Startup Therapy Podcast

Episode #39

Ryan Rutan: Welcome

Wil Schroter: back for another episode of the startup therapy podcast. This is Ryan Rutan from startups dot com joined by my partner will Schroeder ceo of startups dot com. Well, a couple of episodes ago we talked about how lonely it can be to be a founder and we referenced to, you know, a number of things you can do to stave that off. But I think one of the most important things that either you or I have done in our history as founders is to gather groups of founders together and gain catharsis and understanding and camaraderie and lots of stuff.

Ryan Rutan: Yeah, I've done it a lot and we've done it for Boy. It's got to be going over 20 years. And the original impetus for all of this was it's a lonely journey and it turns out there's a lot of people right in your own neighborhood that are going through the same thing at the same time and rarely do they ever get together in a meaningful, deliberate manner and start sharing what they're all going through. And I started doing this as kind of a just an experiment over 20 years ago, I was in columbus Ohio at the time, Not a lot of tech entrepreneurs doing what I was doing in the 90s as you can imagine. But there are some of us and I decided to start calling all of the folks in town who are doing anything in technology and invite him over for a beer. It was just that initially it was just that I was, I was feeling what we talked about Ryan, I was feeling that feeling where I'm starting to feel lonely, starting to peel off and I just had to believe it's just intuition that other people were feeling the same way. So again, this is back when you had to call everybody because there weren't any social networks and most people didn't even have email and probably not even the people in the tech industry and uh and so I just started reaching out to all the folks that, that I could find and the, the invite was simple, I said, just come on over, let's have a beer, let's just get to know each other, we're all doing tech, let's see what happens. And so almost every person that I reached out to said yes, which was shocking because you have to understand none of these people had any idea who I was, they had no idea why I was inviting him over, I'm not even sure I knew and I was trying to get them all to just come over and meet each other, have a beer, so we do, everyone shows up and I didn't have an agenda. I didn't even think people were going to show up, but they did. And so I remember we wound up just kind of making our way over to my living room and sitting in kind of like a big circle and what wound up being one conversation again, none of this was planned and all of a sudden after a few drinks, people start loosening up a little bit and then this crazy thing happens, these total strangers who I've never met before, start completely opening up about their business in, in lives, not just about their business, they started talking about all the challenges they were having. It's just morphed into this thing as the night went on, where every person in the room just for the first time in, probably forever for some of us had permission to be vulnerable about what we were dealing with and it was infectious and by the way it wasn't really like a bit session, there was some of that, it was just honesty.

Wil Schroter: Yeah, just honestly those floodgates open up and then you feel like you said, you know, it may have been the first opportunity ever, or at least in a significant amount of time that those folks yourself included had to get that kind of catharsis right to be able to be that level of honest with somebody other than themselves and it maybe even themselves, right? I I know there have been times where I've been allowed to share and all of a sudden I hear the words coming out of my mouth, I'm like, wow, I'm being really honest about this right now. Like I hadn't even been this honest with myself up until this point, but now that I hear it out loud, right? Yeah, you hear it out loud, you're like, man, that really is how I feel and I hadn't I hadn't gotten in tune with that yet

Ryan Rutan: and look people have figured out that you know some version of therapy when you say things out loud has been effective since the dawn of time. But what was odd about this first get together was that none of us expected it, None of us showed up for that reason. In fact, I think it just happened completely organically and in that night everyone was just kind of blown away. It's like we had this like group experience and everyone walked out going wow man, like we absolutely have to do this again and at the time no one knew exactly why or again what exactly just happened, but something kind of special happened and so after that this is again over 20 years ago I started doing these on a more regular basis and since then I've done hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of these founders get togethers in different cities, mostly numerically I'd say the number I've done in in L. A. When I was in southern California for a long time, quite a few in san Francisco and often a lot in columbus but it didn't matter where I did them Ryan, you've been doing them similar summer get togethers in Guatemala, same thing,

Wil Schroter: yeah, Guatemala in Cyprus and France and Taiwan like this has always been, you know and and for me, you know, I think that there was just this kind of selfish need to be surrounded by other people that were going through the same stuff, right? And we all have that. I wanted them to be around, I wanted the network, I wanted the support and so every time I transplant myself somewhere I reach out and I mean what a great calling card it is to be an entrepreneur, right? A fellow founder, it isn't hard to get people to rally around that and and it was a beautiful thing to be able to quickly create these these networks of people and like you said have these really deep, meaningful, honest conversations with what otherwise other than you know being fellow founders were complete and utter strangers to me in most cases I may have known a little bit about the background of the company um maybe a friend of a friend of a friend made an intro but I was in some far flung places and meeting people I never would have had opportunity to otherwise. And then again having these really honest, genuine, deep and meaningful conversations and it's been a fantastic part of my life for And I guess it's catching up on 20 years man, I have to keep redoing the math on this. Yeah, we keep getting older every year, right, is that how that works? It's been

