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The Defiance_ Ventures Podcast

The Defiance_ Ventures Podcast

By John Espey
John Espey, a serial entrepreneur, MBA, and early stage investor interviews founders and investors at innovative companies. Defiance_ invests in, consults, and starts companies that defy conventional wisdom, and this podcast explores that world.
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#83-Christian Giordano, Mancini Duffy
When Christian Giordano joined Mancini Duffy, he was attracted to working with a well established architecture firm with a top shelf list of customers and a stellar reputation.  He would eventually take a majority ownership stake and help the company transform the industry by embracing technology.  Christian hosts The Anti-Architect podcast.  He and John discuss all of this and more in this episode.
September 15, 2021
#82 - Jeff Wickersham, The Morning Fire
Jeff is a podcast host and executive coach who focuses on helping executives perform better by improving their daily habits.  In this episode Jeff tells his story of a life changing event that made him walk away from a successful corporate career to figure out how to improve his own health and effectiveness.  He ultimately turned that into a business and a podcast.   Oxygen Advantage Jeff's book YouTube Channel
August 3, 2021
#81 - Amy Buckner Chowdry, AnswerLab
Amy is the founder and CEO of AnswerLab, a design strategy firm that she started after working with a design-focused startup in Japan.  In this episode she talks about starting and scaling AnswerLab.  She discusses challenges that female founders face and also talks about her ongoing efforts to support diversity and inclusion.  Amy created The Human-Centered Work Project in order to help companies embrace diversity and inclusion.  
August 3, 2021
#80 - Mac Lackey, 6 Exit Founder
Mac has started multiple successful business in industries ranging from apparel to internet software to soccer agency and many others.  He has six total exits and in this episode tells the story of how his career has shaped up.  He also talks about his interest in blockchain, what role soccer has played in his life, and what he is currently working on.  
July 20, 2021
#79 - Grant Ingersoll, Lucidworks
Grant is one of the founder of Lucidworks, a leading search engine platform.  In this episode he and John discuss the evolution of search and big data, starting a business with a group of friends, scaling that business and raising money, contributing to and starting new Apache open source projects, and becoming the CTO of Wikimedia and some of the unique challenges they face.  Grant is an author and also hosts a podcast that explores careers in technology.
July 20, 2021
#78 - Laura Smailes, Ventureprise (UNCC)
Laura is the Assistant Director at Ventureprise, an entrepreneurship center at UNCC.  In this episode she discusses working on a radio show, creating a radio program for NASCAR, joining a startup, and eventually joining Ventureprise after working closely with it at her startup.  She discusses entrepreneurship in Charlotte, building an ecoSystem, and shares lots of knowledge after years of working with students and founders.
July 9, 2021
#77 - Aaron Bock, Opkalla
Aaron is one of the founders of Opkalla, an IT services company based in Charlotte.  In this episode Aaron talks about going out on his own, surviving a pandemic, and scaling a business in a rapidly changing IT landscape.
July 7, 2021
#76 - Jonathan Kite, Rent Ready
In this episode John talks with co-founder and CEO of Rent Ready, Jonathan Kite.  Rent Ready is a turnkey solution for multi-family real estate owners.  Jonathan discusses the origin story of the company, when he and two friends with very complementary skillsets came up with the concept and turned it into a reality.  He discusses raising angel and VC capital and scaling a business during a global pandemic.
June 30, 2021
#75-Lee Arthur, Blenheim Chalcot
Blenheim Chalcot is the UK's leading venture builder and much of the inspiration for Defiance Ventures.  In this episode Lee Arthur gives an overview of several of BC's portfolio companies.  He also talks about what it takes to make it in early stage companies.  
June 4, 2021
#74-William Bissett, Portus Wealth Advisors, Charlotte Angel Connection
William hosts one of the most popular early stage investment podcasts in the SouthEast.  In this episode he and John discuss angel investing in Charlotte, entrepreneurship broadly, and how the Charlotte early stage community has changed through the years.
June 4, 2021
#73 - Desmond Wiggan, BatteryXchange
BatteryXchange is a Charlotte-based startup that provides portable charging solutions for mobile devices in popular venues.  Desmond is the founder and CEO.  In this episode he describes the process that led him to create the company.  He talks about building a supply chain in China, raising money, and the challenges that minority founders face throughout the process. Instagram: Facebook: LinkedIn: In the news:
May 19, 2021
#72 - Matteo Collina, NearForm, Creator of Fastify, and Node.js Steering Committee Member
Matteo is a JavaScript expert, having created and maintained multiple open source frameworks including Pino and Fastify. Matteo is also a Technical Director at NearForm, a leading application development consultancy that focuses on JavaScript and Node.js in particular.  In this episode Matteo talks about the popularity of JavaScript, speaking at conferences, and building open source frameworks.  Matteo also talks about his popular newsletter, Adventures in Nodeland. LinkedIn  Twitter
May 17, 2021
#71 - Juston Burris, Carolina Panthers, Real Estate Investor
Juston Burris talks in this episode with John about making it in the NFL and planning for the future.  Juston purchases and up-fits homes in towns that he knows and turns them into income producing short term rentals.  
May 13, 2021
#70 - Cassmer Ward, Nexagy, Intelligent Design
Cassmer is the founder of multiple companies throughout his career.  He is also a professor at Queens University and hosts a popular entrepreneurship video series.  He also has written a book on cost accounting.  
May 6, 2021
#69 - Chris Shipferling, Global Wired Advisors
Chris is one of the founders of Global Wired Advisors, an investment bank with a particular focus on e-commerce.  In this episode Chris discusses starting Global Wired Advisors with partners, watching COVID unfold and the incredible effects it had on his clients, and he talks about growing, scaling, and exiting an e-commerce business.
May 3, 2021
#68 - Farhan Hussain, Axcelinno, Open Source Architects
Farhan is the founder and general manager at Axcelinno, a software consulting shop based in Dallas and Charlotte.  In this episode he and John discuss the growth of open source, the disruption of public and hybrid clouds, OpenShift, and the Red Hat/IBM acquisition.
