Episode 28: In this episode, Jesse Pujji (@jspujji) breaks down what a venture studio is, the pros and cons of a venture studio, and examples of successful studios that could be your source of inspiration. Then, Jesse shares what the future could look like for his very own venture studio, Gateway X.
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Jesse Pujji (@jspujji)
Alex Lieberman: What's up, everyone? I'm Alex Lieberman.
Jesse Pujji: Yo, this is Jesse Pujji.
Alex Lieberman: And this is The Crazy Ones.
Jesse Pujji: What's up, everyone? It's Jesse Pujji here, from The Crazy Ones podcast. Today I'm doing a quick individual episode about venture studios. We've had a lot of questions as I've discussed my venture studio, Gateway X, and what exactly it is and how it all works. So let's dive right into some of the questions.
First question: What is a venture studio? So a venture studio, think of it like a movie studio. You have a group of people, you come up with new movie ideas, scripts, actors, and you put them out and you create hopefully lots of hits. That's what we do with venture studios. So what we do with new ventures. So we will come up with ideas that could be 'cause of a problem we're having in our day-to-day lives. That could be 'cause of big themes in the world and the way things are changing. We start to run some different experiments and test to see if we think they can work and if they're viable. And then if they are, we go ahead and we try to put a team; we'll find a CEO and other leaders to put around the table to go and launch the business.
So that is what a venture studio is. It's really a business that makes other businesses, and there's a whole different flavor of them. You'll see out there, you'll hear about venture studios, incubators, accelerators. They all kind of do something slightly different. Incubators and accelerators oftentimes just give entrepreneurs who are already out there resources, and take a little bit of equity. The studio really is coming up with its own ideas, that they're mostly my ideas or the team's ideas, and most of the people who are running the business are a part of what we're doing already. So it's a little bit more sort of all included, if you will, in terms of how we're building it.
Even inside of venture studios there's a variety of different types. So I was inspired by my friend Jack Abraham, my friends Jack Abraham and Brett Shaheen, who both have their own studios. One is called Atomic; they're famous for launching Hims, and Redesign Health, which has launched Vault, Captivate, a bunch of other health-related startups. So there's SaaS venture studios, there's venture studios like Gateway X, which is a little bit of sort of a hodgepodge of different ideas all kind of related to my expertise of digital marketing, customer acquisition, and e-commerce. And so there's a lot of different flavors and ways you can do it.
What are the pros and cons of venture studios? So, you know, it depends on who's asking the question. I think from my perspective, the pros are, it's a lot of fun. I get to play around with lots of different ideas. I get to work and coach different leaders and we have lots of different opportunities. We have a lot of at bats.
The cons, of course, are always the biggest challenge with any entrepreneurial or business venture, which is focus. From my perspective, my focus is split around a bunch, a variety of different things. Now, inside of the studio, nobody works on multiple things except for me. And so we try to maintain focus in that way, so it can lead to a lot of different ideas and can be a lot of fun. Of course the challenge is, you know, you can be a jack of all trades and master of none. I think the other big thing is sometimes when you have a good idea that's taking off, you kind of wanna put all your resources, time, and money into that, and oftentimes people will start venture studios and then they'll end up kind of folding it all into one venture 'cause it sort of takes off. So there's always that issue of kind of allocating capital and allocating time appropriately.
You know, there's a lot of different examples out there. I mentioned Atomic and Redesign. The original venture studio was a business called Idealab. And they started what became AdSense for Google. They started even versions of Twitter in the early days. They used to be, I think they started in the nineties during the first dotcom bubble. And you know, that's been a big inspiration for me. The other ones that I've looked at are Rocket Internet, which is the Samwer brothers in Germany. Their whole thing is to take other ideas…they've taken Groupon and they've taken eBay and a whole host of other things and essentially replicated those businesses, but out-executed and done a great job of building. So they have a lot of tenets I like about execution and moving fast. And then, I talk about it all the time on the show, but Red Ventures, of course, and Ric Elias. They've mostly done acquisitions, but again, they've had this common culture where they've been able to build things, buy things, and then build them up and really scale them.
And so there's a lot of things I take inspiration from. What's unique about Gateway X, you know, that's different than a lot of the other venture studios is I'm actually trying to build businesses that I'm then turning into more of like a holding company structure. So the idea is not to necessarily start a business, spin it out, and it just kind of goes out on its own, which is what a lot of the other studios do. But instead to spin it up, ideally it starts generating cash flow, and then we can own it and scale it for a really long time. And so that's where sometimes I've described it as Atomic meets Red Ventures. So you can come up with new ideas, but then you build them into long-term profitable businesses.
You know, for me, the desired future state for Gateway X and my dream, and why I wanted to build this, was I'd love to have some number…it could be seven, could be 10, could be 12, maybe three, you know, real companies operating under this umbrella, and really focused on launching new ventures. Maybe one or two every year, maybe one every other year. It doesn't matter the velocity. But when we have the good ideas and we have the right people, we want to go build a new business. And I'd love to make it kind of a great school of entrepreneurship. So rather than joining McKinsey or Goldman Sachs out of college, you join Gateway X, where you're gonna learn how to run a business. We're gonna scale you and teach you a bunch of different things, and eventually you'll start your own business under our umbrella. So the dream for me is a bunch of companies operating under one sort of common culture and common way of doing things. And we're teaching and coaching people on how to be the best versions of themselves, and we're growing and scaling the business.
The biggest challenges I see go back to kind of the focus area. How do you know when to go hard on one thing? How do you know when to kind of spread it out? My time is a major challenge, and the only way to get leverage on my time is to teach and coach other people. And so that's kind of, I spend the most of my time doing that, but that can be the real challenge is really my focus, my time, my energy.
So that's Jesse Pujji's Venture Studio 101. If you have any questions, just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and thanks for listening.