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This Kombucha Entrepreneur Hired a Man Who Spoke No English. He Is Now a Company Executive

Fifteen years ago, a non-English-speaking man applied to work at GT’s Living Foods. In Spanish, he told the hiring manager, “I am willing to do anything.” He got the job.

Originally, his job was to sweep and mop the floors. He moved up to housekeeping, and later was promoted to work on the bottling line.

“Every month, every quarter, every year he grew, and his attitude got better,” says GT Dave, founder and CEO of GT’s Living Foods. “He promised he would do anything, and he did. He had zero ego, zero pride, and the best attitude I’ve ever seen.”

Dave even goes so far as to say that this hire is better at his job than any other employee–even those with more education and industry experience. Unlike many people, who are specifically good at only one or two tasks, this employee has an affinity for quickly learning how to do many different things. And now he’s an executive at GT’s Living Foods. His job is to develop kombucha flavors and to run production lines. He’s also a general problem solver for the company.

In a company like GT’s Living Foods, Dave says, he needs people who are scrappy, flexible, and quick to jump on problems that need solving. “We’re very, very lean. We’re very, very agile. We’re much more artistic than we are corporate,” Dave says. “It’s a hard environment for your typical executive to exist in.”

As such, Ivy League degrees and decades of experience don’t necessarily count for much. Dave says résumés don’t matter to him: He looks for the same can-do attitude in every applicant who walks in the door. And, once he hires someone, that person has to keep proving she’s worthy of the job.

“I want to see what you can do here, and now. That’s my litmus test for talent,” says Dave.

By: Lizabeth Frohwein

 

Source: This Kombucha Entrepreneur Hired a Man Who Spoke No English. He Is Now a Company Executive

Our Founder & CEO, GT Dave, speaks to industry leaders & entrepreneurial pioneers on “Keeping The Attachment” at BevNet Live Winter 2018 in Santa Monica, CA. Watch to the end to see the announcement of our newest offering, DREAM CATCHER: Our CBD-Infused Sparkling Wellness Water. For more information about GT Dave and GT’s Living Foods, visit GTsLivingFoods.com. Follow @GTsKombucha on Social Media! Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GTsLivingFoods/ Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/gtskombucha/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/gtskombucha Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/gtskombucha/ LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/gts-… Website: https://gtslivingfoods.com

 

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He Was Employee Number 7 At Tesla And Now Has Built A $1 Billion Business That Makes Your Phone Or Car Run Longer

Gene Berdichevsky was one of the early team members at Tesla. Now he’s building his own unicorn startup, Sila Nanotechnologies, which is valued at over $1 billion. One which looks like it will fuel every way you travel from the road to being in the air.

Berdichevsky recently appeared as a guest on the Dealmakers Podcast. During his exclusive interview, he shared his journey, building his first solar car, and how he’s raised hundreds of millions of dollars for his own technology startup that is growing at an incredible pace.

Thousands of Miles & Designing Your Own Education

He was born on the Black Sea in Ukraine, spent time in St. Petersburg, Russia, and even lived north of the arctic circle for five years. All before landing with his family in Richmond, Virginia, and attending college in California.

Gene was fortunate to grow up in an entrepreneurial family, and see his father start his own small businesses. Both of his parents were software engineers and worked on nuclear submarines.

So, the one thing he says he knew was, “I definitely wasn’t going to be a software engineer.” He did enjoy math and science a lot. That led him to study mechanical engineering.

Within his first year at Stanford, he got involved in their solar car project. Students would compete to build a solar-powered car and race it across the country, 2,300 miles, from Chicago to Los Angeles.

Gene’s team built the car chassis from scratch, built a carbon fiber body, and powered it with a battery with about the same strength as the toaster in your kitchen.

That was it. He fell in love with energy, problem-solving and building, and was really energized by having really built something from the ground up.

Mastering Energy

Berdichevsky went on to get a Master’s in energy engineering from Stanford. There was really no such program in existence at the time. So, he put together his own curriculum. He dove into materials, semiconductor physics, quantum mechanics, and solar.

Many people are already struggling with the decision to go to university. So, why go, and even create your own studies, when you can piece everything you want to know together online these days?

