Rise Up Radio Interview with Tyler Jensen Founder of The Startup Garage

Rise Up Radio San Diego with Tyler Jensen
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You are listening to James Carmody and Jared Kelley here, in studio for SDriseup.com

We are looking to hear stories in your life about local leaders in San Diego.

Whether it is the small business owner, your Pastor or leader of your church, your kid’s school teacher or maybe it’s their Little League coach.

James:

With us in the studio now we have Tyler Jensen, who is the owner of Startup Garage. I am super-excited to hear about Tyler’s background, his journey in life and how he is making a difference in the community.

Tyler:

James, I like start ups and I love my garage. I am just so excited to dig into combining those things two things…

James:

Or maybe use it as a guide to combine.

Jared:

I think the play on it is that we are taking start ups out of the garage but that’s where they start. I know I am tinkering on toys in there and stuff, there are 360 video cameras in my garage and having fun…

Jared:

That is why I love start ups too, I have to say that. I am fascinated with that game.

James:

Yes, taking a risk and getting things off the ground.

Jared:

Tyler, welcome to the show; welcome to the fun we are going to have here. Tell us a little bit about your journey and what you are doing with Startup Garage.

Tyler:

Yes, thank you so much for having me. I’m excited to be here and to share all the good that you are doing in the community. So, I launched Startup Garage about 5 years ago, as a result of having some struggles earlier on in my previous company. I really made a lot of mistakes earlier on in my first company.

Jared/James:

Yep, we all do that

Tyler:

And I realized that I made a lot of silly mistakes that I could have avoided and so that inspired me to help other people who are starting companies. People who have great ideas and passion and motivation, with ideas that can help improve the community, their families and themselves. So, that really gets me up out of bed every morning.

Jared:

Not only does it get you up out of bed. You have helped over 200 companies, non-profits and social enterprises. That is not light work.

Tyler:

It doesn’t feel like work, honestly. So, I think that’s the key. I wake up on Saturdays and sometimes I don’t have anything committed and sometimes I just start working again because I love it and it’s really fun, and people are coming up with some amazing ideas. People are really amazing when they are given the time and creativity to put something into action.

James:

Give us the background on Startup Garage. I know you started it back in 2010, so you are about 6 years in, what does it look like when someone comes to you, as you engage someone? What are you helping them with?

Tyler:

Typically, we have two different types of entrepreneurs who will come to us: one who we call the Lifestyle Entrepreneur and one we call the High Growth Entrepreneur.
The real difference is the high growth entrepreneur is looking to start something technology and really looking to scale really fast, maybe $100M in revenue within 5 years. They are going to need a lot of capital.

The Lifestyle Entrepreneur is really your traditional small business owner, maybe they are a sole proprietor, maybe they want to start a coffee shop or something like that and they just need help. So, on the high growth side we help them through the fund raising process and we do that through helping them build business plans, financial modeling, investor decks and we coach them on the fund raising process because as an entrepreneur we think certain things are important and investors almost think the exact opposite.

On the lifestyle side, it is really about education. On the small business side a lot of people have these great ideas and just really don’t know what the next steps are. They are really not that difficult but without access to someone who has gone through it before, it’s even more challenging and they make a lot of mistakes and sometimes even get stuck. So, we have an accelerator program on the lifestyle side that we just launched and I’m pretty excited about as well.

Jared:

Wow!

James:

Really cool!

Jared:

I think that it would be beneficial to sit down and have a conversation. Not on the radio, I probably need to break out my financials and see…because I personally fall more on the lifestyle side, that I just love being involved with people and I know a couple of venture capitalists, so I think that’s probably the point that most of them look at…everyone thinks it’s all about profit and that’s important, it is important to have revenue but I think that most partners are also looking on like “who is this guy, what is his story and what’s happening?”

I think again, that is more my passion, the lifestyle side, as it’s about just empowering and encouraging people to say: who are you, what are you doing and you have some passion around there right? Passion drives efficiencies and it drives innovation, and when you are sitting there doing the grind (and that’s important to have some grind and hustle) but if you are just doing a 9 – 5 to get a pay check, then look at that and see if that is really what you want to do.

If you have that entrepreneurial spirit it is just inspiring to sit down with people like Tyler who will tell you “I’ve been through the struggle and you could probably do a pretty sick billion of a widget company yourself.”

He said: “I’ve got these talents how do I help other people and how do I multiply this?” I commend you for doing that and I know that that space is not an easy one. So, it’s fun and you like to work on your Saturdays but you probably get some notes once in a while in the finance space and growing through that.

