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Jordan French is a five-time start-up entrepreneur, engineer and marketing expert. A biomedical engineer by training, he worked for NASA’s Mars Gravity Biosatellite Program in Cambridge, Massachusetts before becoming an intellectual-property and energy-law attorney. He has ties to both Locke Lorde in Houston, Texas and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in Washington, DC. Among his first forays in entrepreneurship his first marketing firm, Status Labs, ranked on the Inc. 500 and Fast 50 based off the growth during his tenure as CEO and COO from 2012 to 2015.
His work as a bootstrap marketer with “seemingly limitless connections,” according to one adviser, caught the attention of the inventor of NASA’s first 3D food printer, Anjan Contractor, who was assembling a team to launch BeeHex as a food robotics and automation gaming company. Among the most-covered robotics startups in 2016, BeeHex marketed its way to earn the attention of Jim Grote, the founder of both Grote Company and 300+ store pizza chain Donatos, who led a seed-round investment of $1 million in the company according to TechCrunch.
On the leading edge of marketing, in 2017 French was a keynote at PR Summit and moderator at Millennial 20/20 Summit in New York.
City where you’re from: New York, New York.
I have two that resonate with me:
“Sunlight is said to be the best disinfectants.” — Judge Louis Brandeis.
A good story isn’t always based in facts but eventually the facts come out.
Second, in Picard v. United Aircraft Corp., 128 F.2d 632, 643 (2d Cir. 1942) (Frank, J., concurring) (discussing the role of predictable rules for patent enforcement in helping a smaller “David” compete with a larger “Goliath”):
To denounce patents merely because they create monopolies is to indulge in superficial thinking. We may still want our society to be fundamentally competitive. But there has seldom been a society in which there have not been some monopolies, i. e., special privileges. The legal and medical professions have their respective guild monopolies. The owner of real estate, strategically located, has a monopoly; so has the owner of a valuable mine; and so have railroad and electric power companies. The problem is not whether there should be monopolies, but, rather, what monopolies there should be, and whether and how much they should be regulated.
And so patent monopolies may still be socially useful; they may, indeed, as I have said, foster competition. The David Co. v. Goliath, Inc. kind of competition is dependent on investment in David Co. the small new competitor. And few men will invest in such a competitor unless they think it has a potential patent monopoly as a slingshot.
It’s a profound quote that captures the incentives created by a patent grant. Without a strong patent regime has a far slimmer chance of fending off and disrupting much larger, well-funded competitors. I credit much of the American economy’s advancement to its patent regime.
Hey Jordan, your story is very powerful. Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur?
We’re seeing–and going to see– more and more scholarship on this subject. Entrepreneurship is very much part of the fabric of American culture. American culture has been and remains driven by immigrants and what I call the “immigrant mentality.” The “immigrant mentality” shows itself in the tenaciousness, speed and willingness to take risks, face uncertainties and translate the currencies of authenticity and confidence into a novel business.
Some of us–whether that is first or second generation– just have that unbending drive to create. That creation comes from within and can differ across siblings–even twins as I’ve witnessed. And no matter the obstacles or setbacks with that “immigrant mentality” we drive forward with whatever the mission it is we’ve set out to accomplish.
It’s a pretty incredible sight to see that conversion of energy into action because ultimately it leads to higher productivity, GDP and a better standard of living for everyone within its reach.
Who were your biggest influences? Was there a defining moment in your life?
I’ve been lucky to meet and work with a number of just incredible people. Earlier in my life Vanderbilt Dean Sandy Stahl, now-Dr. Jimmy Kerrigan up at Cleveland Clinic, Erika Wagner and Thaddeus Fulford-Jones at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which was under the Mars Gravity Biosatellite umbrella come to mind. Of course, like puzzle pieces, there are too many people to thank or mention.
More recently I’ve earned inspiration from serial entrepreneur and author Jon Fisher, computer expert Walter O’Brien, Gerard Adams and Gary Vaynerchuk, among others. In many ways simply helping other people and adding value no matter where they are or where they sit in life can really bring meaning. It’s really all about relationships. And a shame to the extent that people get short-sighted or opportunistic.
Some of the relationships I’ve had more recently and especially through younger entrepreneurs coming up the ranks have been most inspirational. It’s a wonder to see that journey and the most satisfying part is being able to genuinely help someone on his or her way.
What are you working on? How did you come up with this idea?
My focus right now is on BeeHex, the 3D food printing company I co-founded in 2016. We’re just light years ahead, technology wise, and it’s been a lot of fun to market the company and identify where the best fit is. When you have revolutionary technology, as the Director General of the Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory put it: “You can drown in opportunities.” So a disciplined approach has gotten us this far and we’ll continue to demonstrate that discipline because it works.
BeeHex, besides a stellar team, was lucky enough to add Donatos founder Jim Grote as a partner in the business. Now that we’ve created the technology, we’ve realized that there are many possibilities for the printer.
How is your product/service different and unique? What has been your favorite moment with it? What’s the vision?
