The early days of the tech startup craze would have you believe that Silicon Valley was not only the place to be, it was the only place to be. Or maybe Boston or New York City, but those were all the acceptable choices.
As time went on, Seattle, Austin, and Boulder became part of the conversation. But what about Indianapolis, Nashville, and Pittsburgh?
Truth is, there are vibrant startup communities all over the place. Not to mention the increasing numbers of seven figure small businesses that operate outside of the venture capital circus all together.
Matt Hunckler has been working tirelessly for years making the case that the middle of America amounts to an undervalued asset, rich in markets, new business ideas, and budding entrepreneurs. His company Powderkeg brings entrepreneurs between the coasts together to find the resources they need to grow and thrive.
Matt joins us this week to discuss Powerkeg’s mission. We also talk about how the pandemic is accelerating the idea of “everywhere is a startup hub, and how Powderkeg quickly pivoted from live events to virtual value for its members out of obvious necessity.
Subscribe to 7-Figure Small
Or search for “7-Figure Small” wherever you listen to podcasts.
Everywhere is a Startup Hub
Jerod Morris: Welcome to 7-Figure Small, the podcast that brings you the stories and strategies that are driving the growing number of solo businesses achieving 7-figures in revenue, without investors or employees.
If you want to discover what’s behind the rise in these 7-figure businesses, then you need to get our free Next Level 7 audio course. In this enlightening course from Unemployable founder, Brian Clark, you’ll hear what’s working right now for attracting an audience, discovering what they want to buy, and building your perfect business.
To sign up for free, go to nextlevelseven.com. That’s nextlevelseven.com.
And now, here’s your host for this edition of 7-Figure Small — serial digital entrepreneur, Brian Clark.
Brian Clark: The early days of the tech startup craze would have you believe that Silicon Valley was not only the place to be, it was the only place to be. Or maybe Boston or New York City, but those were all the acceptable choices.
As time went on, Seattle, Austin and Boulder became part of the conversation. But what about Indianapolis, Nashville and Pittsburgh?
I’m Brian Clark coming to you from beautiful Boulder, Colorado. And this is 7-Figure Small. Thanks for listening.
Truth is, there are vibrant startup communities all over the place. Not to mention the increasing numbers of seven figure small businesses that operate outside of the venture capital circus all together.
Matt Hunckler has been working tirelessly for years, making the case that the middle of America amounts to an undervalued asset, rich in markets, new business ideas, and budding entrepreneurs. His company Powderkeg brings entrepreneurs between the coasts together to find the resources they need to grow and thrive.
Matt joins us this week to discuss Powderkeg’s mission. We also talk about how the pandemic is accelerating the idea of “everywhere is a startup hub and how Powderkeg quickly pivoted from live events to virtual value for its members out of obvious necessity.
And don’t forget, if you’re about to start something up yourself or even pivot your existing business, you’ll want to take our free audio course, Next Level 7. In six lessons, I’ll show you what’s working right now for attracting an audience, discovering what they want to buy, and building your perfect business.
Just head over to nextlevelseven.com to sign up. That’s nextlevelseven.com.
Matt, thanks so much for joining us, how are things in Indiana?
Matt Hunckler: They could be worse. I am certainly grateful to have the privilege that I do, and I know there’s a lot of suffering happening out there in the world. So, all things considered, doing pretty well here in Indianapolis.
Brian Clark: Yeah, I’ve got to say the same here, except for we keep getting inundated with multiple feet of snow in April in Boulder, like snowiest season ever. Snowiest place in the United States this year, and the ski resorts are closed. But I can’t complain at all.
Like you, I feel blessed and grateful that everyone’s safe at least in my immediate family. So, yeah, strange times, but we’re going to try to talk about some positive stuff today.
Matt Hunckler: Lots of good things happening in the world for sure.
What is Powderkeg and What Does It Do?
Brian Clark: Absolutely. And that would be with Powderkeg. Full disclosure, I am an investor and advisor to the company, so obviously I highly believe in their mission. And I think it’s time we introduce that mission and what you guys do to the Unemployable and the 7-Figure Small audience.
So, why don’t you give us an overview of what Powderkeg is and does?
Matt Hunckler: Happy to, and really appreciate you, Brian. You’ve been an awesome investor, super involved and just enough involved in the right kinds of ways. It’s been really awesome to be able to scale this with your help and advice along the way.
