Decision Vision Episode 92: Should I Pivot? – An Interview with Brandon Cooper, Aphid
The question of “should I pivot?” is not just a question for a pandemic, but one businesses are often confronted by as markets grow, target customers change, and competition arises. In this edition of “Decision Vision,” Aphid Founder & CEO Brandon Cooper tells host Mike Blake the engaging story of his company’s pivots and what he’s learned along the way. “Decision Vision” is presented by Brady Ware & Company.
Brandon Cooper, CEO, Aphid
Aphid is a financial technology company and ecosystem that specializes in Internet-related services and products utilizing Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain technologies.
Brandon has over 15 years of experience in Information Technology, graphic design, and over 6 years of chat support. His specialty is in machine learning, and blockchain technology. Cooper has been featured on Steve, NBC, MTV, FOX, and more.
He holds a degree from Michigan State University in Marketing and Merchandising Management.
Mike Blake, Brady Ware & Company
Michael Blake is the host of the “Decision Vision” podcast series and a Director of Brady Ware & Company. Mike specializes in the valuation of intellectual property-driven firms, such as software firms, aerospace firms, and professional services firms, most frequently in the capacity as a transaction advisor, helping clients obtain great outcomes from complex transaction opportunities. He is also a specialist in the appraisal of intellectual properties as stand-alone assets, such as software, trade secrets, and patents.
Mike has been a full-time business appraiser for 13 years with public accounting firms, boutique business appraisal firms, and an owner of his own firm. Prior to that, he spent 8 years in venture capital and investment banking, including transactions in the U.S., Israel, Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus.
Brady Ware & Company
Brady Ware & Company is a regional full-service accounting and advisory firm which helps businesses and entrepreneurs make visions a reality. Brady Ware services clients nationally from its offices in Alpharetta, GA; Columbus and Dayton, OH; and Richmond, IN. The firm is growth-minded, committed to the regions in which they operate, and most importantly, they make significant investments in their people and service offerings to meet the changing financial needs of those they are privileged to serve. The firm is dedicated to providing results that make a difference for its clients.
Decision Vision Podcast Series
“Decision Vision” is a podcast covering topics and issues facing small business owners and connecting them with solutions from leading experts. This series is presented by Brady Ware & Company. If you are a decision-maker for a small business, we’d love to hear from you. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and make sure to listen to every Thursday to the “Decision Vision” podcast.
Visit Brady Ware & Company on social media:
Intro: [00:00:01] Welcome to Decision Vision, a podcast series focusing on critical business decisions. Brought to you by Brady Ware & Company. Brady Ware is a regional, full-service accounting and advisory firm that helps businesses and entrepreneurs make vision a reality.
Mike Blake: [00:00:20] Welcome to Decision Vision, a podcast giving you, the listener, clear vision to make great decisions. In each episode, we discuss the process of decision making on a different topic from the business owners’ or executives’ perspective. We aren’t necessarily telling you what to do, but we can put you in a position to make an informed decision on your own and understand when you might need help along the way.
Mike Blake: [00:00:42] My name is Mike Blake, and I’m your host for today’s program. I’m a Director at Brady Ware & Company, a full-service accounting firm based in Dayton, Ohio, with offices in Dayton; Columbus, Ohio; Richmond, Indiana; and Alpharetta, Georgia. Brady Ware is sponsoring this podcast, which is being recorded in Atlanta per social distancing protocols. If you like this podcast, please subscribe on your favorite podcast aggregator and please consider leaving a review of the podcast as well.
Mike Blake: [00:01:10] So, the topic today is Should I Pivot My Business? And in one sense, you might look at this topic and think, “Well, doesn’t everybody pivot my business?” Our producer, John, and I were talking a little bit before we started the program and, well, doesn’t everybody’s business pivot? Because there are not many businesses that are static throughout their existence, right? Maybe if you’re an electrical utility, maybe if you’re in some kinds of real estate, maybe if you’re in some kinds of mineral industries, maybe that’s true. But for the most part, most businesses do find themselves in what they would think is a pivot every day.
