, did about as much [00:02:00] as I possibly could with my limited ability.

But. Yeah, that was a fun part of my life and I, and what had a lot to do with why I was attracted to startups when I got back and had to like, think about a degree or working or something and I was like, I'll just try to get a master's degree in finance or something. That sounds interesting.

I would read that anyway and that, that put me into a practicum course at, I was at Drexel at the time. . I fell in love with this class that went to work with a startup and I didn't have to go to class. That company gave me a job and they didn't really give me a job. I wanted to work there and they said, we don't have any money, but if you can make your own paycheck, you can join us.

And I, I just like immediately made the connection of this feels. Really competitive athletic team where you're exposed if you don't do a great job. And I get what I put in and I can work as much as I want and I see the returns. And once I was in that, [00:03:00] environment I, it was like no looking back.

And it happened to be in like a incubator space at Drexel. And so there was a couple other startups there that were grinding too. And a couple of them did really well. So just being in that circle of people was like, oh man, this is my new spot. So got hooked on startups from a while ago.

Ben Tregoe: Nice. Yeah. So wait, how old were you now? Like when you were 

Paul DeJoe: at your first startup? This was like 15 years ago, 16 years ago. Okay. Yeah. Been a minute . 

Ben Tregoe: Yeah. So then what was the path between there and MUD\WTR? Cause there was a lot of, There was a few stops, right? 

Paul DeJoe: Yeah. You can never connect the dots moving forward.

It, I think that the most efficient explanation of the path was probably slowly learning and recognizing patterns in really high achieving people and like what I would [00:04:00] call a players and picking up here and there. The DNA of these types of people. And for me, I, our first couple startups did okay.

And then we raised the last startup I was running we raised money from NFX and Founders Fund. And so really like tier one investors and end thinkers to James and Gigi at nfx. , some of the most brilliant people I've ever worked with, and they beat into us, like this speed bar that I didn't think I had.

So working with them for on, every day for three months. Very intense kind of crucible. I think, halfway through that I, or week five, I looked at my girlfriend and was like, I can't keep up with these guys. It's not realistic and. At like week six, our whole team got this oh, we can keep up with it.

And we started to see that speed really is everything. And like around that time was when [00:05:00] we really needed a designer and UIUX guy and I went on at the time, I saw a resume of someone who was like, pretty good and only charging 60 bucks an hour . And I was like, this guy should be charging three times that.

Yeah, he doesn't, and so I'm just gonna go hire him. And it ended up being Shane. No way. Yeah. And so he came to meet me. He came to meet me in like in we were in the district at the time. At random cafes and came to meet me and I actually, sorry, let me back up a little bit. So it was Shane and then I gave him a, we, we got a Skype call and while I was chatting with him on Skype, I'm trying to find culture fit stuff too.

So I found his Instagram and I saw hi. I saw him his Halloween costumes and I was like, oh, this dude's for sure a culture fit. Like he's hysterical and . I can't wait to meet him. And talked to him. He was like, we're looking at this design and here's, we're thinking it's a really complex idea, but we think [00:06:00] it can be distilled down.

And I gave him that directive. Not much more. And. . It was a few hours later that I got something from him and I was like, Hey, great concept, but this has to be an original design. You can't get it offline somewhere. And he was like, what do you mean? I just went and designed that. And I was like, there's no way you went that fast on this.

And he was like, yeah. And he's not somebody who's verbose at all. Like he's a very humble guy. . I shared it with the team and they were like, what? And then so we said, Hey, you have to work for us. And started working for us. And he was clearly such a talented, amazing guy from every different angle that we collectively decided to make him like our fourth co-founder.

Wow. And that company was really fun. Like we worked on a really cool problem, but we never got it to a venture return type of scale. And I think what was so sad was the culture that we created there worked really well. But the product didn't [00:07:00] get to where we wanted it to go. Which is a lesson I learned.

Very painful lesson on when to pivot, how to pivot. And he he and I just stayed really good, as really good friends in touch. What are you working on next? He took another job. I wanted to like, try to see if that company could still work. It really was so hard to keep going. And then but during that time he was drinking this drink everywhere.

He brought it with us everywhere. And he isn't the most hygienic person. He knows that I'll tell and he would never wash his flask. And he's Hey, try this. It's amazing. I drink it instead of coffee. And I was like, I'm not drinking that dude, you frozen . And at the time he had this like floating chaga mushroom in it.

