About this episode

This week Ryan Hogan, co-founder and CEO of Hunt A Killer,,, joins me on The Startup Story. Let’s be clear, Ryan is not a bounty hunter that lives a high adrenaline lifestyle. Instead, Hunt A Killer is an entertainment and media platform that has leveraged the incredibly popular box subscription format as one way to distribute their content.

Ryan served in the United States Navy for 15 years and left to pursue his startup, Hunt A Killer. Serving in the military is an all-consuming endeavor. Yes, there is plenty of downtime, but never would I have expected to meet a serial entrepreneur that built numerous businesses while serving on Active Duty. And these were not just small side hustles. While serving in the U.S. Navy, he created a Zombie Adventure Run that brought in close to $8 million in its second year!

There were so many elements of Ryan’s story that were surprising to me. In fact, sometimes on this podcast, a founder will drop some truth that shakes me a bit when I hear it for the first time; because it hits close to home. Ryan’s story includes one of those moments. This is Ryan Hogan’s startup story.

In this episode, you’ll hear

  • His early childhood, having a father who left the police force to pursue entrepreneurship and what it taught him
  • Ryan’s own early start as an entrepreneur in the third grade and later starting a lawn mowing business
  • What street racing and nitrous gas has to do with his decision to enlist in the military and his decision to join the U.S. Navy and his 15 years of service
  • His various business ventures during his time of service, including buying and selling items from local auctions, as well as creating a moisture-wicking shirt business
  • Starting, running, and executing on a startup while serving in the U.S. military and how the shirt business would ultimately lead to creating a successful zombie adventure run series
  • The logistics of putting on a running event and how it helped Ryan move over $250k in shirt inventory; plus the eventual shutdown of his running adventure business and some lessons he learned
  • The unknowns of entrepreneurship, why it can be amazing and scary; and how Ryan puts everything into perspective
  • The formation of the idea for Hunt A Killer, creating the game design, realizing quickly the original concept wouldn’t scale and going back to the drawing board
  • Building community around the Hunt A Killer experience, moving to a subscription box model and some lessons Ryan has learned thus far

“Every failed startup attempt is a building block.”
—Ryan Hogan, Hunt A Killer

Resources from this episode

Our Sponsor, Vortic Watch Co.: https://vorticwatches.com/
Help Support Socks for Heroes: http://scmcsg.org/
Hunt A Killer website: https://www.huntakiller.com/
Ryan Hogan on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ryanehogan/
The Startup Story on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/thestartupstory/

Share the podcast

The Startup Story community has been so incredible sharing our podcast with others, and we thank you! We do have more stories to tell and more people to reach. There are three ways you can help.

First, the most powerful way you can support this podcast is by leaving a review on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Second, follow us on Facebook and Instagram, and be sure to share your favorite Startup Story episodes with your friends and on social media. Tag or mention @thestartupstory.co so we can give you a virtual high five and a thank you!

Lastly, share the podcast on LinkedIn. The Startup Story podcast is for entrepreneurs. Don’t underestimate the power of sharing on LinkedIn so other entrepreneurs can discover us.

With your support, we hope to further our reach in encouraging and inspiring the founders of today and tomorrow. Thank you!

EPISODE CREDITS

If you like this podcast and are thinking of creating your own, consider talking to my producer, Danny Ozment.

He helps thought leaders, influencers, executives, HR professionals, recruiters, lawyers, realtors, bloggers, and authors create, launch, and produce podcasts that grow their business and impact the world.

Contact him today at https://emeraldcitypro.com/startupstory

Special Guest: Ryan Hogan.

Episode transcript

The Startup Story - Ryan Hogan

Ryan Hogan: Hi. This is Ryan Hogan, cofounder and CEO of Hunt A Killer, and this is MY startup story.

James McKinney: Every wildfire began with a spark. Every superhero has an origin story. And every single startup has a moment that they point to as their beginning. And every founder has a purpose that drove them in the midst of all obstacles. THAT is The Startup Story.

[00:27]
James McKinney: Before we jump into this week's episode, I want to read a review from Brooke Craven that gave the show a five star rating and wrote, "James highlights all aspects of business, entrepreneurship, and more in this can't miss podcast. The host and expert guests offer insightful advice and information that is helpful to anyone that listens." And another five star review from Skit Ramp, or Ski Tramp, not sure which it is, but writes, "I like the natural convo James has." Well thank you, Brooke Craven and Skit Ramp or Ski Tramp, for taking the time to write your reviews. So for all my listeners everywhere, if you have found any value in The Startup Story please leave a written review on iTunes and plug your brand, URL, or social media accounts. If you do, then I'll read one in an episode and it's like a mini ad that lasts for years. It's just my way of saying thank you for taking the time to leave a review. The written reviews really do mean a ton for being discovered within the iTunes platform.

I'm not sure if you've noticed, but with the new upgrade Mac OS, the iTunes has gone away and it's now Apple Podcast. Apple Podcast has redesigned their navigation and finding great shows has become a bit more challenging. So climbing the charts on iTunes is not just about listeners, but it's about engagement. Listening is one way iTunes measures engagement, but written reviews have a multiplying effect. So please leave those written reviews. Now, let's jump into this week's episode.

Our guest this week is Ryan Hogan, cofounder of Hunt A Killer. No, Ryan is not a bounty hunter that lives a high adrenaline lifestyle. Hunt A Killer is an entertainment and media platform that has leveraged the incredibly popular box subscription platform as one way to distribute their content. If you've been listening to The Startup Story for any length of time, then you know I do not send questions to our founders in advance. I want to capture an organic conversation between two entrepreneurs so that you and I have the same listening experience. For that reason, there are moments when a founder drops some truth that shakes me a bit when I hear it for the first time, because it hits close to home. Ryan's story includes one of those moments for me.

[02:26]
Ryan Hogan: So many people got hurt, and this is what really sucks about business, especially business and family, business and your personal network, and relationships, and things like that. It's that nobody made out in this. There was this big I think article that went out after the event collapsed, and it was like, "Founders are flush, but everybody else is left holding the bag." Like that can be the narrative all day long. The reality is there were three bankruptcies as a part of that. A couple personals and one company bankruptcy. Nobody made out, and it just sucks because it deteriorates relationships, it puts a lot of strain on things.

[03:02]
James McKinney: The reason we are highlighting Ryan's story is because for this entire month, we've been focusing on founders who are veterans. Ryan served in the United States Navy for 15 years, and left a 15 year career so close to retirement by the way, to pursue growing Hunt A Killer. Serving in the military is an all consuming endeavor. Yes, there's plenty of downtime but never would I have expected to meet a serial entrepreneur that built numerous businesses while serving on active duty. I'm not talking about small side hustles. I'm talking about a Zombie Adventure Run that brought in close to $8 million its second year. Now, there are so many elements of Ryan's story that are surprising, so let me step out of the way so you can hear it directly from Ryan himself.

