MODcast Episode 5 – The Opposite is Always True: The Future of Venture Capital with Mike Millard

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In this episode, MODintelechy Co-Founder and CEO Scott Thomas speaks with Mike Millard, Operating Partner at Ecliptic Capital, about the exciting world of Venture Capital, disruptive innovation, and his trailblazing passion project – Pitch-a-Kid.

Scott
I want to welcome my—I’m happy to say—good friend Mike Millard, who is currently the operating partner at Ecliptic Capital. I know Mike going back 15 years when we worked together at AT&T Knowledge Ventures where we sat side by side. And since then, Mike has taken some very interesting roles, including at Austin Ventures, as well as at MassChallenge—which is a startup accelerator based in Boston—and started and ran the Austin chapter. And I’m sure I’m not doing full justice, but Mike has a long and storied career, and just happy to have you here.

Mike
Glad to be here. I love it. Let’s do it.

Scott
So first off, I want to start out with a conversation I was having with a colleague you just met, Adam. We were talking about you and we were talking about venture capitalists and I said well, you know, really venture capitalists are really investment bankers that do yoga, true or false?!

Mike
That’s interesting. There’s probably some truth to that. I love the way you’ve kind of woven that together. I would not put that together, but—a little bit! I think when I think about venture capital, ultimately what you’re trying to do is to move the ecosystem forward and help entrepreneurs get from point A to point B: operational excellence, understanding the market, understanding how to execute, understanding sales and IP. It’s not just about making an investment. It’s more of a partnership; we’re in this together to ultimately make an impact. That’s what I do.

Scott
That’s fair.

Mike
It could be that maybe we just do yoga all day long, I don’t know.

Scott
I like your about venture capital. Well, tell me a little bit about your journey. Because I think I made the joke about investment bankers and that wasn’t necessarily your path.

Mike
No, totally. It’s been an interesting path because I can’t say that it was this plan ‘thing’ that happened. A lot of times it was just my friends saying, “Hey, you should come work over here.” Right. So, way back in the day I worked at Dell and HP and I did corporate strategy, which is really making a lot of PowerPoints and spreadsheets, which I’m very good at doing. From there, I went to AT&T Knowledge Ventures, commercialized technology, which was awesome. After that, I went to Austin Ventures, director of research loved it. Great experience. I was the head of innovation at Seton, which was fun, in healthcare. I will say innovating in healthcare is tough. It’s a lot like banging your head against the wall and then going back and doing it again. But that’s healthcare. Then most recently I was a managing director of MassChallenge, which was a startup accelerator, started in Austin and migrated to Houston with two programs and we brought those startups in from around the world, 33 States, 51 countries. And in essence, I think we accelerated 298 companies in three years, and our goal was really to connect those folks to big companies, to partners, to funders, to advisors—ultimately to get them to be successful. And now I’m the operating partner at Ecliptic Capital and I’m trying to take all of that and infuse that into startups we work with at Ecliptic Capital. So, it’s awesome. I love it. I love entrepreneurs. I think it’s a privilege to work with people that have passions and dreams and them allowing us to be part of that is just fun. And I kind of view every single startup as a cross between a puzzle and a maze. You’ve got to figure out the right pieces. You’ve got to figure out the right journey. And for me, I just get up in the morning and I can’t wait to do what I do. So it’s pretty awesome.

Scott
That is awesome. You said something about healthcare, right? And I’ll contrast it with AT&T. Do you see, speaking of pattern recognition, patterns from working in a sector that is—maybe it’s regulated, maybe there are other dynamics that are different than… historically you see VCs in technology—they’re moving to consumer products, they’re moving to healthcare? Right. Can you share any patterns that you’ve seen in those industries? In my view, at least at AT&T, I could see where it had—let’s just call it an impact—on the ability to innovate or not.

Mike
Right. Yeah. That’s insightful. I would tell you that I think it’s just aligning incentives and in healthcare, I don’t know if all the incentives are aligned. So, when you look at payers, you look at patients, you look at the providers—not everybody’s always on the same page. Now, there are times that they are, but it’s a really tough thing. And I think in heavily regulated industries—telecom, finance, insurance, healthcare—those incentives are different for each of those key players causing just a lot of stress and they’re not getting things accomplished and they’re not actually innovating and helping the end result or the end customer, in my opinion.