As with many of the other highly successful startup founders I’ve interviewed who have come out of Stanford, Gene found the network you gain access to very valuable. Some of those people still work for him at Sila today. He also credits the value of learning from your peers there.

Tesla & Battery Issues

At the end of his junior year, Gene became the seventh Tesla employee as a tech lead for battery system architectural development.

It’s no secret that there were plenty of early challenges for Tesla. They started out literally supergluing laptop batteries together to make the battery pack.

Then with safety the main concern was avoiding random failures. They happen in batteries. Even being rare, when you are using 10,000 batteries to run a single vehicle you really have to expect this to happen and preempt that.

Tesla grew from around 10 people when Berdichevsky started there, to around 300 when he left. About 30x in just four years. Tesla now has over 45,000 employees with a market cap of $40 billion.

His big lesson from Tesla was that as a startup founder, you want to go after really big problems. Ironically, Gene says sometimes it is easier to solve a really big problem, than a smaller one. For a start, it enables you to attract incredible talent. It is also both incredibly rewarding and reduces your competition.

From Tesla, he saw that you need to be willing to do things the world doesn‘t think are possible. This requires a mindset and a culture that is self-reliance where you are willing to do a lot of things in house.

Entrepreneurship In The Making

From the day he walked into Tesla, Gene says his brain was already fixated on “How do I start my own company? How do I build something like this?” He had even previously written a business plan for making electric cars in the U.S. market in his junior year at Stanford.

He then did a stint at Sutter Hill Ventures where he understood the VC lens when identifying entrepreneurs that have the potential for success. The key ingredients and how the lens is used to identify patterns includes the following:

1) Great markets defined by a great distribution

2) A strong product that captures the value

3) Founding teams equipped to resolve complex technical problems

Gene was traveling the world meeting many founders. During his time with Sutter Hill Ventures, Gene met his future co-founder, Gleb Yushin. Shortly after, Gene’s former Tesla colleague Alex Jacobs joined them as Sila Nano’s third co-founder.

After multiple conversations and understanding the value that each one of them brought to the table, they got started with a 1,000 sq. ft. lab in a basement at Georgia Tech and Sila Nanotechnologies was born.

Financing The Next Big Thing

Right after forming the team they went out to raise financing. They had a big advantage and that was the intellectual property Gleb had amassed which included six patents and four years of technical data around the problem they wanted to resolve.

They knew the technology was fully compatible and had a clear understanding of the road ahead given the years of experience at Tesla from Gene and his co-founder Alex.

They went out and raised a Series A round with Sutter Hill and Matrix as co-leads. Both of whom have continued investing in every round.

Sila’s most recent round of financing was a $170 million round led by Daimler. So far they’ve raised around $295 million.

The business positioning was critical as a lot of people had lost money in battery companies. From day one they were very clear they were not a battery company, but a technology company that makes materials for batteries. Batteries are a low margin market but the materials have a very healthy market as the better the product the higher the sales.

They are valued now at over $1 billion where storytelling played a big role. This is being able to capture the essence of the business in 15 to 20 slides. For a winning deck, take a look at the pitch deck template created by Silicon Valley legend, Peter Thiel (see it here) that I recently covered. Thiel was the first angel investor in Facebook with a $500K check that turned into more than $1 billion in cash.

Sila Nanotechnologies

During the early days, the cofounders were able to recruit a group of talented engineers to join them and from there started to build the business.

Their business model revolves around inventing, developing, manufacturing and selling their product.

In this regard, their product is a powder that replaces graphite powder in existing lithium-ion batteries. The more efficiently you can store lithium, the less material you need for the same amount of energy. Sila Nano’s material can store energy more densely, giving you more energy at similar volume and weight.

Sila can reduce battery weight by approximately 20 percent or increase energy stores by approximately 20 percent with it’s material. Meaning vehicles have the potential to go 20% further than anyone else’s.

Consider that every electric vehicle will need around 15 to 20 kilos of this material. Think forward to a few years from now when all vehicles are electric. You’re talking about a market of 100 million new vehicles per year. At 20 kilos per car, you’re talking about 2 billion kilos of this entirely new-to-the-world material that has to be produced, every year.

