Will McDonough

Create lists of opportunities and those in your network that are potential partners and supporters of those opportunities, to make sure you’re focusing your attention on the places with the highest probability of success.


Will McDonough is an investor and entrepreneur whose storied career ranges from sports and entertainment management to the world of global finance. In 2014, McDonough led the Initial Public Offering for Atlas Mara (ATMA:LSE) with co-founder and former Barclays CEO Bob Diamond, for a market cap of $825 million after acquiring eight banks in Sub-Saharan Africa. Today, Atlas Mara has more than 3,500 employees and is operated by former executives of the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), Barclays, Standard Chartered and Ecobank.

Prior to founding Atlas, McDonough and his team in the Investment Management Division of Goldman Sachs managed more than $17 billion in private capital of the firm’s current and retired partners. While at Goldman, he co-founded the Goldman Sachs Builders & Innovators Summit, an industry-leading conference bringing together the top 100 entrepreneurs in the world every year. Prior to Goldman, McDonough partnered with New York-based Avenue Capital Group to co-found a $250 million distressed debt fund called Avenue Strategic Partners. Since 2001, he has run his own highly successful management company called MMG, which has represented the licensing and partnerships interests of many high-profile individuals, iconic brands, and venerable estates including The Estate of Nelson Mandela, New England Patriots Quarterback and Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady, and supermodel/activist Gisele Bundchen. MMG also co-founded a children’s entertainment company with Andy Heyward, Warren Buffett, Martha Stewart, Stan Lee and Arnold Schwarzenegger to build educational content for children. McDonough’s management company continues to guide and drive financial services firms, including in 55 Institutional, an investment management and financial technology business delivering global portfolios of ETF’s built on proprietary tax harvesting technology, and MKKM a Commodities and Currencies SMA and Hedge Fund.

Where did the idea for iCash come from?

We were developing a decentralized application for our patented peer to peer smart contract origination and settlement platform, to allow for wagers on any live verifiable event, and realized a major hole in the business plan was the comfort in the validity of the settlements of smart contracts. In the face of that we developed our Proof of Trust protocol as way for participants in those smart contracts to contest and have audited and verified the accuracy of the inputs to the blockchain, prior to them being irreversibly entered.

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

I wake up with my 18 month old son, try to spend an hour with him before 8 am while clearing out emails from Asia overnight, have a good breakfast and get to the office by 830/900am. I usually have a pretty packed schedule of calls and meetings with different team members, investors and advisors from around the world, and try to get home before 6pm to spend some more time with my family, before my son goes to sleep at 7, and i can log back in and try and react to more tangible emails and content the business needs my attention on.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I am blessed to surround myself with people smarter than me, and love pulling groups into our meeting rooms with whiteboards to flush out ideas and develop plans. Very rarely do we leave with the exact same direction we started with, and are always trying to get better and learn from other projects and other companies trials and tribulations!

What’s one trend that excites you?


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

I treat my inbox as a to do list, and am constantly taking things off that list, either filing them for future reference, or answering those emails and clearing my plate. My best thinking can happen when my inbox is its lowest.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Keep kissing as many frogs as you can, every interaction will be something you’ll draw from in the future and all your hard work will be worth it, but be more present and enjoy all of the experiences you’re having real time, don’t worry about tomorrow, it will all be better than you could hope!

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

I’m good looking.

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

Create lists of opportunities and those in your network that are potential partners and supporters of those opportunities, to make sure you’re focusing your attention on the places with the highest probability of success.

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

Do the little things well. Take pride in everything you touch, because you never know who is going to judge you on what, and be authentic and honest always.

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

I have failed at many many many things, being an entrepreneur is like jumping out of a plane with all of the parts to a parachute, and trying to put it together before you hit the ground. You are going to fail a lot but you will also learn and get better every time.

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

Our entire business at iCash will be open sourced and free to any users. We will make zero revenue from it, we will drive all of the value into the value of the utility and thus value of the token that accesses the utility. The proof of trust protocol is free to the world and will empower many if not all dApp’s and blockchains to be better and more usable by Main street and Wall Street.

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

I met a homeless guy on a subway with a sign saying it was his birthday. I asked him what he was going to do to celebrate, and he said he was just happy to be alive, he was turning 36 and i am 38. It touched me. I then asked him what his favorite food was. He said steamed shrimp. I got off with him at 42nd street and brought him into Bubba Gump Shrimp and gave him $50, and he sat there and ate $35 worth of steamed shrimp. It was awesome.

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

A good password protector enabling very complex passwords and access to all of my data highly encrypted and safe.

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

The Third Door” by Alex Banayan – talks about how everyone that’s successful got there by using the door no one tells you about, not the front door, not the VIP door, the third door that you have to be scrappy to find and no one will tell you how to do so. Great interviews with the world’s most successful entrepreneurs about how they found that third door.

What is your favorite quote?

A smart person learns from their mistakes, a wise person learns from other people’s mistakes

Key Learnings:

  • When you’re talking to someone be fully focused on that person and genuine in your interactions with them, it only takes a little effort but is worth focusing your engagement and letting that person feel your sincerity. Looking over their shoulder or at the next person doesn’t save you time and definitely doesn’t help you engage with people no matter who they are.
  • Compartmentalize your time and your energy. When you’re doing something, do it 110% and then go on to the next task. Always be taking things off your plate and always be executing those tasks to the best of your ability.
  • Find as many efficiencies in your day as you can. I once read something that changed the way i approached life. It said, “figure out how much you time is worth/ make in an hour, and thus a minute, and any time you can pay someone else less than that to do that task, do it, it’s not ‘Worth Your Time’”. I haven’t done laundry since!
  • When building a team, make it very clear your expectations of team members and hold people specifically accountable to those expectations and deliverables. You can’t hold people accountable for responsibility you didn’t give, so give it and you will find better performance and clearer relationships.
  • Always be honest, whether it’s good bad or indifferent, I’ve never been hurt long term by just being honest and direct, and preserving trust for future opportunities


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