Jim McKelvey has now started close to a dozen different for-profit and nonprofit ventures, including Square. Now he’s tackling the problems we face on the internet every day, with the backing of Peter Theil as an investor. His venture has also attracted funding from other financiers like GGV Capital, Morgan Stanley, Vanguard Group, and Omega Venture Partners.
In this episode, you will learn:
- When the first version of your product is too good
- Solving perfect problems
- How Invisibly works
- Landing investors like Peter Theil
For a winning deck, take a look at the pitch deck template created by Silicon Valley legend, Peter Thiel (see it here) that I recently covered. Thiel was the first angel investor in Facebook with a $500K check that turned into more than $1 billion in cash.
The Ultimate Guide To Pitch Decks
Moreover, I also provided a commentary on a pitch deck from an Uber competitor that has raised over $400 million (see it here).
Remember to unlock for free the pitch deck template that is being used by founders around the world to raise millions below.
About Jim McKelvey:
Mr. James McKelvey is a Co-Founder and serves as Chief Executive Officer at Invisibly. He serves as an Executive at Jam Fintop Capital. He also serves as Advisor, SparkLabs FinTech at SparkLabs Group.
James was a Co-Founder and served as General Partner at Cultivation Capital. He served as a Board Member at Kabbage. He also serves as General Partner at FINTOP Capital.
James served as General Partner at SixThirty. He is also a Co-Founder of Square, the mobile payment system. He now sits on the board of directors of Square.
James’ first venture was co-founding Mira Digital Publishing in 1990, which is a leader in electronic publishing for scientific conferences. He is an advisor to several startups, including Kabbage and LockerDome.
In addition to his business ventures, he is a published author and glassblowing artist and has published several books. He is a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis in Economics. He also served as Director at LockerDome.
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Connect with Jim Kelvey:
Read the Full Transcription of the Interview:
Alejandro: Alright, hello everyone and welcome to the deal maker show. So today I’m I’m thrilled with our with our guest today you know someone that has been building scaling you know financing I mean all the above that you can think of about entrepreneurship and we’re also gonna talk about the book. That he has as well that they recently came out so I guess without further ado. Let’s welcome our guests today. Jim Mcybe welcome to the show.
Jim McKelvey: Thank you Alejandro and man I like I always cringe when an author ah is trying to pump a book. So hopefully we can talk about some other stuff too. But I’m not just here to sell books I want to assure your listeners of that. So.
Alejandro: Well what your story is very inspiring Jim so obviously the book you know it’s just it’s just part of this story. So so Jim give us a little of a walk through memory lane. How was life growing up. You know you were born there in San Louis so how was you know life there.
Jim McKelvey: I had a pretty blissful childhood I had nothing really go wrong? Um, and grew up in the suburbs family was stable and everything was great for me ah up until um, very suddenly in. Ah, right after I graduated from college my mom committed suicide. Um, and that just knocked me over because we’d had no problems up until that point I mean nothing serious. Um and I got um, really for the first time in my life I sort of. Was aware of the fact that the world was full of problems that there were this I so I had like I had this sort of sheltered existence. Um, and then this sort of shocking introduction to reality and from that moment on I’ve been sort of focused on problems of myself and others. Um. And that’s sort of what my life’s mission is now.
Alejandro: I mean to certain degree. They talk about you know how entrepreneurship do is being able to manage adversity or to deal with it. You know and to also they risk whatever path is in front of you So I’m. You know, Obviously this was a very you know tragic you know event you know in your life. You know that they shook a you know, probably the family to the court. You know I’m sure so I guess how do you think that shaped who you are you know and then also the way that you look at problems as well.