Scott
Yeah. You know, I’m not a rugged capitalist. But I’ve seen that—not to the same degrees on scene—but just even in consulting and marketing. Working with companies that are regulated, they sort of take on a for-profit arm of the SEC. Because it just felt like I was working in a government entity—not right or wrong—but if you’d like to move fast and break things, that’s not the place to do it.

Mike
Probably not, probably not. And I think the other thing is the pace at which things need to happen for the end customer, especially with healthcare, is that you have a layer or two or three or 20 of administrators that are doing their job, they’re trying to help, but at the end of the day, you want a good outcome. And one part of that: instead of a triangle trying to do one thing and another triangle trying to do another thing, and another is trying to do a third… and the patients are just looking at it going, “I just want to get good care at a reasonable price and then – I’m healthy.” And I think when it’s regulated, it just creates a level of complexity that doesn’t allow you to innovate. Not nearly at the pace at which the market is pointing itself.

Scott
Hmm. So, I’m curious. In terms of how you look at investments, how much of a factor—or even more broadly—what are the factors you look at when you’re looking at your investments?

Mike
That’s a great question. At Ecliptic, we look a lot of different things. We look at, obviously, the basics: the market size, the team, the technology, understanding market adjacencies, understanding what they might be able to do over time and just seeing what stage they’re in and understanding those risks. I think what’s really exciting when we look at entrepreneurs from an entrepreneurial perspective. You get to see what they can do and then figure out, “is there a way we can add value to make sure that we put them on that path and help them on that path?” Because I think what’s interesting is we view it as a partnership. It’s not, “Hey, we’re gonna write this chapter and walk away and sit on the board, you know once a quarter and see what’s going on.” We want to be there from the beginning and share that risk reward with you. And we look at those things in terms of where they are in that stage, whether they’re looking at growing a business or getting more customers, or just understanding a pilot. Wherever they are and how can we add value? And it’s a lot of the basic things, but it’s understanding them over time and understanding that trust factor. Because once you have that trust factor, I think you really understand what they’re going through on a day to day basis. And they’re just more honest with how things are going. And the more transparency you have with your VC, I think the better results you can get because the good VCs really want to help. They really want to get in there and make sure that things go well.

Scot
Okay. So, you’re talking about the kind of approaches, right? To the extent that you can share, what do you see—whether it be Austin Ventures or MassChallenge or even at AT&T versus where you are now… like, I know that’s a huge meta question…

Mike
They’re all the same, but not at all.

Scott
Do you mind just comparing it crassly? I think it’d be interesting, right? Folks who are not in it may lump all those into the same category, right? To some extent, maybe it makes sense. I think you have a rare background in sitting in all those different areas that most people don’t, right? And so just I’m personally curious.

Mike
Yeah, I think, go back to AT&T Knowledge Ventures. I think that the trip was that it wasn’t having good technology; AT&T developed phenomenal technology. The hard part was getting it out into the market and it was making sure that we had the right kind of deals in play, the trademarks were okay, the copyrights were okay, and the patents, because it was kind of new at the time. And I think people are kind of like nervous, like, “What are you doing?” But it was also just going through the politics of “Hey, this particular patent came from this division and you have to get everyone’s blessing to make sure it’s okay.” The license is a particular piece, even though it’s a good thing. That was kind of the struggle there, which, you know, that’s just part of the company mind. I think Austin ventures was a great experience because, you know, it was pretty much a firm, so many deals came in. I think the hardest part from my perspective there was, you know, when you’re looking at really good deals all the time, it’s hard to understand which ones do you want to pursue? I know it’s a great attitude to have, but that was sort of what I remember most. A lot of times, it wasn’t like, “Oh, we’re going to pass because…,” it was like, “Oof, these are really talented entrepreneurs. These are really, this is a good deal.” And, you know, I commend the guys and girls for looking at those and figure out which ones were the right ones, but it’s not an easy thing to do. At MassChallenge, I loved that particularly because the mission was really about how do we get this ecosystem to embrace the startups and innovation? How do we get them connected to big companies? How do we get them connected to universities? How do we get them connected to mentors and advisors and board members and ultimately, how do we get them set up to go to a venture firm and actually present themselves what the right way, in the best light? And you know, startups are, it’s hard, it’s exhausting, it’s an adventure. But I enjoyed every single one cause I kind of viewed all of the companies in the cohort as part of my, you know, they’re like my kids and I wanted to make sure that they use got the right kind of attention and we got them on the right path for them to be successful.