Mike Blake: [00:01:55] But I’m not talking about that. I’m putting my startup hat back on today. And I don’t put it on often because I want the show to be more of a generalized business show and not just focused on startups, but this is something that I think is more applicable to startups. And in the coronavirus environment, I think that this topic should be, at least, thought about or on the radar screen of even established companies.
Mike Blake: [00:02:25] And so, what I mean by a pivot, to not put too fine a point on it, is you’re in one business one day, and then the next day, you come to the realization that the business you’re in is no good. And it’s most likely no good because the need that you thought was in the market just isn’t there or, at least, not in the manner that you can effectively address it. Or if you’re in the coronavirus timeframe, your business Feb. 1 looked great. And then, by June, your business doesn’t look great, right?
Mike Blake: [00:03:06] If you’re a restaurant, and I know restaurants are places that we will never do takeout, right? Well, that restaurant did one of two things. They either pivoted to take out or they weren’t a restaurant anymore unless they had a big pile of cash they’re sitting on. Hotels are are pivoting. They’re renting out their rooms now, not to people who are traveling, but they’re renting them out to people like me who are working from home, and then come to the realization that if they stay at home one more day, they’re going to get either fired or they’re going to go crazy because of their family. And people are sort of taking these refugees and that’s what hotels are catering to.
Mike Blake: [00:03:51] So, even in a conventional industry, companies are are pivoting, for sure. I would even argue, Apple Computer back in 2007 pivoted from being a computer company to a mobile device, and software, and media service and sales company. They started that pivot. And now, they’re well along the road. General Motors is very much pivoting towards becoming an electric vehicle company because they see the handwriting on the wall, like it or not, gas-powered cars are going away sometime in our lifetimes. At least, new ones will be. And the list goes on and on.
Mike Blake: [00:04:33] Well, if you’re in a startup, the necessity to pivot, at least, the potential is a way of life. And some startups have to pivot multiple times, and we’ll talk about that. But what you find is nobody really talks about pivoting because pivoting is not really sexy. Pivoting is necessary. It’s often ugly. It’s a survival mode. And you find out who your friends really are in the pivot. And then, after you successfully emerge from the pivot, everybody’s your friend again. Everybody wants to interview you again, and you’re the darling of the startup world.
Mike Blake: [00:05:08] So, it’s a topic I really want to sink my teeth into. And you know what? It’s hard to find a guest that wants to talk about a pivot because it is tough. You have had to admit a setback to your business. And so, it takes somebody that has a willingness to be vulnerable, that has a lot of emotional intelligence that is willing to come out and publicly talk about the pivot. And fortunately, found somebody great who’s going to talk about that with us. And that person is Brandon Cooper, who is joining us from California. And he is the CEO of Aphid.
Mike Blake: [00:05:43] Aphid is a financial technology company and ecosystem disrupting the 9:00 to 5:00 workforce, using artificial intelligence and blockchain technology. And they’re preventing what’s called the singularity, meaning that robots take human jobs, and robots basically think independently and become sentient artificial life forms. From Detroit, Michigan, Brandon is a serial entrepreneur and inventor. He’s an expert in blockchain and machine learning, has over 15 years of experience in information technology and graphic design, and over six years in client support. He specializes in machine learning and blockchain technology. Brandon’s been featured on Steve, NBC, MTV, Fox and more. He owns a Degree from Michigan State University in Marketing and Merchandising Management. Brandon Cooper, thanks for coming on the program.
Brandon Cooper: [00:06:36] Thank you for having me. Glad to be here, Mike.
Mike Blake: [00:06:39] So, Brandon, did I get it right when I described what a pivot is? Do you think I got that description right? Is there something you want to add or change?
Brandon Cooper: [00:06:47] No, you’ve hit the nail right on the head. That’s exactly what it is. Basically looking at businesses and deciding to take a turn down a different street.
Mike Blake: [00:06:59] So, let’s go to pre-pivot days. How long ago did you do your pivot?
