Shark, Matt Higgins: Attacking Entrepreneurship | E145

Shark, Matt Higgins: Attacking Entrepreneurship | E145

Shark, Matt Higgins: Attacking Entrepreneurship | E145

Ever wonder what investors look for in up and coming entrepreneurs?

In this episode we are talking with Matt Higgins! Matt Higgins is a noted serial entrepreneur and growth equity investor as co-founder and CEO of private investment firm RSE Ventures. He is also vice chairman of the Miami Dolphins, an Executive Fellow at the Harvard Business School, where he co-teaches the course “Moving Beyond Direct-to-Consumer,” and was a Guest Shark on ABC’s four-time Emmy-Award-winning TV show Shark Tank seasons 10-11.

Matt co founded New York City based RSE Ventures in 2012, amassing a multi-billion-dollar investment portfolio of leading brands across sports and entertainment, media and marketing, consumer and technology industries – including several of Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies. RSE has successfully backed many challenger brands from inception, including RESY, an Open Table competitor that American Express acquired in 2019; the world’s premier drone racing circuit, the Drone Racing League; and the International Champions Cup, the largest privately owned soccer tournament featuring Europe’s top clubs. Higgins is also co-owner of VaynerMedia, founded by digital marketing expert Gary Vaynerchuk, and a partner in early-stage venture fund Vayner/RSE.

In today’s episode, we hear about Matt’s childhood and journey to entrepreneurship. We’ll also discuss Matt’s work with NFTs and how he began RSE Ventures. We’ll also hear Matt’s thoughts on “The Great Resignation” during COVID, and what he looks for in entrepreneurs! If you want to level up your entrepreneurial skills, keep listening!

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Check out our website to meet the team, view show notes and transcripts:


00:47- Matt’s Childhood and How It Molded Him

08:39- Matt’s First Job and How He Got There

11:19- The Importance of Quitting

16:46- How Mortality Has Shaped Matt

23:50- Matt’s Journey to Entrepreneurship

27:42- The Future of NFTs and Matt’s Work With Them

35:57- RSE Ventures and How It Began 

44:27- How Matt Manages His Investments

50:08- When to Consider an Investor

54:47- What Matt Looks for in Entrepreneurs

01:03:51- Matt on The Great Resignation Post COVID

01:07:75- Matt’s Take on Gen Z

01:11:12- Matt’s Secret to Profiting in Life

Mentioned In The Episode:

Matt’s LinkedIn:

#145: Attacking Entrepreneurship with Shark, Matt Higgins

[00:00:00] Hala Taha: You're listening to YAP. Young And Profiting Podcast, a place where you can listen, learn, and profit. Welcome to the show. I'm your host, Hala Taha and on Young And Profiting Podcast, we investigate a new topic each week and interview some of the brightest minds in the world. My goal is to turn their wisdom into actionable advice that you can use in your everyday life.

[00:00:25] No matter your age, profession, or industry, there's no fluff on this podcast and that's on purpose. I'm here to uncover value from my guest by doing the proper research and asking the right questions. If you're new to the show, we've chatted with the likes of ex FBI agents, real estate moguls, self-made billionaires, CEOs, and bestselling authors.

[00:00:47] Our subject matter ranges from enhancing productivity, how to gain influence, the art of entrepreneurship and more. If you're smart and like to continually improve yourself, hit the subscribe button because you'll love [00:01:00] it here at Young And Profiting Podcast. This week on YAP we're chatting with Matt Higgins.

[00:01:06] Matt is a well-known entrepreneur and is the co-founder and the CEO of the private investment firm, RSE Ventures. Matt is also an Executive Fellow at the Harvard Business School and was a guest shark on ABC's four time, Emmy award winning TV show Shark Tank back in seasons, 10 and 11. And today's episode, we'll hear about Matt's childhood and inspiring journey into entrepreneurship, and how he became the youngest ever press secretary to the mayor of New York.

[00:01:34] When he was just 26, we'll get into the importance of self-worth, knowing when to quit. And we'll also hear Matt's thoughts on the great resignation. And why so many professionals are leaving their nine to fives to start their own businesses. If you're looking to feel motivated and get the courage to leap into entrepreneurship, or start a side hustle, you've got to tune into this one.

[00:01:58] Hi, Matt, welcome to [00:02:00] Young And Profiting Podcast.

[00:02:02] Matt Higgins: Thank you. Thanks for having me.

[00:02:03] Hala Taha: I am so excited to have you on the show. I am a Shark Tank fanatic. It is literally the only TV show that I watch for the past, like five years. And I first found out about you on that show and you are an exceptional businessman.

[00:02:18] You're the founder of RSE ventures. You were working for the jets, the dolphins, you've done so many cool things. You're a partner in VaynerMedia, which people don't even really know about. And I can't wait to dig into all of that, but first I want to start with your childhood because I know that it has a lot to do with who you are and how it's shaped you.

[00:02:38] And a pivotal point in your life is when you dropped out of high school. So I thought we could start there and I want to understand, why you decided to drop out of high school, how you came to that decision and really to start leading up to that. What was it like for you leading up to that?

[00:02:54] I know you had an ailing mother and she was sick. And I would love to understand that dynamic.

[00:02:59] Matt Higgins: I'm [00:03:00] just going to go deep.

[00:03:01] Hala Taha: We're just going to start right at the deep parts.

[00:03:05] Matt Higgins: I'm dead. For those who have you heard this story? I apologize, but so my background does have everything to do with who I am today is for most of us for better or worse.

[00:03:12] I grew up in Queens New York. Shout out to Queens and with a product of a single mom with four miserable boys growing up in a tiny little shoe box apartment on Springfield Boulevard in Queens. And me and my mother had been through a ton of stuff that I only really found out about later on, after she had passed away, that kind of contextualize everything I went through as a child, but my childhood was framed with, extreme poverty, extreme shame, extreme concealment, because as a kid, you, the last thing you want people to know at least back then is how poor you are.

[00:03:41] So my early days were through endless side hustles. I used to sell flowers on street corners. I was that kid knocking on your window. So be nice. If somebody is trying to sell you flattered, I would sell handbags at flea markets tend to have a handbags. And I worked at McDonald's scraping gum from the bottom of 'em of table.

[00:03:57] So that was the context. My mother was amazing, worked [00:04:00] really hard. And she had no high school diploma, growing up and she, she got divorced when I was around nine and it always was a hole in her life. That she knew she was smart and gifted, but had gone through this terrible childhood and actually didn't even have a high school degree.

[00:04:14] And so I watched her go from basically on her hands and knees, cleaning apartments for elderly home-bound senior citizens, to getting her GED at the local community college. And then enrolling in Queens college and really fight for years upon years to get first a bachelor's degree, and then eventually pursued two different master's degrees in urban studies in library science.

[00:04:36] So my prism of my childhood was poverty dysfunction, but also aspiration. And watching my mother go through this journey and around 13, I would be have all these mixed emotions, which anybody out there who's suffering alone can relate to. Is anyone going to help and does anybody care? And, there were so many different letdowns as a kid, no intervention.

[00:04:57] I'm like, doesn't everybody see how difficult the [00:05:00] situation is. And plus, as a kid, you just don't want to be in charge. And the whole parental dynamic was turned on its head when I was growing up. So I was the parent. And as the parent, eventually I made a decision, that I'm going to take matters into my own hands.

[00:05:12] And the key is I need to make enough money to eventually get out of here as fast as humanly possible. Cause you have a selfless streak as a kid, nobody wants to be in charge. And so watching my mother do that, get her GED as an adult gave me an epiphany. There was a loophole back then that if you could get your GED and do well enough, you could technically go to any college.

[00:05:32] So they said nobody really does this, but I thought why don't I just do this on purpose and re-engineer architect my entire life. And that's when I decided when I was 14. And in order to make sure I would stick with this crazy plan, that I made sure I got left back over and over again.

[00:05:46] So I sat in the same homeroom with kids, with beepers who were pursuing a very different path, dealing drugs, whatever, to sat in the back of that room. And I decided I was going to drop out. And it was the most important decision I ever made because I had the whole way to the world telling me one, you're going to [00:06:00] be branded a loser two.

[00:06:01] You're never going to be able to get a good job, et cetera, et cetera. What I learned from that experience is maybe true for me. This educational path may work from where you sit. But as a kid trying to take care of his parents, his mom, this doesn't work for me and I need to get to college as soon as possible.

[00:06:16] So I'd get a well paying job. And that's what I did. And I, it was actually the best, most important decision I ever made in my life. Everything I built from that point forward was on top of that one decision.

[00:06:26] Hala Taha: It's so amazing that you had that kind of knowledge at such a young age, and you were able to make such a big decision and stick with it.

[00:06:34] Even when people told you that it would be the worst mistake of your life. I know you were a good student and a lot of the your teachers weren't approving of what you were doing, but in terms of your parent child dynamic with your mom, how you had to act like the parent, how do you think that impacted you later on.

[00:06:51] Do you feel like that gave you a chip on your shoulder? Do you feel like that made you like super responsible for the rest of your life? Like how did that [00:07:00] positively impact you? Because at the time it really probably sucked, but now do you feel like that has positively impacted you in any way?