This material could also be used to fuel new air taxis, and change the way we travel, and the aerospace industry.

Sila has been growing by around 40-50% every year for the past five years, and there are no indications of that slowing down anytime soon.

Listen in to the full podcast episode to find out more, including:

  • The essential ingredients for raising money
  • Gene’s top piece of advice for his younger self and new founders
  • How to grow as a leader when your team is growing at 92% in two years
  • His approach to solving strategic problems

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website or some of my other work here.

I am a serial entrepreneur and the author of the The Art of Startup Fundraising. With a foreword by ‘Shark Tank‘ star Barbara Corcoran, and published by John Wiley & Sons, the book was named one of the best books for entrepreneurs. The book offers a step-by-step guide to today‘s way of raising money for entrepreneurs. Most recently, I built and exited CoFoundersLab which is one of the largest communities of founders online. Prior to CoFoundersLab, I worked as a lawyer at King & Spalding where I was involved in one of the biggest investment arbitration cases in history ($113 billion at stake). I am an active speaker and have given guest lectures at the Wharton School of Business, Columbia Business School, and at NYU Stern School of Business. I have been involved with the JOBS Act since inception and was invited to the White House and the US House of Representatives to provide my stands on the new regulatory changes concerning fundraising online.

Source: He Was Employee Number 7 At Tesla And Now Has Built A $1 Billion Business That Makes Your Phone Or Car Run Longer

He Built A $1 Billion Business Where All 700 Employees Work Remotely

Sid Sijbrandij knows a thing or two about building, scaling and even walking away from companies. His current venture is doing over $100 million in revenue and is valued at over $1 billion.

Originally from the Netherlands, Sid Sijbrandiij is now the founder of one of Silicon Valley’s unicorns that is powering the web through developers worldwide. It’s not his first startup rodeo either.

Sid Sijbrandij recently appeared on the DealMakers podcast. During the exclusive interview, he shared his entrepreneurial journey, the process of finding cofounders, bootstrapping versus raising millions, his addiction to fast-growth startups, and many more topics.

Seizing Opportunities

Sid Sijbrandi seems to have always had a gift for spotting business opportunities.

During high school, he studied applied physics and management science. He chose a kind of program that blends the benefits of an M.B.A., with getting good at several engineering disciplines.

In his first year at college, he also started his first company.

The idea came from a fellow Ph.D. student that had made an infrared receiver you could use to skip to the next song on your computer (the only thing that played an MP3 song at the time). He started buying these infrared receivers from him and selling them in the U.S. You’d send him an envelope of dollar bills, and he would then send you a printed circuit board.

Ultimately, his two cofounders didn’t agree on growth plans concerning hiring more people. Sid wanted to hire faster, so he didn’t have to spend as much time on it, while his cofounders wanted to optimize for free cash flow. They ended up parting ways amicably.

The Two Most important Things for Launching with Cofounders

Sid has experienced several startups and says his two big takeaways when it comes to cofounding a company are:

1) To be smart with the shares

2) To be sure you and your cofounders are aligned in vision

For example, automatically making everyone an equal cofounder, even if they come in way later in that process, can be a mistake.

Sid says it is important that shares “are aligned with their contribution to the company. It’s very important if you start a company to have vesting of your shares as well.”

This helps avoid the free rides, because if someone leaves with all the equity, then people that need to invest like VCs are going to be like, “Why am I investing for just 50% remaining of the business.”

In the Netherlands, Sid didn’t find the goal of local companies to grow really fast. If you do want to grow a company really fast, he says it is beneficial to be somewhere like the Bay Area, where everyone just assumes that is the goal.

Not just your cofounder, but also your accounts person and your lawyer, and everybody else requires the growth mindset.

Passion for Growth

After graduation, Sid spent a few months at IBM and could have stayed there. He had an interest in strategy consulting, as well as building a recreational submarine.

He made a balanced scorecard of all the different ways to make that decision. One of the criteria being, “Is this a good story to tell in a bar?” He showed his dad who said it was a ridiculous way to decide on your career but was very supportive either way.

So, he called someone interested in a submarine venture. His pitch was, “Look, you should really hire me because I have a job offer from IBM. Otherwise, I’ll start working there, and we both don’t want that.” He got the job.

