Joe Colopy on Entrepreneurship, Family, and Why He Kept Bronto in the Triangle

Joe Colopy is the founder and former CEO of Durham-based Bronto, which sold to NetSuite in 2015 for $200M. Joe is now involved in the Triangle startup scene, running both Colopy Ventures and Jurassic Capital, and he has an online tech startup newsletter – Grepbeat – which a lot of you probably read in your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday.

With a $200M exit, you might expect Joe to have a huge ego, but that’s not him at all. He’s all about community, family, and helping other entrepreneurs.

The Donald Thompson Podcast is hosted by Walk West CEO, mentor, investor, and Diversity and Inclusion Consultant Donald Thompson.

Donald Thompson: Hey everyone, welcome to the Donald Thompson Podcast!

Today’s guest is Joe Colopy, one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the Triangle. He’s the founder and former CEO of Bronto, an email marketing software company based right here in the Triangle that sold to NetSuite in 2015 for 200 million dollars. Joe is now involved in the Triangle startup scene, running both Colopy Ventures and Jurassic Capital, and he has an online tech startup newsletter – Grepbeat – which a lot of you probably read in your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday.

With a 200 million dollar exit, you might expect Joe to have a huge ego and record this episode from an exotic location, but that’s not him at all. He’s all about community, family, and helping other entrepreneurs.

Guys thank you for attending another episode of the Donald Thompson Podcast. Today we have Joe Colopy, who is the executive director and founder of GrepBeat, which is a local tech publication, and also a serial entrepreneur and angel investor. One of the most successful here in the Southeast and formerly of Bronto software.

Joe, welcome and thanks for hanging out with us.

Joe Colopy: Hello. Thanks for having me. It’s a, it’s a thrill to be here in this rainy morning that we have here.

Donald Thompson: That’s exactly right. And one of the things, Joe, that we like to do to just get everybody engaged and really for you and I just to continue to dive in and just speak candidly as friends, give me a little background on you.

Not even so much business. Like, where are you from, brothers and sisters?

Just so we can get to know each other a little bit.

Joe Colopy: Yeah. So I was kind of born and raised in Akron, Ohio, graduated up through high school there. I am the three out of four brothers. Or eight out of nine, if you consider half-brothers.

So no sisters, and I think I have on one side, eight cousins and seven of them are boys. So the XY gene runs strong through that side of family, graduated kind of back in the day from Firestone High School – Falcons, for those of you from the Akron area, and went to Harvard and studied their computer science and economics graduated kind of early nineties or so.

And then I joined the Peace Corps. So I was a peace volunteer for two years in these group of islands called the Seychelle islands, which are these tiny, independent, set of islands off of East Africa. But I spent two years there as a teacher.And I taught at what was a Polytechnic, so it would be comparable to like a high school.

Maybe. It was kind of like the top school in a country of 75,000 people. So take that for whatever it’s worth. But I loved it. And after that, my, girlfriend was finishing up her masters, and I was finishing the Peace Corps. So she came out and we traveled through Africa for a while. And then I’d always wanted to live in Ecuador because Ecuador means equator in Spanish.

And I thought that was fascinating enough to kind of live there. So we’re able to shenagle jobs at a kind of a private elementary school, middle school, high school in Guayaquil, Ecuador. So well, this was not part of the Peace Corps and this school was a private school was fairly new and it had some drama at the beginning, there were two business partners. One was the American, one was Ecuadorian. The Ecuadorian guy essentially embezzled the payroll right before we got there. And then, then the, for some weird Ecuadorian justice way, sent a judge with a warrant to arrest the American partner.

And then he was on the run. Either way after like three or four months. And there was one part where they had a gunman come to the school looking for this guy. It didn’t affect me, but you know, just, you shouldn’t ever have gunmen coming to school. Like that should never be part of the conversation.

Right. My girlfriend, now wife, we’re like, you know what? This is not a great work environment, a bit too exciting for us. And so we’re coming back to the state for a wedding. So we came back here and we’re like, you know what, I don’t think that’s a great fit for us. And we’ve been away from the U S for a while.