[00:07:09] Matt Higgins: It was a great question. I think number one, it may be very empathetic, like to watch a person literally deteriorate throughout your entire formative years. The jump to the end of the story. I dropped out of high school. I go to college, I go to college for seven years at night. I work and work to build myself up.

[00:07:24] I went from McDonald's earning 3 75 an hour to the time I was 26 years old, 10 years later to being press secretary of the Mayor, New York, making six figures. That's a lot of ground to cover, but also she deteriorated throughout that entire path. So while I was doing that, living this secret life, I would spend my nights at the ER.

[00:07:42] We've literally had no money and I refused to go on any kind of public service. We would go to the church all the time for food. So what I learned from that this the day I become press secretary, the mayor of New York, this heady moment, when I finally achieved everything, she dies that morning.

[00:07:56] So I guess the reality, what I learned from it [00:08:00] is that the greatest thing you could do with your time, energy and money and power is to ameliorate somebody else's suffering. It doesn't mean that you have to devote your life to being a Saint, but just from a practical standpoint, if somebody had intervened and that journey in those 10 years, she would not have died.

[00:08:14] Like we just were wasting away. And so that stays with me too. There's no Calvary. It just is what it is. Sounds harsh, but you have to take matters into your own hands. You have to be an agent in your own rescue and three, like I, if I'm being totally honest, the parent child dynamic is supposed to be one of sacrifice.

[00:08:34] Your parents, like at the end of the day, it's a one-way street, right? If you're doing this because you want your child to fulfill, you take care of you realize all your unrealized aspirations, you got it wrong. And so I honestly learned a lot from the dysfunction of that dynamic and to resist. It's because you want to make sure you don't pass on these patterns to the next generation.

[00:08:53] Okay. But also at the same time, normally when things are distorted and a parent child relationship, it's because of some trauma that has been [00:09:00] unrealized or an unmitigated or, and synthesized, and so I think that was the case with my mother. Like you tend to pass on dysfunction from one generation to another.

[00:09:07] So I guess my real answer is to really be aware of the patterns that govern us. So we don't pass that on to the next generation. And that's what I've worked hard on. Although I'm probably screwing up my kids and untold other ways. I probably won't work compensating. I'm probably not a helicopter parent.

[00:09:22] There's go free, don't worry. I like, but anyway, it is what it is. We're all flawed. But I th I think that's my greatest lesson I took away.

[00:09:28] Hala Taha: I love that. So let's back up a little bit. So you had all these crazy jobs, you were scraping gum underneath seats at McDonald's. You were selling flowers on the street, and then you got your first real job.

[00:09:40] It was being a reporter at the Queens Tribune or an investigative reporter. So talk to us about how you ended up getting that first real job.

[00:09:50] Matt Higgins: Yeah, that's a great why you did your research too. So I've been talking about some, a long time. I think it goes back to the, every one of us has some kind of gifts, some kind of advantage that we could press, but we spend so much

[00:10:00] energy worrying about what we're not as opposed to focusing on what we are.

[00:10:04] So what was I this, in this little unformed shell, over being at age 16, I could really write, I was gifted with language and with writing. So how do I translate that? My actually my path out a battle poverty is one of education, but one of communication and pressing that. So first job, even before that was working for a Congressman and doing letters and and whatnot.

[00:10:26] And he said, you really are gifted. There was an opportunity to newspaper that he owned an interest in Queens called the Queens Tribune. They were starting this column where people would send their problems in. And I was meant to do buck breaking, problem solving. And, but I took that little column and turned it into something a lot bigger.

[00:10:42] Did big investigative pieces would often team up with big New York city reporters. And, some of them resulted in an awards. I learned how to press, whatever advantage was in front of me to turn that into something much bigger. And I say this to millennials all the time, make yourself indispensable at whatever it is you're [00:11:00] doing right now, because that is the path to do what you ultimately want to do.

[00:11:04] So even if you're not happy or you think a job is pointless, press the back, press the advantage. And that's what I did with them. Writing my ultimate aspiration wasn't really necessarily to be a reporter, but it was a bridge to where I was going.

[00:11:14] Hala Taha: What I love about you is that because you dropped out of high school so early, you ended up getting so many experiences, so much more hours of work than a normal teenager would have had.

[00:11:25] And then that puts you ahead of the game. So by the time you were 26, you were press secretary, which is probably what, like a 36 year old would have accomplished, not a 26 year old.

[00:11:34] Matt Higgins: Another way. It's a brilliant point that you just raised. I, Warren Buffett's as the most important thing in the world is compounding when it comes to wealth, And I expand the concept of compounding interest to apply to compounding experiences.

[00:11:44] So the same thought applies. If you could pull forward experience, you have more time for that experience to create exponential growth. And that's truly the story of my life because people say how'd you do? You've overseen two NFL teams by, 40 something around Shark Tank at 43 teach at Harvard Business [00:12:00] School.

[00:12:00] It really goes back to the fact that I was put in a bad situation or like a lot of people, but because I pulled forward my, my my evolution, I was able to everything compounded from that moment forward. So I say to folks like be patient, but be urgent because if you can pull forward experiences, they will compound.

[00:12:16] But that's a great point. I'm really passionate about it. If ever there was a formula to what I have pulled off. It's that particular phenomenal.

[00:12:23] Hala Taha: Yeah, I think that's amazing. So I know that to get your job as press secretary, you actually quit quite a few times. And I know you just mentioned this thought about being indispensable and I wanted to add to that, that it's being dispensable.

[00:12:38] And if they don't appreciate it quit because you can get some leverage that way. So talk to us about the importance of quitting, why you quit and how you climb the ladder. That way.

[00:12:48] Matt Higgins: I love this topic too, depending on all the topics out loud. So anybody listening out there, point number one, opportunity is a leading indicator of success and recognition is a lagging indicator.

[00:12:58] So what I mean by that is if [00:13:00] you are successful person and good at something, you will be given opportunity by a person with authority. But the opportunity won't come with the recognition that you secretly crave money title first, grab the opportunity. And then there's a lag before between the time you get the opportunity and the time recognition comes.

[00:13:15] I'm just trying to reduce this to a formula. Cause I know there's a lot of people out there I'm not being taken advantage of my careers and I shouldn't. I get a promotion. There's always a delay that's life. You will have to make the first deposit, but then you have to assess, okay, after a certain period of time, where's the line between natural lag versus exploitation.

[00:13:32] And so if you are working for somebody who's a taker or with holder or a gas lighter, whatever the cat categorize them. That's when you have to have the courage to quit because there's another overarching phenomenon operating on humans, especially in a positions of authority, which comes from a place of insecurity is that familiarity breeds.

[00:13:50] Which really sucks because it's wait, why aren't you looking outside this organization for shiny objects, but I'm right here. But you have to be on the lookout for an organization, that looks for shiny objects [00:14:00] and is contemptuous of its own talent happens more often than not. And that's when you have to quit.

[00:14:05] So when I was young, this is a little absurd, but, I felt I was, I think it was 22, 23. I was ghost writing pieces for the mayor of New York. I was doing all this like incredible work, but my official job was like handing out newspaper clips, like five 30 in the morning. I would cut clips literally from the newspaper and put them on a eight and a half by 11 and walk around in this drudgery of handing them out to people, while doing this heavy work of writing things.

[00:14:28] And eventually. I felt like the Delta between opportunity and recognition was coming to grade. And I was like I want to be press secretary. And I, I wanna, that's what I want to do. I want to sit in that chair and not that chair. And then the answer was like, wait your turn.

[00:14:39] I also had the urgency of trying to elevate quickly to take care of my mom. And then I quit. And then everyone was horrified and I, yeah, and I went to the most boring job mind. Am I going to hear the blood rushing through my ears, but it paid more. And then four months later I got a phone call to come back.

[00:14:56] Deputy press secretary paid for my law school, everything had wanted. [00:15:00] So I always remember that story. Like you don't want to be quitting is not disloyal. That's the, there's a different point. You should be loyal and you should give and give to get, but you should also know your own self worth and just never be afraid to bet on yourself.

[00:15:11] So I actually did that twice. I did it again. And the second time I did it, it was like, you're not coming back. That's, we love you. Like I'll bless you. Whatever. A year later I was, I became the youngest press secretary in New York city. That's very 26.

[00:15:24] Hala Taha: So that's amazing. So I guess my big question to you is people quit all the time, but people burn bridges, right?

[00:15:31] So how do you quit without actually burning the bridge? So they want, they feel okay, to put their tail between their legs and ask for you back.

[00:15:40] Matt Higgins: That's a great point. I think it begins with an in-depth indispensability. If you're quitting from the place where you will want to dispensable, people will remember that oh, that was the ultimate utility player.

[00:15:48] I can't believe the guy out the door to people admired. Those who know their own self worth. It's just a fact. We train people how to treat us. My wife always says that, which is true. So if you're basically saying [00:16:00] I know my self worth and I want to go, because I want to do something with myself, I want to expand myself.

[00:16:05] It's not, and you're not being mercenary about it. If you're just quitting money. Cause you're for hire, that's different. If you're moving on because you want to progress, nobody can begrudge you. And then you just keep those lines of communication open. There's a way to manage yourself, but if you quit from a place of bitterness, what makes people better is when you believe that somebody else's job, to take care of your career trajectory.