This community spawned out of a need that we discovered over a decade ago. I had just graduated out of college, it was 2009. I had just sold my first business, and I decided to move to Indianapolis instead of move to the coast because I discovered there was just an amazing emerging tech scene here in Indianapolis, where I still live today.
Since then, over the last decade, there has just been a huge emergence of tech companies, tech successes, big billion plus dollar exits, all the way to just profitable software and tech companies that haven’t raised any money as well that are doing great out here.
So, Powderkeg really has become the place to plug into tech in the center of the country. We host virtual events, digital media, and digital resources for the community.
And then we actually have a product that’s in beta right now called Matches that helps match community-vetted talent with top tech teams that are actually still hiring today.
That’s a little bit of the good news. While there are some layoffs happening for sure in the world, there are definitely still some companies that are still hiring and we’re looking to help people with that with our product matches.
How Important is Location Really?
Brian Clark: Yeah, absolutely. This is quite the movement, and of course, I’ve never been on the coast for my 20-year entrepreneurial career and never found it necessary. That’s why we have this great technology, which is a lot better these days than it was in the late 90s, of course.
But you’ve got people like Steve Case, who are also advocating for what some might call “the fly-over states, which I’ve always found incredibly annoying. But especially in tech, does it really matter where you are these days?
You can make the case that aggregating groups of people in the Valley and in New York and Boston, etc. There is research that says just those people being together has some sort of effect, but can’t we, like I have done over the years, kind of mimic that with other forms of communication and collaboration?
Matt Hunckler: 100%. And I’m excited to talk about this because it’s something I’ve been working on myself over the last decade, really capturing these stories, sharing these amazing inspiring stories around the country.
And I was fortunate enough actually to get linked up with Steve Case probably back in 2012 or 13. Back when he was helping lead an initiative called Startup America, helping startups all over the country get better connected to the resources that they need to grow and scale from capital to talent to customers.
If you’ve ever heard Steve speak, he always shares this fact that more than 75% of all venture capital goes to just three States: California, Massachusetts, and New York.
So, you kind of do the math there — it’s Boston, SF, New York City. Those are some of the places that are hurting the most right now obviously with what’s going on with COVID-19. I cannot imagine what it would be like to be in one of those cities right now. So, my heart really goes out to those communities.
And certainly not to take away at all from the innovation and magic that’s happening in those tech hubs, but to your point, Brian, the world has flattened and there are tons of opportunities in places like you’re in, in Boulder, Colorado. So places where I currently am in, in Indianapolis, Indiana, to some of the communities like Cincinnati, Ohio, Nashville, Tennessee, Raleigh/Durham in North Carolina, even Kansas City in Missouri, there’s tons of stuff happening.
As I mentioned earlier, it’s leading to just incredible wealth generation. People are able to have incredible qualities of life out here because the rent to income ratio is so, so different.
You think about what your greatest expense is — and this is even more important right now when we’re looking at the recession that we’re in that could potentially become a depression. People are certainly getting laid off. And when you look at what your overhead expenses are, if you lose your job in particular, these areas like Indianapolis and Nashville and the like are so much lower than what you’re finding on the coast right now.
And I think that’s why, even last year, we were seeing some of those trends of not just people leaving these bigger metro areas, but you’re actually seeing an increase in the venture capital investment.
Last year was the first year in history that venture capital investment grew faster outside of Silicon Valley than it did inside of Silicon Valley. So, sort of a leading indicator of where the jobs are going, where a lot of the tech companies are going in terms of growth. And it is a blue ocean right now, lots of opportunity.
How Are Opinions Changing About Other Regions?
Brian Clark: Yeah, absolutely. And of course, those of us who are entrepreneurs and start companies outside of those three areas certainly don’t see ourselves as second-class citizens in any case.
But I remember when I lived in Austin at the beginning of the dot com days, and it was just emerging as this startup tech hub. You also had Seattle. And now you talk about places like Boulder. Are you seeing attitudes in the major hubs changing toward other regions of the country or are they still fairly elitist in the way they think about things?
Matt Hunckler: Sure, that’s a good question. And I definitely don’t want to paint broad brush strokes, but I can share a few anecdotes.
