329: Why You Don’t Need a Mentor & Key Traits EVERY Successful Founder Should Have with Kamal Ravikant

In this special podcast interview, Nathan Chan sits down with renowned author and founder Kamal Ravikant to discuss his thoughts on mentorship, entrepreneurs, and everything in between.

Ravikant traces his journey back to a point in time most entrepreneurs face: he was doing too much and he was burnt out. In fact, it took losing everything for him to realize what he needed to change: his mindset. Throughout his journey, the ups and downs, the lows and highs, Ravikant is a master of maintaining a balance between persistence and open-mindedness in everything he does.

Listen in as Ravikant discloses the powerful reason he chose to write his bestselling book: ‘Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends on It’, and how the book developed from a self-published book to a global success spreading joy and love published in 16 languages.

This podcast is raw, honest, and a deep insight into personal growth. Learn from Ravikant as he discloses the universal importance of loving yourself, being humble, and caring deeply. This is a conversation you won’t want to miss!

Nathan: Kamal thanks so much for taking the time.

Kamal: Thanks for having me man. Like I was telling you before we started the show, it’s fun to see growth, right? It’s fun to see episode number three or five, whatever episode it was and now we’re at episode like 300 something to see how your business has grown and it’s really fun to see that. But thanks for having me.

Nathan: You’re welcome, man, dude. I remember when I spoke first spoke to you, it was like such a fun episode because we didn’t just talk about business, but we talked about life and I think it’s easy to talk about the tactics or the hacks, which is the exciting stuff that everybody wants to hear. But we talked about some of the hard times and the mental things that go on as an entrepreneur and a founder, and it’s really, really tough. Just for context for our audience, everyone listening and watching, can you tell us a little bit about how you got your job?

Kamal: Oh, which one? The current job running a fund?

Nathan: Yeah. Well look like, yeah. How did things get started for you man because it’s interesting, you’re VC guy, but then you’re also a quite prolific author.

Kamal: Well, yeah, yeah. But I’ve also been doing startups since the first .com boom. So like I moved out here, moved out to the West Coast, to San Francisco Bay area when the internet boom was happening and I just threw myself in and it was the best education I got. And then just either built companies or help a friend build companies, advise corporate for a while, but that was killing myself. So it came back to just building companies. And then after my last company, I was really, really burnt out. That one actually didn’t work out. I lost everything and then actually literally lost every dime I’d made for the past decade and I was a debt. It was one of those stories that a lot of entrepreneurs actually have that story too. And I was talking to my brother and I was telling him about how burnt out I was and to start a company, you have to want to solve a problem.

It’s not that you want to start a company. It’s like, there’s a problem you want to solve and you create a solution and the company builds itself around it. That company then sells a solution or offers a solution. And there was no problem I really wanted to solve badly and I was burnt out. I’ve been going for like almost four years nonstop, like no vacations, no days off, nothing. As the founder also as the largest investor in the company and so forth. And he said, “Well, you are always helping your friends from outside Silicon Valley to get into great deals because you know everyone, and also you’re known as a very friendly, you’re very helpful to other entrepreneurs. You’ve helped some people become very successful just by connecting with the right people or whatever.”

And he said, “You’re basically a VC without the curry, you’re getting big money to companies and you’re helping companies, say entrepreneurs succeed and you’re getting nothing out of it but you’re doing your VC’s job.” He said “Just formalise it and start a VC fund.” And I thought about it. I realised he’s right but there is a problem I wanted to solve because I had raised money from some incredible investors, some very friendly. And then I raised money from some horrible investors who really, you realise the cost of money when you’re with a bad investor, they can make your life miserable. You busy trying to run a company and at the same time, dealing with emotional outbursts from just someone who just, they wrote you a check and now they just hold it over you and like the power over you.

And so I realised I want to be one of the good ones. That what I want to do is I want to create a fund that’s like looking back at what the most helpful best investors do. They give me a check and either they stayed out of my way. They just check and see how things might are say, “How can I help?” Or they actually, like, when I reached out to them, they would say like, “Okay, what do you need?” And I would say, “I need this.” and they would just get it done. So that’s what I want to be. Just like the guy like look, “I’m going to write you a check. I’m going to back you. I’m going to get out of your way and I’ll check in once in a while, reach out and you tell me what you need and from my network, if I can do it, I will get it done.” That’s simple. If I can’t, I’ll tell you. And here’s the things I can get done. So you would know when to call me, what to call me for.

And some of it can be very practical. Get you sales, get you customers, get you a deal or connect you with someone. Someone can be, well trying to find you employment sometimes. No, like there was a company recently reached out to me and said, they’re hiring like a VP of something iOS engineer. And I was like, “Look right now I don’t know any, so I can’t help with that.” So it all depends what I have access to.

So I set out to do that and I wrote a reasonable MVP, like a sub $5 million fund and started investing. And I only did it from other entrepreneurs, I only took money from entrepreneurs because they understood how I think. I’m not a spreadsheets guy, I’m a seed stage guy, which is more betting on founders or the market on who else is in that ecosystem. It’s not show me your projections for … Those are good for business business school case studies, but they’re not good for seed investing. Seed investing because ultimately you’re betting on people and the fact that this person can take this idea, this MVP and build it out as a company and scale. And that’s what you’re betting on. So I did that and the model proved itself. I did some great bets and that fund got fully deployed a year ago and it’s doing well, I’ve had some really nice exits out of it like Teachable and ZCash and I was a seed investor in both and a few a bunch of other like that.

