One year ago, I posted The Boldest Bet of My Life about becoming a co-founder of Nobody Studios, a venture studio with the goal to launch 100 compelling companies in 5 years.

Now, more than ever, I realize that call was an understatement! Building the studio has challenged me to the core, yet I’ve continued to back that bet day in and day out for the past year through many surprises, challenges and tremendous learning and growth for myself, the studio, and everyone involved.

So, I wanted to take this opportunity to share some of that experience—the highs and lows, the wins, the missteps, and the places we’ve yet to get things to work out. I’ll also update you on some of the amazing things happening this year as the journey continues. But first…

Why Did I Become a Nobody?

As I wrote 12 months ago:

“I’ve spent years advising businesses from startups to the Fortune 500 on how to avoid common pitfalls and create better systems, products, and strategies for innovation and growth. Along the way, I’ve built a business and brand through extraordinary collaborations and meaningful partnerships with you all—ones I could scarcely have imagined many years ago.”

Having started and successfully scaled my advising business, I began asking:

  • What do I really want to spend my time on?
  • What gives me the most energy for the effort I put in?
  • Where do I believe I can leverage my skills and capabilities most?
  • How can I help the most people exceed their boldest ambitions?

And through that inquiry process, I worked with coaches and talked about it openly with my personal board of directors, Melissa Perri and Gibson Biddle. The answer became clear: I missed my love of building something from nothing.

Don’t get me wrong, I get a lot of fulfillment from advising startups, coaching executives, and helping companies succeed. I’m proud of the advising business I’ve built and everyone that’s helped me do it.

And I’ve had a hand through this role in advising, investing in, or being on the board of other companies such as AgileCraft, Just3Things, and Angel Squad. But I missed building and owning every bit of the process and results—facing the blank canvas and figuring out all the bits needed to create something new. I wanted to roll up my sleeves and get my hands in the dirt.

So I began thinking, “What’s my next bet on me? What’ll take me outside my comfort zone?”

Fortunately, I was introduced to our Chief Nobody Mark S. McNally, and the path appeared before me. I feel very lucky and blessed that the opportunity for Nobody Studios showed up. It’s the most challenging and invigorating initiative I could ever have imagined: to build a business-building machine from nothing.

It’s been hard, frustrating, and fun. I feel fully alive and dialed in. I bounce out of bed for 4 AM calls because I love what we’re doing so much. So I know it’s been the right move. And yet, there have been challenges and powerful lessons all along the way.

Taking My Own Medicine

One of the biggest lessons for me has been one I’ve taught others countless times over the years: think BIG, but start small, and learn fast.

Thinking big was no problem—our vision is as big as they come. But we wanted to start with a splash—spin up as many companies as we could to meet the speed and scale we wanted to be operating at. We quickly got into planning 14 companies simultaneously.

That’s 14 sets of spinning plates, with all the infrastructure and people to support them. That quickly becomes overwhelming for both time and capacity, especially for a small core team still learning how to work together. The truth is, it wasn’t realistic.

Even if you only have three hours of time per week for each, that’s 42 hours. Plus context switching cost, collaboration time, follow-ups, contract creation, and more. Our aspirations and excitement got the better of us. Burnout loomed.

We had to be okay with starting small and building a solid foundation for future rapid growth. We realized we can’t (and shouldn’t) be in every meeting for every company. And actually, what’s more important is building the systems that will allow these companies and many more to start, develop, and scale—often without much direct involvement from me or the studio’s leadership team.

And in shifting that focus, we’ve made incredible progress that is paving the way for something truly unique and wonderful.

Highlights from the Last 12 Months at Nobody Studios

First, the fact that we’re still alive and getting stronger is fantastic—90% of startups never make it out of the garage! (Believe me, I’ve been part of a few of them.) Nobody Studios is growing at a strong pace and building an incredible global network of talent and supporters. A few highlights:

14 Companies in Development

Half are currently in active build mode and readying to launch into the market. As an “equal opportunity” innovator, we have a broad breadth of companies: Parentipity, Ovationz, and ten others are powering ahead!