BeeHex systems use a pneumatic system to print any range of viscosities. It opens up–for the first time–markets in the complexities of automation in fresh foods and personalizing those foods. In the long-run a firm like BeeHex is a data play. A robot attached to a computer, clients already want to know and can learn when, where and how their customers demand food, whether it be desserts or baked goods like pizza, coming from the BeeHex Chef 3D.
The vision with BeeHex systems is to make fresh food available where it’s difficult to provide it today. Our pilot programs prove that 3D printed food isn’t some farfetched idea from the future, even though we love the analogies to the Star Trek Replicator and Back to the Future: Part II rehydrator. It’s technology that’s available right now and has a range of applications in personalization, entertainment and reliability.
If you do Facebook ads, what types of creatives/campaigns do you use (we like specifics)? If you don’t, what untapped marketing channels do you take advantage of?
The key to any successful marketing campaign, particularly for a business like BeeHex, is to add value and from that value leverage your connections. I think that the rise of the internet and social media has made people start to move away from networking conceptually, but networking is still critical for any type of marketing.
Did you experience failure along the way? What did you learn from it?
Of course I’ve experienced failure along the way. There’s really no way to avoid failure completely when you’re an entrepreneur. The key is to have the right mindset when failure happens. If you fail at something, you learn. From my failures, I’ve learned about the importance of connections–as in genuine, real connections. It’s really all about relationships. It’s amazing what people miss out on when they fail to see the long game and collaborate or at least ask about what’s available.
Give the readers the best entrepreneurship advice you have.
Find like minded people to work with. Being an entrepreneur without interacting with anyone else is nearly impossible. If you’re just becoming an entrepreneur, find a mentor. Mentors love to teach everything they know and you can benefit from the knowledge of a successful entrepreneur.
Teach us something about fundraising
Fundraising is for many the least favorite part of entrepreneurship because it can feel like a time suck. But it doesn’t have to be.
It’s pretty difficult to convince someone to give you their money for a piece of your future cash flows that might not have materialized yet. My advice for this comes back to leveraging connections. If people trust you, they’ll invest. Always make sure you’re expanding your network and talking about your project or idea– but most importantly add value. This can make fundraising much easier.
While working on your project, have you come across any interesting bit of knowledge that you’d like to share? (i.e. any new research finding, any new platforms, some novel management technique, etc)
I’ve been spending a lot of time going from one expo to another, and I have to say, these are some of the best places to be. Expos that are related to your field are full of likeminded individuals. You never know who you’re going to meet and you could end up running into someone who is interested in your business or has relevant advice. In 2017 I was invited to join Momentum Events as an advisor to “pay it forward.” For experienced and successful entrepreneurs speaking at a conference can be a great way to share knowledge and also build your brand.
What daily habits do you have that allow you to perform at your peak?
I think that being positive and kind toward others can perpetuate goodness. The better your attitude and kinder and more generous you are to others, the more likely you are to get the same in return. A positive workplace full of happy partners is exactly the type of business people want to build. That’s the type of atmosphere where ideas are generated–and most importantly– can be executed on.
What should an entrepreneur focus on?
Entrepreneurs should focus on getting better every day. Find that one thing that you do exceptionally well and double and then triple down on it. Even though you start a business, your business is going to depend on your ability to act and react. The better equipped you are, the better chance you’re going to give your business.
Walk us step-by-step through the process that you had to go through to get from the early stages to where you are today.
My “first step” as an entrepreneur at age 12 started after a death in my immediate family that, like a vacuum, sucked me right into entrepreneurship on the basis of need. My polished writing and good pedigrees are a far cry from the relative poverty and blue collar and rural environment in which I grew up. My seed begins among apple orchards and the grittiness around me from people who were building and maintaining farms.
I bootstrapped the success of Status Labs with a cunning pupil and later, partner. As CEO and COO of that company– and a strong team that never got enough praise–I ranked the company on the Inc. 500 and Fast 50 based on its growth from 2012 to 2015. The funny thing about betrayal, though, is that it comes from those people closest to you. It’s all about relationships. In many instances, though, people have a “number” and they’ll do anything once they reach it.
From there it just became about doing more. The next steps for me after Status Labs were BNB Shield and Notability Partners. Throughout the process you begin to meet more people and get exposed to more ideas. Last year I was fortunate enough to co-found BeeHex. That’s where I am now.
You could say I know a thing or two about business partners. Over eight in total I’ve witnessed a death, betrayal, and engineers, marketers and a female cofounder. Based in part off some of my work with Dr. Kathryn Anderson at Vanderbilt University it’s somewhat easy to see in the data that female founders and hires, in general, have a good shot at outperforming their peers. My own anecdotal findings match that conclusion.
What are some of your favorite books?
All of Gary Vaynerchuk’s books are good reads, especially for an aspiring entrepreneur. Gary is one of those guys that’s successful and enjoys everything he does. He also has a talent for energizing other people to reach their potential.
Tim Ferriss’s Tools of Titans is a solid anthology. Books from Michael Porter, Benjamin Graham, Christensen and Drucker are must-reads but you can find them in practically any “top books” list.
Ryan Holiday put himself into a good position where he has the time and penmanship to assemble and share through books and articles. He’s worth following in an effort to celebrate intelligence.