Ryan Rutan: awhile, A lot of the folks that are probably listening ah so hey, that sounds great, I'd love to be part of a group that would, that would do something like that. So I thought maybe what we could do today is detail why, why these things are put together, how these things are put together and what the agenda looks like. So if you're thinking about maybe they're getting involved in one or putting one together yourself, you could start to understand how powerful this is because it's, it's a bit life changing and it's, it's uh, there's not much to it and I think it taps into a very dormant issue that a lot of us face, which is loneliness. I think it's a bit of validation that man, I kind of felt like this was what I was going through, but now that I hear all you guys say the same thing, it's definitely what I was going through and I'm glad to hear, I'm not the only person going through it. Uh, it taps into the founders need and desire to help each other. You know, we'll talk about that a little bit about how founders in these meetings without even being provoked will just automatically offer to help each other. And it just creates this amazing thing. And I think we should probably talk about how if, you know folks are listening, how we can get them involved in something like this

Wil Schroter: sounds awesome, man. Yeah, I think that, um, like you said, the, the formula is fairly simple, but there is a very large and latent need in almost every founder community I've ever visited and, and oddly, right, for as simple as this is, they don't tend to exist. Right? You and I have had this conversation that despite the fact that it's very simple and it's very effective that each time we go somewhere and we bring this up, people are super excited to get involved and yet they've never done anything like this before. And that always catches me by surprise. Like because of the simplicity and because of the effectiveness of this, why more of them don't exist. It's still beyond me.

Ryan Rutan: Well, I think the versions that do exist. You know, there's Waipio, there's e oh, there's vestige and all of those are great programs. I've been part of some of them actually huge fan, but for some reason it's not this, it's, it's not very targeted to what founders are dealing with, uh, to the emotions of founders and somebody from one of those programs might say, hey, bullshit, that's exactly what we talked about and cool, I mean, that's great. I'm not trying to say it's, you know, it has to be unique in its own right. But to your point, Ryan, I got to tell you I've hosted hundreds of these, which means I've hosted thousands of people. I don't get people coming to me and go, oh, this is exactly what I was doing in my other group, it's

Wil Schroter: just this last Tuesday. Right,

Ryan Rutan: Exactly. In fact, most of what I get is I have never been in a room with fellow founders where we talk about any of this stuff openly, here's the counter example, ren I go to a dinner, I'm invited, you know, for for this dinner, for whoever puts it together, I sit at a long table With 12 other people, maybe people I haven't met. And here's what happens. Hey, let me tell you about your, my startup. Let me tell you about your startup. Hey, guess how great I'm doing.

Wil Schroter: Hey, guess how great I'm doing. And it's like this kind

Ryan Rutan: of chest pounding competition.

Wil Schroter: It's an instagram conversation in real, let's show off the absolute best parts of it. I got caught in one of these last week, actually, I got caught in a conversation where rather than really dig in and be honest about things, it was pretty obvious that the other founder just wanted to make me understand what a great founder he was and nothing wrong with that, right? Sometimes you need that too, right? You need a little time to just kind of establish your, your, your, your ground, right? And, and and let me know that you know what you're doing and you know where you're coming from, you know, where you're going and I was fine, but I couldn't help but think like at each turn in the conversation as I try to direct it to things and I was trying to be really open honest, I'm like, oh man, I'm glad you got that figured out because I'm still struggling with that thinking that ah there, that'll be his, that'll be his, the, the, the key that unlocks the door for him to feel a little more uh you know, comfortable to be able to be a little more honest. Um just never got there and I walked away from thinking like, well it was nice to spend an hour with the founder. Um but man, I wish that it, I wish that it could have been a little more open and honest and yes, you're right. Those, those conversations happen all the time too. I just don't think that they provide you very much of what you need other than shamelessly pitching only the best parts of your life.

Ryan Rutan: I think it breaks out a lot of levels, right? You said something permission to be vulnerable, permission to be honest. Every time I put one of these groups together again, I never tell people that it's going to be this, you know, open honesty session. That's the funny thing, I just invite people over for, for pizza and beer. That's it. That's that's the entire invitation and there's no agenda with it. Like if people come over and it just winds up being winds up being a good night of pizza and beer cool. Like that's fine with me, but it never ends like that. It they always end in this incredible night where everyone finally gets this permission to be honest and finally gets the help they've been looking for for a long time. So over the years we started to refine it a little bit. I think if it becomes too prescriptive it becomes something else. But we found theirs kind of three areas where we tend to drive the conversation throughout the night. And I think that's probably what we should talk about if we want to focus on something around this topic. But I think by keeping it simple, it becomes effective by making it actionable. It becomes effective. People aren't expecting anything to be actionable, they're expecting to get help, they're not expecting to commit to anything. And yet by the end of the night all these hands are going up with people who want to get involved. So Ryan, if you don't mind, let me kind of talk about just how it typically opens. Are you cool with that fire away? Okay, so when the night first opens, one of the critical things that we found is we've got to get everybody in a quiet place that's private because if you're sitting at a table and you're within earshot of other people, it breaks in fact it's night and day. The other thing is it has to be one conversation which typically means everybody has to have line of sight to everyone else most of these I've done in my living room. So it's pretty much all of us just sitting in a circle around the living room having one conversation and I'd probably say my contribution to kick these things off last two minutes tops. And so mind you, all these people who haven't met each other before, a lot of them have never met me before. I have no idea what they're getting into. They don't know if I'm about to sell them and way they don't know what's about to