Scott
Yeah, that’s great. You know, I was thankful enough for you to invite me to be a judge. What I would say is: I was particularly impressed. And again, I don’t have all the reference points that you do in terms of looking at companies, but I was really impressed for the stage that the companies were in, and the quality that came through. And so, do you want to talk a little bit about maybe when you started MassChallenge and where you ended, and maybe how you refined that process of recruiting companies. Use the right terminology, recruiting companies and you know, building up funnel. It’s a different business, but it’s kind of like sales on some level, but kind of finding the right companies. And, and then going through which ones you think are really going to make a mark versus the ones that won’t.

Mike
Right. Well, I’ll tell you what was fun is that when the Boston folks came in to Texas, they realized it’s a great ecosystem and they really understood from their experience with Boston like, this is the next ‘thing.’ And you know, this could be MassChallenge in Austin. In a lot of conversations around like, “No, this is MassChallenge Texas.” It was a little bit like “What? You haven’t even started the program in Austin. What are you thinking?” And I said, “Look, this is MassChallenge Texas.” If you look at Austin and Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth, San Antonio, and El Paso; there’s a lot of talent to scale these companies, the location quotient in those areas are amazing relative to those areas of expertise. And I want to do kind of come in and it was a big challenge. I said, “This is going to be fun.” I’ve never run an accelerator, check. I don’t have a team, check. I don’t have an office, outstanding. I don’t have a board. I don’t have a location for the startups and I don’t really have any curriculum and I didn’t have a plan. And to me it was like, “This is my chance to really kind of embrace the chaos. You’ve been through this. Like, how do you start this? How do you do this?” And for me, I wanted to make it MassChallenge Texas from the very beginning. And that’s why we started in Austin. And then the next year we went to Houston and I migrated. And I think over time, you’ll see that at MassChallenge, we’ll look at—obviously Dallas and San Antonio, even El Paso—but we wanted to get everybody involved. And with my corporate experience, I knew how to engage big companies and knew how to talk to them. Big companies are big companies, but there’s a little bit of understanding who you’re talking to and when, and I also understood a little bit the of the venture piece and what they were looking for. Now, I wanted to tie it all together. Ultimately what I wanted to do is—I had some mentors come to me and say, “Look, you know, the startups that are in Austin—they’re okay.” And it kind of hurt my feelings, like “What do you mean they’re okay? They’re awesome.” And I thought, “What are you talking about?” They said, “Well, if you can find a way to bring in high quality startups, the funders will follow. The ecosystem will focus on that. But you’ve got to find a way to get in really good startups, because if you don’t do that, you’re just kind of winging it.” So, part of the process at MassChallenge is: we have folks like yourself that would actually judge these folks on the application. And usually we got, let’s say in rough numbers, a thousand applications. We whittle that down to 250 and then we’d kind of divide pitches in 250. You’d say about a hundred would make it in to the program between Austin and Houston. And through that process, you just get really good startups. And you’ll see that in Austin. Now, MassChallenge is not the sole reason all the funders are coming here, but when you look around, you’re getting a higher caliber because we’re engaging with the startups and helping them along their way. And you’re seeing people go, “Oh, you understand a cap table. You understand the term sheet. You understand how to drive operationally to your milestones that are going to achieve success.” And that’s from engaging the entrepreneurs with advisors. We didn’t have any, we had zero. And I put a call out and I think we got over 500 experts to engage with the startups, which is huge. It’s just getting people to realize that you can play a part in your community. And it could be fun. Like it’s a lot of fun to work with startups, especially when sometimes all they need is an intro or that bit of advice or that connection that can change everything. And I know you’ve been through that, you know, with your company, like sometimes that one open door can change everything and that’s what we want to provide at MassChallenge.

Scott
That’s awesome. I think in general, MassChallenge has made a huge mark in Austin.

Mike
Thank you! I will say this: I’m glad that I had that experience. It’s in good hands with John Norby. John’s doing a great job. The team is talented. A lot of this was started by the team. My job, 99% of the time was to get out of the way. I was lucky enough to have a phenomenal team.