Maybe it’s time to get settled here. And so I was thinking of grad school and we were thinking where we want to live. And we said, you know, I read about Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina. That sounds kinda cool. They’ve got some grad schools there. Why don’t we just move there? And we’re like, yeah, let’s do it.

And so we just drove down here and my wife’s dad’s old minivan and we just got settled and we ended up settling randomly in an apartment that’s actually a few blocks from where we live today in a Trinity Park neighborhood of Durham. And we got settled and we got jobs. I applied to grad school a year later, ended up at UNC. business school, did that for two years. Wanted to do something entrepreneurial. I already had always had aspects of that in tech entrepreneurial. So found this little startup. I thought it was really compelling.

Shenagled, begged, borrowed and stole my way in there, and I was essentially started interning at Red Hat when they were a little under a hundred people and was able to convince them into giving me a full time job despite all their reservations of hiring an MBA, which are good reservations to have.

That’s a good thing. And obviously that was an exciting year. They went public, they got much bigger, and then, you know, a year, year and a half later, I decided that I knew everything I needed to know, as, as my teenagers tell me all the time, they seem to know everything. Yeah and so a left and then started working on something called Bronto right? So there’s a lot there. So that’s a little bit, and along the way, while building Bronto, my wife and I, we had gotten married, we had,  and still have, even though every day is a toss up, we still have four kids.

Two in high school. Yeah. 12th and ninth grade, a sixth grader and a fourth grader.

Donald Thompson: That is awesome. And thanks for that introduction and overview.

Joe Colopy: That’s a long snapshot.

Donald Thompson: It’s super interesting, right? From Peace Corps to successful entrepreneur and usually people kind of stereotype, right?

That if somebody is into social good,  they can’t also have the financial wherewithal to want financial gain and to live a life that’s fiscally well off. I was talking actually to a group of gen Z folks the other day and it was very interesting. They actually made the point to me that they believe in fiscal prosperity.

They just think you can do social good and be fiscally successful at the same time.

Joe Colopy: Yeah.

Donald Thompson: They don’t have to be mutually exclusive. And so that was really interesting and I love that how it weaves into your story as well.

Joe Colopy: Yeah. No, I definitely believe that flow. Two things. One, I heard the term the other day of gen Z, cause I have four of them is they call referred to them as zoomers.

So instead of boomer zoomers like zoom, I thought that was kinda funny. And two in building, I’m sure we’ll talk about this company called Bronto. I was able to bring some of those concepts in exactly what you talked about that really resonated well with everyone there and certainly resonate well with me is we started a community committee to kind of have people in the company volunteer as a group, with Habitat and Seeds or Ministries and all these kinds of community development things around Durham.

Cause that’s where we were based. And the whole premise was that you can do good. And also be a successful business. In fact, it helps you be successful business versus I’m doing good and I’m making a trade off.

Donald Thompson: No, that’s phenomenal.

And I appreciate the context. One of the things that is a struggle for entrepreneurs and people that want to chase something maybe outside of traditional corporate environment. Is how do you choose the right idea, right? And yes, there’s risks and ideas can ebb and flow, but you do want to mitigate that risk by choosing something that has a chance to be substantial.

When you think back, and then we’ll weave into Bronto, but I want to start with, how did you come up with the idea around email marketing and different things that you guys were doing and how did you become a believer in that idea?

Joe Colopy: Yeah. So I in some ways, don’t look so much on the idea itself.I think it’s important to kind of know what area you’re in.

I think this is, there’s so much to this simple question, but it’s such a great one that comes up all the time. There are kind of a couple of different schools of thought, one that I don’t believe, and when I do believe like all things, and the one is often what’s promoted is idea that one is sitting in their office or at their desk or wherever, and then there’s this brilliant idea fully formed that comes up to them that they come to them that no one else, and then they kind of release on the world and like, life is easy.