Wil Schroter: happen. What a turn

Ryan Rutan: of events that will turn of events, right? All of you making as much money as you could possibly be making. You're not what, But uh, here's, here's generally what I say, I say, look, I'm glad you guys made it. I want to get us give us an opportunity to get to know each other. There's really nothing else here. I hate it when we're putting together a founder dinner, you meet three people, you have no idea who the rest of the people are, or worse, you get discounted from the conversation altogether. So for tonight we're gonna have one conversation, everybody kind of appreciates that because again, they don't they don't know each other, but a caveat and I say, but one thing, whatever we talk about tonight, let's just try to keep as much confidence as possible, try to keep, you know, whatever we say in flight, fight Club stays in Fight Club kind of thing. Yeah. And the reason we say that is because we sort of have to let folks know that we might talk about some pretty honest and raw stuff and like don't be a jerk, you know what I mean? Like I try to keep that stuff and, and respect each other,

Wil Schroter: but here's what you have to lay those boundaries out, right? Because otherwise people won't feel safe to share.

Ryan Rutan: And, and at first nobody is ready to share anything. Again. We're founders, you know, we're often Taipei's, we're um, we're in a room of strangers. We don't really know what this idiot will is talking about,

Wil Schroter: right? But,

Ryan Rutan: but it's a little bit intriguing. So what we do is we go around the room and we asked three questions and, and we'll talk about this in a little more detail, but we basically say, uh, you know, what are you working on, which kind of gives you an opportunity to, to introduce yourself and with that, you know, what are your biggest challenges right now? And that gets really interesting. We ask you, you know, what are some of the, uh, you know, what are some things you could use help with right now? And that becomes kind of a deliberate ask and you know, what are some goals that you'd love to commit to in the future? Uh, and the goals will get to kind of separately. But the the first time I turned to somebody randomly, almost anybody in the room, usually somebody I think that might be a little bit more honest, like kind of set the tone and I say, hey, let's just talk about what your biggest challenges are now, the moment that person opens up with something incredibly real, like something like, dude, I've got six weeks of cash left in the bank right now. Yeah, I'm looking down the barrel of a gun about to shut my startup down. Whoa! Everyone in the room is like, well what did you just say?

Wil Schroter: It's that guy just rang a bell and everybody else is now one of Pavlov's dogs, right? Everybody is ready to share their own thing now. And yeah, there's a huge, huge amount of following effect. There

Ryan Rutan: doesn't have to be dire necessarily. It has to be honest. I think we're so used to being in these rooms of people where honesty isn't necessarily the whole thing that's going around That the moment one person is willing to go open kimono, let your guard down. Everything else falls away from there and holy cow is it relieving? Yeah, I mean, Ryan, you see it all the time. You, when you sit across from a founder and they open up to you, it feels so good. Yeah,

Wil Schroter: you can just, you can just watch the expression change right over time. Like as they get it off their chest and they're able to let it go, they feel wonderful now when you put that into this group dynamic, Like we're talking about now, something even more magical happens, which is that everybody else starts to feel the anticipation of being able to do the same thing, get that same catharsis in relief, and it's amazing to watch you. And I talked about this a few weeks ago about what happens when somebody does open up like that, right? It was just an offline conversation you and I were having. But it dovetails nicely into this. It was just that once that first person lets go of that, there's this sense of almost, you know, I don't want to say it's competitive, but it's set, it certainly sets a bar, right? So that first share of that first bit of honesty is, you know, all the way to the bone, and that's pretty much sets the bar for where everybody else is gonna be. And we've actually seen it happening in these founders, where there's almost a sense of, like trying to one up each other's challenges, right? And, you know, however you get there right, it's great. But it doesn't matter if it's a competitive streak that that pushes somebody to share, or just they see the relief on that other founders face, and they want that same feeling, the group dynamic. And what happens within it is incredible at these things.

Ryan Rutan: Well, I think part of it too is for a lot of the founder, especially early, you know, young founders in the room, they've never heard someone that's not them, be very honest about where they stood in their business.

Wil Schroter: Sure,

Ryan Rutan: sure, it's

Wil Schroter: easy to look around a group of founders and assume that everybody else in that room has their sh it figured out. Alright, You just assume that right, everybody else has got, you know, got it all figured out. Their staff is all amazing, their marketing is operating perfectly, their their board is always happy with every one of their decisions, right? Until you start talking and then you realize they're just like you with all the same ship problems you have,

Ryan Rutan: and, you know, not every person in the room feels like sharing, you know, stuff that they're dealing with. Not every person has a problem, to be honest, but but what's interesting to me is, you only need a couple of people in the room to start laying out where their heads are at and there's just this, I don't know how to describe it, like, sigh of relief of like, thank God I can start talking about this stuff honestly, most importantly, in a room of people that actually understand what I'm talking about, yep.

Wil Schroter: Yeah, and that, that's a huge part of it, you know, to your point, not everybody's always got a grave current challenge. Sometimes things are going well,

Ryan Rutan: it does happen, which is

Wil Schroter: fine, it's fine. And I'm remembering back to those who have been like 2016 founder dinner at your house and somebody opened up with a pretty pressing, like internal issue with within the company and nobody else was going through anything similar at the time, but at least two or three other people out of the dozen that were there opened up with similar situations they had had in the past, and so while they weren't going through it, then it still gave that other founder the comfort in knowing that they had been through it, right, They were able to offer some perspective on it, but there was still the same level of honesty in the share, right? And that was what was really cool, but it wasn't just like, oh yeah, I've been through that, here's what to do. It was the full story of what it was like to go through it, right, open and painfully honest. Um and and that goes a long way right knowing somebody's been through something and then giving you the advice that they garnered from that situation is one thing, hearing the story of them going through it and being able to feel that pain vicariously makes it that much more powerful. And it just again adds to that group dynamic, really, really makes these things something special.

