Micha Mikailian is a serial entrepreneur with 22 years of experience and 8 startups to date. He loves creating game changing businesses that contribute to the evolution of humanity. Most recently, he created Intently, a software platform that replaces online ads with inspirational images chosen by the user to achieve their dreams, goals and aspirations.
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Worst Entrepreneur Moment
- We are what we think of most, Fire Nation.
Entrepreneur AH-HA Moment
- Hire slow, and fire FAST! Here’s a great Litmus test… The time to FIRE someone is the FIRST time you think of it!
Small Business Resource
- Schedule Once: Meeting and appointment scheduling software that helps you save time, increase customer satisfaction and be more competitive.
Best Business Book
- Zero to One by Peter Thiel
- Intently: Enables users to tune the Internet to their specific goals, intentions, and inspirations.
Micha Mikailian: Ow! I am, brother.
John Lee Dumas: Micha is a serial entrepreneur with 22 years of experience in eight startups to date. He loves creating game changing businesses that contribute to the evolution of humanity. Most recently, he’s created Intently, a software platform that replaces online ads with inspirational images chosen by the user to achieve their dreams, goals, and aspirations. Micha, take a minute, fill in some gaps from that intro, and give us just a little glimpse in your personal life.
Micha Mikailian: Oh, thanks, brother. So grateful to be on the show today. Yeah, I’ve professionally just been an entrepreneur my whole life. It’s been a really beautiful journey, lots of ups and downs, and just grateful to be where I’m at today, to be working on something that I’m really passionate about and just really excited to bring to the world. And just, personal life, I’m an avid Burner, love heading to Burning Man. I’m in a new relationship of four months – someone I actually met at Burning Man – and just really enjoy community and spending time with friends in a really intentional type of way.
John Lee Dumas: Well, I’ve been enjoying becoming friends with you, Micha, because we run in the same circles here in San Diego. We’ve been to multiple small, semi-medium sized events together; most recently, a Speakeasy event here in San Diego where the founder of Myspace gave a pretty interesting talk, wouldn’t you say?
Micha Mikailian: Yeah, absolutely, that was a great event, and really great to get insights from entrepreneurs from over the last few decades who’ve created these really epic platforms that have transformed our lives.
John Lee Dumas: Well, Micha, you’ve been rocking and rolling for multiple decades – two, to be exact – in your 22 years of experience. You’ve had your ups, you’ve had your downs, but right now, you’ve got something pretty cool going on that we’re gonna get into with more detail in a little bit here. But first, I’d like to dive into the specifics because we’re entrepreneurs, we’re looking to build viable businesses that generate revenue. So how do you generate revenue today?
Micha Mikailian: I’ve got a portfolio of businesses, personally. I’ve got a chain of salons and spas that I’m still holding on to and I’m on the board of, so that’s my personal revenue generation comes from there. With regards to Intently, we’re still in a pre-revenue mode, but our vision is to become an ad network that’s really driving social good within the advertising ecosystem and scale up revenues through building that.
John Lee Dumas: What I love that you’ve done is that you’ve built up this great revenue stream that you can rely on, you can count on, something that’s there for you. And then, this allowed you to go off and pursue a passion, pursue something that you’re excited about, that you know is gonna change the world. And every time you talk about it, I can see the sparkle in your eye. I mean, Intently is something that you’re so excited about for so many good reasons. And because of your other revenues streams and portfolio of businesses, you’re able to go forward with this new adventure.
So, Fire Nation, such an exciting thing to know that when you’re building something, hey, that can be your thing that allows you to go off on new adventures in the future.
But I kind of want to shift a little bit, Micha, because you have had 22 years as an entrepreneur. You’ve had the ups, the downs, and I want to focus on a story, specifically, of what you would consider your worst entrepreneurial moment to date. So Micha, there’s been 22 years, there’s been a lot of opportunities for tough times. Take us to the moment in time that you consider your worst entrepreneurial moment, and tell us that story.
Micha Mikailian: Oh, man. Yeah, I mean, when you asked that question it just seems clear as day that my deepest, darkest moment of my entrepreneurial journey. And I was in my mid-20s, but the kind of backstory on it: by the time I was 20 years old, I had already started a few companies, and I was already a millionaire at 20. So I couldn’t even legally drink, but I had a lot of success already.
Following that success, I actually managed to manage that money really poorly, and I made some bad investments, I worked on a few startups that didn’t work out. And by the time I was in my mid-20s, I was actually completely broke and a quarter of a million dollars in debt, and I remember just sitting in my room and just felling in despair. Like, how could I have done this? And I was in this period which is very unlike me. It just lasted for – like, there was a full month of me just really beating up on myself for all the bad decisions I had made in the last couple of years.
