Why You'll Get the Biggest Rewards When You Don't Focus on the Reward (Featuring Host Elias Torres)

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This is a podcast episode titled, Why You'll Get the Biggest Rewards When You Don't Focus on the Reward (Featuring Host Elias Torres). The summary for this episode is: <p>"Don't overcomplicate decisions because nothing is final."</p><p><br></p><p>This week's American Dream episode highlights the lessons Elias has learned from being a student at the University of South Florida to CEO and co-founder of a billion-dollar valued company today. </p><p><br></p><p>We're throwing it back to a discussion Elias had with the Harvard Business School Class of 2020. In the virtual discussion, Elias shares the lessons he's learned from navigating multiple economic crises, how to pick the right co-founder, and the importance of always being curious.</p><p><br></p><p>Be sure to hit the subscribe button to get new episodes when they drop every other Tuesday.</p><p><br></p><p>In the meantime, be sure to leave a ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ review and share the pod with your friends. You can connect with Elias on Twitter at @eliast and @DriftPodcasts.</p>

Elias Torres: foreign language. I'm Elias Torres is co- founder and CTO of Drift. You are listening to the American Dream podcast. Did you know that Drift is part of just 2% of PC back startups led by Latin American founders? Well, I'm on a mission to change that. On this show, you will hear from leaders who have achieved their own version of the American dream. We'll talk about what the process looked like to get there, the obstacles they faced along the way and the work we still have to do to build the new face of a diverse corporate America.

Speaker 2: The first thing we want to learn a little bit about is your career path and your guiding principles throughout your career. So first question there is, how did you think about deciding what companies to work for earlier in your career? And in particular, how did launching your career at IBM influence your journey entrepreneur?

Elias Torres: Look, when anybody's being interview and stuff like that, they're all just speaking in hindsight, right? It's like who knows what...? When you're at your age, what guiding principles do we know? That's just nonsense. I like to try to be real. It's not claim that I knew what I was doing. But I'll tell you some things that I was not naturally drawn to. One of them is that I took risk. My naivete being an immigrant and not knowing what was available to ask and to offer didn't equip me to be so confused trying to make a decision. I wasn't conflicted. I did not know McKinsey existed, I did not know Harvard existed, I did not know MIT existed when I arrived in this country in 1993. You know what I mean? I didn't have this pressure. I remember my peers at high school in Tampa, they were like," Oh, we're going up north to Dartmouth or Princeton." And was like," I'm going to USF. I need to live with my mother, because we need to help pay for the house together." The condo that we bought, and I need a degree. I just knew I needed a degree. I never had this extra information, so maybe the guiding principle is that don't over complicate decisions. Right? Because nothing is final, and it's about learning. I've learned. I'm a learner. I learned fast on all the opportunities that I have had. Second, I was a risk taker, right? I left IBM after 10 years in search of this startup world. I'll give you an example. One of my friends, he was an engineer with me and I was his manager, and he graduated from Stanford, engineer at CS. And then in 2002 or 2003, he tells me," I'm going to go work for this company called Google." And I didn't know anything. I worked for IBM so I thought I was like," I'm working in the best company in the world." And this guy's going to work for Google. And I didn't know anything about the Valley, I didn't know about startups. I had not read a book. I didn't know any information. And he goes, takes a job there and go works for that company. When people were jumping into startups, they're so obsessed for finding the rocket ship, the trillion dollar company or the promotion or the stock or becoming a millionaire. And when I went too into the startup world, again, I was just naive. I went and I started working part- time. I was in Boston, and I said," I want to be in a startup, and..." I just wanted to be in a startup, and the only thing that I needed was I have three kids. I was like," Can you please have money for a year?" Like,"Can you not shut down in three months?" That was my perspective. I was not optimizing for amount of shares. Salary is what I needed to live. And so don't over complicate things for this perfect... Trying to be better at guessing than BCs or than other entrepreneurs that have more experience, which is the right company, which is the best company. And so what I did is I worked for David. And the main thing that you want to do is that it's not about titles necessarily, but you want to learn and you want to grow. You want to show that you've been giving more opportunities, that you've learned and that you've entrusted with more responsibilities in every place that you go. And another thing is that do try to have as long stints as you can in companies. Because if you're a like one year everywhere, it's not good. I'm looking at people... And it's going to hurt you. People don't think that's going to hurt you, but I'm interviewing for CRO position and I'm interviewing top candidates in the world. And I have some candidates that are like, they went to this company for one year. They went to this company and they sold. They were a CEO of this... You can see this crazy pattern in their resume that you're like," Hmm." And now what I have is I've been getting coached on what is the perfect executive to hire for different stages. And when I look at my resume, I can see a progression that makes sense. And it's like I work for 10 years at a company. So that shows people that I have stability, that I'm not ego driven, that I'm okay. Then I went and took a risk, then I ran a small company, then I ran a bigger company that had an outcome, then I... So you want to show a path that has consistent two, three years everywhere, and that you're getting better. You're making good decisions, you're not going to worse companies. But you don't have to have the perfect one from the get go, from the first day.

