What pets have to do with startups

cute-dog-in-window

I have wanted to invest in startups for a few years now but I’ve never met the requirements to be an accredited investor which are basically, “be rich”. So I’ve always just kept working hard and squirreling money away into other long-term investments like 401Ks, IRAs, REITs, and so on.

Enter the 2012 Jobs Act. That Act finally unlocked things for “the rest of us”. The Jobs Act allowed us not-elites to finally be able to invest in the startup world. Those of us who love entrepreneurs and innovative business ideas finally gained the opportunity to invest our money in their future. Compared to going to Kickstarter in exchange for a product, I get to “kickstart” growth in young, innovative businesses to help other entrepreneurs achieve their dreams and have a real opportunity for financial gain in the end. Seems better than getting my name put in another indie video game as “contributor”.

What pets have to do with startups will make more sense in a minute.

My mother was always the most happy when she was around dogs. When I was a kid, it was Tessie.

not-tessie

Not Tessie, but pretty close!

Tessie was a dozens-of-times award-winning Samoyed. It seemed like every couple of weekends my mother and my sister would pack up the dog, all the grooming supplies and other show needs, and leave early Saturday morning and then come back on Sunday in the late afternoon. They would unload Tessie, all her grooming and show supplies, several ribbons usually “1st Place”, a camera bag full of rolls of film for my dad to develop, and all the “dog show swag”. Tessie was invited to Westminster at least once but legend has it that mom, who was always pretty stalwart, was too nervous to go and called it off. Our family continued showing but eventually mom’s business took off, Tessie passed away, and one passion was replaced with another.

About a decade ago, mom got the spark again. This time it was the Bolognese breed. His name? Giotto.

Giotto

Unlike the last picture, that IS Giotto!

Giotto was from European champion stock and registered on the American Kennel Club’s Foundation Stock for rare/ultra-rare breeds. He was a chance to not only breed and show dogs again, but to contribute to a small and growing movement to build the Bolognese breed up into a fully-recognized AKC Breed Standard.

She traveled to Texas, Amsterdam, Minnesota, Hungary, Belgium, and other US states and European countries, meeting with breeders, trainers, groomers, and other pet service providers. She bred Giotto with other champion stock and was part of a small international working group of dog breeders who had dedicated themselves to the breed. She showed him at local events, ultimately winding up with several awards and lots of photo ops. She also kept a growing kennel and, in the last couple of months leading up to her losing the battle with cancer in the Spring of 2013, the hardest thing for me wasn’t seeing her in the hospital or at home, but seeing her teary-eyed joy every time one of her dogs was placed in a great home. She was so happy that they wouldn’t be left behind without love.

80 million households in the US have pets and the pet industry is projected to be worth $70B this year. On the one hand, I want to invest in startups positioned to change the future of their industry. In the other, there are a ton of startups out there, where could I begin? I thought about where my small investments might have the most impact, remembered how happy my mother’s passion at changing the future of an entire dog breed made her, and thought about how amazingly-passionate millions of other people are about their pets.

So I invested in FetchFind. FetchFind provides turnkey training solutions for pet businesses. I spent a few days digging around through other pet care companies and felt like they’re innovating in the space by focusing on pet care providers instead of on consumers, where the market is already saturated. They provide broad and deep training on recruiting, onboarding and retaining staff and customer acquisition, and have also integrated job boards and job search. They recently acquired PawedIn.com which connects pet owners with local pet service pros and allows you to read and post reviews.

They’re seeing continuous growth in users, subscriptions, and course enrollment. It might not be a “10x unicorn OMG it’s the next SNAP-TWIT-BOOK!” but, and here’s the thing: they look really solid. I like solid, well-positioned companies when it comes to investing my money whether it’s stocks, funds, real estate, you name it. Squaring that approach to risk with wanting to invest in startups is difficult, but with FetchFind it just feels right. They’ve got a great existing business and some wonderful ideas for the pet care world.

So anyway, if you’re like me and you’ve been looking for great companies to invest in, I urge you to check out FetchFind as one option.

I think you’ll be happy you did.

 

This post does not constitute investment advice and you should always do your own due diligence before investing in anything.

Your personal growth philosophy

growth

What is a personal growth philosophy? It’s a set of core principles that you turn into habit which guide your physical, mental, and financial growth. I won’t pretend to be able to help you make the leap to your own personal growth philosophy, but I can share what I’ve come to follow over the years in hopes it can get you started in the right direction.

