Podcast 2: Rafael Badziag on interviewing Billionaires and writing a bestseller

I had the opportunity to interview best-selling author Rafael Badziag about his entrepreneurial experiences, and what he learned while writing the book The Billion Dollar Secret where he interviewed 21 self-made billionaires. 

Check out Rafael’s book here: www.TheBillionDollarSecret.com

Twitter: @BillionairePal

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/rafaelbadziag

Instagram: www.instagram.com/rafaelbadziag

YouTube Channel: The Billion Dollar Secret

Interview Transcript

ANDREW: I am here today with Rafael Badziag, German-based global entrepreneur, TED speaker best-selling author and angel investor. I had the opportunity to speak with him today, just a few days after his book launch, “The Billion Dollar Secret”, where Rafael actually interviewed 21 self-made billionaires and condensed their knowledge. I had the opportunity to read it and check out some of the advice but basically it’s for readers to learn from billionaires instead of millionaires. I just want to thank you for taking the time so soon after your launch and sit here with me in Germany. 

RAFAEL: Thanks Andrew for having me. It’s a pleasure and an honor to be in your podcast. 

ANDREW: You are the second person I’m interviewing, the idea of this podcast is really to find out your mindsets the skills that made a difference in your life, about the things that you’ve overcome and of course talk about the things that inspired you and can offer to other entrepreneurs In the future, especially things like your book. So the first question I have is, I’d love to hear about your first few years at www.raddiscount.de, I believe it was your first company. And just some of the challenges that you encountered in your company. 

RAFAEL: Okay, so.. I founded the company as a hobby project. It wasn’t intended to become a business, because I was a student at that time. Somehow I was looking to apply my knowledge in computer science that I was getting. It was, let’s say, in the middle of the 90’s. I actually went to the States to study at the university there and I realized, the internet was coming at that time. It was actually after Amazon was founded but Amazon wasn’t known at that time. I didn't know anything about Amazon but I could see the first search engines and the internet becoming commercialized, and in Europe we had internet maybe in the universities and students had emails, but there was nothing commercial on the internet. 

I decided when I came back to Germany to actually start the first online shop in sporting goods because my father had a background and connections in the industry. We actually had a little business in sporting goods. Import-export kind of business. And so I wanted to leverage that, the sourcing of the material, and put the technology or use the US technology just to start the first online shop for sporting goods. Which I did out of the dorm and it grew pretty fast so after 1-2 years I had generally to focus completely on, after I graduated, I decided to focus completely on the company. But I didn't have any business education. I am a mathematician. I have a masters in math. So it was good for the technology part. 

But after several years, I realized there is something missing in my entrepreneurial personality. It wasn't that much, now I realize it was also skills, but at that time I thought it was just the personality until that time, I thought if I had the right business model, I will become successful in business and from the outside, it looks like we are a multi-million dollar company. But I was looking into my competition who started later but grew faster and becoming bigger, and somehow they quickly surpassed me and more successful. And I realized we have the same business model. So I realized it’s not about the business model, it’s about the person who actually implements the business model, the entrepreneur. About how you build your company, how you hire people, what kind of people you hire and so on. There are so many elements in business and it’s not only based on your skills but somehow also in your personality: in the way how you approach problems, how you communicate with your customers, with your employees, with your business partners--these kinds of stuff. And I realized, I have to learn more about business. 

So I started reading all these business books, books about personal development, I started going to all these different conferences. And I had this key experience when I was in one of the conferences jumping around with other people, high-fiving each other and telling each other, shouting to each other, “You’ve got a millionaire mind.” It felt somehow awkward for me, it didn't resonate with me. I didn't know what it was at that moment, but after a while of course I realized I have a millionaire mind, I have a multi million dollar company. But it doesn't feel successful, it was a constant uphill battle, firefighting, a lot of stress, a lot of work and at the end we weren’t making the money I was thinking of.

I had ambition to make, I realized being a millionaire is actually not a big deal nowadays. Being a millionaire is pretty average in business. In the states, when you come from the States, one in 20 entrepreneurs are actually millionaires. So let’s say, one in 10 make it in business, they stay over the water. One or two stay over the water are actually millionaires, right? So this is average, this is mediocrity, this is not what it used to be. All these books, thousands of books on millionaire thinking, they don’t bring you to business success or not to the levels I was thinking about. I had to compete with people who were much much better in what they did, than I was. And for that, millionaire thinking just wouldn’t make it. It just wasn't enough. 

So I had to somehow access the knowledge and to twist down of people who were above the level of my competition. It’s always the best to learn from the best in the world. We are in Germany now so a good example is football, for you Americans, it’s soccer. So if you want to play Premiere League or Champions League, would you rather learn from a third league player? His skills, his knowledge won't bring you there. You need to learn from somebody at the top from other premiere or let’s say champion league players or maybe from world champions. 

So in business it’s the same. If you want to develop the best practices, the best attitude, the best skills, learn from the best people in business. And who are the best people in business? Apparently the billionaires, because we have this one objective measure of success in business. This is net worth so the value you have created in your business, success. So more or less after maybe 5, 10 years into my business career, probably more than 10 years, I realized that I need to learn from the billionaires, and this is how I embarked on this journey to write this book as you were mentioning before.

ANDREW: So one of the things I love the most that you said in some of your interviews is that, our limitations we have are just in our minds. They don't actually exist. I am curious to know what mindset helped you kind of go about starting this project and your company. What kind of mindset has changed after talking to the 21 self-made billionaires? 

RAFAEL:  For sure you need a certain mindset to start to embark on this project because it has never been done before. If you look at the probabilities and the odds, you need to realize in the world, only 1 in 5 million people in the world is a billionaire. So the chance is comparable to winning the pot in the national lottery. The main pot, one in 5 million more or less. 

For this book I need to get at least 20 billionaires, to interview at least 20 billionaires so do you know anybody who won the main pot in the national lottery? Common sense tells us this is plain impossible. You need a set mindset to dare to approach such a project. And I didn’t have any connections. I didn’t know any single billionaire when I started.  But I had some previous experiences that made me believe, maybe not believe, but made me think it could be worthwhile and if it succeeds, then of course it’s a great thing. Alone, for that, it’s worth trying. 

So before that, I had some experiences if you would encourage your viewers or your audience to check out my TED talk called “Impossible is Easier Than You Think,” where I talked about approaching impossible challenges, how to approach impossible challenges that made me able  to somehow approach them. So maybe the first experience that I had was running a simple marathon. Because 3 months before running the 1st marathon, I thought it wasn't possible for me. So I realized, but then after 3 months of preparation, after 3 months of training, I could tell you, I found out it was possible. I was watching a TV, there was like a world championship in marathon in Barcelona. I was watching that marathon running, when you watch it, it's really boring. 