So I prove my model and also learn from it. The mistakes I made, which was like, man, really pay attention to the people. If a flag goes off, don’t invest in it. There were the times I went against my instinct, it didn’t work. And I see you actually like, so now I also have the benefit of hindsight of having enough fund investments after for five years. You see the exits come in, you see the failures come in and some of them you just can’t help it. It was good founders, great traction, everyone’s coming in and then things go sideways. And so one of the flags I also noticed was founders who start believing they’re too smart when they raise money from well known VCs and they stop taking a call from them or stop paying attention to the smaller investors.

That’s a huge sign. I’ve seen every one of them fail. It’s like always, there’s a difference between having a vision for your product and sticking to it, versus just thinking you’re full, you know everything. And in fact, the best ones are humbled. The best ones will take advice from, continue to take advice or at least feedback. And so now I took some breath time to just figure out what’s next. And I had a book Harper Collins published worldwide. Love yourself Like your life depends in January of 2020, which is a significantly expanded and revised version of my racial self published book that became successful. And I get emails from a lot of entrepreneurs that use it because it’s about an internal mindset that I’ve used, changed my life. And a lot of people have, and I’m so focused on that.

How did I get to be a writer? I actually, I worked my ass off on it for like over a decade, studying the grades and writing and rewriting and sending in manuscripts to publishers and getting rejected and getting better and better rejections. And then just eventually just sell some publishing something that became a hit. Then they were chasing me. That’s the benefit of the modern day, like gatekeepers are less and less. It’s almost like you get your audience first and then the gate gatekeepers come after you. So I worked on that book and that came on January, 2020, and it’s been sold already in 16 languages. I think it’s going to be so far. All the way from Russian to a Chinese to all these interesting things, languages coming out in a writing.

I got to see the Japanese cover the other day in Japanese, it’s so cool. That just like seeing my words in the Japanese letters which is beautiful, It’s just like looking at calligraphy. You’re like, wow, these are my words. But you know, and then it’s a time to raise the next fund. And for the next one, I’m doing something very interesting. I’m not doing standard fund structure. I’m doing a beta product that AngelList is doing. My brother Naval is a founder of AngelList. And this is a very interesting product to put out where I’m actually, anyone in the world can invest in my fund directly through AngelList. And AngelList handles everything, including all the LP reporting, all the exits, all the of disbursement, everything that happens in the back office of running a fund, they made it into a product.

It’s amazing. In fact, I just like, someone just goes to my fund website, which is, it’ll take you to that page and there you can see like my record, this, that, and how to invest that people aren’t just going to invest in it’s a rolling fund so people can invest quarterly. It’s a very interesting new model that I just love because I can always be bringing people on. It’s not just you raise a fund and then you finish it then you deploy for a few years and then you raise another fund. It’s just constantly you have to look. If you’re interested in what I’m doing and you want to be a part of it, here you go, here’s how to join. And then I’ll either accept you or reject you. It’s really, it’s a new product. I haven’t publicised that I’ve done it but it’s out, it’s available and I’m slowly starting to take LPs for it.

Because I’m seeing a lot of really good deals during this time. People worry about economic downturns, but the best tech companies are usually built during the worst economic times, like the Googles and the Facebooks and all those were built during the .com crash when things were really slow here. The big ones are built then. So I’m seeing some great stuff getting built and the valuations are better. So it’s time to start investing again.

Nathan: Yeah. That’s exciting. Yeah. Look, now is a crazy time and a lot of people have time on their hands. They’re looking at alternative pathways and just different things to do. And, yeah, we have a mutual friend that also started a fund as well and like he’s going crazy. Like-

Kamal: Who is that?

Nathan: Ankur. Ankur started a fund.

Kamal: Yeah. Okay. Yeah, of course. I’m sure.

Nathan: Yeah. And like, he told me like, there’s heaps of deals out there right now, like-

Kamal: There’s great deals out there.

Nathan: Yeah, a lot of people’s starting companies and I’m curious, you said that, there’s a lot of exciting things happening. Like I’d love to hear around kind of like what are some interesting companies that you’ve seen or have you made any investments yet in your new firm?

Kamal: No, I’ve just right now, I’ve just literally put all the pieces in place together. And I haven’t even announced the fund or anything. So I’m just slowly, slowly telling people one by one. So right now I’m not doing a deep dive in hunting for companies. But I don’t really hunt, they come from my network, I have an incredible network. This is one thing I believe in investing. Like if I go to Vegas and I spend time in Vegas, I never gamble. I never even put $0.05 into a slot machine because the house of the odds. I don’t want to play a game where the odds are against me. It’s not a game, it’s a game for me when the odds are in my favour then it’s more fun. And I think in investing you have to have an unfair advantage, otherwise you’re gambling. It has to be a real, not a perceived, but a real unfair advantage.