April 30, 2021
#67 - C-Trax
C-Trax is a cannabis POS solution developed by the founding team of Sean and Kiah Tolliver and Michael Clinton.  In this interview, the team talks about weed legalization, social justice, raising money as minority founders, and the future of legalization in this country and globally
April 27, 2021
#66-Steve Amedio TKXS, All In to Fight Cancer
Steve has founded, invested in, run, and exited multiple companies through the years.  He is the founder of All-In to Fight Cancer. In this episode he talks about his philosophy on business, work life balance, fitness, and especially on the progress being made against cancer.
April 22, 2021
#65 - Duncan Littlefield
Duncan operates multiple companies related to marketing and sales.  In this episode he explains how he started each company and where he is taking them.  
April 19, 2021
#64, Tony Mecia, Charlotte Ledger
Tony decided to build a subscription news service focused hyper-locally on Charlotte.  In this episode he talks about new business models in media enabled by Substack.  He talks about creating a free service and converting it into paid.  And the two discuss the changing landscape of tech and media broadly.  
April 15, 2021
#63 - Meggie Williams, SkipTown
Meggie joins John for her second appearance to talk about pivoting during a pandemic and having to dig deep.  She also talks about the various stages of fundraising as the company has matured.  She also discusses growth strategy as we come out of lockdown.
April 13, 2021
#62 - Solosode - Health Hacks
John discusses the various ways he seeks to improve his health.  This includes a fairly extensive list of supplements, self quantification devices and tests, dietary approaches, mindfulness, and hormetic stressors.
April 8, 2021
#61 - Joseph E. Pizzorno, ND - Bastyr University, ICMJ, Institute for Functional Medicine
Dr Pizzorno is a Naturopathic Doctor and the founder and director of Bastyr University, founder and director of the Institute for Functional Medicine, and editor in chief of PubMed Indexed IMCJ.  He has authored 13 books as well.  In this episode he and John discuss functional medicine (also known as naturopathic medicine) and its history in the United States.  They talk about detoxification and why it is so important to health. The Toxin Solution
April 8, 2021
#60 - Solosode, Get in the Game
In this episode John discusses how it is often more important to "get in the game" than to figure out every detail and wait for perfection. 
April 5, 2021
#59 - Kyle Hepp, Boxmagic
In this episode John interviews Kyle Hepp, founder of Boxmagic, the leading gym management software platform in Latin America.  John and Kyle discuss starting a gym in Chile as an American female and then starting a software business to support gyms.  They also discuss handling the business in a pandemic when gyms were forced to shut down.
April 5, 2021
#58 - Jeff Wanner, PairPEO
Jeff is the founder of PairPEO, a PEO brokerage that helps clients save money on health and dental benefits.  In this episode he explains how PEOs work and why they are so popular, and he talks about scaling a business through building his network meticulously.
April 1, 2021
#57 - Bobby Robinson, IntellyDoc
Bobby is the founder of IntellyDoc, a contract management system.  He also is an attorney with a history in M&A and a current focus on social media influencers.  In this episode he gives the background on building IntellyDoc and selling it to Defiance.  He also talks about challenges minorities face in law and entrepreneurship and how to turn those challenges into opportunities.   He also discusses emerging legal issues related to social media influencers.
March 29, 2021
#56 - 2ULaundry, Dan D'Aquisto and Alex Smereczniak
The founders of 2ULaundry came back to the studio to chat about a pivot, managing during a crisis, how their board of directors helped them react to COVID, and the future of laundry.
March 19, 2021
#55 - Stu Brauer, WTF GymTalk, UrbanMvmnt
In this episode John sits down with Stu Brauer, his first guest on the show and now his first repeat guest.  They cover a wide range of topics including workout modalities, using workouts to mentally prep for a tough day, franchising vs licensing, the changes at CrossFit HQ in 2020, and a host of other topics.  Stu also talks about navigating the pandemic while also balancing three different pillars of his fitness empire.
March 12, 2021
#54 - Jim Roberts, WALE and NEW
Jim has been involved in and started numerous organizations throughout the Southeastern United States.  He currently runs an entrepreneurial network and an angel fund in Wilmington, NC.  In this episode Jim talks about starting eco-systems, the wild success Wilmington is currently having, early stage funding, and gives his thoughts on how NC cities can collaborate better.   He also talks about a lot of great resources for founders. Here are a few of his favorites: NC Tech Association NC IDEA  RIOT Dig South CED  And a newsletter Articles about Wilmington's tech/startup scene: Jim hosts a wonderful podcast here and a local startup news feed here (Twitter for news feed). Follow Jim on Twitter or NEW on Facebook
March 7, 2021
#53 - West Kept Secret
West Kept Secret is a boutique gym that combines cardio with pilates and strength training in a High Intensity Interval (HIIT) format.  In this interview John interviews Marissa West and Heidi Hillman.  They discuss how Marissa parlayed her experience as a Panthers cheerleader into doing personal training and then partnering with Heidi as a client.  The two talk about why they work well together and how they've scaled the business.  They also dig into specific fitness and nutritional advice.  They discuss opening a gym in a pandemic and how the pandemic forced them to rethink digital/virtual/streaming.
February 15, 2021
#52 - Sureyya (Sy) Ciliv, Kuika
Kuika is an innovative low code suite of tools that allow enterprises and divisions to build better, faster software.  In this episode John is joined by Sy Ciliv, owner of Kuika.  They discuss the industry, the biggest challenges large companies face, building an international business, and how Sy was able to leverage his experiences leading some of the biggest teams and companies in the world.   Sy mentioned Boys in the Boat as a very good read for any leader.
October 2, 2020
#51 - Gower Smith, Swyft
Gower is a serial entrepreneur.  He has founded multiple companies in the US, New Zealand, and Australia.  Defiance Ventures led an investment round in Swyft, his most recent creation.  Swyft is the global leader in unattended retail.  In this article he and John discuss what it takes to start multiple companies, modern trends in retail, growing an international business, and many other related topics. Gower often gifts this book about William H Pickering.  
October 2, 2020
#50 - Yigit Ihlamur, Vela Partners
Yigit is the founder of Vela Partners, a Bay Area based Venture Capital fund focusing on AI and machine learning.  It has developed very interesting AI technology to help it find the best investment opportunities in the space.  Yigit tells his story about joining Google early on and how he parlayed that into building a world class VC fund.