But I was blank in the background at that time, I still was watching tv and I overheard an information that we have like two and a half thousand or 2500 anniversary of the original marathon run. It was 2010. I was reminded myself of history, the marathon battle 490 BC so 2010 it’s up to 2500. I always had this thinking, like many people at some point in my life, I want to run a marathon. But you just put it off and off and so on. But then I heard that 2500th anniversary of marathon run, there will be no better opportunity for me to actually run a marathon. I will certainly not be alive when there is 3000th anniversary for marathon. 

So I decided to actually run this marathon that year 2010, it was at the end of August. so the next thing I do, I check out and when you want to run a marathon the best would be to run the original course so what I do is check the original Athens marathon from the town of Marathon to athens. It takes place at the end of November, and we have end of August. So, it’s like exactly 3 months, I had three months left. I had no other choice than to find training program to be able to run a marathon within these 3 months. Which I did. And I prepared and so on. 

At the end I ran the marathon without any problems and something that I considered impossible was in fact possible. So one of the first lessons was most of the things we consider impossible are generally just our thoughts, they are just opinions. It doesn't have anything to do with reality, it’s just our thinking. So we need to actually find out what the reality is. So this is the one thing. And the other thing is that there are certainly things that are impossible for your physically. Like for me 3 months before the marathon, it was actually physically impossible for me to run a marathon at that time. So I would either give up on the way, or maybe collapse, but I wasn't able to run this marathon. 

But within these 3 months, I made the transition but I'm going to the right direction, from something impossible into something possible. I learned that even when something for you is impossible, it doesn't mean it can never be possible. Always and also this dimension of time, you can make something possible within a certain time if you go in the right direction, if you take certain steps. This was my first key experience. 

Then the other key experience that I started 3 yrs later, I started running ultra marathons. Ultra marathons are, as you say it in the States, a completely different ballgame. What you learn with ultramarathons, of course you learn many things, one of the things is that it’s about never giving up. I could tell you, just watch my TED talk, I had this experience during one of my ultramarathons that I was completely knocked out after 32 kilometers. 

So I ran several of these ultramarathons, one of them was 111 kilometers through the Sahara Desert in 40 degrees celsius. In Fahrenheit, it would be over 100 degrees. Due to different unexpected emergencies, I was knocked out after 32 kilometers, so I had like literally wounds on my soles, that was squelching scratching in my shoes. My knee was destroyed, I wasn't able to actually run. I was stumbling through the course. Then I had a jammed nerve in my spine so i couldn’t breathe, I was actually knocked out, I was at the end, I was boiling in my own sweat. 

I was prepared for a crisis after 60 kms or something, but here I was after 32 kilometers I was ready to give up. And then, but in reality I was able to actually run 80 kilometers more. All through, I thought it’s impossible, I mean I have to give up, I’m dying generally after 32 kilometers. There was no way I could run 80 kilometers more, but I did. 

So what you learn at ultramarathons is actually this perseverance. This belief that even if you think at the end of your rope, it doesn't mean it is really the end. You can still go farther, you can still go much much farther, and you can do much much more. So this somehow resourcefulness, getting really deep in what is really possible for you. You extend the zone of your possibilities when you try to approach your limits, or cross your limits. You never really cross your limits, because when you approach them, they expand. So then you can do more and more. Running ultramarathons actually make you realize how much you can achieve in your life. 

Usually in our lives, we are maybe at 1 or 5 percent of our possibilities, it’s easy life we actually live in our daily lives. We are so far away from our limits. If you could force yourself to approach these limits, you can amaze yourself and the world. This project is just an example of that. So the book project we are talking about. So with that mindset, when you approach that, then you can make it possible. It took a lot of setbacks, a lot rejections at the beginning. But if you are persistent, you just don't give up until you succeed. This is one of the things that I learned during ultramarathons and later from the billionaires, maybe in a different form. 

During the ultramarathons, I learned that the people who achieved success are not the people who have the lucky circumstances. They are those who just don't give up until they achieve what they want. So you just stick at it until you achieve it. What billionaires told me is that they never accepted a “no”. So it is the same in business, if you get rejected from somebody, you just work around that, improve yourself, and then you try again. 

I have in my book interviewed Lirio Parisotto, he was actually in the book launch where you were attending as well. And he was trying to convince every one of the big 5 or big 6 film companies to do the distribution of movies through his company because he integrated video distribution business in Brazil. So he was doing like the physical production, the subtitles, the Brazilian version, then they played it on the media then you know distributed it to the customers, invoiced, and everything. He integrated the core business but of course, the film giants they don't want to be served like all of them by the same person. If he is a monopolist, he has too much power in that relationship. Too much business power. So it was really difficult to, for example, to convince Warner Brothers. 

But after 6 or 7 years he convinced also Warner Brothers, all the others, so he kept like over 90% of the business of all the movies that were published in Brazil. They were published through his company. Because he was servicing each and every one of these big 5 or big 6 film giants, so this is what you can also use in business for sure you can do it. 

ANDREW: Absolutely. Throughout the book, perseverance comes up a lot. One of the billionaires you interviewed, he was at the border crossing, saying he was going to mine one the moon, and the border guard actually said I’m not gonna let you in the country because you sound crazy. To me, someone who has never run a marathon, the idea that there’s blood in your shoes, you feel like your knees are breaking and you can breathe right, it’s a little bit crazy and so I think you probably have similarities with the billionaires you’re interviewing, the way you’re willing to go so much farther than other people.

RAFAEL: Yeah, beyond your limits, right? I mean, there is a saying that somehow inspires me by TS Elliott saying "Only those who dare going too far, can actually find out how far one can go." And, you can't explain or you can't expect billionaires to be like average or normal people, because if you were normal, you wouldn't be a billionaire right. You need something, maybe not craziness, maybe something extreme about yourself in order to scale without limits. Because as a normal entrepreneur, let's say I call millionaires successful entrepreneurs or mediocre or average entrepreneurs, When they achieve a certain level, they just stop performing. they say why should I perform, I can live a comfortable life with what I have. My company's making money, I should enjoy my life. But it needs a certain attitude in order to not stop at that level in order to go and scale without limits. To have this curiosity to find out how far you can scale, where the limits are, where is the sky. 

ANDREW: It seems to be about having big goals. In one of the chapters you talked about how millionaires are just comfortable. Their goals are a certain number, a certain monetary number, or a certain comfort level, and when they reach that, they are comfortable and they don't push further. And that's the only separation they have from billionaires. So do you think, you setting these big goals made what have you accomplished what you did in this book? 

