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Donna Loughlin is the Founder of LMGPR known for her work with futurists and innovators. She has launched more than 500 companies taking them from stealth to market leaders since forming her agency in 2002.

She is also the host of BeforeItHappened, a leading narrative podcast featuring visionaries and the moments, events, and realizations that inspired them to change our lives for the better.

Donna and I talk about the origins of her story, how PR has fundamentally changed, and how roots in Silicon Valley are still strong and rich with lessons we can carry to the future of science and technology.

Check out Donna’s podcast Before it Happened here: https://www.beforeithappened.com/

Visit LMGPR here: https://www.lmgpr.com/ 

Transcript powered by HappyScribe

Welcome everybody to the show. This is Eric Wright. I’m the host for your DiscoPosse podcast. Thank you for listening, watching. Oh, that’s right. If you are listening now and you want to see this in video action, you can head on over to YouTube.Com/discopossepodcast and you can see it all as it happened, which was really cool. Nice new element for the listening podcast if you want to see the viewer side of it all. This is a great episode featuring Donna Laughlin, who is the founder of LMGPR, and she’s also the voice behind the “Before It Happened” podcast.

Donna is a fantastic storyteller. Fantastic, as she describes it, the PR SheDevil. Super cool. We get into the background to that, her own history in Silicon Valley. What drew her to the industry? Really, really enjoyable. And I think of the people in the industry that I know, do such a great job that I would trust my company to them. Donna is one of those folks, so she’s really really got a good sense of how to draw fantastic stories out of the human experience, especially with really wild like, way out of the curve technology companies. So, go check her out.

But in the meantime, speaking of checking out companies that are super cool, that I really adore, I want to give a shout out to the folks that do support this podcast, including a friend over at Veeam Software. They’ve got some really neat stuff going on, so you’ve got to check out new landing page. All you got to do is go to Vee.Am/discoposse. You will love what you see there. Very cool. Everything you need for your data protection needs, regardless of whether it’s on Prem in the cloud, cloud native wow and SAS stuff, even stuff like Microsoft Teams and your Office 365 and more coming. So you got to get over there and check it out. Definitely worthwhile. Vee.Am/discoposse. And when you talk about other things around, protecting yourself, protecting your identity, protecting your data in transit, I recommend that you should use a VPN, as do I. So if you want to try one out, I do recommend using ExpressVPN. I’m a customer. If you want to go, it’s very easy to do, go to tryexpressvpn.com/discoposse. And that’s an easy way to get hooked up there and make sure you protect yourself because there’s a lot of bad stuff going on out in the world.

And while you’re at it, don’t forget to enjoy a fantastic, tasty, delicious diabolical coffee. Go to Diabolicalcoffee.com and caffeinate your way to goodness. All right. This is Donna Laughlin. Enjoy the show.

Hi, everyone. This is Donna Laughlin from Silicon Valley, and this is the DiscoPosse Podcast. I’m the host of “Before It Happened”, and I’m a known for in the Silicon Valley as sometimes the PR SheDevil.

I love it. The PR SheDevil is officially the best title ever. So people always say they want to have founder beside the name, I’d say PR SheDevil is way cooler than founder. So, Donna, thank you very much for joining. I’m excited by the chance to chat today.

Yeah, absolutely. I’m so excited to be here. Thank you.

This is a beautiful thing where I love when you read a book and you’re interested in that book, and then that book references another book that you’ve already read, and then, you know, you’re like, this is it. I’m in my perfect space. When your name came to me as a potential guest, Donna, it was that moment where I said, wait a second. Storyteller, podcaster, Silicon Valley. This could be my last podcast. I have officially hit the perfect guest. So you’ve got a fantastic background in what you bring to the world. You have an amazing, I love your podcast style. So Donna, if you want to introduce yourself to the viewers and listeners, and then we’re going to jump into what the PR SheDevil does. And of course, we’ll talk about your podcast and much more.

The SheDevil is a little bit naughty, but a whole lot nice. For the last 20 years, I’ve had my PR agency called LMGPR, which stands for Leadership, Momentum and Growth, which is ultimately what I do working with emerging tech companies. Oftentimes there are two guys and a cat or two gals and a dog, and they have a great idea and looking to bring a company to market. Other times, the product is much further along and they’re gearing up for funding or for even an IPO. My role in collaborating with them is very hands on in developing the core messaging, the narrative to bring a product to market and not just the product, but also the company. And that means the texture and the fabric of who are the visionaries behind the company. And that’s what really ignites me. And that’s what my podcast is about, too, is the visionaries in the future that they imagine.

