How did Totle get started?
I first bought Bitcoin in 2013 and I remember putting them in a safe in my parents’ house. I just let it sit there; I didn’t really understand it and had no other thoughts and plans for what to do with it. It wasn’t until I was introduced to Ethereum in 2016 that I started seeing all of the possibilities in the cryptoworld.
I quickly became interested in (what was at the time) this new idea of decentralized exchanges, and was particularly drawn to the technology, which I thought was revolutionary, but super hard to use. The user experience was completely lacking and I became enamored with the idea that I could make it better.
How have you dealt with failure, or the potential to fail?
I’ve actually had a good amount of experience with failure. Towards the end of college, I worked on a licensed gaming company with 5-Hour Energy, right when apps were just coming out. This was not successful. I also worked on a mattress company, kind of like Casper, but that also didn’t work out.
I learned a lot from these ventures. I matured in terms of managing relationships in the workplace and I was able to get to know myself — my strengths and my weaknesses. This has helped me understand what it means to be a leader, how to budget effectively, and how to do something sustainable and intelligent.
The way I see it, entrepreneurship is a risk-seeking career. You risk your capital, your time, and in some cases your health or personal relationships. That’s what it takes.
Facts don’t care about your feelings. If people aren’t buying your product, that’s not going to change based on how you feel or care about the product. You need to take risks in a calculated way. You have to be willing to lose.
What was your life like before Totle?
In 2012, I graduated from the University of Michigan and went to Chicago to learn real estate. My family is in real estate; that’s what I thought I was going to do.
I eventually moved back to the Detroit area to help my father and brother in real estate. In particular, I focused on buying undervalued property. I worked on that until 2016, when the market really changed in the area, and when our company shifted to focusing on development (e.g., building new apartments). While I was doing this, I started looking at other asset companies, like the mattress startup, and then crypto took over my life.
What were the 3 hardest things you’ve done as you’ve launched your business?
Establishing validity or a track record. In real estate, I had a built in track record; I had experience raising good money and my family was from the industry. When I launched Totle, I didn’t have multiple ventures to prove my success. I found that many entrepreneurs in this space come from other parts of the tech world. I, on the other hand, was fairly new and felt that I have to constantly prove myself. This is an uphill battle. The key is to choose values and morals (what matters to you in your life) and then present offerings that are “win-win” — your investors should always be handsomely rewarded for their belief in you.
People! The most important thing — even in crypto — is people. Business always comes down to just people communicating. Finding the best people is extremely difficult, and has been an added challenge for me coming from Detroit and not Silicon Valley or other major tech cities.
Discipline and focus. There are so many shiny objects or new opportunities (or most of the time perceived opportunities), especially when you are just starting out and you feel you don’t have customers or revenue to lean on. Sometimes they show up in meetings as new product ideas or on twitter as competitor “announcements”. In the end, incremental growth usually comes from iteration rather than radical innovation. There is a time and place to think creatively. It’s important to stay focused and not get distracted by constantly searching for things to go to or add to the growth of your business.
What is your superpower?
Grit. It really is all about survival. I have an ability to not care as much when being counted out. When people disagree with me, but I feel a strong conviction about something, I don’t get dissuaded, even if the majority is telling me otherwise.
What’s your kryptonite?
Addiction to entrepreneurship: to growth, to revenue. This can be healthy if you know how to control yourself and have emotional intelligence, but managing that addiction can be really difficult to do.
How do you see your industry changing in the next five years?
I always tell people: “It moves like dog years.” The industry is so quick compared to your human life. I think in five years, blockchain will make up the majority of the economy. We will run on blockchain.
Why did you decide to raise from the crowd?
We’re very committed to the ethos of the space: decentralization. Our goal is to provide the same opportunity that comes from democratized finance through compliant offerings. Crypto itself blurs the line between employee/customer/investor, and Republic has allowed us to practice what we preach and not just talk about it on stage at a conference.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Chaos! In life you have to be super proactive, but entrepreneurs also need to be super reactive.It’s the nature of the beast. I feel like my day is spent reacting and when I have time, I’m fundraising, going to meetings, and making sure we have more than 18 months of runway.
I do have some personal life. I’m married and I have a dog named Dexter. I called him Dex before coming into the business — it’s a great coincidence!
Any great life hacks?
I don’t workout, so I save all of my energy for my entrepreneurship and business. :)
What’s something you wish you knew more about?
I never went to law school — I studied business, but wish I could know every law without having to go through all that school.
Who is someone that has changed your life?
Steve Jobs. I’m always the first guy to have the new iPhone. I’m a big Apple guy and a big believer in people experiencing both successes and pitfalls. He has been a major influence on my journey.
What are your favorite (or most used) iPhone apps?
Some of the apps I use are:
- Slack - to connect with my team.
- Lookout - for mobile security.
- Bazaart - to edit and design photos.
- Postmates - food delivery.
- Blockfolio - cryptocurrency portfolio tracker.
- Twitter - for news and updates.
- Flipboard - for the latest news.
If you could give yourself one piece of advice 5 years ago, what would it be?
Continue coding. I stopped coding when I went to Chicago and it’s like losing a language — you keep the concepts, but the details blur and you become less effective.
Any advice you’d give aspiring founders?
Trust your instincts. When I was starting out, I received a lot of advice from my family, particularly my father, who is one of my role models and mentors. I trusted his word more than my own judgement. It’s hard — especially when you are young — to trust your own instincts. It was really hard for me to do, and to grapple with the feeling that I had the best solution, but not the authority. To take the lead the first time is very difficult, but it’s important to do. Take the lead with your ideas and follow through with it.