RAFAEL: Yeah I think this is something to talk about in this TED talk about doing the impossible things. In this book I describe it as hunger and desire and passion are the three main motivators in business. So if you have this hunger for success pursuing big things, this is one of the right motivations to achieve these things. And this is also something I think the bigger your goal is, the more motivated you are. It also means, somehow paradoxically, sometimes it's easier to achieve big goals than small goals. Let's say it's easier to lose 5 pounds than 20 pounds. 5 pounds doesn't motivate anybody, and it’s then difficult to get this discipline to diet and whatever, to actually lose these 5 pounds. But when you set yourself a big goal, a big hairy goal, let's say running an ultramarathon of 100 kilometers. This is crazy. But this really motivates you. So you have no problem when you have this crazy goal to get up at 5am, and go for training. It doesn't matter if it rains, it snows, you go for training even if it's dark, if other people are asleep.

ANDREW: It helps with the discipline, to have amazing goals.

RAFAEL: It helps a lot. In that sense, it sometimes it's really easier to achieve big goals than small goals. Let's say in this example, you don't need to go to that extreme, but if you have a goal of running a marathon for example. This is also a big goal for most people, but when you have this goal of training for a marathon, on the way to that you will certainly lose 5 pounds. But in my opinion it is much easier to get into training and run a marathon than to force yourself to a diet to lose 5 pounds.

ANDREW: That's incredible. That kind of thinking is different than the way most people think. I think that's one of the powerful parts about your book. But as for me, it's not just about these overarching mindsets, you also have a lot of really specific strategies that I know will help me. I was really curious, what are some of the things that you implemented immediately. Like you had a meeting with somebody, and you were just like, "I need to do this right away." and you did it and you changed your life. I'm just curious if there's anything that jumps out at you that you immediately changed your life when you heard it from one of these interviews. 

RAFAEL: Many things, many things. Maybe I will start with explaining that most of the time I was still travelling around the world. Like last week within 4 days I was in 4 countries, I had this book launch in London, then I was in Monaco, then France then Germany. So most of the time I have been travelling. But nevertheless I implemented some of the things in my business like soft factors that were easy to implement because I didn't have to change any processes and so on. At that alone brought within a year a doubling revenue. This was in multi-million dollar company, so it's not that easy to double your revenue within a year. And we made more than triple the profits. 

ANDREW: What were these changes that you made? 

RAFAEL: It weren't really dramatic changes in systems and process, nothing like that. we have changed the way we perceive ourselves, how we perceive our customers, how we talk to each other, how we talk to the customer, and how we approach problems. Generally there's some strategies from the book but there are also some things I definitely implemented in my life. And in general in business, because this is not the only company that I'm doing. Actually, the business started to explode like the number of opportunities and abundance in my life started literally to explode.

One of the things is this abundance mindset. So I had for a long time kind of had a scarcity mindset. It was one of the things I was investing in, because I was always in this tech or internet spheres. I was investing in internet domains. And in internet domains, when you are a domain investor, you have a scarcity mindset. And this is the same by the way in real estate, like let's say the traditional real estate investment. Because what your mindset is, I reserve an asset that will be needed, like in the best location, and when somebody wants to get into this location, basically I’m blocking this value for me because if somebody wants a shop in that location, I can sell to him or rent it for a high price. So this is the scarcity mindset, they are like scarce assets and you try to somehow take possession of these scarce assets and then leverage on somebody else’s needs for these scarce assets. 

The same is in the domaining, or in the traditional domaining. But then the industry can disrupt it, because these global TLD’s have started to appear, like you can have now domains .bank, .book, .house and so on, .music, .guru. Before that you could only have .com, .edu. Very scarce set of domains. So if I wanted to sell real estate in the states, and I have realestate.com, I was the king for that domain and some would set and speculate the domain to somebody for big money, because this is the only best domain he could have, and there was no other domain he could get. But now, the options for the domain in the market are much bigger, because of these different endings. What does it mean? Some people came into this industry with an abundance mindset and what abundance mindset does is actually not based on the scarcity of the assets. They actually create abundance of the assets, so they create much more options for people to be able to do business, to do whatever they want. 

ANDREW: So what did that look like in your business? What changes did you make regarding abundance?

RAFAEL: So what it means in my business is that I actually started to create opportunities for other people. So not looking at your own perspective on your profits, you start creating opportunities for others, making it easier for others to do business. And this creates abundance in your life. The other thing is also, like how you approach your employees in your company, or how you approach your business partners. I described that in the book. Tony Tan Caktiong, he owns 4,500 restaurants. One of the top 10 best companies in the world. He is also the world entrepreneur in 2009. So the best entrepreneur in that year. Self made billionaire. 

He told me this story about his business. He had a friend with his own business and at this time, his friend’s business was bigger than his. This friend told him, “Why are you paying your people that much? If you pay them less, it goes directly to your bottom line, to your profit.” And the funny thing is, Tony Tan Caktiong became the biggest restaurant company in Asia, and top 10 in the world. And self made billionaire. The other guys company doesn't exist anymore. They went bankrupt. 

This is the same how you approach your partners in business. Do you want to get the last dime in the business, or do you want to take advantage of your position maybe, or do you want a long term relationship with your business partner. And so that you can actually your business in the future and create opportunity for him and of course for yourself. So this is how it plays out in my life, this abundance mindset. The other thing is partnerships. These long term partnerships, sustaining and creating them. This is something I actually learned from billionaires. Sometimes it takes years before they actually came to fruition or somehow pay off, but you don’t approach from that standpoint. I just catch 2 or 3 basic goals. Like an example of that, you know I always say very simple things. I always say to people I am in contact with or I have been in contact with, I always send like seasons greetings for Christmas, like personal messages. It's not like standard copy paste. Now I write something out of my head, something inspirational to greet people 2-3 times, to different occasions. And it pays off, because people remember me. If there is a deal to be made or a business that can be made, they come back and acknowledge me, and so on. For example, I also have quite sizeable community in Poland because I also have a Youtube channel there. This book, The Billion Dollar Secret, I wanted to self-publish in Poland and I took out the rights for Poland. Since you have your own big community you want to somehow take advantage of that. And so a guy came to me approached me after my book launch. Asked me if I would like him to help me with that. This guy is actually in my opinion he is maybe not the largest publisher in Poland but he has an attractive business model which will become the dominator in this market. This is certainly somebody I want to have in my team instead of having him against me. This is also some kind of thinking, some perspective like you are not alone. There are a lot of people in the world. There is every resource you can think of, every type available. Somebody has this resource at his hands. The only way to reach these resources is cooperation. Partnerships. If you partner with that person, you will have access and help each other.

ANDREW: So is it just about having lots and lots of conversations with people? 