Back when I was starting this Powderkeg community, there was a well-known angel network that had just started back in the like 2009, 10, 11 timeframe, a bunch of angel investors who wanted to find the best startup companies. And I would send a lot of really great companies from around the Midwest, from the South over to the person that was running that angel network.
The standard line was, “That’s great. Let me know when they move out to San Francisco. And that attitude has absolutely shifted to where now… again, I mentioned that venture capital investment is growing faster outside the Valley than it is inside of Silicon Valley.
And actually investors are saying, “Hey, stay put, stay where you are. We want our dollars to go further in terms of helping you develop your product, in terms of the marketing and selling your product, as opposed to paying for crazy high rents and having to pay double or triple the salary to your employees, because that’s really what you see out in the Bay area.
And then you’re also competing for talent against Google and Facebook and Twitter. That’s where the majority of investment dollars go is directly to hiring your team.
So there are a lot of advantages for investors. And in terms of the attitude for the investors in the Bay area, a lot of them are getting on planes now, joining up with the Rise Of The Rest tour with Steve Case coming out to the middle of the country.
Usually what happens is they’ll invest in one company here in the middle of the country, and then once they have a success with that, then when they come in for their board meetings, it’s sort of like, “How many other companies in that city can I meet? And can this be added to my portfolio?
Then, likewise, you’re seeing a lot of people that maybe moved out to the Bay area or out to New York City after graduation. That was something I actually contemplated myself. I thought I was going to take my software development agency out to the Bay Area, because you think that’s where tech happens and because there’s a lot of misinformation out there. But by no means does tech not happen out there. There’s definitely tech out in the Bay Area.
But you’re seeing a lot of people (we call them “boomerangs) where they move out to the Bay area or they move out to New York City after graduation. But now, all of a sudden, they’ve got kids, they’ve got dreams that they actually want to achieve financially, and they might want to even have a yard and an extra bedroom for guests to stay in. And you’re seeing them come back to either where they went to college or where they grew up, be closer to family and be able to raise a family in a very, very nice home in comparison to what you might be able to find in the mission district of San Francisco.
Brian Clark: Yeah, trust me, I think most of the Bay Area has moved to Boulder, and it’s not inexpensive to live here. It never really was. And it’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. But it’s still cheaper than the Bay Area, so people come along from that environment and they’re like, “Oh yeah, I’ll take two.
What is the Powderkeg Community Seeking?
Brian Clark: So, this audience and myself, we’re not even into the venture capital thing really, we’re looking to do what Chris Guillebeau calls the “Third Way, which is you can bootstrap a digital company, reach an audience, reach the right people, sell them the right product, and all of a sudden, you’re doing quite well for yourself.
Have you found within Powderkeg that — and I know we’ve talked about this before off the air —but are they looking primarily to raise money? Are you seeing more of a balance between the two? What’s your perception of that?
Matt Hunckler: Well, that’s a really good question. It is definitely shifting this month. This month does not… so, my comments don’t have anything to do with this month because this month is just weird. The world has been put on pause in a lot of ways due to the Coronavirus pandemic that we’re in right now.
But I’m definitely seeing more companies in the middle of the country that are raising capital. Partially because those dollars are interested in investing in those companies here in the middle of the country, but you also see a lot of bootstrap companies. And probably just as much acceleration there as well in terms of companies that are being started.
One of the huge benefits of being in the middle of the country when you’re bootstrapping, when you’re launching your own thing, when you’re solopreneuring, which is how I grew Powderkeg for the first seven, eight years. It was all bootstrapped, we were always profitable. And we only raised money once we saw the big opportunity and wanted to build some software to tackle that opportunity.
So, I still have very much a bootstrapper’s mindset in terms of how to grow and scale companies. And there are a lot of them here in the middle of the country. The benefit is your costs are super low. You usually have a very engaged business community, which means you can reach out and get early customers very easily, because obviously you need a good product and you need to be delivering value.
I’m sure you’ve experienced this in Boulder, Brian — just a hyper connected community of people willing to support one another. The cool thing is when you’re in the middle of the country, it’s not just your backyard that is that way. Any other middle of the country city, all of a sudden there’s this sort of shared comradery that we all have in Powderkeg and the Powderkeg community, where just by being a part of it, we all want to help each other. We want to use each other’s stuff.