Obviously that’s not exactly how people think of it. That’s one extreme of it. I kind of believe that it is – when I speak to a lot entrepreneurs, it’s more about you find things you’re passionate about and you have some basic ideas of what makes a good business. And if you’re kind of wired that way in terms of scalability and you actually want to build an organization and a business, that whatever the idea is, is actually probably probably not so great, right? It’s probably pretty general. And it’s hard to know all the nooks and crannies of what would make the business successful or be differentiated with customers when you start in isolation, because you really probably don’t have a lot more knowledge about it than anyone else, and even if you studied it academically, it’s still kind of academic. And, you know, once you take it out of the lab, the real world’s a little bit different than a controlled environment. But I think it’s important to kind of get started. And when you get started, what I think makes a good, successful entrepreneur are a few things.

One of them is they’re just keenly realistic and they’re keenly listening to what’s going on. and they take that genesis of an idea or concept, and then they kind of twist and turn and they’re refining it, and it’s those little twists and turns, those little refinements that make all the difference. You know, kind of an easy analogy people would say is if you look at a lump of coal versus a diamond.

They’re not that really that different right. But they’re very different. And it’s all like the little things that make the difference.  And so I think that relates a little bit to my Bronto story.

So when I was at Red Hat and I left my job at Red Hat, so I left in the summer of 2000. Red Hat had gone from a hundred people to about 600 people in a very short period of time. This was the middle of the dot-com boom. And then the bust. But they were still doing well because they had raised tons of capital.

And I made a choice of, do I want to climb up the ladder or do I want to just kinda kick off and start something myself? And I kind of knew that like, there’s some advantages and disadvantages to starting younger. It just takes a long time.

So if I kind of start, I think at the time I was like twenties that’s going to give me, and had no kids. A really low cost structure. That has some advantages, despite my lack of experience or knowledge. What I was intrigued with was the idea of software being delivered over the web, and it wasn’t a completely new idea, but it wasn’t a rampant idea either.

So existed. NetSuite existed. There were a number of, what one would call software as a service products there. But I was working with an online marketing at Red Hat, and we had a team in Seattle and team in San Francisco. And if we just wanted to coordinate on something in real time we really couldn’t do it right? Like we couldn’t have a Google Sheets or anything like that. And so I felt that if I could learn, have autonomy, and I could learn how to create simple web application, that with time, if I had a very low cost structure and a very forgiving wife, which I did, still do, that eventually I would twist and turn and would come up with something good.

That’s kind of the competence. Now it was a horrible plan.  Cause it’s absurdly long, you know? So I would, in terms of having the perfect idea and then going off versus mine, just like jumping into the wilderness, I think I would err somewhere in between a little bit because, from that point that I left Red Hat, I didn’t get another paycheck for three years. But what really happened was, the rest of 2000 was a bit of a wash. And 2001 I really learned how to create a very simple product. And the reason I wanted to create it myself is I felt that level of independence,  one, it was the dot-com bust at that time.

So there was no money to be had. Also, even if I had money, like what was I going to do with it, like I don’t know enough. So I have to know what I don’t know. So I need to kind of learn. And be able to create my own products. I thought in that way, even if it’s a crummy product, I’d be able to like alter it to fit the market.

So that was kind of one, the market was terrible. I wanted to be able to kinda create my own thing. And it was environment sorta kind of like now during coronavirus where nothing’s really kind of happening in that sector, so that it was a good opportunity to learn something with minimal distractions.

So it was taken advantage of it. And I had saved up a little bit of money cause it was pretty – and still – cheap. So that my wife and I, we could survive on one salary and a car I drove an old beater car and a mortgage payment, which we could all afford on her salary, which again, goes back to understanding wife.

But we had teed ourselves up for that.

Donald Thompson: So one of the, one of the things Joe, when you think about learnings as an entrepreneur,  so talk about Bronto’s growth, exit. That story is, kind of documented. People can, that are interested, can, can look at that. What I’m interested in along the way what are some of the things that you didn’t get quite right that in retrospect are now part of your learning portfolio that when you’re advising companies and you’re looking at investments, you’re kind of watching out for –  in leaders, in building technology, just some lessons learned along the way.

