Innovations: The Neglected 97% – Entrepreneurs Boot Camp
A few years ago, Adolfo Meza and a friend were having a conversation that will one day change the way you find entertainment — and most certainly how your children and grandchildren find it. Adolfo is an engineer and had spent ten years plying his trade in corporate America. He was happy, he was learning and growing and developing his skills, he was raising a family. He was happy, but . . . not satisfied. You see, Adolfo was and is a builder, someone who “looks for opportunities rather than follow a set plan,” as he says it. A classic vision master. So Adolfo and his friend were chatting about opening a restaurant, something they’d been thinking about for a decade.
Then a light bulb went off.
Restaurants are about having fun and enjoyment, but the business itself is a tough one. Adolfo knew technology, not how to find the freshest tomatoes or where to find a great chef. Yet he knew he wanted to bring joy and fun to people; that’s what the restaurant idea was all about. Then it occurred to him . . .what if big data could be used to advise people where to go for fun, no matter where they were in the world? What if Adolfo could patent a process for creating entertainment experiences for people?
Boom! He was hooked. He went all in, committed his life savings and started PopUp Party (see the description of the app below). I first met Adolfo when he was immersed in the Entrepreneur’$ Bootcamp and have followed his journey closely ever since. Recently, I had an opportunity to speak with Adolfo about his experiences with the Bootcamp and I’m going to share the highlights of that conversation, including one “jaw-dropper” that you might consider if you’re close to getting into the game of pitching investors.
Adolfo, what had you decide to do the Bootcamp in the first place?
I’ve always been a person that sought out coaches and mentors. I’ve always had the vision of being a CEO, but I wasn’t interested in the title as much as really “being” a CEO — embodying the qualities that a successful CEO would have. So, I was already looking for a mentor who could teach me how to actually be a CEO, not just put the title on my business card and “fake it till I make it.” I was introduced to George Kenney through a mutual acquaintance and immediately recognized the opportunity to learn how to “be” a CEO that investors could respect and trust with their money.
What was the Entrepreneurs Boot Camp experience like for you?
Demanding. But I’ll also say there is an easy way out — you just don’t do your homework, don’t put yourself totally into the work, into the process and George (and now Rob) will send you home. So in that way, this is a place for big boys and big girls. Not that there isn’t anything but pleasant and professional — they’re not drill sergeants. But my experience is that they’re really busy guys, in high-demand and so they just don’t have time for someone who isn’t really committed to build a great company AND build themselves into a superior leader. So for me, this was total immersion. I guess it’s a matter of being coachable, like really wanting to be coached, even when the coaching is tough. Otherwise, what’s the point? There’s no growth opportunity.
What specific things were you wanting to gain from the Boot Camp?
I wanted the chance to learn deeply from someone who lived on the other side of the fence — the side where all the money and investors live. I wanted to learn why investors said no. I wanted to learn how to get to yes. I wanted to learn how to not be a jerk or a fraud when asking for money. George (and later Rob) are surgical about teaching these things and it made me trust them to a high degree in terms of what they were telling me would lead to a “no” or to a “yes.”
So, would you say the Entrepreneurs Boot Camp improved your ability to pitch?
No? Can you explain more about that?
No, because honestly, not knowing how I had never pitched my company prior to the boot camp. I did the boot camp BEFORE giving myself permission to pitch anyone except friends and family that had already invested in PopUp Party. What I can tell you is that having completed the Bootcamp I feel so totally confident in pitching anybody about the Company. I believe that my hypothesis, my team and myself have all been “scrubbed” by tough, smart, brutally honest and really thorough investors already. Nobody I meet and pitch to will ever be any tougher than I’ve already experienced. That gives me total confidence that we’ve created something valuable and have it set up to win. Now I have the confidence to pitch investors.
“Scrubbed” is an interesting way to put it!
Definitely, but that’s a specific part of the Bootcamp experience, the “Deal Scrubber” process. It’s 92 questions that just hammer every aspect of your business, challenge all your assumptions and destroy all your illusions about fundraising. I wanted a tough process like that. I wanted the truth. I wanted someone to bash me into “being” a CEO and being the CEO of a company that was doing something worthwhile, fundable, scalable. What I find so unique and valuable about the process is that apparently, George analyzed hundreds of VC investments that never panned out and looked at why they failed. The 92 questions you go through in the “Deal Scrubber” help you to avoid being another failure statistic. As an engineer and a process-oriented person, I love that kind of exercise. It’s based on facts, on what actually happened and it gives you a pathway and shows you where you were going to fail. My chance of failing now is much reduced.