That’s part of the magic of what made Silicon Valley so successful, venture capital or not. Everyone uses each other’s stuff and gives each other feedback. And that same sort of magic has been happening in the last several years here in the middle of the country. I mean, most of this is happening online anyway.
We’re all just trying to support each other and help get good feedback on the products or services that we have, while at the same time, maybe even becoming a customer, referring customers, and you get that really tight knit community.
In a lot of ways the world has all shifted to virtual, right? Over the last month, but Brian, I’m sure you’re the same way, we’ve been doing this virtual thing for a long, long time, because not everyone’s in our backyard.
So this shift, I think, was a lot easier for me personally anyway — and I’m very grateful for that — than it has been for a lot of people that maybe haven’t been doing this for a while and have just been relying on who’s across the street or who’s just in the next neighborhood over.
Brian Clark: Yeah. If you would’ve asked me 10, 15 years ago that it would take until 2020 and a pandemic to get people to work remotely, I would have said, “No, it’ll happen before then. But there’s been this resistance generally between more traditional companies. But even with a lot of startups, they want the team right there together in person and all of that.
And I was reflecting on that recently. When I launched the first business off of Copyblogger in 2007, it was me and my partner, Tony Clark. Not only had we not met in person when we launched, we made it to seven figures and two years later before we met in person. We did think that was kind of extraordinary. But there was just never a reason to up until that point, and we just work so well and collaborate so well.
There is an entire, I want to say generation, not necessarily in the normal sense. They call millennials “digital natives and Gen Z, but there’s a whole bunch of entrepreneurs that qualify for that too.
I was also thinking it was weird that the early people in the blogging scene that grew into content marketing and all these companies that were created were dominated by introverts. It’s like we were made for this type of business and now the rest of the world is having to catch up and it becomes maybe the new normal.
But, yeah, you’re right, we’ve been doing this for a long time. So whenever I see people saying they’re having a hard time with it, I’m like, “Hmm … You can get used to anything, and in fact, see the benefits of it. I think a lot of people aren’t going to want to go back to an office.
Matt Hunckler: No, I 100% agree. I’ve seen a lot of comments like that from people in our community. And people in the Bay Area in particular, you see comments like, “I’ve saved two hours a day from my… because they had to take the BART train in and then take the lime scooter from the BART station to work. And that takes a full hour. And it’s like, “I gained two hours back. I’m less stressed, I’m happier and spend more time with my family. I’m not going back. And I think you’re seeing that as people have moved virtually.
Certainly there are challenges to being cooped up and not having physical interaction with people, particularly for people that are single and literally don’t have anyone. My heart definitely goes out to those people.
But that introverted side of me does sort of like the ability to move from the gym, which is our guest bedroom for me, to the office and get right to work with the team on our daily standup calls, and be able to be just as effective, if not maybe more effective, than we were going into the office every day. We were a physical office, remote friendly, but still had a physical office prior to all of this. So, certainly some silver lining into all of this.
Brian Clark: Yeah, if I catch myself having to be in a car around 8:30 to go half a mile in Boulder, I’m annoyed. I can’t imagine people having to commute like that. It’s just something that hasn’t been a part of my life in so long. It seems incomprehensible to me. And yet that’s most people’s day-to-day existence and yeah, I don’t know.
What Are Some Success Stories?
Brian Clark: Anyway, you’ve mentioned a couple of times success stories that you’ve seen not only with Powderkeg, but just generally the rest of the country, if you will. And I’m sure that could apply to the rest of the world, although the United States does have kind of a uniquely entrepreneurial culture compared to other nations.
But again, what are you seeing going on? Share some of these stories. I think that could be quite inspiring for a lot of people.
Matt Hunckler: Oh, absolutely. You’re going to probably have to shut me up because I’ve got a million of them.
In fact, just because the world has become sort of a dark place if you spend any time looking at news headlines, Powderkeg has started putting out a weekly email called The Spark, just to share positive stories of great things happening in the middle of the country and I’m happy to share some of those stories.
Just more recently, but some of the bigger success stories — in entrepreneurship particularly when you talk about software companies, whether they’re funded or unfunded, some people speak of success as an exit, meaning your company is acquired or you take the company public.