[03:49]
Ryan Hogan: It really started off with my dad. My dad started his career as a Baltimore City police officer, married my mother, and obviously had me. They split when I was about two years old, and he had actually separated from the police force after I believe 15 years to pursue entrepreneurship, and to be his own boss. I thought that was incredibly powerful, and spoke a lot to the pursuit of happiness. I watched him go through real estate companies. I was two and three years old, he was doing vending machines and restocking vending machines. Buying it and going around doing that sort of stuff.

My mom wasn't really entrepreneurial. She is a creature of comfort. She likes her days planned. And so she had worked, I believe, for 40 years… she actually just retired about three weeks ago, for Johns Hopkins university as a buyer. Really the exposure early on to my father and then also my uncle was an entrepreneur. He was an architect in Baltimore City. He ran a couple different firms, but just his story really resonated with me because he wasn't a college graduate. He had some very interesting high school years, but he was still able to succeed in life. I looked at that and I used that, especially as I was going through some of my own turmoil through high school, that it's never too late. He was able to be successful in the architecture world because he became an apprentice, he worked his way up, and then eventually the owners of the company wanted to exit, and so they did an employee buyout. From there, he had 20 successful years running his own architecture firm.

So for me, it was third grade. Third grade, I was selling Creepy Crawlers, those little like gummy looking creatures that you put in an Easy Bake Oven, and I was hawking them for 10 cents or took custom orders for 25 cents. From there, it was all about lawn mower men and printing things out, and dropping off these flyers on people's driveways and shoveling snow. It's always been this idea that there's something really special about creating something that doesn't exist, bringing it to life, and going through that process, and watching other people enjoy whatever it is that you created.

[06:16]
James McKinney: Growing up and seeing your dad make that change, one as you were telling the story about 15 years on the force and leaving it, in my mind I'm like wow, that is bold because again, in the police force you have the pension, you've got retirement. He's five years from it. Almost similar to putting in 16 in the military and then leaving before your last re-up. Just thinking these stories like wow, that's incredibly bold. You were younger, so do you remember much about that initial transition off the force into trying to do his own thing? And do you remember any of the hardships? Do you remember observing any hardships?

[06:50]
Ryan Hogan: I don't. I don't have a lot of first hand recollection from that time, but what I do have is many follow on conversations. I'm sure we'll get into that, because you just brought up a great point of separating from active service after 16 years, and that's exactly what I did. I've had no less than 20 conversations about this topic with my father to understand resentment, regret, or was it something that he appreciated and if he had to do it all over again would he. We had many conversations like that when I was coming up to the decision point of whether to stay in or pursue entrepreneurship full time.

[07:30]
James McKinney: Oh my goodness, that is unbelievable. I can't wait to get to that. So let's now cover the time when you're in natural transition for all people, and that's high school. High school graduation is coming up. There's a vision we have for our future, about how we're going to change the world or at least try to get by. What was in your line of sight coming to the end of high school, and what did you want to do? What was that next step for you?

[07:52]
Ryan Hogan: Nothing good. For me, it was all about street racing and getting into modifying cars. I think I was very much ADD because it was always about once I became fixated on something, that's all I would focus on. So for me, high school wasn't a… if you look at my marks from high school, you would say how did you even get into the military. It was because I was always focused on something else. So the future was racing cars, or the future was just getting by.

At that point, I was a local electrician apprentice for Local 84 in Baltimore City. There wasn't much thought as to what I could create or how I could become entrepreneurial, but I did always have this thing of there's something out there for me, there's something I should be pursuing, and there's something I should be creating that I can bring to the world. But it was very later in life, and many, many failures before I actually understood what that was.

[08:54]
James McKinney: So did you join the military straight out of high school, being that your vision was racing cars? Not many people I imagine in the Baltimore area are thinking racing cars is my future, that's the area I'm going to go down. Or was military an answer to another problem?

[09:11]
Ryan Hogan: Yeah, yeah. It was definitely the answer to another problem. The whole racing cars thing, it's not like… I've got a buddy right now that's racing in NASCAR. That's racing cars. I think that we thought that we were Fast and Furious, and so it was all about the nitrous and the turbo chargers, in our little Hondas or Mitsubishis that would run around. The entrance into the military was that I was still racing cars. I was an apprentice in Local 84. I actually on one Saturday night, I blew my car up on nitrous.

[09:41]
James McKinney: Oh man.

[09:42]
Ryan Hogan: Some of these stories are crazy. I promise you can corroborate all of them. But blew my car up and had no more transportation to and from work. I was still living with my mom in Owings Mills, Maryland and it was a 30 minute drive to get to the site that we were working at. So without transportation, I couldn't get to work anymore. So I just stopped going. Eventually, my mom was like, "Well, you're not just going to hang around here and do nothing." Another important conversation with my father, and we discussed what the options were. It just seemed like a good place was to find clarity in life in the military service.

I feel like everybody has the same story. Our chief operating officer, Josh Hall, he's a former Marine. I guess you're never a former Marine-

[10:31]
James McKinney: Never a former Marine.

[10:32]
Ryan Hogan: … so I guess he's a Marine. We have a similar story, and I feel like I hear this story all the time, but when I went to the recruiters office, it was one of those offices that had a Navy recruiter, Army, and Marines. For some reason, I was just like I'm going to be in the Marine Corps. When I got there, they were out for lunch. So then I just walked into the Navy recruiter's office, and from there got shipped off to boot camp about three months later.

[10:57]
James McKinney: Oh, that is awesome. Did you know what you wanted to do in the military? Because back in the day, we didn't have access to Google like we do now to know all of our jobs and our MOS. What did you want to do going into the military? Did you have an objective or was it just really like your dad said gain clarity, level up on some discipline maybe? What was your thought going in?

[11:16]
Ryan Hogan: Once I joined the delayed entry program, before I even made it down to MEPS, I had a buddy that was going into the Navy at that point and he said, "Become an air crewman, because as an air crewman you can try on all these different jobs." There's like three or four, and then you get to pick the best one that you like, and then you can strike forward and go from there. So what was really interesting about that was later on down the road, I realized that if I wouldn't have became an air crewman, and I would have been undesignated, that's a really fun pitch that recruiters like to make just to get you in the door. But it just so happened that he landed on something that was really fun.

I made a transition throughout my career from enlisted to officer, but I've never had as much fun as I did flying in the United States Navy, than driving ships or anything else that came later down the line. Because of him going into the military before me and kind of giving me that advice, when I did get down to MEPS I just said, "Hey, I heard about this thing called air crewman. I'd love to be an air crewman." They're like, "Can you swim?" and I was like, "Sure, I can swim." And they were like, "How good?" and I went, "I'm not on the swim team." They're like, "Okay," and then stamped my paperwork. So I wound up becoming a dry air crewman, although I was still rotary. Went through aircrew school down in Pensacola, Florida, and then from there got MH53 Echoes and I was doing mine countermeasures out the back.