Speaker 2: When did you know it was the right time to transition between companies? Why was 10 years the right mark in IBM? And when was the right time to transition amongst all the other companies you were at?

Elias Torres: I'm going to tell you what happened. I have different eras in IBM. I was working for a really amazing team. I worked for the team that put IBM on the internet; put ibm.com, did the largest traffic websites in the world. We brought instant messaging. In my first job at IBM, I was building bots in 1999, on instant messaging. It's like IRC bots and instant messaging. This was the same company that built AIM. It's just interesting you know. So it was a great time, and I had eras at IBM, where I was doing early, learning how to be an engineer. Then I went to Harvard for a master's in computer science. So I got the chance the company paid for my education. Then I had the chance where I started representing IBM in a worldwide web standards, W3C, and I was working with inaudible semantic web at the MIT CISA lab. And so I was growing, and it's when after those things happened and I stopped growing and learning, then I realized I needed to go somewhere else. Like I outgrew IBM. And there was not enough ability for me to... The more I learned how to execute and to be a learn... I learned to be a visionary by working with visionaries. I learned how to ship product; I learned to work open source; and I learned to work at a larger scale by learning how people designed HDML, HTTP, and saying," That's how you think when you build something." I was learning about a lot of things; product development, open source, legal patents, usage, adoption, that are all serving me well now, that people didn't realize were useful. So when I stopped learning, I said," It's time." And my personality is I want to make an impact, I want to make decisions, I want to take risk. It really wasn't about the rewards. It's like I just wanted to be happy and I took a chance.

Speaker 2: And that's a good segue to talking a little bit about your transition to entrepreneurship. Can you tell us a little bit about the transition beyond the first stage and also go a little bit deeper on what you just talked about, what other aspects of your culture and background that you think help or strengths that you were able to leverage?