The one that is closest to me and I got to experience very up close here in Indianapolis is ExactTarget. ExactTarget is an email marketing company that grew right here in Indianapolis, Indiana, started around 2001 timeframe. So, slower growth kind of company, did end up raising venture capital. But the cool part of that story is they were very focused, very customer-centric in terms of what they were doing. They saw the big opportunity in email marketing in the early 2000s, and they went after it.
And there were certainly people that told them, “You need to be on the coast. You need to move from Indianapolis. And that company ultimately got acquired by Salesforce for over $2.5 billion, which in any arena you’re in is an enormous successful exit.
At the same time that Scott Dorsey and Chris Baggott were starting that company, another entrepreneur here in town in Indianapolis was starting an email company and not raising capital. Neil Berman started a company called Delivra. Same time you had Clint Nelson down in Nashville starting an email marketing company called Emma.
Neither Clint nor Neil raised capital, they bootstrapped for a very, very long time. And just last year, I think it was just last year – it might’ve been the year before last. Both of them got acquired by Campaign Monitor, terms undisclosed on those, but they’re both doing just fine. And they’re getting to now mentor other entrepreneurs, invest that capital on other things that they believe in.
Just a couple of examples of really one, people seeing the trends before they actually happen. And then two, building companies in the communities that they care about. And now having the ability to give back to those communities, invest in other entrepreneurs. And you’re seeing similar kinds of stories just all over the country.
Now you’re seeing a lot of those same companies, those same entrepreneurs stepping up to this big challenge that we’re all facing as a global community. How do we help these people in need? How do we help people in need during these tough times? Whether it’s people that are being laid off or people that are sick or people who are on the front lines in serving. I’ve got a ton of stories like that too.
Brian Clark: Yeah, absolutely. And that’s the stuff that makes me feel good. The stuff people, local entrepreneurs have been doing in Boulder to feed the medical community and now first responders are being added to it. An immense amount of money has been raised and it all started off with Brad Feld of Foundry and some other prominent entrepreneurs. There’s just an opportunity to give back and do good. And I love to see that obviously.
How Did You Shift Your Model to Virtual Only?
Brian Clark: Let me ask you this, so obviously you are virtual friendly. You have been for many, many years, and yet, watching you guys as an investor and advisor, you really embraced the in-person community.
You really embraced events, going to different cities in person, getting people together. And I can totally understand the immense value of that when you have — it’s kind of like my newsletter Further that serves Generation X, the disrespected generation in between Boomers and Millennials, we always get ignored.
Well, that’s like entrepreneurs in the middle of the country, too. We’re the middle children of entrepreneurship. And yet, when you bring those people together, whether it be Gen X or it be this group of entrepreneurs, magical things happen. Because like you said, everyone wants to support everyone else. Everyone wants to use other people’s stuff, assuming it’s good.
But I would say that sense of community has to be even stronger with something like Powderkeg, right? And yet, you got hit with this thing just like everyone else and you had to quickly shift your model.
Take us through how that process worked, because it seems to have gone successfully really fast.
Matt Hunckler: Well, we’re still early days, so knock on wood, but I am feeling really great about how our team has adapted and executed. And that was something that I saw — I had someone giving me that advice literally the day after things were declared a pandemic.
And I’ve just been reiterating that with the team ever since and other entrepreneur friends of mine. Charles Darwin, the scientist, said it best that it’s not that the strongest or the fittest species survive, but it’s the ones that are most adaptable and most willing to change to the environment. That’s really what we’ve looked at from day one.
And you’re right, we’ve had tens of thousands of people come to our events in cities all over the country. And I’ve had tens of thousands of conversations. I think I have a little bit more extroverted gene than you do, Brian. I have my introverted side, but I also like getting out and shaking hands and giving hugs. And I’ve had the chance to do that with Steve Case at Rise Of The Rest and obviously with Powderkeg events.
I think having done that over the last decade gives us a really strong foundation. And we have done everything that we can with our physical events to make those engaging and valuable for every member. And now the last month has been figuring out, “All right, that tool is gone, now what?
Rather than just say, “Okay, we need to just take our physical events and put them online, we really needed to stop for a moment and listen to our community. So that’s what we did first. We asked the community both in sort of marketing style emails that went out to everybody and one-on-one emails, Zoom calls, Slack chats.