Jim McKelvey: Well, um it I guess I’ve never talked about this so this it’s gonna be a dark podcast guys. Um, ah it it changed my perspective because before that. I had always thought things would be fine I had always you know like mom mom got depressed and and I knew she were just depressed and she was in therapy and stuff but I didn’t think she’d kill herself. Um, and then when she did there was this moment that I kept coming back to. Ah, thinking that I should do something I should go spend more time with my mother I should go do something like I should take I should have taken action and that is the regret that I think powers all of my life now because it’s it’s this moment where you have a choice to act or not act and I didn’t act and this was. I think partially because I grew up with you know, like no problem ever really hit the mckelvey family like we just didn’t have any sort of serious issues and so I thought oh everything will be fine because everything always was fine. It was like you know like some 1950 s sitcom where you know everything resolves in Twenty two and a half minutes um and it wasn’t fine. And then I kept saying why didn’t I do something why didn’t I do something I had this moment where I could have done something and I didn’t and I’ve always sort of you know, sort of taken responsibility partially for my mother’s death. Um, since that time when I see a problem at least a problem that I care about I’m like if you don’t do this who’s going to.
Jim McKelvey: Like if you don’t get up and try to fix this thing who is going to do it and so that has been that like that’s where that power came from and it’s it’s from a dark place. Um god this is weird because I’ve done I’ve probably done 20 interviews about this book. This is the first time I’ve ever sort of mentioned that you’re a very good interviewer.
Alejandro: Thank you? Well look I think that at the end of the day Jim I got to tell you know all the events you know I think that we go through different cycles. You know as human beings and every single one of those cycles they shape who we are as humans right? You know all the events you know the good the bad the ugly. You know, whatever that is they shape us who we are and then also the lens in which we look at problems to us entrepreneurs. No. So obviously in your case we’re talking about taking action here. So let’s talk about let’s talk about that because when you were in college. You also took action and you took the action to rewrite the textbook. So so tell us about. What was this about I mean why what happened.
Jim McKelvey: Ah, that was that was crazy so I was a freshman at Washington University in St Louis and I was in this computer science class and the textbook was lousy and I thought man I could write a better textbook business but I was such a you know such a loud mouth that I actually. Said to my roommate I was like you know I could write a better but textbook than this thing and and he he said? Well why don’t you you know? and so I was like okay I will and so I rewrote the textbook that we were using in class and it actually turned out to be successful I I got I you know I displaced the professor’s book. Um, got the thing published by a national publishing house the publishing house asked for a second book. So by the time I was a sophomore I was you know a published author twice over and this was you know the days before self-publishing. So I I had I had major street cred in the computer science department which. Led to this cascading series of events. Basically people thought I was better than I was you know, ah turns out writing a textbook is not hard. Um, it’s just a lot of work and um as a result of this book I got invited to be always on the best teams. And that was transformative because I wasn’t I wasn’t good I wasn’t as good as the other teammates but I was always able to make them better. So the thing about me is like I won’t be the highest producer in any activity. But if you put me with people who are super high producers I will help them get more out of themselves.
Jim McKelvey: So I’m like this catalyst I I join the group and the group becomes more effective. Um, but I I can’t do what the group does I can’t even do what individuals in the group do and that’s a skill that I learned basically because I rewrote the textbook in my freshman year.
Alejandro: Now your case I mean you feel you literally you know went from school and and and you never stopped when it came to to building and scaling companies and obviously you know we don’t have enough time on the podcast to just talk about all of these different projects that you have been involved in. But I guess just for the listeners. How many companies you know, have you built right.
Jim McKelvey: Oh Maybe a dozen or so I mean they’re not all companies I mean some of them are nonprofits I mean a lot of them are just you know sort of helping other people build their companies. Um I was just asked to join the board of a major I can’t actually reveal the name of it. But there’s a major industrial conglomerate that’s bringing me In. And I love it because they build things you know and they’re they’re they’ve asked me to join and I’m I’m thrilled um but look I I don’t think this should be about me because I think they would bore your listeners to death I Think what we should talk about is sort of the the patterns that I’ve seen. Because that might be something that would be useful like it like if I was listening to this and I was like oh God This guy’s promoting his book and he’s just talking about himself like God put me to sleep. Um, but the interesting thing that I hope your listeners will be. You know, open to is that.