This brown floating thing and not a great class was like, and I would make fun of him and if Shane, he took that very personally, but all internally doesn't like react. Wasn't that on? Interesting. Just like couple weeks later after we wound on the company, he was like, Hey, check this out.

And he sent me a text and it was a [00:08:00] link to MUD\WTR's website, which looks. Amazingly close to what we have today. Yeah. And that's really just a testament of Shane and how he works. And he, I was like, oh my God. And I had this like immediate reaction of let's do this. I didn't even know what this was.

It was just, yeah. I really knew that he was such a special guy and it was so fun to work with him. I don't care where this goes. I just really need to be back in that that environment again of working with really great people that go fast, that I love being around. And he was like, basically, I don't even know what this is.

And I was like let me help you as much as I can. And he was sending me hundreds of text messages a day and I was trying to convince him there might be seriously like hundreds. Yeah. And we've got a early. We'll do a post one day on some of these early messages. Some of the stuff I was sending him was just trash ideas, but I think mostly was there for support.

And after a month or so, I was looking at these testimonials that we were getting from random people that he was sharing it with. [00:09:00] And I was like, I cannot believe these testimonials. I've never seen anything like it. Yeah. And I was doing his accounting for him and I was like, Hey, I'm sending you money.

I'm sending you an angel check if you don't take this and quit your job I'm not helping you anymore. So I threatened him with my own money. Yeah. Yeah. And that was money I had for a down payment on house. I'm not an angel investor. It was just like, this feels like I have to do this.

And yeah, he didn't say anything, but I just wired him the money and told him the next, the next day, check your account. And he was like I think. He said something in a text message I just choked up a little bit and are we doing this? And I was like, yeah, let's go. And three months later we raised like a million bucks from some investors and was off to the races.


Ben Tregoe: That's awesome. You just, there's a lot to talk about there. I wanna go back though to. , the company, the Nfx found a company you're in this they're focused on speed. [00:10:00] And what was it that what did they mean by speed? Because obviously people are like, oh yeah, go fast. It sounds like you were surprised by how fast they expected you to go or how fast they were working.

Yeah. So what does that mean or feel like? 

Paul DeJoe: Yeah, so the thing that We had to do, was it, we had three meetings with them a week and from each meeting they were like, okay, bye Wednesday. You need to figure out this thing. And it was not trivial , right? It's yeah. And it was like, Friday you need to figure out this thing.

And you had to keep evolving what your pitch deck was gonna be. And so they were really big on like language. So like really tight language saying the same things consistently, if this is what you're gonna be doing, and then really tight on information events in a very convinced period of time.

And if you, if it felt like if we made any [00:11:00] excuse for not being able to show something by that future date then we were gonna be like, laughed out of the group. And James was constantly like pitching this. If you think you have product market fit, you. , like product market fit really does feel like you're being pulled by the market, two fingers in your nose and you can't turn away.

Yeah. And Yeah, there was a little bit of, I think one of the challenges with us was like when we pitched and there was a, at the time, N FX had this like incubator element to it. Component to it. 

Ben Tregoe: You were in that incubator? We were in that, yeah. I see. So you had a peer set of other companies.


Paul DeJoe: Yeah.

Ben Tregoe: Elements. It's not just 

Paul DeJoe: like you and James and. Totally. Okay. And the sharpest people that you could imagine and the, a lot of companies out of our cohort that did it incredibly well. Still doing it well. And I think we got, I'm actually pretty confident we got the most demo request, or sorry, the most VC request for a meeting after demo day.

And it was because, The concept of what we were doing was something that [00:12:00] every company wanted and was struggling with. And all these VCs, their portfolio companies were struggling with it. Yeah. Which was like this on demand SDR function. Copywriters, really high-end prospecting but for a very low cost compared to in-house, not a ton of experience.

the business model was tough to get right at scale. We were trying to teach some this ml AI thing, , and we just, we never got to the volume that we needed to show any sort of progress. There was like, we couldn't really prove that we didn't need to raise a lot more money and that just didn't, it didn't get us to a B round yeah.

His business. 

Ben Tregoe: Yeah. What was it that, how did you find that next gear though? Between weeks five and. , 

Paul DeJoe: You, you get used to everything, right? , like humans are just incredibly adaptive. If you're in a stimulus long enough, that feels overwhelming and you're the only variable that either breaks or figures it out, like you [00:13:00] break or you figure it out.

