Robert Maynard, co-founder of Lifelock, on Entrepreneurship:
Robert Maynard is a serial entrepreneur and self-described renaissance man, having founded two public companies: LifeLock and Internet America. He consults regularly to venture-backed startups regarding mass marketing, leadership, team formation and fund raising. He has four grown children and is a survivor of Bipolar Disorder. We took a few minutes to talk to this unusual man about his experience as an entrepreneur.
Interviewer: Why entrepreneur as a career? That can be a tough road, as your career can attest.
RM: I was once told that the definition of an entrepreneur is someone who “will live like most people won’t in order to live like most people can’t.” Right on the nose, if you ask me. I never had an interest in an ordinary or easy life as my resume shows.
What are some of the most important lessons you’ve learned?
RM: Go where people aren’t no matter how hard it is:
Otherwise known as the “blue ocean” strategy, I learned this on my first paper route when I was 10. Adjacent to the route I was given were hundreds of units of five-story apartments that none of the other kids would serve because of all the stairs. It was hard lugging all those newspapers up and down in the Phoenix heat, but it just seemed obvious that those people would buy papers from me. I took my route from 35 papers when I started to 250 in three months and started putting food on the table at home. Something my sister and I desperately needed.
Interviewer: Anything Else?
RM: Choose your partners very carefully.
As commander of a Special Forces team, I was honored to serve with the finest men I’ve ever known. There is a reason that the training is so rigorous before you can even serve on a team. You have to be a very special person to be willing to lay down your life on a regular basis for the guy next to you. Conversely, it takes a special type of personality to trust his life to someone else. On a team with only 13 men, every one must play at the top of his game all the time and provide unconditional support to the others. This is something I’ve tried to emulate in business. However, I find it almost impossible to find.
In my opinion, a partner needs to be this kind of person. Without the training and trial by fire that the military brings, these people are exceedingly rare in civilian life. While you may have great chemistry, as I did with Todd at LifeLock, when things get really tough or there is a lot of money on the table (and there always will be in a successful company) I have found that civilians just don’t meet the standard.
So the lesson here is a turn on the old John Dean saying: “Trust but Verify” In business, it’s “Trust but Vest.” Make sure that if there’s a problem with the partnership that there are mechanisms in place, that you control, where you can take the business back from the partner or vice versa.
Interviewer: Wow, tough lesson there.
Robert Maynard: Yes, but I wouldn’t trade my time at LifeLock for anything.
Interviewer: Speaking of LifeLock, tell us the story.
Robert Maynard: LifeLock was a wonderful ride. It started when I was arrested for what I thought was someone else’s crime. I thought my identity had been stolen (turns out it hadn’t, but that’s another story) and it made sense to me that I should have been able to stop it before it happened. At the time, there was no company that could do that. (Note the Blue Ocean again). I decided to build a business that helped people avoid identity theft in the first place, as opposed to the other solutions on the market which were purely reactionary.
I started work on the project in 2003 and toiled in obscurity until I met Todd. He was like a shining beacon of “can-do” attitude. We hit it off immediately. Todd loved being in the limelight. I liked working in the background. We made a great team and the company took off like a rocket: a little slow as we achieved liftoff, but then nothing stopped us until we hit orbit.
Interviewer: What’s your next act?
Robert Maynard: With my good friends, we have developed the world’s first consumer-to-consumer credit bureau (there’s that Blue Ocean again). It’s going to change the way people do business online and save some lives along the way. We’ve been working on it almost three years now and we’re about to take flight. I think this is he biggest, most important, project I’ve ever worked on and we’re about to take off. It’s called iValidate and you can see what we’re doing at www.ivalidate.me.
Interviewer: Thank you Robert Maynard. LifeLock, Internet America, two public companies, and now iValidate. That’s a strong run for any entrepreneur. Thank you for your time.
Robert Maynard: My pleasure.