Brandon Cooper: [00:06:59] I’ll completely unveil everything, and these are things that I don’t talk about. But as you know, a lot of people don’t like to talk about pivot. As you said, it isn’t sexy. But we had the company a long time ago. This is when I was just really just trying to conceptualize something. It was AphidByte, and we were trying to prevent the piracy protection. So, we would put these Easter eggs hidden encryption into music songs and, also, into video files, so when people were streaming it, midway, we’ll cut them off and say, “Hey, go to iTunes.” Hey, go to whatever outlet it is to actually buy it, right? And these big companies were going to pay us money. We just flood the internet with all of these things.
Brandon Cooper: [00:07:54] I mean, I’m tired running into these aphids. And then, I said, “Yeah, that’s a great business for large enterprises and movie companies like Universal and Warner Brothers, but people are going to hate us.” So, that was short-lived, and we dropped it. And then, I saw that streaming was coming into effect. I knew that Spotify was going to change that. That’s what Sean Parker really wanted to do with Napster anyway, but just did not formulated him and Shawn Fanning. But I saw the streaming was coming, so I knew that there was no business there. So, I really just shelved the company and didn’t do anything with AphidByte any more at the time.
Brandon Cooper: [00:08:34] And in the midst of that time, I did different ventures, just trying to find my way, just looking for different projects to try to work on them. And I’m naturally an inventor. I worked on a project called Proximity that, basically, can show anyone in a room nearby, and you can get all that information with one button as long as they allow it to be seen. So, it destroys business cards. So, different projects like that I worked on. And then, I resurrected AphidByte in about 2017-2018. We were looking at the creative economy, seeing there are a lot of media people who aren’t making much money in the industry. These companies take a big chunk out of the record companies that take a lot of money. So, I was just looking at how to use blockchain technology and things like that with AphidByte.
Brandon Cooper: [00:09:23] So, we made two pivots. And as you’ve mentioned, we’ve changed everything over to AI and that’s the final pivot. This is what we are. I wanted to make sure when we went to market that we established our identity with automation and artificial intelligence. So, I pull back on the marketing and made a tough decision. There are people in the company at that time who didn’t really like the pivot, and they wanted to kind of stick with what we had, and I made a decision, and people left the company, and they’re great people. I’m sure that they didn’t leave because they didn’t believe in the pivot. They probably just got a little exhausted on the change, but I did what was best for the company. So, now, we have Aphid. No Byte, just Aphid.
Mike Blake: [00:10:08] So, I want to talk a little bit about the times leading up to those pivots, either one or both, however you want to answer this. But you tell me if I’m wrong, but I imagine that there was some sort of struggle, if you will, for lack of a better term, to kind of make that business work, right? I would imagine you would have thought that if you tweak X and Y, or change A and B a little better, then the core business is still potentially viable. So, if that’s true, what were the kinds of things that you tried and, I guess, ultimately, didn’t work that, then, led you to the conclusion that that business just was not going to be viable?
Brandon Cooper: [00:10:54] For the initial business premise, streaming was coming into effect. So, I knew that it was going to be dead in the water, where piracy is not going to matter as long as people are paying $10 a month to use Apple Music and TIDAL, or whatever to use. So, that’s when I knew that business model was dead in the water. And then, in terms of the creative economy, it definitely works, it’s just more expensive.
Brandon Cooper: [00:11:18] So, just leading into to that, it’s great to have it as a feature in the future as a future phase, but having that as a business is very expensive. Music industry, streaming, data, I mean SoundCloud is still trying to raise money just to stay profitable. They might make $100 million, but their expenses are $100 million because they ultimately become the YouTube of audio. So, things like that I did a lot of R&D on and realized that artificial intelligence was the future anyway. So, that’s when I knew.
Mike Blake: [00:11:54] So, I think it’s really interesting that you saw … I mean, it sounds like that you saw soon streaming came on, it came on the scene, that things like iPods were just not going to matter anymore, things like stored music were not going to matter anymore, that everything is just going to go online to this virtualized streaming model where there’s not even a transfer of ownership of media anymore for the most part. It’s really just everybody rents them, which is interesting.
