I don’t talk about it, I do it. I don’t hope for it, I manifest it. I find problems that I encounter, and I come up with solutions.
Ari S. Goldberg is the founder of RNMKR, an investment firm that applies proven business practices, multiplied by the scale of the internet. Additionally, he is the founder of Barber Surgeons Guild (BSG), an innovative luxury brand for personal grooming, maintenance, and essentials, as well as Globalist, a member’s only platform for the world’s best travelers. He oversees brand, audience development, digital media, customer acquisition, advertising, and business strategy for the RNMKR portfolio companies.
With more than a decade of experience in media, technology, marketing, strategy, consumer behavior, and business development, he is a serial entrepreneur: founder and former CEO of StyleCaster (acquired by SheKnows, 2014), co-founder of Sociocast (acquired by AOL, 2015), and a founding member of Qwiki (acquired by Yahoo!, 2014).
A highly sought-after industry expert, Goldberg has been featured in numerous media outlets including Entrepreneur, Fast Company, The New York Times, Huffington Post (7 Entrepreneurs Under 40), Business Insider, Inc.com, Forbes, VentureBeat, and Crain’s New York Business.
Prior to launching StyleCaster in 2007, Goldberg served as Vice President of Strategy and Business Development for LRMR, a marketing agency that was started by and handles the management of LeBron James. During this time, he worked closely with several world-renowned brands, including Nike, Coca-Cola, Microsoft, and Wrigley’s. Before LRMR, Goldberg worked for Steve Stoute as Director of Business Development at Translation, a marketing firm that combines pop culture and brand positioning to connect Fortune 500 companies with consumers.
Goldberg studied sports business and hospitality at New York University’s Masters Program, and holds an undergraduate degree in economics and political science from New York University. He is an avid entrepreneur, reader, skier, foodie, and yogi, and recently completed the New York City Marathon.
Where did the idea for RNMKR come from?
After we sold StyleCaster, I spent a few years traveling, working on myself and figuring out what I wanted to do next. I was working on a few different ventures and wanted to pursue all of them. I was confident I had built an algorithm that could accelerate and exponentially grow almost any business, and the only way I could think to package it was to start a VC fund that invested primarily in the companies I started. However, I never wanted to be a VC or have a VC fund. During a meeting with colleagues, one of them said to me, “All of these companies you are working on are great, but the real opportunity is the algorithm you have built out. This can be Amazon for business.” And, with that, I started RNMKR, and have been on the attack ever since (and forever grateful for the advice from that individual).
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
The key word is “productive”; I focus on ways I can be most efficient. That might sound trite, but I’m not just saying it — I’m actually doing it. We live in a world where it’s a badge of honor to “work hard,” and be “so busy,” but few people are actually getting anything done. Just because you are sitting in an office, it doesn’t mean you are being productive — and being on Facebook isn’t working.
I wake up and usually do an hour of email. I like the rule set by Tim Ferriss [author of The 4-Hour Workweek] of only checking email a few times a day. It’s easy to sit there, wait for emails to come in, and then answer them. Instead, if you designate a few times a day when you check email, you will find underutilized time to do real work or take meetings — or, ideally, be done with work and enjoy life. Since I started training for marathon a year ago, I like to workout in the mornings. The key to life is to live “off-hours”; workout when people are at work, vacation when people are at the office, shop when it’s off-season, etc. Then, I try to schedule my calls and meetings in the early afternoon so I can do emails after the workout, and then once more, after the calls and meetings. I try to finish by 6pm and answer emails on my iPhone if I need to; sometimes I work until 8pm, but I have become more disciplined about trying to unplug at a certain point. Like my best friend and business partner Albert always says, “Don’t worry, the problems will still be there in the morning.”
Another big improvement in my new life versus my old, crazy NYC life? I don’t go into an office. I work from wherever I am that has Wifi, usually from whatever hotel I’m in that week. I don’t have to get dressed, commute, greet everyone, get my water, pat people on the back, and ask about their day. I save at least 90 minutes in the morning because I don’t need to do that anymore, and probably another two hours during the day by not having my team in the same office. When I work, I work. When I play, I play. When I think, I think. You must be disciplined, or people will eat up your valuable time with what they want you to do.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I don’t talk about it, I do it. I don’t hope for it, I manifest it. I find problems that I encounter, and I come up with solutions. If the problem is big enough, if it frustrates me enough, if it’s in an industry I like and believe in, and there are enough people like me out there with this same problem, it could become a big business.
A few years ago, my Jewish mother was worried that my hair was thinning. I certainly didn’t want to lose my hair, and then I grew worried that the products I was using could actually be causing me to lose my hair — or worse, be killing me. So, I studied the industry, found an amazing partner, and launched Barber Surgeons Guild (BSG).