Ryan Rutan: It also makes people trust each other, you know what I mean? Like all of a sudden I shared something very personal, kind of hard not to trust that person, and by way that gives them a little bit of your own trust, you know, in an exchange. But the other thing that's really interesting is, let's say that first or second person shares something and instead of a lot of people just looking at them or even feeling like they're being judged in some way, you get the opposite, you get a whole bunch of people saying, dude, I've been there, it's the worst thing in the world and all of a sudden you're like, wait a minute. Like you guys went through this too because I think what happens Ryan for all of us is we often think that we're the only person going through it because your point, I think you nailed it about the instagram version of everybody. We don't get the real version of everybody,

Wil Schroter: we get the high level snapshots of just the good stuff, right?

Ryan Rutan: Yeah. And so, so all of a sudden, you know, we're going through this, this process and three people sitting next to us who maybe we do know something about them that we respect them, maybe their friends are saying, man, I've been through the same thing, you know, let me help you with this. And now all of a sudden you're not only not alone, you're actually being helped often, often what I see for a lot of folks and I watch it on their face and then they'll tell me later, they'll say, I know not everybody could help me necessarily, but knowing I wasn't the only one with these challenges, took a huge weight off my shoulder tonight saying it out loud, took a huge weight off my shoulder.

Wil Schroter: It does now, and and you know, you're you're you're hitting right on the point, right, which is that this trust that gets built through the open and honest sharing, right? Trust. Uh, it comes from that transparency. The transparency piece isn't just important for building that trust. I delivered a keynote couple of months ago around the power of story, right? And then about being very, very transparent your storytelling and a big part of that is that once people have the story they can get involved. So, to your point around all of a sudden I'm getting some help on this, right? I'm getting at least recognition that other people have been through this. But in all likelihood I'm gonna get some perspective and advice that can be truly truly helpful without that level of transparency, People can't help you if they don't have the context that they don't have the background story and the best they can do is tell you what they did. There's no way for them to contextualize that to your situation and to know whether that's actually going to be good advice or perspective for you. And so, you know, through that trust, building through that transparency, this opportunity to really give and get help starts to come to life.

Ryan Rutan: Yeah, man, and I think that when we're building our company, we know we need help, but we're often not necessarily good at asking for it

Wil Schroter: or not good at it were absolute shit at it. And it's

Ryan Rutan: like, it's like

Wil Schroter: asking for, it's like asking for directions, right? I got this, I got

Ryan Rutan: this right, right? And beyond that, we often don't know how to phrase the question in order to ask for help. Sometimes just saying here's what the problem is. The people in the room are like, this is what you need help with.

Wil Schroter: Yeah, that's exactly my point, right? It's the it's the story itself, right? You don't have to even come out with the requests for help. But once they know the story, I can I can point to countless examples just in the last couple of months where after hearing somebody's story, I was like, okay, they need to talk to. So and so they need to check out this resource and here's a piece of perspective from my own history that will shed some light on this, right? Without that story, without that transparency. I never would've been able to do that. It's like he's struggling. You know, she's having trouble. I hope he gets better. Right? That's all you can do.

Ryan Rutan: You know, we did one last week in columbus Ohio and it was actually a larger group than I usually like to have is about 20 people, which I like to try to keep him to about 12 at most. It's a lot. It's kind of hard to get to everybody, makes it for a long night and right from the get go guy comes in, he talks about his business and he talks about how he needed some help finding some people to interview for a podcast, which is actually an important part of where he was growing the business and, and so we said, well, hey, you know, who would be ideal interviews for you and he starts to rattle off some names and this is the coolest part rent. Seven hands go up with people he's never met before that are like, oh I can absolutely, this guy is a good friend of mine, I can absolutely make an introduction for you. And he's again going back to this, you know, immediate trust. You're like, wait a minute. This guy who I've never met before is all of a sudden willing to help me. And I just want to stick on this point for a second because I think it's so powerful and I don't think a lot of people, no, this founders love to help founders. Absoluteing 100%. I mean Ryan is why you and I are in this business, but but it's not unique to us. Most of the founders we work with are incredibly giving people give an example. We run a platform called clarity dot FM. That is a huge resource for people to find mentors and experts etcetera and they charge for their time, which is a great idea, creates a little bit of friction, makes good use of their time, etcetera, little known fact, the large majority of those folks just donate that money to charity. That's right. They're not doing it because they're trying to make money, they're doing because they want to help founders. They just can't say you can have a limited amount of my time for free

Wil Schroter: right now. The pay bear is a huge part of it, right? Because it makes people be a little more thoughtful before they engage them, Right? But your point there, they're not trying to do it for the money and they're helping in two ways right there helping that founder directly and then they're, they're helping by turning and giving it to charity, right? Which is just, It's so indicative of the level of desire to be helpful that you find in, I would say 95% of founders.