[00:16:27] I find that some people are like, okay, but I really like it here, but I want to, be in charge of everything. That's not gonna happen just yet. If you got better because of that, as opposed to taking agency and custody of your own, that's what happens if you leave and you're not better and you're just doing it to progress.

[00:16:41] Eventually people don't begrudge that they admire that, because they operate the same way you're operating right now. I know that's convoluted, but it's an, it's a nuance, but it's so true. Expunge, all bitterness, because nobody owes you anything. You owe yourself everything.

[00:16:55] Hala Taha: Yeah. And I would say, do good work to the day are gone.

[00:16:58] You know what I mean? Make sure they [00:17:00] remember you on a high note. That's what I would say.

[00:17:02] Matt Higgins: I ended off hard work. Like I go to places and I see people working so hard. I'm like, I'm in awe and I really need that. So I'm going to hang out at my local seven 11, like God be like, you're working so hard.

[00:17:11] Like I find it so hard to smile today, can be such a miserable boss and here you are cheerfully, whatever context. So my point is people in positions of authority, no anybody who is doing exceptional work at any level, and you will eventually catch the attention of somebody whose good nature to wants to tap into your magic and promote you, elevate you.

[00:17:29] And if you don't. And you quit.

[00:17:30] Hala Taha: I love that advice. So let's talk about mortality, because I think this is a really interesting topic. You mentioned earlier, that your mother passed away the first day, that you were press secretary. I can relate. My father passed away the week that I started my company and we grew to 70 employees in our first year.

[00:17:49] He didn't see any of that, but it also really motivated me the fact that he passed away, because I realized that life is so short and that we only have [00:18:00] one life, and it made me really get myself into high gear. And I know that you also had testicular cancer, in your thirties. And that also had you thinking about death I'm. Sure.

[00:18:11] So what is your perspective on death and how did those experiences shape you?

[00:18:16] Matt Higgins: Yeah, I think my first big experience with death was watching my mother pass away and just watching those like desperate last minutes, the bargaining that happens to be honest with you, and this is. Sort of a tough detail, but just in the last couple of days, she was very heavy.

[00:18:33] She couldn't really get out of a chair, it's just beyond, I couldn't even betrayed you how miserable this environment was and oxygen tank. And she was bargaining, like she knew, and I didn't realize, I just thought it was another day in hell. You know what I mean? Like when you're living in like a fever dream of madness, it's oh, this is just another day.

[00:18:49] And she asked me not to go to work that day please stay home. And I'm like, we have no money. Like I have to go to work. I didn't know that day was any different than any other day in our living hell. And so I watched the bargaining though. And those last days of I [00:19:00] won't eat poorly anymore. And I didn't know she was bargaining with her maker.

[00:19:04] And so I witnessed the regret, the overcoming dread you have at the end of life and thought, wow, wow. It really does. Can end terribly. My mother worked so hard to try to get somewhere in life. Never even took a vacation or a plane. And yet still die. And I say that in such raw miss, because I don't want to gloss it over.

[00:19:23] And but everything was fine. Like it was not fine and it was terrible. And she was worried about being discarded in life right after working so hard. So what that taught me is you really have to be in touch with your mortality and take custody, because it does end at any moment. And no one's going to, at the end of your life, reconcile, all the things that you didn't reconcile, the bargaining phase.

[00:19:41] So that's 0.1, two having gone through cancer and going to Sloan Kettering, I was only 20. That was like how old was I? I don't even know. Maybe 32. I had just had my son. And I remember once I, my mortality, like I wasn't dying tomorrow. And I was like, I think we're going to get through this.

[00:19:58] And what it did is tell [00:20:00] me how much of the things I think about everyday. Don't hold up against the prospect of imminent death, which is interesting. Cause I'm like, wait, the idea of death is hanging over us all the time. And yet I spend my time scrolling through the New York times classified. It's was looking for a bigger house.

[00:20:12] Like I was like, oh wow. So much of our thoughts, army. And that's a gift to be aware of and hold onto. So it changed my perspective on mortality, long story short, I have an app on my phone call, WeCroak, which is inspired by the folks in Bhutan, who contemplate their own mortality five times a day.

[00:20:27] And when you find out, when you think about your own mortality frequently, it's not a morbid actually. It's peaceful because you relieves you of all the aggravation and the daily stresses because they just don't hold up against the prospect of death and mortality, which we all live on live with. And you realize how much of our anxious, that we go through on a daily basis is trying to confuse ourselves or distract ourselves, from the idea that we don't know why we're here.

[00:20:51] And we don't know where we're going now, for those who are very religious, maybe it's a little bit easier, but for the vast majority of people, like we don't know what we're doing here. And we don't know when it's going to end and we don't

[00:21:00] know where we're going. And so I think if we lock in on that, then you say what do I know?

[00:21:04] Oh, the present is the one thing that I'm guaranteed, the present is the one thing that feels so great. And I'm so grateful for. And so I tried to every day, bring it back to Sloan Kettering, bring it back to the idea. I might die and bring it back to the awareness, that the mortality and what do you know?

[00:21:18] What it makes me do is celebrate my wife was my best friend. So I brought my kids and just make who cares about this stupid email on the internet and inner political fight of nonsense crap that I'm dealing with. So I recommend everybody out there download that app. Kids think I'm crazy by the way.

[00:21:32] Especially when I read the quotes from somebody Voltaire about, death, but but it works.

[00:21:37] Hala Taha: WeCroak it's called WeCroak. It's so interesting. Honestly, Matt, you are such a role model. I just want to take a second to just say wow, like you've done so much in your life. You've come over so much adversity.

[00:21:49] Your mother is probably so proud of you.

[00:21:51] Matt Higgins: And tell you a little story since you were, when you're like, you're going so deep on it. A positive note about my mom, because I feel like this is so it can be so grim, but [00:22:00] I went back to Deloitte. The commencement speech at my college, and I really wanted to do it cause that's where my mother went to school.

[00:22:05] And when I was a little nine year old boy, some of the positive memories I had were sitting in her classroom, in the back on a Saturday, I was watching her take custody of her life as a single mom. So big moment. It's only a couple of years ago, I'm only 43. They're giving me an honorary doctorate.

[00:22:21] So I go in from an HD to a PhD and I feel like this is my moment to in turn my mother a soul on the campus, and I'm going to honor her. And I'm like, how am I going to get through this speech such a hard speech to give. So I'm walking in the procession, with all the gear and everything. And there's an older professor, older gentlemen interrupts the line and say, excuse me, I need to say something to Matt Higgins.

[00:22:42] And I see a space and it's the weirdest thing I'm like, I've recognized this face. And I'm like, and he comes up and goes, Hey, I'm professor Dean Savage. I just want you to know that I had your mother as a student. And she was the best student I ever had. That's the craziest, like a moment of, and he goes, I'm retiring tomorrow, but I needed to tell you before you gave your speech, I was like, and now I'm like [00:23:00] crying.

[00:23:00] But what was interesting, she had always worried about being discarded. And here was this professor who 30 something years later is telling me that it was the best. And she would say he was the best professor she ever had. So you can make a big impact on people, even if you have no money, no anything just by being a good human being.

[00:23:16] So it ends I guess to start, I give this speech and now every year, I have a group of single moms that I, pay scholarships for them to go to Queens college, which is so fun. Cause these are like my LeBron James's of people like they're doing my mom did, they're raising kids and they're going to college.

[00:23:32] All of them have incredible stories of fleeing, abusive husband or dealing with, substance abuse issues, whatever. And now they're going to college, while they have little kids. And so I sorta took my mom's legacy and I just transfer it now through, through scholarship.

[00:23:47] Hala Taha: Hold tight. Everyone. Let's take a quick break and hear from our sponsor.

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[00:27:58] That is so amazing and [00:28:00] so positive. You did so much more after this, you worked for the jets for eight years. You did so much more, but let's fast forward to entrepreneurship. And let's talk about how you got started in entrepreneurship.

[00:28:12] You say that Gary V was the Genesis of all of that. So talk to us about how you met Gary V what was that whole situation like?

[00:28:22] Matt Higgins: Yeah, I was I was overseeing the New York jets, the business of the team and was probably my step in, year, eighth year doing it. And it was not my dream to become a sports executive for life.

[00:28:33] I used to, I say, I have everybody's dream job, but mine, I love the organization, but I'm not like a rabid sports fan where I want to spend, my whole life doing it, but it was a business and it was fun to run it high profile the whole bit. And Gary Vaynerchuk. Was like, this mythical YouTube wine guy who everyone knew was a huge jets fan and wants to buy the team.

[00:28:52] So my guys were convinced that I could sell them a suite and anybody knows anything about sports and entertainment, selling a suite. It was like impossible. But I told my guys, okay, I'll go [00:29:00] meet him in Springfield, New Jersey. And I'll try to sell him a suite. So we met for a bagel, a cup of coffee, and everyone knows Gary Vaynerchuk or can easily now Google and see 8 million hours of content.

[00:29:09] But I meet him and he's wild, wildly gesturing. I'm going to buy the Jetson and he's, what I still had in his mind. I'm like, with what money are you gonna buy the jet? And I th I, I pride myself on doing this. I can look past the packaging and say, and just listen to the quality of the thoughts and the predictions.