October 2, 2020
#49 - Emir Dukic, Rabbu
Emir Dukic owns Rabbu, a short term rental commercial real estate startup in Charlotte.  In this episode John and Emir discuss going out on his own, the short term rental market, being flexible in the COVID-19 era, and working with AirBNB.
September 13, 2020
#48 - Ramy Serageldin, HoneyFi
HoneyFi is a couple's financial planning platform.  In this episode John interviews its CEO and founder, Ramy Serageldin.  Ramy talks about starting a company after learning from a high flying fintech success story from very early on.  He shares insights into the payments industry and gives indispensable guidance to any would be startup founder.
September 7, 2020
#47-Jack Ossa, Power of Design Podcast and Ossa Studio
Jack Ossa owns Ossa Studio which designs commercial real estate projects and has branched into marketing services and even software development.  He also hosts the Power of Design Podcast.  In this episode John and Jack dig into his business, how he got started, and where he wants to take it.
September 4, 2020
#46 - Mike Privette Interviews John
Mike is a technologist who has been working at big banks and recently started his own consultancy where he advises startups on partnering with banks and on cyber security.  In this episode he interviews John about his history and what he's doing with Defiance.  They discuss what makes products successful and what things entrepreneurs need to be able to do in order to be successful.
August 26, 2020
#45 - Ivan Barajas Vargas, MuukTest
Ivan Barajas Vargas is the founder of MuukTest, a TechStars 2020 company that provides a comprehensive automated software testing solution.  In this episode John and Ivan talk about lessons learned working for one of the biggest enterprise software companies in the world and building a product and company to solve problems encountered along the way.
August 20, 2020
#44 - JP Conklin, Pensford and LoanBoss
In this episode John interviews JP Conklin, founder of Pensford and LoanBoss. Pensford was his first company and it is a financial services company providing derivatives for commercial real estate owners.  From what he learned in building and scaling Pensford JP identified a set of software tools that were not supported well by existing PropTech vendors.  This lead to the creation of LoanBoss, a software platform that helps commercial real estate owners leverage their data to make better loan decisions. JP talks about building a software product without a technical background, trends in commercial real estate, what the data tell him about COVID, and his background jumping from his dream corporate job to going out on his own.  He also talks about his own philosophy on managing two distinct but related companies.
August 4, 2020
#43 - David Wells, New Years Revolutionary Podcast
In this episode John is interviewed by David Wells, founder of the New Years Revolutionary Podcast.  The sound volume level is a little low as this was the first episode recorded in the Defiance Ventures studio since COVID, but David asks John about his history and philosophy on building scalable businesses. 
August 4, 2020
#42 - Jamie Brown and Jeff Tonidandel - Haberdish, Crepe Cellar, et al
In this episode John interviews the couple behind popular NoDa restaurants Haberdish, Crepe Cellar, Growlers, and Reigning Donuts.  In this episode Jeff and Jamie discuss starting a restaurant during a recession and financial crisis, growing into multiple restaurants, driving innovation on both the culinary and mixology in one of Charlotte's top neighborhoods, and then opening a new concept in a new neighborhood (Supperland in Plaza Midwood) during a global pandemic and local shutdown. Jamie and Jeff mentioned finding inspiration and guidance from Setting the Table and You are a Badass.
July 13, 2020
#41 - Derek Holt, K4Connect
In this episode John interviews Derek Holt, president of K4Connect, a tech company that is transforming the way nursing homes and assisted living communities serve their customers.  Derek covers a lot of ground ranging from transitioning from IBM to a startup community to actual startups.  He also talks about scaling a business during the COVID pandemic.   Books that Derek likes: Challenger Sales Model Measure What Matters 
July 3, 2020
#38, Chris Elmore, Avidxchange
Avidxchange is one of the most well known startups in Charlotte.  It has been recognized for many awards and has raised over $1 billion of capital.  In this episode John interviews Chris Elmore, one of Avid's first employees.  Chris talks about the early days at Avid, scaling it, raising multiple rounds of capital from big name investors across the US, keys to sales success, and also talks about the classes he teaches in NC.   John talked about Jeff Bezos's day one letter Chris likes the How I Built This podcast Chris also likes The Pitch podcast
June 10, 2020
#40 - Nina Barnett, Grooop
Nina is an impressive young entrepreneur who created a safety app while in under grad to address a problem that she and her friends could not find a good solution for.  She talks about building an app without a technical background through a partnership and what she had to do to figure out how to build a company around it.  Her company Grooop is an app that makes it easy to let friends and family know when a person is safe versus in transit and to discretely notify others when one might be in danger.  It strikes a delicate balance between privacy and security, which is a topic that has taken on increasing significance as society grapples with topics such as contact tracing. Here are many of the resources that John and Nina discussed throughout the interview: Nina's development partner out of Durham - Smashing Boxes UNC's Adam's Apprenticeship Program Vital Voices Non Profit Girlboss Female Founder Collective  Project Scientist Hooked - how to build habit forming apps Founders Live Carolina Challenge Launch Chapel Hill Greensleeve Check out the video on the Defiance_ YouTube Channel
June 6, 2020
#39 - Neeta Kirpalani, Consultant, Healthtech Women
John interviews Neeta Kirpalani.  Neeta left a successful career in healthcare to become an independent consultant and her practice has thrived.  She also invests her time in Healthtech Women and Springboard Enterprise's Women's Health Tech Hub.  Neeta talks about building a branding strategy, building a team to support her efforts and scale, and moving from a career in non profits to healthcare.  She also talks about the value of an MBA to an entrepreneur. Resources that Neeta likes: Carolina Health Innovators Society of Physician Entrepreneurs HIMSS Bootcamps at UNCC Tech Talent South IASA
May 26, 2020
#37, Lauren McAbee, Chakti Yoga, Essential Thrive
In this episode John interviews Lauren McAbee, founder of Essential Thrive, a holistic health company focusing on essential oils and Chakti Yoga, a yoga form she created that combines dancing moves with Yoga.  Lauren talks about the health benefits of Yoga, why she created her own form, and also about going virtual and actually increasing revenue.  She discusses thinking about going virtual and COVID-19 forcing her hand and she also talks about how much more scalable the business model is.  Lauren also talked about her personal regimen including sauna, drinking mineral water from springs, and also talks about being a vegan. Essential Thrive on Instagram Lauren shares her playlists on Spotify.  They are awesome!