Ryan Rutan: It is, and I think what happens is all of a sudden you put a bunch of founders in a room together. They're dying to help each other. And a lot of people, if you haven't seen this in action, you may not believe it, try it, get those folks in a room and get the first person that says, I need help with something. And assuming it's a reasonable request that, you know, people can help with everyone in the room is going to go out of their way to try to help now think about what that does in the dynamic of the room the moment. One person raises their hand and says, you know, uh I need help with something and everyone else in the room raises their hand and says, I got you. Now. What blows me away is that the founder who asked for help didn't, I didn't even know that they're, they're just happy Will wasn't selling. Amway didn't know what to expect that that's like. Yeah, exactly, right. But all of a sudden they've got all these people that have never met before rushing to help them and those people they've never met before had no prompting that they should come there to help anybody with anything.

Wil Schroter: No, they were they were as surprised as the person who is receiving the offers for help right now right? In terms of being asked for help,

Ryan Rutan: I've done this with thousands of founders over the years and I've never seen any other outcome I've never seen and bring these folks together. We get together, somebody asked for something and just get blank stares. You know, everyone's like, well, a problem for you buddy. Yeah, good luck just pour him another

Wil Schroter: beer

Ryan Rutan: every single time and it's this really cool kind of magic that starts to happen. And the other thing that's nice about it. You know, these are often done in in local areas so columbus or I did in L. A. Or san Francisco. These are also people that live next to each other. These are your founder neighbors. What a cool way to bring your community together on a regular basis. In a way we're saying let's share and help each other. It's so powerful

Wil Schroter: going back to the the offers for help. One of my, you know, I have such mixed emotions about this because on one hand, one of my favorite moments in any one of these things is to see the shock and surprise of the person who's asked for help that they now have these numerous generous offers for help. That makes me happy to see that the look on their face, the shock, the almost embarrassment right that they're going to get what they asked for. It makes me happy. On the other hand, I'm a little bit sad every time because I realize this may be the first time that they've asked for help and been given it right and it's such a pity. Um but you know, I'm glad they've at least crossed that chasm. But yeah, I always have this mixed emotion. You just because you can just see the shock on their faces, especially the younger founders who maybe are expecting that they've been expecting to get some help from somebody like, you know, everybody has these stories about their mentors and these people to help to lift them up and they're like, well what am I doing wrong? That I don't have one of these humans in my life right, like where's my mentor, where's my muse? Um And then they finally are sitting in a room and they're getting these wonderful offers for help on problems that they've just laid out in in painful detail and all of a sudden the sun just starts to shine on him and it's an amazing moment to watch,

Ryan Rutan: you know, and I think for the folks that are that have done this a few times, like, you know, I've moderated a bunch of these, if you will, there's even a little prompting that happens in other words, we had a guy last time and the last founder dinner that we did, he said um having trouble hiring this position, if anybody has candidates for that for this position. One of the things I suggested to him, I said, hey, we could do that if folks here can help but can anybody here help him higher for that position, meaning basically become his surrogate recruiter and look over a few resumes or maybe even sit down in a couple of the interviews and this was a pretty seasoned guy that was making the request. He said, you know, I never even thought to ask for that. And so I think as these things evolve, the group can become more and more attuned to how to make the help better.

Wil Schroter: Yeah. And and they want to. That's the thing, right? Like I would, I would much rather be asked to spend an hour doing something that's going to be really, really meaningful and helpful than to spend 10 or 15 minutes giving you advice that you have to wonder how to act on, right? I would much rather make that additional investment and know that it's going to see you through. It's like Peredo principle, right? You can, you do 80% of the work and get none of the value of that additional 20% may give you all the value. I would rather as a, as a founder to founder, helping out go That extra mile and make sure that it's really going to have an impact. And I would say that again, 95% of founders gonna feel the same way they're willing to put in the extra effort to make sure that it has impact, right? We don't like to do anything that falls flat. Like that's just a core tenet of being a founder. We want everything we do to work out. And so given the opportunity to go a bit further, most of us will

Ryan Rutan: agreed. And you know, when we've gotten through folks challenges, when we've gotten through some of their requests for help, if we've got a group that will start getting together on a more regular basis, which by the way, I get asked to have this meeting on a regular basis every single time I wish to say I would, I did it more often. And the truth is we're going to start doing this at scale into next year with startups dot com, but if you have the opportunity to get together with the, with a similar group on a recurring basis, you can also start to make this more of a process. For example, you can start to say things like, hey, what are your goals between now and the next time we meet? Right, how powerful is that?

Wil Schroter: You get real specific commit to it in front of the gang

Ryan Rutan: and this helps at so many levels. I was a part of a group called Waipio Young Presidents Organization 20 years ago and it's, it's a, it's a good group, a little bit different than this, but, but a good group and it was always the same group every single time, the same seven of us, I think that got together and what I felt was one of the most powerful things was during each, we call them forums, during each forum, we would commit to what we were going to do the next time we met, which is usually a month from now. And for some people, it may sound kind of hokey, like hey, I'm a Ceo, I don't need to make commitments man. There's something about saying something publicly, mostly to people who you respect and more importantly, people, you know, you're going to see again, you're gonna have to stand up behind what you just said and seeing it through, but there's, there's an added level, those people actually care whether you get it done, you know, it's kind of like, you know, when you say, hey, I'm going to lose £10 or something, it would be the equivalent of you saying it to a bunch of other people who are personal trainers actually want to make sure you lose that weight.