Brandon Cooper: [00:12:24] Yeah.
Mike Blake: [00:12:25] I think, frankly, that’s extraordinary because a lot of founders would have denied it, but they would have gone through sort of the stages of grief, and they would have hung on to denial, and said, “No, streaming is not going to be all that. Maybe it’ll have our role alongside it,” right? Netflix was doing streaming and DVDs, parallel for a long time. There’s still going to be a role. We can still make a go of it. What was it that you saw or is it something about you and your makeup that you said, “No, there’s no reason pulling with it. Let’s just look at this with ice-cold clarity. Call it for what it is and get out in front of it before we get run over by it.”
Brandon Cooper: [00:13:10] It’s a tough decision to make because of all the work that’s put into it. And I said I stayed up, I mean, ultimately, you know, at least a year and a half to two years into it and worked just to say everything has been done, just throw it in the trash, or just throw it on the shelf for later or someone else, right? A lot of founders cannot make that decision because of prior issues, because of the amount that they put in opposed to just making the right decision that’s best for the team members and the company.
Brandon Cooper: [00:13:47] So, I saw that piece. I definitely don’t want to get in my own way. A lot of founders can get in their own way, get in their own head, and get emotional, and there’s no room for emotion in business unless you’re like your Steve Jobs putting the spirit into the company and everything. But you can’t be too emotional of something that doesn’t make business sense. It doesn’t make sense to be the SoundCloud in the SoundCloud predicament. We’re not profitable, right?
Mike Blake: [00:14:21] Now, when you’ve had either those two incarnations of your company, have you taken outside money for them?
Brandon Cooper: [00:14:30] Yes, very small. Very, very minute. Small thousands. So, no big angel or venture money. It’s really, really small. And most of that was just for legal information, just structuring LLC, things like that.
Mike Blake: [00:14:48] And do you think that made the pivot easier because you didn’t? Or maybe I’m assuming something. I mean, did that make the pivot easier that you didn’t have large institutional capital in it? Or did you still have to say a lot of uncomfortable conversations where you’re based upon time of death on the investment and saying, “Look, this is what’s happening. I don’t know. We’ll see what will happen next. You may or may not get your money then.” How hard was that?
Brandon Cooper: [00:15:18] It’s a lot easier when it is not big money and you know who the investor is. If it is VC level, they try to control a lot of it. I’m a bigger fan of angel investment because of that reason, unless you have a really, really good VC. But yes, it definitely made it a lot easier to make a pivot. And one of the investors understood the pivot and was supportive of it. And because of the results, they feel better about the pivot even now because there was no worry in their mind. They trust me as a leader to make the best decision. And because of the results that we’ve merited, they’re happy that that has occurred. If there’s no results, then, of course, there’s blame. You made a bad decision. That’s all people care about is results. So, they put money in behind me or into the company. Then, I have to make the best decision for their money and not get emotional myself.
Mike Blake: [00:16:21] You brought something up a couple of times, and I think it’s worth kind of spending a beat on. And that is the emotions of pivoting and being able to look at a company almost like an assassin, if you will, that whatever you spend today, you can’t get it back. It’s gone. And the only thing you can change is from this moment on, what is the future going to look like? And I guess how do I take whatever resources I have left, and then redirect them towards something that has a chance of being successful?
Mike Blake: [00:17:00] But, boy, that’s so hard, especially with that first venture because you really think you’re on to something, you’re getting traction, and then boom, the market just changes. In that case, there was no bad decision there. It was just bad luck that somebody came out with streaming, and that wasn’t necessarily visible. That emotional mind set to be able to cut the loss, and be decisive, and absorb uncomfortable conversations, if nothing else, with your employees, that is such an important leadership quality in order to execute a pivot and do it in time to actually save the company.