It was like I got my schedule down where I was. Okay. I get up at a weird, I get up early anyway, so I'm like, I'm up at five, I'm doing a 45 minute workout, and then I'm taking the train from San Francisco to Palo Alto. I'm reading the whole time or working on the deck that whole time. I'm being really efficient in these meetings.

The guys know what to build and I'm prepared and here's what I figured out. So that, even just getting the routine was hard. Cause I was like, I'm just scrambling. I'm not working out right. I'm not doing shit like I'm drunk at night cause I'm so fucking stressed and I don't belong here.

And then I was like, okay, get back to basics. Get some sleep, get up early, chip away at this, chip away at this. And just not quitting. . Yeah. , 

Ben Tregoe: do you, can you now turn that off and on? Do you have one gear or can you, do you sometimes go faster and slower? 

Paul DeJoe: My [00:14:00] gears are really dependent on the problem at the time and who I'm working with.

So you, you really have to pull me away. . I love the problem we're working on and it's with amazing people. I shut off everything else. I think that's a lot of what sucks about sometimes what I sacrifice unintentionally. And also maybe what makes me like attracted to this type of space at this stage of companies.

Like I can log a lot of raw hours at the beginning. That's when it's really the most fun. Yeah. 

Ben Tregoe: Interest. So going back to MUD\WTR, there's so many elements that I, from an outsider, seem to be important to the success. But you brought it right back to the very basics, which was like, the product, like Shane had developed a product like, that he liked, but then, it sounded.

when you were like, yeah, that thing looks terrible. And there was like that he internalized that, reformulated it to make it more [00:15:00] palatable to a bigger audience. Clearly worked cuz the, these testimonials were great. He, it sounds like he had a natural talent for the presentation of it, being a designer.

So what were some of the other elements that, you have these two great building blocks. What, yeah. Do you always have to start there? Or can you build in different order or is it like 

Paul DeJoe: No, you gotta get that. Yeah. So there's a couple things that we get this kind of style of question a lot, which is understandable.

I think to start. There's really not an auth, an inauthentic bone in Shane's body, . Like it's really one of the things that makes him awesome to work with. And what that translates to in a brand is that I think the customer can really see the authenticity and that does matter. And so the, all that copy was Shane and how he talks.

Like the early stickers that said. Support your local sun riles, which is just like a brilliant like tagline that [00:16:00] Yeah. I was like, we should probably get that trademark that's secretly brilliant. And then fuck your coffee sticker was in every one of those things. That's, it's really funny, but like the fuck your thing is comes from a Burning Man ethos of.

It's not about fuck your coffee more, as much as it is fuck the thing that you're dependent on that you think you can't live. Yeah. You can't live without. That got photographed like hundreds of thousands of times during an unboxing. And so there was this like irreverence where we didn't really think, or it was if this doesn't become a company, who cares?

Like we're having fun. And he, yeah. Took that approach and that just came through and it was like at a time. Being a little irreverent just worked and people wanted to take photos of unboxing experiences, and they wanted brands to represent their lifestyles. And so those are two things. One, it was like he's really authentic and that I think that comes through in the brand.

Like he couldn't have really made any any other [00:17:00] product. Yeah. And not as well, I think, or if you're going to make a great product. , just be authentic with yourself. Is this something like, I can't live without myself. Can I speak to it organically all the time without having to think that's a good sign that you might be on something?

Yeah. The a reverence helped a lot with just photo sharing. And I think what was another thing that just helped a ton was we called it a coffee alternative. And not really to try to like strategize, but it was like, I'm, we're making this because. Coffee is everywhere and this is something different, but it's the same ritualistic type of time of the day where we want to introduce something.

So yeah, I think it's gotta be coffee. And what's subtle about that is we didn't say we were a tea, we're we have a chai base. We could have said we were a chai based adaptogenic drain, but we said an alternative. No one was saying that. So you saw this. Connection happening for people [00:18:00] in their minds of a traditional anchor that they had about Yeah.

Tea. We're not saying we're a tea, we're like specifically a coffee alternative. So we were able to create this own category that people hadn't thought of before. And we were the only player in it really. So we quickly got out in front and it was like hard to think about anything else in terms of coffee alternative than us.