Like in Wall Street let’s be honest, like a lot of Wall Street make the real money on some level of insider information and some level of just extra information that can … Information is what like may sets you apart and returns there. For me, it’s access to the best deal. Like because of my time in the Valley have been here for a long time, all the people that start off are the people running the show now, right? They’re the ones who get the best deals and in as many of them. And we’re friends and we know how how we take care of our deals and so forth if we share deals with each other.

So I just, that’s my unfair advantage. I just go in through my network and I have to know some of the investors there because I know the backstory. Yeah and like if there’s an investment there but I haven’t had a personal investor in the back story, I want to invest. I need to be like an … I have to have someone else in there investing whose judgement I trust as well. I like this very specific criteria that I’m not going to deviate by. So as this fund, the rolling fund picks up steam, then just deals are coming and then I’m going to start putting checks in. Like, there’s one I’m looking at right now that’s really interesting. And it’s getting pretty expensive. I can’t talk about it because it’s currently you know. So that one I may or may not do because it’s getting very expensive. But there’s some coming up. There is some really interesting consumer stuff actually coming up.

At that I haven’t seen consumer stuff that’s made me interested in a while. I’m actually invested in one because I’m in between funds. It’s one of my very, like a personal investment that I think has a potential to be really big. Also, I always bet on I like swinging for hits, like home runs if I think it’s going to be small, but good, safe one. I don’t invest because-

Nathan: Why?

Kamal: Because of venture capital fund, your top investment makes you more money than all your other investments combined. So I’ve seen this strategy play out many times. So it’s like, what I’ve decided, I realised from my last funds that’s been successful is they pass on the basis of the double or triple because odds are most of these are going to fail anyway, that’s the problem. Most of these venture investing is binary, zero or one because of the way the corporate structure is, it’s not like an LLC where you get pass through revenues. It’s either you’re going to be bought by some other bigger company, or are you going to IPO or are you going to go, you’re going to shut down. Those are literally the only three options. But so the option is either exit or shut down. So when it becomes that binary, especially because also building a company from zero to say, a billion is really hard, really, really hard.

Very few people can actually pull it off no matter how … Because it involves a level of luck and cogging the machine and the world coming together and weather patterns, a butterfly effect. All these things have to happen. It’s a lot of magic involved. It’s not just off and to get to the level of success. And so you’re making these bets are more likely to not go to zero. So the way I look at it is every single one of mine, I got a full, like, I’m hitting, I’m going, I’m swinging for a home run. Because most of them go to zero and it doesn’t matter. A couple connect and you’re all very, very happy. So that’s my philosophy.

Nathan: I see. So has to have billion dollar valuation, potential otherwise, no?

Kamal: I don’t want to look at it as valuation potential. I look at it as like a can this take over, become part of like take over a category, become our big player in the category. The money then takes care of itself. I don’t even think of the valuation that way.

Nathan: Only SAS?

Kamal: No, no, no, no. Like the one I did recently that was a personal is pure consumer, not SAS. I’m very agnostic. My only criteria is return on capital. And also like I have to, I mean, I have very specific criteria for the ones that I look at. And then especially the one that I invest in, but like really, it’s not industry. Now if it’s industry that I don’t understand and there’s no investors in there, I know, well, right then I won’t to put money in because that’s gambling. I don’t have an unfair advantage there.

Nathan: So can you tell us more about your criteria. Is that okay to share?

Kamal: Criteria is more on, in the end it’s people, you bet on people and that’s not one you can put on a spreadsheet. It’s more like talking to founders or figuring out what their vision is, where they’re coming from. Are they building this because it’s a hot space? Are they building it because they were born to do it? Every time I met someone that I’m like, “Oh, this person’s on a mission.” And that’s been a great bet. Like Ankur for example, I think I flew from San Francisco to New York and had to convince him to take a check from me, a seed check because he wasn’t taking more checks and other bigger VCs were climbing to get checks and he took mine because he knew that I would be helpful and we hit it off.

But like Ankur was like, I want to better than sky. And I know this space and this is a space I want to bet on one. I knew some of the other investors in there very well and really I’ve done it. So that has passed, those checks were passed to me and it was a bet on Ankur.

Nathan: You said that it was interesting around staying humble. What are some other things that you see like when we look at your last fund, how many startups did you invest in? How many are still there? You said you had a few exits like Teachable and ZCash, but how many are still there? How many do you exit and how many are not there anymore? I’d love to just give a gauge if you can share.

Kamal: Yeah. I can’t share actual numbers because the fund is still active. Like there’s other companies out there that are just privately doing really, really well. Like I have companies that I had invested at $2 million valuation that are now at a $250 or $350 million, so I’m happy to just watch them grow. Then there’s some that went completely zero. But if I talk about the ones that went to zero, then I don’t want to start criticising visually, I don’t want to start criticising the founders. So I’d rather just give the lessons because it’s hard building anything and I don’t want to criticise human people who tried. But I can tell you the patterns I’ve noticed.

Nathan: I’d love to hear that.

Kamal: One of the clearest one is when they think they’re too smart and they stop listening to their board, they stop listening to the early investors. They just think that … And not because they have that single might’ve vision, they’re not a Steve Jobs. Everybody likes to think they’re a Steve Jobs. You’re not a Steve Jobs. Like the guy was a maniac in many ways. Don’t try to think just because you’re going to wear a black turtleneck and be a maniac that you’re Steve Jobs, you’re not. When I’ve seen that, it’s like, I literally write those investments off. Another one is when I see all of a sudden a big agency running a lot of ads for them on subways and outdoor ads. Every time I’ve seen them, I was like,…………… “Fuck, I’m writing this one off.” And happily each time. Especially when it’s-

Nathan: Why?