RAFAEL: I wouldn't call it a simple networking. I wouldn't, because I don't consider myself a good networker. In spite of what you may be thinking, that I met 21 self-made billionaires, or 30 billionaires maybe that I met, I am not a good networking type because I don't go to these networking events, speak up to people just to chat and so on, but what I think is these general thinking of like partnerships and maybe alliances, and these you have to realize that in most businesses, let's say you're in event management business, there are thousands of companies in the event management business. Most of them they have the same business model. There is really difficulty to bring in something new in the business model. So at the end, who do you think wins? The companies with the best team. Just like in football, if you play against each other, the rules, the training options, whatever, the physical, the laws of physics are the same for everybody. But the best team wins. So, thinking in this method, you need to partner with the best people in order to win in the game of business. Because the best team wins. 

ANDREW: You’ve got a big leg up in partnering with the best people after interviewing these amazing folks! I want to ask a couple of questions about the book. I was really struck by comments about your interviews with these gentlemen and successful entrepreneurs, how they spoke about you. They spoke after meeting with you that they were inspired. Jack Cowin was one of them saying that you went in for 1 hour meeting and you ended up talking for 6 hours. So what do you think it was about you and your personality that has the ability to inspire billionaires? 

RAFAEL: I’m not sure there is anything special about that. It’s difficult to talk about yourself, but maybe I always started the conversation with what inspired me and why I was there. “Start with why” is generally important. What is your mission? Why are you so excited about that? Being excited or being fascinated with what you do, having fun with that, it's a big leg up, a big advantage, as people pick up on your mission. And they want to join you or even to help you. As you mentioned Jack is the most generous person in the world. He has everything, he’s in that stage of the game, as he calls it, when he does not need fame or anything. He helps out of pure humanity, like being human, trying to help somebody, or support somebody because he finds it worthwhile, he finds the mission exciting. Something that is ambitious and valuable. 

So first of all, your attitude. If you are excited about what you do you can be a stamp collector, if you are really excited about that, people can pick up with that, and get excited about you. You just pick up the vibe. So this is the one thing. The other thing is, often, these entrepreneurs as you can see in the book, one of the things is that they read a lot in the beginning of their careers. And some of the billionaires in my book, they were inspired by the same books that I was inspired by. The big example or role model was Napoleon Hill, who 100 years ago had a similar project. He met Andrew Carnegie who was the wealthiest person on the planet at that time. He gave him the mission to talk to the most successful entrepreneurs in the States, introduced him to these entrepreneurs and to find out what in their personalities that made them so successful, to construct the first philosophy of success. Napoleon Hill spent probably around 20 years talking to these people, partly working with them and living with them. After 20 years, he published this great book, “Think and Grow Rich”. My project is the same idea, 100 years later with our contemporary, most successful people, most successful entrepreneurs. They didn't have billionaires at that time, the dollar had a different value, different purchasing power. But today we have billionaires. The most successful entrepreneurs are billionaires. 

The difference between me and Napoleon Hill is that I do it one level higher, on a global scale. Of course, at that time, he couldn’t travel as easily as we can today. So from that perspective it’s easier for me, but on the other hand, I didn't have anybody at the beginning to introduce me to other billionaires. I started with zero, so in that way, it was more difficult for me. But what I wanted to tell you is that these people also read Think and Grow Rich. Jack Cowin is an example, we started talking about these things and he could think back to his first years in business and could see maybe me in himself. So the same things inspired him. So this is the second thing. 

And the third thing is actually maybe something on that level, you need some kind of respect from these people, otherwise maybe they don't have the time to talk to you. So I think me running these ultramarathons, certainly helped to get their respect. Because this was some aspect of life they can't imagine themselves doing. You respect that, you come over as an expert not only as a crazy outstanding performer in some aspect of life, maybe sports whatever, and they are extreme performer in another aspect of life. 

ANDREW: You share those things and you share the comparisons together.

RAFAEL: So this helps for sure, and as I explained during the book launch. You can't buy billionaires’ time. You can't pay hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars for a 2-3 hour interview. And this is what their time is worth. So you need to bring other kinds of value to that meeting. 

ANDREW: For folks who haven't read Think and Grow Rich, and aren't part of that community, or have just heard of the movie The Secret. How do you respond to people who think these books are about magic, and just manifesting things and they will appear out of nowhere? I’d like to hear your response because these books, Napoleon Hill’s, and now yours, have helped me in my life. And how would you respond to someone who just thinks like that?

RAFAEL: First of all, I don't see my book in the same group. This is also one of the major differences between my book and Napol Hill, I don't have anything esoteric. When you read my book there is nothing esoteric in my book. Absolutely nothing. I'm not somebody who believes in hocus pocus, on stuff falling from the sky. So in that respect I'm different from Napoleon Hill. I don't say Napoleon Hill is wrong, or bullshit, it was just a different time. At that time, people may be more responsive to soft psychology, or this kind of inspiration. My book is simple psychology. Everything in that book, you can somehow follow and it's like when you read through that, you realize, “Yeah, it’s self-explaining. Why did I think differently in the past?” There is nothing that is magical, I would say about the book. Of course the results you get are magical. Because most people can't imagine the results that you can get. For example, this is something I was talking about before. If you get close to your limits, you can astound yourself and the world. Several times after my ultramarathons, I had this feeling, I couldn't comprehend, I couldn't imagine how I actually did it. I couldn't believe I actually did it.  You come to that level. 

This is the same in business. The results you get, all of these billionaires, they said they wanted to be the best in their business, they wanted to  grow, to compete. But they never imagined it would come to that scale. To that huge number of stores, restaurants. The billionaire I interviewed from Russia, Sergey Galitskiy, owns 17,000 supermarkets. This is just amazing, this is unbelievable, incomprehensible. So most people think, and this is what I actually conclude in my first chapter, most people in the mainstream think that they need to be in certain circumstances, they need to have great conditions in order to succeed. That they themselves are products of the conditions they were born in, or they exist or live in. This is actually the difference between average people, millionaires and billionaires. What do millionaires think? They think, I have faith in my hands, the only thing I need is an opportunity, some favorable conditions, and then I can take advantage of that. This is millionaire thinking. But what billionaires think, and this is why they become so successful, they think that no matter what I will become successful, or i will do it. The billionaires they didn't become successful because of the conditions they were born in, or they lived in. They became successful despite these conditions because most of the people I described in the book, you wouldn't like to change with, when you look at the conditions where they started from. 

ANDREW: The stories in the first chapter is pretty incredible. 

RAFAEL: One was born in the desert, they didn't have parents. Poverty, violence, partly. They came from some of the worst situations you could imagine, and they made their way through their lives despite all these conditions. And in the end they became winners in their industries or in their lives. So at the end, what I want to say, there’s nothing magical about that. These attitudes that you need to develop that are described in the book, they made you perform on that level, and you have to realize that success doesn't come to you. You need to work for that success, and you are responsible for your success. The results you get, they come from within you and not from the outside factors. So I would say, for the people who would think hocus pocus, or The Secret and stuff, it is called The Billion Dollar Secret but it doesn't have anything to do with the movie, The Secret. It is really simple tangible psychology and is explained in the book exactly how it works.