May 23, 2020
#36-Jordan Schindler, nufabrx
Jordan started and runs a company that infuses vitamins and other transdermal products into fabrics.  His business recently was featured on Fox News resulting in a massive increase in sales of anti-microbial copper infused surgical masks.  In this episode he talks about starting the business while at the University of Washington, moving the business to North Carolina, and the massive scaling required when the business took off because of the COVID crisis. Jordan came to North Carolina for the Manufacturing Solutions Center in Conover, NC  John mentioned the recent Andreesen article on building. Bezos's article on being a day 1 company Jordan recommends Emotional Intelligence 2.0  Jordan recommends Crossing the Chasm  Jordan recommends Play Bigger  John's reading list post  Jordan recommends 10% happier 
May 1, 2020
#35, Linda Nash, WellcomeMD
In this episode John interview Linda Nash, a serial entrepreneur from Richmond, VA.  Linda discusses starting and exiting three businesses prior to starting WellcomeMD, she explains proactive vs reactive medicine, she talks about concierge and executive medicine, and she goes into how the medical industry has changed through the past two decades.   John and Linda also discuss some of the challenges that women face in finding female mentors.  Linda gives some very interesting statistics about how VCs and PE funds treat women founders differently, and she talks about what men can do to help overcome some of the biases that prevent there from being a more diverse pool of entrepreneurs. Linda also talks about running a business during the COVID pandemic and how she thinks things might change. Women & VC Funding: Exercise & Immune Health:
April 17, 2020
#34, Dino H Carter, D Branding
Dino Carter, a brand and marketing consultant, interviews John in this episode for a video series he hosts.  They talk a lot about running a business and raising money during a pandemic and also cover technological and business changes that may come out of the current COVID crisis.  They also talk about the startup scene in North Carolina.
April 8, 2020
#33 - Dain Dulaney, Bishop Dulaney, Joyner
In this episode John interviews Dain Dulaney, partner at Bishop Dulaney Joyner.  Dain is an attorney focusing on startups in Charlotte.  In this episode he discusses legal mistakes founders make, investing in companies, raising capital, selling companies, legal entity selection, the key to writing a good Operating Agreement, and many other interesting topics related to the legal side of startups.  He also gives great advice on hiring the right law firm.  
April 4, 2020
#32, Jason Tuttle, Nova Capital
In this episode, Jason Tuttle of Nova Capital Partners, a commercial real estate investor shares with John how he started and runs his business.  He explains various strategies for creating value for investors.  He also talks about re-development opportunities and the local markets in Charlotte, Jacksonville, and elsewhere. 
March 12, 2020
#31, Dave Dalton, GMI
Dave Dalton is a long time Charlotte business person.  He is the CEO of General Microcircuits Incorporated (GMI) which he sold it to East West Manufacturing.  GMI is an EMS (electronics manufacturing services) company that builds electronic boards for manufacturers.  In this episode Dave discusses the business, how he got involved in it, how his dad instilled certain values in him, giving back to the community, and how Charlotte has changed during his decades here.   He also talks about building a global supply chain and growing a company to over $80 million in annual revenue.   Acquisition announcement:
February 13, 2020
#30, Dualboot Partners
Dualboot Partners is a software development shop in Charlotte with an offshore delivery model.  In this episode John interviews the four founders, Daniel, Ben, and Todd.  They go through the history of Dual Boot and talk about growth strategies and giving back to the community.  They also talk about what makes a tech startup more likely to succeed and how to support the entrepreneurial community.  The guys gave a virtual class on quality control and being successful with offshore software delivery.   LinkedIn: Instagram:
February 13, 2020
#29, Wil Brawley, Schedulefly
Schedulefly is a technology that restaurants use for employee scheduling.  In this wide-ranging interview John sits down with founder Wil Brawley.  They talk startup philosophy, starting a company with friends, and building a growing AND sustainable business.  
January 16, 2020
#28, Lenny Pham, Citrrus/Yext
In this episode John interviews Lenny Pham, a former co-worker and founder of Citrrus, a firm he and his friend Jason sold to Yext, a tech unicorn.  They cover moving from app dev to design and mobile.  They also discuss selling to a much bigger and faster growing firm, embracing mobile, and learning how to grow out of a comfort zone.
December 14, 2019
#27, Samantha Smith, Vishion
In this episode, John interviews Sam Smith, founder of Vishion, a color search engine for interior designers.  In this episode John and Sam discuss starting a company based on a personal frustration, growing the business, partnering with other companies, building an entrepreneurial eco-system in a second tier city (Charlotte), and joining a tech accelerator.
November 23, 2019
#26, Micah Minarik, Kingsmen Software
Kingsmen Software is a fast growth software development shop in Charlotte.  In this episode, founder Micah Minarik and John discuss starting a software company after a successful career in banking.  They discuss building products vs services, scaling a services business, and leveraging a career in finance to start a company.  
November 9, 2019
#25, Philip Wegner, SecurEdge Networks
SecurEdge is WiFi service provider that Philip Wegner started 13 years ago.  In this excellent episode, Philip talks about going out on his own, building software without a background in application development, and creating a much more compelling product by combining hardware with services, software, and financing.  
November 7, 2019
#24, Zoe Shook, Tribe Salon
Zoe Shook is the owner of Tribe Salon Studio.  In this episode she talks about taking over a failing business and turning it around and then realizing that she needed to start a new company with a blank slate to truly create the company she wanted to work for.  She talks about investing in commercial real estate especially in up and coming neighborhoods.   Tribe on Instagram: More detailed show notes coming soon.......
