Welcome To the Join Up Dots Podcast with Greg Koberger
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Introducing Greg Koberger
Today’s guest joining us on the Steve Jobs inspired Join Up Dots podcast is a man who for many years worked in the corporate environment.
He hails from the lovely town of Schaghticoke (pronounced scat-a-coke) in upstate New York.
After attending RIT he made the move to San Francisco where he’s worked for Mozilla, and freelanced for a bunch of startups.
In fact when Greg interviewed at Mozilla, he was asked where he wanted to be in five years.
Well most of the time you would expect a response in the line of “I want to firmly providing daily value to your customers and stakeholders” or other such waffle.
Our guest today instead answered “Running my own startup.”
How The Dots Joined For Greg
Four years and 363 days later, after several starts and stops, years of freelancing, and a failed Y Combinator application, he achieved his goal just ahead of deadline.
It proves that the glamorous world of startups are just as prone to failure as they are global success.
Interestingly, early on, Greg discovered a unique team-building exercise in escape rooms.
He values the game so much, in fact, that he decided to build his own: Startup Escape. and to date hundreds of companies have gone through this immersive experience in San Francisco, earning it quite the reputation among startups.
So why does he feel driven to put himself under so much strain and workload, when remaining as an employee would quite often be so much easier?
And what are the big lessons that he carries with him everyday. as he looks back and joins up his dots to where he is today?
Well let’s find out as we bring onto the show to start joining up dots, the one and only Greg Koberger.
During the show we discussed such dreamy subjects with Greg Koberger such as:
Greg shares how the inspiration for starting his own escape room and why he thinks these are amazing ventures for his creativity.
We discuss “The Dip” that all businesses suffer with when starting their own business.
Greg reveals how it took him five years to get any sense of success in his business, but that is totally fine as he learnt so much
We talk about what energises us in our businesses (and more often than not its what we do away from it all that makes the biggest difference)
How To Connect With Greg Koberger
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Audio Transcription Of Gregory Koberger Interview
When we’re young, we have an amazing positive outlook about how great life is going to be. But somewhere along the line we forget to dream and end up settling. Join Up Dots features amazing people who refuse to give up and chose to go after their dreams. This is your blueprint for greatness. So here’s your host live from the back of his garden in the UK. David Ralph.
David Ralph [0:25]
Yes, hello there. Good morning cheer and welcome to Join Up Dots. Yes, the motivational, conversational, inspirational show that teaches you guys out there. Yes, you guys. Bad business isn’t all hard and stress and stuff. You can actually make it quite easy for yourself by listening to the mistakes that I’ve made. And my guest has honestly made as well, I’m sure. Well, today’s guest joining us on the Join Up Dots podcast is a man who for many years worked in the corporate environment. He hails from the lovely town of scatter coke in upstate New York. And after attending RYTE made the move to San Francisco, where he’s worked for Mozilla and freelanced for a bunch of startups. Now, in fact, when he was interviewed at Mozilla, he was asked where he wanted to be in five years and he’s answer, well, most of the time, you would expect a response in the lineup, I want to firmly be providing daily value to your customers and your stakeholders or others such waffle. Now our guest today instead of answered running my own startup away from here, he says away from here, four years. And 363 days later, after several starts and stops years of freelancing and a failed Y Combinator application achieved this goal just ahead of deadline. And it proves that the glamorous world of startups are just as prone to failure as they are global success. Now interestingly, earlier on, he discovered a unique team building exercise in escape rooms, I bloody love escape rooms, I really do. Now he values the games, so much impact, but he decided to build his own startup escape. And today, hundreds of companies have gone through this immersive experience in San Francisco, earning it quite the reputation among startups. So why does he feel driven to put himself under so much strain and workload when remaining as an employee would quite often be so much easier. And one of the big lessons that he carries with him every day is he looks back and Join Up Dots to where he is now? Well, let’s find out as we bring on to the show to start Join Up Dots with the one and only Greg Koberger. Good morning, Greg. How are you sir.
Greg Koberger [2:32]
Good morning, I have been wonderful this morning. How’s your your day going so far?
David Ralph [2:35]
Well, I’ve been in a small room all day. It’s a bit like an escape room, except I can get out whenever I want. It’s not work anymore. I’m now in that point. And it gets a bit sort of draining. And I’m going to ask you, where I’m starting to forget the struggle to where I got to, you know, it’s kind of easy time. And I kind of play around with this. And I play with Wi Fi and I think to myself, God that used to take me so long to do and I used to spend so much time tweeting around with this website and trying to get this email marketing working or do you remember that as your as your pains disappeared? Are you now resting on a on a lounge where people dropping grapes in your mouth and just having a lovely time? Greg, you It’s like you’re watching me right now?
Greg Koberger [3:22]
No, it’s exact opposite. I mean, it’s, every time I hit that plateau, though, I you know, the problems change. So a lot of the things that caused me problems 234 years ago, those have dissipated completely, they just replaced themselves with kind of new challenges and new pains and new new things that have to kind of get used to and figure out. So my job is completely different than it was four or five years ago, because the things that like kept me up at night, like four or five years ago, they kept me up at night, I was like, we’re gonna run a business, we’re gonna go to business, like, I was so scared that I would wake up and we’d run and money, we didn’t have much money in the bank back then we’d have like, you know, a few hundred thousand dollars, which seems like a tonne of money, but it’s nothing like I would wake up all the time be like, we’re not gonna have money tomorrow, like, we’re gonna, we’re gonna we’re never like, actually, you know, about to go out of business or anything. It was just terrifying to me. And now is probably the exact opposite. Like, now I wake up and at no point do I worry about our bank account being too small. I worry more about things like how, like, we’re just knocking that, like, we get that, like, we become a gigantic company, like we build, we want to build stuff like that. Like, before, my default fear was, oh my god, we’re going to fail. Because we’re running a business. Now my default fear is like, we’re just not gonna, like push things hard enough. And, like, spend enough money and kind of like, move fast enough. And someone’s gonna, you know, Eclipse us and like, so there’s still problems that I have, like, I haven’t quite got to the point where I’m just hanging around doing nothing all day. But my fears have completely changed from like, we’re not going to be able to, like, you know, make any money till like, there’s so much opportunity here that I’m worried we’re going to lose it.