Joe Colopy: That’s a great question. I think it’s not just things we didn’t get right. It’s also things we did get right, we didn’t realize that we did. And after the fact, now that I’m post-Bronto and I kind of look at working with a lot more different startups, I see things I just took for granted, that other startups don’t have or the leaders don’t have and other things they do have, which leads to success.

So it’s kind of the mix, right? One of the advantages of being, getting a little distance for something as you get more perspective. So in terms of things we didn’t do right. I, you know, I think we had a very, this is good and bad, but we had a very iterative, bootstrap type perspective.

And so we’re always just kind of working to make something incrementally better, which I think is a great attribute. That being said, I think we were especially early years penny wise, pound foolish with some things and we really were duct taping some of our IT systems together, engineering together. And a little more investment or even just willing to spend on stuff would have save ourselfves a tremendous amount of stress. So it was, our strengths in some ways were too strong. We hired fairly junior people. We really were just duct taping everything for a long time. So that’s great. It makes you lean and mean, but it also meant that we probably turn more customers than we normally would. We had this attribute of we had to learn everything ourselves.

Well, you know, the reality is a lot of people know lots of things. It was gonna be helpful to ask them. So I think for that, I would be more measured about it. I think what we learned with time, certainly I did, which our bootstrapping helped was, it’s really how to kind of work with people and manage people.

You know, the entrepreneurial paradox is in strong business. Um, my cofounder, Chaz Felix and I, you know, you didn’t really need to be quite handy. Quite resourceful. The ability to do lots of things yourself and do them well. That leads to certain type of personality. But if you roll that into management or leading, that can lead to a lot of problems of micromanagement. No one can do as well as you. So you kind of top off the growth of the company based on your own capabilities. And so I think with time, and it wasn’t always pretty, we had to kind of temper that and really with time change into being good managers and then executives.

And then what was fascinating is these skillsets that I would have thought were completely unrelated, like being a teacher in the Peace Corps, which really refined, you know, teaching, which means organizing ideas and communicating them, and communicating them again, you know, you really, how do you organize your ideas very clearly and communicate them and put them in an engaging way. And that doesn’t really matter as much in starting something really early on. But later on, certainly once you have like 50 and 100, 200, 300 people, that is what makes a good leader.

You’re, you’re setting vision, you’re communicating, you get everyone on the same page, you’re really more of a mentor to people. And so I think. I was fortunate in having some early experiences, which would seem completely random, that actually played huge dividends .   Bronto would’ve been a great. $2-, you know, $2 million a year company. And that’s nice. That’s great. But it wouldn’t have had an impact on a larger number of people and their lives.

Donald Thompson: Got it. That makes sense.

And now with a obviously, you know, one of the top exits in the Southeast.

Right. And in a homegrown story in North Carolina, that is phenomenal. Right? So you built a very powerful business on the East coast versus the West coast. Why did you stay here? Why did you believe as you grew, that North Carolina could provide you everything you needed to grow a phenomenal business?

Joe Colopy: And this is gonna. And I wish I could probably articulate this better because I tend to have a lot of attitudes when it comes to these kind of things. I’m always put off by people who make that argument that I’m good at, not not your argument, but like I need to go somewhere else to be successful.

That somehow this isn’t good enough for me. I think it’s extremely arrogant arguments, some people make, and I’m only, and people was like, well, I was like, it’s almost as if they’re being swept over to Silicon Valley. They could only be that. That is a really, obnoxious view, quite honestly, that people don’t quite realize.

So my view is this. If you look at Silicon Valley and you look at Boston, so I, you know, I went to school at Harvard. It’s pretty sharp cookies there. I major in computer science, pretty sharp cookies there. Where do you think these Silicon Valley people come from? They’re coming from random ass places like Akron, Ohio.

It’s dark and gray nine months of the year, spending their time programming computers and elementary school. That’s what I did.  I know that story. I am that story. So is it really a matter of me going to Silicon Valley or is it more a matter of me going to wherever I want to go?

