interview

Roy Hobbs, Single Malts, and Destiny’s Child

Over the years, I’ve been interviewed many times for various publications. The most recent time was this week when I was interviewed for an article that appeared on BostInno. It’s sometimes hard to convey who you really are when you are asked a series of seemingly random questions — but I thought the questions and my answers in this interview provides nice insight into how I think and what matters to me. Special thanks to Connor Barnes and Linda McDonough of Cassidy Turley Boston for the opportunity. You can read the entire interview on BostInno, and I’ve chosen my favorite questions to re-blog here. Enjoy, and let me know what you think.

If you could have had the starring role in any movie, already made, what movie would it be?

MjD: Well, the obvious answer would be Groundhog Day and I would love to play Phil Connors. The scene where he drives down the railroad tracks, gets stopped by the police, and proceeds to order fast food when he rolls down the window still gets me every time. But I think the movie “The Natural” would fit me better: a total unknown comes out of nowhere and possesses unbelievable talent. I’d like to think of myself as a modern day Roy Hobbs in the tech startup world: no one believed I could build a company from nothing, but here I am. Above all, I’ll have a huge love of the game of baseball, and in my opinion “The Natural” is the greatest baseball movie ever made.

What do you do for fun?

MjD: I have two kids now, and I spend most of my time with them. Those who don’t have kids will never understand the unbelievable joy you can feel showing them something new for the first time. Last weekend, I took my 4-year-old daughter to a local pond and we set sail using my inflatable raft. Splashing each other with water as we paddled around was more fun than I could possibly describe. I’ve also developed a habit for great beers and whiskey. It’s lots of fun to taste new craft brews and single malts. And the more you taste, well… it gets more fun.

What is one thing the startup scene is missing in this area?

MjD: The startup scene is missing enough early-stage investors who can suspend their disbelief of new entrepreneurs. We almost didn’t get funded simply because I didn’t have a track record of startup success. Meanwhile, second-time entrepreneurs are getting silly, ridiculous money for bad ideas simply because they had some success in the past. We need more investors taking risks on first-time entrepreneurs with good ideas.

If you had a theme song that played every time you walked into a room, what would it be?

MjD: Probably the chorus of the song “I’m a Survivor” by Destiny’s Child. The lyrics “I’m a survivor, I’m not gonna to give up, I’m gonna to work harder, I’m gonna make it” are all you need to know about me. I may lose a given battle, but I’m not going to lose the war. And I have a very long memory for people who stand in the path of my success.

Who is the most fascinating person you know?

MjD: On the street where I live, there is a man who walks to the train at exactly the same time every morning like clockwork. He wears a fedora and carries a briefcase, looking straight ahead with no expression on his face. In the evening, he comes home at exactly the same time every day, briefcase in hand, with barely a nod to people he passes. One day, I stopped him to say hello and asked him what he does for a living. He told me he’s an engineer for Verizon and his primary job is maintaining code for landlines using an outdated language called Cobalt. He’s worked at the same job for 30+ years. Here’s why I’m so fascinated: this man is the polar opposite of me. I can’t imagine doing the same job for 30 years, working on outdated technology in a declining market. This guy clocks in and clocks out, happy to collect a paycheck and inch his way towards retirement. The mindset of someone like that is fascinating to me.

Any advice for the young entrepreneurs out there?

MjD: Here’s what I wish someone had told me: as a young entrepreneur, your instinct is to solicit advice from those who have been successful and those who might know something about your market. This is a great way to meet a lot of people and grow your network. But don’t mistake their quick take for anything more than a 15-minute look into your world. They don’t understand the nuances as well as you do and they don’t understand the context as well as you do. So while it’s important to surround yourself with people who can help, it’s more important to listen to your inner voice. Look deep inside and ask the question “what do I really think?” You see, it doesn’t really matter if you’re right or not. What matters is that you have the conviction to keep going, to not give up, and to learn along the way. Successful entrepreneurs listen to their inner voice more than they listen to the opinions of all of the people around them. The first step to success is to truly believe in yourself.