Brandon Cooper: [00:17:43] Yes. I talk about that emotional piece. If you think in terms of relationships, how many people do we know that are in mediocre relationships, but they stay in them just because they’ve been dating them for so long but it’s no longer serving them, right? Look, we’ve been together. I’ve known him since high school, or we’re eight years in, and all the time we put in but it’s no longer serving them. Or even a close friend who is supportive of your business or they want to see you do good, but not better than them, but they’ve been your friends your whole life, and you keep them in your circle even though you know they’re toxic and they’re cancerous to your vibration and your energy. So, if you think in terms of that, that should be applied to business too. And especially when you have people believing you, in the team, and investors.
Brandon Cooper: [00:18:30] And also, an added point for me is with Aphid, we didn’t actually go live. So, that did make the pivot easier as well. These were things that we were just working on. It’s one thing to launch as McDonald’s and you say, “Hey, we’re selling tacos.” That’s not going to work. It doesn’t matter what McDonald’s tries to do. If they start delivering pizzas, I mean that they’re not going to have much success. It’ll probably tank. I have this where they did a joke or whatever, and they called it International House of Burgers.
Mike Blake: [00:19:04] Yeah, I remember that.
Brandon Cooper: [00:19:05] And people went crazy on Twitter about it because they’ve set an identity. So, that was a key piece in my decision of looking at what is your identity. Once you get out here and really start getting the mass press, what is going to be your identity when they see that Aphid? Is it going to be automation or is it going to be this over here? And luckily, we were able to pivot before we actually “got out here.”
Mike Blake: [00:19:31] You said something that, again, I want to latch on to because it is so true that a failing business itself can be very toxic. I’ve been in a failing business before, and it was so toxic and so demoralizing on so many levels that the business itself can almost become a bully. And being able to pivot, this is really interesting, I’m learning something really interesting is that being able to pivot is so much dependent on the emotional state of mind that I’d be willing to bet you that every reason you think of not to pivot is probably, really, just an emotional facet to yourself trying to put up a barrier to making the hard decision.
Brandon Cooper: [00:20:25] Yeah, no question because it’s the work that you put in to it. If you build a house halfway up, no one wants to knock it down and start from the first brick again. And they would rather just continue to build a mediocre house and get mediocre results, but that’s never been me. I’d rather knock it down and start from scratch if that’s what it takes.
Mike Blake: [00:20:48] When you decide to pivot either one or both times, I mean, you talk about what were you able to salvage from the previous businesses or reuse from the previous businesses to help the next incarnation of the business be more successful? It could be anything. It could be physical assets. It could be lesson learned. It could be labor, skills that you could transfer over. Whatever it is, but were you able to salvage from the first incarnation to try to make the likelihood of the next incarnation would be more successful that much more likely?
Brandon Cooper: [00:21:25] It’s definitely putting time into people and understanding delegation. And the terms of order of importance is the idea itself. How scalable is it? Is this something that’s going to be here five years, 10 years, 20 years? And I try to do my best to anticipate the next 15 to 20 years. General Electric, it’s here for how long, right? Ford has been here for how long? And even though they make strides in there, but they’ve created businesses that don’t necessarily shift based upon fads or flip of a switch that can change things. So, that was important for me to say, “Okay. Well, ideas first.”
Brandon Cooper: [00:22:11] And then, the next one of things that I’ve salvaged and I’ve learned to answer your question is bringing in people that had the strengths that I didn’t have. So, whatever my weaknesses were, I brought with me and got out of the way. With this current team with Aphid, there are people on the team who have domain expertise in their particular department. I tell everyone on our team, you’re the CEO of your own position. I don’t micromanage them. They go in and they handle their own thing on their own on autopilot. And the previous team, there were people in a team, there was a lot of retention. People were always managing people in terms of babysitting, not just general managing, but babysitting them.