I was traveling the world and having an amazing time, except I wanted to document and share my journey. The biggest issue, though, is that Instagram isn’t a travel app. So, I built a platform to do it, and Globalist was born.
I thought that BSG and Globalist were going to be big hits, and I knew that wealthy people invested in real estate. I, too, wanted to invest in real estate, but it was hard to find deals from trustworthy people. So, we created RLBLC.
These three companies became the focus of our portfolio at RNMKR.
Find problems, and solve them. If the problem is big enough, and there are enough people with that same problem, it could be a huge company. But, don’t hope for it; work for it, keep your mouth shut, and do whatever it takes to get it done.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Health and wellness. Not just physically, but also the mental side of it. A big part of being a digital nomad is wanting to focus on your happiness — your mental state — not just travel the world. These concepts inspire every company in our RNMKR portfolio.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Focus. I love the Steve Jobs quote, “focus is saying no.” I don’t take meetings just so people will think I’m busy. I don’t have a fancy office anymore, just so people will think I look important. I don’t take calls or follow up with people who are just kicking tires. I focus, keeping my eyes on the prize. In business, if it doesn’t make money, it probably doesn’t make sense.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Meditate every day. And, along with that, workout hard every day. It could be for 30 minutes, an hour, or even two hours. Just workout hard enough that you have beaten your ego out of you for the day; then you can stop until tomorrow (and always take one day off a week).
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Question: Where do you live? Answer: Earth. Where do you live? Everyone, especially if you are in Silicon Valley, says they are a contrarian these days. Ironically, they do the same things as everyone else, so I have no idea what is contrarian about them. Everyone says you need to live somewhere. As long as you are living, you are somewhere. As soon as I got out of NYC, started to travel, and focus on being happy — along with being productive — my whole world changed. Now, I travel almost every week, I shuttle between New York, LA, Miami, San Francisco, and all around the world. I cover more ground than anyone I know, I have a bigger network and stronger relationships because of it, and I am exposed to exponentially more ideas and ways of thinking. Oh, and I’m happier, too.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Schedule your own meetings. Having an assistant might make you feel important, but it is a colossal waste of time. I am all for having an assistant and having a great team, but make sure the things you have them do are relevant. Years ago, I read an article in Harvard Business Review about William P. Lauder [of Estée Lauder Companies] who, right before his final year at Wharton, worked for Donald Regan, then the U.S. secretary of the treasury under President Reagan. The guy said to him, “if you’re not in control of your calendar, you’re not in control.” I love that quote; I want to be in total control of my life. Time is my most valuable asset. I know what I want and when I want it. Why would I give that control to someone else? Additionally, the amount of time between trading emails, asking if the time is convenient, and then changing the time. Your ego shouldn’t be that big; schedule your own meetings.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Focusing on making billions, not millions. That might sound grandiose, but it is far more strategic than you’d think. Starting businesses that make billions is fundamentally different than starting a company that makes millions. If you want to start a million-dollar company, you can just do X, Y, and Z, do it really well, and you should be OK. But, to make billions? That requires an entirely different set of infrastructure, scale, and team. Scale requires efficiency and productivity at a whole other level. You can grind and fight and claw to millions, but to create billions, you need to have a well-oiled machine that is firing on all cylinders. A good idea and a hard-working team are not enough; you need a system that can be rapidly applied thousands of times over again, and refined throughout the process.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I started and sold a company. To everyone watching, it was a huge success, but to me, because I didn’t make $100 million and get a hedcut in The Wall Street Journal, it was a failure. I had to travel the world, come back to life, and realize that the journey is the reward. I had to learn to focus on creating, being an artist, being happy, and doing what I love, instead of just chasing money.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
A yoga-mat cleaning station. Someone needs to invest some cool little machine where yoga studios can just run the mat through it after a class, and it power-washes and disinfects it. Like, a mini car-wash for a yoga mat.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Airpods. They’re the best Apple product in recent memory.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
Slack. Our entire company works within Slack, and now I have a rule that there are no internal company emails. Everything goes through Slack, and there is no more delay with email.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
“Ego Is The Enemy”by Ryan Holiday
What is your favorite quote?
“Trust your gut.” – Dan Gilbert, founder of Quicken Loans and owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, who is also one of my investors and mentors.
– Trust your gut. Ignore the noise, and keep your eyes on the prize. You know what you need to do it, so do it.
– Take control of your own destiny. Don’t let other people dictate your future.
– Focus. Being busy and being productive are two different things. Discipline yourself and get the work done.
– Meditate every day, and workout hard. Challenge yourself to be the best in all areas of your existence.
– Eliminate your commute, and cut out the small talk. When you’re working, work.
– Read: “Ego Is The Enemy” by Ryan Holiday
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