Neil Patel

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In the world of business and entrepreneurship, diverse experiences often shape innovative minds. Josh Felser, born in Maine but raised in the vibrant water-based town of Miami, embarked on a journey that led him from the ocean to the world of politics, Japanese currency trading, media, and, ultimately, becoming a successful founder and investor.

In this blog post, we delve into the intriguing and inspiring interview with Josh Felser, exploring his background, challenges, and lessons he learned along the way.

Listen to the full podcast episode and review the transcript here.

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Miami Roots and Political Science Passion

Josh Felser’s early years in Miami were marked by a deep connection to nature, particularly the ocean. Growing up in a pre-Miami Beach destination era, he shared how his formative experiences were intertwined with the aquatic landscapes of Biscayne Bay.

Despite this, he surprised many by choosing to study political science at Duke University.

As he explains, the decision was driven by a fascination with the human side of political science, the ambition of leaders, and the psychological aspects that intrigued him.

Japanese Currency Trading and Impatience as a Driving Force

Following his academic pursuits, Josh found himself delving into Japanese currency trading after studying the language at Duke. His impatience, a trait he acknowledges as common among founders, led him to seek active roles rather than analytical positions.

During a memorable interview with a Japanese bank, Josh’s ability to understand Japanese surprised the interviewers, and he secured a position in currency trading. This experience, he notes, remains one of the most impactful skill sets in his entrepreneurial and investment journey.

Media Ventures, Moving Around, and the Essence of Timing

Josh’s ventures in media and technology took him on a journey across the globe—from Fox and Sky TV in the UK to a telco company in Boulder. Contrary to the perception that founders must start early in their careers, Josh emphasizes the importance of personal readiness.

Josh shares how his varied experiences and relocations contributed to his maturity as a founder, debunking the notion that age determines entrepreneurial success.

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The Entrepreneurial Rollercoaster: Founding Spinner

Despite the common belief that founders need to start in their 20s, Josh challenges this narrative, highlighting that he founded his first company in his early 30s.

He remembers the frustration of being fired from his job at News Corp and making the decision to start his own company and be his own boss in control of his destiny.

At this point, Josh packed his bags and moved to San Francisco. He started working as an entrepreneur and resident at a big design agency where they did the most innovative work of building websites for Nike and Levis.

Josh realized that was where the innovation began in the design world. However, he quickly realized that they were only listening to dated music that the radio threw at them. Soon after, he met his eventual cofounder, Dave Samuel, at a conference.

Putting their ideas together, they started Spinner, a groundbreaking music company. Josh and Dave pioneered the digitization of CDs, which eventually led to a significant acquisition by AOL for $320M.

The negotiation process, including an unexpected silent revelation of Josh’s Japanese language skills, provided insights into the unpredictability of M&A dealings.

The Inception of Crackle

Josh’s second venture, Crackle, began with a desire to share personal media but evolved into a public video-sharing platform. He has an interesting story to tell about how the idea was developed.

Josh recalls going to Burning Man in an era when only portable cameras were available. He realized that he had no way to share his pictures and videos with family and friends since they only had FTTP servers. That’s when he decided to build a company that would enable media sharing.

Josh and Dave used the mass market darknet, which allowed people to connect applications on their desktops. And share media with each other, including listening to music on their hard drives. Although they had a million downloads, the internet was enabling cloud-based sharing and the world was transitioning out of desktop software.

The hardest decision Josh made was to pivot and focus on a public video-sharing company, which is what Crackle became. While successful, Crackle faced the challenge of competing with YouTube, emphasizing the importance of timing and recognizing when to pivot.

Josh’s pragmatic approach to deciding whether to build or sell at various stages of his entrepreneurial journey sheds light on the nuanced decision-making process. Eventually, amid negotiations to take American Idol online, Josh and Dave sold the company to Sony.

Transitioning to Venture Capital: The Birth of Freestyle

After experiencing the rollercoaster of entrepreneurship, Josh and his co-founder, Dave Samuel, transitioned to venture capital. They founded Freestyle in 2010, focusing on being pioneers in the investment landscape.

Together with Dave, Josh raised a $250M fund and has the opportunity to invest in four unicorns.

Storytelling is everything, which is something that Josh Felser was able to master. Being able to capture the essence of what you are doing in 15 to 20 slides is the key. For a winning deck, take a look at the pitch deck template created by Silicon Valley legend Peter Thiel (see it here), where the most critical slides are highlighted.

Remember to unlock the pitch deck template that is being used by founders around the world to raise millions below.

Josh’s criteria for evaluating founders revolve around their ability to command a room, understand their strengths and weaknesses, and navigate uncertainties with a combination of confidence and consensus-building skills.

Climactic Ventures: A Shift Towards Climate Tech

The evolving landscape of venture capital led Josh to another transformative chapter. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Josh remembers coming forward to help his state and assist the governor by creating a task force.

That’s when he helped leverage the private sector to solve many of the problems and societal challenges. Later, Josh and Bill Trenchard created Climactic Ventures. The duo took time off from their jobs and had success with food insecurity and tracking and tracing software.

Although Josh had been involved in the nonprofit world of climate change for a long time, he had had a modest impact. He also partnered with Raj Kpoor, who had his own nonprofit that was doing something about climate change but was not really moving the needle.

This venture focuses on decarbonization and reimagining businesses to combat climate change. Josh discusses the existential stress founders face in the climate tech space and emphasizes the importance of mental health support for entrepreneurs.

The Future of Climactic Ventures

Looking ahead, Climactic Ventures aims to invest in founders addressing critical climate issues. The investment thesis focuses on evaluating the founder’s ability to lead, the market opportunity size, and the product roadmap’s adaptability.

Josh envisions a world where businesses operate sustainably, energy is renewable and abundant, and products have extended life cycles through circular practices.


Josh Felser’s journey from ocean adventures to entrepreneurship is a testament to the power of diverse experiences in shaping innovative minds. His insights into the world of politics, currency trading, media, and venture capital offer valuable lessons for aspiring founders and investors.

As he navigates the challenging terrain of climate tech with Climactic Ventures, Josh continues to be a pioneer, driven by a vision of a sustainable and vibrant future for all.

As an investor, he looks for founders who exhibit both commanding leadership skills and adaptability, emphasizing the importance of confidence, self-awareness, and a collaborative approach.

Listen to the full podcast episode to know more, including:

  • Growing up in Miami shaped Josh Felser’s nature-centric worldview, and his journey from trading to founding startups ultimately led him to envision a flourishing world called Wallable.
  • Josh’s choice to study political science stemmed from an interest in understanding the psychological aspects of leadership, which later became a foundational element in his entrepreneurial journey.
  • Josh’s ability to speak Japanese played a crucial role in landing a job in currency trading, showcasing the value of diverse skill sets and adaptability in his career.
  • Josh emphasizes that there are two kinds of founders – those who know early on and those like him, who mature through life experiences before taking the entrepreneurial plunge.
  • Before founding his first company, Josh explored diverse roles in media, telecom, and more, emphasizing the importance of varied experiences in preparing for entrepreneurship.
  • Reflecting on the acquisition of his first company, Josh shares a humorous story of negotiating with Aol and highlights the often unpredictable and psychological nature of M&A deals.
  • Build or Sell: Josh discusses the practical approach he and his co-founder took in assessing whether to build or sell, emphasizing the importance of aligning the overall tech sector, the specific sector within it, and the company’s position within that sector before deciding to sell.


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Neil Patel

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