Elias Torres: Something that is fresh with COVID right now is that if you look at... I grew up in Nicaragua, and I grew up on the communist Nicaragua. I had a car that said there was five residents in my household; my mother, my stepdad, and my two brothers. And so I would grab that car and I would go down the street and they would say," You get a pound of rice, you get a pound of beans, you get a bot, you get this plasticky litter of milk and maybe half a pound of sugar. And I would grab that in a basket, that is a wicker basket that was dreaded. I remember that. I remember the handles that I broke. I have a photographic memory. So I brought that and I would bring that food to house. And the people would be like," Why are you doing this? Your parents are not doing..." My mother is working, right? And so they send me. And didn't have a maid or someone, right? Because we lower middle class. She's a professional though. She's a doctor. I get that. And now COVID, working from home and everybody's panicking and everybody's struggling. And I want to separate. There are people that have no jobs, can't pay their bills, they might lose their homes. That is stressful, but there are people that have a job or they can pay for their staff, and they're complaining because they can't go hang up. They can go pot. And so try not to be too judgmental or people at work. I didn't have stuff to eat. We can go to whole foods and buy food. And so it's like this kinds of times, companies are breaking, falling apart because they do not know how to react, and they do not know. That immigrant, that coming from the bottom, that scrappiness, that anti- entitlement view of the world is very important. And we are now having a tough time, and this is... This is where great companies are built. This is where great people entrepreneurs are built. And so all that upbringing that I've had allows me to see things from a different perspective than another founder that had never experienced that, or had had only good times before. And so in the same way, I basically came here and I used to clean offices. I used to clean a dentist office, pick up the trash, rack in the rugs, and then... So to me, everything is icing. To just not having a home in my country, and then here have a home, and then... First have an apartment that we could pay for. We lived in a borrowed home for 15 years in Nicaragua. To have an apartment that we paid for, to have a condo, to have a house, everything is icing. So I don't complain about anything that I have. Everything is incredible. And so that gives me this mentality that there's plan B for me, there is no alternative that I'm considering," Is my house bigger than this other house?"" Is this person that has a house..." And then talking and I don't... I don't care, I'm here to build great company, and is that my goal? Not exactly what I have or what credential I still haven't put on my resume.

Speaker 2: Cool. Driving specifically now, we segue to crisis and managing in times of crisis. What do you think have been some of the most successful things you've done in these last couple of weeks at Drift? And what do you think is setting Drift up for success?

Elias Torres: I think that one of the things that David did early on... So we're a big fan of horror with... And you know the book... What is it? What is it called?

Speaker 2: Hard Things About Hard Things, or something like that?

Elias Torres: Hard Things About Hard Things? Yeah. And so when it talks about peacetime, wartime CEO. And so that's another thing, right? Are you a peacetime CEO in general? What's your personality? Are you a wartime CEO? And so David and I, we joke because it felt at Drift that we were in peacetime CEO at times last year, because we had grown... We were wartime before that. I would talk to the team and the company at scale, and I would say," If you read the book, Bill from scratch, which is about Home Depot, for example, and Lowe's. There's parts where they're talking about the competition between Home Depot and Lowe's, and it's like, they would have company meetings in the parking lot of Lowe's. You got to read the book. It's amazing. Arthur Blank and... I think I forget the name of the other guy. It's Bernie or something. They say," The competition is here to take away your children's education." You got to think about it. This is war. This is not friendly. This is not competition. They want nothing but your business to die. And it's the future. All of our employees is at stake. And so when I'd spoken in front of the company in the early days of Drift, I'll be like competition. They want to take our children. And so there's posters around the office where people make fun of me, and it is that they're coming after your children. But it's that serious. And then last year, we were a little bit too peacetime, right? And David and I talked about it, and we were like," That's not us." I'm not a peacetime person. I'm a wartime. The first thing was really, really change the mentality and tell everybody," This is wartime. And we have to think in that way. We have to focus. We have to understand the sacrifices coming and there we'll be casualties. This is not a time of let's all... That you mask it. And then you're being hypocrite of saying like,"No, no, no, we love everybody, but nothing's going to happen and then things have to happen. So from day one, we set the tone and said," Hold fast." These are our principles, but anything can happen. We do not know. Nobody knows. This is something unprecedented, never seen before in the history of the world. And so nobody can promise anything of what's going to happen. So the first one is mentally switching gears, and then start making decisions fast, which is another principle at Drift, which is seek feedback, not consensus. And also be biased for action. Immediately we review our hiring and didn't freeze it but prioritize who we needed. And so we are hiring people, but we're not going to make cash extension decisions. Like, what is our runway? We extended our runway under certain models to seven or eight quarters, which is what people were advised," Try to go for 24 months of ability to survive." And the other one is that we immediately assess what we need to be doing. We have the theme. We kicked off- is simplify, focus and repeat. Let's find out what's working and getting double down on that. And really understanding our product and then really what is its position in the market. You want to build products that people need. There are painkillers, they're not vitamins. And so what we are learning is that, and this is something that we've been waiting. I've waiting for this day because the market cannot just go up, is that, will people buy your product when the economic situation is not just climbing up? When money's just not laying around. And so we are finding that it's not zoom levels, but if you notice the market, the days that the market is completely down and zoom, everything is down by 20 points and zoom is up by 0. 03%. And so that says a lot. It's not like it's going 20% up, but it's like it goes up, it goes the opposite relationship. And so we have many businesses that are in the inaudible today that are not selling at all. Yet Drift is selling. We are continued selling and we're hitting really good goals despite the situation. And so that's a great sign and we just need to figure out who should we be talking to? There are people that are pushing deals to the following quarters, but you can see the pent up demand and the desire people who want to buy more Drift in this times, because it's critical to revenue and to buyer experience. And so that's something that we are focusing right now on validating, because that could mean a huge difference in spike and growth for Drift in six, nine months.