He built the first onboard computer for the submarine. Today, U-Boat Worx is one of the biggest builders of recreational submarines. If you go on a cruise, and they have a submarine, it’s likely from U-Boat Worx.

Still, after five years, it just wasn’t growing at a pace that kept Sid interested. He then went on to do a part-time stint on an innovation project with the government as a civil servant.

During this time, he really got to know himself, and how fast-growing companies with a continuous string of problems to be solved were what kept him interested.

Funding Your Startup

After starting and selling app store Appappeal, Sid turned open-source software GitLab into a fast-growing venture that is on its way to an IPO in 2020.

He took the proceeds from his previous venture, doubled it in bitcoin, and began bootstrapping GitLab.com.

Sid got the first few hundred signups through an article posted on Hacker News. Then together with his cofounder applied and got into Y Combinator. The race to demo day, where they would present in front of top tier investors, was on.

Compressing their three-month plan into just two weeks, the GitLab team had a highly successful demo day, landing Ashton Kutcher as an investor.

There was so much interest in their seed round, they rolled right into the Series A financing round. They’ve since followed that up with a B, C and D financing rounds, raising a total of $158 million at $1.1 billion valuation.

Today, some of their investors include Khosla Ventures, Google Ventures, August Capital, ICONIQ Capital, 500 Startups, and Sound Ventures to name a few. It doesn’t get much better than that as a hyper-growth startup.

In order to do this, Sid and his team had to master storytelling. This is being able to capture the essence of the business in 15 to 20 slides. For a winning deck, take a look at the pitch deck template created by Silicon Valley legend, Peter Thiel (see it here) that I recently covered. Thiel was the first angel investor in Facebook with a $500K check that turned into more than $1 billion in cash.

Embracing The Remote Work

Sid states they “don’t do in person.“ At Gitlab they encourage having meetings with webcam. They believe there’s something to see in the other person even if it is via video.

To put this into perspective, every day, employees have a company call, and it’s a thing you do with a limited set of people. In this regard, there are about 20 in each group, and they just hangout.

During the group calls there are all types of topics discussed that vary from movies to magazines. Topics are not necessarily work-related.

Sid and his team very much believe that their company is more than just, “Hey your work…”

As part of Gitlab‘s culture, the social interaction plays a key role and they have a lot of ways in which they facilitate this inside the company. Even if this happens remotely.

M&A Made Simple

Recently Sid and GitLab have been very active when it comes to acquisitions on the buy-side. That includes Gitorious in 2015, Gitter in 2017 and Gemnasium in 2018.

When it comes to acquiring companies, they’ve made the process incredibly simple, and are actively looking for more companies to buy.

In this regard, they like to acquire teams that have built a product before. Preferably a team that made a great product, but didn’t get distribution. Especially because typically they shut their existing product down.

To make things easier, they have an acquisition offer page. It even includes a calculator, so you can go online and calculate how much they’re offering.

Listen in to the full podcast episode to find out more, including:

  • When to pull the plug on your startup
  • The advantages of SAFE notes for raising money
  • How GitLab does meetings and culture around the globe
  • Why they pay based on where team members live
  • Tips for recruiting top engineers
  • Why you should read the GitLab handbook

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website or some of my other work here.

I am a serial entrepreneur and the author of the The Art of Startup Fundraising. With a foreword by ‘Shark Tank‘ star Barbara Corcoran, and published by John Wiley

Source: He Built A $1 Billion Business Where All 700 Employees Work Remotely

Meet The Woman Turning The Payday Loan Industry On Its Head

It’s the early 2000s and Ennie Lim is what creditors refer to as credit invisible. Despite touting a bachelors degree from a prestigious university in Montreal and logging several years of work experience in the US working for San Fransisco nonprofits, Lim has no history with any of the US banking institutions and therefore is unable to get approved for any of the major credit cards. Working in Silicon Valley, her funds are understandably tight and once she goes through a divorce – in spite of the fact that she was working a good job with a steady income – she finds herself unable to afford San Francisco rent prices.

Source: Meet The Woman Turning The Payday Loan Industry On Its Head

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