Jumpstart Episode 2: Mark Montgomery
- Mark moved to Nashville with just $800.
- he started Echo in 1999 and left in 2009.
- he is the EIR at Claritas Capital.
- worked with setting up the Nashville Entrepreneur Center (NEC).
- works as a song writer and trains Australian Shepherds.
- StudioNow AOL acquisition
- people don’t recognize Rivals as a local startup success story that was sold to Yahoo! for 100 million.
- Never Mind the Valley: Here’s Nashville article.
- we as a community need to work hard to recruit people here.
- There are currently 2,200 tech jobs unfilled in Nashville!
- Ralph Schulz and Michael Burcham important figures in Nashville.
- we all come from a strange family
- started a lawn-care business at 14 and hired a guy with a drier’s license.
- Mark is a starter rather than a manager.
- he does social media strategy for the Dali Lama!
- He supports W.O. Smith Music School and the NEC.
Mark’s 3 tips every entrepreneur needs to know
- Get a mentor.
- Be the dumbest guy in the room. Surround yourself with super smart people.
- Bet on yourself
- Bonus Tip: Get going! Jump off the cliff.
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Jumpstart theme song “DLDN Instrumental (ft. Onlymeith, Mellotroniac)” by: St. Paul from ccMixter.
Dave: Welcome to Jumpstart. I am your host, Dave Delaney. My guest today is Mark Montgomery; entrepreneur in residence at Claritas Capital. Mark is best known as former CEO and founder of ECKO Music, and he also received National Business Journal’s Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 2007. Mark thanks for joining me today.
Mark: Hey Dave, my pleasure. Good to be with you.
Dave: Yeah. Do you want to – maybe we can begin just – if you could tell me a little bit about yourself.
Mark: Well, I mean I’m a – in a nutshell, I’m a human being that’s constantly on the search. I’m a pretty inquisitive gentleman; have been most of my life.
Mark: And I was born in Greenbay Wisconsin, moved to Nashville in 1990 with eight hundred dollars and no car and a crazy girl.
Mark: (Laugh) And the drummer from my rock band.
Mark: And sort of wound my way through most of the music business – I’ve done pretty much every job in the business exec work in a record company.
Mark: And in – I guess 94’ or so I got really interest in the web. In 96’ we started selling music directly to consumers which sort of took me down a whole other path. We started ECKO in 1999 and that was ten years of chasing the direct-to-consumer – you know, kind of world that has really emerged as huge opportunity not just for the music business, but generally most folks are trying to figure out how to build direct consumer relationships. So I spent a number of years doing that. And I left that company in’09, wandered around a little bit.
Mark: Landed my gig with Claritas. I do a bunch of angel investing and mentoring work with the Center for Entrepreneurship to set that thing up with a bunch of other super smart people – just kind of noodling around in my spare time. I’m still a songwriter and a musician, and I train Australian shepherds and…
Mark: Just kind of try to find some balance between working constantly and having a life outside of work.
Dave: Yeah, it’s always a challenge, isn’t it? (Laugh)
Mark: Yes, it is. Absolutely.
Dave: There’s like so many hours in a day.
Dave: Yeah, I feel you there.
Dave: With Claritas Capital, did you guys actually – you guys were part of the Studio Now acquisition right? Were they well?
Mark: Yeah. We were – Claritas was one of the lead investors in that deal along with Clayton and associates.
Mark: David Mason and David Corts and that whole team, built a really interesting business. And I joined the board there at David’s request. And that’s kind of where I got to know the Claritas folks more intimately – you know, through working on that business. And we were lucky to have a very nice exit to AOL.
Mark: And that business has gone on to become part of the C-network, and David’s now running a big piece of AOL’s content business.
Dave: Yeah, it’s fantastic. It’s a great local success story for sure.
Mark: Yeah, absolutely. We’ve got a bunch of those.
Dave: We do.
Mark: You know, you don’t – people don’t sort of recognize rivals as an example with Spacetear, and sold to Yahoo for a hundred million dollars.
Mark: And no one even talks about that one. So we’ve got a nice success rate. We need to do a lot more; but that’s starting to happen. It’s amazing to watch the swell of this town putting its money where its mouth is, and actually doing the work to really build this entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Dave: Yeah, it’s definitely – it’s so – it’s truly an exciting place to be right now. I mean it really is. There was an article on Read, Write, Web – you know, a little while back called Never Mind the Value: Here’s Nashville.
Dave: Which was a great piece just about – you know, what’s going on here. And yeah, it is exciting.
Mark: Well, it’s – you know, it’s interesting because everybody and their brother is trying to figure out how to do things like this.
Mark: You know every market that’s sort of meaningful not only in the US but in Canada – been participating in some discussions with other places that are trying to figure out what we’re – how we’ve done – what we’re sort of embarking on. And I think the key is – it’s about the people. So we as a community have to work really hard to recruit people into this market. We simply don’t have the talent here today to meet even the needs that exist today. There are twenty-two hundred tech jobs unfilled today in this city.
Dave: Twenty-two hundred.
Mark: Twenty-two hundred.
Mark: Yeah. So I mean it’s a really interesting – it’s a really interesting opportunity and a really – it’s a big challenge. But I also look round at the people who are working on the Michael Burchams and the Ralph Shultz – I think there’s an incredible – I think will to get this done. And I’m really excited to be – you know, part of what I consider the guys who have their ass-kicking boot on.
Mark: Am I allowed to say that? Is this a G-rated podcast? (Laugh)
Dave: Yeah, absolutely. You can get away with that; actually to that point. When did you discover your ass-kicking boots? When did you find those boots? When did you get that entrepreneur-bug bite you in your career?