Brandon Cooper: [00:22:56] And if I have to tell you to do something, then it’s taking away time for me that’s stressing me out. So, I learned that to have people on your team that don’t require you every waking hour is a very, if not the most vital thing to the success of a company because Steve Jobs and all these people got a lot of credit, but there are so many people in the back end that helped these people. Even in sports, everyone gives praise to Aaron Rodgers and these kind of players in the NFL, but they have ball boys, coaches, nutritionists. These are all people who make LeBron James who he is and Tom Brady who he is, right? It is no different in business, whether that’d be a performance coach or your colleagues. I learn from my team. Even though they work with me and look up to me, it works both ways.
Mike Blake: [00:23:49] So, in your mind … I mean, we’ve talked about pivoting. Now, at any point, an option could have been to simply shut down and build something entirely new. Did that thought ever occur to you? And if so, why did you choose to go the way that you did as opposed to just blowing everything up, shutting it down and starting entirely new?
Brandon Cooper: [00:24:15] What occurred? It really was something universal and divine, to be honest with you, because an aphid is an insect that can clone itself. As I mentioned, the original premise was to just flood the internet full of these encrypted files, right?
Mike Blake: [00:24:33] Yeah.
Brandon Cooper: [00:24:33] And then, it would just reproduce at a really high rate. But it just so happened that when I was thinking about artificial intelligence and the reason for creating Aphid was because I was so tired of working for the company I was working for, I said, “Man, I wish I could just clone myself.” I’m so exhausted. I was stressed out. I had a therapist. I took a lot of leave of absence just because. And I worked from home. And I was in my pajamas, and still, just, it wasn’t for me. I just felt there was something pulling me, some energy field pulling me.
Brandon Cooper: [00:25:08] And because I said I wish I could just clone myself, I looked at AphidByte at the time, and I said, “Man, how can I have artificial intelligence work for me?” And I looked at it and I saw AphidByte. And I said, “Let’s just drop the Byte and make it Aphid.” Like there’s Apple, let’s just do Aphid. And it ended up working. Otherwise, it would have just been a different company name, but it fits so perfectly divine that I kept the name.
Mike Blake: [00:25:38] So, talk about your thought process, how you came across the current incarnation of artificial intelligence, and maybe tell the audience too because I did a very high level and probably bad job of describing the company. What’s Aphid doing now and how did you come across that idea that that’s what you’re going to put the new direction?
Brandon Cooper: [00:26:02] Yeah, I was looking to see how can something be at work for me, and make money for me, and I don’t have to be there, where I could spend more time with my family. Typically, we go to work and we get a paycheck every two weeks or some people get paid every week, but typically, it’s biweekly, right? So, I said, “Well, how can we make this go from horse and buggy to the electric car overnight?” And that’s basically creating a digital version of ourselves.
Brandon Cooper: [00:26:28] So, what we’ve created is a mechanism that allows people to earn from the efforts of bots. And what that means is we create a network of chatbot solutions for websites, and we basically take the digital version of yourself, put them on those sites as sales agents. And when it makes sales, you get a commission. So, now the Michael Bot or the John Bot goes on to those websites. If it sells an iPad or refrigerator, you as the controller of your bot, we call aClones, you get a commission. So, now, you’re in your sleep, you wake up, Michael Bot has sold five items. You’ve installed a plug-in for the Michael Bot to trade artificial intelligence, stock trading, or cryptocurrency trading. You can install those plug-ins to your bot, you can train it up to sell different things to people who want to license out your decision trees in terms of the artificial intelligence mechanism in our ID, which is our development system environment.
Brandon Cooper: [00:27:28] But yeah, it’s creating time leverage, right? Time is our biggest asset and we’re losing it every day. If you were to go into a job, and you started a job at 20, or let’s just say 23 out of college, and you’re working at Pfizer or whoever, just pick any company name, and they say, “All right. Well, here’s your 40-year plan,” and then they put how many hours you’re going to work and they time the hour and say, “Here’s your 63,000 hours that you have to work.” Walk to the company, saw on the wall every day, you will lose your brain looking up seeing 61,000. It will feel like you’re in prison. But we don’t look at it that way because the time is diced up and it’s hidden under the table.