October 21, 2019
#23, Alex Smereczniak, 2ULaundry
Alex is one of the founders of 2ULaundry, one of the hottest startups in Charlotte that just raised a large round of funding successfully.  In this episode John and Alex discuss leaving a successful consulting job to start a company based on an experience in under grad.  Alex tells the story of starting a company at 24 and growing it quickly and beating a couple of much more well-funded Silicon Valley companies. 00:01:30-00:08:40 Alex explains 2U’s brand and mission-“To create the first nationally recognized brand in laundry and dry cleaning.” Alex walks us through 2U's start on college campuses to where they are now- “Saving the average family of 4 about 30+hours/month doing their own laundry." John asks Alex what needed to be done in order to make his idea a reality: Gaining confidence in myself- “I knew that I had to do this. I didn’t want to hit 30 and regret not going after this with everything I got." Surrounding myself with the right people that were willing to take the risk with me.  Studying the market and other companies that had the right idea but wrong business models to learn from their mistakes. LINKS website early investment LinkedIn Crunchbase 00:18:00-00:22:41 Alex describes how he ran the company from his car in the early days of 2U John highlights the similarities between 2U's and Dominos Pizza's origin stories Alex on building a founding team based on this advice- “You need a hustler, a hacker and a hipster to build a successful company." LINKS Dominos founding story Series A 00:29:34-00:34:22 We find out what Alex plans to do with this round and the next round of funding. Alex explains his 3 pillars of a successful founder that are necessary to keep a company funded:  Hire the best people, establish a clear vision, and make sure to articulate that vision. The discuss where Alex sees 2U in 5 years. 00:44:00-00:51:35 Alex compares his experience building their first brick and mortar to a scene from McDonald’s movie ‘The Founder’. John asks Alex to talk about what it means to have someone like Beck on the 2U team because of his generations of laundry experience. Alex- “I feel like everything happens for a reason. Coincidentally, Beck was one of my fraternity brothers.” John - “Having someone that understands the fundamentals of the business is enormous."  Alex discusses the unexpected effects of combining a laundromat retail and wholesale operation. LINKS ‘The Founder’ Laundry Room
October 2, 2019
#22, Gretchen Kittleberger, International Functional Fitness Federation (IF3)
Gretchen is the founder of IF3, the International Functional Fitness Federation.  IF3 aims to get functional fitness (CrossFit being the most well known functional fitness brand) into the Olympics.  Gretchen was an elite D1 gymnast at the University of Maryland and also stood on the podium in one CrossFit games and competed in four of them.  She is a level 3 certified coach and worked for CrossFit HQ.    TIME: 00:00:55-00:07:00 Gretchen explains iF3, functional fitness as a competitive sport and the ultimate goal of getting it into the Olympics. LINKS: TIME: 00:13:00-00:23:09 Gretchen’s idea that created iF3 -“We are just as good as these Olympians and we can do it too.” Gretchen walks us down her path to success: Researching and learning the process Connecting with established Governing bodies of relatively new sports including, the International Quidditch Association and World Obstacle Course Racing (World OCR) Setting up their first federation: USA Functional Fitness The 3 step process for getting a sport into the Olympics LINKS: TIME: 00:33:12-00:41:55 John and Gretchen discuss what ‘movements’ like hers need in order to get real longevity: John-“Commercializing ensures longevity." John references Ted Turner’s success as an example. Gretchen shares how she plans to get functional fitness into the 2028 Olympic Games. "The biggest goal to hit is onboarding 40 National Federations." LINKS: TIME: 00:51:19-00:59:45 Gretchen explains how she started competing and how the sport has evolved since the start of her career. Gretchen gives us her career highlights: "Being in the final workout my very first year and winning regionals in 2014." LINKS: Gretchen Kittelberger-2013 CrossFit Games: Individual Day TIME: 01:08:38-1:10:29 John and Gretchen discuss the obstacles founders face and how to overcome those obstacles through successful networking. John- "You need to be able to take advantage of those networking opportunities the minute they present themselves to be a successful."
September 24, 2019
#21, Jeff LaTulippe, DIRT Eat Clean
DIRT recently opened its fourth location, and it's one of the hottest new eateries in the DC area.  In this episode Jeff LaTulippe, co-founder, talks about leaving a career in finance to pursue his passion for healthy eating.  He details the challenges in scaling to multiple locations, selecting a new city, perfecting operations while also growing fast, growing both organically and through M&A, and many other interesting challenges he and his partners have encountered along the way.
September 12, 2019
#20, Juan Garzón, Start Charlotte and Pitch Breakfast
Juan Garzon runs Pitch Breakfast, one of the most popular startup events in Charlotte.  He is the founder of Start Charlotte, which he recently sold to American Inno.  In this episode Juan and John talk about the history of Start Charlotte and Pitch Breakfast.  They also talk about branding through story telling, startup eco systems in general, and some of the best resources in the Charlotte and NC local communities.  