Wil Schroter: The other thing that's really powerful about stating your goals in front of people, particularly if you've just gone through, what are my biggest challenges and what am I, you know, where do I need help? They can actually help you normalize those goals, right? And make sure that those are on target and validate them and say like, is this really the most important thing right now, you just told us this is your big challenges, what you ask for help on, but now you're setting a goal that's a little bit incongruent with that, or have you thought about this goal in this way or that way? Right. So I think that getting those goals out in front of other people and getting feedback on the goals themselves can be really, really powerful.

Ryan Rutan: Well, we just did a whole episode on goals and how to, how to make them reasonable and how to make them smaller and etcetera. And so I definitely, whenever I have this conversation with founders start to get into a little bit of the, hey, that's a cool goal, but can we chop it in half, so we can actually get

Wil Schroter: right right, it's a beautiful big goal, it's way more than you can accomplish in that timeframe. Let's talk about

Ryan Rutan: it. But I think there's something powerful, like we talked about about saying it out loud and sometimes the goals, by the way, aren't necessarily business goals. I'll give an example, a popular one that I hear is I'm getting really fat, I'm getting really unhealthy because I've been working nonstop for 18 months. I just want to get to a yoga studio one day. That's my goal. You know, it's

Wil Schroter: funny when you talked about the frequency of the meetings and people ask you to do more. I started thinking, man, if you start doing more pizza and beer on a regular basis, your Fitbit scale is

Ryan Rutan: going to hate this, right? We'll have to be standing in a circle of treadmills. Yeah, So I think that, um, for the, for the founders to be able to say here my goals, you say them out publicly and then knowing there's folks that will, um, that will help them accomplish those goals is super powerful, which brings me to kind of what I would say, maybe the last point about how do we insubstantiality, all of this, how do, when, what's this meeting happens? Do we just walk away and say, hey, I hope it works out or do we kind of follow up and we kind of keep the drive alive and I think historically, whenever I've done a ship job of following up with everybody, which which happens, um, people get anxious, not angry but anxious. They're like, man, that was a great night. And I feel like we had so many commitments, we had so many requests, we had so many, all these great things and it just sort of died. Yeah. So we

Wil Schroter: totally hit it off. Why aren't you answering my phone calls?

Ryan Rutan: I mean it's so many levels. Hey, we're total strangers. I never got that, that girl's number, that guy's email or whatever. And so we couldn't reconnect. So this sounds obvious, but at the very least I get everybody's permission and I do a group CC of everybody's emails the next day And in that email will basically say, hey, if you wouldn't mind just recite what your ask was, like what your request was for the group and if you, if you'd like to commit to something a goal. But next time we see you throw it out there and I got to tell you everyone does. It's incredible.

Wil Schroter: It's really awesome. And what about the commitments to help? Right. So there's the, there's the years committed to what you're gonna do asking for the help that you need. Um how do you, how do you bring that? Um how do you bring that part too? Because I think it is important to remind people that they should be committing to help. And it is a commitment, right? It's it's not, it can't be a hollow offer.

Ryan Rutan: I think that's historically been a challenge because someone will ask for something. And let's say we've got 12 people in the room. The first person asked for something, seven hands go up awesome. But then the second person asks for something, the third, it dies really fast. Now, a couple of times we've had a little bit of a court reporter, They're just taking notes as as furiously as they can. And that's pretty cool. Uh, we're working on some systems, right? As you know, at startups dot com to start to build some platforms to bring these groups together, but also to start creating some, um, some detailed notes and easier ways to capture the commitments, capture the request, capture the goals and make it so that all this stuff starts happening on the fly.

Wil Schroter: That's gonna be huge. It's gonna help in so many ways, um, particularly start to think about it across our entire network starting to surface, like how many people are suffering from the same issues. And what sort of additional resources can we as a massive community of founders bring to bear against those challenges. It's going to be really awesome to watch some this stuff gets solved at scale.

Ryan Rutan: Absolutely. And so, you know, I like talking about it as we're wrapping up a little bit. I'd like to talk about how people can put some of these groups together. So again, I don't wanna be too self promoted. But honestly, if we can help you with this, we're putting these groups together in every city on the planet. You can email us at, at therapy at startups dot com, Therapy at startups dot com and let us know that you want to get involved in a group and will help you from there. We'll have a more formal process later. But really if you want, if you're, if you're interested, if you like what you hear, there's groups popping up everywhere, we can help you out if you have no interest in emailing us and you just want to do it yourself. That's totally cool to let me explain how that would work and Ryan, you've done it too. So I'd love to hear your thoughts. Here's how I've done it. I've typically looked for people that were obviously local because I was in my case, I was working on particular cities and I was looking for people who had some common thread now, this is really important. It's the group composition absolute matters. I'm looking for people who often are at the same stage of their business. For example, for folks that are at the ideation launch stage, they usually have different challenges than folks that are at the growth stage. So for example, if I'm at 200 K in revenue, I often have different just life challenges really than people who have 20 million in revenue and so we look for some composition there, we look for people that have some commonality because you're looking for common ground.