So I don’t buy that argument that people have, it’s fine if they want to go live in Silicon Valley.  And you almost imply that you’re lucky to have us. It’s like, you know what, go. I don’t need it. Right. Because I think for people that want to add longterm value for a community, they commit to the community. And I really liked where we live. I like the Triangle. I like where we live in Durham.

That was my goal is to have a good life first and the work kind of plugged into that.

Donald Thompson: That’s a powerful answer and that, and I think you mentioned a couple of points, but one is just simply the competence.

You either believe you’re going to make it or not. And that singular location decision doesn’t confine your success. It just changes your journey.

Joe Colopy: Exactly.

How we would have evolved was very different. So now it’s possible that if we would have raised venture capital, that we would have been more successful or less successful.

But one of the advantages of starting the dot-com bust is I think at the beginning of businesses, there’s a lot of noise and that noise can be good and bad. You really just need to stay focused on the customers and figure out building something that people want. And that requires keen listening. And if there’s a lot of noise, because people are, Oh, you either raise money or do this and that, then it hurts your ability to do that. Now later on, that might be a different story, but so for what we’re doing, you know, we started off selling to small businesses. They didn’t really care where we were. We just needed to deliver the service well. And so we did that. Later on as we grew much later on, as we focused much more on e-commerce and B2C working with B2C brands, it became valuable for us as the customers got larger to set up a sales office in New York City and in London because those were more in the industry, but we did it pretty late.

Donald Thompson: One thing I want to want you to expand on, cause you said it twice in our dialogue, so I want to dig into it.

You use the phrase keen listening.

Joe Colopy: Yes.

Donald Thompson: From a business context, what does that mean to you?

Joe Colopy: Yeah. So, so I once read a Seth Godin book, and I forget which one it was, and I probably get, but he had this word, he refers to in one of his books called Prajna, and that’s a Sanskrit word.

Now, it can be pronounced 100% differently than the way I read it. Right? And, but either way. That’s what I remembered. That’s phonetic from my point of view. And the word basically was being keenly realistic and aware of your surroundings. And I think when growing a business, you have to be very honest.

You want to be confident and have vision, but you also want to be very honest in terms of what the situation is. And I think when you listen to a customer, I think that’s a challenge a lot of early stage businesses, particularly ones that are product driven, people often want to create a certain product and you have to figure out what is your vision for creating the product, but what is, what does the customer actually want?

And not always listen to them literally. But you need to be able to kind of connect those dots and deliver on that. So it’s kinda like being hyper-aware.  And maybe that comes through experience. Maybe that just comes through. I don’t know. I just something, it means not getting your ego in front of you.

It means not like there’s a lot of other things that come in. So it’s not literally just listening. I mean, that’s certainly part of it with your ears, but it’s also being in touch kind of with what’s going on and not having distractions. And I think being a fairly grounded person, you’re not being kind of too wrapped up in your ego or this or that. For me, I think that really helps. At least that’s what helped with Bronto.

Donald Thompson: No, that’s really powerful. I mean, from a standpoint of what I’m hearing and I’m taking away, I’m taking pages of notes. This is great.  Not letting your ego get in the way of you hearing what the customer wants. A lot of times as business people, we have a vision. We have a perspective. That’s why we’re entrepreneurs. We have a certain way that we see the future, but the actual steps to get there always include happy customers. If along the way, you’ve got to take a little bit left, a little bit right, to make sure that cash flow  is good, that gross is good, because you’re serving that customer need today while they adopt your bigger vision.

People tend to adopt a bigger vision from a company while they’re customers, not while they’re prospects. So my view is how do you make people customers, and then you can move to a bigger vision of your product and your company or different things because now they’re fans with you, they’re along the journey with you.

Joe Colopy: Yeah, I think that’s a big part of it. At Bronto in particular, we’re very employee centric too, and so we had the saying, “Happy Bronto’s Equals Happy Customers” too. So we saw that very much was the path.

Donald Thompson: No, that’s awesome.  I want to be super careful with your time and I appreciate you taking time with us.

Let’s pivot now. Post Bronto. Now you’re  thinking about Grepbeat and other things that you’re doing. How are you making choices of  where you spend your time? What are you working on? And then tell us a little bit about your technical newsletter, Grepbeat, and what its purpose is and what the vision behind it is.