Jim McKelvey: I’ve done this so many times and I just recently noticed there was this pattern to what I was doing and before that I didn’t and I made all these mistakes and now that I’ve seen the pattern I’m like oh my God I could avoid all those mistakes So that’s kind of what I want to share with your listeners And yeah.
Alejandro: So then let’s let’s double click on that you know what? what have been? What have been those patterns that you have recognized over the course of um of building you know and scaling companies whether it was for profit or non for profit.
Jim McKelvey: Yeah, so it is that there is this line between what we know how to do and what we don’t know how to do and we spend almost our entire lives on one side of that line. We will spend most of our existence perhaps all of our existing. Doing stuff. That’s already been done and what I mean by this is it’s not judgmental. It’s it’s just the fact that humans are best at copying success. So that’s how we get our Dna That’s how you know all the stuff in the room that I’m sitting is a copy of other stuff. You know like this chair is an original. Whoever. Built the chair I’m sitting in didn’t invent the chair they didn’t even invent the material in the chair like nothing here is original including me. Um and we spend our whole lives copying um and that’s usually smart because if a problem’s been solved then you find the guy had solved it and do what he did, but.
Jim McKelvey: Occasionally, you’ll find yourself in a situation where there is nothing to copy and that’s when this whole different skill set has to come into play and that was what I was missing through most of my career which was the recognition that there’s this line where. You need one set of skills on one side of the line and that’s a set of skills that’s taught everywhere and that you probably know instinctively and then on the other side of the line. There’s this set of skills that nobody even talks about because we don’t even have words in the English language to describe the stuff that that I.
Alejandro: Got it and you know it’s it’s funny because I remember Steve Jobs you know mentioned this quote that good artists copy great art artists steal. So I think that to certain degree. You know.
Jim McKelvey: Discuss in the book.
Alejandro: That’s what you’re alluding to is that you know everything you know that needed to be invented is out there and it’s just all about you know making things better and more Efficient. You know than whatever you know we have out there. But I guess for the people that are listening now you know and that you know perhaps you know want to take a look at at the Book. You know that that you feel. You fame published recently the book just so that for the listeners. You know that want to take a look at it. It’s called the Innovation stack. How do you think that they could ah they could read that book you know, especially for all the entrepreneurs that are tuning in now and really.
Alejandro: Get the most out of it meaning reading it and being able to apply some of those effective lessons. How do you think they should go about that.
Jim McKelvey: So um, let’s talk about this I do the innovation stack. So um, what happened was square got attacked by Amazon and when we were a startup this is the most terrifying thing that a startup can have like. When Amazon decides they want your market. They always win um and in 2014 when square got attacked by Amazon ah, there was no solution to that problem like well. Okay, so here’s what happens.
Alejandro: What do you mean attack because probably a lot of people listening are not probably so familiar.
Jim McKelvey: Amazon decides they want to take over your market so they copy your product. They undercut your price by 30% and then they um then they add the Amazon brand name which you know is this universal. You know it. It is a strategy that always works so 100% of the time if Amazon. Does those 3 things Amazon wins and so what happened in squares case was they did that and we looked at what we could do to fight Amazon and we looked for other examples of companies that had survived Amazon and first of all nobody had ever survived. So there was nothing to copy. And secondly we couldn’t think of anything to do so we didn’t do anything um and then amazingly a year later Amazon quit they just got out of our market. Um and actually gave us all their competitor all all their customers. They they turned around and mailed one of the little square readers that I designed to all of their soon soon to be former customers which was amazing. And that you know was it was a it was a giant relief and the relief lasted about one day and after that day I was like how did this happen. Why did this happen like this wasn’t just luck like what happened here. How come. We’re the only company that said this has ever happened to. And so I spent 2 years literally asking myself this question and trying to look for other examples and I spent ah a lot of time looking for other contemporary examples and then looking in history and I found that the pattern wasn’t unique. It’s rare. But it’s not unique which is to say it’s happened hundreds and hundreds of times throughout history.