And failure clearly wasn’t an option for you.
Is it for any entrepreneur that is “all in?” Is failure an option for someone that has invested his or her savings, had family invest, left behind the security of a day job and has a family depending on him or her to make it work? I wanted to be able to say to myself and to my wife and family that I really want to be a person who can call himself CEO because he is willing to do whatever it takes to honor that title and position. For me anyway, the only authentic way to do that was to willingly put myself on display, with no illusions or hidden things, to a trusted mentor that would tell me the truth. Like I said, I had no interest in wearing the CEO badge if I wasn’t a CEO in actuality. I didn’t know how to be a CEO. Bootcamp taught me how to embody it.
What was your biggest takeaway from the Bootcamp?
Before the Bootcamp I was an entrepreneur with a hypothesis. It was untested by the investor community. Now, I have a fundable company, because my hypothesis was mashed, crunched, bashed, challenged, augmented, re-imagined and made truly scalable. The parts that were gold at the outset are still gold, the rest is gone. Today, I’m totally focused on growing the business, because fundraising has become something fun and easy, not a fearful thing or a stressful experience. I know I’ve got a winner because a really successful and experienced investor has mentored me to make it so. Other investors will feel the same way. I’m just not sweating the funding. I know it will come. Where else can you develop that kind of confidence?
One other thing really stands out . . . George (and later Rob) taught me to be efficient in fundraising. There is a specific process. It works. You learn it. You master it. You embody it. Then it becomes part of your DNA and it’s easy to replicate again and again. After all, if I’m not efficient in the way I raise money, why should an investor think I’ll be efficient at managing his or her money?
Would you say any entrepreneur could benefit from the Boot Camp?
Look, I’m a huge fan of these guys’ work. But honestly, no, this isn’t for everyone.
I think you need to be really serious about your business, really committed to it — putting in your time, money and emotional energy for several weeks and being willing to be challenged about every aspect of your business model. But I also think the Entrepreneur$ Bootcamp is one of the most powerful experiences participants will ever have in life, if they let George and Rob and the process take them over, really mentor them. And the benefits cross into your personal life and to other business ventures because you’re learning a process, a way of looking at any opportunity or challenge and making it better or solving it.
Bootcamp is helping with all aspects of my business. In my consulting business, Devela, I help people ground their ideas for technology tools into business models that solve specific customer needs. Since doing the Bootcamp, I find that my ability to help those clients is far greater and I can do it in a super-efficient way. Devela is in high-demand now, not out seeking business. It’s coming to us more and more because we’re delivering masterful solutions that are grounded in what I learned at the Bootcamp in terms of what investors and customers want.
What is one specific thing you’d like to share with an entrepreneur considering the Bootcamp?
This may be your best and only chance to work one-on-one with successful investors as your personal mentors who have also researched specifically what leads to a “yes” from other investors and created a process you can learn and apply in every funding conversation for the rest of your life. The Bootcamp is a place where you can be really candid. You can ask George and Rob questions you’d never ask someone you were actually pitching. You can be vulnerable and real and you’ll get that back from them and learn secrets for success that investors who only know you casually probably would never tell you.
Key Takeaway: Successful fundraising really can be boiled down to a specific process that objectively puts you in a higher position to get a “yes.” Fundraising, like so many things in life, turns out to be a skill you can learn, master and embody. You can do so by pitching 1,000 times until you figure out enough things to get the process right. Or you can spend a few intense weeks in a life-changing process where honesty assessment, true mentorship, and efficient positive outcomes are delivered.
The PopUpParty app sets a new standard in entertainment. Each exclusive event is carefully crafted to engage all the senses providing complete immersion in the NOW experience. PopUpParty is a full sensory affair with select VIP guests, performers, artists, chefs and mixologists all interacting to provide an intimate and unforgettable night.
PopUpParty’s mission is to empower talent to create, venues to succeed and patrons to indulge through the common love of food, music, art and the element of surprise.
With PopUpParty for Mobile you can:
– Discover upcoming events near you.
– Purchase access to exclusive PopUpParty events.
– Get interactive tickets on your mobile device.
– Easily share events with your friends.
– Easily get directions to the event.