Yeah. . 

Ben Tregoe: I think that's so interesting because you could see how you would go to the whoa, we're tribe based, and it's really more of a tea. So like, how do we sound like a better tea? But by just going to this like entirely different place, you you just opened up everything, and you didn't have to play by any kind of what are, what's the team, what's, what are the rules? . Did you find that though in the customer base? Were people trying mud that were moving off of coffee or were these people that were like, oh, I loved all these different types of teas.

I'm gonna try this mud thing. 

Paul DeJoe: We had a couple different types of customers to start, and we still have them today, which was really interesting. I was [00:19:00] like, I assumed that everybody drank coffee and we just had. So many customers that were, that we had a really evangel evangelical set of customers that came to us and we're like, thank God I never drank coffee.

I hate coffee. Tea wasn't enough. This is great. Interesting. Yeah. And then we had we had a post-purchase survey that we ran. We still brought it today, which is like, what is your intention with. 70% of people were like, I need to drink less caffeine or less coffee. So you had a lot of people that were like, I just need, I know I need to peel it back a little bit.

What's this about? Yeah. So those were the two big drivers of like I would say customer segments that gave us that momentum. Were, did 

Ben Tregoe: you, did that research drive the, you guys were brilliant at using YouTube. Great. Did that drive the ads or was Shane just like talking [00:20:00] about, Hey, I'm drinking too much coffee.

And it turns out that just fits the target market. 

Paul DeJoe: So the first ad, like actual breadwinner ad that we ran was Shane had to like, leave for work at the other job in five minutes. Took his iPhone and he videotaped, at the time we had a clear glass jar as a as instead of our tin today.

And he just videotaped it, rotating. And so there was like a live, the ad was like a live video almost, and the ad said, we're not mad at coffee, just disappointed. And so it didn't even say what we did. Yeah. And that ad in the. Year and a half, I wanna say made us like 4 million alone,

And so you had you, you look at that and how it was made, what it said, what it was doing it, it's just hard to productize that thinking or Yeah, it was like that ad worked for whatever reason and I think it was cuz [00:21:00] we didn't say what we did, it was a little bit salacious and like you had to stop it.

And I think not saying what we. Provocative enough to get people to stop it and click on it and check it out. Yeah. Fast forwarding to when we matured, past, like grabbing people on Facebook that'll try anything, you're, you're trying to think now about who are we after that will make this consistently a part of their lifestyle and why?

And so the founder videos really were like, almost a reaction to customer base in the market. What is this company about? Who is the person that makes it? Where do you get it from? Where did it come from? And Shane, you know those videos that you see Shane on, on YouTube that do incredibly well both in terms of like the substance of the content and even conversions.

Those things get filmed in a very short period of time. Back to the charisma thing and the authenticity thing, he filmed that first one on his own. In a, yeah, in a few hours. He's really that talented yeah. That's awesome. Yeah. , [00:22:00] 

Ben Tregoe: what did you, how did you find your place? You're like, okay, I'm doing the books.

I'm a sounding board. I'm forcing you to take my money. , like, where, but how did it's okay. How did you find 

Paul DeJoe: your role? I just have to use force. . I make demands. I think I was helping Shane a lot and I think and he asked me to be a co-founder, I think, cuz he saw maybe.

Working with me at a previous company, what it's like to work with me. I think I'm gonna be there working and logging the most hours, kind of show by, by example. And I can command a lot of responsibilities that are absolutely so different from how Shane's brain works. And we saw this like really fun symbiosis, so I can do finance, accounting, sales.

Insurance, stuff that he doesn't ever wanna look at. Not that insurance is a tough thing, but it's just I've done it so many [00:23:00] times that, you know, and I can find people that are really, I think, humble and talented, but don't really know it yet. So it was like Shane's very good at content, branding, design, marketing, and so for a year and a half, two years, it was able to, just really me and him mixing mud till three in the morning, then doing accounting or branding or whatever.

And we were able to wear a lot of hats. So I was, I would say like I was really lucky too. I think there was some other people who could have done what I've done better maybe faster, but just we got along really well and and I was helping him. So that's how I fell into a role there.


Ben Tregoe: that's interesting. We. I don't you guys are I think MUD\WTR's approach to fundraising has been the like brilliant and surprising. So surprising that like when I saw your first deck and then subsequent talk to you more, know, you're just like, geez, why isn't everybody doing it this way , right?