Kamal: Because it’s not a ad that belongs in the subway, there’s certain ads that do well on subways and stuff like that but when you see their ads on the subway, you’re like, first one that was expensive. If they’re doing New York city subways, I mean, they had an agency that’s spending money that has these relationships. It’s more about the agency spending the money, looking good than it is ROI on that advertising spend. And especially when you see ads that you look at, you go, “If I was an investor, I would have no idea what this company does.”

I mean, the .com boom era time was full of that, it was full of that. And to see that repeat at times is just going to be … There was a company I invested and it became a big dollar hit in the Valley and I was a seed investor. I was one of the very earliest investors and raised this massive [inaudible 00:23:15] Kleiner Perkins, like John Doerr joined the board and it was … But I remember being in New York city and seeing ads for them all over the subway and I couldn’t for the life of me, if I was an investor, figure out what the company did. And I was like, I went home and I wrote it off of my personal spreadsheet. Sure enough.

It’s like, you start to see these patterns. First of all, don’t hire expensive ad agencies If you’re doing anything online, anything related to online, you need internet marketers. You need people who just doing ROI on ad spend like [crosstalk 00:23:50]. You make $1, $0.01, $1, $0.10. If you’re tying it to ad agency, you’ve immediately, that’s your ego. You’ve been sold to someone, someone sold you a bill of goods that can’t return on it. And it’s just like a pattern I’ve seen. I saw in the first .com boom so maybe I’m more sensitive to it, but I’ve seen again and again these days as well.

Then there are companies I’ve seen ads for and I thought, okay, that works. It needs to be out there. It needs the average person to see, but this way, but yeah, large agency ad spend immediate it’s a big flag, but by then, I’m a seed investor, my money’s already in, it’s more for like lessons learned.

Another big one is when founders are fighting. That actually kills and causes more issues than people realise. So when founders are fighting, if you see that early on before you put your check in, don’t put it in. And this is this …… Yeah. Who mentioned that to you?

Nathan: Jessica Livingston.

Kamal: Oh, Jessica’s great. She’s the person to listen to. Yeah.

Nathan: Yeah. She said, that’s one of the number one things, the reasons that they say stops don’t work in Y Combinator.

Kamal: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Because it’s like, can you imagine having a marriage but your marriage is building a company and you know how hard it is to build a company, have employees and all. I mean, you know, right. Kind of when they’re fighting all the time and they’re not even having sex. So there’s nothing, you’re just having the problems without getting laid. It’s terrible. Of course. Yeah, that’s a big one. Those two. Often when I see founders building something because it’s a hot market, you saw that a lot in crypto. For the crypto was such a boom was such a bull market that they ended up doing fine but the moment the bull market shifts, they fall apart. All right. It’s the ones who were in it because they truly believed in crypto, like as I was a seed investor, ZCash. And again, like Ankur, this was a better than Zooko. The guy was born to build. He cared about this long before people cared about crypto. He was doing it long before anyone cared.

That’s the kind of people, first of all, you want to back. If you’re backing people who do you want to succeed? The people really care about a problem and trying to solve it. Not because the space is hot, let me make a quick buck. And basically that usually involves scamming. Many times it’s a scam. A lot of crypto was, let’s be honest, a scam. There was some great projects in there and I believe in that I actually, that I bought and I would say a majority of it was a scam. It was just people trying to make quick buck off other people. Sell to the biggest sucker. So I avoid those even when the space is hot I avoid them because first of all, seed investing is a longterm game to build, go from zero to a billion takes time.

You can have some early ones, like ZCash took me a year, a year and a half to exit. That was a really fast. You look an Instagram that took about a year and a half to exit, that was really fast. That was literally zero to a billion, right. I wasn’t an investor in it, but I have friends who were but those are more rare. Those are more the outliers normally like it takes time to build that. So you can’t be investing saying, “Oh, this market’s really hot now, but it’s kind of scammy, right?” I don’t think it will work with us because a year from now, two years from now, that market won’t be hot and it’s going to take time to build something. So I like builders. I like people who are really on a mission.

Those are the ones who you really want to back and having said that it’s not like every founder I’ve invested had that. I’m looking back at my favourites and in my best investment I’ve seen that as a pattern.

Nathan: Obsession?

Kamal: Obsession is a big word. I think they just like, people can be obsessed for many reasons and that obsession that can come apart at the rail, that things go wrong. I would say more like, what the phrase I use. They were born to do this. Like, this is what they are. This is, they cared deeply. I think it’s a little different than obsession. I don’t think Steve Jobs was obsessed about bringing the iPhone to the world, but he cared deeply about product design and UI and simplicity and getting consumer devices. So I think it’s more of like care deeply about a problem they want to solve.

Nathan: I see. Interesting. Well, man, this was really, really valuable because a lot of people watching now, this is interesting. These are things that people could get trapped into or these are things that people could start going down a pathway and they don’t know it. And they could be watching this and be like, “Wow, it’s a big slap to the face.”