[00:29:26] And in that 30 minutes, Gary laid out a vision for the future that played out and it spoke. It sounded like truths to me. So for example, this is 2009. This is when Twitter is just he's look at the future of the world involves every single person will be HBO and Comcast. They will be both the content producer and the content distributor.

[00:29:46] The entire world is going to change. And these big stupid corporations are not going to be able to keep up with it. And they're going to be battleship carriers and I'm going to build a speed boat. And my little brother AIG, once he graduates college, we're going to build a firm together. It's going to be amazing.

[00:29:59] [00:30:00] We're going to manage people's social digital. And by the end of the 30, I was like, I think Gary like sees the future. And if I could figure out how to partner with him, we can unlock great things. And at that breakfast, we cut a deal. Why don't we do this? Why don't we take one player on the team? And you'll manage their social media and you'll make them like Twitter famous.

[00:30:18] And if that goes well, I'll become the first client of what was to become VaynerMedia. And he did. We actually did social for a player. Carrie Rhodes went and had dinner with, he was a safety at the jazz, went and had dinner. And Jay and Gary did a great job managing it. And VaynerMedia was born getting four jets tickets to become the first client.

[00:30:36] And then when I left the jets and started up my own venture firm, went back and acquired a, almost 40% of the firm. And we've been partners ever since. And affirm is, probably the largest social media, digital first firm in the country. So when the moral of that story to me, is when you spot greatness, figure out how you can unlock it and in so doing, you can also change your own life, right?

[00:30:57] Gary is my brother. I've had tremendous [00:31:00] success, partly because of him. And a lot of ways, not entirely because of him, I've done other things, but he's changed my life. And I believe that I made a huge contribution.

[00:31:09] Hala Taha: It's so cold, Gary V is such an idol of mine. And I actually grew up right next to Springfield, New Jersey.

[00:31:14] And so I've been following Gary V for so long. So I know you and Gary are doing an NFT projects. Can you talk to us about this project and what you think about in terms of the future of nFTs?

[00:31:26] Matt Higgins: Yeah. I have gone deep into NFTs. First, like so many people listening to this over the age of 30 dismissed it like JPEGs, like what am I really buying?

[00:31:35] And I remember Gary, wasn't that long ago was during the pandemic. I had dinner with him and he's open your phone right now. And you are going to buy five crypto punks right now. And they are going to be worth an extraordinary amount of money and whatever. I'm like, I opened my phone I'm not buying this.

[00:31:49] Are you out of your mind? We're like 30 grand at the time. It was like, this is silly. Of course big mistake, right? Julia Robertson, she walks out big mistake, so I just not have done that. [00:32:00] But anyway, I pride myself on reflecting, especially when I get things wrong. It's not that I didn't think they might take off.

[00:32:05] It just didn't feel like it was, for me. And in the summer I had a little bit of a window free time. I decided to go deep down the rabbit hole, and just really understand what is the fundamental activity happening here with NFTs? Is there something there? And I just became convinced that the metaverse is going to transform the universe, that this underlying activity around NFTs appeals to so many different things that resonate with people, do feels to our desire to collect right rare items.

[00:32:31] It appeals to our desire to have procedures and have a rare thing and portray that to an external audience. It appeals to the desire to gamble, to be honest, right? And to invest and to be part of a community, which is the easy part to dismiss. If you don't spend time on discord. And around an NFT project, you don't understand what's happening with NFCS.

[00:32:52] If you do, when you immerse yourself and you see how enriching it could be to go deep into, and then if the community you begin to understand it. And then gaming, I [00:33:00] think that NFT gaming is going to be a multi-billion dollar industry, and it's happening in real time. And it's so easy to miss. So for fun, I've been onboarding people of all different stripes to a different industry projects that I really like and what I find across the board.

[00:33:18] One, everybody becomes addictive. Like I don't care if you're a lawyer, a CEO, you're a skinny aseptic, a curmudgeon. It has a certain gravitational pole. And that's how this may, that it's pretty significant. So I think I'm open. See, it could be the next Amazon, and there's going to be a, basically an arms race to figure out which becomes the winning cloud form.

[00:33:37] And in particular, NFT gaming is just going to explode, active Gary on Gary. It was just that we created our own NFT fund together and we've been putting money to work.

[00:33:47] Hala Taha: Is that already launched your nFC fund?

[00:33:50] Matt Higgins: We launched, we'd been added for, we keep it quiet, we don't brand it. We don't, we just do what we do, and invest in projects.

[00:33:56] We're in a ton of different things. We, I feel like we picked pretty great. We also buy some art. [00:34:00] We own an ape which has done pretty well and crypto ponds, but my only point for those out there don't this semester, dismiss it at your own peril, actually spend some time and have fun with it.

[00:34:09] And you'll discover that it's quite real. And this is the internet 1992.

[00:34:13] Hala Taha: How would you suggest that somebody actually gets started? You mentioned go on discord, which for those who don't know, it's a social audio app. So go on discord, start listening to some conversations. Most people don't have 30 grand lying around.

[00:34:26] So what's the, what's like a investment amount, that we should think about. And also how does somebody get involved?

[00:34:35] Matt Higgins: So just done point number one, remember complexity. As a proxy for opportunity, because it means it's early. So it is literally ridiculous to onboard yourself into the metaverse. It's so abstract and you get so mad, like why do I need a corn Coinbase app?

[00:34:50] And they're like, what the hell is MetaMask? And what am I, what is a wallet? I have a wallet, like I say, you need to shake it off. Yeah. It's and going through this, knowing like it's so stupid, how hard it is, but [00:35:00] that's the opportunity because in 1996, I had all these ideas for these domain names and I was like, I'm going to do it.

[00:35:05] And then I didn't bother going through the process to register them. Cause it was so complicated. And they're winning millions of dollars out the door. So stick with it. So point number one, if you can find a friend who's into it. So probably a gamer, somebody in your world has gone into the, they might be 12 years old, but somebody in your universe has gone deep and asked them to mentor you and onboard you.

[00:35:26] Everybody will do it because they want the population to grow. So if you, but if you don't happen to have that person, it's a couple of simple steps. You download the Coinbase app, right? You send some money to Coinbase. Now you'll learn the world of annoying fees, but you, Y you've send somebody to Coinbase and then you download MetaMask, which has your wallet.

[00:35:44] You need these two things. Don't use the Coinbase wallet. In my opinion, it's not good. The MetaMask wallet and send some coin, because you'll convert your cash to. And then now you're in, you will buy the NFT through the platform called
[00:36:00] open seat. That's where that's the Amazon of NFTs at the moment. And your MetaMask is culture money called the theorem.

[00:36:07] And that's where you'll buy your NFT there. There's tons of projects where you can spend a few hundred bucks to get started. You don't need to spend thousands. You want to do your research first by downloading discord. If you like some pretty objects, just spend some time, look at the depth of the community, the passion around the community, due to the developers of the project, do what they say they're going to do.

[00:36:26] Everybody puts out a what's called a roadmap. Most of them are full of shit. So just like you want to like, look for these little signals of execution or whatnot, but you don't need thousands of dollars to get started with that. I would say the opposite. Like you can do it for a couple of hundred bucks and do what's called minting, which means you're there from day one where you buy an NFT from the beginning.

[00:36:44] I know what I sent us complicated. I wanted to give you at least the general framework, but I think the most easiest way. So what I do now, I'm going to get it wrong. You teach somebody to fish, right? They go, they'll have food for the rest of their life. So anybody I bring in my friends from [00:37:00] Queens and teach them entity NFT land, that they have one obligation, which is to onboard somebody else that I send to them.

[00:37:05] So now I just I've created this, this group of people that onboard other people. So find somebody.

[00:37:10] Hala Taha: Very cool. And honestly, you de complicated. It sounds a lot easier than I thought it would be. Although, more steps than I realized in terms of like, how you have to like where you have to get your money and how you have to buy it.

[00:37:22] But it, it seems doable. And to your point, that's the opportunity, the fact that it's so hard. And so few people are going to actually get in early, because they're going to be overwhelmed by it instead of just figuring it out, step up,

[00:37:36] Matt Higgins: I'll give, and again, I'm going to simplify this, so it's not complicated, but because it is so early and so few people doing things, but so many new ways of transactions have been opening.

[00:37:47] Just to make one simple example, all these games and platforms produce their own coins, their own crypto currency, so to speak that has ability within their world. You could use this coin to buy, a new type of [00:38:00] skin for the NFT to change its color, whatever the utility of the coin is. But in order to stabilize the coin they need, what's called liquidity pools.

[00:38:07] Just something to backup these things. There's a whole ecosystem out there where people are basically providing liquidity to these bowls and earning 20%, 30%, 40% APY. It is so early. So my messages here, I am, I teach at HBS. I'm supposedly an adult, ideally trauma and reconciled myself, whatever. I'm like a teenage child playing with NFTs.

[00:38:31] So there's something there. That's my only point.

[00:38:34] Hala Taha: You've definitely changed my mind. I have to say.

[00:38:38] Matt Higgins: By the way, I'm going to Bombay or onboard you as a case study. So by the second week, I'm literally at, when we're done, I'm going to set you up so that the next time you're doing a podcast, we'll see if I've made you addicted to it or at least a believer in it.