We really connected with our community to find out what are they struggling with and what are the biggest challenges that they’re facing. Whether those are more tactical things or more emotional type of things, we are all facing challenges right now. Taking the time to do that, I think, is what helped us take action in the right kind of way and focus on the right kinds of things.
So, we immediately said, “Okay, there are lots of topics that people need information on. Whether that’s finances and forecasting and the Paycheck Protection Program, and some of the craziness that’s been going on this week about that. Or it’s literally just mindfulness and meditation. And how do you manage your stress and still continue to get good sleep while this craziness is going on?
We found the experts in our network and advisors in our network who know those topics inside and out. And we didn’t just put together a webinar, because that was something that we heard from people when we said, “All right, you said you’re having this problem and we think maybe we could put together a webinar on this topic, that topic, or the other topic.
They said, “Listen, I don’t need to just sit in front of my screen anymore. I want to connect with people. I want to be able to ask questions. I want to be able to share what I’m struggling with.
So for the last month, we’ve been doing two virtual events a week, every Tuesday and Thursday at 2:00 PM just to get some reps under our belt as a team, to figure out how to throw good virtual events that are truly engaging. And we’ve had hundreds of people come to those over the last month.
But then also, to hit all the topics that people were asking about and really needed advice on in these crazy times with real time information from people who have been there and done that in other recessions, from people who know how to adapt and change.
I think the best thing that we did was just slow down and ask questions because we don’t know everything. In fact, I think in the grand scheme of things, it’s our job to just figure out what the pain point is, and then figure out the solution for that pain point from there.
Those virtual events have been huge for us, and it’s really helped lead to some big product insights for us on the job matching side as well.
Brian Clark: Yeah, it seems like what you’ve discovered is the same thing we’re seeing with our own Unemployable community. We talked to Tara McMullin a couple of weeks ago, and she said the same thing.
It’s the interactivity. Education is fine and desired, but what people want is to connect. We do have this interactive medium that I think we lapsed too much into a broadcast mode instead of an interaction mode. And that’s really what we need to continue to explore with the virtual medium —how do you enhance that connection more than anything?
Although you did mention something that puzzled me, and that was handshakes and hugs, what is that? I don’t think I remember what that is. Are we going to do that anymore?
Matt Hunckler: I could certainly use a handshake and a hug right now. I don’t think we will, honestly. I think the world is going to be very, very different. And I think that this is something that… and that’s why I said to the team two weeks before this was declared a pandemic – I said, “Hey, I think this is going to be a big deal and potentially a big deal forever. Let’s figure out…
And that was one thing that we were fortunate about is that we had great advisors who pointed this out that this is going to be an issue literally months before it became a true issue for our business model. And so we certainly had an advantage on that front as well.
But I think that this is a permanent change. To your point, Brian, I think this has just sort of leapfrogged in a lot of ways where we were with remote work, where we were with working from places that aren’t New York City or aren’t Silicon Valley or LA or Boston. And I think we just leapfrogged where our trajectory was… maybe where we were going to be in six years, I think we’ll be there in six months.
Brian Clark: Yeah, it’s true. There have been other things I’ve been paying attention to that basically, you’ve got these businesses where the workforce is furloughed or otherwise displaced. So companies are finally investing in AI and automation in a way that they put off and that’s not good news for a lot of jobs.
So, I’m not going to ask you to prognosticate because it’s so hard to see exactly. But you’re right, in general, all of these things we were anticipating from remote work to increased virtual business to AI automation, augmented virtual reality, all of that is going to happen faster now because the gigantic barrier of inertia was removed.
Again, it just blows my mind that we needed something so terrible for these types of things to happen. But then, on the other hand, I’m worried maybe we haven’t even begun to see the disruption that’s going to happen this decade.
Matt Hunckler: I think we’re set up really well for that right now. You’re looking at these software development coding academies, these bootcamps to learn relevant marketing tech skills and products skills. Jobs aren’t going to decrease, they’re just going to change, right?
Things that AI is solving and robotics are solving, yes, those workers are going to need to be re-skilled and that’s already happening. I think what this pandemic has done is just shine an enormous light on the fact that this needs to happen faster.