Kamal: Even though it’s one investors, one person’s thoughts. But you know, I’ve been in the Valley long enough and I’ve been around tech entrepreneurs long enough and been one myself long enough that you see patterns. As you pay attention to the patterns, the patterns repeat.

Nathan: Yeah. It’s that experience.

Kamal: Yeah. And I think you have to do that. If you’re going to invest, you have to be good at recognising patterns.

Nathan: Yeah. I agree. So I’d love to switch gears and talk about the reprint of Love Yourself. I remember I read that book before we did our interview a long, long time ago. And you had an incredible story, man. It was like I’d love to switch gears and talk about that, that part of your life, that compelled you to write that book and how you got there.

Kamal: Sure.

Nathan: Yeah, what happened because I think it’s easy as well on the internet to see these incredibly successful people and you think, well, at the end of the day, everybody has challenges and issues and things that they go through and you went through a really dark time, man.

Kamal: Yeah. I mean I’m very human. We all go through that, as you said. By the way, just one slight correction, it’s not a reprint. The original version was self published and it was short. It was like 62 pages. I didn’t expect it to go anywhere. I didn’t expect it to become like a runaway success. But what I realised after seven years of it being out there, because I put my email address in that book, because I didn’t know any better, because I expected it to sell maybe less than 10 copies. And I put my email address if anyone’s got questions, email me, well, guess what? Over seven years, I have like tens of thousands of email.

And amazing emails, amazing emails and there are a lot of questions. And I realised I didn’t expect the book to go anywhere. I was just putting a little thing out there that I could share with my friends on a truth that I learned that really transformed my life and in a very practical way. And I realised that this book is going to be out in the world. I need to do the real version and I need to make sure that these questions get answered.

So I rewrote the whole thing, where it’s like, it’s about four or five times size of the original. And it really goes in depth, but also in a way, very, very practical, very honest, very real shows like look, this is one man doing this and here’s literally how you can replicate it. And what it was based on was just, earlier when I mentioned that company that failed, I lost everything. I fell apart. I really fell apart, fell in a dark place. And it was one night that I decided I can’t take this anymore. I’m done. And I made a vow to myself and vows are full of commitment to oneself. And the vow was to love myself. I mean, it was more poetic than that. It came in the moment, but to summarise, it was to love myself. And I’m not a guy who believed in that, nor am I guy who knew how to do it. But because I made that vow, set out to do it and I realised very quickly, it was not an external game.

You don’t love yourself by buying yourself. Those might be results of buying yourself things or whatever loving yourself has to become an internal thing. So I worked in my internal self and I basically, whatever worked in my head that made me feel better, I’d bend deeper if it didn’t I went out and I came up with this basic daily practise I did every day and within a month, it had transformed my life. What was really interesting was by working my inside and this is something I share, but I don’t go very much. I go into the book, but I’m not sure that people can figure it out on their own as well is that as my inside changed, my life changed without me doing anything to affect it.

It’s a very interesting thing I learned the and that I applied in life was that you work in you’re inside, your outside just moulds itself to it. Don’t ask me how that works because I have no idea. I mean like that, who the hell knows, put matters. That’s where my startup training comes in hand where I just get what’s practical. Give me that sale. I don’t care. Give me that conversion. And then show me how to do it again and again, show me, make it a process so I can get that conversion again and again. So that’s basically what the book is about. It’s a story, but also like exactly how to do what I did that changed my life, but on the inside.

And so the new version, I’m getting emails from all over the world. It’s amazing. Like it’s absolutely I man. Some of them are heartbreaking. You’d be amazed what people have gone through and how it’s helping them. And I go deeper and sharing what I’ve gone through because I want people to know they’re not alone and look, here’s how I use this to overcome that. Here’s how you can too. And I’m very proud of it. I worked almost a year on it and gave a lot to that book, put a lot of myself into it. You don’t just do things for the ROI. You do this because you want to leave something beautiful for the world, that’s purely yours, that wouldn’t exist if you weren’t there.

This is one, this is my version of how to love. So I wanted to sit basically in the end, write the book from my experience, not from theory that truly the practical manual on how to love yourself. To anyone I could give to anyone and within a month are they’re really living that and it’s not much work. So-

Nathan: You still do the practice every day?

Kamal: Everyday. And I talk about it when I felt, but I’ve stopped doing it and how like the mind gets lazy and return to old patterns. I share all that. I share my own dirty, I go out of my way to make sure like, look, I’m no perfect specimen. I’m the one that came up with this and I’m the one who’s like, get lazy on it and look what happens. Let me show you what I have to do again. I’m very honest. But I think I owe that especially because of the readers I had who read the original version. I owe them to several to say the longest to say like, look, there’s no perfection here. You’re always just stepping forward next step next, just doing it again, again, it’s like working out. You go to the gym. If you go to the gym every day for a few months, you’ll be pretty good shape. You stop and you bond bonds for the next year guess what’s going to happen. You know, like the mind is even more plastic. The mind responds even faster both ways.

And the funny thing is the mind runs the show. If you’re working all these other things, but in the end, the mind works and if you get your mind, right, all these other things, especially being an entrepreneur, I wish I had known, someone had taught me this earlier. I think my successes would have been far more significant and I would have had less losses if I had worked in my mind like this, because it would have kept me from going on. First of all, just the internal suffering that comes with being an entrepreneur, you got to be honest. And then just, it would’ve made it more pleasant process and I would have made better decisons.