[00:38:52] Hala Taha: Yeah. I'd love that. So let's talk about RSE Ventures. It's a private investment firm that you started. You're the [00:39:00] CEO and you've helped companies like Warby Parker. What are the other companies that you've worked on with this?

[00:39:07] Matt Higgins: And we progress my partner, Jesse. He did that, but no, but generally speaking, like big picture the Genesis of it was when you own a sports team, you have so much access to deal flow.

[00:39:17] So you have inbound that you can take advantage of. You also have perspective. You see a lot of emerging consumer trends. Pinterest, maybe for others might write like you see Snapchat taking hold, because these are huge audiences, sports teams have around them. And those emerging technologies are always pitching those sports teams to basically tap into them or an offering equity.

[00:39:37] And suddenly epiphany I had with the chance was like, we should be monetizing those insights. We should be backing. Technologies, but also we then should be using the sports team as a Petri dish, basically to go ahead and help them gain traction. So that was the general insight. So RSE was born around the Miami dolphins and early days, and it's morphed into a pretty significant [00:40:00] portfolio of great consumer brands.

[00:40:01] So our formula is generally a great founder, a Gary V type or whomever who has some degree of magic. Is going against convention and could use some support in some way to scale. So in the food context, that would be Christina Tosi of milk bar has been my partner. We spun that company off from Momofuku, with Dave Chang, its own independent company, funded a scaled it.

[00:40:25] Now, if you walked down whole foods, three years later, you'll see milk bar cookies everywhere. That's a reflection of my work with Christina Tosi and my team at RSA. We own Magnolia bakery, which required giving all the good food stuff, because I'm like, that's more interesting than some of the other things, but really that's the approach.

[00:40:39] I wanted to take this interventionists empathetic approach to founders and figure out how to unlock people's potential. Like I know what you get excited about doing in your life is similar to what I get excited about. Like I wish somebody had unlocked me, when I was going through whatever I was going through.

[00:40:54] So I just entered. Identifying like magic and saying, oh, what would it take to [00:41:00] truly amplify, whatever it is, you're great at whatever it is that makes you beautiful. And I get to play with a kind of behind the scenes. It's why I don't talk much about the Gary partnership because their truth is like, there's only one Gary and Gary is Gary.

[00:41:11] Like my role is as a miner and I enjoy the miner, the role behind the curtain, not behind the curtain. Does that sound true behind the scenes? Helping scale. So that's what I do across the portfolio version. 1.0 was building things from scratch. We helped launch a. We incubated that with Ben Leventhal and Gary Vaynerchuk.

[00:41:27] And now it's about owning significant stakes and great consumer brands.

[00:41:31] Hala Taha: And rezzy is like a restaurant software or something like that.

[00:41:34] Matt Higgins: He's a competitor to open table that was born maybe six, seven years ago at this point, and then was sold to Amex. And now Alex owns Rezi, but in the early days of RSC, we would build companies from scratch or work with founders from scratch.

[00:41:46] That gets hard to do over and over again, like you'll have a very short life if you keep doing that. So now it's more, a little bit more mature, significant interests, and then helping scale. But more recently. I've been backing great mature brands that I've [00:42:00] come across through investing in digital native companies or teaching out at Harvard.

[00:42:05] I backed Dapper Labs, which is a big NFT platform company through Casio recently invested in open sea as another one. So because it's our own investment vehicle, don't report it to. The wall street don't report to other investors. It's just a partnership. We have the ability to back whenever we find that's interesting.

[00:42:23] Hala Taha: That's so cool.

[00:42:25] How we understand something and it might be a dumb question to be honest, but how does that the owner of a sports team or managing a sports team? How does that lead to a lot of deal flow? Like you being exposed to a lot of deal flow? I don't quite understand that.

[00:42:39] Matt Higgins: So entrepreneurs, when they have a consumer facing technology, for whatever reason, they're always drawn to sports and entertainment to a lesser extent.

[00:42:48] But if you think about. A big artist doesn't really have a platform to communicate or put a brand in front of their fan base. But a sports team does they reach millions of people like Real Madrid, right? It has a hundred million people following it. So it's a natural [00:43:00] place for a Snapchat in early days or any kind of social platform or e-comm platform to want to tap into, to get in front of that group.

[00:43:08] So you have a, you can see them pretty early and often those early days, the imprimatur of a sports team or a league is so valuable, that they're willing to do equity deals. And those early days that phenomenon will carry on forever because you have a captive audience. That's very loyal. So if you know the NFL or the NBA backs like the NBA did with dapper labs early, that gives Dapper Labs a massive opportunity.

[00:43:34] So that's really, it. It's just people trying to cause that dedicated core fan base.

[00:43:38] Hala Taha: Got it. Got it. Okay. Let's talk about VCs and teach my audience and stuff about VCs. So aside from just giving money to people, what are the non-financial things that a VC or private investment firm would do for an entrepreneur?

[00:43:52] Matt Higgins: No, that's a great question. I think money, ideally, money's just way down, the list because money is money and you can find money in a lot of [00:44:00] places. It really depends if the entrepreneur is self-aware and reflective, which to me is the whole ball game. I think of VC who's been down the road before, especially a VC who has been an operator can be tremendously valuable.

[00:44:12] And so I would say to those, I have a tremendous bias towards people who have operating experiences. They will be much more sympathetic to the truck, the struggles you're going through and much more realistic. Like it's easy when you think the answers aren't an Excel sheet, but the Excel sheet associate doesn't tell you anything.

[00:44:28] Like all the issues you have to deal with as a entrepreneur are really about people, and trying to get the most out of people, trying to deal with people and trying to navigate around people like so to make that a little more, more explicit, like a great VC investor, as somebody who can come to and say, I'm really struggling to fill this position.

[00:44:45] I need a COO. I feel like I can't handle it all, but it's such a hard person to hire because I have this delicate culture of my office and, and Sally and Mark are competing for the top spot, whatever. That VC will help you source that person or will help you synthesize that fact [00:45:00] pattern.

[00:45:00] So to me, number one, it's a place where you can frankly be vulnerable. And oftentimes that's the whole ballgame. If you can be vulnerable with somebody, your investor, your spouse, or your partner, you then can get through whatever it is you're dealing with. If you need to hold back, because if you're sharing your vulnerability, you're going to be criticized for it or judged.

[00:45:19] You really can't make progress. So a great VC will create a safe space where you could share your problems, hiring, fundraising, products, everything that's going wrong, because if you can voice what's going wrong. You can go ahead and figure out what to do about it. Because I always think the number one predictor, I have for whether an entrepreneur is going to be successful is the amount of time, it takes them to make a decision that's already become objective really inevitable.

[00:45:42] In other words, like this product is going to fail. Like it's clear the market has spoken. How long will it take you to kill it and acknowledge it and shift directions. And so many things will get in the way of making that decision, fear of being judged. You know what I mean? Like I don't have another answer, too big of an ego.

[00:45:58] So I think when you [00:46:00] have the right level of self-awareness and a confidence and humility to pivot and iterate, when you're backed by people that won't judge you for it. It makes it a lot easier and a lot faster to make those pivots. But I've seen the reverse when you haven't veterans of that wearing their Patagonia, vests and staring at the spreadsheets, never had an operating job in her life and like just in it for the money and they make your life a living hell, because they don't know what they're talking about.

[00:46:20] Cause they never had to hire somebody fire somebody. I never, I've never been on the line. They just learned about it in a classroom. I don't know. So I have, as you could tell a strong bias towards people with true operating experience as investors.

[00:46:32] Hala Taha: Yeah. I think that's a great point. If you've never done it before, how can you give somebody advice?

[00:46:36] Who's doing it right now. It's pretty hard to do.

[00:46:39] Matt Higgins: You're inviting your advice will be cerebral or theoretical, but it's not going to be, it's going to be pre.

[00:46:43] Hala Taha: How do you have time for all of this? I, like I said, I'm a huge fan of shark tank and you were on two seasons and all the sharks are investing in so many companies.

[00:46:52] And I always wonder. I would probably want an investor. I don't have an investor for my company right now. I've bootstrapped the whole thing. And I think that's [00:47:00] my niche. That's upcoming question. Okay. So if you have 500 companies that you're invested in, how do you have time for all of that?

[00:47:09] And obviously people are going to start to take priority. Other people will fall to the wayside. So how do you deal with all of that? And if you're an entrepreneur looking for an investor, should you look for someone who doesn't have their star yet, because you might want to be that star for them?

[00:47:25] Matt Higgins: Yeah. That's a great question. It is hard at the end of the day, because you take on more, you have less capacity. Part of my objective is to render myself obsolete, wherever that's an option. So whether that means hiring a really great person. I really don't try to hold on to things.

[00:47:39] I try to let them go when I'm no longer useful, I only tend to want to go, where I'm useful and serve a purpose. And when I don't, I'm just not that interested. So unfortunately, that can make me very like, all right there's no more problems here, so I don't really need to work on this right now.

[00:47:54] Like we're good. So that's number one, two. I'm very intentional about my time. People always say, are you doing so much? I'm like I'm very [00:48:00] intentional about what I do. There is nothing that I do in a given day that wasn't thought through. And wasn't through being really intentional.

