He’s a New York Times-bestselling science author, an award-winning broadcaster and CEO of the Bulletproof Coffee empire. Oh, and he also spent $1 million ‘biohacking’ himself. Compelo talks to Dave Asprey.
How is your approach to business influenced by your time in Silicon Valley?
When I was in Silicon Valley, I learned what it’s like to scale really quickly. I was co-founder of a business unit of a company that grew from three to 1,500 people in three years. In addition, the overall company grew from 300 to 5,000 people. Through this, I saw the entire company lifecycle.
It also taught me about disruption. In fact, disruptive technology has been in my job description in almost every job I’ve ever had. As head of global evangelism for different billion-dollar type of companies I learned that it’s hard work to evangelize a company’s technology or get people to really pay attention to, say, antivirus software. It’s a lot more interesting to talk about something that people actually care about, and where I have very deep knowledge.
I spent five years at the University of California teaching engineers how to build the internet − that’s hard work. In contrast, the human body is in some ways more complex. However, describing it isn’t something you’re necessarily taught in medical school. You need to understand it as a system and how to communicate how that works without too much or too little detail. That has served me really well as an entrepreneur.
What qualities make a successful boss and entrepreneur?
Being a successful entrepreneur and a successful boss are two very different things. In fact, a lot of successful entrepreneurs are not good bosses. A successful entrepreneur is someone who is willing to fail and make mistakes − but not the same mistake twice.
Also, you have to be able to think about a future that doesn’t exist yet, and believe that it’s real. And then most importantly, delegate and hire people.
There are hundreds of thousands of companies who make $1 million in revenue, but they never go above that. It’s almost always because the founder does too much − they don’t delegate. When I first started Bulletproof, I was very willing to delegate to people with way less experience than I had.
How would you describe Dave Asprey: as an entrepreneur, a nutritionist, an author or a broadcaster?
At my core, I am an entrepreneur. Consequently, my core drive is to find big, unwieldy, inefficient industries and break them, by doing it better in a different way, ultimately serving people better.
The other thing that really makes me happy, and supports being an author and a broadcaster, is called event correlation. Bulletproof Coffee came along because I noticed something − a little thing − that had a noticeable effect and just kept driving on why, and how. As a result, after experimenting with a thousand recipes, Bulletproof Coffee was born.
What have been the high and low points of your career?
When I was 26 years old I made $6 million. I ran technology strategy for Exodus Communications, the company that held Google’s first server. I lost $6 million when I was 28 years old. The company went bankrupt, and I was not allowed to sell my shares because I had inside information. That was certainly one of the low points in my career.
Conversely, two years before that was one of the high points. I can remember sitting in a room and realizing that we were changing the world. Namely, we were allowing companies to come onto the internet at an unprecedented rate − companies like Yahoo! Ebay and Facebook. You knew that society wouldn’t be the same.
The first time you hit $100,000 in revenue a month is definitely an exciting milestone. But for me, it was the first time 100,000 people saw a blog post, or realizing I had a million podcast downloads. Now we have 50 million downloads!
My greatest success as CEO of Bulletproof happens every time someone I don’t know sends a heartfelt email about how this work has given them their life back, or their brain, or has reinvigorated a parent struggling to stay young, or helped parents conceive without drugs.
Changing lives is the greatest success I can imagine. Also, I am very proud of being a two-time New York Times-bestselling author for my books, The Bulletproof Diet and Head Strong.
What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs starting out in the business world?
The number one piece of advice I can offer is something I didn’t take. That is to cultivate and gratefully receive mentorship. When I was young, I didn’t think anyone would want to help. And I was too arrogant and frankly too angry to accept help from people. Why? Because I thought that accepting help would mean that I didn’t know something or that I was weak. That held me back. Having great advisors is the secret to scaling. Listen to them and take action without self sabotage.
In addition, find the strongest people you can and learn from them. Then take that experience and become a true expert in what you want to do. Form deep relationships with people doing what you want to do. Come from a place of genuinely wanting to help every person you meet without expecting anything in return. This mindset, along with earned experience, will be the foundation of your success.
There is great value to learning how companies work, which requires working at them. I spent much of my career in Silicon Valley at startups, but I didn’t run a sizable one until I’d seen how they work from many angles. Your odds of success go up when you have good advice and when you have experience. If you start a company without the experience, double down on the advice − and hire the experience as soon as you can afford it.