David Ralph [4:55]
Yeah, but Greg, Greg, Greg, Greg, Greg, Greg, I’m gonna I’m gonna sit down and speak to you. Live life is about just enjoying yourself in a in the account? Just, you know, yeah, you’ve got to pay your bills, except back totally. But once you get past that, why don’t you just enjoy yourself? Why are you putting yourself under this stress? Greg, I don’t think it’s stressful,
Greg Koberger [5:17]
it’s a good stress. And as soon as it becomes bad stress than I then I won’t like it anymore. But I work with people, I work with a lot of people and they’re awesome people. And you know what, I’m sure that they, they, they also get to kind of build stuff, do stuff and all that. So a lot of stuff that takes me like, you know, personal energy and things like that isn’t the work. The job myself that I do is pretty easy. I just run a company. The hard part is two people. And I do it because I want to do it. But just making sure they’re kind of you know, is happy and can be ambitious and stuff like that. And it comes back to me as well. Like that means because of that, I don’t have to do much work as far as like, you know, writing code or design or anything like that anymore. So I don’t know, like, I think we’re looking for positions where I’m not quite that point, I just want to like coaster, anything, we’re still kind of in that upward? That upward shift right now.
David Ralph [6:04]
I’m in the upward shift, but I like to coast as well, I really do. You know, I find myself walking towards my office quite often, and then touching the door handle and thinking now, I’m going to leave it, I leave it and that there’s gotta be something else to sort of, I’m taking my time. Now, what would take up my time, sir, is startups an escalator startups, you know, but that’s great. If anyone out there hasn’t done an escape room. They’re just brilliant. They’re just great. I really enjoy them. And it’s one of those great things, but you realise, but actually, you’re not as good as the team. It’s always the team that actually helps you get out of these rooms, and you go in with all the intention of being the dominant one. And you realise that actually being the dominant one doesn’t work. It’s about the team. Tell us about your one and how you got the idea? And what is actually the room? What What do you actually do neighbours and zombies on Air Canada, what what’s happening in your escape room. Now even better.
Greg Koberger [7:05]
So this is an example of me, I don’t think coasting but kind of using where I got to, to kind of like, do something that’s a tonne of fun. So me and my company always do escape rooms. Whenever we travel we do. We do quarterly off sites, different places. So I’ve been to that I spent a month in Thailand, travelling with the company, I spent time in Costa Rica early on by when I was just starting up, I spent time in, we went to Hawaii for a few weeks, I’ve been able to use this company and have travelled to a bunch of awesome places with great people. So it’s a it’s been great. And every time we go, we look for a team bonding thing, because we spent a lot of time you know, hanging out and drinking and stuff like that. And I wanted to find something that we could do that would be fun, not too contrived, and all that and we got to escape rooms. And as far as like things that I’ve done that I probably wouldn’t be able to do before I started this company. I had a lot of time and money. And I wanted to build my own escape room. I was kind of like inspired by, you know, I like doing escape rooms. But that’s my nature is that I want to build stuff. I want to make stuff. I don’t like just being a consumer. So I saw I had an idea for escape room, which was startup theme. So it’s called startup escape. And the theme is it’s a startup, you’re you feel like you’re in start. There’s brick walls, there’s motivational posters, there’s laptops and computers all over and you walk in, you feel like you’re an actual startup. And so I took a few weeks and built that and it
David Ralph [8:25]
sounds boring, Greg, it sounds so there’s no, there’s no zombies, there’s no nothing comparable happening. It’s just an office,
Greg Koberger [8:33]
I make the joke that I pay real pay real money to do fake work in it. And the whole point is that it’s a kind of a parody of work. Because everyone goes to you know, everyone who goes through it works at a startup. And to your point, like I don’t like this concept of, you know, taking yourself too seriously with the startup like, I love my company. But we’re not changing the world, we’re changing our little nation, the world, and we shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously. And I hate when I welcome to startup and like their, you know, working until, you know, to your point till 2am and bring themselves out. And, you know, my point with the startup Escape is to kind of poke fun at that a little bit. And, you know, help people realise that, you’re right, it’s not zombies, or anything scary like that, but to kind of like, you know, let people realise that it serves fun. And that’s the reason we do it. If you get a job, you’re right, and you know, you could as well at a large company, make money and do nothing. The reason we do startups is because, you know, you get more control, autonomy and fun, and we’re actually able to build something and do something and, you know, kind of what that takes to express that with a, you know, my, my palate being a being on this one.
David Ralph [9:37]
And can I turn up without a team? You know, as an individual, could I turn up with just 15 with other people?
Greg Koberger [9:44]
Yeah, so just have to be like your team, I can be other people can be friends, anything like that. What you cannot do is come alone and do it alone. I haven’t.
David Ralph [9:52]
I haven’t got friends, I haven’t got team. It’s just you’re dealing with me. And you’ll give me all the answers. But it sounds great. And I love the fact that you are taking that that desire, as you say, to build stuff, and actually take it into different areas, because it’s that creativity of different areas, but actually ultimately brings the rewards back into your own business, I imagine.