[00:48:08] I try to set boundaries around the things that matter most to me. So I have a lot of room to roam elsewhere. So in other words, my kids are the most important thing in my life. My wife has been my best friend, so I don't have a need for a ton of friends. And she's the way I want to hang out with.

[00:48:21] So I've constructed my life in a way that enables me to have a lot of room to roam outside of those really hard boundaries, around the things that matter most to me. And then three I scale. So I'm okay. Scaling trying to set myself up to level up beyond that. And yet I'm really hard on myself about am I doing what I said I was going to do?

[00:48:42] Am I executing on the things I took on? Because I don't have a lot of respect for people who buy partner calls a bit as a grasshopper, you jumped from thing to thing. So I'm constantly auditing wait, you said you were going to do this. You took this on, are you doing it? And if you're no longer interested in doing it, have you leveled with everyone saying, I'm going to move on now.

[00:48:58] But you made a great point. It [00:49:00] is a delicate balance of I always say, I'm sure I'm always pissing somebody off saying I haven't been able to get ahold of you. I miss you. I'm like, I'm sorry, I'm just trying to do something bigger. So yeah, it's a great question.

[00:49:11] I think I've come to believe that the joy of living is in the striving. It's my formula for happiness. I figured it out. I ran my first Mort marathon. I finished and I was like, why am I so depressed? I'm like, oh, it was the training. And so I tell, I communicate that to people like, oh, this is how. I really enjoy the pressure and the stress and the evolution.

[00:49:30] I never taught a day in my life. I worked for almost a year to have the opportunity to teach at Harvard business school. That's life-changing. So with that comes a degree of shedding of other responsibilities in order to level up.

[00:49:42] Hala Taha: Yeah.

[00:49:42] That's just the way the cookie crumbles, like it is what it is, and you got to focus where there's promise and the other entrepreneurs, maybe hopefully get a competitive kick out of that too, and maybe level of themselves, so I think.

[00:49:55] Matt Higgins: And I also think that I give this advice to people too. Nobody wants to go on a rescue [00:50:00] mission when you're trying to solicit support from whether it's a new investor or an existing investor, come up with discrete, actionable items that are impactful, that make a difference because everybody's guarding their energy and their time.

[00:50:11] So I feel like it's on everyone else to extract from you what's most impactful, but leave you with enough bandwidth to do what you want to do. As opposed to having to be like, I think we're out of money, like in two weeks, I'm like, oh, okay. So what's the plan. And I do get some of that in my life too.

[00:50:26] I'm like, come on, really? What you really are saying, you want me to go on a rescue mission? You don't think I have a million other things going on because I get that in my, I tend to get overly involved and I do feel like I've been through a lot. So people come to me, which I love, but then when people just come to me with a problem without even like a fact pattern that might get us out of it, I can't stand that.

[00:50:46] Hala Taha: Yeah. Can't waste your time. You're busy, man. Matt. So let's talk about when we should look for funding. So I'll give you my example. So I bootstrapped my company. I started my company as a side hustle while I was working at Disney streaming services [00:51:00] and marketing. And I grew it for six months. By the time I quit, I had 35 employees all over the world and now we've, we've hit 2 million in revenue in our first year and I don't need an investor.

[00:51:15] My customers are effectively. Funding my company, I hit my first real client was paying me 30K a month. And I feel like he was my seed investor. All my clients are like billionaires, millionaires, who I run social media on their podcast for. And. Yeah. I don't know.

[00:51:31] Sometimes we think about, should I change the structure of my company and figure out how we get investors and start raising money. I'm a really good sales person. And a lot of people tell me I should go down that path and figure that out and start raising money. And then internally we're just we could probably take this all the way.

[00:51:48] No we're doing it. So what are your thoughts there? When should somebody actually consider an investor? Everything about us is hiring good talent. So if I got money, it would be about hiring better and better people. And [00:52:00] having unlimited amount of money to innovate new products and hire better people.

[00:52:04] So what are your thoughts?

[00:52:06] Matt Higgins: Great question. Which every buddy should grapple with. If they don't cause to bypass this critical question, you could end up in a place you never intended to be. So I always think of the a lot of our dissatisfaction in life doesn't come from the wrong answers.

[00:52:18] It comes from the wrong question or failing to ask the question at all. So this is the question. Should I scale with investment or should I, bootstrap? I think it comes down to what's the goal. What makes you content? We, I found this, even when I went on to teach at HBS, it's like we have this presumption. That the object of the exercise to create a business, where the a hundred million dollars or a billion, like in debt have these markers. Where it's so hard to make $1 into two, and to be on your own a completely autonomous, no boss and feed yourself.

[00:52:45] Like I Marvel at that wow, you went out. So you're already doing it. I think, like you won. So then the question is, what does winning look like to you? Winning to me, it looks like you're already successful on your own, but winning to you might be like, I really want a big exit. I want to exit a business a lot of times when you [00:53:00] want an editable business, that can get that you do need the capital in order to scale bigger.

[00:53:05] And so we're faster. So to me, that's always the threshold question and. It's the theory of the case. What kind of leverage am I really going to get at a dollar in today that I couldn't achieve on my own by growing organically? So if you told me that there, you're going to start this new, media property, right?

[00:53:23] And you need it to raise $500,000 to create this media property. But with that 500 grand, you're going to be within the next three months able to hire 10 people. You're going to get it up to 10 million impressions a month within a year. And you're going to get, a, whatever, five X, multiple on yada.

[00:53:39] And now that thing's worth 20 million bucks. And that matters to me. That would make sense because it's going to take you a long time to generate $500,000 and free cashflow to fund that media property. Number one, to. And this idea is really time sensitive because I don't do this media property today.

[00:53:55] Somebody else is going to do it. So I need cash. So it's a blend of what's my [00:54:00] objective. Do I want an equitable business? Cause oftentimes if I do, I probably do need to raise capital once the leverage I can get on a dollar in today. And is there an urgency that requires me to scale now as opposed to scale organically.

[00:54:12] Hala Taha: Those are all super great thoughts that I'm going to noodle on.

[00:54:15] Yeah, that's for me, I'm just like, I don't know if I need an investor yet. I feel like I need some like other huge idea that I need funding for. Because as of now I'm able to pay for what I need.

[00:54:24] Matt Higgins: Thinking on an agency, if you're going to run a pure agency, then you know, most of the time the answer is you don't need investment.

[00:54:30] You build it or again, you win the contract. You hire. Once you have some more free cash flow, you can hire slightly ahead of demand because that will come. I think that's a bigger threshold for an entrepreneur. Who's building an agency to overcome the willingness to hire slightly ahead of demand and have the confidence to know demand will come.

[00:54:47] Philosophically that problems, but get solutions and people have it all wrong. People think solutions, beget, the willingness to undertake a problem because you have identified, how you're going to solve it. I do the opposite. I like to create the problem for [00:55:00] myself and then know that we have an infinite capacity to get ourselves out of situations.

[00:55:04] And so I placed myself in a problem. So to you, I'd say I'm going to hire three people. I'm not sure how I'm going to pay them, but I know I trust myself, I'm going to get the business, pay them. That's more important than taking an outside capital action.

[00:55:16] Hala Taha: That's exactly what we're doing right now. And I'm just like fucking sports start dates and months ahead, and I know the clients are coming.

[00:55:22] Matt Higgins: Gary V, when Gary did his deal with me back in the day that money didn't go into the firm, it just went to him and to Aja. So truth, VaynerMedia is a really a hundred percent bootstrapped. We were a little bit of money, went into acquire, pure out, but really actually Gary built that with the hustle of getting clients and stuff like that.

[00:55:38] So it can be done. The biggest thing to overcome as the willingness to hire out of.

[00:55:43] Hala Taha: Yeah, it's so true. It's so funny. That's exactly what we're going through right now.

[00:55:47] Okay. Let's

[00:55:51] talk. Let's talk. Listen. VaynerMedia has always been my dream. Don't get me started. I'm about to be on Claude Silver's podcast too.

[00:55:58] So [00:56:00] yeah, she's so nice. She was on my podcast like a year or two ago and now I'm going on hers. So I'm excited. So let's talk about entrepreneurs and what you look for in an entrepreneur. So let's start there and then I have a couple follow up questions.

[00:56:13] Matt Higgins: So maybe I'll put on the Shark Tank context, but I think it applies to everything from my time when I was on Shark Tank, I looked for probably signals more than anything.

[00:56:21] I really believe. I think the Italians have a phrase, the fish rots from the head. I just think everything is about the integrity of the mind, and the alignment of everything going on in your head. And so I spend a lot of energy really trying to look under the hood. And what am I looking for?

[00:56:37] I'm looking for a number one, like I mentioned earlier, self-awareness and an entrepreneur. And it's those sound like empty words, but we all can pick up, we can pick up signals of self-awareness, one of them being, for example, if you're on the set of shark tank will you acknowledge that you don't know something?

[00:56:51] Do you have the confidence to say you don't know something. I'm looking for conviction though. I'm looking for somebody who doesn't simply capitulate to me because that's expedient. [00:57:00] So how would that show up on Shark Tank? Cuban would say like your name sucks for this company or your packaging stinks after like we've looked at it for 10 seconds.