Wil Schroter: The curation is really important, curation of the group is super important because your point, if you get people with really very, very divergent points in the startup journey, there can still be, you know, good interactions between them, right, particularly the more experienced ones can kind of fire stuff down. Um, and sometimes you'll see, you know, the, the newer startups being more in tune with some, you know, scrappy new technologies and things like that. But generally speaking for these groups, particularly for that honesty and transparency to open up the closer they are to being peers, the more likely that is to happen otherwise what I've seen occur is that you kind of get the two camps is like the experienced founders talking down. I don't mean that in a pejorative way, but like they're talking down from on high talking from experience, they're speaking at the, the the younger founders of the earlier stage founders as opposed to speaking with them. They don't treat them that appears in the same way. So I think that curation really important. Well, what I have, I have a couple of methods that I use for identifying these people, but how were you, how were you going about identifying them?

Ryan Rutan: Okay, So it's in some cases I've used linkedin in some cases what I do and this is the most effective. I'd find say 34 or five people that I want to invite. And I say, who would you invite? And we talked a little bit about who they would be in every case, every single time I've done this, half the people in the room I've never met before. That's really important to point out people thinking, well, we'll just have this big rolodex. I do. But that's because I invited lots of people who invited lots of people. So it wasn't my charisma, that's for sure. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Um, you know, years ago when I had first moved to L. A. It's like 10 years ago I was working primarily in entertainment. I hadn't met a single person in technology and after a year went by, it was blowing my mind because I'm trying to find some peers. And so I hopped on linkedin and I typed in anybody with dot com and their company name, doing like a radial search from, from where I was living. And the first person that came up was a guy named Jason Nazar who run, you know from docs dot com or was from, um, he sold it. And uh, so I emailed him totally cold email and I said, hey man, I don't know you, you don't know me, we're both founders. I just got into town not too recently and I'd love to have a beer with you and just talk shop.

Wil Schroter: That's really funny. I actually didn't know that's how you and Jason met. That's really,

Ryan Rutan: yeah, it was totally cold. I mean I might as well met her on Tinder date. Like it couldn't have been more cold and

Wil Schroter: had sean rad just been working a little harder

Ryan Rutan: and had that. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So Jason said, sure, let's get together and he and I get together and I'm like, hey man, you know, why aren't there more people in this town and technology meeting with each other? And Jason was starting to put together some events around town. So we started to team up a little bit and I said, hey, I'm just going to start cold calling everyone around town, which by the way, for a kid dropping in from Ohio in L. A. cold calling people in the mid-2000's not the coolest move, right? But it worked. Every person that I cold called showed up in L. A. That ain't easy to do. The logistics of that are not insignificant. But the demand was there. So here's what I would say if you're looking to get kicked off. Don't try to fill necessarily the whole room look for five or six people you can start with, explain to them what you're trying to do and see if they know somebody, if they can bring one person, it's a win if they can't, no big deal. I don't think you need to have any more than 12 people in the room six is probably Too few, but again, because there's less people who can offer help when it goes north of 12, you can't get to everybody. And that becomes a bit of a challenge. When I had 20 people at my house last week, it was like a lightning round, it wasn't, it wasn't as good as it could have been but it was still pretty amazing.

Wil Schroter: I think you have to have a little more trouble building the relationship and trust when, when it gets too big. I think also if it's too small, you have the same thing, it feels almost too intimate. And so yeah, I think that, but I think you've landed on, I think I think a dozen is the right number. I want to share a couple of things that I've done in terms of terms of gathering, gathering humans because the cold calling thing definitely does work. One of the things that I've done is maybe just out of laziness, I just want to hijacked other events, people. Right, so let me use it as a recent example when I was in ST Pete quite early on, you know, again, like you used the founder calling card, you start reaching out, you're going to get introduced to other entrepreneurs, you're going to find out what else is happening in the city, if anything at all. And there were a few things going on that I started showing up for one million cups, which is, is a great event um, for really early stage startup companies um started showing up for that on Wednesday mornings. And what I was able to do over about a three week period was see some of the experienced founders who were sitting in the audience there to provide help not to pitch their startups. I was able to see kind of who was raising their hands and asking really smart questions about these startup companies, who was giving really good solid feedback about these like kind of, you know, who were the other smart people in the room that it would be fun to hang out with and, and, and talk shop. And it didn't take long before I'd identified 8 to 10 people just from that single event over the course of about three weeks. And that was how I put together my first founder dinner down in Saint Pete and I've continuously done that anywhere I go, there's one here called standing beers and it's, it's standing and it's, you know, it's a double and thunder, it's standing beers and it's a, it's a meeting that happens every two weeks. Um, and it's also a bar where there are no chairs, so we just stand up at the bar and drink and talk. And it's a good little event, but it is not, it's not, doesn't get to that founder level of honesty, you know, it's, it tends to be more of a let's drink a little, let's commiserate a little. Um, and then let's go our own way. And so I wanted to bring something a little more, a little more intimate to Antigua inside. It basically did the same thing, went there, picked up a couple of founders, grabbed a couple of people that I knew and then I always use your suggestion well, which is to then ask them to invite other people that I haven't met, right? Why do all of the work when I can leverage their network? Have them bring people that don't know me and it's just fun. It's actually, there's a lot of, I take a lot of enjoyment from getting to meet somebody the first time and then turn on that level of honesty and transparency. Right? If I already know these people, it seems a little less magical. No less impactful. But I like the magic aspect too.