September 2, 2019
#19, Dan Roselli - Packard Place and QC Fintech
Dan is the founder of Packard Place and Queen City Fintech.  These two activities put him squarely in the middle of Charlotte and even the Southeast's entrepreneurial eco-system.  He and John cover a lot of ground quickly in this podcast: Time: 1:50-4:39 -Dan's background and references of his Linkedin profile opening sentence: "I know more about M&Ms and Tequila than anyone you have ever met in your life." -Dan's history on Tequila Time: 5:17-8:05 -Dan on what being an entrepreneur means -Dan quote, "In the corporate world I was always seen as someone coming in to be a change agent." -Dan speaks on cofounding Red Ventures and naming the company -Dan discusses cofounding 3 different companies that made it onto the inc.500 list -Links: Time: 12:07-16:59 -John references why he started the podcast: "A lot of people are interested in hearing what makes people like you tick." -John and Dan on being entrepeneurs -Packard Place what is was and what its become -Packard Place named after James Packard founder of 'Packard Automobiles' because of his entrepreneurialism -Dan references Packard Place Launch party and youtube video reference -Dan, "Packard Place is a really large, community crowdsourced project." -CLT Joules born out of Packard Place -Links: youtube video: Time 22:08-26:17 -John speaks on what he got out of RevTech Labs and meeting 2 influential people within his life: 1. David Miller (Co-Founder of AvidXchange) 2. Jeremy Olson  -Dan, "One of the things we have to get used to in this community is trying things that don't work." -Links: Time: 26:39-28:00 -Dan explains Packard Place community impact report -Dan, "What makes entrepreneurs great is that they are doing stuff that makes people think they're crazy, until they actually do it." Time: 31:17-36:25 -Greg Brown reference -Dan on Angel funding versus Venture funding -Venture South reference -Dan references Packard Place events to go to: 1. Third Thursday Legal Lunch 2. Pitchbreakfast 3. Packard Place Public House -Links: Time: 44:59-47:23 -Dan on the catalyst that will help Charlotte continue to grow and be a great place to do business -Ben Harrison DealCloud reference and starting at Packard Place -Dan's recommendation on how to be a successful entrepreneur -John previews content for his upcoming Solosode- 'Get in the Game' Time: 51:18 -Dan's book recommendation- 'Venture Deals' by Brad Feld -Link: Time: 57:50 -Dan references what a fantastic entrepreneur-Mike Praeger (CEO and Co-Founder of AvidXchange)
August 21, 2019
#18, Igor Jablokov, Yap (Alexa) and Pryon
Igor Jablokov is the founder of Pryon, Inc, an enterprise AI company that recently completed a $20 million round of funding.  Igor previously founded Yap, which he sold to Amazon and it became the foundation of Alexa.  He also worked on the Watson team at IBM.  In this episode John and Igor talk about Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, building two successful startups, raising money, selling a company, and the tech scene in smaller cities like Raleigh or Charlotte. 7:30 - 9:05 - Igor talks about trying to get IBM to put a microphone on Play Stations in 2003, then talking to Popular Science about voice in the home and they titled it "America in 2025" 12:34 - 15:26 - Igor talks about why Amazon got to cloud and IBM didn't and a broader discussion about the Innovator's Dilemma and how a $100 million hurdle may have cost IBM $1 billion in annual voice AI profits and how Microsoft avoided a similar fate in cloud and collaboration 20:36 - 24:44 - Igor discusses the importance of platforms and eco systems and how early Apple was thinking about AI and voice assistants 25:11 - 29:39 - Igor talks early history of Yap and raising money.  He transitions into how capital raising for AI startups has changed and where it may go 30:15 - 32:45 - Igor talks about job creation/destruction and AI and technology and why media and politicians often get it wrong 52:17 - 54:15 - Igor talks about what Pryon is 59:59 - 1:00:09 - "Having an exit is like reaching a broken level of PacMan" 1:01:14 - 1:08:10 - Igor talks about raising money from Engage Ventures ( and trying to do this same concept in NC with Daniel Friel. 1:17:44 - 1:19:52 - The people who share risk and share reward are the ones who win.  John and Igor discuss naming a company and building an aspirational brand. 1:21:21 - 1:22:07 - "Give employees more than a job.  Give them a mission" 1:22:09 - 1:25:37  - Igor discusses horizontal vs vertical focus for a company and which he prefers.  John discusses how Levvel tried to blend the two
August 16, 2019
#17, Britton McCorkle, Bottle Cap Group
Bottle Cap Group operates 15 highly popular restaurant/bar concepts in the southeast.  Britton is their high energy and highly connected founder.  In this episode he shares his history, talks about what makes a great brand, and gives overall great advice on managing a growing restaurant empire. Time: 3:05-8:19 -Britton's background and his grandfather's restaurant-'Dowd Road Soda Shoppe' -Tom Wicker being Britton's step-father and a major influencer in Britton's life -How Vinnies Raw Bar started by Britton -Links: Time: 12:52-17:18 -John and Britton talk Charlotte restaurants and bar scene -Britton speaks on Brazwell's Patio being a 'game changer' and his inspiration for opening it -Good Food on Montford bringing recognition to Montford area -Whiskey Warehouse being the -Thomas Street Tavern -Links: Time: 20:08-21:54 -Whiskey Warehouse rooftop -John, "Arguably the best patio in Charlotte." -John and Britton talk on how each place complements one another instead of competing with Time: 23:37-24:50 -Britton talks decision making process for opening a new concept versus extending a current one -Britton quote, "I see each place we open as its own individual thing. They have to be different." Time: 26:00-27:09 -Britton, "The food is the restaurant. We build restaurants. If you ask me what I own, I own restaurants." -John, "It seems like you are good at building a phenomenal space and friendly staff." Time: 39:37-43:15 -Britton's advice on serving beer within restaurants -John and Britton discuss beer and breweries -Links: Time: 44:39-48:28 -Britton explains how he conceptualizes restaurants by recreating things from his childhood -Britton talks about Papa Doc's -Does location matter? -Links: Links to other places referenced:
August 6, 2019
#16, Taylor Hayden, Blackstone Shooting Sports
Taylor Hayden started and runs Blackstone Shooting Sports, a shooting range and firearms retailer in Charlotte.  In this interview he talks about leaving a great corporate job to go out on his own.  He learned a lot through bumps and bruises along the way and shares a lot of wisdom gained along the way. Taylor Time: 5:15-9:48 -Taylor's lessons learned and challenges from Blackstone  -Taylor's quote, "When running a company on paper thin margins, if you don't run it well you aren't staying in business." -Taylor's background as an attorney -Taylor cites his father's passing as his inspiration for Blackstone Time: 13:00-17:59 -Taylor explains how Blackstone came to be -Target customers: "People who want to have an amazing experience." -Niche: "We're here to deliver amazing moments that make you smile." Time: 21:35-24:23 -Taylor on revenue growth (adding new customers vs. selling more to existing customers) -Blackstone's niche: Being able to build your own customized AR  Time: 30:30-35:55 -Taylor addresses how revenue is diversified across the company into 4 primary categories: 1. Merchandise 2. Membership 3. Entertainment 4. Random other things "Revenue is vanity and cash is king." -GMROI (Gross Margin Return on Investment) -Do you show everyone in the company your revenue and profits? Time: 37:15-37:29 -Book reference 'The Great Game of Business' -Link: "If you don't give people information, they are just going to make up information." Time: 47:25 -John references Ben Simon from Windsor Jewelers and their discussion on advertising  when Ben was on the show. Time: 50:38-54:08 -Taylor explains where the Blackstone name came from and how it was his wife's idea -References William Blackstone -Link: -Blackstone URL reference: -Taylor announces launch of their new eCommerce components within the website -Linke: Time: 59:14-1:01:59 -Taylor talks about opening another location -John references when the point came that he needed metrics during Levvel's growth -Taylor quotes, "Big focus for us now is financial management with solid documented processes." Time: 1:05:14-1:08:09 -Taylor's explanation on their consultative selling approach: Taylor's team is trained to find out what the customer likes in order to sell them the right gun -John's background with guns and shooting ranges -Taylor's viewpoint on why Blackstone is successful  -Taylor's question alot of businesses should ask themselves, "Do you pursue solely the path that is the most profitable or the path that you're the best at? Or do you find a way to marry the two, like we are." Time: 1:10:40 -References awesome Blackstone Firearm Instructor: Don Bryant Time: 1:24:41-1:27:37 -Taylor provides insights in his investment strategy  -John references his, Austin Rosenfeld and Greg Brown's viewpoint on selecting the right investments:  "You bet on the jockey."   