Just seems so obvious. [00:24:00] How did you guys figure that out? Maybe if you can, are comfortable talking about it. Give a little context to what we're talking about and how you approached it, but 

Paul DeJoe: Sure. Yeah, so we're just incredibly defensive of our time and anything that seems inefficient, like we really think along long and hard about it.

And if something was like always done a certain way, that's usually like an invitation for us to. , then we a hundred percent have to do it different. And the vc roadshow is people complain about it for the same reasons. Cuz it's awful. It sounds awful. It's yeah, you're losing a little bit of the, the energy by saying the same things over and over, trying to act authentic and very rote.

And you can get, you're gonna get a hundred nos before you get a yes, even with a great product and. , we just thought a lot about, like, how do we do a lot of the upfront work now, condense it, and then put it out to [00:25:00] a community of investors and say, this is everything we think you should know. If you want to have a phone call with us or meet us, we'd like to get really into the tough questions no dance.

Just get into the really difficult discussions, which we would lo we actually really love to do. And and then, and I think another thing that really helped us was we put out an investor update every single month for, 24, 36 months, depending on when we were raising. And every single one of those investor updates we really didn't discriminate who got it.

If somebody was interested in us or we had talked to them previously and they were an investor, we put them on the investor update list. You can make an argument, you 

Ben Tregoe: just, you didn't ask them. Add 'em to the distribution list? 

Paul DeJoe: We ask them and they're like, they're always gonna say yes, , hey, if we, and I think just not a lot of companies follow through on delivering every month and then having something every month that shows like real progress.

And we were growing very fast. Showing consistently on a monthly basis the growth and staying on the investor updates. [00:26:00] Al also allowed us to. , say you, if you guys have been getting our updates then we feel like we can get away with a, with like a thumbnail here on ltv, cac, how we think about retention, growth.

Here's our high level metrics, and we put all of that into a notion Doc. We did a one 10 minute pitch in the YouTube. We video, we put that in the Notion doc and kind of tempo. This deliverable to these Cs that felt like we were answering the biggest, toughest questions and there was ability to deep dive on how we thought about everything.

And they really appreciated it too. It wasn't coming from a place where we were not, we were being dismissive. It was like, here's the things we think are really critical that you should ask about. And so we've already thought about those and here's how we think about it. And yeah, a lot of reactions were like, everybody should be doing it this way.

Ben Tregoe: And were they . It, I guess it's like you, you're forcing them though to put a lot more work into the I don't know. Maybe they already do a lot of work, but a lot of VC's pitches feel like. You get the great intro, then they [00:27:00] schedule. Yeah. They're coming off of you're the seventh call of the day.

They walk in, two minutes late to the Zoom call. Yeah. And it's go. So were they, are they like, you're forcing 'em to do a lot more pre-work? Where they appreciative of that? Or do you think they're like Yeah, 

Paul DeJoe: I think a couple things. So these guys do see, This pitches all day, every day.

At all year. So we had a little bit of confidence to think about what's gonna look a little different to them, where they're like, oh, that's inter, that's different. And sure, you might rub people a little bit of the wrong way if they don't, if it doesn't fall into the traditional way they like to evaluate.

But to me it's like a very, it's a net positive overall for every. You're a little bit of a differentiated offer in look at. And so that gave us a little bit of confidence and it, I don't think we heard one, one firm that wasn't receptive to how we laid it out for them. I would also say like our team really did a great job at, if you had a [00:28:00] question about retention and you had to go to a partner meeting on Monday, you were not gonna have any ambiguity or they weren't gonna have any ambiguity on how we think about it, how we measure it.

Is it a gross margin ltv or is it a revenue ltv? It's definitely gross margin and here's how we calculate it and here's where we think it's going. It's super precise. Very. So there was not, and when we would go, when we got on those, phone calls, We got really amazing discussions that weren't like getting to know you.

It was like we disagree with this strategy. Okay, cool. Let's talk about it. It was got to be like where they were actually really fun calls instead of, not that they're not fun to pitch VCs. It's like I just do feel a little bit like inauthentic when I'm like, I have to act as excited as I was 40 pitches ago, and yeah, I'm not , 

Ben Tregoe: right?