Jim McKelvey: Where these tiny little things that you would think would die um end up not only surviving but ultimately dominating their market so that like the biggest bank in the world. Um began this way. Ah the biggest furniture company in the world. The biggest almost everything in the world had this similar beginning to Square. And it was his pattern and when I saw the pattern all of a sudden I had this clarity about all these mistakes I’d been making because what these companies doing was fundamentally different from everything I’d been taught. So um, that’s why I wrote that’s why I wrote the book. Um, and that’s why. Now go around trying to encourage people to basically not make the same mistake I made with my mother which was to sit there when I saw a problem and not act like I want people to be able to when they see a problem. Especially a problem that nobody has solved before I want them to be able to say okay I can do this now. I’m not saying you have to I’m not saying you know, go go do only unique things. No. No no I Just don’t want you to be completely constrained your entire life. To only implementing other people’s solutions. Why now because I just figured it out now I mean I yeah mean I was up I was 50 when I figured this out, you know it was I wish I’d learned it in my twenty s I’d lift. Wish I’d learned it as a teenager I’d certainly wished I’d learned it when you know when Mom was alive or when.
Alejandro: And why now Jim
Jim McKelvey: You know my other businesses were struggling or like I just got this knowledge and and when I got it. Um, like then I had to I had to get it out like this is this is too powerful an idea to just sit on So I mean here I am doing another podcast talking about. Innovation stacks and and how people should behave differently when they have to invent something as opposed to copy something.
Alejandro: And obviously we’re talking about people here I think that’s something that will be very interesting. You know for the listeners to hear is that moment when you hired Jack Dorsey you know, arguably you know one of the best entrepreneurs you know of our generation. You know that you hired him to be your summer intern I mean. Come on, you got to tell us about this. How did that happen.
Jim McKelvey: Yeah, so Jack um, lived in St Louis his mother ran a coffee shop where we would buy. Ah you know coffee beans to keep us awake. Basically this is you know before Ridlin was you know, commercially available so we kept the staff awake with chocolatec covered espresso beans. Purchased by Mar purchase from Marcia Dorsey um marshha’s kid liked computers. We worked with computers and he came down one night um and actually pulled an all nighter with us his first day on the job. Jack was you know smart teenager and ah. He worked great on the team and he and I became friends and then um, you know years later when he had been kicked out of Twitter for the first time. Um, he asked me if I wanted to start a company with him and I said yes sure what do you want to do and he’s like I don’t know what you want to do and and we we didn’t actually have an idea. We just knew that we liked working together. So that’s what um. Started square and then the idea for square came from me losing a sale in my glass studio I was trying to sell a piece of art and lost a sale because I couldn’t take a credit card and I called Jack on my phone and I said hey can we turn my phone into something that allows me to take a credit card payment and that’s that’s how square started so um. You know Jack went from being a summer intern to being my boss. Um, but you know Jack is yeah he’s he’s fantastic and has been you know, very very successful. Um, but even as a teenager he showed a lot of the same qualities.
Alejandro: So obviously and the rest is history right? I mean the company now is valued at close to forty eight billion so um believable now we’re talking about patterns here. What would you say are the patterns. You know, let’s say like the key traits you know I’m sure that you’ve invested it in a bunch of entrepreneurs too. Especially you know after working with someone like Jack you know and and and seeing other entrepreneurs What do you think? are they keep you know, probably the 3 biggest things that you look at when you think that someone has it or maybe that someone doesn’t have it.
Jim McKelvey: Well I try to figure out why they’re doing it. Um, if they are in business for something that is personally motivating or if they just want to get rich or famous rich and famous doesn’t work too well because it turns out that usually the path of. Creation is is so difficult if you’re doing something significant that if you’re if it if you’re just looking for money. You’ll quit you know or you’ll switch to something else that makes more money. Um, what I’m keenly interested in are people who are trying to solve problems that they deeply care about personally. Um, and I look for that personal motivation. Um, interestingly I think the thing that I don’t look for is experience like I don’t value experience in novel problem solving because frankly, if you’re doing something for the first time.