July 26, 2019
#15, Garth Moulton, Jigsaw
Garth Moulton is one of the founders of Jigsaw, a contact data provider acquired by Salesforce in 2010.  In this episode John and Garth discuss the Jigsaw journey, starting a business in Charlotte vs starting one in San Francisco, advising early stage companies, mistakes founders make, shutting down a startup, and many other aspects of startup life.  Time: 1:19-6:17 -Garth explains his start in technology and how Jigsaw was created "I was a sales mercenary. I went from company to company looking for which one was going to make me a millionaire." -Links: Time: 10:19-15:05 -John's important key take aways from Garth's story: "Basic data, largely collected in one spot becomes wildly valuable." -Book reference by A.H. Armstrong and John Hagel 'Net Gain: Expanding Markets Through Virtual Communities' -John highlights Jigsaw as a very early example of Crowdsourcing -Garth, "We were making money from the very beginning because we required everyone to either put data in or pay money to take data out." -Garth explains how Jigsaw built their corporate licensing for Salesforce Time: 16:50 -References Jeff Crowe as former Jigsaw board member being top Exec in Silicon Valley -Link: Time: 20:30-24:37 -Reference Jim Fowler CEO of Jigsaw -Garth, "Jim wanted to change the data industry." Link- -Selling to Salesforce Time: 26:20 -Silicon Valley show reference: Time: 39:12-48:24 (this ones longer but tells the whole story) -Garth talks about OtherScreen experience -Link: Time: 55:25-57:22 -Garth indicates "The first thing I try to do with Entrepreneurs is get them off of their idea." -Key points for Entrepreneurs: 1. Timing is everything 2. The market has to be ready for it -Good Garth quote on entrepreneurship, "It's all about the execution, perseverance and making the right choice to pursue or to not pursue." Time: 1:01:55-1:05:10 -Garth highlights biggest mistakes venture investors/entrepreneurs make: 1. "They get blinded in their search for the next huge thing." 2. "They view investment as the goal when it's not. The biggest goal should be proving your worth, your post-money evaluation because it's not true yet." 3. Being too wedded to your idea -The enemy for start ups is focus or lack of focus Time: 1:16:35-1:19:20 -The importance of effective collaboration between companies marketing and sales teams -Garth addresses the differences between Pipl and Jigsaw -Link: Referenced: -Pitch Breakfast:
July 17, 2019
#14, Andy Johnston, 7 Mile Advisors
Andy is one of the founders of 7 Mile Advisors, an investment bank headquartered in Charlotte, NC.  John and Andy discuss the business of investment banking, selling a company, starting a bank during an economic downturn, and raising capital.  7 Mile has helped entrepreneurs sell over 100 companies.
July 2, 2019
#13, Randy Baggesen, M.D. - Executive Health Group
Dr Randy Baggesen left a successful career in investment banking to become a medical doctor.  His unconventional approach to combating cardiovascular disease is saving lives at his practice.  In this thought provoking interview he discusses why conventional medicine is horribly equipped to save humans from their modern lifestyle.  He covers blood testing, diet, mediation, stress management, and exercise steps that people can take to extend their lives and be happier.  Dr B sends this book to each patient and it covers much of his approach to preventing CVD:  Dead Executives Don't Get a Bonus:  The End of Alzheimers:  Younger Next Year:  Risk Factors according to Bale Doneen: Dr Baggesen's practice: Time: 2:10 -Book by Bradley Bale and Amy Doneen-'Beat the Heart Attack Gene' -Link to Author's website- Time: 3:17-8:45 -Dr. B explains 'Precision Personalized Healthcare' -Dr. B quotes on his practice, "The right test, for the right reason, for the right follow up." -Preventative healthcare discussion -Vascular disease stats and definition Time: 12:45-16:48 -Causes for heart attacks and stroke: blood clots: -Clotting genetics -Necessary things to evaluate your likelihood for vascular disease -Cognitive impairment/dimension signs and causes Time: 23:05-24:45 -Dr. B quotes on his executive patients' health, "Their preparing for death, they're not preparing for life." -Book by Dr. Joel Kahn- 'Dead Execs Don't Get Bonuses' -Link to Author's website- -John's advice- "Health is the number 1 thing you have to do in order to be successful." Time: 31:00-35:09 -Dietary tips and history Time: 39:44 -Book by Dale Bredesen-'The End of Alzheimer's' -Link to youtube interview with Dale Bredesen on his book and Alzheimer prevention methods: Time 41:25-45:44 -Fighting off chronic inflammation -Dr. B explains 2 most important health influencers: 1. Exercise 2. Diet Time: 50:53-54:30 -Supplements -SNPs AI testing for personalized precision supplementations Time: 59:00 -1:01:04 ***Dr. B has a great intro quote about himself we should use*** -Dr. B defines himself, "I define myself as an assett manager. The assett is your health." -Book - 'Younger Next Year' -Link to website- Time 1:06:54-1:09:10 -Dr. B quote, "Like other entrepreneurs, through perseverance and hardwork here I am." -Dr. B describes how he is taking his practice to the next level with AI. -John explains how the medical industry needs to undergo a digital transformation
June 25, 2019
#12, Greg Brown, Charlotte Angel Fund - Full Episode
Greg Brown runs the Charlotte Angel Fund ( which invests in early stage, mostly tech companies.  Greg explains angel investing, how his fund is organized, thinking about valuation and other considerations that entrepreneurs looking to raise capital should consider.  Greg and John also discuss HQ2, HB2, the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce, and the local startup scene.   Greg also owns Cardinal Finance (, a fractional CFO company in Charlotte that works with many smaller businesses and helps with finance and strategy work.  Greg discusses some of the mistakes that small business owners and entrepreneurs often make. Greg mentioned Innovate Charlotte as a great resource: and also Pitch Breakfast:
June 12, 2019
#11, Solosode #1 Review of first 10 interviews
John reflects on the first 10 episodes of the podcast. Video here:
June 6, 2019
#10 - Ben Harrison, DealCloud, Trailer
Ben is one of the founders of DealCloud, a SaaS company that grew quickly and was sold to Intapp.  Ben tells John about parlaying a career as an analyst in private equity and banking into building the top FSI CRM company on the market.  