. And do you think that market conditions, do you think your approach is subject to March market conditions? Was that like, hey, that was a good way to do it, before everything hit the fan? [00:29:00] Or would that work as well or better? 

Paul DeJoe: Today I would do the same thing. I think, yeah, because there's a lot of pageantry in a pitch or a deck.

And really this comes down to discounted cash flows and I'm. Really wanna show you how you're gonna get a return on your money. And I do need to show you that we're good at critically thinking about things. And that comes through in text and copy and writing and, deducing a lot of problems down to the first principles.

And here's the steps that we're gonna to go after to tackle these things. And here's where we think shit's gonna hit the fan. And especially in later stages, , you want to give the confidence in your potential funding partners that you've thought about a lot of things. It's not even, it's not a big deal if you disagree.

I think what I've found is that they want to, they wanna see how you think about things and that you have thought about them, even if you're not right. It's like these guys can critically think [00:30:00] about really challenging things, and this is a creative solution. I, that's just really hard to come through in a pitch.

So we like putting that in a text. 

Ben Tregoe: Yeah, that's an interesting point because it would be really hard to do that. I guess they're testing that through the due diligence process, but you probably don't really understand that until you're like sitting in the board meetings and by the time you realize These guys aren't good at critical thinking.

Paul DeJoe: Yeah. Yeah. It's hard to get your money back. Yeah. 

Ben Tregoe: This will be my last board meeting. The college kid. He's near new board member.

How did you know, how did you guys do this process though? Assess your investors? Because, so much of that is everybody's buddies when you're killing it, right? But you get into the oh, that didn't go so well for two quarters, and different type of conversations.

Did that approach help? Get to a better understanding of the [00:31:00] investors 

Paul DeJoe: faster. I think what helped us with investors and just understanding was, know, we put out a monthly update every month and it was, there was very clear asks at the beginning and there's just natural investors where you can move to text messaging with where you're jammed up and there's something to be said for an investor who gives you a lot of money and gets out of the way and.

I'm not gonna help you much. However, I'm your biggest investor and so I help you with money, but that's it. That's okay if you set that expectation up front. And a lot of founders really like that level investor. And then there's other investors that are like, Hey, when shit's hitting the fan, there's like only a few that I text, and they're always the people that are like responding or trying to help with your asks and or will jump on anytime and.

We got to the A round. It was like we're really hopeful or help hope that these people can come back in cuz they've been great. And if we don't know these new investors, we're just gonna try to get them [00:32:00] validated by other people. . And something that I learned, I think recently was the better an investor is, the more busy he's going to be or she's going to be, and.

They really want to help you, but you do have to think about they're gonna assume that you're doing okay unless you call them and say, Hey, I'm fucked. I'm fucked up. Yeah, they'll help me and they'll help you. So you just have to make it easy for them. And and I think when you're screening new investors, you, if there's competition for the deal, you should ask, what's something that you're like really great at helping at?

And what can we hold you accountable to helping us? and how often can we like, reach out about that specifically. And we found that like a service like cabal is really great cause you can specifically ask certain things to certain people who've said, they're good at these things.

So that's something that I've switched my position on. I used to just get like really upset and it. . The smarter these people are, the more busy they're they are without, so you [00:33:00] asked for this with getting them, they're incredibly busy cuz they're smart and they're working on other shows.

Every, everybody wants their time, right? Yeah. 

Ben Tregoe: Yeah. So what are you up to now? What are your, what are you 

Paul DeJoe: thinking about? A couple things. I I really. , I think Bitcoin is fascinating. So I've just been non-stop reading about this. I have a little bit of a startup in stealth, I call it, with a friend who's nice.

Very nerdy. Nerdy in Bitcoin. So that's been fun as like a hobby. I really like playing poker and reading and I'm also still a board member at Mud and that's been really fun. just chatted with Shane this morning for an hour and a half on a couple really heavy topics and so it's fun for me not being in the day to day or having Slack or email around because I can walk for a couple hours and think about something before I open my mouth and say something stupid cuz I have to jump into something else.

So it's been really fun to think long about, really difficult problems as a board member [00:34:00] and preparing for, board meetings and being. and Ally to Shane still, and like, how do I help him? That's been really fun. Nice. And reading a lot, just like trying to figure out like next thing I wanna read, what am I taking notes from?