[00:57:08] With all due respect. Like I actually think that here's why as opposed to sure. I'll change it whenever you want. I just want you to be my partner. So I looked for a degree of conviction, also look for humility, use of the we in the language, rather than I all the time, those little signals that say to somebody and the reason why that matters, not because I want you to be the nice person in the world.

[00:57:27] People will follow the others who bring them along. So I, that tells me your ego is very fragile. You may be a narcissist, you're going to be unable to recruit people to your cause, including vendors and employees, and you gonna be less successful. So I look for that conviction, I looked for the self-awareness right.

[00:57:45] I looked for the ability to bring other people around, and of course I looked for mastery of subject matter and people who are looking to delegate everything or outsource it. Who don't have respect for what happens in the weeds, who don't want sit in the stream of data.

[00:57:59] They tend [00:58:00] to not be successful over time. So I really do look for a degree of willingness to be involved in minutia. And things are going away. Would that be ego, while it's beyond me? Or I just want to outsource all that. So I look for mastery of the facts. I can be unforgiving if I think there's something you really should know.

[00:58:14] And you don't know, that does say I do judge that pretty harshly. So if somebody were to go on shark tank, for example, and they're starting a restaurant or whatever, or somebody comes to me and I asked them, what's your four wall, what's your cogs, right? What's your occupancy cost. All these things are really important.

[00:58:28] We have a restaurants food business, your occupancy costs for an example, should be no higher than 10% of your total gross revenue. If you tell me you're the chef, I just handle the food. I leave that to build, to do it. It's no like food, like we'll just cook in your kitchen, like the opposite.

[00:58:43] He wants to make a profit on your restaurant. So I can be honest, forgiving when you don't have mastery of the things I believe you should. I could also be unforgiving if you bullshit me and act like you do when you don't, it's no one, we can do this all day about what I'm looking for.

[00:58:54] My overall point of this philosophical discourses, I try to get under the hood of the [00:59:00] head. I'm the worst deals I've ever done in my life, or when I partner up with a private equity firm and they've got billions of dollars under management, and they bring in all these experts to do these expert reports.

[00:59:09] And then I'll go on a day when I'm like, did you notice that the CEO is delusional? The reports are really great, but like a great product will never eclipse or overcompensate for a bad CEO, a bad founder. Whereas the other thing is true is actually the reverse is actually true. A great founder can eclipse a really bad idea and iterate to a better one, but the reverse is never true.

[00:59:34] Hala Taha: Let's hold that thought and take a quick break with our sponsor. This holiday season. I want to give a gift to my loved ones, that makes them feel special and unique. Just like the relationship we share. That's why I'm giving everyone I care about StoryWorth is an online service that helps you and your loved ones preserve precious memories and stories for years.

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[01:01:17] It's so interesting. So something else that I've heard you say is that you feel like entrepreneurs today might be too overconfident and that's because they have Google, they can search anything. Anybody can be an entrepreneur, you don't need an office, you have slack, you have zoom.

[01:01:32] So how can we prevent ourselves from being overconfident? And why do you think that entrepreneurs are so overconfident these days?

[01:01:39] Matt Higgins: The number one, I think we do a disservice to some extent, because we fetishize this idea of being an entrepreneur and it's now the common hierarchy. Everybody wants to be the hoodie wearing, maybe not mark Zuckerberg, but there's a mythology around entrepreneurism, which, and because everyone has the ability to have a side hustle, we confuse side hustle with the idea having a business.

[01:01:58] And so there's just not a lot of honesty [01:02:00] about the drudgery and the pain of what it takes to create a business, but also the skill sets that are required to be successful. You know this cause you've had to manage people. Now, if you were passive aggressive as a leader, you'll ultimately fail because you're going to hate the conflict.

[01:02:14] You're not to be able to tell people and give them feedback and not to be able to manage, hire slow fire, fast, all the things that go in to be a great leader. So my point. We've made entrepreneurs sound a lot easier and more accessible than it is. And we've also made people feel bad if they don't have an idea or some creative impact, we've almost devalued. What it means to be part of a team and how precious that is to serve for the greater good, how valuable, that is.

[01:02:42] And so those are my kind of my big overall takeaways. And as a result, we place less of a premium on experience, and I think that's everything about life boils down to pattern recognition skills. Ultimately, that is your greatest gift about getting older, downside of getting older as we get more wrinkly and maybe we [01:03:00] don't process information as fast.

[01:03:01] The upside is our pattern recognition skills are way stronger with every year of growth we have, and it takes us less time to recognize a pattern. So we tend to now discount. We discount H I'm not saying this because now I'm a little older. I really believe in it. We discount the growth and the pattern recognition that comes with that.

[01:03:19] And I see it shows up in entrepreneur is a little bit like I'm going to have Google. I already know that I'm like, no, it's different from knowing something in the abstract and having an imprinted on your cortex. So that's what I'm saying. And that was a very long way of saying it.

[01:03:30] Hala Taha: No, yeah, I totally agree.

[01:03:32] I don't know if this exactly relates, but I understand what you're saying because when I was 25, I was a first time entrepreneur and I failed. I had great brand. I was, almost got a show on MTV, all this cool stuff, but I couldn't monetize what I was doing. I didn't know what I was doing that ended up going into corporate.

[01:03:49] And I had a lot of years in corporate and then became an entrepreneur. And now I'm successful because I had those experiences, to learn off the back of another company. Big [01:04:00] companies. And so what I tell people on my show is let's say, you're you failed as an entrepreneur. Don't be like too cool or something to go get a real job after that and learn from somebody else who's doing it right.

[01:04:13] Matt Higgins: A hundred percent. I am an amalgam of that, which came before. It would be impossible now to pull, pulling a little bit of booze and Buddhism, right? What is the book? Is the book of the words on the page, the author who wrote the book, the tree, the crude of the book, that water that fed the tree. I don't know.

[01:04:26] I am an amalgam of all that, which came before. And a lot of that included jobs, treasures. Also getting it wrong. When, in my twenties, when my whole identity was about being like Doogie Howser and, younger than everything. And also just being the hero, took care of his mom and all this.

[01:04:42] That was my whole construct of my personality. It didn't involve working through other people. In fact, like I just would like, let me just tell everybody what to do because I have the answers and I don't mean that like egotistical way, that's just was the formula. And then as I get older, I get so excited to submit to the greatness of others.

[01:04:56] I love being humbled by somebody magic. Like [01:05:00] Gary, for example, he's so self-possessed and he sleeps eight hours. I'm like, God, if I could sleep two hours, like he's so reconciled, to who he is as a person, whether you like him or not, he doesn't care. And I'm amazed by that. I get to submit to the greatness of his self possession.

[01:05:14] I seek out opportunities to do that everywhere, professionally. So that has a lot more value for me and my family and my professional success than my twenties. When I thought that I was the, the star of the show. And so that's my point. It's a time for me to know that it's a pattern recognition for me.

[01:05:32] I think I'm more successful. When I submit to the greatness of others, than when I ruminate my own success. Like at further, and seem to enjoy life when I'm humbled by somebody else's mastery of a topic, because it tells me that I have more room to grow. There's another marathon to finish. I haven't hit the ceiling on myself.

[01:05:49] And so long way of saying that we unfortunately devalue experienced some pattern recognition and which doesn't mean simmer down young person. It just means D value seek out what [01:06:00] you don't know and get excited. When you discover that you didn't know something.

[01:06:04] Hala Taha: So as we wind down, I have a couple more questions for you.

[01:06:07] Hopefully you still have some time. There's this thing called the great resignation happening right now. We're 40% of the workforce after COVID has decided to become an entrepreneur. I'm one of those people, started a business during COVID. What did we do as startup businesses and small businesses, especially service-based businesses to actually recruit people to work for us. When there's so many people who don't want to work anymore, they're either getting a welfare check or maybe that's not the right word, but some sort of a check from the government or they're trying to start their own business.

[01:06:41] And they're not interested in working for someone else. So do you have any tips for actually recruiting entry-level employees?

[01:06:48] Matt Higgins: It's fascinating what's happening and quite real. It's a combination of different forces at work. It's this notion that we don't have to go back to work, that everything can function on, on 60% optimization.

[01:06:59] That's [01:07:00] eventually going to show up somewhere, but that's number one, two. I think it's partly a reflection of the moment in time. Where the all clear has not been issued. And we're in this sort of this interstitial, where you wear a mask when you walk into the restaurant, but then if you sit at the bar, you can take it off.

[01:07:15] Even though you're surrounded by a hundred people, like nothing makes any sense. And so we're still, I think, reconciling the aftermath, if we were in the movie, we would still be gathering for the big speech in independence day, but like the speech hasn't happened yet. So one of my point is this can't last, right?

[01:07:32] It won't last, this notion that we can have absolutely everything is not true because eventually people will want to get ahead, will want to put in more time, whatever. I think the part that has. Is frictionless behavior in the workplace and in our home life. So what I mean by that is no, one's going back to commuting for no purpose.

[01:07:50] There's no purpose for being in the office. You cannot get people to come to the office. And so what I love now is the idea that so many meetings, the default is still zoom. [01:08:00] So the amount of energy that, that unlocks the amount of productivity is pretty extraordinary. But the reality is I actually don't have answers on the recruiting front.

[01:08:07] I've encountered the same exact thing. I'm amazed by some of the things people will say. They'll be like, I'm really interested, but I'm, I've been taken up the scuba diving class. So I just feel like I wanna, like what's going on. I just think in another six months, it doesn't look like this.