[12:40]
James McKinney: Oh man, that is awesome. So going into the military, you needed clarity, you needed a little discipline, a little focus. How many years? Because you alluded to it earlier. How many years did you serve?

[12:52]
Ryan Hogan: Active duty, I served 15 years and then right now I have two additional years as a reservist.

[12:57]
James McKinney: So 15 years active duty. Why, and for those listening 20 years and you can retire. 20 years, you retire.

[13:07]
Ryan Hogan: My wife will remind you too.

[13:09]
James McKinney: So how old were you when you went in, 19 when you went in?

[13:13]
Ryan Hogan: I was 17 on my mom's signature, and then when I actually went to boot camp I was a month into 18.

[13:21]
James McKinney: 18. So in your 15 years, you went in enlisted, you transitioned to officer which means you've completed your degree within that program, within your time in service. So why at the 15 mark, when you can see the end in sight if you will, why the decision to get out?

[13:43]
Ryan Hogan: A lot of things went into that decision. I think that we were in a very unique place as an organization that allowed me to make that decision a little easier. There were many companies leading up to where we are today with Hunt A Killer, and it was only because Hunt A Killer could pay its own bills. I think when I got out 2016, so 2017 we did about $5 million that year and you could see that the growth was still coming .it made my personal decision much easier because there's always been a passion. I wasn't built to color in the lines and to take orders. If I am going to be a part of a larger organization, I want to help create process, I want to help create change. That rubs a lot of people the wrong way. I saw an opportunity to transition and here we are in a We Work in Seattle.

[14:42]
James McKinney: So let me just make sure I have my dates right. So what were your years of service? When did you go in, when did you get out?

[14:47]
Ryan Hogan: I went in November of 2002 and then I separated October 31 of 2017. I've been a reservist ever since.

[14:59]
James McKinney: So when did you start, first off is Hunt A Killer your first startup?

[15:04]
Ryan Hogan: No, no.

[15:06]
James McKinney: So within your time in service, there were other ventures as well?

[15:09]
Ryan Hogan: Yes.

[15:10]
James McKinney: So let's talk about that, because now you're talking a side hustle inside of a career. I'm not even going to call it a job, a career. It's all consuming serving in the military. So what were those startups and how did you navigate a startup while serving in the military? I'd be curious if I have some military listeners, service members right now that are thinking the same thing. How did you do that?

[15:33]
Ryan Hogan: If you're listening and you're thinking about starting, you should definitely start. The earlier you start, the quicker you'll get to whatever your goal is. One thing that I've learned throughout developing all of these companies…


[15:45]
James McKinney: I hope you are loving this episode of The Startup Story. For the month of November, we are focused on telling the stories of founders who are also veterans. For that reason, I want to remind you of two initiatives we are focusing in on this month.

The first is to visit Vorticwatches.com because they have a limited edition military watch where $500 from every sale goes directly to the Veteran Watchmaker initiative, which is a nonprofit that trains US military vets to become watch makers. You can learn more by visiting vorticwatches.com.

The second initiative is Socks for Heroes. On November 5th, we featured The Startup Story of Jim Hogan, cofounder of Socks for Heroes, and learned that he started this program after his son gave his life while serving in Afghanistan. Socks for Heroes is a program that provides new socks for our troops while they're deployed. In case you didn't know, Amazon Prime does not deliver to the outskirts of Afghanistan and our troops are responsible for providing their own socks. I'm sure you can imagine how critical it is for our troops to have clean socks. For that reason, I hope you will visit scmcsg.org to make a donation. Again, that's scmcsg.org.

And if you're a company with more than 20 employees, please email them directly at info@scmcsg.org to see how your organization can support their mission. This is a big month with an important focus, so I hope you will participate in some way. Now, let's get back to our episode.


[17:13]
Ryan Hogan: One thing that I've learned throughout developing all these companies is that all of these are building blocks. So there is a long graveyard behind me right now with a whole bunch of LLC's and everything else, but I can draw a line from either the experience or the network or the knowledge gains from previous ventures to where we are today. So it's critical that if you are going to start, just start something small. For me, that was going to local auctions and buying stuff cheap, and putting it on eBay. So I remember this time that I went and there was I think five laptop computers, totally destroyed, needed to be refurbished, and picked them all up for $50, so $10 a pop. I did nothing to them and reposted them on eBay and got like $30 a pop. So $30 times five, you got $150 and go back to the auction and buy some more stuff.

This was 2008 and Under Armor each year has a Friends and Family deal, so if you're part of the organization you get a coupon code for 40% off. You can go to their flagship store and get anything in there, and that's 40% off of even on sale items. So I went there and used this coupon for things that were already 30% off, so wound up getting like 70% off and it was their mock long sleeve apparel. I put it on eBay and ended up making like $40 or $50 per shirt that I was buying there.

So at that point it was all about hey, there's a market out there for this type of apparel. I wonder what we could do differently, or if we could create something that was specific to a certain group of people or a certain budget, or something like that. So I actually I called up the guy in Thailand. In 2007 I deployed and went all over the place in Asia, and we wound up staying in Thailand for about three weeks. So the local suit maker who we were all on first name basis with wound up making a couple suits for me. So I was like you know what, if I wanted to get a couple of these shirts made cheaper than Under Armor, I can call this guy and maybe he'll know. Maybe he can do it or maybe he'll know someone that can. So I called him and I said, "Hey listen, I would love to purchase some moisture wicking t-shirts from you that I can resell here in the US." He didn't have the facilities, but it just so happens that his brother owned a factory in Bangladesh. So from there, I started purchasing shirts and then we acquired a lot of inventory. There's a long story there too.

[19:48]
James McKinney: Oh my goodness, that's incredible. So when you were on that, so three month tour where you're just everywhere, and you end up in Thailand for three weeks, was your mindset to find a resource for this while you were there?

[20:01]
Ryan Hogan: No.

[20:02]
James McKinney: It just so happened in general conversation, it just happened?

[20:04]
Ryan Hogan: Well, it didn't even happen until years later or I guess a year later. The conversation in Thailand was, "Hey, how much for a suit?" The suit maker was about a block away from the hotel that we were staying at for those three weeks. We would just go and have beers with him, and then hang out and he would take us to local places to eat and things like that. So we actually became friends while we were there. So I purchased a couple suits and then left with a contact. But had no idea that I would wind up calling him back a year later.

[20:37]
James McKinney: Unbelievable. So he finds a resource where you can get these moisture wicking shirts that are similar but different than the Under Armor brand out there. What was that process? Obviously, I can't imagine you were able to buy low quantity. I assume you had to buy high quantity in order to sell, so what was that? What was your mindset going into that business venture and then how did you executive?

[20:59]
Ryan Hogan: The mindset going in was just kind of scraping whatever we had in the savings or the retirement account to be able to purchase what we needed to purchase.

[21:06]
James McKinney: Who is we?

[21:07]
Ryan Hogan: This, for instance, we would be my wife and I.

[21:10]
James McKinney: Got it, okay.