Scott
Oh, it’s good. I think you built that. And it’s interesting to say you saw Texas, not Austin from the outset. Right. And I think that’s the importance of a vision and setting a template, right? Because then it’s harder to go the other direction. Right. If you start big and kind of go top down with a vision—a little easier. I would imagine if you’ve never said that, I’m sure MassChallenge would be great, but it would probably be, you know, still in Austin

Mike
I was going big, baby.

Scott
I know, I know. Just like the company. So in the current role, are you looking for any specific industry? We talked about criteria, but it was interesting when you mentioned Austin Ventures because in my mind I was thinking at the time, they don’t want one of the only games town. Right. So there was a sort of an abundance of people that wanted money and not an abundance of money. It feels like that’s shifted a bit. But not completely, right? We’re not Silicon Valley in Austin, yet, but where are you kind of looking? Where are you fishing?

Mike
I love that. I’ll tell you one, I just love what I do, but we’re industry agnostic. We’re an evergreen, permanent fund, a hundred million in capital. And we look for disruptive innovation and we look at things we think that we can add value to. And that can be, you know, the pre-seed or seed or series A. And I think what’s interesting about that is because all of the folks, all the partners had an entrepreneurial experience. We believe that we can add value because we’ve been there. We understand a little bit of what you’re going through in terms of how to stay there. And I think that’s where, you know, what are we looking for? We look for that team, obviously, that we believe that we can work with and help and assist. And we look for that thing that’s going to have a huge impact and it’s not any particular thing. We’re not going to say, “Hey, it’s just going to be this industry and this sector or this timeframe and this particular look—we’re looking at everything. And I think if you go back in time, that was kind of how venture was originally. Venture was, “Hey, these are successful folks that have done well. And they want them to start their own firm and really dig in and help them.” But there weren’t necessarily, you know, sector specific, they were more like, look, we’re going to find the right kind of folks do the right kind of mentoring and help them along the way. And that’s sort of what I believe Ecliptic is doing today; we’re kind of in a way kind of going back to where we started and it’s really, to me, it’s exciting because I think that’s what Austin needs and that’s what Austin embraces.

Scott
That’s a really good point. And, you know, I know I started with an investment banker joke again. I’ll just get my own POV, right. I think that can be helpful at a certain stage of companies, but it’s not always optimal at the C round when it’s an idea and there’s not a lot of numbers in a spreadsheet to go off of. Right. You know, investment bankers would probably be glaring at me, but you know, a little bit later, there’s a lot of value in the later rounds. Right. One of the things that, Ecliptic and sounding like on some level—although I do want to maybe compare and contrast—is like Andreessen Horowitz, Silicon Valley. Right. I think that’s a lot of what they’re trying to do, which is those are operators and entrepreneurs. We’re now trying to help other entrepreneurs. Right. And again, it’s not right or wrong. Like I think there’s a place for every type of new scheme. Do you feel like that be like Ecliptic is better at the early rounds? Not that you do later. Right. Versus, I’m just trying to think that, and sorry the marketer in me is always thinking like, where do you sit in your ecosystem?

Mike
No, I love that. I love that. You know I’m hugely biased, I gotta say that, but I just think what’s really interesting is when you have that entrepreneurial experience, you add a layer of intimacy and trust and you can build that relationship because you’ve done that. And, I know you can relate to this is, you know, as a parent, it’s the same thing. Like it’s not a fault when folks don’t have children, but if you’ve never had children, it’s just, you just don’t know all the things that go on with having a kid it’s neither here nor there. It’s just, you don’t know. And I think that’s the one of the key aspects of Ecliptic is these folks have, especially gen partners who have started, they’ve built companies, grown them, and they’ve sold them. That’s an experience that is so valuable, especially when you’re working with entrepreneurs and that’s their goal. That’s what they want to do. They want to change the world. How do I do that? And, you know, understanding how growth happens, whether it’s the ecosystem or within a particular market, or how do you scale this product? You know, that understanding I think comes out. And I think it’s just something that’s a huge advantage because when we talk to entrepreneurs, there’s a lot of head nodding and they’re like, “Oh, you seem to get it.” It’s like, absolutely. Because you know, growing a company, as you know, it’s hard, it’s not easy. It’s not like, Oh, you know, today I’m just going to, you know, come up with a hundred million dollar company. It takes a lot of work and, you know, getting that establishment and that trust and that relationship built that those entrepreneurs view as someone that can help them in any situation, anytime, for any reason, that’s because in my opinion, it’s because the folks have been entrepreneurs and they get it.