Well, in your intro, which I love, just beautifully well-produced, and I love that style. I’m sort of the free forum. It does not have time or capability to edit in such a beautiful way. But your idea of “Before It Happened” to the moment you really know how to go through this discussion and then pin down the thing that sometimes people don’t even realize. That’s actually the thing. It’s what makes a great author. If you read Steven Pressfield and you read about this whole style of PR and playwriting and screenwriting and everything and storytelling, it’s like that pinpoint moment that then you wrap in this fantastic, the run up, the conflict, like it’s all fundamentals. It seems effortless in the way you do it, which I know that means it’s absolutely not.

Do you remember when you were a child and you would be a story out, whether it be at school or with your parents or your grandparents, and you would sit in a circle and so ultimately was what I really wanted to achieve with “Before It Happened” was that, opportunity where you have this up close and personal kind of story time with somebody who’s actually changing how we live and work. And to do that, I couldn’t do a straight interview. I wanted to do kind of a narrative style. I’m a former news reporter, and so I would go out and interview, and I would come back and report. And so it is a slightly longer process, but the goal is to create something that is a little bit of a gift back to these individuals that have worked super hard in undaunting hours. And whether it is raising funding or finding, getting the patents approved and all the things that they do. I’m just in awe that this unstoppable spirit that we know that the entrepreneur has. But in my scenario, it’s these big idea creators. And I’m not a tinkerer. I’m more of a thinker. And I sit back and I look at in all respect and saying, wow, we can actually do this. We can drive an electric car. We can have a smart device in our home, and we can charge our vehicle to home with an electric motorcycle. All these things just are enchanting to me.

I think the key to any of the success of these technologies and these platforms and these websites, whatever they are, any business, is really about making it matter to the prospective customer. And when you’re the creator, when you’re the innovator, it’s very difficult to be that focused on it. They probably shouldn’t be. In fact, they should be like, I know amazing engineers who are creating fantastic systems, and they probably wouldn’t pass a touring test. I would never want to put them in charge of the website or the marketing or understanding the customer story and being able to emote that. And that’s really what it is. It’s not just writing down what we do. It is making someone care about what we’re going to achieve together and empowering them. It’s the hero’s journey. It’s all this stuff. And when paired with a great technology and being able to give them that capability to find their story, it needs to come from outside, I think, because when you’re close to it, when you’re inside, they can’t possibly be thinking that way. Like, it’s too hard, you’re way too introspective, and you have to be, to be this fanatical founder’s mindset of like, the world is wrong I’m gonna solve it this way.

Yeah. Well, too often I’ve experienced what I call ego engineering, which is my own term. There’s ego engineering, and then there’s innovation. There are true innovators that imagine the most amazing products and concepts that sometimes don’t even go to market. And then I’ve met over the years others who have a me-too product that’s not even a challenger product that have egos that are bigger than the sum of its parts. And those products usually don’t go very far. And those are typically not the ones that I work with. But in the land of unicorns, we see a lot of them. And I’m not going to name any, but we just know what’s the kind of the fashion anistas of the time. I really look for the acorns that ultimately can grow to be these majestic oaks, right. You’ve got to start some someplaceplace. And so to me, the unicorns. Unicorns are great. We all need them for financial purposes, and oftentimes we chase the unicorn, but planting seeds and developing something from scratch. Before a unicorn existed, they had to come from someplace. And you get people like, I love Guy Bras and how I built this. It’s one of my favorite podcasts, and it’s many people’s favorite podcasts, but he really profiles the unicorns. And I felt my sweet spot is working and collaborating and on my podcast showcasing the Acorns. In fact, I have an Acorn this week that’s actually going to IPO. That’s really exciting to see a company go from in the last seven years going from zero to hero.

It’s a beautiful thing, isn’t it, to see it come to fruition. Because it’s not a winning game. A lot of the statistics are not in favor of the business succeeding. There’s a lot of headwinds. There’s a lot of stuff. In looking back, what draws you to be able to coach them through that journey and bring them through that journey?