[21:11]
Ryan Hogan: She was very much a part of this venture when we were getting it off. She did all the operations stuff and I was doing all the marketing stuff. I was doing a terrible job.

[21:20]
James McKinney: Hence the large inventory.

[21:23]
Ryan Hogan: Oh wait, yeah. Wait until we get to that point. Fun stuff. Basically, we bought our first maybe 4,000 t-shirts, something like that, just from money that we already had. Then there was friends and family members that were interested in what we were doing. So they started investing. From there, it was like hey, we have a little bit of money now. We should go out and we should buy more shirts, and then we started getting requests for hats, and then we started getting requests for shorts, and all these different things. When you're, especially a first time entrepreneur, it's just like yeah, if we have all these things we'll sell that much more. But the company was called War Wear. And War Wear was actually the first experience of if you build it, they don't necessarily come. That's a tough lesson for an entrepreneur to learn, because we all have these ideas. To us, they are so amazing. Then we take it to the real world and it just… nothing.

[22:21]
James McKinney: Yeah. I want to expand on that, that idea that entrepreneurship is not an if you build it they will come, if you buy it they will buy it as well. I think part of it is in the narrative of entrepreneurship, that is the narrative that if you just come up with a brand and put it on Amazon, it's going to take off because you hear all these great Amazon stories. If you build the technology startup, within 18 months you can keep raising money and then sell off for $100 million because you hear these narratives of these things. What people need to realize is media is pushing these narratives because they capture our interest. Then the algorithms are forcing those narratives in front of us because of our search history. It's these stories, these real authentic stories where you get to hear that is not how it is. So thank you for sharing that. So continue on with this added inventory as your hope continues to rise, because everyone's telling you you've got a great thing going, I want, I want, I want. And now you have it all. What's next?

[23:16]
Ryan Hogan: You think to yourself, like the people that wanted in are friends and family. And one thing that has become evident throughout all of the ventures is that the first time you develop a product or service, where the first purchase that comes through doesn't share your last name or isn't in your first or second degree network, that's the minute that you'll immediately know you might actually have something. I'm not saying that listen, if your mom is the first person to purchase like my mom was on War Wear, if your mom is the first purchase, that's not a reason to get discouraged. But that's no reason to get excited.

Yeah, I mean we purchased a lot of inventory and it just sat on the shelves. Fortunately for us, we had a garage so most of the inventory was in the garage. Then we also had my wife's cousins were in the baking business and they had just expanded for Trader Joe's and groceries like that, and they had some warehouse space. They let us just kind of put our stuff in the warehouse. But if we actually had overhead expenses, we would have just shut down without having the capital to continue.

But what wound up happening is we invested all this money into inventory, and I'm thinking that it's just going to sell itself. Now we have $225,000 worth of t-shirt inventory. We've got $0 in the bank account. We're not going to go bust because we don't have any expenses. We're not paying for any of this. There's no employees, just my wife and I, but nothing is moving off the shelves. That actually gets us into the next venture, which was called Run For Your Lives. It was a 5K obstacle course race where participants were actually chased by zombies.

[24:53]
James McKinney: Okay. So I have a feeling this question is going to lead into the Run For Your Lives race, but what were your attempted distribution channels for the $250,000 in inventory that you had? And what year was this? Let's put a time stamp on this as well so we can understand technology, where it was at that time.

[25:12]
Ryan Hogan: This was 2009 and 2010.

[25:14]
James McKinney: Okay, so Amazon obviously super healthy. So what was your distribution channel to try and sell the War Wear brand?

[25:21]
Ryan Hogan: The dominant player in the e-commerce space back then was actually Yahoo. So Yahoo had a shopping cart service that they've discontinued since. We found a contractor or a partner, and we paid them and they went and created this beautiful website that didn't sell any product. Then it was like we can get into retail distribution. So I'm calling the Navy Exchange, I'm calling AFES, I'm calling GNC. The reason GNC sticks out right now is because GNC are franchises, and one of the franchisees was like, "Yeah, I'll take the clothing and put it in." So here we are thinking that this is this massive breakthrough, so I go and buy mannequins and all these other things. Take them down to Virginia. We were living in Patuxent River, Maryland at that point. Drove them down to Virginia, along with all the mannequins and everything hanging out of the car. Set everything up and two months later, I think he sold one shirt.

[26:17]
James McKinney: Oh my goodness. And again, just to remind our listeners, you're building all of this and doing all these things while in the military fulltime.

[26:27]
Ryan Hogan: Yeah, yeah. So one of the fortunate things, and my whole philosophy on the military is that the military is going to get theirs. So when you are on sea duty, when I entered the military I was at HM14 which is the helicopter squadron down in Norfolk, Virginia. Like those were 12 hour days, 15 hour days. When you were deployed, it's the days just blur at that point. But then they have this beautiful thing called shore duty. Your main focus during shore duty should be, or prior to going on shore duty, is to find the shore duty that will allow you to decompress and allow you to integrate back in with your family, or allow you to be a crazy entrepreneur in our case. So actually I had these orders, it was a squadron called HMX 21, it was the test and development squadron for the Navy and Marine Corps. I wound up getting orders there, but the beautiful part was when we were working, we were working. So if we were flying or we had different test packages we had to go through, we were working hard. But when there wasn't test packages and other things going on, it was pretty relaxed. That allowed me to really start to explore this entrepreneurial bug.

[27:35]
James McKinney: That is awesome. Incredible. So you have a quarter million dollars in inventory, and a beautiful site on Yahoo. I'm curious there's some listeners that don't even know who Yahoo is, that's how irrelevant Yahoo is nowadays. But you then came up with this idea of Race For Your Life. Where did the idea come from? I think I know the answer to this, but where did the idea come from and how does that have anything to do with your inventory?

[27:59]
Ryan Hogan: It's crazy how the idea started and then how it transformed into this wild Zombie event. We were going out to dinner one night and I had a Men's Health issue in front of me, so this was late 2009, early 2010. I had a Men's Health, and I opened it up and this advertisement in there called Warrior Dash. Trying to figure out different advertising channels for War Wear, I understood the cost of full page color ads in things like Men's Health. You're talking $150-$200,000 and I was like holy crap, if this company can afford it, there must be an opportunity in this space.

So I wound up actually calling a good friend of mine who I grew up with. his name is Derek Smith, and I said, "Hey, Derek. Listen. I've got a whole bunch of inventory that's not moving right now, and I need to try and figure out a way to move this inventory to sell it. What if we created an obstacle race event and we just had one event, and it gave the opportunity to move 10,000 units of t-shirts, and then the company would just pay War Wear for the inventory, and then it's a win-win." From there, this was the days of the Walking Dead. So Derek and I, through many conversations, we wound up stumbling upon the name first, Run For Your Lives, and then you check the domain, make sure it's available.