ANDREW: I was really struck by that, in each of the chapters, the takeaways, the action steps, the specific things to follow. Everything from getting up really early each day, to the way you approach employees. For me, I’ll be honest, I'll be graduating in 3 weeks from an entrepreneurial program, just starting my business in the last 3 months. I’m so inspired by your book and want to jump into your advice but there is so much to do. So if you want to give advice to me right now, there’s so many skills you teach, so many action steps, so many processes that I can see the logic of, and how it would help me. Where do I start, what are the first few steps?

RAFAEL: Becoming a billionaire is never easy. It's always difficult when I get interviewed by journalists. I don't include you here, but they say to explain to me how to become a billionaire into 2-3 simple steps. Impossible. If it was that easy, we will have much more billionaires than we have in the world. I think I wrote the chapters in the sequence that you should proceed in. You can't learn everything, you can't change yourself completely just like that, you need some time for that. 

But I think the sequence of the chapters is right. The first thing is to realize is that it is within you. You are responsible for your results.  Of course there are setbacks and so on, and you need some luck, but as you read in the book, the more swings you take, the more luck you get. The more you work, the more luck you get. But the first thing is to realize this is within you. So if you really internalize that, you can proceed, and then you jump into the water, and you learn to swim along the way. This is also something, as I learned when I graduated from university as well, you have this attitude and you get that in educational institutions, that you need to learn, to learn, to learn, and to know everything, like be prepared for every event or eventuality in order to start. And this is bullshit. This way, you will never start. 

Most people fail in business even before they start because they never start. So the billionaires, most of them just jump into business, into this great adventure, and learn as much as possible on the way. The best way to learn to swim is when you’re actually swimming, then you can improve because you know what's working, what's not working. If you are just imagining things, you can't imagine all the situations that real business and real life brings you. 

So the best school of business is actually doing business. So this is the second step, I would say, and then you start with these habits. Develop the right habits, because, for example, getting up early, gives you much more time, much more focused time on your business. And all these things, apparently sports, or health, you need for better performance in business. Billionaires, they don't do sports it's fun for them, or because others do that, or maybe to look good. No, they do sports because they know health is important for performance, for any performance. 

ANDREW: Got it. So following the process of the book will help me get started. Cause, I will admit, there is so much good advice. The condensed knowledge in this book, it's like reading 4 or 5 books in one.

RAFAEL: What Lirio Parisotto, one of the billionaires, told me, is that the first time he was holding the manuscript in his hands, “Man, I wish I had such a book when I was young, because it would save me reading 20+ books I have read at that time. These business books, you have it condensed in that one book.” and Jack Canfield from my Youtube channel, check out his interview. He said something like, because his son in MBA program, he said, “They don't teach that in the university. This is like an MBA on steroids.”

ANDREW: I can tell you, I’m graduating in 3 weeks from my entrepreneur MSc. Almost all the things you teach in there, we didn't have a class on it. So maybe you can start that next, maybe that can be one of your projects, include this in the curriculum. But to close out, one of your messages were don't learn from millionaires, learn from billionaires. You asked Jack Cowin the same question, and I'm curious what are the three takeaways readers to get from your book? The main message that you’re trying to get across?

RAFAEL: The first one is the realization that success is within you, and don't wait for success to come to you or something to happen, just take fate in your hands. You are the creator of your life and your circumstances. Realize that, and it will help you in business and in life in general. Then for business, I think what I consider very important is that the attitude to mistakes, failures, and risks. This is a complex topic, but you have to realize, there is no success without risks. Most people take only limited risks and most people never leave their comfort zones. They are afraid to take risks. If you don't take risks or you take risks only with limited upside, your success will be limited. This is something to realize. 

Also, and this is connected to that, the attitude to mistakes or to failures. In the educational system, we are punished for the mistakes, or the mistakes you do through your grades or whatever. You have multiple choice test, the less failures or mistakes, the less errors, the better your score. But life and business, they work differently. You get a prize, or you are awarded for taking shots or taking chances, and you are not that much punished by the failures. Actually you have unlimited amount of tries you could in your life, or shots you could take. Most people they don’t take any shots, and they wonder why they don't win, why they don’t succeed. You have to take your chances to try to achieve something. Nobody remembers the failures. It’s enough to be right just once. Just once. When you are right once, you can scale it immensely. So you can take 100 tries, with 100 different business or approaches, and if you find the right one, you will see it explode, then you are on the right path, and you can get it done. So this is the second one. 

The third one, I would say, is constant improvement. Maybe in the States, you have a different culture. In Europe, we have this mainstream culture of getting the formal education and that’s it. You got your education, you think you have learned for your life, now you got to perform to earn, to make your money, with what you have learned. But this is the wrong mindset. This is not what billionaires do. Billionaires actually use the opportunity to learn, and never stop learning, never stop improving. Because this is another thing people don't realize, you don't realize how much improvement you get in your life when you improve let’s say everyday just by 1%. So you have in a year, you have more than 300, it compounds, it’s like you have 4x improvement. In two years, you have 16x improvement. So it's unbelievable what you can do by this small improvements strategy each and every day. And what billionaires do, is they improve their businesses or themselves. They should improve every day a little bit, a little bit, a little bit. In the end their businesses perform like crazy. They outperform everybody and scale to eternity. 

So these are the three, and this is the same as reading books. One of the self-improvements is reading books. One of the billionaires reads almost every day or regularly. Some of them, they have built that into their habits, into their morning or evening routines. This is something that lets you access the wisdom of other people who spent their lives writing down everything that they learned in their lives. This is something most people just undervalue. And so this is part of the constant and never ending improvement. So these takeaways would be the most valuable from the book. But the entire book has 20 principles, and don't think that 2 or 3 will be enough or will let you perform on the billionaire level. And even if you get 20, success in business is never guaranteed. But your chances increase dramatically. 

ANDREW: Well, I have to say, reading this book has definitely changed my thinking and, in the path to self improvement, I have no doubt that it will make a difference in a lot of people’s lives. Thank you from me on behalf of all the folks that are getting your book this week. It's been amazing talking to you. I can't wait to hear what’s next on the horizon. So for folks that are listening I'm gonna a link to your book below and link to your social media.

RAFAEL: I would encourage everybody to also check out my free materials on Youtube, because I talk a lot about these topics on Youtube. I interview on video also these self-made billionaires. There’s a lot of interviews about billionaires, about billionaire thinking, what I have learned from them. I also tell stores that may not be included in the book. Some of them, check out my Youtube channel. When you search The Billion Dollar Secret on YouTube, you will find that channel. 