Scott
No, that’s a great point. And in parenting, it’s funny, I like that parallel. I definitely can feel that. Right. So, speaking of which I do want to ask you a little bit about Pitch-a-Kid. I’m kind of opened before, right. Because, I don’t know where to start, but I mean, that’s basically one of your side ventures, right. Side passions, you know, talk a little bit about it, if you like.

Mike
Like many, I, you know, as an entrepreneur… last year took a little bit of a hit with Pitch-a-Kid. So, Pitch-a-Kid is, you think of Shark Tank, but the kids are judges and the kids, the sweet spot we found is kind of fourth, fifth and sixth graders. Mainly because the kids at that stage don’t really have much of a filter. They’ll ask pretty much any question. And if they don’t know the answer, they will ask you again, like if didn’t answer the question very well, they’ll keep pressing. So, I started with my daughter two years ago. Maybe because she just had some really good questions about some of the things I was working. I thought, “This is cool.” And I thought, well, what if we just kind of went for it? So, I didn’t really have, sadly, the best plan I just kind of went like, let’s just do it and see what happens. So, we did a pitch where some entrepreneurs came in and pitched to kids and the kids scored them and they scored with a rubric, which was kind of market research: vision, team, kind of where they’re going to business model and their value proposition and kind of gave them two questions on what those mean. And then we would provide that to the entrepreneurs. Last year took a little bit of a hit. COVID. Not a lot of schools were doing stuff virtually because it was just, you know, zoom fatigue. This year we’re picking it back up, and we’re doing a couple of plans for some virtual events. But what I like about it is the kids just learn, one: they see folks, it’s almost like, career day, but it’s almost condensed while you’re getting, “Oh, I didn’t know you could do that job, or that was a thing you could do.” Learning about technology or learning about different jobs or learning about different backgrounds. And what I love about it is the entrepreneurs get a lot of feedback and they get really tough questions. They’re usually a little bit like, :I’m not going to run. It’s a bunch of kids how hard could that be?” And I love that because then they get the questions and they get a little nervous, “Like, wow, they really ask questions,” which is awesome. But yeah, the entrepreneurs get something because they learn, “Hey, I need to refine my pitch and the kids, they just get inspired because they go, “Oh, well, if you’re doing that, I can do that.” And that’s kind of what I want is I want to make sure that, you know, as we, you know, do my part in the ecosystem, if we can inspire some kids early on that this might be a path for them. That’s great. I mean, I’d love to be able to say, “Hey, I helped spark a kid on a path.” That’d be awesome. And that’s why I love Pitch-a-Kid. It’s a lot of fun. I truly believe kids, in many ways, I think, can pick as good or better winners than adults, which is crazy. But after I guess, 13, 14 pitches, I think they pick really good companies.

Scott
I like that. So, I wonder if there’s a way to kind of A/B test that, right?

Mike
Long-term that is kind of the plan, the devious plan. So, I would love to eventually have something where kids could come in and it’s a little bit of a competition against the pros. Right. And see if kids could look at something and find a way to align them, you know, to make it worth their while to look at these pitches. But I think they love it. I mean, Shark Tank is fun. It’s a great format. And I kind of want to turn it on its head and say, “Well, what if you just had younger kids looking at this through a different lens? What if they looked at this and thought, ‘Huh, how would I look at this company, knowing what I know, being on this planet for 10 years?'” And you’ll be surprised how insightful these kids are, because they don’t have any baggage. They’re not trying to impress anybody. They’re just trying to understand the company, and it’s pretty cool.

Scott
Like you said, sometimes the stuff my kids says… his imagination defies physics. So is there anything you would want to expand Pitch-a-Kid? Can you share, do you have ambitions? Do you want to take this bigger? Is it still sort of evolving?