Nathan: Yeah. I was thinking to myself, I really respect the fact that now you’ve launched the second version of the book that you’ve gone and you’re honest with the fact that you have swayed a little and you stopped the daily ritual and this is what can happen because you read these books like how to wake up in the morning or like the Epic morning routines and stuff. And you just think, wow, how does that person keep doing it day in, day out, day in, day out. And you think they’re just like this perfect person, or they’ve got these hard core kind of David Goggins like discipline. And like, I’m not him. I’m not David Goggins. I just … So I really respect that.

Kamal: Thank you.

Nathan: I’m curious as well, you talk about mindset a lot and if you had done these things earlier on in your journey as a founder, really working on getting your mind, right, you would have been more successful. Is that because-

Kamal: Faster, honestly faster, easier, better. When your mind is better, your mind is … And I do it all from the space of loving myself because that we’re wired for it. And it resolves a lot of issues.

Nathan: And I’m curious, is that because you believe you would have made better decisions because you weren’t making emotional decisions?

Kamal: No. They wouldn’t be from fear or they wouldn’t be from desperation or from … A lot of the poor choices come from prior or just versus … And often as a founder, you’re just trying to keep the whole thing together. You have all these pressures of leadership is lonely, you know it’s cliche, but it is lonely and especially when you’re responsible for other people’s money and people’s like people who joined your crazy idea and now their family’s livelihood is dependent and the kids going to school, you’re paying for that like all that stuff. There’s a level of pressure that a lot of people who are not entrepreneurs don’t realise that an entrepreneur has to deal with.

And I think the mindset definitely helps with the pressure and helps you make the right decisions and because you’re taking care of your inner self, when you take care of your inner self, they just clean up, that you make better decisions. Like looking back, I wouldn’t have made deals with certain people that I did that I regret it as a CEO. Deals with the company, because I would have just like, I wouldn’t have. I would have just been a different headspace. I know like, look, I’ll tell you, like so since applying it, what I’ve done like when I would raise my fund, I was very clear, on my last fund I turned people down, if I didn’t like their values, I didn’t want their money-

Nathan: Really?

Kamal: Yeah, because I was coming from a much more solid place inside even though at that time, I was completely broken in debt. I was living off credit cards and I could have taken people who offered me a large check. I was like, “No, I don’t want your money.” Because I was feeling that way about myself and when you feel that you just know I’m going to stick to my values and do it and I’m so glad I did that. So the success I have now, it feels sweeter. But also I think when you bring people on board that are not aligned with your values, that gets in the way of you doing stuff. So that’s a clear example, actually. I hadn’t thought of it before.

Nathan: Yeah. So I’m a big fan of mindset, like big, big fan of mindset, big, big fan of learning. I think as a founder your personal growth is a reflection of your company’s growth. If your company stops growing in many ways, it’s a reflection on you as a founder and as the leader and your lack of personal growth. And I’m a big fan of even just the simple things. Like, let’s just say you want to build a $100 million company. Half the battle is won if you truly believe in your mind that it’s already done, do you agree with that?

Kamal: Yeah, very much. So, man, that’s something a lot of people don’t talk about, but you see that a lot of very successful … You see that in athletes a lot, especially in athletes. I think you see a little less of that in entrepreneurs because it involves depending on other people whereas athletes in the end, they’re depending on themselves. It comes out of that, what they can do. So you see that more clearly, but funny you mentioned, because I’ve been thinking a lot about this and then really does like the great ones, like the big ones, right? You, you do see this.

Nathan: That conviction that refuse to be beaten already done. I know it’s achievable, no matter how long it takes. But then at the same time you were probably invested in some founders that they would have had that insane conviction and it didn’t work out because of market. Look at COVID like-

Kamal: Yeah. COVID made some businesses and broke a bunch of businesses.

Nathan: That’s right-

Kamal: Who was using Zoom before COVID?

Nathan: Well, we’re using Scottsdale, but-

Kamal: You know what I mean? Now it’s become a verb, right?

Nathan: Yeah. So like, have you seen ones like that? Where like these founder they have everything we’ve discussed. And they’ve got a rock solid mindset, they’ve maybe had some knocks and then they just wanted to change the world of travel in some way, shape or form or even anything where a person is face to face. Like any startup or any company that has face to face has been in any form of transaction has been damaged. Like you look at Airbnb-

Kamal: Yeah. That’s where it comes down to the individual. That’s where it comes down to the founders. I was talking to friend of mine. Great, very smart guy, successful. He built a very big conference business. In fact, they have one of the biggest conferences and they have the bills. I remember speaking at the very first one and I spoke at the very first few that had maybe 200 people. Now it’s a leading conference in their space and gets about 5,000 to 7,000 people come from all over the world and like decision-making level, that kind of stuff to the conference once a year. And that conference happens in March, late March of every year.