And I help a lot of startups now. So I'm an investor in over 20 companies. Nice. And I'm able to reach out to those companies and. What's the biggest thing I can help you with right now? No, really, literally tell me your biggest problem and let me think about it for you. And that's turned into a little bit of a service that I didn't yeah, think I was gonna have, but it's been really fun to go help startups do.


Ben Tregoe: accurately can founders, 20 and founders, how accurately can they answer that question? 

Paul DeJoe: , I think what's been really telling where, for me, which is oh I think maybe I really am onto something here, is like I've always, I've been saying the same stuff for a long time and I really love founders, but now that mud has like this kind of like external success [00:35:00] thing it buys me a little bit more of a can buys them a little bit more of a canvas with me where they can really open up and.

I'm actually really struggling with this and it usually is, has something to do with, the challenge of being a founder in the psychological baggage, right? Ben Horowitz says, the most difficult thing is managing your own psychology. So I can go in there and quickly get this answer.

That is like coming from a coach and a mentor, an investor, and like a operator at the same time. So I find that I get like a very rich type of answer around what's really keeping them up at night. And it's always just a handful of things. I'm I think I've gotten I'm getting better at separating those things from there's really no boogeyman here.

We can really unpack a few of this to a few things and let's individually tackle them and. That's been really rewarding and fun and feels so very purposeful. But you just 

Ben Tregoe: It's like you're at five minutes to go, you're like leaving the cliff hanger here. You're like, oh, it all just comes down to these handful of things.

Paul DeJoe: If it I'll deliver it in five minutes. It's [00:36:00] very simple. There's so much that has to do with a players. I can quickly assess. Even with mannerisms when they talk about their team, like that's not an A player. Oh, you need to give them more work. That's an A player. And that's, it's so hard for a founder to be like I need to fire somebody and then actually go do it.

That has a actually a lot to do with it. There's probably some people in your organization that are not performing and that's taking so many energy points away from you, and they know that, and so I try to help them think through. You're not a bad person. Let's put this person's not thriving either.

Let's find this for them somewhere. It's a super hard lesson to learn. It's so hard. And so I've been calling it like a Thrive audit , and cause they're not thriving either. And then in c in cpg there's only a handful of lever levers you can pull. Really? And so it's if your model is working and trustworth.

Then we can look at some ratios where you're gonna get these asymmetrical returns on fixing them. Like you might not be able to move margin a lot. You may be able to [00:37:00] move like I don't know, ratios in terms of like payables or headcounts. , some stuff that's like really unsexy that, but together, like you've moved some material not income at the end of the year, and Yeah, it's, it has a lot to do with that. And some of these founders are really brilliant. They just got out of their zone for some reason. And so it's what do you want to be the best in the world at? And if you're, yeah, and if you're the ceo, you by default have to not run out of cash. You have to constantly be pitching the store.

You have to be the best in the world at recruiting. So if you're gonna, you have, if you're not gonna be good at those, , that's okay. We have to fire you from that and get the best in the world is, and what's the one thing you want to be great at? And let's make sure your calendar shows up and supports that thing.

Like just getting a handful of those into their like day-to-day, get these testimonials. Holy shit. It's like you just, you knew you had to do it. You just needed a little kick or Yeah. Of it. 

Ben Tregoe: Yeah. . And so are you doing that as is [00:38:00] that sort of this consulting that you were referencing or is that as an investor or, 

Paul DeJoe: I had to call it that.

I, I, until I come up with a different word. Yeah, we can call it. Yeah. But I yeah it's like a coaching slash, I don't know. It's like people were saying, can we pay you for your time? And I was like . Yeah, that sounds good. Let me put together a company to build you through or something.

So it was like reluctantly created. I just love talking to founders. Like I would honestly pay them to get, to chat with them and hear about their ideas. It feels so it's such an honor to be a part of somebody's dream. I get to, I know I'm gonna be a part of. I'm like in the front row of watching the next great thing being created.

Like it's way more interesting than a movie. So 

Ben Tregoe: Yeah. That's cool. Yeah. Paul, thanks so much. It's been awesome. I've really it flew by for me and I feel like I learned a lot, which I guess I always do when I, when I'm with you. But worth saying again. 

Paul DeJoe: Likewise, man. I love what you guys are doing.

It's such a cool product. 

Ben Tregoe: Thanks. Thanks.[00:39:00] 

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