Speaker 2: Following up on that question, and a lot of my classmates are thinking of setting up businesses in current times, what advice do you give them in terms of doing what you just talked about? Identifying what is a pain killer, and that they can provide that people will buy throughout times of crisis?

Elias Torres: There's a lot to think. It really comes down to product development. And it's really understanding... For example, a lot of people are thinking," How will the world change after this?" The world will change. And so the more you can anticipate it now and go in that direction, that would be good. Second, the way you validate it is that from day one of Drift, we always asked that question. When we started Drift, there was two of us at our rock climbing gym, David and I, and we were buying software. We were like," What do we need?" And it was like Gmail. We claim and we bought Slack. So we had Gmail, we had Slack. And then you start buying Gusto HR, and then you go hire an accountant. And so you start looking at that. It's like a Maslow hierarchy, right? And you're like when who you start a business, what do you do? And so if you watch that, you see companies and you decide whether you watch a company from its infancy, or you're going into a company that is an enterprise customer that has a scale problem that no one is solving. And so you go straight into the enterprise. But overall, paying for us worked really well because it's like the ability to talk to customer and to sell happens when you're small and happened when you launch. And so we've being transitioning and moving up the market to go towards the enterprise. Because we've seen that they get more value out of Drift and they're more engaged and they churn less, and they adopt it. When they adopt it, they adopt it really well. One of the top priorities in any business and what place do you hold in that is the way that I think about from day one of Drift.

Speaker 2: Continue with this and the idea of potentially starting startups, the last topic that I think a lot of people wanted to cover is around how your being a diverse founder impacted or did impact your fundraising process and the process of starting a startup, and how much David helped you through this.

Elias Torres: Yeah, I wish I could complain more about lying in the fundraising aspect of it, but I can't, to be honest. I think I've been under David's shadow in a good way. And so when I went to join him to do Lokry, he already had fund raised from a... When we started Performable, he literally just said to me," I'll be right back," and he went to a meeting with CRV, and came back with a three million check. And so that was the serious aid for Performable. That's it. Just went one meeting and... Because he already did compete and he already had done bull. com, so he knew the firm and so it was great. Then we sold HubSpot, and then Brian and Darmesh did all the fundraising there. So I didn't do any of that. My experience fundraising has been mostly at Drift, where I've been involved in all three rounds in every discussion on the BC side of it. And so it's been a little bit different because what? We raised from General Catalyst, we raised from CRV and we raised from Sequoia. These are companies that know us already because all of those were at HubSpot. And so we're a known quantity and they respected and they knew better than anybody else, what we had done at HubSpot. And so we found their support. Ease are from our first investor at Drift, we just did a lunch yesterday and Wednesday at the office, and he told them the stories like, we went to lunch. He invited us to lunch and he just said," Here's a check for 10 million to David and Elias's company." And he just believes in teams. So the only thing I can say there is build relationships, but focus about the results, not about the relationship. I will say though, the more I fundraise and I speak, it's like there is a network, right? There is who went to school together? Who knows each other? Who played polo together? That kind of stuff that I don't have, and I don't exercise, and can't. I have only been able to have my conversations. People only come and talk to me because they want a piece of my business that we created and it's valuable and it's going to make them money. And so at the end of the day, that's the only way that we're going to be able to overcome the challenge and then... There are people that get money in VCs because of the relationship, because of the color of their skin. I can guarantee you that, but we're not going to be able to overcome that so we got to be building. And what I've done, and I think it's something you guys should follow is that align yourself with successful Latinos. There's a called top Latin VCs or something. You know what I'm talking about?