ANDREW: I’ll make sure to include that line as well, below. And it is a great honor to have you on the show, and thank you all for listening. 

RAFAEL: Thanks so much, thanks for having me here. 

Podcast 1: Jeff Lynn, Co-Founder of Seedrs

Would love you to listen to our new podcast episode out! Here is the link:


This is the transcript of the podcast for those who like to read along, hope you enjoy it as much as we did recording it!

Jeff Lynn is the Executive Chairman and Co-founder of Seedrs, one of the pioneers of Equity Crowdfunding. He created Seedrs as part of a business project while attending an MBA program at the University of Oxford, and spent 3 years on getting the idea approved by European regulators. After getting regulatory approval in 2012, Seedrs received a first round of £1M and now has over £48M in funding from investors and is now considered the leading online platform for investing in startup equity in Europe.

Andrew: To learn a little more about you, could you tell me a little about yourself and your business background? I could only find your experience from Seedrs and previous experience as a corporate lawyer. Did you jump right into the “right” decision with Seedrs?

Jeff: Sort of yes, with an MBA in between. I was a corporate lawyer with very conventional training — undergrad in the states, law school in the states, law masters here at Oxford and started practicing in New York City. Then I had a chance to come over to my firms London office so I did that. But I always had this kind of inkling that this wasn’t what I wanted to do for my whole career. The thing that struck me as I was working as an M&A lawyer on really big deals with massive companies is, I was payed very well, but all I was seeing was value being destroyed along the way. Large companies who were struggling to find ways to grow were taking over other companies that were struggling to find ways to grow. Then they made a bunch of people redundant, hoping to boost bottom-line profitability for a few years, but there was nothing fundamental about building something there.

I often joke that one of the things that happens when you’re a young corporate lawyer is that your friends in startups start pestering you for free legal advice. So, I started getting exposed to the world of startups and growth ventures, these were two people in a garage and seemed to be a place where value could really be created.

One of the running themes about me through the years is that I, more than some tech entrepreneurs, I’m not a bad capitalist. I actually believe in making money, I believe it’s good for society when money finds its most productive uses and I do think money is an important part of the picture. But I also think it’s not about just spinning money around in some synthetic way, it’s about how do you build things of real value. Because if you build things of real value there is going to be enough money to go around for everybody.

So part of me thought, look, these people are actually creating real things and this is a space where you should be able to look back on your life and career and hopefully say I built that, I did that, and if the thing you built had value you probably got to keep some of that value and build a very nice life for yourself. And those two things together matter.

I was 30 years old then and I thought, if I’m lucky enough to have the health to have another career then I should, and that this looks better. I had no idea how to get into it or what I was doing so I decided to get an MBA. There was a lot that I needed to learn about business from an operational side. As a deal lawyer, I picked up a lot about finance, transactions and corporate matters. But I didn’t know anything about marketing or strategy. I needed to understand some of the jargon, some of the frameworks and some of the basics of it. I also thought it would be a great way to spend a year and figure out where I might land. I remember saying, in an ideal world I’ll meet a co-founder and start working on a business, but I knew that wasn’t likely. Maybe I’ll wind up taking a junior position at a VC and see where I land. I really didn’t know what the MBA would produce, but I got lucky, met my co-founder, and we started working on Seedrs in the MBA program.

Seedrs actually started as a business school project. Oxford has a requirement, regardless of whether you’re interested in entrepreneurship or not, that everybody has to get together and do a business plan for credit. We got together in a group and started working on Seedrs. It was my co-founder’s idea, I loved it, we started working on it and one day said “Hey, you know what. This thing works, should we actually go off and do it?” And that was where it came from.

Andrew: That’s amazing. Well, you had very good timing! Tell us about the first few years of Seedrs. At a time when equity crowdfunding was so new, what were the major challenges that you encountered doing something so different?

Jeff: First of all, equity crowdfunding was not a thing. Crowdfunding wasn’t even a thing. Yes, Indiegogo had sort of launched but we didn’t look at them closely or see them in the same vein because, although they would go on to get a lot of brand recognition, to us investment versus products for purchase are such different concepts. We were looking at Peer to Peer lending in the early days of that, Zopa in UK and Kiva internationally. We thought that was the best analogy we could come up with, which was “See what these guys are doing with Debt, we want to do that with Equity.” And that resonated to a degree. But for the most part we were phrasing it in much broader terms which was: We are one more of the massive wave in the last 15 years, of taking traditional offline reasonably inefficient business models, and trying to find a way to bring them online and take advantage of all of the scalability and efficiencies that come with digital technology.

So depending on who we were talking to sometimes we would be very specific and say, this is P2P lending and we’re doing the same with equity, and sometimes we would say, venture capital and early stage Angel investment has not evolved in 60 years and here are all the problems with it. Here’s how we can solve it with our business model.

And we got a hell of a lot of pushback. The vast majority of people we talked to in the first 6 months to a year told us we were nuts. And they all had slightly different reasons why they thought we were nuts, there wasn’t one fundamental thing they all said. Some thought we’d never get regulatory approval, so that was one of the really big innovations and successes in the early days. And eventually we succeeded. We had a mix of tactics to get it, first we had ruthless transparency how we would operate and educate people, and second, we had to involve some lawyers and be a bit tougher particularity near the end of the process. To be honest that is one of the things I am most proud about that we’ve accomplished.

The other pushback we got was even more frustrating, which was a “This isn’t the way it’s done” mentality. There was a lot of doubt that people would part with money without human interaction with the founding team. And our response kept being, if you are in the group of investors we have identified who would want to invest £100 or £500, they will recognize that the team can’t spend hours with every £500 investor and if they want to invest in this asset class this is the way they can do it. Of course, for the bigger guys, people investing £20,000 or £50,000, just because the transaction takes place online there’s nothing stopping you from emailing the team and inviting them to meet and have a coffee. And that’s exactly what happened. A lot of investors really struggled with this, they saw online as a pure play and the notion that there could possibly be this hybrid aspect threw investors off.

Other investors challenged it from the entrepreneur’s perspective, which was, why would an entrepreneur want to raise money from the crowd? If they could raise money from a VC they would, so you will only get bad businesses on your platform. And if you believe the VC propaganda that they are gods, this argument makes sense, but any entrepreneur worth his salt knows this is 99% bullshit. Of course, there is value at times of having certain types of VC’s or institutions in certain deals, and for all of our companies as they get bigger it makes sense for them to have an institutional component. But the reality is a good entrepreneur knows that you go where the money is. If you can get the money at a fair price, you can hire in the talent and buy the things you need, you don’t need to fixate on a VC that can help you with HR or whatever other offers may be out there. So, we said as long as we can make the experience more attractive to entrepreneurs — whether it’s faster, more efficient, more certain, better pricing, etc — if we can make this a better experience why wouldn’t they come to us.  