Greg Koberger [10:16]
Oh, definitely. And like I moved to San Francisco, you know, in 2008. And back then it was different. It was in 2008. No one cared about money because there was no money. It was the recession here. I you know, the.com boom happened a few years before. Maybe there were a few big companies like Google was kind of okay, sighs things like that. But like, no one came to Silicon Valley, because they’re going to make billions of dollars or millions of dollars. They came because they wanted they came because they just like doing something or making something. And now it’s different. Now, you know, startups, especially a status symbol, and where you work and how much money you make, and, and all that and like, where you live and things like that. And like Silicon Valley’s completely changed. It’s more like, you know, New York, the finance, you know, section of New York, 510 15 years ago, I missed that, where people came because they want to do cool stuff. And, you know, that’s what my company, I tried to build a company where that’s true. And with startup escape, I try to build, you know, kind of harkens back to that, because we’re so lucky that we get to work at startups and do we want to do and I feel like sometimes we forget that. And to your point, we get too stressed out and into, you know, worried about, you know, ambition and things like that. And it’s not that you can’t have ambition, it’s that sometimes it’s the A channelled in the wrong way. Now,
David Ralph [11:30]
let’s take you back in time, because we have been talking about sort of stress, and I understand that there was a time when you were so stressed, but you had actually had to sort of seek help, and how it’s really reframed you moving forward. Tell us about that time, Greg?
Greg Koberger [11:48]
Yeah. So there’s no like, you know, specific example, where there’s one week that was really bad startups, just you know, ups and downs all the time. And the only way to kind of get through it is, you know, two ways one is having a really good support system of other founders, that you can be friends with, and know and complain about with. And too, is like, understanding why you do it. You know, as long as you have a bigger vision, and like where you’re going with this, it kind of makes go away a little bit. And it’s, it’s so hard to so for anyone who’s kind of like starting a company is just miserable. It’s, it’s the beginnings miserable, because no one cares about you. And once you know, no one, no one, like when you have your podcasts, I’m sure no one listened to the first episode, you just put it out there. And, you know, maybe you had a few friends that listened. And now that you’re thousand in like, it’s, it’s become smooth sailing, because people start to realise, like all that energy you put into it start to come back to you. It’s like early on, it’s so hard to start a company or start anything, you know, then halfway through, you always hit a low where like, you know, things get a little things are going well, but like something goes bad, and you just something happens. And it’s just a roller coaster. And, you know, as the nice thing about, you know, there’s that there’s, there’s a saying called this too shall pass and it’s, it’s about this king and he kept you know, you have good days and bad days. And, you know, I go through the storey, but I remember that well, but like, you know, his his son died or something great happen, things like that. And, and someone asked like how he got through it. And he had a ring that said, This too shall pass and just memory or like the thing that he took from that was it, you know, the lows will go away. And so the highest to don’t get too cocky about the highs and don’t get too down about the lows. And as time goes on with your startup, you kind of do get to be a little more emotionally stable as time goes on. Because you’ve seen it all you’ve seen the good news and the bad and you can kind of like, you know, take a step back and be like, okay, that’s just how it is. And so easier kind of modulate your your emotions as time goes on, which gets really nice for anyone starting out is like, how do you deal with this, it gets better,
David Ralph [13:41]
it will eat it does get better. But the thing that I’m really wish was out there, I wish that somebody maybe they are just haven’t seen it. But we see the highlights, we see the highlights where somebody is doing TED Talks, and you know, all that kind of silly stuff that people waste their time doing. But you don’t see the first starting point, do you you don’t see the first starting point where somebody videoed having that first idea. And the only thing that I’ve seen close to this is there’s a documentary by Coldplay where they were their mate was actually a film producer. And he’s become a famous film producer. And you become a famous band. And so he was actually filming their first gig and before their first gig, and you see the whole journey of it. Now, I wish somebody was out there filming you, Greg, when you’re laying on your bed in your lucky pants thinking to yourself, I’m going to do this. And the first steps because it’s not all domain names. It’s not all websites. It’s it’s ugly. It’s ugly time at the beginning before you make it into anything but you still possibly willing to share with people?
Greg Koberger [14:49]
Yeah. So like, for example, you mentioned in the intro that, you know, I had this idea of years and years ago. So the first idea came to me, thousand eight, I was working on another startup. And it just it wasn’t a big idea. It wasn’t like, you know, I need to do this. It was just an idea. And I had filed it away. And then it kept coming back to me over the years. In 2010. I applied for Sorry, I apply for a job at Mozilla, which makes Firefox. For you who don’t know, the reason I picked them is because they’re an open source company, their nonprofit is really, really good for the internet. And I just loved the the concept and the feeling of that. And I wanted to work there. And during my interview, they asked where I want to be in five years. And I like you said I didn’t want to like be like, Oh, I want to be here like middle management here. And like that are like I want to like I said, I wanted to start up. And when my boss said back to me was Earth, my future boss said, cool. Like, I want to make sure that over the years, you know, we get you closer to that vision. But like he asked me what I wanted to do. And the the idea that kept coming back to me was this this idea about just really matter. But API documentation, which is what I do currently. And you know, we talked about it and I described it to I mean, this was you know, two years after I had the idea. And two years before even less Mozilla and then two years later, I left Zilla because I applied to Y Combinator and I submitted my application, I got an interview. And for listeners who don’t know Y Combinator is this gigantic accelerator that, you know, it’s always really smitten by companies like Dropbox and Airbnb, like these huge companies came through it. And I was so excited to you know, get the interview and it went miserably like, that would be the video you’d want. The that was like my first, you know, my Coldplay first first live gig and it went horribly. And I gave up on the idea for a bit I left Mozilla because I knew I want to start a startup but like, I left this idea behind for a while. But like I did freelancing, I did consulting for like a bunch of startups, I worked for the Golden State Warriors, the