Jim McKelvey: There is no such thing as having experience. So the the analogy I’d use is you know, think about the right brothers. So um, like if you if you fly planes today you get trained as a pilot and you get certified by the Faa and you got to take all these tests and stuff and you know pretty soon they let you fly um and you’re a qualified pilot. But you know Wilbur and Arville Wright were not qualified pilots like they flipped a coin to see who would go first and then they had to get into this thing that they just built and see if it would fly and see if they could control it in the air and see if they could land it you know and and they flew. But they were not qualified to fly like they didn’t they had no certification. They had no training they were by any standard were not as qualified as you know the most junior pilot today although they were the people who did it first and so one of the things that I don’t look for when I’m judging you know a potential entrepreneur. Is whether or not he or she has the experience necessary to do it I’m just looking for drive.
Alejandro: So then let’s talk about as well adapt it to change because you know I’m sure that for you being able to see a company. Let’s say like a square now called block going from nothing. You know when Jack asked you to join to where it is now I mean how do you think a entrepreneur should think about. Adapting to change adapting to the news cycles. The lifecycles that the company is going through because I mean we see that a lot too. You know when when let’s say an entrepreneur raises a bunch of money from vcs and then all of a sudden The company is outpacing them and then they end up. You know, invited to leave the business. So what have you learned about adapting to change as an entrepreneur.
Jim McKelvey: So I mean there are 2 types of change. There is refinement that is incremental change. That’s the stuff that we’re all used to things get slowly better over time. You know the iphone 10 okay now we have the iphone 11 now we have the iphone 12 now we have the iphone 3 you know like that’s. Incremental improvement. Um, but the iphone one that was creation. So think of change as either refinement or creation and if you you will spend most of your life in refinement. You will spend most of your life taking things at work and making them work better.
Jim McKelvey: Um, and as a matter of fact, a lot of people who start companies are doing nothing but refining somebody else’s idea so I could open a new coffee shop and I could say okay well I’m going to open a coffee shop. That’s a little bit better than the other coffee shops around and here’s how I’m going to you know do that. But you’re not really inventing anything new. You’re not creating. Um, we still call you an entrepreneur but in my world you are just a business person. You’re just somebody who’s copying and I’m I’m not denigrating that I’m just saying that. That’s not something that I need to talk about because that’s all we ever talk about is refinement. Um the process of creation which is building something that has not been built before you know what? Ah. Peter Thiel talks about in 0 to 1 um and actually Peter’s funding my new company so I got you know like I I got a lot of respect for Peter’s thinking in this area but this idea of a new thing being created that is. Also part of change. So when you talk about adapting to change what happens with most companies and why they stagnate is they they get stuck in the cycle of refinement. They keep doing the things that they’re doing a little bit better but they never come up with a new product or the new idea so where I spend. Almost all of my time is on new products and new ideas.
Alejandro: So I guess say in your book too. You talk solving a perfect but a perfect problem. What does the perfect problem look like.
Jim McKelvey: So a perfect problem is yeah, it’s this thought construct that I created in order to define the area of focus. So imagine all the problems in the world and let’s divide them into two groups ones are. Solvable problems and the other ones are unsolvable problems. So an unsolvable problem might be teleportation like no matter what we do, it might not be possible to do teleportation or maybe time travels an insolvable problem. It’d be cool to go back or forward in time. But you know who knows if that if that can even be done. Okay, so there are unsolvable problems. But then. Let’s talk about the solvable problems. The ones that can actually be solved and divide that group into 2 subsets 1 is the ones that we’ve already solved. Okay, so we know how to um, you know for instance, ah, you know, ah put fluoride in the water and make our teeth healthier. Okay, that’s a solved problem. Um, but then there’s this other group that I call the perfect problems which are solvable but yet unsolved problems these are the ones that if we apply ourselves and do the right things we can solve them but they have not been solved yet. So that’s. Focus of my book and my career and and and basically all my work right now is I’m I’m trying to get more people to focus on that subset of problems and I call these perfect problems because if you’re the first to solve a perfect problem. You end up with this thing called an innovation stack which is.