Compound interest is the greatest force in the universe. What does this mean besides being an overused quote? Small steps add up! While some of the rules below may seem out of reach today, understand you can get there by starting small and sticking with it. No matter what your thoughts are on my own personal growth philosophy, I urge you to create a your own so that, whether you dive in head-first or you start small and work up to step by step, you will ultimately lead yourself to success.

  • Get to a healthy weight and body composition (muscle vs fat) for your height and then eat to maintain. You don’t have to look like Scooby, but your body is the only one you have in this life and investing in your physical health has well-researched and proven positive effects on your happiness, personal and business relationships, life span, and more.
  • As long as you are physically able to do so, lift weights or run 3-or-more times per week for at least 30 minutes. Again, check out Scooby above if you’ve never been “into that stuff”. If I were 20 again I’d lift 7 days a week as an over-investment in this area – the benefits are that powerful.
  • As long as you are physically able to do so, sit up straight, shoulders back. See any older folks at work or in your family who are permanently hunched over? You’ll thank me later. Search for “how to sit up straight” or “proper posture” online for images, videos, etc.
  • Provided you can do so without foregoing the basic needs of food, water, clothing, and shelter:
    • Chop 10% of all income right off the top and put it into a 401k with low fees. Plan to leave it alone until retirement (whether that’s 30, 40, 50, 65, whatever, just leave it alone). Remember to use the 10% rule – so as your income grows your investment grows.
    • Chop another 10% of all income right off the top and throw it into a diversified investment portfolio. Simple approaches available right now are available through companies like Wealthfront or Betterment – just set up auto-deposits and take advantage of their expertise and algorithms. And remember the 10% rule again. As this fund grows consider shifting some of the gains off to commercial “investment-grade” real estate: rental properties, a RV park, a parking lot, a strip mall, etc. and really putting the money to work in other ways.
    • Keep an “emergency fund” that will cover the basic needs for 6 months. Don’t touch it unless absolutely necessary (unemployment, illness, etc), and then replenish it as soon as you’re able. If and when the costs for basic needs grow, the emergency fund should grow to always be able to cover 6 months worth of time.
  • As a core principle, avoid debt. Get a great “rewards” credit card like Chase Amazon (if you use Amazon a lot) or one of the airline cards (if you fly a lot), but pay off the full balance each month. If you can’t, then unless you’re bootstrapping a startup you are overspending (and even then, you’re probably overspending).
  • Enjoy life and be social, but don’t drink your income. A case of wine for home is significantly cheaper than the same wine at a night out. In addition you can slowly build a wonderful collection of wines that are inexpensive today and will taste that much better in your 30s or 40s (and some will age longer), when drank with your future family and/or the good friends you make over the years ahead.
  • Read for 30 minutes a day or more – if you prefer to listen then consider Audible instead. Read books written by titans of industry and by prisoners of war. Learn from great philosophers across time. Specifically read either Seneca or Epictetus, or both: you don’t have to buy into Stoicism but their writings have been considered highly-applicable to the real world across centuries by some of the most accomplished humans through history and they are timeless works for good reason.
  • Simplify your food and clothing options. Figure out some standard healthful meals, ones that are inexpensive while still nutritious and that you can eat repeatedly throughout the week, and do so. Make a wardrobe and stick with it. Slacks with basic button-downs, jeans with t-shirts, the options largely depend on your personal and professional needs but whatever you do keep it basic. You’re doing this for three reasons:
    • Consistency in the cost of basic needs.
    • Frees up decision-making power, which you can now use on more important things. Greater decision-making capacity is an investment in your personal and professional future.
    • Reducing or eliminating these simple choices from your life means less stress. Less stress is an investment in both your mental and physical health.
  • Learn the art of goal setting and execution and apply it everywhere. See “How Google sets goals: OKRs – GV Library”.

In summary:

  • Take care of your body through nutrition and exercise.
  • Sit up straight!
  • Dedicate a portion of your income to each of a 401k, a diversified investment portfolio that can grow into larger investments in the future, and an emergency fund.
  • Avoid debt but don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s universally bad.
  • Don’t drink your income.
  • Read great non-fiction written across history.
  • Eliminate needless choice in the simple things.
  • Learn how to make goals and execute on your plans.

 

Originally taken from my answer at Quora.com to the question: What are the best investments you’ve made?