Mark: Honestly, I grew up with – I come from kind of a strange – well, we all come from a strange family. But my mother is painter and my father is serial entrepreneur; he started more businesses than I can even recount.
Mark: And – so I got started pretty early. I started a lawn care business when I was fourteen and recruited a guy with a driver’s license to help me with that. And I learned to…
Mark: I learned the value of scale there. You know for the first couple of months we go knock on one door to get one piece of business. And then I figured out that real estate companies had – you know, ten or twenty houses that they needed the lawns cut so I could make one call and get twenty gigs. So – you know, I learned that lesson pretty early. And then I was a little bit of a computer hacker in my teenage years and so I started a tutorial – a thing called the computer tutor and I would teach rich housewives how to use their MAC, SCs – or actually at that time it was MAC – what the hell were they – C – oh God, I can’t even…
Dave: I have to – I’m an old school PC guy.
Dave: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah.
Mark: Apple 2Es.
Mark: Yeah, so with a five and a quarter inch floppy drive – it’s the good old days.
Dave: Yes, yes, yes. (Laugh)
Mark: So my phone has got more horsepower than those computers.
Mark: Anyways, so I got that bug kind of early. And then the other thing that I was generally had a disposition towards is I would look at big, sort of established systems – finding efficiencies in them and try to build something that competed with them; and that started fairly early in my career. And that was – that’s kind of been a little bit of my trademark. I’ve always been pretty good at throwing rocks at big things and – you know, everybody kind of has their place in the ecosystem. And some people are – you know, starters and other people are more – you know, managers. I am much more a starter than I am a – I’m not a very good corporate citizen. I did a little of that and I discovered that I really didn’t like it.
Dave: Right, right. Interesting. I know that you’re involved with TEDx.
Dave: Are you doing that again this year? And what…
Mark: I do – I mean, I’m working on a bunch of stuff sort of simultaneously. I have been working primarily on my own – a couple my own ideas. I do a little bit of outside work. I just finished a project for scripts and I’m doing a – this is kind of a weird one; I set social media strategy for his Holiness, the Dalai Lama.
Dave: Wow. (Laugh)
Mark: (Laugh) I’ve been doing that for a number of years and we just – we’re working on – we just finished YouTube. And last year we set up – you know, we got to work in Twitter and Facebook – and just finished the deal with Ustream.
Mark: And my next sort of project with them is getting their Apple assets organized and kind of centralized inside the store. So that’s a really fun one and obviously I get to say – you know, I get to repeat a lot of lines from Caddyshack when I’m working with them.
Mark: (Laugh) There will be no money, but on your deathbed you will receive eternal consciousness.
Dave: Right, right.
Mark: It’s just nice I think.
Mark: So anyway, I’m doing a little bit of that. And then with Claritas obviously I have a variety of projects I’m working on with them. And I sit on a couple of privately held boards and advisory boards, and then I work on the sort of not-for-profit side. I’m a big supporter of W.O. Smith School, very passionate about their mission, very passionate about the Center for Entrepreneurship and its mission. I really think that Nashville has this unique opportunity to become the epicenter of the new music business.
Mark: We have everything we need here. And what’s – you know, the challenge is getting our own community to reinvest as opposed to milking the old – the old rock that we’ve had historically bone dry. And it’s a challenge.
Mark: But I think we’re moving – there’s a lot of thing moving in the right direction. So – and then I’m doing – I’ve got a couple of startups which are at this point not far enough along to talk about.
Dave: That’s cool. Well, I’m going to end this and I appreciate your time. But I do have a question that I like to ask all of our guests. And it’s what three tips or tricks or anything that you – any feedback that you have for young entrepreneurs who are just starting out? Like any tips or tricks – maybe three of them if possible.
Dave: If you could think of three off the top of your head.
Mark: Yeah, absolutely. One, get a great mentor network.
Mark: I think that’s really critical. People who will not blow smoke up your ass – you know, people who will tell you the truth.
Mark: I would work really hard to figure out what you’re great at, and then things that you’re not great at; find great people to put around you. The key to success is to be the dumbest guy in the room all the time, so that’ kind of the number two. And the number three is – I think, you need to bet on yourself. You need to recognize that there are – that you’re always going to have people that are telling you “You can’t do that”. And you certainly want to listen to those opinions, but if somewhere down in your gut you know you’re right, you just have to run on that. Now you have to continue to validate it but at the end of the day, you have to bet on yourself. So it would be get a mentor – one. Two, be the dumbest guy in the room; surround yourself with some super smart people. And three, bet on yourself. And then quite frankly, just get going. You know a lot of people – I meet so many “entrepreneurs” who actually never do anything. They just like to talk about being an entrepreneur but never actually get going.
Mark: So it’s jumping off a cliff. And if you’re not prepared to jump, then perhaps you should not be the guy or the girl. Perhaps you should work for the guy or the girl – so that’s four.
Dave: (Laugh) That’s great. Hey Mark, where can people find you?
Mark: They can find me at hellomarkco.com.
Dave: Hellomarko.com, okay. That’s great. Well Mark, thank you so much. I really appreciate you taking the time with us today.
Mark: My pleasure Dave. Thanks for the work you’re doing for Jumpstart.
Mark: Talk to you soon.
Dave: You too. Bye.
[END OF AUDIO]
Posted on March 27, 2011
Categories: Blog, Podcast
Tags: AOL, Claritas Capital, Dali Lama, Echo, EchoMusic, Mark Montgomery, Michael Burcham, Nashville Entrepreneur Center, Ralph Schulz, Rivals, StudioNow, W.O. Smith Music School, Yahoo!