You look at those academies right now, and they’re going gangbusters right now re-skilling people, getting them back out into the workforce and even getting them hired even during a time like this, because tech companies are still hiring. Not all tech companies, but some tech companies are still hiring, particularly in areas in the middle of the country where maybe their balance sheet might be a little bit healthier than one that’s boosted up by venture capital and has huge expenses on the coast.
So I think there’s a huge opportunity, particularly for people who work remotely, because there’s going to be more and more talent coming from these areas that have been traditionally rust belt type communities, factory workers, wage workers, who are now being up-skilled into high-salary positions, where maybe they were making $15, $20 an hour, now they’re coming into a first-year salary of 50, 60k.
I think there’s a big, big opportunity there. To your point, Brian, with AI, it will certainly disrupt things. It’s already disrupting things. But that just means, again, people need to be adaptable. Not just be smarter, not just be stronger, but truly adapt and follow where the opportunity is. And tech is where the opportunity is and we’re seeing it right now for sure.
Words of Advice
Brian Clark: Yeah, I agree with you on the adaptability issue. I am optimistic, as you are, that our human soft skills enhanced with the right tech will make us even more powerful instead of impotent and out of work. Let’s hope we’re both right, of course.
It’s good to be optimistic and I think it’s a good argument. I think it’s solid and it tracks what’s happened during major periods of disruption, such as the industrial revolution, etc. Okay, let’s leave with a little bit of advice now.
If you are trying to start the kind of business that could use capital that will be required to build a team, which is a little bit different than what we usually talk about, but it’s still within the realm of possibility. And also, the solopreneur business that finds an opportunity to grow beyond that.
Obviously, we would encourage them to join the Powderkeg network. But Matt, what else would you say to people right now who are either looking to grow the business they have or to start a new one? Because it is a period of opportunity if you look at it the right way.
Matt Hunckler: 100% and it’s opportunity that’s not at the expense of anyone else. It’s actually opportunity that if you seize that opportunity, you’ll likely be helping lots of others. So I see it personally as my obligation to seize that opportunity and try to help create more opportunity for others.
Today what those kinds of people can do is… I’m a big believer in network. Now is one of those times in particular where virtual events are taking off. Whether it’s Powderkeg events or not, there are lots of great virtual events out there.
I’m a big believer — it’s a super cheesy phrase — but your network is your net worth. Yeah, your network is your net worth, I think, is what someone told me when I was in high school. And I believe that because it’s about helping people and the more people you can help, the better. And you can’t help people if you’re not meeting people.
So, now, particularly for introverts, you can attend virtual events. You don’t even have to speak to people face to face. You can sit behind your screen and your keyboard, you can jump into the chat room.
It’s an amazing opportunity right now because you’re not just limited to physical events that may be in your hometown, you also have the opportunity to connect with anyone all over the world who are attending these virtual events. So that’s the first thing I would say.
The second thing I would say is find the resources that you need to continue to grow and scale. And obviously Unemployable and 7-Figure Small are great resources. I’m a big fan and big listener. You know, Brian, I’ve followed you since Copyblogger days and that’s how I started my first agency.
But find those resources and connect with the people who create those resources, and then finally use those connections and use those resources to hire great people.
I was a solopreneur for many, many years, and I very much enjoyed the flexibility. I really enjoy the ability to work remote. I really enjoyed the freedom to work on what I wanted to work on every single day. And I still do that even though I’m leading a team.
But the thing I noticed is when I started bringing on other people — and right now is a really good time to be hiring other people because, yes, there’s a lot of opportunity. Yes, there’s a lot of need for people who want jobs. But when you put those two things together, you can hire people that will help you. Opportunity that is happening right now in the economy.
Whatever your industry is, I guarantee you, there is some opportunity caused by this disruption. And so I really believe that when you start hiring smart people around you, that’s when you can start multiplying your impact, even if that’s just a virtual assistant.
I finally bit the bullet on that one here in the last year, it’s been a game changer. So that would be my third thing that I would say and something that took me a long time to learn. And it was just by watching successful people like yourself, Brian.
Brian Clark: That’s good advice, Matt. Thank you so much for your time. Keep fighting the good fight. Again, we look for silver linings and if this helps bring more quality companies into existence outside of our traditional startup hubs, then that cannot be a bad thing in any way. So, thank you for the work you’re doing.
Matt Hunckler: Absolutely, likewise, Brian. Thanks for having me.