James:

Sure. Speaking of passions folks, one of the things that you may be very familiar with if you are listening here is that Tyler Jensen is also the founder of VAVi Sports. I know firsthand I’ve played in multiple VAVi leagues in my 13 years as a San Diegan.
I’m sure Jared has, I know my wife has and my friends and clients have. Tell us how VAVi got started? It’s such a thriving, amazing organization now. Where did you get it started and how did you guys come to San Diego and where we are at today?

Tyler:

I’m originally from Virginia

James:

An East coaster like myself. I’m from Massachusetts.

Tyler:

Okay, nice. I went to University of Virginia and moved back right after I graduated in 2008, with big dreams (most 21 year olds are full of ego and full of confidence). I came out with that and ran out of money in about 3 weeks after I got here – the 21st day.

James:

Where did you go, to the beach and the bar?

Tyler:

I was looking for a job. So, I came out here and I got offered a job to run a political campaign. I ended up running a U.S. congressional political campaign for about a year. One of the women and I on that campaign started talking about wanting to start a business. I had just moved here and I saw the need to start building a community beyond just the bar scene.

At 21 I was living in Pacific Beach and you just went to bars and that is how you met new people but I wanted something different than that. We came up with the idea to have that community built around sports. I certainly wasn’t very good at sports, I’m okay…I’m average at best and so was my friend. So, it wasn’t about the super competitive sports, although VAVi does have some competitive leagues now. We just got started right after the campaign. We printed 5000 flyers.

James:

What year was this?

Tyler:

2002 – right after the campaign we printed 5000 flyers, set up a one-page website and we bought vavi.com. The day we launched and got the flyers in the mail, VAVi.com expired and we didn’t know that. A Chinese company bought it and so we had to launch govavi.com. We went around the beach and handed out flyers to get it started. We started with one volleyball league and now it’s got about 35,000 members here in San Diego. I sold it back in January 2008. So, it’s been quite a journey.

Jared:

I’ve also played in those leagues and I’m just like you, I’m not the super-competitive, achiever mentality person but I know my role, I’m not the greatest out there on the field but it was a great place to go play those sports and have fun. I think that’s why entrepreneurs are needed and leaders are needed, just to see those gaps and fill them.

So, if you are sitting at your desk or in your car having that thought in your head: “man, there is something here that can I can help do,” that’s what your role is, if that’s your passion find a way to do it. I’m not going to get `Gary Vaynerchuk’ on us right now but if it’s good – do it…make it happen.

James:

Tyler, it’s such a pleasure having you on air, someone who this entrepreneurial mindset and you have made such a difference here in the community. How many people play in VAVi sports nowadays?

Tyler:

I’m not sure exactly what it is anymore because I sold it a number of years ago. I’m trying to think…

James:

Ten…twenty people maybe?

Tyler:

Probably. There were probably 3,000 people in a given week playing in some sort of event when I sold it.

James:

Right, that’s amazing. That’s the adventure, right? And at Startup Garage, you are impacting local entrepreneurs in a major way and they are impacting their communities.

Tyler:

Yes, and that’s really what motivates me, to contribute entrepreneurs of impact to the community. So I am impacting the entrepreneurs. I’m not, like you who said you like to network and get out there and do all that. I’m a kind of introverted guy, so I figured out how do I make the biggest impact if I don’t have to go out and be in big crowds all the time? I got enough of that through my VAVi days. I moved up to Encinitas and hide out up there.

James:

Oh, that’s fantastic. Tyler Jensen making a big impact, empowering others through entrepreneurship to give back to their communities.

Jared:

Tyler, let’s go into Startup Garage just a little bit more, and maybe you can say some of the companies or maybe not. What does it look like for a couple of companies that are coming in and talking to you, and what are you doing with them?

Tyler:

I will give two examples: one for the high growth type company and one for the lifestyle type company because it’s a little bit different of a process. On the high growth side I will be kind of vague about all the details because of confidentiality.

I’m working with a company that came to me about a year and a half ago wanting to get into the solar space and had a concept and really needed cash, lots of cash to be able to execute on that idea he had. We helped cultivate that idea and put it into a business plan and through a really complicated financial model (as it turned out to be pretty complex for this particular one) and crafted the investor deck so that investors would respond to the story as well.

When an entrepreneur goes in they just want to talk about their product or service because they are so product/service-centric and they think that’s the best idea ever as they are putting their lives into it. It may be a great idea but investors want to know more.

So, we crafted all that together and put that investor package together. He went out to investors and has successfully raised several rounds of capital now. After the first round I continued to help as a part-time CFO on the team. I think he is nearing about $2 million raised, and really seeing a lot of traction and solar going in a lot of homes.

