To achieve things you have to execute; execution teaches you how to get the job done, and getting the job done equals success.
Milind Mehere is a passionate serial entrepreneur currently at the helm of YieldStreet as founder and CEO. YieldStreet uses technology, data, and investment management to empower financial independence for all. Launched on the belief that consumers deserve better investment options and access to income generating products, YieldStreet’s technology platform creates an awesome investor experience to participate in opportunities previously reserved for the top 0.2 percent, hedge funds, and large institutions.
Milind has been fortunate to work for industry-defining companies, and he has successfully built and scaled three businesses. His previous company, Yodle, was acquired by Web.com for $342 million in 2016.
Where did the idea for YieldStreet come from?
YieldStreet strives to democratize investing. When I was looking for investments that offered real collateral and attractive yields outside the stock market, it was virtually impossible for accredited investors (like me) to access such opportunities. These types of investments typically demand high minimums and extended holding periods, effectively shutting out most investors, who are then forced to leave their funds in lower-yield CDs or savings accounts or, ultimately, spend it. I had an epiphany that my family and friends faced similar issues. I passionately set about finding a solution that would make solid investments more inclusive and allow everyday investors to access them, as opposed to those opportunities I’d encountered, which were reserved for multimillionaires, hedge funds, or institutional investors.
My co-founders, Michael Weisz and Dennis Shields, had a proven track record in specialty finance and asset-based lending. However, they were always constrained by capital requirements and an inability to support smaller retail investors due to the complexity of managing the entire life cycle of investments manually, with no way to scale. Determined to solve this problem, Michael, Dennis, and I were convinced that using technology and data we could connect accredited investors with solid investment opportunities, and deserving borrowers can access affordable capital through an easy to use online marketplace.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
Starting around 6 a.m., I quickly catch up on emails and then do 20 minutes of exercise (4 times a week), followed by 5 to 7 minutes of meditation (3 times a week). After a brief glance at the news and social media, I reconfirm my calendar and plan my day. I usually hold my business, networking, investor, and recruiting meetings at breakfast, lunch, or in the evenings. If I don’t have breakfast, I spend the first two hours of my morning on critical projects where I have to think and write — preparing a model or a presentation, for example. For increasing productivity, I experiment. For example, currently, I am trying to check emails at four specific intervals: morning, at lunch, around 4 p.m., and, obviously, in the evening as I am traveling back home or after dinner.
I am very organized and process-oriented, but to stay productive I also constantly focus on improving and trying out new tools. Two of my favorites are Trello and Diary, which I use to set up daily, weekly, and monthly priorities. Daily priorities, in particular, are critical to ensuring I have a winning day. I also have monthly goals for each team by department (coming out of quarterly plans), and any new project needs to be weighed against these.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Being an idea man at heart, I keep a master list of ideas that I am fascinated by and track them. I bring them to life by starting and investing in companies, joining advisory boards of companies, mentoring founders, and spreading the message through speaking engagements and discussions. Bringing ideas to life is extremely hard, but the most rewarding. Ideas also take their own shape as you put them in motion, but it takes a terrific team who can help you build the idea into something beautiful.
I like ideas that promise to have large-scale impact and create or tackle massive markets. Hence, my career has been devoted to working on big innovative solutions to problems, as illustrated by the fact that I have always worked for or founded industry-defining companies that commercialized new industries or markets that were previously non-existent:
i2Technologies, which coined the word “supply chain” in the mid 1990s;
OATSystems, which pioneered radio-frequency identification (RFID) for tracking;
Yodle, which defined “local search” and marketing automation for SMBs and created 1,500 jobs and hired probably 10,000 people between 2005 and 2015;
And, finally, YieldStreet, where we are changing wealth management and financial planning by bringing Wall Street to Main Street.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
Singularity and artificial intelligence — the concept of robots taking over human activities and doing them better. I’m especially intrigued by Boston Dynamics’ efforts in this area that was, until recently, part of Google. Work done at IBM Watson project and all the big companies like Google, Amazon, and Apple are making tremendous investments that will impact our daily lives. From simple applications like Siri and Alexa to self-driving cars to full scale human robots to do tasks are not so far in the distant future. Impact on medicine and life sciences will be massive.