And then, there was this moment where I realized that I have the power to get myself out of this, and I need to take responsibility for this, and just look forward, and stop looking back. And I realized that continuing to look back was really holding me back. That was a real pivotal moment for me because I shifted into a new kind of mind frame that really allowed me to start building again and pull myself out of the mess that I created.
John Lee Dumas: One thing that I love stressing to Fire Nation, Micha, is that we are what we think about most. And so often, we are the self-fulfilling prophecy, whether that’s for good or for bad. I mean, we start having a few bad things happen to us, and we start getting down on ourselves, and start losing confidence, and saying nothing’s ever going right for me, X, Y, Z, this is wrong, that’s wrong, I’m having such a hard time, I’m never gonna be a success.
And it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, Fire Nation. We keep getting down and further down into this hole, into these depths of despair. And it’s so sad because it doesn’t have to be that way, especially when you’ve had that “aha” moment that Micha had and say: hey, I’m in control of my thoughts and my actions.
If I want to create a buoy that’s gonna elevate me upwards instead of pull me downwards, I can do just that. So when you’re having these self-fulfilling prophecy thoughts of despair, Fire Nation, realize that you are just pulling yourself down, down, down. Why not just flip that on its head and say, hey, this might have been tough day, I might’ve struggled, I might’ve had a tough moment, but tomorrow’s gonna be better, the next day’s gonna be better than that. And then, have that be your self-fulfilling prophecy.
So Micha, that’s my big takeaway from your story, and I love that shift that you had. I mean, the world’s a better place for it with everything you’re bringing to it now. But what do you want to really make sure Fire Nation gets from that really difficult time in your life?
Micha Mikailian: I would say just to really work on yourself and develop your own self-awareness. Because, I feel like, as I was in that downward spiral at the time, I didn’t have a business coach, I didn’t have anyone that I was relating to in a way that would help me see my blind spots and what I’m not seeing. And after that moment, I hired my first business coach, and I really got into a flow of developing more and more self-awareness, and that’s become one of the mega-competencies that I bring to business since that point.
John Lee Dumas: That’s exciting stuff, Fire Nation, that investing in yourself, mentors, with masterminds. And not always financially; it’s investing your time, getting out there and finding those right peers to hang out with. I mean, the events that Micha and I go to, a lot of them are free. We just go there, and we hang out with great people, and we walk away with exciting ideas. And I can tell you, we walk away a lot more positive than we walked into it, even if we walked in pretty positive in the first place.
Now, Micha, I want to tell another story of your journey, and this one, I want it to be of an “aha” moment, an epiphany that you’ve had, a light bulb that went on. I mean, 22 years, my man, you’ve had a ton of these ideas and moments. But you know, Fire Nation, we are entrepreneurs, we are small business owners. Tell us an “aha” moment that you’ve had that you know is gonna resonate with Fire Nation, with us, and really take us to that moment in time.
Micha Mikailian: Yeah, I think one of my biggest “aha” moments was really learning the ends and outs of hiring and firing as an entrepreneur. So, at this time, I had built multiple companies with 5 to 15 people, but never really scaled up a company. And I was transitioning into a phase where we were starting to scale a company really quickly. We scaled up that company to over 50 people, and right after that, built the company to over 200 people.
And I had this moment where I was looking back on my actions as a leader and how I was hiring people really quickly, kind of reactively, and I was very slow to let people go. I would give people a lot of chances and just have a lot of faith in people that they were gonna work out eventually. That created so many problems within my business where people would build relationships with those employees and what have you, and the longer they stayed there, the harder it was to let them go and have it become a seamless process for the company.
There’s this age-old mantra that so many entrepreneurs and business leaders advise on which is: hire slow and fire quick. But I had to go through it myself to have that moment to be like, wow, that is so, so important. And from that moment forward, I really lived by that, and it had such a significant difference in getting past that inflection point of having a small company with 10 to 15 people to getting into the point where I’m scaling a company to over 200 people.
John Lee Dumas: It is so easy just to spurt off that phrase: hire slow, fire fast. It’s so easy to say it, it is hard to actually implement it, especially for the first time as an entrepreneur. In fact, I’ll say it’s pretty much impossible. This is, unfortunately, one of those things that you just seem to have to find out the hard way, which is in person, actually having it happen to you. There’s another quote that I definitely believe in as well: the first time to fire someone is literally the first time you think about firing that person. It’s never going to get better from that point forward; that’s just the reality.