Mike
Yeah. It’s evolving. So one, I just wanted to have fun. Like just, wasn’t a masterplan of like, “Oh, world domination.” But what I’m seeing is, in conversations with some partners, we believe we can work with a series of schools, which would be great. We get kids exposed to the world of entrepreneurship. I think ultimately I would love to expand it farther because what I’m finding with my research is, you know, kids are kids across the world, right? So when you’re 10 years old, you look at the world in the same way, whether you’re in the United States or Sweden or Japan, you’re 10 years old. And I think it’s just fun to have that optimism, that imagination, that creativity, that’s looking at these startups and seeing, “Oh, what about this? What about this? How do you do this?” And get those kids inspired. So ultimately I’d love to keep doing events, but like everybody else I’m kind of on the path of, could we do something that’s online that reaches a broader audience because I’m seeing that the events are great, but it’s a limited number in terms of how much impact. So eventually I’d love to do more online, maybe get an app. We’ll see. But ultimately I want to spread it across because I think there’s just a chance for more kids to learn about entrepreneurship.

Scott
Now I’m brainstorming like, a Khan Academy time.

Mike
Yes. I need to talk to you guys. You guys could help me.

Scott
That wasn’t even a plug. That’s only because my kid has the app and I want him to use it more. For whatever reason, he likes Pink Panther and other cartoons more than Khan Academy. So, whatever it takes.

Mike
Whatever we need to do.

Scott
Fellow parents. Since I just joined the club and we talked about clubs, right? So, being an entrepreneur is a certain club, I guess.

Mike
Being a parent is a lot like being an entrepreneur, right. You don’t really know what you’re doing 90% of the time. I still love it; you course-correct a lot. As soon as you think you figure it out, things change. That’s pretty much an entrepreneur. And I always tell people, if you’re willing to let it change you and let you grow, it can. Having a child and having a venture on the side, it can change you if you let it. And I think it’s a lot like every kid, because you never really know what tomorrow’s gonna bring and that’s entrepreneurship.

Scott
That’s a really good message. I think that’s the first I’ve heard that. Right. You can almost go out with a PSA. Right?

Mike
We’re going to trademark that.

Scott
“If you’ve had a kid, you could start a business.”

Mike
Yes. That’s all you need. That’s basically the qualification.

Scott
Okay. All right. Well, we’ll get working on that. May or may not tie it to Pitch-a-Kid. So, you know, we talked a lot about, you know, the business and you know, your background—this is a pretty free-flowing format. (Try to say that a couple of times fast!) But I want to talk about your most adventurous/scary travel story, because that has become a tradition.

Mike
That is a tradition and I have thought about this. I’ve been very excited about this now, like I said earlier to you before we started, it’s a cross between stupidity and luck. Alight here we go. So before I went back to grad school, I took about nine months off and I got my car and I traveled all around that United States to find myself. I did not find myself, but I have a lot of fun. So, I believe I’m in Northern Arizona in my car and I look in the distance and I’m basically in the desert. And I looked at the distance and I see two rain clouds and I’m thinking, well, that’s good. It’s a desert, and it needs it, it doesn’t get much rain. That’s all. And then I kind of realized I’m on this road and I look over and you can kind of tell, I think it’s raining. I think it’s raining over there. Okay, good. And then I look, and I would say a good maybe two miles ahead on this road, I kind of see there’s like a little dip. It didn’t make one sense at the time. I was like, Oh, maybe, maybe it’s just going down… Well, what I realized is it was a runoff from the rain. It was actually a path that the rain could ultimately, you know, it was running water that could take your car away. And as a younger person, I thought, well I don’t want to get caught on this side. So I think—I should probably go faster, beat this stream of water coming down, this massive stream of water, and across to safety. There’s really no reason, and this was the stupidity part, but I was like, no, it’s now a goal. I must do this. So I decided that I’m going to go as fast as I can towards this little dip, water coming, and I’m going to beat the water. Now. It wasn’t the best decision because it’s really coming. Like, I’m now starting to see water coming, but I’m committed. So I go through the dip, the waters coming, I look over, my car comes out of this little, like almost like ditch area. And then the water, literally almost hits as the back of my car… and I make it.

Scott
So was it a wall of water, or was it… you know, how many feet would you say?

Mike
I would say it was, it was good. Probably two to three feet. It was a, it was a flash… my car would have been swept away, for sure. Pretty sure. Looking back now. I don’t think I’d have the same clout to do that, but at the time I was like, this seems like a good idea. I should just go faster.

Scott
So, I mean, we’re all about PSAs, right? Turn around. Don’t drown.