Jim McKelvey: Monstrously powerful I mean it will make you rich. It will make you very successful. It will it will it will have all these sort of nice side effects of you know what? you know business starting tends to do. But it’s also you know an order of magnitude or 2 beyond that. Ah, because what will happen is in solving a perfect Problem. You end up creating a whole new thing that the world has never seen before and that’s really powerful.
Alejandro: So as we’re thinking then about perfect problems. Why did you think that saying goodbye to paywalls was a perfect problem and how did invisibly come to life.
Jim McKelvey: So ah, invisibly which is a project I’m working on right now. Um is a way of me taking back control of my attention so I got really upset because I would try to read an article and I hit a paywall. And you know, maybe it was an article at The Atlantic and I love the Atlantic but I don’t subscribe to it or maybe I did in the subscription labs or maybe I forgot my password or maybe I’m on my wife’s computer and you know her browser doesn’t work I you know like I I can’t read what I want to read I was I I kept hitting these paywalls and I thought you know damn it I I’d happily pay to get past this thing. But it’s too cumbersome for me to do that. Um, and then at the same time I thought about how most content is sold which is through advertising you know, most of the stuff you read is not you know like Netflix where you have a subscription. It’s where you know you’re going to see it and you’re going to watch ads and. Problem with the ad ecosystem is again I’m not in control like my eyeballs are being bought and sold but not for my benefit. They’re being bought and sold for Facebook’s benefit well actually I don’t use any Facebook products. So um, but Google’s benefit I mean Google makes a bunch of money off me. Um, and I I didn’t want that I wanted to take control. So what invisibly does. Ah, is it kind of lets you as an individual take control. First of all, you’re allowed to monetize your attention. However, you want so you can you can give us information and we’ll sell it and instead of us keeping the money we’ll give it to you now we’ll take a 15% commission on that. But it’s less than the.
Jim McKelvey: 90% commission that the platforms take so you and actually end up with a balance in our system. Um, and then this balance gets sort of automatically spent because you know we’re talking pennies here. We’re talking pennies at a time but um, those pennies add up and then you can have access to all the content you want so you want to read barons you want to read the wall street journal you want to read. You know the atlantic or harvard like all these great publications. All these things that everybody wants. That’s you know, usually festooned with ads or stuck behind paywalls that’s now accessible to you and it all happens invisibly which is to say that look I mean we’re talking quarter of a cent here half a cent there ten cents here like these are tiny tiny amounts which. You know if you care about we’ll show you but generally you probably shouldn’t care about it. You should just let the system work but it’s it’s like magic because you can get access to all this content and ah, you don’t feel like you’re being exploited because if you decide you don’t want to sell your information. Well we let you stop doing that and if you. Want to sell more well we’ll tell you what it’s worth and so it puts you in control. We take a 15% cut.
Alejandro: And how are you guys making money. Okay, got it now for this company for invisibly after building companies for so long you know and you’ve seen it all. How did you go about building the team and then also the investment side of things because I mean you’ve raised a. I think like over twenty million bucks for this already from from I guess you know outsiders as well. I mean you were mentioning Peter Thiel he’s a venture a fund founders fund which is a very repeatable firm I mean at this point you did not need. To take on external funding. But maybe because I mean you’ve done pretty well for yourself. Why did you take external funding.