[01:08:23] It does look like a hybrid. I do think that the all clear, I think it's important for our leaders. To say, all right, we've hit a threshold. It's time that we get going again. Where's the come on America. Let's get back to it. Like we, we got to get out of the state of suspended animation.

[01:08:40] I think it happens in six months is my guard. So over those who hear this little time capsule, we are in the year 2021, what's the date today. So we tell everybody, I told her 21st, October 21st. So I think by I'm going to give myself by 10 next May, we're back to normal, not to back to how it was.

[01:08:56] We're back to normal with a hybrid where people are all working [01:09:00] and out going about our lives.

[01:09:02] Hala Taha: Oh my gosh. I hope so, but I'm so glad there's no more commute and I'm so glad that I'm an entrepreneur and I never have to take the New York subway ever again. I'm so happy for that.

[01:09:12] Matt Higgins: It's funny. You, I always say it's so corny, but you really do need to know your why. What are you fighting for no matter who you are in life and whether you're an entrepreneur, but my, why has always been to achieve more freedom and autonomy, because I am I perform better and I will do more in this world. If I have more unfettered ability to pursue what's in my head and I've wanted it since I was a kid.

[01:09:32] I've wanted less subjugation, less control, over me. And I wanted more mastery at my own decisions because I've envisioned and the more unfettered ability to have to implement that vision, the better off I believe the world will be. But the better off I will be. That's my, why is autonomy? So it sounds like what's your why.

[01:09:47] It sounds like your why is also freedom and autonomy.

[01:09:50] Hala Taha: Yes. 100%.

[01:09:52] As we wind down, I want to talk to you about generation Z, because a lot of people who are older [01:10:00] generations, they look down on generation Z and they think that they're, lazy or whatever they want to call them.

[01:10:06] But you actually think that they have great values. So talk to us about what you love about generation Z, and maybe what you think they could do differently because I have a lot of gen Z listeners.

[01:10:15] Matt Higgins: Love that topic. I feel really passionate about this general idea, that when you're I use this tacking metaphor, but I won't get into it, but I did a speech called tacking.

[01:10:24] If you want to look it up, but that when you're on the ground, you're in the middle of things look like they're getting worse, or life is getting worse. But if you take a step back and you look at it from 30,000 feet, you realize the world is always getting better. And I think gen Z is a perfect manifestation of our world getting so much better.

[01:10:42] And it's manifesting in the values of gen Z, this generation. And my view is relatively colorblind. And I mean that in a negative way, understanding obviously, all the different experiences we've had depending upon our background and making, accommodations for it. But at the same time, just this vision of equality [01:11:00] that pervades gen Z is amazing.

[01:11:02] Same with sexual orientation is amazing. And so I look at my kids. And the values, they now espouse and their classmates. And I look at what I grew up around and Queens, and I'm like, it's breathtaking and makes me so happy for the future. So it's honest and I'm in I'm 46. So I can I get my bag and align myself as my only point is I'm going to align myself and anybody my age.

[01:11:25] I really think it comes from a place of insecurity of the dying of the light. Like it's hard when you get older, you gotta it's uncomfortable. What is this TikTok like dancing videos and, and we can't relate, but that's on each of us as we age to refuse to become obsolete. And instead embrace or question or wonder or dip our toe in to what's going on.

[01:11:44] If TikTok makes you uncomfortable, then go open an account and see what's going on there. So I think this sort of this happens almost in every generation, millennials used to be maligned and now gen Z are maligned. But what is unquestionable to me is the values that gen Z espouses. And this is [01:12:00] academic putting that energy out into the world.

[01:12:02] We're like, no people get to identify. However they want to identify. They get to live their life out where they want to live their life. We need to make amends for the past. We can not act like we did not commit the most tremendous atrocious crime in humanity or among them, but slavery and that has standing repercussions.

[01:12:19] And we need to come to terms with them. We are destroying our environment. We're all going to hell. Like these are important conversations in gen Z is stimulating and inspiring them. So I think most of them align maligning comes from this sort of discomfort with the world seems to be changing so fast and tech talks so stupid.

[01:12:34] So I don't know. I find anytime I have that attitude, I'm like no, no check yourself. That's just you becoming obsolete and you just don't like it. So I listen to my beautiful kids. My, my assigned time. What's going on in school and just how he used his friends and an identity and whatnot.

[01:12:50] And I just think it's breathtakingly amazing. So that's my view.

[01:12:55] Hala Taha: Way to leave on a high note. And the last question I ask all my guests [01:13:00] is what is your secret to profiting in life?

[01:13:04] Matt Higgins: I really think it's being intentional. I think that if you look. What's one of the worst emotions we go through. It's not anger.

[01:13:13] It's not sadness. It's regret because it's the one self-inflicted emotion. That you can completely avoid. And so the antidote to regret is intention. So I think the secret for me, profiting in life is I'm always working backwards from my deathbed and my epitaph. What do I want my epitaph to read? And what am I going to feel on my death bed?

[01:13:33] And if you think long and hard, you can actually project. I'm like, oh yeah, it was that. I didn't do this. Most of it is I didn't do this, not I did this. It's cause most things when you're an 80, are you really going to care that you did this? It's mostly, I didn't do this. And so the cure to making sure you don't have too many, I didn't do this is to be really intentional.

[01:13:52] So I asked myself every single day, what is the highest and best use of mat. It's like a concept I take from land use. We do that with a piece of property. You're always [01:14:00] asking what's the highest and best use of this piece of land today. It evolves as the context of balls. You evolve as your context evolves.

[01:14:06] So you have to audit what's the highest and best use I've changed. I'm not who I was yesterday by cells are dying, but my brain is growing and my experiences are, are blossoming. Who am I today? And then I set my intentions based on homemade today. And that's why when you look at my crazy life and my crazy repertoire, it's because of that pattern is constantly playing out.

[01:14:26] Hala Taha: Oh my gosh, I love that advice. I would recommend that you guys go rewind that right now. And where can our listeners go to learn more about you and everything that you do?

[01:14:34] Matt Higgins: I'm spending a lot of time on LinkedIn. That's my favorite place and I am, so Matt Higgins, I'm like den and I have a book coming out not for a while, but we'll talk more about that.

[01:14:42] All about these topics. It's called burn the boats beyond about another year Harper Collins.

[01:14:47] Hala Taha: Awesome. Cool. I'll have you back on when you have your book launch. I can't wait for that. Thank you so much, Matt. This was such an awesome conversation.

[01:14:54] Matt Higgins: Thanks for having you're amazing. Your questions are amazing.

[01:14:56] It's so thought provoking.

[01:14:58] Hala Taha: And there you have it young and [01:15:00] Profiteers. My first interview with a shark in the books. And it was so surreal to interview Matt Higgins. I love Shark Tank. I'm like a fanatic of that show. I've watched like every single episode. And then I got Matt Higgins. It is unbelievable what you can achieve when you just put your mind towards something like the people.

[01:15:20] I get an interview. Sometimes I have to pinch myself that I get to interview these people. It is amazing. And I promise you young and profits. This is not going to be the last shark, I have on the show. I'm going to have Mark Cuban. I'm going to have Barbara Corcoran. You bet. I promise you this won't be the last shark on the show.

[01:15:39] And when it came to this episode, we covered a lot of ground Matt story to say the least is truly inspiring, from his beginnings in Queens to his decision to drop out of high school at 14. To then being the youngest press secretary to the mayor of New York at the ripe age of 26. And now look where he is today.

[01:15:59] He's one of [01:16:00] the most prominent businessmen in America. He's on national television. He's invested in some of the biggest companies in the world. Matt has accomplished so much and he did it all by betting on himself. That is the main takeaway from today's episode is you've got to bet on yourself. Matt covered a topic that I think is really important for people to hear knowing your self-worth.

[01:16:24] He told us that when you know what you're good at and when you know what your worth. To your company, you can gain some leverage, whether that's leverage in negotiating a raise, leverage in a promotion or a title, or even leverage to quit. Ultimately he told us to never be afraid to bet on yourself. I hope you remember that.

[01:16:43] And aside from that beautiful advice that Matt provided, he also gave us some great, insightful tips for business and leadership, that I want to revisit. I specifically want to recap what he looks for in an entrepreneur when making investment decisions. The first thing he looks [01:17:00] for is conviction. Having the ability to stand by your idea, even when someone is challenging.

[01:17:06] Remaining confident in your product speaks volumes and number two humility, always giving credit to the people around you. And using we, instead of, I gives insight to not only who you are as an entrepreneur, but as a person as well. And number three, Matt believes in the power of saying, I don't know, being able to have the confidence to say you don't know something instead of lying or blaming someone else. Gives us a chance to look at your willingness to learn and take responsibility.

[01:17:36] This was truly an inspiring conversation with Matt and I hope you guys enjoyed it as much as I did. Thanks again to Matt for our conversation. And thanks for listening to Young And Profiting Podcast be sure to connect with me on social media. You can find me on Instagram @yapwithhala or LinkedIn, just search for my name.

[01:17:55] It's Hala Taha. Big thanks to the amazing YAP team as always. This is Hala [01:18:00] signing off.

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