basketball team for a while I did like a tonne of like, really awesome, amazing stuff. And but I couldn’t get this out of the back of my mind, I just, it just was just like, it was like, I need to do this. This is what I should be working on. And I you know, had another like freelancing stuff, I was working on a bunch of other projects, I just, this is what I would do in my spare time. And eventually got to the point where I like, by mistake, I had built something really great. And, you know, this is not that they went downhill for that up again. But like, I finally got to the point where it was good. And people started paying me money for it. And I was like, Oh, awesome. And I like applied to Y Combinator. Again, I got enough this time. This is 2006 15 or so. So this is five years after I interviewed on Zillow and said this is, you know, what I was going to do in a few years. And it just took me five years to actually get there to kind of get all my kind of, you know, ducks, ducks in a row and stuff. And like, you know, then we got into Y Combinator and we went through it. And, you know, we got like, you know, a bunch of press around it. And then I wrote this article five years time, because I look back I was like, wow, was exactly five years ago that I you know, kind of said this was gonna do with my life. And the really cool thing about that was that it looked like I had a plan the entire time, you know, your podcast is joining the dots. But like, you know, you know, you’re gonna play the Steve Jobs quick, or maybe or not, but you’re listening to the heard it like, you can only see those dots in hindsight and looks like a perfect storey where you know, from start to finish. I called my shot like Babe Ruth Did you know, in baseball, he had this famous thing where he pointed the stands and hit a home run Exactly. They’re like, it looks like that’s exactly what happened. And if I was to give a TED talk would feel like that’s exactly what happened. But, you know, there’s so many things that slowed me down that changed my path. And like, you know, ended up where I needed to be, but it wasn’t the right it wasn’t like that smooth path that they would have thought it would be? Well, let’s
David Ralph [18:31]
play some words. Now then we’re going to delve back into something you said that fascinated me, he’s okay.
Oprah Winfrey [18:38]
The way through the challenge is to get still and ask yourself, what is the next right move? not think about, Oh, I got all of this. What is the next right move. And then from that space, make the next right move, and the next right move, and not to be overwhelmed by it. Because you know, your life, it’s bigger than that one moment, you know, you’re not defined by what somebody says, is a failure for you. Because failure is just there to point you in a different direction.
David Ralph [19:09]
Now, in that journey, that journey of five years, if you say to most people, I’m going to teach you how to do this step by step. And it’s going to take you five years begun to go. What can we do it quicker? can we can we everything seems to be much, much quicker. When you look at that five years. And it’s a leading question. And I sort of preempt it with my personal experience. I’m now going to next April, it’s gonna be six years since I launched Join Up Dots. So I’ve been doing it six years. And in many regards, I could have done it so much quicker. But I didn’t. Because I was struggling with bass and I was struggling with bats and the podcast was going up and been down it was back and forth. The whole thing is stronger because of the journey. I wouldn’t change it any other way. I’m happy with the six years I’m happy with a 15 years to wherever I am now. Do you feel the same to think that you could have shaved off time? And it would have been so much better and easier? Or do you think No, it is what it is? It takes five years to really hit my home run?
Unknown Speaker [20:13]
Greg Koberger [20:15]
I don’t know anyone who’s accomplished what they want to do. You know, in less time they thought it would take I every step of the way. Every failure I had results in me learning a new skill, getting something out of it. I think that yes, I look back and like, why did it take me first of all five years to get to the point where I even like, had a company. And then five years on top of that to get to where I am now with the company like this has been almost 10 years that this has been kind of not my only thing but you know, huge, huge part of my life. And of course, I’d love to go back and like you know, make it the timeline a lot shorter, of course, but you can’t do that. I always talk when people ask for advice, like, I’ll talk to people talk to students who are like 1920. And they’re like, I want to do what you’re doing, and how do I get there. And I think that’s so dangerous to kind of like, you know, I did this a little bit, but only in hindsight to be like, I want to be blank. Because it’s then you start making bad decisions. And the thing that I liked about Oprah’s quote, and I might be interpreting it slightly different than what she meant. But the kind of the thing that evoked for me is if you’re afraid the game was like hot or cold or like, you know, something’s hidden in a room and someone’s like, warmer, warmer, colder, colder and you’re trying to find this, I think life’s like that I don’t think you need to necessarily know the destination is or what the destination is, you just need to know that you should go towards things that feel right to you. And you should go away from things and people and situations that feel bad to you. Because I know so many people who are like, okay, I want to start a company. And the way they get there is by, you know, doing the kind of things that you might think would help you build a company, you might do things like, okay, I want to raise money. So I’m gonna go work for a VC firm for two years, and I hate this person, that’s gonna be good opportunity for me. And if you ever find yourself saying, I hate this, that’s a good opportunity. I feel like you’ve definitely set yourself up for failure, because there’s no way you can succeed under those situations, like I worked at Mozilla, which was a nonprofit, you know, just doing good for the world type company. And that has nothing to do with like a start up as raising money. And you know, and you know, all that. And like, it’s, it’s because I didn’t, I wasn’t trying to find what was the next best step for me, it just happened to work itself out that way.
David Ralph [22:32]
But you, I don’t think you do know, everything you said there makes perfect sense. And as we call it, it’s like the body’s compass. When you feel excited and enthusiastic, that’s the right way to go. But of course, we have to pay bills. And so we make some, you know, terrible decisions where we think I just do that, I just do that one thing, and then that will help me out that will make my runway further. And it turns out to be terrible. You know, I can remember doing stuff, where I used to literally dread getting out of bed because I used to have to come and do certain things. And it was just for money. It was just for money. And I look at it now and I go, I think I would rather have done other stuff away from the business just to get money, I would rather have worked in McDonald’s, I would rather wash people’s cars, anything, because I was being sucked dry by my energy. So I think you’re right. But there is that desperation isn’t there where you make the decisions. pay the bills.
