As the CSO of Popdog, Niles Heron embodies an entrepreneurial spirit driven by freedom and the ability to control his own destiny. He has witnessed successful careers built under the restraint of golden shackles, but when the going is tough and failure is imminent, Heron finds comfort in the fact that his decisions yield the final outcome. Wealthy and untethered is the name of the game, and Heron has lived by that notion since he started his first internet radio business at fifteen years old.
Popdog is fundamentally focused on content creation and consumption in the world of live streaming, and they provide services and technology to some of the top content creators in the esports and video-on-demand spaces. This includes analytics tools that better portray their value to brands for sponsorship and monetization, and management services for nearly the top 40 content creators in the gaming industry.
Organic and Inorganic Growth in the Startup Space
Heron’s experience with accelerator programs in Michigan gave him a lot of access to early-stage startups where he found inspiration in nurturing the next generation of entrepreneurs, but a lot of businesses try to raise money to solve problems without finding a proper product-market fit. This led Heron to realize that his true passion was not in raising capital, but in helping people make their products work. As a result, Heron shifted his focus to consulting and built a powerful resume that paved the way for his future endeavors.
“If all you need is money, you can go to the bank, but what you need is proof that your business works.”
There are many types of deals out there and organic growth has to be the foundation, but once you’ve found the actual customers for your actual product, you can start augmenting. From this position, you have the ability to force growth in any number of directions, but if you go in all directions you will grow much slower. If you’re trying to scale, you need to pick one direction and understand that this is where investment really matters.
The reason you need to have one customer is so you can comprehend why you don’t have two customers, and if you can’t answer that you might as well have zero. The whole point of the partnership is to expand your customer base by deepening the relationship with existing customers or finding new ones. Demand limit is important to consider but if you can’t figure out why you’re not acquiring more customers, the partnership grows frail.
Doing Deals vs. Adding Value
People don’t go and seek deals because they often don’t understand the problem they’re trying to solve when they get the deal. The reality is that you can’t do deals if you’re not willing to be extremely self-critical. On the other hand, if there is no natural limitation set, deals become arbitrary since your focus should always be getting more customers. Unfortunately, that is not the way most businesses work since the markets have become over-saturated.
Before this episode, Niles Heron never saw himself as someone who does deals, but he always identified as somebody who seeks to add more value by any means necessary. Whether he is helping someone generate organic growth or finding a partner that can provide the means, he stresses that anyone trying to “do deals” should really be focusing on how they can add value. This requires time, but if you strive to accomplish something a “deal” is just the facilitator.
Click here to listen to his Fueling Deals podcast episode.