Brandon Cooper: [00:28:11] But I know that. We know that it doesn’t work because we see the older people at Walmart, no disrespect, greeting people and everything. They say they’re tired, but the truth is they ran out of money because the system is technically a joke. So, we’re preventing the singularity, saying, “Hey, don’t be afraid about robots taking your jobs.” A robot taking our job is the only way we’re going to be able to spend more time with our family. We just need to pick those machines to a human. And when they work, you get paid. So, we’re going to start off on the internet with the chat bots, the digital agents, and then we’re eventually going to go into IoT and smart cities.
Mike Blake: [00:28:51] So, what’s been the timeline of this whole thing? How long is it taken you to get from starting AphidBytes to this current incarnation of Aphid?
Brandon Cooper: [00:29:03] We’ve done this in about a year and a half.
Mike Blake: [00:29:07] Okay. So-
Brandon Cooper: [00:29:07] Just like about on paper and everything that we’ve accomplished, it looks like about five years of work. We have a large team. Since the pivot, we’re now at almost 30 people in the company without funding.
Mike Blake: [00:29:22] So, without funding. So, just as an aside, I’m curious, how has that happened? Do you have your own funds to bankroll this thing or are you generating revenue now that’s able to support it? How is that working?
Brandon Cooper: [00:29:35] It’s all bootstrapped. And we’re working on our pilots now. So, everyone that’s in the company, believe it or not, has joined the company, they’re equity holders, and then they’re contracting people out as well. But they all believe in the project and glad to be on board. So, I can’t really explain to you how these many crazies have believed in the vision but they see it, and going to be a part of it, and have a piece of that pie. Yeah.
Mike Blake: [00:30:04] I have a feeling we may be coming back to ask you for another podcast because of what you’re describing sounds remarkable. That’s a major accomplishment in and of itself.
Brandon Cooper: [00:30:15] Thank you.
Mike Blake: [00:30:15] How quickly have you seen validation in your decision to pivot?
Brandon Cooper: [00:30:24] I think it only took, I would say, roughly about eight months is what it took for everything to really because we had to formulate the technology behind it, how it’s feasible economically, the tokenomics and the cryptocurrency, the digital asset that we’re creating takes a lot of work. So, I would definitely say at least 18 months.
Mike Blake: [00:30:50] And when you started this thing, you were originally in Atlanta. That’s how we know each other. And you moved out to California. Was the move part of that pivot process?
Brandon Cooper: [00:31:03] Yeah, a big part of the move was I felt like I exercised as much as I could for raising funds and the opportunity of what’s going to be best for the company. Silicon Valley is great, but I didn’t want to go there. I wanted a little bit of a nightlife too just in between. So, I came to LA and like second to third in terms of raising funds for technology with kind of back and forth between here and Austin, Texas beyond Silicon Valley. So, I saw that and said, “All right. Well, that’s a better opportunity for us.” I think the innovation in Atlanta is really stifled because there are people who don’t invest into real innovation. They play it safe. And to me-too companies, nice B2B companies and things like that, but there’s no real innovation. I love Atlanta. There’s no disrespect Atlanta and everything that Atlanta did for me, but the resources just weren’t there. And I honestly felt my presence wasn’t felt in Atlanta in terms of what I was doing with proximity and things like that. So, the pivot towards AI was made once I came to California.
Mike Blake: [00:32:21] Now, along the way, were there other people or resources that you withdrew upon that made the pivots easier than they otherwise might have been? Were their advisers? Were there sources of information? Networks? Anything like that that you kind of leaned on to help make this happen?
Brandon Cooper: [00:32:43] Not at all. It really was just the instinct and the gut. The advisers, at the time, wanted me to stay.
Mike Blake: [00:32:49] Really?
Brandon Cooper: [00:32:50] Yeah, they actually wanted me to stay, and I went against it. And I listened very well to the team and to the advisers, but I looked at the past, I just didn’t want to recreate that past into our future. And I saw the desert, and I had to go to uncharted waters to see what was out there and see what’s here. So, we’ve made great connections. And since I’ve moved out here, the press is night and day.
