Our motto is “for entrepreneurs by entrepreneurs,” so we have created a series on the journeys of our founders. We know that not one journey is like the other. Therefore, here is another in our ‘A-typical’ Entrepreneurial Journey series.
Founder Spotlight: Darren Nix, founder and president at Steadily
Steadily, was created by industry experts to offer landlords great insurance service and a compelling experience from quote request to claim resolution
*The conversation has been lightly edited with Darren’s approval*
Entrepreneurial Background and Expertise
What did you want to be when you grew up?
A pilot! I went through the whole process with the Air Force Academy then realized I couldn’t pass the vision requirement to land jets on aircraft carriers so I “pivoted” to my long standing backup plan — be an entrepreneur. :/ I don’t think I really understood what that meant, but I’d drunk the Kool Aid after learning HTML so that I could build sites about my favorite game (Descent).
What was your “Aha moment” when you realized that you wanted (or more so needed) to start Steadily?
My house burned down. Well, a house that I had bought to rent out. I ended up having a $110,000 landlord insurance claim. After going through the journey of buying insurance several times and then having a huge claim, there was almost no way I couldn’t start Steadily.
What is one nugget of advice that has impacted you as a founder that you would share with others looking to start their entrepreneurial career?
“Make vicodin not vitamins.” I think Twilio epitomizes this. I’d been programming Asterisk servers to do telephony and SMS going back to 2006, so the first time I heard about Twilio my reaction was “shut up and take my money.” I think we all aspire for our companies to get that reaction from prospective users.
Describe a day in the life of Darren–as typical as one can get for a founder of a startup. What two skills, in your opinion, are necessary to make it through each day successfully?
Two skills: A. Focus and B. Systems to make A possible
A day in my life:
- Wake up around 7; read HackerNews in bed while my brain’s warming up
- 7:20 grab the first of ~six Diet Cokes of the day, a cup of granola, and a Chocolate muscle milk (don’t judge me!)
- Log on around 7:40
- 7:40 to ~8: Process my inbox (a system I adopted after reading this blog post). TLDR: get to inbox zero in 10 minutes by archiving, starring for later reading, or 1-line responding to 100% of inbox messages.
- 8am-11am: zone in on a big chunk of focus work e.g. code or writing a long doc
- 11am: 15-minute team standup
- 11am-3pm: a bunch of 30 minute meetings scheduled back-back thanks to Calendly with a mix of:
- Interviews: 40%
- Partners/vendors/sales: 30%
- Team: 20%
- Future investors: 10%
- 3-4pm: respond to ~half the emails I’ve starred throughout the day for later response
- 4pm-5:30pm: semi-focused work
- 5:30-6pm: A half-hour run with or without dog depending on day of the week
- 6-7pm Dinner with girlfriend
- 7-9:30 big chunk of focus work round 2
- 9:30-11: wind down / veg
- 11: get in bed
- Some time between 11-12: actually fall to sleep
If you could share a beer, glass of wine, soda with any person (dead or alive) who would it be and briefly why?
Mid-level merchant in London circa 1650. I’m fascinated by the dawn of the enterprise, insurance, modern commerce, and capitalism. One of my favorite fiction trilogies is the Baroque Cycle, which is set in this era.
Are you a “Breakfast of Champions” type? Or do you live on coffee and fumes until lunch?
Eh… I don’t think anyone would consider my dietary choices to be that of a champion, but I definitely eat breakfast every day.
Favorite business book
Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely. It explains why people do the things they do in ways that are directly applicable to designing products.
Your life is pretty busy running a company. What do you like to do in your free time?
Play games… physical and virtual. We play a ton of Terraforming Mars. I can’t wait to play Cyberpunk 2077. I also usually ride ~50 miles a week on my bike and run ~15-20.
Why do you think Austin city is a great place to start a company?
Austin is the Goldilocks of cities 🙂 A well-rounded mix of the ingredients that make a great startup home: talent, size, weather, nature, cost, tech density.
Thank you to Darren for taking the time to share his story with Next Coast Ventures.