Jim McKelvey: I needed Peter’s name there were only 2 people who I considered as potential investors for invisibly, um, one was Elon Musk and the other was Peter Thiel and Elon was too busy. Um, ah. So I approached Peter and I I showed him the project. You know the project and his response was Jim people have been trying this for 20 years everybody’s had the idea nobody’s made it work. Why do you think you can do it. And by the way founders fund never invest in media companies like this is basically a media play and we absolutely do not invest in media plays and um I got silent for a couple of seconds and I said Peter ask yourself why founders never invests in media and he sat there and he thought for a minute. And he said we’re in we’ll do it is like this is what.
Alejandro: So I mean that that that’s interesting there. What you just said you know earlier I needed Peter’s name I think that? yeah.
Jim McKelvey: Right? I didn’t need his money but here’s the thing Peter with possibly this second only to Elon has made contrarian calls correctly. Okay I’m doing some invisibly is doing something that has that has never worked in the history of the internet a lot of people have had the same idea that I had nobody’s ever made it work. So why? do you think it’s going to work this time what is special about invisibly and the answer is well. It’s enough to make Peter Thiel put his personal money in it and that was what I need I did I didn’t I don’t care how much you put in he put in millions but like it was not I don’t care about the money so much as the fact that this guy who called. The Trump Election who called Facebook who called again and again and again contrarian bets that the rest of the world said oh Peter you’re nuts and he’s like yeah well, we’ll just see turns out Peter’s right more than you are you know Peter is just that good and when Peter puts his personal money into something it says something so what I was doing was. Essentially validating the concept by taking Peter’s money
Alejandro: So as you’re thinking about ballyating the concept you know taking Peter’s Peter’s money or using his name as well. How do you think? and I guess you know how should perhaps you know some of the founders that are listening to. Think about leveraging networks and social proof to the risk your entrepreneurial path.
Jim McKelvey: Well I think I think you really have to ask yourself what you’re doing most people that you referring to as entrepreneurs I think of just as people starting businesses which is not it like you don’t need a Peter Thiel to back that you just need any any old money. Um.
Alejandro: Yeah, right.
Jim McKelvey: If you’re doing something that’s never been done before if you’re doing something truly novel then you better, get some validation because what will happen is the rest of the world will show up look at what you’re doing and say oh forget it. That’ll never work. It. It’ll be hard to hire people. It’ll be hard to get attention everything you’re doing is. Much much more difficult if you’re doing it for the first time so then and only then do the ah networks and connections and social proof really really matter the rest of the stuff is just you know, sort of rinse and repeat.
Alejandro: Now imagine you were to go to sleep tonight Jim and you wake up in a world where the vision of invisibly is fully realized what does that world look like.
Jim McKelvey: Well it. It’s a world where I’m in control. So instead of having my ah news fed to me by platforms where their their goal is to keep me engaged right when Facebook shows me something there. They’re sending me a newsfeed that’s for their benefit not for mine. Okay, so for their benefit. Ah, they’ve turned they’ve they’ve determined that you know after 5 minutes I normally stop reading. But if they piss me off at 4 minutes and 30 seconds that I’ll keep reading for another 10 minutes so what do they try to do well they try to piss me off and their computers are actually really good at pissing me off you know? So I don’t want to be pissed off. Um and so I don’t want Facebook or Google or Apple or some platform that has interests that are not aligned with mine ah serving the content that. Becomes part of my brains and my thought patterns. So. The first thing that invisibly does is it allows me to be in control. Ah the second thing it does is it saves a whopping amount of time. So I’m no longer hitting ads I’m no longer hitting paywalls. It’s just it’s just less hassle. Um. As a matter of fact, one of the things that we did like ah 1 of our early product releases was so seamless that people didn’t even realize what was happening and so we had to actually like we actually had to go back and like put some like fake barriers in just so people would realize that oh wait a second normally I hit a paywall here but I’m not or oh.
Jim McKelvey: Normally this would be festooned with ads but it’s not you know like we we actually made the the one of the first generations of the product too. Good. Um, so now what we’re doing is we’re making it a little bit a little bit worse and then we’ll let let it become good over time. You know as people start to realize what they’re actually getting we’ll then remove the the fictitious barriers. But. In a world where invisibly works you just you just feel more in control you have access to everything you want? Um, but you’re not being exploited to get there.