Greg Koberger [23:31]
Yeah, and I mean, for me, I again, I and I think you are as well in a in a place of privilege, where, you know, we didn’t make money, or I definitely just be myself need to make money. But I did have a little bit of, you know, luck. And so what I did, for example was, I couldn’t launch this company that I have currently, because I was didn’t have enough money to kind of just take the extra, like two months that I need to finish things off. And, you know, it still takes money to do this. But um, I left the country for a while because I live in an expensive city. And I was spent all my time doing work. And I went to Costa Rica for a few months. And it was, you know, the plane ticket, there was not cheap. But once you’re there it was, it was much, much cheaper. And it was the only way that I could afford to actually launch this company because I bring it offer, you know, almost a year at that point, because it slowed me down because of money. And, you know, that’s that is when I still San Francisco’s you can raise money, and that that makes it go away a little bit, but not really. And I hadn’t raised money at that point. So yeah, it’s it’s I got really lucky that I was able to find a way to to make this money stuff work. But I do too, I worked at so many places that I was, you know, maybe I’m miserable app, but I did not enjoy the work and it took up time and it just getting in the way of where I wanted to be. And that’s a, that’s really tough to do. And I think you have to do it and slog through it and know that as long as you know, you’re you’re taking that money and doing what you want to do with it. Hopefully it’ll work out. But it’s a it’s a miserable process sometimes,
David Ralph [24:54]
because I’ve now come to the realisation through talking to so many people and you know, except my own position that I don’t think people want businesses, they just want an escape from their employment. They’re they’re fed up in a job. And literally, they want the income, but they don’t want the business. And any internet, there are so many avenues. There’s billions of avenues of making money by providing the right value to the right people. I won’t get into it now. But does it sort of blow your mind that so many people get stuck at that starting point have an idea? Because to me, it doesn’t matter about the idea? It just matters about the action?
Greg Koberger [25:35]
Yeah, I mean, for me, I have at least two businesses to make money. And one is, you know, this company that I’m at this point, an employee of, you know, I’m in charge of, and I run it, but at no point do I feel like you know, it’s it’s a passive income project where I’m making money, but like the escape from for example, if I was doing that full time by myself, that would be more than enough money to pay my bills, and I wouldn’t answer to anyone, I just get to build fun games for people. So, you know, I did the best and worst of both worlds where I started two companies, that one’s it’s like escape room, it’s, you know, it’s running and all that it makes a good amount of money. And the other is this company that, you know, makes a lot more money, but I see a you know, smaller percentage of that money, obviously, and, and all that and I think AF decide what you want, like you want, why are you doing this, um, I don’t think I knew I want to start a company, I just want to make something I definitely did not want to be, you know, CEO and raise money and do all that stuff. Like I just like making things. And I’m very happy with wearing
David Ralph [26:34]
my Lego. Why didn’t you buy Lego and work for Mozilla? It would have been so much easier when it
Greg Koberger [26:38]
I know. I don’t know. Um, I just couldn’t?
I don’t know, I wish I had a good answer. Um, and I think it just it aided me and I think that it was a, something just had to do and I think that’s most founders I know, are driven for that exact same reason. And I don’t know if it’s a good reason, but it’s what got me here. Um, because yeah, you’re right, like, making something and running business are two very different things, they’ll tell you that when you when you, you know, sign the incorporation documents or raise money. Because making something means, you know, using Klay, or Legos or something like that, there’s a lot of there’s a lot of ways to make stuff. You know, when you run a business, you spend a lot of time not making stuff, but just keeping keeping all the balls in the air and stuff like that. And I am, I don’t know, I don’t have any regrets over it. But I do think a lot about what I’ll do next, you know, assuming things go well with this. And I have some more options. And I don’t know, it’s tough. Like there’s a I have to figure out what I like about stuff. And I think I just like making things, and I have loved running a business. But uh, yeah, there’s a lot of like, you know, there’s a lot of different avenues and people should think about, you know, why you’re actually getting into this.
David Ralph [27:43]
And so would you not think of doing another startup sort of escape, and then another escape room in a different town, we, in Thailand, where you’re locked in a room full of Lady boys and you, you’re trying to get out or whatever?
Greg Koberger [27:54]
Oh, I did do escape rooms of Thailand and Vietnam, those were, those were real scary, because how’re The, the sets were much more intricate, but the I don’t know, if they have the same, you know, standard for safety as they do in the US. So that might be fun to kind of be able to play around a little more. But uh, yeah, I don’t know. Um, I definitely do love both. I love running a business that is very kind of incremental and doesn’t change much. And like, you know, maybe I’ll build another escape room. But that just doubles the escape rooms. Whereas like startups with this, like constant. Are you familiar, like the base camp books by any chance? Or 37? signals? They speak? Oh, no, I’m
David Ralph [28:32]
not you tell us about it.
Greg Koberger [28:33]
Sure. So there’s, there were two books, one is called rework, and the other is called getting real. And they’ve been some other books past that. But the whole point of their books are basically, I you know, almost what you’re saying right now is it doesn’t have to be this insane, mad dash to you to start a company, you can build something really amazing. Without this, like, hyper growth, you know, we’re going to be millionaire type mentality. And they built this like software called base camp at a tonne of people use that a lot of money, they’ve never made money. And they talked a lot about, like, you know, going home at 5pm, and not working weekends. And, you know, saying no, to customers, and all this. And their whole point is, it doesn’t have to be this insane rush. And I think that there’s something really nice about that, you know, I’ve kind of taken parts of that into my company. You know, as a antidote to like this, like high growth, you know, we’re always going to run out and do stuff and, you know, work nights and weekends and stuff. We aren’t quite as you know, small, or as you know, laid back as they are. But I really like that mentality as well, where it doesn’t have to be you know, you don’t have to trade your 20s and 30s in for, you know, tech stock, you can, you can enjoy your 20s and 30s at work and, and make something cool and all that I try to embody it as much as humanly possible. It’s a little tough and you raise money, and you have to kind of have to grow. But I think it’s a great way to kind of look at building companies that it doesn’t have to be this insane thing you do all the time.