Then once we realized it was available, we started going through what is this event, what does the logo even look like. If it's Run For Your Lives, somebody is turned around looking behind them. Then we started kind of coming up with all these ideas. It's like maybe it's not an adventure race or maybe it's not an obstacle race, but maybe it's post apocalyptic or maybe there's ghosts or goblins. Derek actually brought up he's like, "What about zombies? We're in the first season of the Walking Dead, it looks like there's a trend that's going to catch fire here. What if we created flag football belts and put three flags on each belt, and we called that their health. Then we let Zombies chase people along a 5K obstacle course that was completely themed inside of a world that we've created?" I was like okay. Actually I was very skeptical, I take that back. I wasn't okay with it at first. I said, "Okay, well what about just one wave? We can take a risk with one of the waves. All the other waves are just going to be standard obstacle course, 5K obstacle course." Then he was the one that was like, "No. If we're going to do this, we should be different. It's called Run For Your Lives, let's add zombies and make this something special." So we did.

The rest kind of wrote itself for the next couple years. We were able to move all of our War Wear shirts, which was great. War Wear actually started purchasing even more inventory, which surprised not only the investors but the manufacturers who hadn't heard from us in a while. For about two years, it was a really good ride of scaling this event from zero to our first year we did $760,000, second year we did $8.1 million, and third year unfortunately this is where the story becomes a little sad. But the third year, a lot of early mistakes caught up. The market was becoming saturated at that point, and there was a lot of alternatives. It ultimately, we went out of business, and that was some really unfortunate times.

[31:13]
James McKinney: So let's talk about the business of Run For Your Lives for those listening. I'm fascinated that within one year you went from $760,000 to $8 million. I assume inside of that, there are multiple events, multiple locations nationwide. Did you put on these events? Was this a tour? Was this a franchise model where other people paid to put on these events? What was the business model of Run For Your Lives?

[31:39]
Ryan Hogan: We actually put on all of the events. I don't know whether… we've just never been very smart. I think an interesting idea right now would be taking Hunt a Killer, making an escape room. Just the thought of how to structure and format a franchise boggles me. So we wound up doing it all of ourselves. Our first event, we brought in just about $15,000 both participants and spectators. It was during that time that we realized we actually had something. This was October 22 of 2011. We started immediately building a team. At that point, we had event directors. I was still active duty, so this is where things started to kind of trip up. I always had this mentality where entrepreneurship wouldn't impact or effect my military obligations. I was actually in the seaman to admiral program at that point, so the military was transitioning me to officer, and so I had three years of school ahead of me. It really started to become an issue. But yeah, we put a team together. We had one event in 2011. We went from one to 13 events across the nation, plus one in Canada in 2012. Then we had 24 or 25 events on the calendar for 2013.

[32:51]
James McKinney: Unbelievable. Now was it just the competition in the, we'll call them fun runs, was it just the competition in that space that was the demise of Run For Your Lives or was there something else happening?

[33:06]
Ryan Hogan: There were three different factors that were playing into this. One, there was certainly competition. This is competition that ranged from everything… when you say fun run, you just nailed it there because we looked at the Color Run which is a $35 alternative to our $65-$85 event, and it made it very hard to compete because we would spend a year planning, negotiating with the venue, pulling the permits, and then here Color Run would just come into town on a month's notice and just wreck our sales for that weekend, so it was really interesting. But you had competition there.

You also had competition with farmers. A lot of these venues that we went to, what the farmers would quickly realize, especially if they were bringing in big events like Tough Mudder, us, Spartan Race, they would look at the numbers come in and they'd be like, "Wow, this is $1.5 million coming through my property this weekend, and I charged them $8,000 to rent my land." They started to get I'll say smart, and they started to do this on their own. They quickly realized that it was much more difficult to advertise, build brand equity, and do all these different things. But that was a big part of it.

The second part was just saturation in fad. The alternatives of experiences continued to evolve, and continues to evolve today. I think escape rooms are another good example of something that entered the market in 2016 and you're kind of seeing a shake out at this point. A couple will remain, just like in the obstacle race industry, Spartan Race and Tough Mudder remained. Unfortunately, Warrior Dash just shuttered its doors about two months ago. So they were kind of able to make it further, but not sustainable business.

Then the third was just, and this is critical, business mistakes. You look at War Wear and you've got the business mistakes of if you build it, they will come, which is not the case. Then you have the complete opposite spectrum of Run For Your Lives which is the mistake of holy crap, all these people coming through. Maybe we should start figuring out how to control cost or calculate customer acquisition cost, or figure out what retention is. There's all these different things that, as a first time entrepreneur and scaling as quickly as we did, and building a team as quickly as we did, we just missed the mark in a lot of different areas.

[35:15]
James McKinney: You know, you bring up a good point when you talk about the success of Run For Your Lives, and obviously as people register for the race you're getting cash in pocket, so cash flow is probably pretty healthy for you at that time. One of the things that Larry Namer, the founder of E! said, when he was down to his last $60 trying to fundraise to start E! Entertainment Television, he was seeking $60 million investment, he only got $2 million. One of the things he said was by not having money, it made him more innovative. And we fall into this narrative, this trap that as long as I have investors, as long as I get this funding or I have this dollar threshold, we'll be able to succeed. I think what I'm hearing from you in your story is that by having such a healthy cash flow, it didn't force you to look in the areas where you could squeeze a little tighter, run a little more disciplined because things just, in all appearances, were running smoothly.

[36:10]
Ryan Hogan: You nailed it there. To be, what was I at that point, 25 or 26 and looking at a bank account that had $1 million, $1.5 million in it, and then quickly growing each day. Looking at sales coming in, $40-50,000, you just think you're on top of the world. At the end of the day, you haven't even paid a damn expense yet. That's a tough thing to understand and comprehend, without the necessary experience in the business.

The other part here is that so many people got hurt, and this is what really sucks about business, especially business and family, business and your personal network, and relationships, and things like that. It's that nobody made out in this. There was this big I think article that went out after the event collapsed, and it was like, "Founders are flush, but everybody else is left holding the bag." Like that can be the narrative all day long. The reality is there were three bankruptcies as a part of that. A couple personals and one company bankruptcy. Nobody made out, and it just sucks because it deteriorates relationships, it puts a lot of strain on things while I was also pursuing the military, transitioning into officer and then preparing to move to San Diego.

[37:28]
James McKinney: What did the shutdown of Run For Your Lives mean for you personally? Because you mentioned a couple bankruptcies. Were you one of them?

[37:36]
Ryan Hogan: Yeah.

{37:37]
James McKinney: What did that do to your mental state? And I ask this question having gone through a very similar journey. What did that do to your mental state on what your next steps were going to be?

[37:49]
Ryan Hogan: I don't have a lot of fear, and that's probably a big problem and one of the reasons that I now surround myself with people that are more operator, instead of more just living in the clouds. It wasn't fear but 2013 was by far… this year's been pretty fun. But 2013 by far, hands down, the worst year of my life. So many different… the company was collapsing, the program that I was selected into for seaman to admiral was actually a pilot program so it was student naval aviator, so I was supposed to leave University of Maryland and then go to Pensacola, Florida and start pilot training and all these other things. Everything was falling through simultaneous, and it was all because of the same thing. It was all of the stress. It was all the anxiety.

