This isn’t the first time you’ve started a company. What’s your entrepreneurial story?
I’ve been an entrepreneur since I was 11. By 2002, I was 18 and a freshman at UNC Chapel Hill in North Carolina and I co-founded a software company called iContact with one of my friends from the Carolina Entrepreneurship Club, Aaron Houghton. I was the CEO and we grew to $50 million in annual sales and 300 employees before our sale in February 2012. I was 27 and had had a good exit, but was searching for deeper meaning in life.
A few months after selling the company in 2012, my mother Pauline passed away from brain cancer and I started reflecting deeply on what I wanted to create next. I decided to apply and then go to Harvard Business School for an MBA to finish school and take some time to reflect and decide what I would build next.
I knew I wanted to build something that would make a difference, but didn’t know what yet.
During the second year of my MBA my dad Park suddenly passed away from Leukemia. I was 30 years old and felt alone in the world. I wanted a peer group who would be there to support me.
I was doing the Landmark Self Expression & Leadership (SELP) program in San Francisco, California and we were assigned to create a community project to solve a problem I personally faced (which is often the source for many entrepreneurial startups). I decided to create a diverse global community for entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs to support each other in challenging times -- and to help each other grow their businesses. Essentially we were building a “Keiretsu” (an informal business group) of purpose-driven companies that would support one another.
I had attended the Singularity University Executive Program in Silicon Valley and had worked with the United Nations Foundation on the Global Entrepreneur Council and helped shape the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). I was inspired to build an organization that would contribute to building companies making a meaningful impact.
So in 2014, we decided to start a global community for entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurs, and leaders who were working on creating a better world and solving meaningful problems. We got 34 of our friends from 12 countries together at the Change.org headquarters in San Francisco and Hive was born.
What’s your mission right now?
My mission on the planet right now is to build the global community for entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurs, leaders, and innovators who are building the companies and organizations that are creating a better world. We’re doing this to help provide community for those making a positive contribution to society.
Essentially, we’re building the global community for superheroes.
Have you adopted new strategies or taken a new approach when founding Hive? Why or why not?
Creating Hive has been completely different than creating iContact. Hive is a membership organization for conscious entrepreneurs and leaders while iContact is a marketing software platform, so it has been like building a totally different type of company. While iContact had 300 employees all in Raleigh, North Carolina, Hive’s team is distributed all around the world.
Hive is structured in a decentralized manner with volunteers in dozens of countries. We have no main office, yet have staff in six U.S. states and volunteers in Germany, Nigeria, Romania, Pakistan, Ghana, Egypt, India, and many more countries. We also have our digital marketing agency, Hive Digital, based in Raleigh, NC. Hive Digital helps the member companies in our network grow their sales online. We’re all about helping the companies grow that are creating a better world.
With Hive I’ve learned to lead through inspiration and to trust the team, rather than leading from a traditional top down hierarchical structure.
What’s been the biggest challenge when founding Hive?
The biggest challenge with founding Hive has been discovering our business model. It took us a few years to get it right. I am invested in getting Hive to be a sustainable company that enables all of our shareholders do well by doing good and achieve triple-bottom line returns (people, planet, and profit). I’ve put in $2.5M of my own capital to get Hive off the ground the last few years as I really believe in the bigger mission.
In 2018, we finally figured out that our business model was going to come from recurring revenue from memberships and by helping the companies in our network grow their businesses.
Once we figured out that our business model was going to revolve around memberships and helping our member companies grow, it made scaling easier. We also launched our social network and mobile app that year, which has helped bring our community closer together.
Why did you decide to raise from the crowd?
We want Hive to be owned by as many people as possible, and be a group effort. Republic has helped us reach hundreds of new investors and attracted many people into our community. It was a win-win for both marketing and capital.
Ultimately we’re building a movement to create a happy, healthy, and sustainable world by connecting the people and companies who are working on these efforts. Republic has helped us reach many investors who are impact-oriented and who want to make a financial return by doing good.
If you could give yourself one piece of advice when you founded your first company what would that be and why?
Just keep going no matter what. And exercise and meditate every morning before work.
What are your superpowers?
- Helping people figure out why they are on this planet.
- Inspiring others to act beyond themselves.
- Persistence. I keep going even when challenges arise.
- Digital Marketing.
Do you have any unusual routines or habits?
I exercise every single morning before turning on my phone or laptop. “Sweat before laptop” is my personal policy. I also meditate for 30 minutes every morning using the Sudarshan Kriya practice that I learned from Art of Living.
Who is someone that has changed your life and why?
My life was impacted significantly by both Marc Benioff and Barack Obama. I got to know Marc because his company Salesforce.com almost acquired my former company iContact twice. He invited me to his house in San Francisco to meet Eckhart Tolle back in 2012 and that got me deep into the path of meditation, consciousness, and awakening.
President Barack Obama came into my life in 2008 when we helped him with his email marketing campaigns during his first campaign. I became a National Co-Chairperson for Tech for Obama in 2012 and got to see him in Chicago, San Francisco, and New Hampshire. I was always so impressed about his mental game and how he was able to handle so much at once. He taught me about achieving tranquility in a sea of chaos.
What’s coming up soon that super excites you?
I am really looking forward to getting married this year to my fiancée Morgan at the Burning Man Arts and Music Festival in Black Rock City, Nevada. We’ve been dating the last 9 months and it’s been the best time of my life!
What are the top skills you think entrepreneurs need to succeed?
Persistence: to keep going even when the path isn’t clear.
Trust: an ability to see the silver lining in every situation and trust the universe is always for us, not against us.
Acceptance: a willingness to accept what has happened as perfect.
Presence: an ability to stay present with what is in front of us and and stay out of the past or the future most of the time.