Get started now – Don’t wait for an idea to be perfect. Ideas are plentiful, but executing takes ownership and learning to iterate along the way.
Neal Bloom is Founder, Fresh Brewed Tech; Chairman, Startup San Diego; and Managing Partner, Rising Tide Partners.
Through his grassroots effort in multiple organizations, Neal Bloom has helped build an entrepreneur-focused community that helps entrepreneurs and companies grow and succeed in San Diego. Bloom co-founded local nonprofit Startup San Diego and has helped grow San Diego Startup Week, which over the last seven years, has helped inspire thousands of local San Diegans in building confidence in taking the leap to become an entrepreneur. He is an investor and serves as a mentor to countless young entrepreneurs and is actively engaged in growing and promoting San Diego’s thriving tech ecosystem. Bloom is dedicated to the success of the region and because of his tireless tech evangelism, some people have even given him the nickname, “Mr. San Diego.”
Bloom also co-founded San Diego software company Portfolium (acquired in 2019) to help new college grads promote themselves; launched Hired.com to attract tech talent to the San Diego region; and also created a venture capital podcast (Tacos & Tech), and a newsletter and tech blog (Fresh Brewed Tech) to continue to bring venture capital and businesses to San Diego, elevating the community as a top 10 tech and startup hub.
From his success in helping to build the San Diego tech ecosystem, Bloom has also been helping other startup communities around the world adopt aspects of the ecosystem ‘playbook’ – the elements of how to grow a startup community via capital, talent, mentorship, etc.
Fun fact: Previously an aerospace engineer, Bloom helped launch over 80 astronauts during the Space Shuttle program.
Where did the idea for Fresh Brewed Tech come from?
Through my volunteer work at Startup San Diego (as co-founder and chairman), I have been helping connect entrepreneurs to resources in San Diego for a few years, alongside building my own companies and angel investing in others. One thing I’ve noticed in San Diego is there’s a strong population of engineering-backed entrepreneurs who build amazing technology, but these skill sets don’t typically lend themselves to marketing companies – both their product and the company culture – to the broader community. I felt that there was a lack of awareness for what was available to founders and to the general public, from one company to the next, and the ecosystem as a whole.
You are used to only hearing about a company when they raise some investment money or sell/go public. But companies are constantly hiring, branding, creating new products/technology, and differentiating themselves year round, on top of growing and creating jobs. We wanted to showcase the everyday life of San Diego’stech ecosystem, as well as historically, where did our tech community come from? Did these serial entrepreneurs move from elsewhere? Did they start previous companies? We have begun to map San Diego’s successful and unique tech ecosystem through our Tech Mafia series. This is what Fresh Brewed Tech started as – a platform to tell the stories of our tech community and amplify them to a larger audience. In just a year-and-a-half, it has grown into a media company that tells stories via many mediums such as email newsletters, blogs, audio/podcast, video, and events. We have been so successful at storytelling and elevating San Diego’s tech community that we have expanded our brand to multiple cities/communities beyond San Diego, including Orange County. We are also now creating original content and marketing campaigns as a separate public outreach agency for cities and municipalities called Rising Tide Partners.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
A typical day for me is filled with meetings with entrepreneurs and investors to get them connected to the local ecosystem. A lot of time it’s someone who recently moved to town. We have created a bit of an onboarding list of online communities like Slack and Facebook groups, to join, and the upcoming events worth attending to get plugged in. That helps people jump start their network, which saves me a few coffee meetings. The information on how to get connected and grow the community can be stuck in my head, so I blog about how the community can help too. My passion is being an ecosystem builder, so I spend most of my days (and many late nights) spreading the gospel, so to speak, about the ecosystem ‘playbook ‘- the elements of how to grow a startup community via capital, talent, mentorship, etc
How do you bring ideas to life?
Any idea for me needs to be immediately validated, so I quickly get feedback from my peers. I then scope out the quickest way to get data about it from a potential audience. Can we A/B test in an email newsletter and determine by clicks? From the beginning, I am taking notes and video screenshots on how the idea is progressing to turn into an eventual process document so that the parts that work can immediately be copied by another team member.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Working remotely with a digitally remote team – working from anywhere in the world on your own time and allowing team members to do the same. This makes our team more efficient because they can work when they are the most productive and are generally happier team members.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Do a task once, document/record yourself doing it, delegate it to a team member, and never do the task again personally.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t wait to start. There is no ideal time and no idea needs to be perfect. It is about starting, owning the idea, learning how to execute it into something real, and iterating along the way.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Building rapport or trust is an ongoing exercise. The first time you meet someone, they have nothing to judge you on except what you tell them in that meeting, but the second time, you better show progress in any aspect of what you want to be judged on. This is the idea of turning dots into lines. It also applies to showing traction to an investor. An example can be meeting someone and telling them you are going to close a partnership or client. The next meeting with the same person, prove you can execute by showing you did just that and be judged on your accomplishments.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Whenever we try something new as a team, we always document it so that we can build a playbook. Once we know how to create a new piece of content or a new deliverable, we now can quickly market that to clients as a capability because we know how to repeatedly complete the task efficiently. We have also learned what doesn’t work and so we gather input from the team and quickly shift anything that needs to be corrected.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
As an entrepreneur, learning to keep moving forward from daily failures is a way of life. You have to learn to be relentless, but also stay aware of what may have not worked out to constantly improve and iterate. Some call entrepreneurship ‘failing forward.’
In my first startup, I had a falling out with my co-founder. It made me value the decision-making process around talent and hiring. You have a choice to work with people who inspire and energize you. Your business also depends on you bringing the best talent to the table you possibly can. It took a failed partnership to realize that.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I don’t have any fresh ideas to give away because I’m currently executing all of them.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Professional – Buying a pro account of Buffer to allow my team to pre-build social media content and schedule it out for ourselves and clients weeks in advance.
Personal – Dinner with my wife for making time to unplug and appreciate each other.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Slack, for our team to be able to communicate from anywhere with others as well as communicate with 2,000+ community members while minimizing email use.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Startup Communities by Brad Feld. I read it every year to be reinvigorated that a strong tech ecosystem needs to have proactive entrepreneurs stepping forward and leading. Bonus: Blitzscaling by Reid Hoffman, for understanding the dynamics that change within company culture as a company grows.
What is your favorite quote?
“You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.” – Jeremiah Chambers
● Get started now – Don’t wait for an idea to be perfect. Ideas are plentiful, but executing takes ownership and learning to iterate along the way.
● Document your work the first time through – Build a playbook for others to learn how to do tasks to help the company scale.
● An entrepreneur’s job is to assemble the best team, give them the tools they need to execute, and get out of the way. Hiring the best talent should never be underrated in a business.