The only way that I was able to really pull through that, one with the support of my wife and at that point three kids, now four. But support of friends and certainly family, and then also finding different outlets like writing. But it took a while. It took a long time to recover. I'd like to say I didn't jump back into something. I definitely did, but it didn't get off the ground. Yeah, it took some time.

[39:03]
James McKinney: Was there any part of you during that season that thought okay, I'm just done with trying to create something new. I just need to get something stable. Maybe you thought I'm just going to finish up these 20 years. Was there any part of that season that thought I'm done with entrepreneurship, this was a little too painful/

[39:22]
Ryan Hogan: Absolutely, 100%. I think anybody that would tell you otherwise would be lying. Because that thought has to come. When you were in the darkest of dark days, that thought is just constantly on your mind. The worst part about this is the feeling of hopelessness while you're going into these different phases of failure. It's because you've seen the light. At that point, $1 million is still a lot of money today by the way. I don't have $1 million, I'm not a millionaire. But to see $1 million and to think about what the future holds or what the future has in store for you, you're constantly thinking about okay, well life is going to be like this then because of these five things. When that all gets ripped away, you really start to question can I do this again. To be honest, there was probably four or five ventures between that and where I'm at today with Hunt a Killer. None of them did what Run For Your Lives did. This one did, and I think every day I wake up and I think that we're somehow blessed. We've been struck by lightning twice. We found product market fit. It's taken many tries, but I think we're very fortunate right now to have found this twice in life.

[40:40]
James McKinney: I want to stay on that perspective before we jump to the leading up to Hunt a Killer. I think you brought up such a great point that when you have been as low as that moment is, and again having been there myself, you mention you feel blessed. Is there an elevated level of gratitude every day with you now having been to where you've been?

[41:05]
Ryan Hogan: Yes. Even more so than gratitude, it's an understanding of it can all go away tomorrow. You know what's interesting, it's through every single company that I've ever started, they all have the same problems. You're always going to have personnel issues and challenges, and leadership, and all these different things. You're always going to have cash flow issues until you either A. die or B. get acquired. You're going to be fighting for cash, you're going to be budgeting. How much strain and pressure you put on yourself is really up to how quickly, how ambitious you're trying to grow the company, but you're always going to have those types of challenges.

It's really two things. One, it's waking up and saying how did this happen twice, and then the second part to that is saying it could wind up like the first one. Not to necessarily brace for impact, but just an understanding that it could all go away. Like it could go away because of cash flow issues, it could go away because of political turmoil, it could go away because our ecommerce system crashes, it could go away because of a lawsuit. It's not just like the company goes bankrupt. There's seven different things that could happen that overnight, it's gone.

[42:16]
James McKinney: That's why entrepreneurship is so friggin crazy.

[42:20]
Ryan Hogan: Ups and downs. And that's no lie. The ups and downs… everybody talks about it's a rollercoaster ride. This is, you will learn a lot about yourself in the highest of highs, the lowest of lows. The loneliness. You have your friends, you have your family, you have your network, you have your coworkers, you have your executives, you have all these different people. The thing that doesn't get talked about often is that there are many things you can't talk to any of them about. One, you don't want to bring all that drama and all the bull crap home with you, because you chose the entrepreneurship life and so it's not your families job to share that burden with you. I try and keep that as insulated as possible. And then you can't tell, you start telling the team everything that's going through your mind, you're not going to have a team anymore. It's a lonely road and highest of highs, lowest of lows.

[43:09]
James McKinney: Oh man. I'm getting chills just reminiscing on my own journey, hearing it through yours. You experienced the shutdown of Run For Your Lives and I want to progress through the story. We don't have to go through all the different ventures that led up to Hunt A Killer, but if you could just share a little bit about the breadcrumbs that do connect Run For Your Lives to Hunt A Killer. Let's unpack that a little bit.

[43:29]
Ryan Hogan: That's probably the easiest transition. There were a couple companies between Run For Your Lives and Hunt A Killer, but none of them really mattered. What was interesting is the first thing that's the same, and this happened from the jump, was that I called my good buddy Derek Smith and I said, "Hey, we've been not doing this for a while. How would you feel about creating something?" We actually went back to the first venue and talked to that property owner, the first venue where we had the Run For Your Lives launch event, and we said, "Hey. We have this idea and we'd like to use your venue. Are you interested in this?" He was like, "Sure. How would you like a third partner?"

That's how Hunt A Killer started is we used the same type of methodology for Run For Your Lives as we did Hunt a Killer, which is look across the industry for different types of experiences that people are gravitating towards. You think back to 2016, you've got escape rooms coming over from Europe and Asia. You've got interactive theater like the off Broadway Sleep No More. Then you also have obstacle races, which are still kind of around. We said well what if we could take these three different types, these three different forms of experiences and create this kind of one time, unique live event?

Then we did the same thing we did with zombies. We looked across the industry at different types of trends that were up and coming. 2016 you had podcasts which were really starting to explode and they were exploding because of the true crime genre. Podcasts like My Favorite Murder, which were getting millions of downloads per episode. They were creating these cult like communities around their brands, and their audience was just in there talking about everything from the episode to the things that were just happening in their lives. So we saw this as an opportunity, not only as an up and coming trend to jump on, but also like a way to build a community around some sort of experience.

So Hunt A Killer v. 1 was a live event where we transformed a 200 acre camp ground into a living crime scene. Then the problem is that the business model didn't scale. We were used to obstacle races where you could go and build a 5K course, bring 10-, 15-, even 20,000 people in some cases through on a Saturday and Sunday, and then pack everything up into a 53 foot trailer and take it to the next venue the following weekend. With Hunt A Killer, it just didn't work like that. The experience was intimate, and it was immersive. So there was a limit to how many people we could put through at one time.

It also took us six months to develop the actual game design to figure out who the actors were, what they were going to say, what the different parts were, what the crime scenes look like. So just the concept of Hunt A Killer being a live event only didn't scale.

[46:17]
James McKinney: Oh my goodness. I didn't realize the beginning of Hunt A Killer was such an immersive experience. As you realized it didn't scale, how did you get to its current model?

[46:28]
Ryan Hogan: We made that transition pretty quick. We saw this coming. So we launched the company I believe it was probably March of 2016. Our first event was October 1 of 2016 and it was probably three or four months into it that we realized it was going to be extremely difficult to scale this event, between selling the tickets, between three months of actually putting the game design together. We quickly started to see that this was not a scalable business model.

So we actually made the decision about three months prior to the event that we were going to get into the subscription. Now, at that point it was all about we're going to have a live event and that's going to be once a year, and then we'll have this interesting subscription box over here on the right and we'll see what happens with both of them. We wound up doing a complete pivot of business model, but the whole thing for us is how do we generate recurring revenue, and what types of business models exist that would allow us to do two things. One, deliver an immersive experience globally, and two build a community around that experience.