Speaker 2: I don't, but I don't know if anyone else does.

Elias Torres: There's a page. Hold on, let me see. I just got invited to this thing, to this WhatsApp channel, Top Latinx Tech leaders. And so we're trying to raise awareness of the people that are... Sometimes we feel like there's none, right? But we are there cranking and trying to find our way in and bring success to this. And so like I would say, go looking for companies like that, like I did with David and then align and then go get that success. Get the stuff in. The success of companies, you guys can... It gets shared. It's not like I have like,"This is Drift's success. I keep it by myself." Everybody in the company can use it in any way they want to their advantage. And we want you to... That's why you come here to share in that value. And so by aligning yourself with other people in there, you can start building their relationships and you need success. And success will bring more success. And the more of us do it, the more we'll be able to tap and bring other people, so we can eventually create a strong network that we can fund each other, that we can prove to people, break the stereotype and say," You know what? They can be as successful as anybody else." Because no one has the secret to entrepreneurship and to build a great company. It's from learning that day by day.

Speaker 2: Yeah. That seems like the advice is find a good mentor, work hard, deliver results, and then the rest will follow.

Elias Torres: It sounds simple, right? Work hard.

Speaker 2: Sounds simple.

Elias Torres: Yeah. Sounds simple. Yeah. Not easy.

Speaker 2: Can you speak a little bit more about your relationship with David? What do you think has made him a really strong mentor and what are the most important things you've learned from him?

Elias Torres: Well, you want to align people that have good morals. In a sense that there's a white spectrum, right? But I find David to be honest in his business dealings, he's consistent, loyal, right? He rewards the right behaviors, meaning he doesn't like everybody but it is like if you deliver results and stuff, he appreciates that. He just has a high bar of excellence in the people that he wants to work. And so I've learned from him to be that way too. There's been a contract; one is our diversity has helped us stick together because we're far and few. We come from similar beginnings, and so therefore we think along the same lines, where we're not complaining. He doesn't complain about having some luxury or not having a luxury and neither do I. So that allows us to build the company with the same principles. We are opposite in personality. He is an introvert and I'm an extrovert. I want decisions made quickly, he wants to think about them, so there creates a tension between us. He's more demanding, I can be more complacent. And so there's a tension in what we should be doing, how fast we... If I'm a wartime CEO, he's even more wartime CEO. He's like a world war foreign language level CEO. So like he's way more paranoid, and so that... Only the paranoid will survive. And he reads and teaches a lot. Has humility to be like," I don't know this. And I learned this." So he's been good. Like I can trust him, he trusts me. We are humble in the way that we support each other. We are honest and upfront in our business dealings on how we make agreements. We disagree and commit. We keep going. And we don't go revisit the past. We'll joke. I said to him yesterday," I'm doing all this work and I can't believe there's next time. There's no next time." So we'll joke about equity and things like that as a joke, but it's never really emotional. It's never going to be creating a cancer in my mind. So we're very careful. It's like a marriage that you want to the marriage to endure, where you're like, you don't want to be harboring things. We're here to build something together and we're better together than separate. We have to keep the pride and the ego in check. And it's like he's the CEO, I'm the number two. When we first moved in into 222 Berkeley in Boston, the security guard, she goes... When I walked in the first day that we moved into the office, she sees me and she opens the elevator that turns out, and she goes," Hi, you're Drift?" And I'm like," Yeah.""Are you number two?" She says that to me. And I was just dying, right? I go," That's the worst thing you can tell the number two, that he is number two." She goes," I saw a picture." It just gave me the sense maybe because I'm shorter. I don't know. And ego brings you down. Sometimes when there's tension in our relationship, sometimes I can pinpoint it's my ego affected. And so the way that I solve it is by we're a team, we're working together, we're partnership, we're going to accomplish more together than separately. And so you want something that lasts and something that you have respect, you have trust, you're able to apologize, you're able to communicate. And so it's a lot of fun, and I'm thankful because he's taught me a lot, and I can keep learning. And more and more, I seek to gain his respect. And that he's seen me grow the most. He's kind of been like the same type of individual all along, because he had 10 years before me of startups that I didn't have, but now he's grow and he's like once in a while I get a pat at the back, and like... Yeah, that you did better." You're different and you're crazier when I first met you and way more unpredictable and impatient and... As in experience less than you now." So it's been good. I like it.