And guess what happened this year? They had to cancel it and they waited late. I was like looking online and their tweets, I was like, man, I don’t think you guys should do it, this is going to be like festering virus in a Petri dish. And so they cancelled it and I was talking to him, he’s like “That was painful.” He said, he personally lost a few million dollars that he would have made on that conference. But he said something, what he did was he’s said “Well, I got to do something.” So he started looking at some online stuff and started doing this online thing and it’s now and they did a little small thing just to pass the time, because now you have extra time because the conference wasn’t happening. They said, now that thing is making me $600,000 a month.

Nathan: Wow.

Kamal: So it comes down to the individual to his mindset. He’s like, okay, that’s happening and I’m not going to sit there and come apart because of it. I’m actually going to sit down and say, “Well, okay, what is that? What else is interesting? What can I do online that I can make some money on?” And he did it and he made some money. I was like, let me make some more money on it, more money. Now he’s literally making more than he lost, than he would have made in that conference.

Nathan: So coming back to it, you believe that it is that ability to just never give up?

Kamal: It’s not never give up because sometimes you have to know when to give up. I wish I’d known. There’s also like the math, something you just got to let go. That’s a bad habit of mine. I’m like a bulldog, I just bite on it. I have to solve this. Get on it come hell or high water. I think it’s more flexibility. The market changes, you change with it or you change and you look for the new opportunity. You don’t just say that’s my only opportunity. That’s a mistake I’ve made many times, very sick. You get so focused on this one problem. You think the world will cease to exist if this company doesn’t become successful or this product doesn’t take off. Well but the market conditions might change, the market may not want it. So the best thing to do is take that experience I should look and say, what else could work? I wish I had learned that earlier, actually, that more flexibility, but also requires eating some humble pie. That’s a painful, humble pie at times.

Nathan: What about mentorship? What is your thoughts there Kamal around mentorship, advisory, coaches?

Kamal: I’m not a big fan, honestly. I’m a fan of doers. And if you want to learn from doers, go work for them. The best ways I’ve learned is like work for doers. You can learn from courses, right? You can take courses. You can learn from them, which is very important. One should always be learning and growing. Books exist, YouTube exists, your company exists providing courses, that’s important. But as far as someone teaching you, it’s very hard to teach business unless you’re like you know nothing, you don’t know what you’re doing. You want someone to teach you the very basics. If you want your hand held, coaches are really good. If you want accountability, coaches are really good. And often we need those. Often this is lonely.

So like having that other person you’re accountable to is helpful. It’s very helpful, but don’t expect them to build your business for you. If they could, then they should be building it themselves. The really good entrepreneurs, I know they would be too damn expensive if they were a coach, you would have to pay them millions to be worth their while. So the best thing is go work for one of them or find one of them, or like do something in their space or whatever but it’s by doing, that’s one thing I really love about Silicon Valley. We all learn here by doing, by just joining. The whole concept of mentorship, no one I know has had mentors in the space but we’ve had people we consider mentors and they were all people we worked with, or we got involved with somehow or we were just kind of helping each other and helping them. And you learned, but it was a game to action it wasn’t sit down.

Because I get a lot of requests like that. “Could you mentor me in this or mentor me in that?” I wouldn’t know what to do, what to tell you. I would say go do it and here’s the bill. So this is my personal feeling about it. But like I said, if one’s not used to entrepreneurship and it’s lonely and it’s hard and it’s a daily grind, everyday you get up and go back in the ring and someone’s punching at you. Usually it’s more than one person punching at you. So in that case, if you need accountability, if you need someone to hold your hand and nothing wrong with that, we all need that sometimes then I think that’s good. But just be honest with yourself, your coach is not going to build your business.

Nathan: Yeah. The reason I asked that question as well is because a lot of people think of getting a mentor as a silver bullet. Have you seen this where they’re like, “Oh, I think I need a mentor.” Because they might be struggling or they don’t know what to do or they’re looking for guidance. And that comes up a lot people asking for mentorship, how to find a mentor, what to do. And I think there’s a-

Kamal: You know, the best mentors are out there already. Like, look, I mean, an example I had the best mentor on the world is writing Ernest Hemingway. He died before I became a writer, I think before … when did he die? 60s before 50s, before I was born. But I studied his work obsessively. He left behind what to do. Like the best mentors, there’s so many great podcasts right now. You get to talk to Jessica Livingston who’s like knows every young founder who’s ever been a white comic and she’s one of the co-founders right. You get to listen to her. Forget getting some person as as a coach, get Jessica Livingston. How? Just listen to every Podcast she’s ever done. You have Jessica Livingston as a mentor. Pick people like that and say, who do I want to learn from? And then go like listen to every interview they’ve ever done.

That actually exists now in a way it never did before. But you have to be self-started there. But really the best mentors in the world. I mean like all the best investors I know are on podcasts or have like doing something where they’re sharing online what they’re doing. Or go to AngelList and look at their investments. If you want to learn how to invest and say what you start to see the patterns and what they invest. It’s actually really available. I think this is the best time if you want a mentor, they’re all available.

Nathan: Yeah I agree, 110%. One thing that someone once told me, which I thought was a killer idea is let’s just say you want to go into a market or you want to go into a space or you’re already in a space and you want to know how to get leverage or to look on how to get traction further, look up all the founders in that particular space and all the companies and all the founders. And just look for the podcasts they’ve done.

Kamal: Oh, that’s brilliant.

