In April, my co-founder Ivan Wang any I had the privilege of meeting Mike DeLazzer at his Marco Island Home. Our trip was marked by homemade burritos, a game of Akinator and the best Sea Bass I have ever had.
By Marco Island standards, the weather was supposedly subpar when we arrived, but the sunlight and warm weather was a welcomed change from Boston. I arrived a little before Ivan, so I got a chance to ride with Mike on his boat and see the island. When Ivan flew into town, we met up with Mike and his wife Gina at the USS Nemo, where all four of us had the Signature Miso Broiled Sea Bass. The faux foodie in me wants to write about that alone, but I will save that for another time.
The next day we met up with Mike and had a chance to chat about what we wanted to do with our company and the challenges that lay ahead of us. For dinner, Mike made burritos, and we were joined by his brother Faust and sister-in-law Candy. We had a good time getting to know each other; we played several rounds of Akinator. In this game one of us thought up a character–real and otherwise ranging from Enkidu to President Barack Obama—and the app tried to guess who this person was using very basic yes and no type clues. We collectively play against the app guessing the character before it did. We wrapped up the night discussing education and the stars. While this trip was about mentorship, we spent most of the time getting to really know each other; this is because Mentorship is more than just an event; it’s a process that extends over a year—if not longer.
We met Mike virtually at the turn of the year; back then we were a company developing a technology that had a myriad of applications, and a clear commercialization strategy for a niche market, but the details on how we were going to get from business model on a page to a physical operation was nebulous. Mike has been really helpful in helping us figure out how to build out the other parts of our product, beyond the core technology we are developing; although we’ve always known this is a technical task we’d have to pursue eventually Mike was able to pull together resources to help us move these parallel parts of our product development along.
What I’ve come to realize is that a business plan is not something inscribed in stoned, it’s really the embodiment of us entrepreneurs attempt to put into words the vision we have for our company. Constrained by time, space, and coherence, the many nuances of our business can never be captured when the pen hits the paper. This leaves a lack of real constructive criticism when getting feedback from competition judges or even potential investors; having a mentor like Mike, who has deep experience, and the time to really talk to us, is completely different because we can explore, in a very methodical and profound way, a specific aspect of our company.
Through that process, I have had to think more about our supply chain and how that supply chain will change as we grow. In many ways our technology leverages the global supply chain to stay competitive with similar technologies, but exploring our company with Mike has forced me to think about our supply chain in much more depth and complexity than I would have on my own. Now our plan, once ambiguous, is evolving into something almost corporeal. Now we know how and where parts of our product will be designed, developed, and manufactured. Now we are getting a real sense for how much things will cost, and where other technical challenges will be. Without an advisor like Mike, we wouldn’t be as far along as we are today.