Ryan Rutan: That's a really good point. You know, I got to tell you right now, if we were to kind of summarize, just look at the, the key points here. A couple things come to mind. I'd love to hear yours, but my key takeaways or deliverables, kind of the folks listening would be if you're going to do this, make sure it's in a private setting, not at a restaurant, not anywhere that anybody is in

Wil Schroter: earshot.

Ryan Rutan: Make sure it's one conversation, you can't do this at a long table, you can't do it. You know where people are stuck in one and people are stuck in the other. You gotta find someplace where everybody's sitting campfire style where they can have one conversation. So only one person is talking and more importantly everyone else is listening. You

Wil Schroter: know, we've never done this, but there's a, there's that, you know, a lot of group, a lot of groups do this, I'm part of a men's group that that uses this mechanism. But you do something like the passing the baton right where you're not talking if you're not holding this thing

Ryan Rutan: and

Wil Schroter: I would say it's it hasn't been necessary at the founders dinners. But if for some reason you find that it is fractional izing you are getting camps of people who are talking out of turn, then it's an easy mechanism to put in place.

Ryan Rutan: Well, I mean I think it speaks volumes that every single time we do one of these, we have a room of type a personalities that can shut the hell up long enough to let anybody else. It's

Wil Schroter: not just the pizza. It's not just Yeah,

Ryan Rutan: but so so those are my things and the only thing I would say and then Ryan again, I'd love to hear from us. Um I really think that how you cast it, you know, we could say that the music of Hollywood term. But um you know how you pick who's going to be, there is so critical, it can't just be 12 random people at total random, you can do it, but the vibe never works the way you're looking for. If you spend a little bit extra. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I think if you spend a little bit of extra time making sure um you get the right people there. I think it makes a huge difference.

Wil Schroter: Yeah. And that was that was really the impetus behind going to these other events. I mean, I enjoy these other startup events anyways, but in terms of using those as a way to curate my my kind of founders inner circle, that was exactly why I did that because I can pick up the phone, I can talk to somebody um you know, I can try to feel them out or I may get a recommendation to somebody else, but if I can see how they interact with other founders before I bring them in, I have a much better sense for right? Is this the guy who's got advice for everybody solicited or otherwise, right? Or is is this you know the sort of very quiet, pensive listener who's going to spend three weeks listening and then finally come with some really insightful comment, like, but you got to know that alright, I don't need a whole room full of people who are gonna take three weeks to warm up, that's going to be awful. Right? Nor do I need a room full of people who who can't shut up, right? That's also problematic. So the curation curation piece is really important, I would say the only other thing and this is probably just inherently true. But if you're going to put one of these together, have a real clear understanding of, of why you're doing it and and what you want to get out of it and, and even more so what you want to provide, like why have you decided to do this? Why do you think now is the time to do this? And what are you going to bring to the table and and help people to achieve? And I think that's a, it's a critical piece, right? I think it's it's okay to say, hey, we're going to get together and do some stuff. But I think being really, really intentional about what you want to provide to this community that you're going to create, and being committed to, that Is really important, right? You've been doing this for 20 years and nobody has asked you to commit to this, but you have, and I think that's a huge part of the power, right? If nobody, if you're going to go to one of these things, you've never been before, chances are if you asked around town, you'd run into somebody who had been and you get really good feedback about it, right? And that's partially due to your commitment to this thing and just doing it over a long period of time, not that everybody has to commit to doing it for 20 years, but if you're going to bring people together and you're going to try to drive outcomes, somebody has to take responsibility to being committed to trying to see these things through.

Ryan Rutan: I agree. And so at the top of the episode, we talked about how much founders want to help each other. So Ryan, I think I'd probably speak for both of us when I say this, let us help you. Um, if you're a founder in any city on the planet, if you're looking to either put a group together, join a group, you want to sit in with Ryan and I in a group, what, what have you or just again, run your own group has nothing to do with us. Let us help you um, email us at therapy at startups dot com. We can send you just the kind of quick agenda or playbook that we use for all of these. Not complicated, but I think it's something that if you invest the time and either participating or running your own, there's really not a great way to get a better outcome for your journey.

Wil Schroter: 100%. The other thing that we'll do is set up a discussion in our forums at slash community and we'll probably put it under heading like founder groups or founder dinners. Um, so it doesn't exist yet. Should be by the time you're hearing this, but so go and check that out. We can throw the actual link into the show notes once those are ready and you can join the discussion there, but certainly email us, hit us up on forms. But if you want to do this, please reach out. Let us find a way to help you.

Ryan Rutan: That's

Wil Schroter: a wrap for this episode of the startup therapy podcast. This is Ryan Rutan on behalf of my partner, Wil Schroder and all the startups dot com family thanking you for joining us and we hope you'll continue to join us. Be sure to subscribe rate and comment on itunes or wherever you love to listen to startup therapy. You can find all of our episodes at startups dot com slash podcast. If you're looking for more amazing resources to launch or grow your startup, be sure to head to startups dot com and check out startups unlimited. It's everything we have to offer from our online university to our amazing community of experts and founders and even all the tools we've built like biz plan, fungible and launch rock. It's everything a founder needs visit startups dot com slash begin that startups dot com slash B E G I N. You'll thank me later

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