Brian Platz

Your employees are your business. The more trust you give them, the more they will act trustworthy.


Brian Platz is the co-founder and co-CEO of Fluree, PBC, a North Carolina-based Public Benefit Corporation focused on transforming data security, ownership and access with a scalable blockchain database. Platz was an entrepreneur and executive throughout the early internet days and SaaS boom, having founded the popular A List Apart web development community, along with a host of successful SaaS companies. Previous to establishing Fluree, Brian co-founded SilkRoad Technology which grew to over 2,000 customers and 500 employees across 12 global offices.

Where did the idea for Fluree come from?

In 25 years of building enterprise software including co-founding SilkRoad technology which grew to over 2,000 customers and 500 employees in 12 global offices, I found myself continuously dealing with challenges integrating applications and building new apps. I knew there had to be a better way to leverage advancements in technology to do better and that’s where the idea of Fluree came from.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

I like to start my day off early at home around 6 a.m. I’m usually the first one working, but the last one into the office. With my time at home, I can catch up on any lingering to-dos without interruption. It’s also when I do my best research into new ideas that may impact Fluree.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I believe that ideas that lack a personal stake wither. At Fluree, I’ll bring seeds of ideas, not fully formed, to the table and let others help turn them into full-fledged, actionable and implementable ideas.

As a team, we avoid more formal meetings and have an open office. This creates an intentional environment that is conducive to sharing. By creating an environment where individuals feel free to discuss ideas, the team can give and receive real feedback, garnering stock and ownership in ideas that ultimately move the company forward.

What’s one trend that excites you?

I’m incredibly excited about concepts around the semantic web with interconnected data atop blockchain for trust and reputability. There’s so much information that is siloed. Joining information from sources can allow data to become more useful, driving better decisions and accomplishments.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I only start initiatives that I know have the capability to do well and I approach them with a plan and commitment to sustain over an extended period of time. The challenge I see with many entrepreneurs is that they like to start things, but struggle to finish them. When I take something on, I think about what it is going to look like in a year and what resources it requires to move in a positive direction.

If I don’t have the talent in mind, or if the resources are unavailable, then it is not the right time to pursue the initiative.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Most of my regrets involve passing on opportunities because I was unsure or scared. If something feels like it is taking a big chance and makes you nervous, that should be an indication that you should jump in and do it. It might be a disaster, but I think that’s better than wondering about it later in life.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

Sometimes the people that seem like they have the least to offer you or your business end up helping you out the most. I think busy or pretentious people have a tendency to discount others to quickly. Try to give everyone respect. It pays back in the most unexpected ways.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

In the technology sector, your employees are your business. The more trust you give them, the more they will act trustworthy. I see lots of companies trying to address one-off issues with policy. This is telling the 99% of adults you employ that you don’t trust them to deal with the 1% creating the problem. Swiftly address the 1%, and keep your policies and bureaucracy to a minimum.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

I try to hire people, not roles. I’ll adjust other jobs depending on the talents of the people we bring in. I don’t try to conform any individual to the role. This means I’ll take chances on people that are not a perfect fit for a job description because I’m always thinking about team dynamics.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

I’ve had multiple business ideas that I’ve started but haven’t worked out. For example: connecting local communities in an app which someone else did better: Nextdoor. When you invest a lot of time and energy into an idea, it becomes hard to recognize that it’s not going anywhere. But it’s a learning process and I believe that every venture helps me make a better business next time around.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

I’m interested in solutions related to identity management incorporating blockchain. For instance, there’s potential to solve a million issues like voter fraud and helping people get access to financial items (like loans and mortgages) when they need them. There’s massive opportunity in the space right now and some companies are trying but it hasn’t been figured out yet.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

A spa appointment for my wife. Happy wife, happy life.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

We really like Trello. Its simplicity seems limiting, but often ends up keeping things from getting more complicated than they need to be.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

I’m currently reading JD Vance’s “Hillbilly Elegy” (he’s also an investor in Fluree). It is helping to open my eyes that re-educating people with displaced jobs and giving them new jobs in our hardest hit communities doesn’t address the underlying issues that will be needed to create sustainable change. It is also helping me better understand why other issues are so difficult to solve — i.e. just giving homeless people homes sounds obvious, but the solutions are not nearly that simple.

What is your favorite quote?

“I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have.”

— Thomas Jefferson

Key Learnings:

  • Your employees are your business. The more trust you give them, the more they will act trustworthy.
  • Hire people, not roles
  • Ideas that lack a personal stake wither.
  • Try to give everyone respect. It pays back in the most unexpected ways.