Joe Colopy: Sure. So like I mentioned earlier, I left the business and after many years along with Chaz in April 2016 and deliberately the rest of 2016, I tried very hard not to jump back into something. You know, I had been running a hundred miles an hour, wanted to spend more time with our family, and so it just took a little time to kind of wind down.

I also moved houses. We moved I think two blocks away. My kids were horrified. I told them that some people move whole zip codes. But they got over it, right? So in the same neighborhood that we, we eventually we landed in way back. It’s all in the same neighborhood. This is ridiculous.

But,  at the beginning of 2017, I incorporated something called Colopy Ventures. So Colopy is my surname, and that really was just a vehicle to do something. And of those things that have kind of popped up in the last few years, there are a couple things, which I refer to as initiatives that have to kind of happen.

One of them is something called Grepbeat. So if you think of Tech Crunch from Silicon Valley, I thought one of the gaps we had in this area was to tell the stories of entrepreneurs and startups and, instead of focusing on just investment or just being an entrepreneur, maybe there’s this indirect benefit that can help support the entrepreneurs in the Triangle region.

It really is philanthropic, a way to kind of support the local community. So I’m apparently the godfather of Grepbeat. That’s my official title. Maybe that would be a publisher in other terms. The second thing, is called Jurassic Capital. So I, there’s a fellow I work with, Kevin Moseley, who used to work with me back in the day at Bronto. He comes out of the financial planning operations space of software companies. And so we’re investing in growth software companies, so companies are already doing over a million dollars in revenue. What happens is a lot of software companies, they get to a few million dollars in revenue and for various reasons, they just kind of top out and hang out there.

And it’s a really tough place for an entrepreneur because they have something of value definitely. But for whatever reason, it’s kinda like topped out. Often it’s they just need help, right? And so it doesn’t fit within the model of some early stage, brilliant idea. At the same time, it’s not some huge behemoth, so it has value.

They’re not going to abandon it, but it’s not so big where there’s an exit or a next step that’s obvious for them. So how do we take our knowledge from something like Bronto, where we took it from zero to $50 million in revenue. And say, okay, well let’s help businesses doing one, two, three, four, $5 million in revenue, and let’s help them be the next Bronto and help the area that way as well.

So that’s Jurassic Capital. Of course, we have to bring in the dinosaur theme. The third one where I spend time with is – in North Carolina, there is a high school, state magnet school called the North Carolilna School of Science and Math. It’s for juniors and seniors in high school for the most part, students from all over the state live there. And they have a more rigorous science and math curriculum. It’s actually part of the UNC system. So my daughter, started going there, my oldest,  even though it’s in Durham, and she only had to move a mile away.

It’s really good school. It’s free. So as, as a meritocracy, it can bring people in lots of different backgrounds. And so when I looked at a lot of the successful startups in the Triangle, I noticed that back in the day, many of the co founders or people in the leadership team they had gone to this school.

They’re pretty sharp. They’re willing to do something kind of different, independent. They were pretty scrappy and so you fast forward about 15 years and then they were part of the startup scene. So if I want to augment or amplify what we’re doing here in the area, maybe a good way of doing that is inspiring these kids kind of early in their trajectory.

And so last summer we started with our first cohort of eight students and we kind of place them essentially in a five week internship, at these different tech startups around the Triangle. And so, and we’re looking to grow that. So that is also, in the spirit of what Colopy Ventures does of supporting and educating and investing in the local community from a tech venture perspective.

Donald Thompson: That is awesome. My younger sister went to the School of Math and Science, and so, yeah, I mean, it’s, it’s a great, I mean, to your point, which I want to echo, right?

You used the word What’d you say?

Joe Colopy: Meritocracy.

Donald Thompson: Meritocracy. It creates diversity cause you just have to be skilled enough, smart enough to get in.

Joe Colopy: Yeah. It’s not based on money. It’s in fact it’s the other way. It’s free. Right. And so, and the kids get really, really, close and tight. It’s just, you know, even just locally, you just look at, let’s say Erik Troan and at Pendo he went there.