It really starts with listening. And so often we don’t listen and we respond, which is just human nature. It has nothing to do with being a reporter or in marketing. But, really listening and being able to extract the content. So when I first started out in my career, I would go out with another reporter. And his number one thing with me was, “watch me”. Don’t say anything. Just watch me. Watch me in action. And so that was his way of teaching me kind of the ropes of listening and being able to collect. Because the more you listen, I think the more people talk. And so it’s very important when I’m abstracting information from a scientist, an engineer, founders of a new product or company, and it’s really listening, but helping them also rediscover what they might have forgotten because they’ve been so busy on developing the product and meeting patent deadlines or getting funding. And so going back to that discovery phase, the same way I described sitting down and having a story hour is I literally take them to a process. What is a self discovery process, of going back to the roots of why do they even set out to create the product? What is their vision? And so oftentimes the company mission statement when the company is forging ahead. But if we go back to what was the vision that you had? Was there a dream? Was there a problem that you were solving? Was there a moment that you realized that you wanted to create a carbon footprint, energy saving, operational building device, which is a mouthful or an electric motorcycle or an electric tractor. Like, what really happened? And so really going through that discovery process and reigniting them as well to like, wow, you know what? I actually imagine you’re using a Disney word, but something that nobody else had. But, what is the problem? And then what is the solution to that problem? And really taking them back to that root? Because oftentimes they get so tangled up and all the other intricacies of things, they forget what their original origin was.

Yeah. And I think that the vision and the mission, the only people that can carry that so strongly are often the founding team, as much as you can create those early disciples, the first ten employees, the first 20 employees, even later on down the road, the folks that really built the idea, then they built the product to deliver the idea. The idea is still in them. But most people beyond that are product builders, not idea. Like, they’re not necessarily attached to the idea strongly. And this is where you have this funny thing. There’s like, a great book called The Founders Mentality. I think it’s by Bane and Company. They’re Boston based.

Great book. Read it.

Yeah. So, at my company’s engineering kickoff, I noticed we were in this weird sort of struggle of like where product was diverging from vision and we were struggling with where we were. Well, capital. Everything was going well, but you could tell there was tension in – should we build a feature or should we go back to the core? And I really saw this pull. So I showed it to our founder. And then when I got to the engineering kickoff, it was the most warm feeling I’ve ever had in my body and my mind as I walked in and I saw 200 seats, each with a copy of The Founders Mentality sitting on it.

Wow.

Because what we wanted to get to was this. Remember why we’re here. What we’re doing now is important, but what’s more important is why we are doing it. And it really allowed everybody to go back to the core of what was the reason we did this. And ten years, twelve years at any company’s age, it’s like having a teenager. They’re suddenly, like, forgetting that they were the kid that wore a Pokemon costume at age six and they want to be their own thing. And you realize you can’t forget your upbringing, you can’t forget what got you here.

I’ve been to some meetings where grown people wearing Pokemon costumes and hanging onto the dream.

That’s it. I love this idea of making sure that people stay true to that, because also that comes with culture, too, right? Like, culture is the way they behave when you’re not looking. It’s not the thing written behind the desk at the front, by the elevator.

Yeah. I was just going to say that. And also they know that founders’ passion does dictate culture, and as companies grow, sometimes they lose sight of that. So years ago, I was fortunate to work with Sun Microsystems and might not be a company a lot of people know, but it was a really innovative company back in the networking boom. And Sun had a building that was full of security experts that I was kind of told not to go to. It was literally because there was one company, but there was like these different think tanks under the Corporation. And so I was working with the corporate group, but I would wander around because I was like, oh, there’s distinguished engineers in each one of these groups. I wonder what they’re working on. Excuse me, they’re a little bit naughty. The curiosity seeker ended up finding out about the security group, which was amazing. And in that group, there are all these. And this is in the 90s. So this is before cybersecurity really took off. And I’m, like, poking around and I find out how the hardware group is actually creating something insecurity. The software group is creating something insecurity, but they don’t talk to each other. So I ended up kind of propelling and shaping, but ultimately became a security symposium, which brought them both the hardware and the software and a bunch of industry experts together. And being able to Daisy change the network, that’s just kind of indicative to the types of things I do on an ongoing basis is looking at who’s in your network and how do you actually get to reach your goal faster. So we had an analyst, and there was an investor’s day and all the who’s who and security over the years that as cybersecurity continued to grow and become part of the mainstream and the standard. I was fortunate to work with a company that ultimately came out of the basement of that building, and I didn’t know it until I went and sat down with the founders, and I found out we had a common connection. He was one of the top security innovators that was in the basement that I wasn’t allowed to go to. And that company recently was acquired, went through IPO and then acquired by McAfee. So looking back at that, where the company was, the vision of what they wanted to be and the roots that they had is exactly kind of that exploration process that I was describing.