Jared:

Wow! You are like the Shark Tank Prep Crew.

James:

Folks, if you are at home, we’ve got the red beard and red haired Mr. Wonderful

Tyler:

You are hired as my branding consultant.

James:

I could run with that.

Jared:

And then for the lifestyle side what does that look like?

Tyler:

The lifestyle side was really motivated because to work one-on-one with myself and the team it costs a good chunk of change, and on the lifestyle side we found all these people, a lot of whom are my friends, coming to me and saying: “I really need your help…I want to get this off the ground.” I just didn’t have the band width to help them for free, and the finances just didn’t make sense.

So, I finally came up with the idea to do a group setting where we created this accelerator where we can take this whole group of people and teach them a lot of the same things but in a way that is going to be more beneficial to them.

They are not going to need to raise money from angel investors or venture capital but they are really going to need to get their service and their target market dialed in and all those pieces figured out, and learn the basics of business because a lot of them in this group do not know the foundation of business which can really catapult them to the next level.

So, they come and they sign up for a class. We are just finishing our first ever Lifestyle Business Accelerator class; we are in week 9 of 12, so we have 3 weeks left: Marketing, Sales and Small Business Funding. Then we are going to another class which (I think) starts on May 17.

It is a 12-week program and whenever there are 12 weeks we do 12 classes where you are going to learn and be interacting with others about the basics of business and getting your business plan done. There is also going to be 7 co-working nights, so you get together with your little pod within this group and work together.

So, there is learning and support, you are developing this little community of entrepreneurs that you can lean on. There is going to be 5 other nights of guest speakers where you are going to get to go and see other entrepreneurs talk about a number of different topics that are applicable to someone getting a new business up off the ground.

So it’s a 12-week program. We’ve made it really affordable, it’s only $1,500 for that whole program and so you end up with a business plan that you have created yourself, plus your business idea has changed from the idea into a real business that you can communicate to others and sell and make money.

Jared:

I think I’m an entrepreneur because my heart is just beating like it’s on fire right now…

James:

It’s so exciting!

Jared:

…and I can speak for myself; but if you are sitting in the same seat of: “what do I do next? I’m kind of lost in this thing…I have a great idea…” This is a solution that will provide high-tech coaching, have consultants come in and $1,500 is like a drop in the bucket – that is very affordable.

James:

Absolutely. And maybe you are sitting at home listening to us right now and you are working for a corporation and you are not stoked about it…you are not excited about it and you’ve had this passion project rolling around in your head, and you are like “how the heck do I even do this?” For $1,500 you could really play around with that idea, get some good training from Tyler and his crew and see if that has legs.

Tyler:

All the events are planned for in the evening as well, so if you have a full time job it’s after work. We definitely did it with that in mind, like “hey, if you want to get out of a job…” We just advise people “hey, don’t quit your job.” [Laughter] It’s going to take some time – not yet.

Jared:

So, please reach out. You can visit us on www.sdriseup.com, we have all of Tyler’s information there and how to get a hold of him and the company.
You have events all the time.

Let’s go into another event which I think is really really amazing and putting out that flag on the ground of rising up and being different, being part of your community. You are going to be talking about building a business to create impact, so the title of the business is very simply: Build a Business to Create Impact and that’s on April 12.

Again, we have information on that on our website, but Tyler, tell us more about what that event is.

Tyler:

That event is going to be a sampling of this lifestyle business accelerator. We are going to have a number of the different contributors coming in to do 5 minute instead of doing a whole class so you can get a flavor of who is going to be a part of this accelerator program and see if it’s a fit for you.

To be really fun, we are going to get that running up and moving and then we are going to dive into some business where we are going to be introducing the Business Canvas Model, which is a one-page business plan. You will do some actual learning which will move your business idea forward even if you decide not to take that class.
It’s from 6:00 – 8:30 in the Del Mar area.

Jared:

That one-page business plan that I looked at on your website, www.startupgarage.com, it is very clean but a very powerful tool. There’s a lot of information on that one-pager. So, if you’ve enjoyed this, please understand that you’re an entrepreneur and you’re a leader.

If you haven’t enjoyed it and you are just saying “hey, I know a lot of people like this,” be a leader in your space. If you are walking your dog wave to your neighbor, that’s leadership. Be a part of the community that you are in. That’s what this show is about.

James:

Folks, thank you so much for tuning in. Let’s continue to empower others, empower our neighbors, family, friends and co-workers. Tyler Jensen, with Startup Garage, it’s been a pleasure having you on.

If you have a question about your raising capital for your Startup or you’d like to discuss our business plan writing services, feel free to contact us for a free consultation!