Andrew: It sounds to me like most of the challenges you had to early investment was just pushback for the sake of pushback, would you agree?

Jeff: I would. It’s interesting how tough it is to get people in a given space to wrap their minds around change and innovation. I distinctly remember that my father described us to his barber in Arizona and the barber got it, he got it better than some seasoned financial professionally because he wasn’t coming in with any preconceived notions. The barber was thinking of it in terms of his own business and it made sense to him. But when you have a lens around what this ecosystem or funding ladder looks like, it can be a lot harder to break out of that.

There’s a particular individual named Lucius Cary, and he’s relevant because he was known 10 years ago particularly when I was coming out of Oxford, he was known as one of the most active VC investors in the country. And I reached out to him for advice and he sent me back a very pleasant but very difficult note saying “I’d be happy to meet you but I don’t think you’ll want to meet me, here are all the reasons why I think this is an absolutely terrible idea.” And I was a little stunned by that. Particularly because his background is really interesting. He noticed the popularity in America of hamburger chains, came back to the UK and started one of the first hamburger chains here and was quite successful. Then he realized that his journey raising money for this business was really difficult, so he started something called the Venture Capital Report newsletter for startups seeking deals and looking for money. He had innovated in our space, seen a problem and innovated. Then we came along in the internet era and he couldn’t see it at all. This really fascinated me.

I’ve very conscious of this because now I’m 20 years in, and I’m the established person in the industry. Blockchain is a good example of this and has a lot of interesting applications, but some of the ideas look wacky to me. But then I wonder, am I being that guy who isn’t able to see the next big thing?

Andrew: So, dealing with these challenges and in the early stages of the company, what mindsets and strategies helped you the most in overcoming these roadblocks to get customers, funding, and regulatory approval?

Jeff: I think the short answer is stubbornness. When we launched in 2012 after 3 years of breaking through the regulatory process, raising bits and lumps of money and fighting like hell, it had been a very long pre-launch period. At that point the only thing we should be congratulated for was being really good at banging our heads against the wall.

The other thing I think matters comes from an essay by Paul Graham, the founder of Y Combinator. He had a great essay called schlep-blindness and the whole point of it is that many of the most successful entrepreneurs are successful in part because they are blind to just how much of a schlep they’ve got in front of them. If somebody told me in 2009 it would be 3 years of banging your head against the wall, who knows whether I would have had the endurance to do it. I would like to say I would have but let’s be realistic. But we didn’t know that. We thought it would move fairly fast and be lovely, and we were also slightly willfully ignorant.  

We were stubborn and ignorant, and those two things probably helped a hell of a lot.

Andrew: Being stubborn and ignorant is not the classic mindset advice you normally hear from successful people.

Jeff: No, but how else do you do something quite so irrational?

Andrew: What strikes me about great ideas is they seem to be extremely logical and irrational at the same time.

Jeff: I think that’s absolutely right. One of the things I’ve said often through the years is, from the entrepreneur’s perspective you devote years trying to build something that likely won’t work out, of course there is an irrationality to it. But in a broader context, I always think this is worth saying, I had a good education, wasn’t going to wind up in the gutter if it didn’t work and I would always be able to find another job. I was married and my wife was working. Other than being embarrassed and demoralized if it didn’t work out, when you have a personal safety net it’s a little less irrational.

At a fundamental level I was conscious of the fact that this wasn’t going to be life ending if it didn’t work. But it was still an irrational thing, rather than plugging away making very good money as a lawyer, the mentality has to be slightly irrational.

Andrew: Selling the idea to investors, did that happen within the first 3 years or after getting regulatory approval? And how did you sell this idea that was crazy to other people?

Jeff: It was a mix. Early on it was friends and family who fundamentally were backing us rather than just the idea. In almost all cases they were non-specialists who didn’t come with the biases of investors in the space. They viewed it as a high-risk, interesting idea and were investing in us because we seemed credible. We did also spend a lot of time those 3 years talking to VCs, talking to Angels, talking to other financial people and got absolutely nowhere. Really interestingly we got lots of meetings with partners at major VCs and it wasn’t hard for us to get meetings. But I think that was because they were interested in what we were doing since it was close to their space, but they weren’t willing to write a check. It was a lot of wasted breath running around Mayfair and Shoreditch, however it certainly helped us hone the pitch and refine our offer. The key investment was after we got advanced notice of regulatory approval in March of 2012 and off the back of that raised a £1M round, that was our first real money to build the business. Certainly, getting the regulatory signoff was key, but the big thing for us is that we discovered people who were fundamentally tech investors had absolutely no interest in us, but financial service guys loved us. Because if you were a VC from the tech investment world and spent your days thinking about innovation rather than financing models, we clashed with truths you held close. But all of the financial services guys, all the people who made up our first round of Angels, a lot of them were sitting in banks in the city and saw a lot of fucked up things, had no biases of how startups currently got funded, and thought we had an interesting model and were willing to back it. Ever since, we focused most of our fundraising efforts on people who really understood financial services rather than a tech lens, and that was a lesson that took a few years to learn.

The people who tended to have the really fixed ideas and were unwilling to invest were the ones who were in Venture Capital and the Private Equity side of the financing world. If you look at the profile of many partners at Venture firms, they were finance guys and they probably shouldn’t be. The ones who invested in us were, for example, real estate derivative sales guys, a totally different part of the market. So they had no bias about how this particular part of the market should work and they were able to wrap their heads around the idea. If we had approached them with a real estate platform, we may have had problems, but there was something about the fact that we weren’t encroaching on their vertical or way of thinking about things that impacted them investing in us. 

Andrew: What was your initial process for setting milestones when first starting something so new and different than classic business models? 

Jeff: I’ve been very very very skeptical of milestones and targets for very early stage businesses. I’ve gotten into discussions over the years with the board about it. Now we’re at a point where forecasting can be done in a scientific way and has a lot of value, but early on the board would push me to set targets and I would often say no. I would say, look, now that we’ve raised some money we need to do as much as we can, as effectively as we can. I don’t know exactly what this is going to look like, we may have a lot of success here or a lot of success there. I tell them we are going to be as thoughtful as we can spending every pound, and we’re going to do everything we can so that the next time we go to market for money we’re able to show and tell a story about significant progress.

I think that when you’re experimenting and finding product/market fit and you’re figuring out how to scale I think it’s really important to have that mindset. Because if we set targets then everyone is going to chase those targets. For example if we say “We want to get 100 deals done this year, assuming each deal will be tiny, around £50,000”, then all of a sudden a large deal comes along that will make us a bunch of money, but it will take some additional work, the team may say that it won’t contribute to volume and pass on it. So I think you have to have a little flexibility, and corporate managers hate that. They really don’t know how to work with not having clear targets. But I think up to a certain point, basically up to our Series A, that’s how we did things. 