If you look Jud Bowman at Sift, he founded his company out of there, and there are a lot more. Those are more prominent examples, but there’s a lot more than that. And that’s just in this area.

Donald Thompson: Yeah, no, that, that’s phenomenal. So last question and purposely, and I’m glad that we did, cause what a nice break this hour has been from kind of the pandemic, COVID, all that stuff.  And part of what we want to give our listeners is kind of refreshing perspective that, you know, there’s going to be light at the end of this tunnel and how do we orient our minds to succeed in this new land that we’re working on. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t get your perspective on kind of what you’re seeing relative to the economy, relative to startups and navigating this environment. So any thoughts as we end up with, you know, or advice that you’d give entrepreneurs or people in general as we look to the future, in this kind of arena of economic uncertainty?

Joe Colopy: I’ll look at it from two perspectives. So when I left Red Hat, you know, I had it way back when, you know, it was rolling into the dot com bust and it was really dark days, particularly in the tech sector.  And I remember I started working on what would become Bronto, and I had a neighborhood friend and I didn’t know him terribly well, and he’s like, “what are you doing?”

I’ll explain this. I’m working from home, kind of working on this. And it’s always depressing when you’re working at home. People think that – you know, you have to just be very self motivated because you don’t really have an easy answer in terms of where you’re spending your time, and you feel like a complete failure.

But I was explaining this and it was kind of internet tool – and he told me, and this is mind you 2001, he’s like, “the internet isn’t that kinda over?” And so if you think of the dot-com bust from regular person that was over, but clearly it was far from over. And I think it’s very easy to think there’s no future opportunities when everything’s kind of dark, but that is actually when one’s ability to kind of focus and listen without distraction.

And there’s a lot of heads down work that can be done that’s not glamorous. It’s really a great time to be kind of doing that. I think as it relates to what’s going on now, I think each – dot-com bust, The Great Recession. It affects everything, but then it affects certain sectors acutely. So dot-com bust was obviously the tech sector, particularly the investing in tech sector.

Great Recession. I think you’re gonna see a lot around the financial sector and around real estate in particular. And this one, obviously it’s tough all over, but particularly the service industry really, really hard hit certain sectors. So I don’t have any great answers. I think we will kind of like muster through, I think it’s people’s ability to adapt.

I’m definitely hopeful of the future. So I think being very resourceful, being cautious, but still pushing forward is kind of the name of the game during this time.

And the people that do will be successful. I mean, the large tech companies of today were the ones that started before the dot-com. I mean, Amazon was in the mid-90’s. They, they would, Salesforce, all those, but they kept on pushing it forward and they got stronger because there’s something about them that meant they were good, they’re weathered. So it’s, it’s a toughness game. I think.

Donald Thompson: Oh man. So as we wind down, and I appreciate your time, I want our audience to take away a lot, but the keen listening and getting your ego out of the way to really hear and that situational awareness. Not just listening with your ear, but really taking in all the factors that are going to go towards making good decisions and then the strength to push through.

I think the last statement you made is ultimately right. There’s a toughness factor. And the companies that are succeeding today started, you know the Amazons of the world like you described, they had to push through tough times where they were nonbelievers in what they were doing, where people told them they were crazy.

And then the third thing that is successful as you have become, and the giving that you’re doing, that somebody told you in 2001 that internet thing isn’t that over, right? That is, that is, that is good stuff. So Joe, thank you so much. I feel like I know you personally and better. I’m very appreciative and in a sincere way, if there’s anything that we can do to be a blessing back to you, please reach out and ask. If you’re doing things with one of your companies or young people and you see that our skills and our perspective can be helpful, we definitely are willing to reciprocate for the time that you’ve given to us.

Thanks so much.

Joe Colopy: Alright, thank you.

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Music for this episode provided by Jensen Reed from his song, “You Can’t Stop Me”.

The Donald Thompson Podcast is edited and produced by Earfluence. For more on how to engage your community or build your personal brand through podcasting, visit

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