David Ralph [29:50]
I totally agree. And I’ve mentioned this many times on the show recently, I’ve been reading a book by Paul job is called company of one where he basically looks at everything dozen things, do I need to scale? Do I Is it okay as it is? And
Unknown Speaker [30:06]
it kind of it wasn’t
David Ralph [30:07]
an eye opener, because at my heart, it’s me anyway, you know, there was a time when I suppose still, I would like to have the world’s biggest podcast, but nobody else gets any other lessons, except for me as a sort of an ego matrix that sort of comes in. But away from that, I think to myself, no, but the comfortable. Just relax life where you can go off and travel when you want and you’re not restricted by anything. You know, it makes a lot of sense to me, Greg,
Greg Koberger [30:36]
yeah, and I think you’re right, um, I sometimes to fantasise about that, because the inner personal stuff is one of my favourite things about my company, but also the one that causes me the most stress at this point, and, but I look at it from different perspectives, like we have a lot of money in the bank. Now, not a tonne, but you know, good amount. And I get to do fun stuff, I get to travel all the time, I get to going to London, and in a week and a half, I get to go, you know, probably non stop, I get to run a conference, and at this conference, I’ve gotten to ask, you know, all my heroes to speak. And they went from just being like these, you know, people that I whose names I’ve known for years and looked up to, to actually, like, you know, speaking of my conference, and being, you know, I now have a relationship with them. And like, there’s something really cool about kind of going a little bit bigger, where you get to do all these things. And like, I get to spend money on like, you know, for this conference, we hired a rap group to do a musical about startups and stuff like that. And it was just amazing. And I’m really glad that like, I have this money, that, and not even money, but time as well. Like, I got to take a few weeks off and build an escape room, which I’ve always wanted to do. You know, so I think my answer is that I don’t want to just do go from, you know, every day of my life being exactly the same, where I’m kind of like, you know, doing this like, like startup one type thing. What I do like, though, is the fact that I can get up one day and work really hard on something, the next day, I can kind of, you know, do something weird and fun that I’ve never done before. And I think that’s what I’m kind of enjoying, like, that’s the I don’t think coasting.
David Ralph [32:10]
Greg, how would you structure that in your life where, you know, it’s nice to go, I don’t want to do that tomorrow, I’m going to do something fun. But when you look at the calendar, and you think, Oh, God, you know, I can’t you know, so how do you restrict that happening so that you do get that spontaneity and freedom?
Greg Koberger [32:27]
Yeah, I mean, I don’t, I don’t do much structuring in the sense that, like, I sit down and organise it, I’m not a very organised person, unfortunately, you know, I feel like most of your deal you’ve had are kind of more, you know, type A and very structured and I unfortunately, I’m nothing like that. So for anyone who listens and does not like that, there’s, there’s still hope you still do something cool. Um, I don’t know, I just kind of like its internal gauge that have, and I feel like, you know, some things are failing, I can do something else. And if I feel like, you know, getting too burnt out and too stressed out, this is I’ve been doing this for five years, I have to for another five years easily. And if I get too burnt out, no one’s happy. My employees aren’t happy, I’m not happy. You know, investors aren’t happy, our customers aren’t happy. So I think it’s kind of a, you know, I it’s a feeling if I feel like, things aren’t going well, because I’m too stressed out, I there’s two ways to tackle it. One is to kind of like try to fix the problem and to is just take a step away for a few days. And it’s not to say that I leave work or anything, it’s just to say that I kind of put my energies in something a little more productive. And, you know, for me, that’s what reinvigorates me building something or making something or doing something cool is what reinvigorates me. And, you know, people, some people are introverts, some people are extroverts. I’m that way with making things, whatever it is, like, you know, you know, writing music, or I writing code or designing something, or, you know, building an Ikea table, it doesn’t really matter to me, like, that’s what gets me energy. And I kind of realise that, and for some people will get some energy is like, you know, sitting at home and reading a good book, or, you know, going to a party. For me, it’s making stuff and I’ve kind of realised that so I use that when I see my energy being drained. I kind of pivot a little bit, I’m like, Okay, I’m going to build something, today, I’m going to make something to put something out into the world. And that’s how I kind of, I was lucky that I realised that about myself, and doesn’t mean making something that gives you energy, but kind of finding that thing and doubling down on that, when you need is important,
David Ralph [34:23]
because I’ve realised, and it’s a bizarre realisation, really, but it’s true. And it happened in America. But I realised sunshine stimulates me. And I only have to sort of like, close my eyes and look up at the sun and just, you know, absorb that sunshine for maybe five or 10 minutes. And I feel so much better. And we spend all our time in sort of offices and with closed doors and blinds pulled down because we can’t see our computer screens. And I was looking for something that made me feel better. And I found sunshine. And it seems stupid, really, because it’s been all the time. But just you know, driving around with the sunshine coming down to you and you’re walking around in nature, just being out and about gives me such a boost. But I don’t think I can beat it at the moment is my number one thing, best sunshine on me,
Greg Koberger [35:13]
I get that like I for me, it’s not sunshine, but yeah, I bought I like to drive around and I own quite a few years ago bought a convertible because I was like, I just it’s it’s stupid looking. And I’m embarrassed by it. But like, it’s just fun to drive around. And like, when I was in a bad mood, I just go for a drive for an hour and just made me happy again. And it’s so important to find those things. I feel like, you know, when they realise what your podcast is that you haven’t these, like really stupidly impressive people who have done insane things. But you challenge that notion, because, you know, there’s a lot of people out there who have this kind of like hustle porn mentality, like, they’re like, you know, you need to be working 90 hours a week. And that’s the only way to succeed and stuff like that. And that’s, that’s one way to succeed. But it’s also one way to really be burned out and kind of like, you know, not want to do it anymore. I’ve been doing this for 10 years, and I’ve never been more excited about what I’m building than I am, you know, today and yesterday, and hopefully tomorrow will be even more exciting. And I don’t know, if it’s, you know, I haven’t done exactly what you’ve kind of talked about, which is keeping them small, keeping things to myself, you know, taking a lot of time off, I’m still very stressed from time to time, still, constantly in over my head, I’m still taking on bigger and bigger challenges and kind of you know, rather than once I solve stuff, I don’t just kind of be like, okay, we’re good here, I kind of add more stresses to my life. So I can, you know, do no more things. But at the same time, I don’t have this like, I need to be working nonstop. Now you know, 4am in the morning to you know 2am kind of like hustle porn type stuff that like you know, I don’t wanna you know, use names, but like, you know, other podcasters kind of like, try to sell his lifestyle because I don’t think it’s sustainable. I don’t think many people actually can nor want nor should do that.