We would talk about type of growth rates we were trying to hit, but we tried as hard as we could not to make those milestones and targets any more concrete than they had to be. Just because we needed the opportunity to learn and grow and chase opportunities. If you’re finding your place and doing something somewhat innovative it’s important.

One of the values of targets is once you get to a certain size, like right now we’re around 90 people, and now not everybody can be bought into or understand every bit of strategy or everything the business is doing at every moment, targets act as proxies and act as simplifiers. But in the early days we were 10, 15, 20 people and we’d sit around the office and chat. People knew what was on my mind and what we were chasing at any given point and we were able to have that kind of flexibility. And that’s one of the reasons I love startups, they’re agile, they’re small enough that they don’t necessarily need as much of the fixed systems since they’re able to just respond to what happens.

Andrew: I think that’s a great lead in to a problem that I’m having right now, which are those first few hires. I’m really curious for your first few hires, what you’re advice is for that. How you ensure you hire people who will thrive in a startup environment?

Jeff: That’s a really good question. As I look at a number of our first successful hires, a disproportionate number, based on the nature of what we needed and what we were doing, were lawyers or ex-lawyers like me. And that made slightly easy hunting ground in the sense that at any given time there are a lot of young lawyers out there who are in their firms and frustrated or bored, and they want to be doing something more. But for one reason or another they haven’t come across the idea that they want quite yet or haven’t taken the plunge to do something on their own. So, we give them the opportunity to be part of something entrepreneurial and get in almost at the ground floor. A few of our first key hires were that profile.

More broadly, we looked for people who were highly intelligent and we always prioritized intelligence over skill, in the sense that we wanted people who would be able to adapt and learn with the business even if they weren’t the most experienced in the tasks we needed done at any given point. Our early legal head, who’s now our COO, she’s 2 years post qualified as a lawyer and essentially what we needed was a general council. There were people with much more experience that her who applied, but we had a feeling that she was really bright and really hungry and really wanted to learn and adapt and grow and was also one of those people who was frustrated in her environment and wanted more.

Generalized intelligence, hunger, and young helps since they’re more willing to roll up their sleeves and work for equity> There’s also the aspect of trial and error to it. If they’re coming from an environment where they’re frustrated by the button-down corporate life, that helps.

For the business roles like law, marketing, sales, commercial, a little bit of experience in a bigger operation teaches a lot of professionalism like the importance of proofreading and returning phone calls quickly. These are things that are hard for a startup to teach. It doesn’t hurt to have that kind of experience behind you, but you also don’t want people who’ve been there so long they’ve gone native. There is a profile of people who’ve done one or two corporate type jobs, are 25-27 years old, still fresh and young and hungry and willing to do what it takes to build, and also have just enough seasoning and enough frustration with the corporate life.

Andrew: I’m really curious about the Secondary Market, your most recent innovation. How did it happen and what was the mindset in such a big addition to your platform?

Jeff: I think we always took as a given that if you make a secondary market work then it would be a good thing. There is, locked in with the 1950s Venture Capital “This is how its done”, a mentality that every investor should be with every business until they exit, and that a secondary market is somehow a bad thing. That’s bullshit.

I think we recognized that early on and now most of the VC world has too. There are any number of reasons that as an investor that you may want to leave at any particular point, or join at any particular point. And especially as companies go public later and more private capital becomes available, why does investing in a space mean you have to be in it for 15 years before you see a return?

From those friends and family who invested early on, every so often I’ll get this incredibly sheepish call, desperately worried about offending me, asking for a way to exit. I always say great! I’m so happy to get a good return for you. But mechanically it’s super hard to do. And not just mechanically but maintaining liquidity particularly on the buy side when you don’t have any of the information flows out there, has bedeviled people and private companies who’ve tried to make secondary markets for years. And the number of examples we had of unsuccessful secondary market companies through the years was endless. It’s a very hard thing to do. You can actually find somewhere I said that a secondary market was never something we planned to do, because I didn’t see how we could make it work. But then two things happened;

One was, we have for every funded business a discussion forum for those who invested in the business. And we found that people were using that discussion forum to create their own market, asking to buy or sell their positions. But it was a shitty product since they were trying to do it literally on a bulletin board. So part of us said, since people are trying to do this anyway, let’s build a product around it and see what happens.

The other part of the driver was we were going into another fundraising round and I wanted a big strategic announcement to hang our hat on. There’s nothing quite like being able to announce that you’re doing something or have launched something, but it’s before you have to prove the numbers for it. So, the timing seemed to work well.

Much of the way I approached business over the years would be a corporate managers nightmare, because we went into it with no targets and no expectations and without a whole lot of hype. One of the core observations is that all of the secondary markets through the years that have failed, part of the problem was that was their whole business. They had to make the secondary market work. For us it’s a side product. Our primary market is our core business, so we can have the patience to let the secondary market grow organically and not freak out when it’s slow and gradual. And actually, it’s grown a lot faster than we expected and as a consequence we’ve invested more in it. It’s been one of our big successes.

But I’m the first to say, one of our big successful products, while I will take credit for ultimately pushing the button to instigate, was one of the things I said that I never envisioned us being able to do.

Andrew: As a close out, what are some of the new technologies or trends that you’re most excited about?

Jeff: I’m not going to say anything here that is unknown or massively insightful. Applications of data, AI and machine learning there’s just no limit to the potential there. I don’t really spend my time worrying about cyborgs taking over the earth type of AI, but I’m interested in what you can do with these bigger datasets and how can AI get better on the smaller datasets. I think we’re just scratching the surface and there’s a huge amount that’s super exciting about that. We spend a lot of time thinking about how we can use the data we have as well at Seedrs.  

A second is fintech generally. There is still do much of the financial services world that hasn’t been scratched by innovation and technology. Every time I talk to a banker or insurer and understand how they do business I have a clearer view of how much is still left untapped.

The other bit that I find interesting is not so much a technology, but I think there is a lot of room to take traditionally offline models and take them online. We funded a business, one of my favorites, called Hectare, which is a cattle and grain trading site for farmers. If you are a cattle farmer in England or anywhere else, a part of what you’re doing day to day is managing your herd size. And for various reasons you may want to sell some of your cows or buy some more in, and that’s all a bricks and mortar operation that doesn’t look a lot different than it did 100 years ago. I think likewise for other agricultural products. These guys came up with a platform that allowed that to come online. And what’s interesting about that, it seems obvious, but as the demographics of farmers shift to a younger generation of farmers and you have better connectivity, suddenly there is an opportunity to bring this in. And I think there are a lot of spaces like that.

There are opportunities in all of the sectors out there that haven’t had the kind of penetration you’ve had at the levels of a few limited ones.