G-Sync: Radio interview with entrepreneur Corey Hart

On Thursday, July 11, WGVU's Morning Show with Shelley Irwin, along with RG's Publisher Tommy Allen, welcomed entrepreneur Corey Hart — a Grand Rapids native — who's returned to Grand Rapids after 10 years in California where he experienced numerous adventures within the startup scenes in San Diego and San Francisco. 

You can listen to this insightful interview here at this link.

Since we often referenced “time” in our interview, we asked Corey after our interview for some answers to a few time-centered questions.

Tommy Allen: Since you were away for a decade, can you tell us what is the biggest difference in being an entrepreneur in California versus Grand Rapids?

Corey Hart: As an entrepreneur, the biggest difference I found in California from Grand Rapids is the mindset. And that mindset is embodied in the entire state. 

There’s a robust startup culture in San Diego. LA is called Silicon Beach for a reason, and of course, there’s San Francisco and Silicon Valley. 

There’s a reason why Tesla sprouted out of California and not Detroit or Germany. But there’s also a reason why Tesla relies heavily on companies in the Motor City, the engineering expertise in Germany, and the solid manufacturing talents of the markets in which their Gigafactories are located. Speaks to the mindset of those respective regions.

I feel kinda cheesy and buzz-wordy with that answer, but the anything-is-possible-anyone-can-do-it mindset is everywhere there, in every industry and is contagious. 

As an example, when the girlfriend I moved to California with moved back to Michigan, it didn’t take her long to open the successful Arborvitae Salon & Spa (www.lcisalon.com) in her hometown up in the UP. I have to think that the high concentration of talent and being in an environment filled with strong mentors and inspiration helped foster the confidence and skills needed to make that leap into entrepreneurship at home.

TA: Being immersed in that startup culture and mindset, is there one resource that really had a positive influence on you or stood out as remarkable?

CH: As I mentioned when we spoke, the incredibly active community of entrepreneurs and investors was by far the most remarkable thing I was exposed to. You can’t throw a rock in San Diego, Los Angeles, or San Francisco without hitting an entrepreneur. And after you apologize for throwing the rock, they’ll eagerly hook you up with crazy knowledge, contacts, and introductions. 

To get a taste of the kind of information and mentorship available to anyone willing to ask for it, take a listen to Reid Hoffman’s podcast, Masters of Scale

And if you’ve ever heard of the famous YC Combinator (Instagram came from YC’s accelerator), they offer their Startup School FOR FREE, and TO ANYONE. 

TA: Over the years you have had a lot of experience with pitch decks, are there any resources that offer good examples one can leverage to enhance their presentations?

CH: Buy this book: Venture Deals, by Jason Mendelson & Brad Feld. 

Devour everything inside Alexander Jarvis’ blog. He has the largest collection of pitch decks from funded startups. Startups like Uber, Airbnb, LinkedIn, and hundreds more.

Then, go pitch! 

TA: Are there habits that you engage in on a regular basis that are related to or assist you in helping keep your head in the game?

CH: The biggest thing that keeps my head in the game is making time for celebrating the little things. The small victories. It helps me slow down just long enough to savor the wins, gives me a boost, and helps keep the momentum.

I like to celebrate with a glass of wine or a pint of beer. Or if there’s time, a good meal. And I savor the win with every sip or bite.

If I wait for the big finish, it’s just too long between celebrations, and chances are that the big finish is just the beginning of an even bigger slog ahead.

TA: While you were in San Francisco you referenced attending a lot of social meetup events focused on startups to help you perfect your project. How many in an average month did you attend while growing your business?

CH: We spoke about density being one of the things a mature startup ecosystem needs, and I’ve never experienced the sheer number of resources and talent in any one city before my time in the Bay Area.

I would make myself hit two networking meetups and at least one pitch event each week. Some weeks I was pitching at up to three events in a week.

And there’s no shortage of events. VC firms throw mixers and formal events, Angel groups throw events, each accelerator and co-working space throws events, and then there is the nonstop schedule of conferences like TechCrunch. 

Sometimes I was looking for talent, other times money. Still other times, just working on my elevator pitch or testing out features and seeing what the response was.

I was able to accomplish in the Bay Area in just a couple months what would have taken me at least a year if I was to stick to where I was living in San Diego.

TA: A lot can happen over 10 years. If you could look back to that person who was your younger self, what advice would you share from where you are now that you might not have understood at the time?

CH: Fail more often. Fail faster.

Maybe a part of our West Michigan mindset is that we’re afraid to fail, talk about, and own our failures. It was certainly true for me.

And hey, I’m open to speak with anyone on this stuff. They can reach me via my email at [email protected] or shoot me a text at 858-888-2975.


Corey Hart is a Grand Rapids native who's returned from ten years in California. He's an innovation, growth, and operations maverick, and has been an entrepreneur since the age of 16. His last role was as co-founder & COO of Chef Meal Kits, a food-tech startup based in San Francisco. Corey is an expectant father, avid cycler, and geeks out on anything brewed, fermented, distilled, grilled, sautéd, baked, broiled... you get the idea.
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