Alejandro: Now We’re talking about the um, the future here and I want to talk about the past but doing it with a high ah degree or perhaps you know with a lens of reflection. So if you were to have the opportunity gym to get into a time machine and go back in time. And perhaps have a chat with that younger gym that is coming out of college and being able to give that younger gym a piece of advice before launching a company. What would that be and why given what you know now.
Jim McKelvey: It would be the book. The innovation stack like I kind of wrote it to my younger self. Um I didn’t actually do that I actually wrote it for a friend of mine who is phenomenally talented and brilliant and should be doing great things in the world. But every time she comes. Up against a problem where she doesn’t have a solution that’s already been validated by the world she quits and she says well I can’t proceed because I’m not qualified and my answer to her which you know took 300 pages was yes, it’s okay to feel that way. The first person who does anything in human history is always unqualified. You know the wright brothers were not qualified. You know Jack and I we weren’t qualified to start a payments company I mean I was a glassblower. He was a massage therapist. You know I mean who cares? Um, there were no qualified people at the beginning of most of the major inventions in the world and to hesitate. Which I’ve done many many times in my life many times to my regret um is the thing that I’d like to change most about me. Um, since I don’t have a time machine I just have this book. Um I just want people to read and understand that you don’t have to spend your entire life.
Jim McKelvey: Copying from other people you should spend most of it doing that like I’m going to have dinner tonight and I don’t want to have an original dinner like I don’t want I don’t want have my you know why my wife come home and say hey Jim I found this odd Bush growing in the park and I decided to like chop it down and cook it and serve it to you and the kids right? like. I don’t want originality in my food you know I don’t want originality in my medicine or anything like I’m I’m a I’m a very conformist person but but I don’t want to I don’t want the world to spend our whole life constrained there and so that’s that’s the thing that was missing for me. Um, you know it started off with a tragedy. Um.
Alejandro: Ah, right? yeah.
Jim McKelvey: That tragedy in some ways has been actually good for me because it it over the years it’s been the thing that’s made me go well, you got to just try because like we know what happens if I don’t try which is nothing happens and I don’t want to live in a world that’s got all these problems without people trying to fix them so I’m hoping. That we can reach people who are listening right now and and basically tell them what it’s like to you know, go try something for the first time because it’s different.
Alejandro: I love it so Jim for the people that are listening. What is the best way for them to reach out and say hi.
Jim McKelvey: Um, ha. It’s very tough I don’t do social media at all. Um I turned I mean I had a couple of accounts that were run by people who weren’t me it was bullshit. It was. Basically a lie that I mean my publisher said Jim you need social media I was like okay I don’t do social media who’s like Jim you need social media and it’s like okay I’ll hire a bunch of Twenty year olds to tweet for me. Um, well that’s not me, um, you want to reach me come to an open house at one of my glass studios. You know. Come to come to third degree on a third friday I’ll be there blowing glass I’ll be at the bar. You can you know have a beer and we’ll talk um it gets kind of crowded sometimes we have typically 1000 people show up on a Friday night um but you can reach me there. Ah you can reach me through you know some of the companies that I run but.
Jim McKelvey: Generally I don’t I don’t try to make myself available I don’t try to get out there. Um, ah simply because yeah yeah, yeah I mean I’ve had people drive to town and you know I’m usually there but ah, but you know I don’t want to sit down and have a coffeeka.
Alejandro: Well at least we know you know where people can go and have a beer with you. You know? that’s the that’s the most important.
Jim McKelvey: Cup of coffee like if you if you have a serious problem that you’re working on. Um I will probably find you so.
Alejandro: I love it there you go there, you go? Well Jim thank you? So so much for being on the deal maker show today. It has been an honor to have you with us.
Jim McKelvey: what a pleasure man.
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