So for us it was all about the intersection of Facebook groups, and building a Facebook group around the brand and around the experience. Then the second half to that was the subscription box model. So you think back to 2016, you've got Loot Crate. I think maybe it was 2017 for them, but you've got the fastest growing companies in the United States are all subscription box companies. You've got Dollar Shave Club that had launched in 2011 that was, it was doing huge things.

[47:59]
James McKinney: Stitch Fix, just box after box after box. It was everything.

[48:02]
Ryan Hogan: Exactly, 100%. So it was very easy for us to see that. It was just a matter of okay, now we have the business model. We have how we're going to create this community around the experience. How do we actually deliver this experience? That took Derek and another writer who are extremely talented, extremely creative, and figured out how to take this experience that we had created in the real world and shove it into a box and deliver it each month.

[48:28]
James McKinney: So for our listeners, I'm going to oversimplify it, but I want you to expand in greater detail. Hunt A Killer is a monthly subscription box when each box is something to solve. Again, simple version. Now, I'll let you unpack it a bit. How would you describe Hunt A Killer?

[48:45]
Ryan Hogan: Mine will be simple, too. Hunt A Killer is an immersive game that's delivered episodically each month, and it's filled with clues, items, and correspondence that allow you to immerse yourself in a universe that we have created. For instance, the first season we had ever launched was like this Hannibal Lecter like thing where you were getting correspondence from someone in a medical institution. You had to piece together everything. You had to piece together the setting through the items and the letters, and all these things that were inside of the package. It was delivered episodically each month.

Fast forward to where we're at today is we've taken a more kind of traditional investigator approach where your correspondence is no longer with Hannibal Lecter or Hannibal Lecter type character, but your correspondence is actually with a private investigator. This private investigator is reaching out to you for help with an investigation that they're working on. It builds on itself and each month you get to eliminate a suspect and kind of move your way through the entire season.

[49:48]
James McKinney: And is a season 12 months if someone stays on for a year, they'll go through an entire season? It'll be resolved for them.

[49:55]
Ryan Hogan: Yeah. That's been a big struggle for us and something that we look at very closely, which is how do we get that dopamine hit, how do we get that closure in each episode but also entice them to stay around for the entire season? Each season is six months and so a year would give you, if you were subscribed by the fall you would go through two seasons. But what's really interesting, and we implemented this last year is that we're starting to get away from that traditional subscription box model and more into a let's call it a Netflix model where the first time we ever ship the box, we were developing these a week before we actually shipped them.

Now, we have full seasons. We build full seasons in bulk and so now we're allowing members to actually expedite. So what you'll find is that somebody will get their first episode and they'll spend a weekend with their significant other, their family members, and they'll work through the experience. Then they get to the suspect elimination and we send you a quick email and we say, "Hey, congratulations. You've eliminated a suspect. How would you like your next box now?" we're seeing a huge take rate on people that are expediting the next episodes.

[51:04]
James McKinney: That is incredible. Who do you find, as you're talking about this in my mind I'm thinking of so many great board games that are really Pandemic came out with a game that's supposed to last an entire year. Obviously, most people didn't let it last the whole year, but that was what they were trying to accomplish. Are you see most of your consumers being board game fans? Are you seeing them more thriller and horror fans? What are you seeing from your fans? What's that demographic you're seeing?

[51:33]
Ryan Hogan: This is another entrepreneurial lesson that we learned, and I've learned consistently throughout all the business. The market is never who you think it's going to be. So like when you come up with an idea, the biggest thing is just to stay open to both changing the idea and evolving the idea, and then also to who the actual market is. So we thought the same thing. When we jumped into this business, we figured that we were going to have escape room enthusiasts and board gamers, and Dungeons and Dragons, and Magic the Gathering. We thought that they were going to flock to this experience. What we found is that females between the ages of 30 and 45 is our primary demographic for Hunt A Killer.

[52:12]
James McKinney: Wow. I would have never guessed that.

[52:15]
Ryan Hogan: That is our primary audience. So we actually developed another experience. It's called Escape the Invasion. Maybe this is us trying to force it on the market that we thought it was going to be originally, but this is our take on an experience that hopefully can penetrate into that Comic-Con and table top gaming market.

[52:35]
James McKinney: When you look back at all of your entrepreneurial journeys, and as our time comes to an end, just a couple questions I want to ask about Hunt A Killer. But when you look at all your entrepreneurial endeavors, what has been the unique challenge with Hunt a Killer that was not a challenge with the other ones?

[52:52]
Ryan Hogan: I would say understanding the data. I say that because all of these terms that are thrown around like customer acquisition cost, and lifetime value, and churn. All of these different things, like they've always existed but there was never clarity around definitions and the collection of the actual data needed to make decisions. Now you should be breaking things down into cohorts. And I don't just mean cohorts by month or things like that. I mean you should be able to slice and dice cohorts by what was the acquisition channel. And then you should understand the lifetime value based upon cohorts for every acquisition channel.

Back in the Run For Your Lives days, it was just hey throw out a whole bunch of ads and flyers and partnerships, and just see who comes. We never took that master figure and then divided it by how many people actually showed up to understand what our customer acquisition cost is. So while you would think that we're in a better place now, and we certainly are, there's just so much data. There's so much data and being bootstrapped and growing as fast as we're growing, and being able to one, hire the right people that will help you build this organization, but also be able to afford the different business intelligence software that you truly need. That's been the challenge is we're quickly getting to enterprise level without the money that typical enterprises have to be able to invest in this type of technology.

[54:16]
James McKinney: Are you going to be seeking venture funding, or are you trying to stay out of that box completely?

[54:21]
Ryan Hogan: You know, so we've been all over the place with that. We attempted to raise a couple times. I would say that if you are jumping into the traditional subscription box industry at this point, I would caution you against it. There is not much of an appetite anymore for investments, and there's a plethora of reasons behind it. You can look across the industry and probably better understand what's going on. For us, the challenge has always been we're not a subscription box company. We're a media entertainment company that just happens to just this business model, but investors don't want to hear it, and that's okay with us.

So for us, I'm going to go back to your earlier comment of if you don't have it, then you're still going to figure it out. When you do have it, you typically throw money at it. That's a problem in and of itself. We've gotten through the challenges. We have consistently, we have figured it out every step of the way. Not to minimize what we've accomplished because it's been very, very, very challenging, but we've just been able to figure it out and the hope is we'll continue to figure it out.

[55:19]
James McKinney: Unbelievable. You had mentioned that when you were positioning Hunt A Killer as not a subscription box service, but a media and production company, what are some of the other things that Hunt A Killer is doing?

[55:32]
Ryan Hogan: We have a bunch of stuff going on right now. The first is that once we develop this innovative experience, we started to jump into different genres because we felt this methodology of storytelling through physical items and community around immersive experiences could jump into horror and science fiction. The jury is still out if all these strategies are going to work. These are things we're just now getting into, and just now getting off the ground. Actually, hopefully Kevin Smith has made his posts today so that we can see if we can break into the Comic-Con market.