World Class Advisory Board

Our growing Nobody Network is focused on areas we want to play in. From hospitality to health and crypto to cleantech, we’ve got angels who are rolling up their sleeves to help build the portfolio we can be proud of. People we could only hope to hire have invested both time and money. (Read about our Hospitality Board here)

Business-Building Systems Developed

We’ve laid a foundation for rapid creation and development of truly innovative companies

  • Frugressive Innovation
  • Talent Onboarding Portal
  • We’re even building a company from the interviewing process we use!

Capital-Raising Goals Smashed!

We’ve extended our angel round three times and onboarded our fantastic Chief Capital Officer Vito Milano. 60% of our angel investment is outside the US: 14 countries in four continents. We truly are a global company!

Global Network Growing Fast

Our idea has resonated with talent all over the world. We have active teams in the Philippines, Israel, Italy, UK, Colombia, Mexico, Australia, and more! These are people we didn’t know previously who have joined the journey.

Building the Crowd-Infused Future

Our amazing network keeps growing, building itself through introductions and people wanting to help. Whenever we’re looking for talent or opportunities, we have instant access to experts in many domains and locations.

For example, we were having trouble finding legal experts in the area of employer relations and disputes. We put out a call to our network and within 48 hours got seven quality referrals!

So, we have much to celebrate and continue building upon. And yet, we have to recognize where things haven’t worked out as we’d intended so we can improve.

Taking Challenges in Stride

We have an amazing team, yet we’re only human. Engaging in such an unprecedented endeavor means accepting that things can’t be done instantly or automatically.

That has all kinds of ramifications in testing and growing our own knowledge and capabilities, which impacts everything we do—sometimes in undesired ways.

For instance, some people have come on board, yet the relationship hasn’t worked out as anyone wanted, and we’ve had to part ways. You feel responsible—what could we have done better, sooner?

There have also been frustrating delays at times, such as finding talent, onboarding, and getting people up to speed. These hurdles slow progress and can be demoralizing.

Our crowdfunding campaign is another example of patience and persistence. When you’re doing something for the first time or trying to lead innovation in how and who can own equity in companies, it often takes more time than you want.

Personally, this is one of the most exciting and intriguing aspects of Nobody Studios—to be the first venture studio to offer equity crowdfunding. We’re breaking down barriers to venture investing for everyday people PLUS offering automatic diversification and lifetime benefits for all—a truly fantastic innovation.

Yet, it has taken far longer than planned because what we’re doing is so unprecedented. The entire equity crowdfunding space is very new, and we’re adding a complicated new twist. That means plunging into regulatory frontiers to investigate possibilities, test legislation, and confront individual interpretations of the rules.

Having the confidence to push new ways of working means you need to be bold yet get people on board. It’s been a very intense process. We’ve all learned a ton, and we’ll be very relieved and excited when the campaign launches in the coming weeks!

How I’ve Grown as a Person, Builder, and Leader

Through all the twists and turns, despite my ongoing enthusiasm and excitement, I’ve had to overcome many doubts (sometimes many a day).

I’ve gotten much better at facing my fears and strengthening my resolve to not get caught in extremes—always focusing on the next best action I can take. I recognize and acknowledge the highs and the lows, and remember, “This too will pass.” Then I work the problems and find the best way forward.

I also have a new level of appreciation for talking to people about challenges and getting coached (a huge shout out to Sabrina Abraham, and Rick Galyean, in particular, for working with me through this journey).

I’ve also come to recognize that payoffs often come much later than the initial effort. I approach any new meeting through a long-term lens. You meet people at a certain moment—but that might not be the moment for them to engage. So we keep them informed of our journey and create opportunities to connect at the next right moment.

We’re Never Done—Simply Learning More

Perhaps most importantly at all for us as a people-first company, we continue attracting amazing people who resonate with the Nobody Studios mission. We’re also refining our systems to allow people to engage in the ways that work best for them.

If you want to get involved, we’re always on the lookout for talent, influence, and capital. Check out our website. Sign up for our emails, and follow us on LinkedIn. Many more amazing things to come in the year ahead, and I’m already looking forward to sharing my 2-year retrospective!