Speaker 3: You mentioned your family that when you decided to transition into becoming an entrepreneur, that you had three kids. A question for you is how has your family influenced your professional career path?

Elias Torres: I think it's been really good because, I mean, they're really young from when we had them, and having a family, it's... Learning how to deal in the business world, it is a human endeavor. It's about building relationships and having conversations with people. And so it's about growing up. And so there's a big difference me talking to... When I'm recruiting, and I'm talking to people, when I'm selling, when I'm fundraising, when I'm supporting a customer... And so the more you grow as an individual, well rounded and you become, the more you're able to use and influence the learnings in both directions. For example, I remember my kids in first grade and a teacher comes and says," This is a rubric of how you write the letter C." And so the teacher said to me, he's like," I'm teaching the kids the rubric of what makes a good letter C and how they can supervise each other to use the rubric to review somebody else's work and give feedback." And I remember how much it hit me that day. And I said," That's what we need. I need a rubric for engineering at HubSpot, and I need to go define that, and so people can rate each other instead of me rating them." And it's just basic stuff that I didn't know. When I was in school they were using that method, I didn't pay attention to it. And so there's a lot about having teenage children, there's a lot about having toddlers. It teaches you about you are going to be at work and you have things at home and then you have to come back and you have bring kids and put them to bed, and then you continue working, right? That you might not understand before you have a family. It gives more empathy when I'm hiring individuals that have family, when I'm hiring women that are pregnant. Women come to and say... During an interview, like," Hey, it's like pregnant and is that a problem for you?" And I'm like," No, I have three children. That's not a problem. Just let's plan ahead. And if I want you, I want you here for 10 years in this company. Why would I not want that?" And so it gives me a whole different depth to understand people that are in college, people that are in relationships, people that are going to go build a partnership and then hopefully start a family. And then how do you the evolution of people at work? I mean, at Drift, we're growing into a company five years old, and you see how many babies we have and families and stuff. I saw that same thing happen at HubSpot in the growth. So all those things, what I do here affects how I treat people at the office, how I'm at the office, it's teaching me that we are bring here, find balance. I have been a very different individual through every different company. There were days in Lokry, and before I would be here all day on Saturday, coding and the family was like," Let's do something," and I was like," I'm going to finish this soon." And it will 4:00PM on a Saturday and I didn't do anything. And so I can other people, advice and... Sometimes you have to do that, and sometimes you should say no. And now I do some calls here and there, but I try not to. I'm focusing right now on the quality of time that we have with our teenager kids before they go to college. So all that stuff to me, you got to be a learner. You got to be thinking about how that helps. You got to learn how to learn and how to realize what you're learning and then how to see the applications of it. That's key. And then the whole thing was just snowball.

Speaker 4: What was your experience as a business leader during the recession in 2008, 2009? Maybe like what were some of the lessons that you learned there? And then I'm curious about, in this new context, what are some of the similarities or differences that you are forming ideas around how the world might be different moving forward?