But the things for us are first and foremost, how do we open up the market. So how do we get beyond just the 30 to 45 year old females and marketing into this gamer market where people, there's already an expectation to spend for experiences. The second thing for us is all about taking intellectual property that we own and figuring out different types of distribution channels to put it in. Very early on, we had a contract with NBC Universal or Wilshire Studios from NBC Universal. It fell apart, but that's what happens in Hollywood, and we have a lot of other deals lined up for the intellectual property. Then also, what can we do with it ourselves which is we've started to develop audio dramas. We actually released the first ever audio drama at the TriBeca Film Festival, staring Jenny Slate. So just kind of these neat opportunities that continue to come up along the way.

Then when you look at kind of the big master plan, it's just how do we integrate technology into the experience so that we can start to decrease some of our cost of goods sold through the physical distribution, and then offset some of that with technology integration.

[57:06]
James McKinney: Oh my goodness. I cannot wait for a "where are they now" episode in five years, just to talk about what Hunt A Killer has done. So there's two final questions as I glance at our time together. We have to come to an end unfortunately. I feel like we could go on for hours because one, you've been so transparent, so authentic in your story and I thank you so much for that, because there's so much value when you do become authentic and transparent. But there's two questions I want to wrap up with, and it's two that I ask every founder. The first one is about gratitude.

As we look at all the people that have played a role in our life, in our journey to get to where we are today, who do you look at with such immense gratitude for their contribution to your journey? And the reason I ask that question is that if we lose that perspective, we'll begin to feel like we did this ourselves, and then that will isolate us and it's in that isolation that we are suspect to failure. But when we maintain that position of gratitude, we're able to see all the other people that are there to help and have provided support for us. So who do you look back on your journey with such immense gratitude?

[58:10]
Ryan Hogan: The easy answer here would be my dad for setting the example through the entrepreneurship journey he went through, and then all the guidance that he gave along the way. But really thinking about the past eight to 10 years, my wife is the one that has been by my side the entire time. We throw off these terms like bankruptcy and all these other companies, and closures, and shuttering, and dramatic success and failure. I do try to keep things insulated, but at the end of the day, they're our spouse. They're along for the journey and so just the support that she's provided along the way has been instrumental in order to do what we've done. Then especially we have four kids. Her job is certainly more difficult than mine. I've traded places a couple days and I can't do it, but just the fact that she's been able to hold the fort down while I continue to run all around is just, it's been incredible.

[59:03]
James McKinney: Oh my goodness, I love that. So the last question as our time comes to an end. We've been talking to tens of thousands of listeners about your story at a macro level. I believe The Startup Story is a digital mentor for many people, and I know this because people have reached out to me on the social channels and said such. They're in the iTunes reviews and they've said such things. So right now, I want to gift the listeners with bringing that conversation down to just you and one of them.

Whether that persona you want to speak to directly, maybe it's the frustrated entrepreneur who has started something but they're discouraged at the cash flow issues, they're frustrated at the lack of traction they're getting. They're seeing all the narrative out there that they haven't done anything after three years, they must be a failure. Or maybe it's someone that's got the side hustle and because they're not all in, they're not really an entrepreneur. Or maybe it's the want-repreneur you want to talk to, the one who's got a 9 to 5 and a book full of dreams and ideas, but they have a level of fear or some narrative about I've got a mortgage and I have kids, and I can't be doing this. Or I'm 55 and I can't be starting something new, I'm too old for that. Or maybe it's the defeated entrepreneur, the one who this very moment is going through a bankruptcy or shuttering of a business. I want to take our conversation from the 30,000 foot view down to the six foot view, and it's just you and one entrepreneur persona. What do you say to that person?

[60:24]
Ryan Hogan: Let's look at the dramatic experience. Regardless if you are shuttering the doors or unfortunately going through bankruptcy, or just dealing with cash flow issues. Understand that the sun will come up tomorrow. That's something that's very challenging. It's easy to say, but it's something extremely challenging to actually act on. When you're going through those times or when I was going through those times, I just couldn't imagine what tomorrow held. I couldn't even get through all the problems that were on my plate today.

Once you start to understand that life isn't necessarily business, there's going to be ups and downs. And some of those downs are like really downs. Like in our business, we have a lot of ups and downs. In life, I've been as low as you can get financially, but you push through. You're not actually failing, you're learning. I don't think you should celebrate failure. I think that's going in the wrong direction. I don't think you should celebrate being unprofitable or burning $1 billion in cash like some of the other headlines currently, but understanding that it's just the beginning, and that you can accomplish it.

[61:32]
James McKinney: What an amazing story Ryan shared with us, and how fortunate are we to sit alongside founders that are willing to share real challenges of entrepreneurship with us. These stories are not ones that you'll read in mass media headlines, but they are definitely stories that need to be told. Ryan's story marks the end of our focus on veteran founders. I hope to continue to highlight veteran founders, so if you know of some veteran entrepreneurs, please message me on LinkedIn. You can find me easily if you just search for James McKinney.

I hope you found some real value in Ryan's startup story episode. If you've been around The Startup Story for any length of time, then you know how much emphasis I put on the idea that entrepreneurs support other entrepreneurs. In fact, Ryan also loves supporting entrepreneurs, so make sure to reach out to him directly on LinkedIn and tell him how much value you got out of his episode. We will include a link to Ryan's LinkedIn profile in our show notes. Entrepreneurs support other entrepreneurs, so even though Ryan didn't ask for it, you should visit huntakiller.com to see if you have what it takes to solve one of their mysteries.

And now for my personal ask. The Startup Story community has been so incredible about sharing our podcast with others, but we have more stories to tell and more people to reach. We too are a startup and word of mouth is everything, so please follow us on Facebook and Instagram @TheStartupStory or on Twitter @StartupStory_. If you're on LinkedIn, please search for The Startup Story and follow our company page. LinkedIn is a really powerful way to raise awareness of the show. But the most impactful way you can help us grow our audience is to leave a review on Apple Podcast. Or if you listen to the show via Spotify, then please simply share the podcast directly from your Spotify app or wherever you listen to the show.

These simple actions can make a huge impact in getting these amazing founder stories out to the masses. And please make sure to tag or mention The Startup Story when you do share so that we can connect with you and say thank you directly. I'm so incredibly appreciative of the fact that you listen to the show each and every week, and I look forward to sharing these amazing stories with you every Tuesday with hopes of encouraging and inspiring you to start your story.

If you like this podcast and are thinking of creating your own, consider talking to my producer Danny Ozment. He helps thought leaders, influencers, executives, and authors create, launch, and produce podcasts that grow their business and make a real impact in this world. You can contact him today at emeraldcitypro.com/startupstory.

Listen Now

November 26 2019
Ryan Hogan, co-founder of Hunt A Killer

More Startup Stories

All Startup Stories