So what we’re saying, Fire Nation, these are things that you should be having in your mind. Of course, it’s a lot easier to say than to do, but hopefully, this really helps you avoid some pain, some stagnation in your company in the future. But realize, we understand, it is easier to say these quotes than to actually put these things into action when you’re there, looking the person in the face, and having to potentially fire them.
So Micha, that’s my big takeaway from your story. What do you want to really make sure Fire Nation gets from just that process that you went through?
Micha Mikailian: Just to really live by it. I’d love all you guys to really take that in. And I would even take it a step further and say: if you’re not willing to rehire someone in this moment, it’s time to let them go. So if you look at a team member, and you’re like, “I wouldn’t rehire them right now,” then that means you should let them go because that’s the decision. It’s like, if they’re not even reaching that bar – everyone on your team should be somebody you’d be willing to fight for to keep on your team, and that needs to be the standard you set.
And it makes such a huge difference. Having quality people that are all kicking ass, it attracts more quality people because great, smart, intelligent, hard driving people attract more of the same. And as soon as you start messing with that balance and having people in there that aren’t fulfilling on the level that the rest of your team is, it just brings everybody else down.
So it’s just so important. When we built that company that we scaled to 200 people, we actually hired a group of recruiters to make it like the hiring process was so intense, and so in depth. And if someone wasn’t doing well in the first 30 days, we’d just let him go. If, after that time period, we wouldn’t fight to have them onboard, we let them go.
John Lee Dumas: Yeah, and I love how Zappos does it where they’ll bring you through their entire hiring process, and at the end, they’ll say: hey, we’re gonna give you $5,000.00 not to take this job. And I don’t know the exact dollar amount, but it’s a really attractive dollar amount because they want you to walk away from this job if you’re not dying to get this job. They want you to walk away, they really do.
And what a great litmus test, and Micha, thanks for sharing that. Fire Nation, if you’re not willing to rehire that person that you’re thinking about right now for that same exact position right now, that’s a red flag. That’s a time to say it might be time to fire this person.
Micha, what is your biggest weakness as an entrepreneur?
Micha Mikailian: Keeping focus, changing too many opportunities. I feel like when I’m performing best, I’m getting focused in one specific thing. But I have a tendency, like a lot of entrepreneurs, to get involved with lots of projects within my company, with out of my company, to the point where I’m working on too many things to be effective at anything.
John Lee Dumas: Do you know what my acronym for FOCUS is, Micha?
Micha Mikailian: No, what is it?
John Lee Dumas: Follow On Course Until Success.
Micha Mikailian: Nice, I like that. And you’ve done that really well, brother.
John Lee Dumas: Well, thank you. And what is your biggest strength?
Micha Mikailian: I’d have to go back to that self-awareness. I’ve cultivated a really strong sense of self-awareness, and that’s also led to a really strong intuition where my intuition has been a really powerful driving force for my last couple of ventures.
John Lee Dumas: Speaking of your last couple of ventures, Intently. Let’s talk about this for a little while now because you’ve done a lot of things in your 22 years. You have a steady stream of income coming in from other business portfolios that you have, and things are going really well in that area. Why Intently? Talk to us about that. Share with Fire Nation just the idea behind Intently, where you’re at right now, and why you’re excited for the future?
Micha Mikailian: Yeah, so, from the user perspective, Intently is such a powerful platform where people can connect to their goals, their intentions, the highest vision they have for themselves, and a platform where they can integrate things into their lives.
So, what Intently does is it blocks every single ad you see on every website you go to, whether you’re on Facebook, or YouTube, or any of these websites that have banner ads. And it takes those ads away, and it replaces it with content of your choice. So you can program it with your own goals, your own intentions, affirmations to help support you in overcoming limiting beliefs, or you can even subscribe to content created by other people that is really powerful things that you want to integrate in your life.
So when I’m sitting down and reading a book, or going to a seminar, I take the key points, and I write them down, I add them into my Intently, and I’ll start seeing them every single day. So it integrates, and it reminds me. Like that FOCUS acronym? I’m gonna put that into my Intently tomorrow, and I’ll start seeing it all the time, and it’s gonna support me in my biggest weakness. So it’s a great tool for users to really connect with the highest version of who they are, and support them in showing up in their best every day.
John Lee Dumas: Now, let me play devil’s advocate here. Why is Google and other places like this, why would they allow Intently to really be seen by the user when they make a lot of their money by the actual ads that take place when that happened.