Elias Torres: Things that I learned from that one. I left IBM two weeks later, 2008 recession hits. I make$110, 000 salary after 10 years at IBM. I have three kids at home, all under the age of four. My wife works... She doesn't have a job. She's at the home all the time with the kids. I have a home in Lowell, Massachusetts, 1500 square feet,$ 290, 000. I have three months of cash in the bank. And I have about a$100K in my 401( k) that the year before I had put in real estate index funds. I had nothing. And I worked for a 10 person startup that lays off half of the team. So at that time, what did I learn? All things pass. Nothing is the end of the world. If my 401( k) drop and I had no savings, don't worry about it. You don't worry. When something like that happens, you don't stress and say that the world ended. You worry about the world ending the day the world ended. Don't worry about it before that. I will tell you, in two years, the market will start moving back in the direction. And if you don't do anything crazy, go sell all your stuff and already... Just stay put. It is what it is. Patience. This thing usually will fix itself. The other is that as long as we have health, as long as we have a roof, if not we go find another roof, we can... There are ways to solve the problems. Again, not panicking. We have the potential for great lives, great careers, and so no need to... There are people that are in a worse situation that can't themselves out. We're in a position that we can take ourselves out it. I think I'm generalizing, right? Second, I learned that I enjoyed this times better because you don't have as much distraction from the competition. I'm just sorry to be saying it this way. Be pressed, right? When we were building at Performable, we had three million dollars in funding. Nobody could get fundraising. I didn't have a million companies biting my ankles and saying like," Oh yeah, we can do it. We can get money." So it definitely simplifies the market, and it only lets the best ones rise out in that environment. It's a true test of leadership and capabilities and endurance and persistence. And so I like that because sometimes you're working so hard and people can't tell the difference between a five person chat company and Drift, right? People are like," Oh, it looks like they're better than Drift. People go present themselves to be inaudible," We're the Drift killer." Five person company. Five customers. Well, stop wasting my time. Because I got to focus on Salesforce. I got to focus on the big fish. And so I learned that the closer you are to that time... The better prepared you are for a downturn, the more advantages you're going to have to come out and spring back with a force. And so you have to be thinking right now, what can you do to prepare during this time to be ready and not be caught off guard? I saw some Instagram meme or something that says," If you're not everything you could be, why are you chilling so much?" It's like don't be chilling. Unless you're made, then there's no time to be wasting it. You got to be preparing, learning, networking, building, and learning skills, doing work. And so that's the way I see it. So those are the things I'm carrying over to this one. It's like, this is the time where we can create a new chapter for Drift. We have a vision of building an enduring company, and we've been doing really well. But now coming back out of this is the opportunity to say to people," We endured that and we doubled and we became stronger." And so we are preparing ourselves, we're preparing our product and pushing the bar in every way to the team and say," We're not going to sit still here and just worry about this. We're going to get better." Thanks for listening to the American Dream podcast. Make sure to hit subscribe, so you never miss when a new episode drops. If you like this episode, please leave a six star review wherever you listen to your podcast. And if you're interested in learning more about my American dream mission, subscribe to my newsletter. Link in the show notes.


"Don't overcomplicate decisions because nothing is final."

This week's American Dream episode highlights the lessons Elias has learned from being a student at the University of South Florida to CEO and co-founder of a billion-dollar valued company today.

We're throwing it back to a discussion Elias had with the Harvard Business School Class of 2020. In the virtual discussion, Elias shares the lessons he's learned from navigating multiple economic crises, how to pick the right co-founder, and the importance of always being curious.

Key Moments:

  • (0:49) Elias’ career trajectory
  • (6:38) How Elias knew when it was the right time to transition between jobs 
  • (8:54) How Elias’ childhood experience helps him as an entrepreneur
  • (12:24) How Drift managed the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic
  • (17:44) How to think about product development in times of crisis
  • (20:10) How being a diverse founder impacted the funding process
  • (25:08) Elias’ relationship with David Cancel
  • (30:21) How Elias’ immediate family influenced his professional career path
  • (34:29) What Elias learned from being a business leader during the 2008 recession

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