Mike
I was just kind of like, no, I’m going to do this. I’m in, I’m committed. It seems like a good decision. I’ll be fine. But I remember thinking, I literally went through and the water came through, and I thought I just escaped quite a long day, had I not made it. Just saying,

Scott
You know, it could be death, right. Maybe 10 to 15% chance?

Mike
It probably could have ended ‘not the best way’ maybe. Yeah. I’m pretty sure I could say that. Yeah. I wouldn’t do it today. Today. I’d be like, you know what? I see some rain, pull off, let’s just hang out. But it was a while back. So I was like, yeah, I’m good.

Scott
I thought you were mainly worried about the whiskey.

I was. I love whiskey. You know, it’s strange you should say that because I think there’s some whiskey right here, which is weird.

Scott
Oh, look at that.

Mike
I actually believe whiskey is, is good for you. In moderation.

Scott
There’s corn in Moline where you’re from, right. It’s Moline, right? Or is it East?

Mike
Yeah. East Moline. Well, I think I’ve told you this, this is critical. So Molly is the headquarters of John Deere. East Moline is where the plant was where they used to make the combines. And if you’re from that area, you kind of want to call out these small things. [Because] that’s kind of where the work is done. Not the corporate people. It’s kind of like, “Well, we’re making. We’re making”.

Scott
I get you. Okay.

Mike
So you know, very ‘blue collar comfort’. A lot of pride. Moline is a great town as well. But I remember being from East Moline.

Scott
Now, did your family work there?

Mike
No. Ironically, my dad ran a drug store. I was one of the few kids that did not have parents at either John Deere, or Caterpillar, or Ford or National Harvester. I was one of the few that like my dad did not work there. I was a rare kid, but a lot of pride in that area. Right? This is this is the Midwest. This is blue collar. This is how we roll. Not fancy, but we get it done.

Scott
Very nice. I think we didn’t even talk about AT&T stories when we were there right? I mean, I don’t know. I’ll just tell my favorite one. Just, you know…

Mike
Well I don’t know. You tell me your favorite one and I’ll tell you my favorite one.

Scott
Well it was, it was probably pre-AT&T Knowledge Ventures. It was one of the two. The first one – we had an interesting boss and it was basically me and one other person who were doing all the work or new deals that came through, and we thought we were, you know, not treated as well as we could have been. And we both basically held a corporate revolt which is super-risky because basically you’re telling your boss “no”, like you’re not going to do those things anymore, which is generally risky. It was super risky. And it resulted in said person quitting.

Mike
Okay. Okay. All right.

Scott
So it was like, we judged that we had leverage. And then we just said, we’re tired of this. You know, we made a very logical. It wasn’t like, we don’t like you. It’s like, you keep doing these deals that result in no money. We’ve got to do all the work and stopping. I mean, that’s the summary.

Mike
That’s cool. That’s good. I remember. So I wrote down a lot of corporate stories, corporate things that happened to me just because I thought, no, believe me, unless I actually write it down fresh. So I have this book that’s called ‘The Opposite is Always True’. Which isn’t really a book. It’s just a word document of all these crazy stories. And one of the ones from AT&T that I vividly remember is, it was a conference call. You remember the day, like everyone is on a conference call, we didn’t have video. It was more just on a headset, and everybody’s checking email. And I had to be on the call for whatever reason. I’m on this call and, I’m not kidding, it was a 30 minute meeting, I think, just to understand status for a project, if I remember [correctly]. 22 minutes of the meeting was roll call, because it was like a hundred people on the call. So for 30 minute meeting, 22 minutes was just “Scott Thomas? Here. Mike Millard? Present.” That’s all I did. That was a meeting in corporate America. True story. We had eight minutes or whatever to talk about whatever we were talking about. And I was like, you know what, I don’t know if I can work here forever. I don’t know if that’s going to work.

Scott
Wow. So the other one was when we had a colleague who regularly would fall asleep on a conference call, and this is not occasional, this was kind of one out of every two. And so he would just sort of mute it and then snore, but we were all around him. And so we just decided [one day] to unmute him.

Mike
Yeah that happened.

Scott
Not the most mature thing in the world. You know, in retrospect. But here we are, so, you know, you’re talking about, questionable decisions. There we go.

Mike
I love it.

Scott
Well, Mike, thank you for spending time. You know, this is one of the one time’s that we get to hang out.

Mike
Dude this has been awesome. I love this. I’ll do it again.

Scott
Awesome.

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