Micha Mikailian: Yeah. No, that’s a great question. So the ad industry right now is fundamentally shifting. Ad blockers have been sprouting up for the last five-plus years, and they’ve been scaling quickly. 22 percent of internet users are using ad blockers right now, and what’s happened is a lot of these ad blockers have gotten sued by these big publishers and advertising companies in the world, but the ad blockers have won, and the courts have said that users have the right to block their ads if they want to. Much like Tivo will skip through, or your DVR will skip through your TV ads, it’s up to the user if they want to install software in their computer to block ads.
So, at the core of this, what we’re really trying to do behind the scenes is develop a new type of monetization system for advertising that turns this entire advertising industry into a force for good. And what that monetization engine’s gonna look like, it’s gonna give users control over the ads they see, so advertising becomes an opt-in experience for users, so the users have a choice, and you’re not just targeted based on all these people that have all this data on you that are using it.
I mean, sometimes it’s really freaky. I go to a website, and I check something out, and, all of a sudden, it’s following me everywhere I go on the web. No one’s ever asked the users: what do you wanna see, and how can we deliver ads for you that are aligned with your values or your interests of what you want in the world. So that’s what we intend to do.
John Lee Dumas: Well, I am really glad I asked that question because you were phenomenal with that answer, brother.
Micha Mikailian: I’ve been talking a lot to VCs and investors, at least, so I’ve been preaching this gospel every single day.
John Lee Dumas: Well, my wallet is open, I’m ready to invest. So Fire Nation, don’t go anywhere because we are about to crush the Lightning Round. But let’s take a minute to thank our sponsors.
Micha, are you prepared for the Lightning Round?
Micha Mikailian: Absolutely, let’s do it.
John Lee Dumas: What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur?
Micha Mikailian: Nothing ever held me back. I started my first company at 14 and just never looked back since.
John Lee Dumas: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Micha Mikailian: Hire slow and fire quick.
John Lee Dumas: What’s a personal habit that contributes to your success?
Micha Mikailian: Daily meditation.
John Lee Dumas: Share an internet resource, like Evernote, with Fire Nation.
Micha Mikailian: I use the scheduling system called ScheduleOnce, and it is just gangster in terms of getting all my meetings booked and making that process so efficient for me.
John Lee Dumas: Gangsta. And if you could recommend just one book, Micha, for our listeners, what would it be and why?
Micha Mikailian: I would say, for your entrepreneurs out there that are building tech companies, Zero To One by Peter Thiel. It was just a remarkable book around his journey of building and scaling a tech company, and there’s a lot of great lessons in there to apply to your business.
John Lee Dumas: Well, Fire Nation, I know that you love audio, so I teamed up with Audible, and if you haven’t already, you can get an amazing audio book for free at EOFireBook.com.
Micha, this is the last question of the Lightning Round, but it is a doozy. Imagine you woke up tomorrow morning in a brand new world identical to Earth, but you know no one. You still have all the experience and knowledge you currently have, your food and shelter is taken care of, but all you have is a laptop and $500.00. What would you do in the next seven days?
Micha Mikailian: I would spend my first day researching the top 100 people that I should connect with to fulfill whatever I wanted to accomplish in that journey. And then, I’d spend the next six days meeting with, at least, 30 percent of them; so, meeting with five, six people a day. That’d meet that criteria and looking at that as my starting point.
John Lee Dumas: Micha, I want to end today how we started – on fire – with you sharing a parting piece of guidance, the best way that we can connect with you, and then we’ll say goodbye.
Micha Mikailian: Absolutely. So you can friend request me on Intently. If you go to Intently.com, and sign up, and friend request me there, I can share some inspirational imagery with you. You can find me on LinkedIn or Facebook. And yeah, thanks for having me on the show. I really loved it.
John Lee Dumas: I loved it too, my man. And give us a parting piece of guidance.
Micha Mikailian: I would say a parting piece of guidance is to really believe in what you’re doing, and don’t let other naysayers influence your outcome on your entrepreneurial journey.
John Lee Dumas: Fire Nation, you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with, and you’ve been hanging out with MM and JLD today. So keep up the heat and head over to EOFire.com. Just type Micha in the search bar – that’s M-I-C-H-A – and his show note page will pop right up with everything that we’ve been talking about today. Of course, you can find him on LinkedIn, on Facebook, you can go directly to Intently.com, friend request Micha, and he’ll be able to share some inspirational content with you, Fire Nation.
And Micha, I just want to say, thank you, brother, for sharing your journey with Fire Nation today. For that, we salute you, and we’ll catch you on the flipside.
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