Nathan: Spend a week, listening to every single one and you will be a hundred times better. They will share their red flags, they’ll share the lessons learnt, they’ll share the traps to look for, they’ll share everything they’ve worked out and you’ll be far better off.

Kamal: Dude, that’s absolutely brilliant. And think about the mentorship you just received. I think people, a lot of people think mentorship is like Luke Skywalker and Yoda. It’s not.

Nathan: Yes, that’s what people do think, yes.

Kamal: Right?

Nathan: Yeah and I think no one … I’ve had incredible mentors from all walks. People that I’ve interviewed, people that I’ve read their books or people that I speak to all the time or have got a certain amount of space with them over a period of time. And not once have I ever said to them, will you be my mentor?

Kamal: Yeah. Yeah. None of it. Yeah. I mean, it’s really weird to hear that from people sometimes like, what do you want me to tell you? It’s in my books. If it’s on life, it’s in my books and I’m very real. If it’s on investing it’s in the podcast I’ve done. But if someone like [inaudible 00:50:31] someone read my book and they want to ask a question or whatever, I’ll always answer it because they took the time to read my work.

Nathan: Shows they’re serious.

Kamal: Then I owe it to you to answer any questions you got or to at least connect with you. But yeah, it’s like, this is the best time to create and especially online, create anything online. All the courses are there. If you want to learn how to build anything, there’s a course out there for it. And you don’t have to host the servers in your basement or anything like that. I mean, it’s all done for you. You just have to execute and there’s things to learn, but this course is on it. And it’s a step-by-step I think this was an amazing time to build things.

Especially if you think that a lot of people are building companies should not be building a venture funded company. Mostly a lot of projects and non-profits should be venture funded because the moment you take money from a venture fund or angel investor who wants to, and then that kind of vehicle, it becomes binary or agile. Your vehicle changes, it becomes a corporate structure than an LLC in the United States, all of a sudden, let’s say your company only is making $3 million a year in revenue profit because LLC and you own 67 of it, you would get 67% of the $3 million every year.

So there’s a lot of companies who would actually be DAS structure, if they’re revenue based so bootstrap and you can take every year, like every month, every quarter, and you can take a lot of money out. Whereas if the moment you take an angel investors money, as long as an LLC, you can’t do that, done, you’re a salary employee until the day you exit or the thing just goes, goes, goes, goes, and then shuts down. So that’s something people don’t realise. Often I’ve talked people out of taking money because I’m like, it’s not good for you. The company you’re building you better of making a couple million a year than going for the zero to one that might make you 10 million, might make you versus if this looks like a good revenue producing business, that one big, massive thing, build this and start taking a couple of million dollars a year home and you’ll be happy.

Nathan: Yeah. That’s an interesting point you make. I have no experience firsthand with raising capital, Foundr is bootstrapped and will be, like I don’t see us ever raising money. And that’s because that was a strategic choice I made many years ago that I just love what I do so much and I don’t want to sell it.

Kamal: Well, you can always like a bootstrap company. Let’s say it becomes quite big. Whatever the relative term is. I’ve done a company may want to buy a piece of it, but you still a control owning it and then you may want to do it, sell it for a multiple revenue because you want to take cash out. You don’t want to just take revenues, you want to say like, “Look what I’ll sell you at like five X or 10 X revenue. I’ll sell you 20% of the company.” That’s a nice payday for you. You do it for things like that when you bootstrap and that’s perfectly fine, you still control the company. It’s your company. They’re basically betting on you to continue to grow it and just give out revenues. That’s a very different game.

Nathan: Interesting. So, we have to work towards wrapping up, but man, always great speaking with you, dude. Always like, yeah-

Kamal: We can do more often than once every six years.

Nathan: Yeah, I know for sure. So what’s next? You talked about this new fund you’re starting, what else is exciting?

Kamal: Today I submitted my podcast. So finally I have a podcast too. Today I submitted it to Spotify and iTunes and all that. That should be out next week. And that’s called Curious Kamal, we just interviewing interesting people, learning from them and just being curious.

Nathan: Awesome. Well look a couple last questions. One where’s the best place that people can find out more about yourself, your new book, the new second version of your book and then lastly, any kind of final words, parting words of wisdom that you’d like to share?

Kamal: They could go to, I’m just setting that up and it should be interesting. I’ll put stuff on there. So they can always live with them up to I’m there and parting words of wisdom. That’s interesting. The parting words of wisdom is spend more time working on the inner game every day. It pays off dividends in ways you can’t even quantify. But every day set aside time, whatever your thing is, if you’re like, “Hey, I want to learn, to meditate, do yoga, whatever but do it.” But I think, I wouldn’t even say go beyond that like meditation is a really good one because it’s purely working mind. Everyone I know who does meditates obviously is the better for it. There’s no one I’ve met who had done meditation for a while who says, “You know what, it’s made my life worse.” Not a single person that I’ve ever met.

And we’re talking to like really high performing people. Very successful high performing people, high stress. I would say make the inner game, working on the inner game a core part of every day and it’ll pay off massive dividends.

Nathan: Yeah. I love it man because this is stuff no one ever speaks about.

Kamal: That’s funny because you should.

Nathan: Yeah, I agree. I agree. Awesome, man. Well look, we will wrap there, but thanks so much for your time.

Kamal: Yeah, it’s a pleasure.

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