But how can I be excited by only one trend? I’m also excited about extending human life (I believe that a person who will live to be 150 years old has already been born), as well as the shared economy (Uber and Airbnb), for example, and their impact on making lives better — in fact, I gave up my car about two years ago for the first time in my life because I can now use services like Uber and Lyft, and I feel more green by reducing my own carbon footprint. Space exploration is also a fascination of mine, and I hope to take a flight to beyond (and come back to earth) in my lifetime.
And, finally, disruption due to transparency and data. For example, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and other such networks, combined with big data, which is helping so many industries make sense of all sorts of data trails of humans and systems, have made us a lot more transparent. Creating YieldStreet would not have been possible without a general trust surrounding online financial transactions and data, as well as the transparency to create that trust and execute everything seamlessly.
What was the worst job you ever had, and what did you learn from it?
I never had a “worst” job — I’ve only worked at four awesome companies, including YieldStreet. I founded two of the companies I worked at, and I’ve loved all of them, even though they each presented their challenging moments. However, I also had a graduate assistantship during grad school, where I served as an IT help desk expert without much networking or IT knowledge. It was difficult because I had to learn everything on the job. I learned that it’s extremely important to be a domain expert and to never take a job that you don’t love, as you won’t succeed at it.
As a CEO and founder, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I am passionate and always believe in what I do. Passion makes you hungry, and hunger makes you want to achieve things. To achieve things you have to execute; execution teaches you how to get the job done, and getting the job done equals success.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Very early on at Yodle, we decided to build a direct sales force, as we wanted to control the customer experience and relationship. For 10 years, we stuck with it through lots of ups and downs, despite the fact that it was very expensive. Although our peers, sometimes our board, and our industry second-guessed our decision, we managed to build one of the best telesales team in the country and scaled Yodle to $200 million in revenue.
YieldStreet is built upon the foundation of bringing Wall Street to Main Street by providing average accredited investors access to investments they never had before. Getting people to invest their hard-earned money on a brand new website is not just incredibly hard, it sometimes felt impossible. To overcome the challenge, we did guerilla marketing and got our network of friends and family to invest during our first year. We had to build an awesome user experience that was not only pleasure to use, but that was also communicated trust and transparency in order to succeed. For the last few months, we are now using performance marketing (both digital and traditional) to drive growth. We are now on our way to disrupting wealth management, with everyday people investing hundreds of thousands of dollars on the platform.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Office-In-A-Box for small businesses: SMBs need various solutions, such as marketing, HR services, accounting, office supplies, internet/connectivity/phone solutions, temp-worker management, backend order management, or specific CRM and sales tools. Having to take care of hundreds of vendors or processes makes it hard to do their job. Office-In-A-Box can provide them with everything they need with one mission-control dashboard, including order management, vendor management, and business management. The idea is to have everything you need to run your business at your fingertips. It’s a very complex problem to solve for a very large market and never been done before.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What, and why?
On a personal level, I bought NFL Sunday Ticket ), which lets me watch all NFL games in the league, especially New England Patriots games living in New York City. I thought it was a great buy, as I split the cost with my 11-year-old son.
What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?
Gmail is an email staple.
Trello helps me organize myself.
Slack allows for extraordinary collaboration.
Office — Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Keynote help me get the job done.
InVision is great for product design and collaboration, as I love visual creativity.
SurveyMonkey makes it easy to gather user/customer feedback.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read, and why?
“The Richest Man in Babylon” is a book by George Samuel Clason that gives financial advice through a collection of parables set in ancient Babylon. It is simple, yet so powerful because, if you follow the four key steps outlined in that book starting in your 20s or 30s, you are guaranteed to retire a millionaire:
Save 10 percent of your income. (Save for the future now.)
Invest that 10 percent to earn interest. (Make money while you sleep.)
Invest that interest. (Compounding theory)
Invest with professionals. (Never buy a diamond from a real estate broker, and vice versa. Go to subject-matter experts who have the experience to be the best in their trade so that you have the best chance to protect your principal.)
What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?
Guy Roz — Host and editorial director of the “TED Radio Hour”
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Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.