David Ralph [36:52]
No one should do it. No One No One No One should do it. We are made to go to bed and we’re made to get up and I bought into hostile Poland don’t want to get too boring. But I I came to write old nasty stage on it. And it’s never gonna, you know, I go I go to bed before my kids more often than not, if I’m I haven’t got anything to do. I think to myself sleep, I’m going to get some sleep. And my wife says she can’t go to bed now the kids are still up, I go, Well, I don’t care. I’m gonna go to bed, you know. And it’s my number one focus. Really, I’m suppose it ties in with the sunshine as well. It’s, it’s restoring my being my health. And I know, but everything else is better life eating healthy. And by working 20 hours a day, looking at computer screens and stuff. The worst crap, and I look back on a lot of what I used to do, and I look back on it, I think it was Shappi work. Because I was so exhausted, I couldn’t be our best interest.
Greg Koberger [37:52]
Yeah, and like I that’s not to say you have to like you can phone the exam, you can do a good job, you shouldn’t work at all. I eat work 40 hours a week. And you know, conclude the time that’s been like stressing or thinking about things. It’s more than that. But it’s so important to kind of take a step back and be like, you know what, it’s life’s too short to spend weekends, you know, stressing because you like, you can’t get 12 hours of good work on yourself. You just literally can’t maybe one day you can if you really, really need to because you have this like gigantic deadline. But like unless you’re like Steve Jobs or someone like that, it’s just not sustainable. You can’t do it. And if you are the kind of person that does it, that can do it, you’re probably not listening to a podcast right now you’re probably doing something else. And and that’s okay. And I think that a lot of people need to kind of admit that to themselves. And that doesn’t mean don’t do good work. Like you still do the podcast and you put 110% into it. But the reason you still so much energy six years in and like you’re the most energetic podcaster I’ve ever heard, it’s because you I assume because you take care of yourself and you, you know you do things that get your energy up. And that’s so important for people.
David Ralph [38:57]
My body is a temple, sir. Yes, it is. And it’s true, but but I love doing the podcast. Now, I don’t always like the walk up to doing the podcast, there are certain times when I’m thinking, Oh, God, I gotta do, I gotta do a couple of episodes. But as soon as I turn the microphone on and and start talking, I think I bloody love this. I love this. And it’s not like working for a living. But it’s taken time. And I suppose this is what the whole message behind our show is today review, Greg, that it takes time, it takes more time, it takes more money than you expected. That’s all okay, it kind of finds its place somehow.
Greg Koberger [39:42]
Yeah, I think so. Um, and it’s, it’s not easy to get to, you know, where you are, where I am, or anyone is. But that’s nice, you know, putting the work early on. And, you know, having some sort of like, you don’t know where you’re gonna end up, you have to kind of like trust your intuition and like, kind of believe that you’ll your subconscious will lead you to is where you want to be. And like, yeah, you and I didn’t shy away from work early on, you know, still don’t. But it gets a I don’t say gets completely better or completely easy, but it gets different. And that’s really nice. And I think you and I are both to the point where we still get up and do work every day and care about it a lot. But it’s kind of hard to compound on itself. And like, you know, as much as I’m stressed about some stuff at work, I have an amazing team that I work with that I trust that takes so much stress off my plate. And that’s been phenomenal for me. And you know, that only happened because you know, just decisions I made along the way,
David Ralph [40:37]
absolutely spot on. And we’re going to play some words. Now you’ve already sort of a paraphrase these words, but let’s hear it Okay, from the man himself, his
Steve Jobs [40:45]
Steve Jobs, of course, it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards 10 years later. Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something, your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leaves you off the well worn path. And that will make all the difference.
David Ralph [41:20]
Now what he’s talking about bear listening, based on our conversation is energy really is is the internal energy of trust, and intuition. And just knowing yourself, I suppose, knowing where that excitements pulling you. So when you look at it, what was the the real excitement in your life? Greg, when you look back on it now and you think, yeah, I remember that. I remember, it was really amazing. And it’s proved to be one of the best decisions you made?