Mike Blake: [00:33:22] So, what do you attribute what appears to be a great calmness, at least, externally anyway? Where do you get this sort of calmness to pursue a pivot and the way you pursued your venture, the way that you have, frankly, without panicking because I think a lot of people in your position would panic? Where does that come from in your mind?
Brandon Cooper: [00:33:51] Knowing that one day, we’re all going to die and everything, in my opinion, is an illusion, some type of a test to see how bad you want it. But even though the failures occur and things don’t go your way, it’s just a test. It’s a grand test. And I want to be here to make history and just choose a business model that’s going to allow to, not from egotistical point, but just as a company, as the camaraderie of our culture and our company, that’s the most important.
Mike Blake: [00:34:33] So, a lot of businesses right now – just have time for a couple more questions here, but one I want to get to is a lot of businesses are pivoting in a certain extent the way AphidByte pivoted and that there’s an external event that was not foreseeable, that is just overnight rendering certain business models not just obsolete but, in some cases, physically dangerous. And their businesses are very much in jeopardy. Regardless of industry, if somebody were to ask you, “Brandon, I’ve got this business, but I just don’t think in the post-COVID, it’s going to be relevant anymore,” what would be the first couple of pieces of advice or maybe the questions you’d ask them, either one or both, about helping them think through that pivot and giving it a chance to be successful?
Brandon Cooper: [00:35:32] I would always say definitely get what’s changed before change gets with you because at that point, you become [bored with first books]. You become a blockbuster. And if you don’t know how to predict or try to forecast these changes in business or your industry, you probably don’t know your industry, and you have to look in the mirror, ask yourself, do you really know your industry or is this something that you just want to make some money, and you want to make an exit and sell it off because you know it’s a fad, it’s it’s a snuggy, or is this something that you want to pass down to your kids? And I think that’s the first question to ask.
Brandon Cooper: [00:36:12] And then, for the people who don’t know how to forecast or what that looks like in the near future or long-term future is to get a mentor, someone who sees it and knows the business. And you have mentors from afar. You can go on YouTube and see people, Gary V that these people will talk about. You have resources that are free. You don’t have to go to a conference and pay $2000 to get this information. We have the internet.
Mike Blake: [00:36:38] For sure.
Brandon Cooper: [00:36:39] You can piece it together and save yourself a lot of money and learn this information. But the wrong thing to do is to act as if you are a master of your business and you’re not. You have to be learning at all times and always be a student. If you’re not a student at all times, then you’re egotistical. And then, when you’re egotistical, the door’s going to smack you right in the face when you least expect it. You start in yourself. So, that’s really, really important. That would be my advice to that person.
Mike Blake: [00:37:14] Brandon, this has been a very helpful conversation. And I love how vulnerable you’re willing to be. I love how raw you are here. If there’s a question we haven’t covered that one of our listeners would like to ask, can they contact you? And if so, what’s the best way to do that?
Brandon Cooper: [00:37:33] Certainly. The company’s website is aphid.io. That is A-P-H-I-D-dot-I-O. And our social media is @aphidfs. FS is for free society. That’s our slogan, our motto. A-P-H-I-D-F-S, that’s on Instagram and Twitter, and as well as Facebook. And then, me personally is @brandonc00per, the Os in Cooper are zeroes. And that’s on Instagram and Twitter. I’m also on Facebook as well. Yeah.
Mike Blake: [00:38:08] Okay. Well, thank you for that. That’s going to wrap it up for today’s program. I’d like to thank Brandon Cooper so much for joining us and sharing his expertise with us today. We’ll be exploring a new topic each week, so please tune in, so that when you’re faced with your next executive decision, you have clear vision when making it. If you enjoy this podcast, please consider leaving review with your favorite podcast aggregator. It helps people find us, so that we can help them. Once again, this is Mike Blake. Our sponsor is Brady Ware & Company. And this has been the Decision Vision Podcast.