June 1, 2019
#10 - Ben Harrison, DealCloud - Full Episode
Ben is one of the founders of DealCloud, a SaaS company that grew quickly and was sold to Intapp.  Ben tells John about parlaying a career as an analyst in private equity and banking into building the top FSI CRM company on the market.  
May 31, 2019
#9 - Scott Lien from GrandPad - Full Episode
Scott Lien started GrandPad, the leading communication solution for 8o years and older adults.  5 years after starting the company it is now available at Target and Best Buy and has been advertised on cable TV.  Scott discusses the experience, how his corporate career prepared him for success, and shares his philosophy on product development.  Twitter: @grandpad_social  Instagram: @grandpad_social  Scott mentioned Dan Norman:    Don Norman and the problems with most designs today:  Scott mentioned the documentary Alive Inside:   The power of music to help elderly people:  Life balance (Not work life balance) :
May 30, 2019
#9 - Trailer - Scott Lien from GrandPad
Scott Lien started GrandPad, the leading communication solution for 8o years and older adults.  5 years after starting the company it is now available at Target and Best Buy and has been advertised on cable TV.  Scott discusses the experience, how his corporate career prepared him for success, and shares his philosophy on product development.  Twitter: @grandpad_social  Instagram: @grandpad_social  Scott mentioned Dan Norman:    Don Norman and the problems with most designs today:  Scott mentioned the documentary Alive Inside:   The power of music to help elderly people:  Life balance (Not work life balance) :  Full Episode:
May 30, 2019
#8 Trailer - Chad Stachowicz, CloverHound
Chad Stachowicz is the founder and CEO of Cloverhound, a leading Cisco professional services firm.   John and Chad discuss failure, rising from the ashes, running a consulting business, and balancing it with a running a campaign for local government.
May 26, 2019
#8 - Chad Stachowicz, CloverHound
Chad Stachowicz is the founder and CEO of Cloverhound, a leading Cisco professional services firm.   John and Chad discuss failure, rising from the ashes, running a consulting business, and balancing it with a running a campaign for local government.
May 26, 2019
#7 - Austin Rosenfeld Trailer
Austin Rosenfeld tells his story of leaving a well paying consulting job to create his own consulting company and building it into a 150 person shop.  He also talks about his days as an early employee at Appian and the lessons he's learned along the entire journey.  This trailer highlights five or six interesting bits from the full interview:
May 23, 2019
#7 - Austin Rosenfeld Full Interview, Macedon
Austin Rosenfeld tells his story of leaving a well paying consulting job to create his own consulting company and building it into a 150 person shop.  He also talks about his days as an early employee at Appian and the lessons he's learned along the entire journey.
May 23, 2019
#6 - Ben Simon from Windsor Jewelers
John interviews Ben Simon, owner of Windsor Jewelers.   Windsor is an upscale two location jewelry seller that offers some of the top watch and jewelry brands in the world.  John and Ben discuss working in a family business, building culture across multiple locations, balancing the needs of your own brand while also selling literally some of the top brands in the world, cross selling, sales excellence, and a host of other topics.  Ben also indulges John on sharing his personal thoughts on watches, going to Basel World, and Porsche vs BMW. Ben mentioned the Tudor P1 as a hot new watch from Basel World: He also mentioned admiring the Baltic brand as a slightly lower price point that doesn't sacrifice on quality: Ben talked about a useful resource for thinking about how many watches are too many: Ben mentioned the Patek 5270P with Salmon dial as a "grail" watch (and John agreed):   
May 9, 2019
#5 - Bryan Bellamy, RefineryHaus
John interviews Bryan Bellamy, founder and CEO of The Refinery Haus (  John and Bryan cover a range of topics, including starting a company while in college and selling it to FourSquare, starting multiple companies and pivoting, growing a digital agency and consulting practice under the same roof, investing in other startups, and Bryan's car collection.  
May 7, 2019
#4 - David Watkins, Abbeydale
John interviews David Watkins, founder of Abbeydale, an upscale mens clothing shop in Charlotte, NC.  They discuss starting the business, growing it, some difficult decisions along the way, branding, building a global supply chain, and leveraging CRM and marketing automation to better serve customers.  They also get into a detailed conversation about how men should build their wardrobe to maximize their presence.
May 3, 2019
#3 - Derek Wang, Stratifyd
John interviews Derek Wang, founder and CEO of Stratifyd, a machine learning and artificial intelligence startup that is achieving escape velocity just 4 years into its existence.  Derek discusses finalizing four rounds of funding (including a recent $30 million round led by Georgian Partners), being an immigrant founder, the history of ML/AI, the future of tech, China vs Europe vs the US, women in tech, and many other fascinating topics.  
April 30, 2019
#2 - Meggie Williams, Skipper
John interviews Meggie Williams from the Hygge podcast studio in Charlotte.  Meggie is the founder and CEO of startup Skipper, a dog walking service operating out of multiple US cities.  John and Meggie discuss fundraising, transitioning from IBM to a scrappy tech startup, building software without a technical background, starting a company with a spouse, being a woman in tech, and much much more.
April 29, 2019
#1-Stu Brauer-UrbanMvmnt and WTF Gym Talk
In the first episode of the Defiance Podcast, John interviews Stu Brauer, owner of Urban Mvmnt and WTFGymTalk.  John and Stu discuss fitness, Crossfit, and the future of micro gyms.  For anyone looking to start a business based on their passion, Stu is an inspirational story and someone they should follow on social media:  WTF Gym Talk: www:  Instagram:  Facebook:  Urban MVMNT:  www:  Instagram:  Facebook:  The Black Box Summit:  The Oura Ring:
April 19, 2019