Greg Koberger [41:51]
Yeah, great question. Um, I think that there is a lot of little things that kept drawing me to where I want to go. And it was, I kept always going towards a few things versus people I like working with, you know, you get to talk to a lot of awesome people on the podcast, you know, your personal life, you have a lot of great people, I’m sure, I hope. And, you know, same as me. And that’s I’ve always been attracted to people that I just really liked. Because I think at the end of the day, that’s more important than being attracted to people that, you know, I feel like could do something for me, or I feel like, you know, or could, it’s, it’s, that’s been a huge thing, I’ve always been motivated by like, wine to work with the people I want to work with. And the second is just making stuff that fits what I want to make, I can make a lot of different things, you know, I can figure things out and stuff like that, but I’m always into a lot better making the things that I’m excited about. So I always err towards the side of kind of, like, you know, listening to my body or my mind and being like, if I don’t enjoy this, I’m not going to do a good job at it. So it’s kind of like the connecting the dots, like, you know, like Steve Jobs said, I never really understood where exactly I wanted to end up. But by constantly going towards the things that I like, for me, I you know, I don’t think this is going to resonate with everyone. But for me, it’s, I really love designing tools for developers, I don’t know why there’s no, you know, rhyme or reason my background is design and development. So that’s probably why but like, that is what I liked doing. And the second thing I like doing is building kind of like whimsical, fun experiences. And those two things of guys being kind of ended up where I am now, which is I’m making things I have two companies. One is real company, one’s kind of a side project, but the real company is building, you know, beautiful tools for developers. And I always believed in API’s before, you know, they’ve always been kind of on the radar for programmers, and I won’t get too much into what API’s are, but they’re just like, technical thing. And now they’re huge. Now there’s billion dollar companies built on it. And like, I just kind of like made this bed early on not because it was, you know, financially good, better at the time, it was because it was just what attracted me, I just loved making API’s easy to use, and that worked really well. And then for the startup room, like I just love building whimsical, fun things that like make people smile, and that that’s how I end up doing that. And, you know, if you asked me 10 years ago, where I would end up, I don’t think I could have told you like, you know, these two things, but if you told me what I was gonna be doing 10 years from now, I’m getting into this, you know, I this is my talk to my 10 year old self, I guess, but I, you know, I would have been very happy with where he ended up, I think
David Ralph [44:28]
I think he would as well and we are going to find out what you’re gonna say to your 10 year old self. In fact, DA she choose because this has been the show we call the Sermon on the mind when we’re gonna send you back in time to have a one on one with your younger self. And if you could go back in time and speak to the young Greg, what age would you choose? And what advice Will you give him? Well, we’re going to find out because I’m going to play the music. And when it fades, Europe, this is the Sermon on the mic.
Unknown Speaker [45:00]
We go with the best the show.
Greg Koberger [45:17]
Alright, so we’re talking now to 2425 26 year old Greg right around there, where he didn’t know what he wanted to do. I and, you know, it’s It was tough, he kind of had a vague idea, they want to start a company, but he was doing freelancing, and no one is ever known believe in Him specifically, but everyone has their own stuff to worry about. And it was really tough. And like, he spent a lot of time kind of waiting for someone to show him the path or some sort of like, you know, to the Steve Jobs, things, you know, Kermit, like, like, like some sort of like deity to kind of like, you know, necessarily God, but just something to show them this path of where to go or to tell them that was the right move. And deep down, you knew what the move was. But it’s really hard to have buy in was just an idea, because everyone has ideas. And, you know, I don’t want to tell them that, you know, the first few months year is going to really suck because no one’s going to believe in you. But just push through and do it anyway. Because as soon as certain things start kind of taking off and working, you know, all of a sudden, you get this like telling people who believe in you and, you know, wants you to succeed and will help and all that. And the best way to get started is to start you can’t wait for other people to to force you to start to tell you to start to give you a reason. You know, because the universe unfortunately is kind of going to push back and stuff. You know, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. There’s no such thing as just winning lotto, especially if you haven’t bought a ticket. And, you know, just get started, and it’s going to suck, but it’s gonna get better. It’s gonna continue to get better. And yeah, I mean, don’t make excuses. Just Just do it and fail quick, or succeed quick, doesn’t really matter. But, you know, the best way to do anything is just started.
David Ralph [46:59]
I agree. Totally. And that is great advice for everyone. So Greg, for all the people that who have been listening today, what’s the number one best way that they can connect with you?
Greg Koberger [47:08]
All right, if I’ve convinced you to keep listening IG Coburg are on Twitter twitter.com slash GKOBERGR. And if you’re in San Francisco, and like escape rooms, startup escape calm is a great place to go.
David Ralph [47:21]
We will have over links on the show notes, as always, to make it as easy as possible. Greg, thank you so much for spending time with us today, joining up those dots. And, as always, please come back again, when you got more dots to join up. Because I do believe that by joining up those dots, and connecting our past is the best way to build our futures. Greg Coburg, thank you so much. Thank you for having me. So do something that’s great and fun and inspires you and brings energy in, and it can help you build other stuff. I don’t know what I think about what Greg did. I like to make sure that whatever I’m doing in one thing is great and fun and enjoyable. And if it’s not, I try to get rid of the stuff. But it’s it’s horses for courses, as they say and different ways of doing it. So if you are out there and you’re listening to these conversations, and you’re thinking yeah, I’d like to do something fun and inspiring. Main jump over to Join Up dots.com and you can now book a chat with me directly, you can just connect on the contact button, book a time directly on your mobile phone and I will speak to you on on whatever you want on whatever you want, so that we can inspire you guys to start making a go at it. Until next time. Hopefully I’ll speak to lots of you and I’ll see you again Cheers.
David doesn’t want you to become a faded version of the brilliant self you are wants to become so he’s put together an amazing guide for you called the eight pieces of advice that every successful entrepreneur practices, including the two that changed his life. Head over to Join Up Dots. com to download this amazing guide for free and we’ll see you tomorrow. Join Up Dots.