If you put six people in the room, you have six different backgrounds, six different journeys, six different educational levels. Some could have completed College, some could have a PhD, others might have been high school graduates. Regional cultural differences on all those components are basically the makings of a great narrative recipe and is looking at all those components, and that’s indicative of the Silicon Valley. That’s very tried and true to other regions in the United States. But I think when you look at the entrepreneurial spirit. The entrepreneurial spirit doesn’t have any boundaries, really. It doesn’t have a gender. It doesn’t have an IQ. Well, maybe it has an IQ, but it doesn’t have a lot of things. It’s like really for the fearless person that really wants to break out of the mold. And one of the things that we keep reading about in the pandemic is people leaving their jobs and starting their own businesses. And I think that’s pretty exciting for the marketplace.

Well, this is the interesting thing, especially now because we hear about the great resignation, and we see things like the jobs numbers, and it’s tough to measure today what’s really going on. In fact, one of my guests I had not too long ago is Michelle Seiler Tucker, and she wrote a book called Exit Rich. She’s written a couple of books, actually, really fantastic person. She specializes in helping businesses to reach a point of growth towards a sale and make sure they can organize the business to be most effective through that process. So one of the things that she talked about is this sort of like false statistic that we all carry around, that 90% of startups fail. Well, in fact, according to the Small Business Administration, it’s actually the inverse, that companies that are larger than ten years old are more likely to fail than one that is in the first five years. So what we’ve been quoting this old statistic, and it carried through a generational change. And now that we’re finally going to catch up and we’re seeing now, of course, people are leaving, they’re realizing the technologies there to start from your desk, you can put together a website.

And so easy to do relative to what it was 30 years ago.

I hire and fire myself pretty frequently. There are days that I just can’t like, I just can’t deal with it. But that also reignites me to think, okay, what can I do better? What can I do smarter? What can I do faster? Do I need to hire people? Do I need to hire a consultant to help out with different gaps? But I’m excited about even in my own small town, and I live in San Jose, California, which is not small. It’s over a million people. But I live in a community, a subset of the community that does have its own little downtown, and it’s a little bit of a village. And I call it the Cotswell, although it’s not quite the Cotswold. But I see some new businesses coming in, and it’s really exciting. We lost some businesses and they’re in the pandemic. But one of the things that I thought was so amazing was the community came together for a children’s bookstore that was owned by two retired school teachers. And it’s a fabulous bookstore called Hugobee’s. And the community came together and helped raise over $200,000 for a bookstore. And Meanwhile, we have restaurants and other businesses that were struggling.

But the bookstore is such a pillar of education and Stem in the future. They have a bookwall for those who can’t afford to buy a book. It’s like give a book, take a book. People donate books. And so it’s just a part of the community. But that was pretty exciting to see in the bookstore is thriving, but they used to do all kinds of book sightings and book and Billings and all those things stopped. But on the same Street, I’m seeing other family based businesses, people that I’ve known in my community that had corporate jobs and a lot of jobs in tech that are opening up restaurants, and they’re opening up champagne bars and opening up kids’ clothing stores. And to me, that’s exciting to see that creativity come back into the community.

It’s a beautiful thing, and it’s like a forest that has suffered in an unexpected fire. But in fact, in a way, by nature’s course, is the best thing that can happen to it because it allows for regrowth. Strong regrowth. Right. And that’s really what I’m hoping is ahead, is that we can see these people that are the next generation where they’re like, yeah, we’ve got a good savings and we’ve always wanted to do this. And it’s just possible now, of course, I was just on with somebody very recently. They’re saying we’re putting together a central, like a meeting place for his company. We aren’t doing a traditional office, but it is literally so cheap to get real estate space now because those folks need money. The REITs are struggling. Everything around real estate is a real challenge right now, so they’re willing to let people come in. So now if you want to get retail space, it’s more accessible than it had been. And then you’re supporting a landlord. It’s a beautiful ecosystem. Watch, rebuild.

Yeah. Well, unfortunately, where I live, we live in some of the most fertile land, which was originally called the land of Hearts Delight and which ultimately became the Silicon Valley at the beginning. And so defense companies were here, then Hewlett Packard, and then later on, Apple and even IBM had a West Coast facility here and stone strewn away from the Facebook and the Google and all these companies, they say the land is fertile and so there’s always growth opportunities. But I laugh about that sometimes. I think, why do we put concrete on some of the most fertile land? And then it’s expensive because a three bedroom, two bath tracked home from the 70s, maybe built 70s, 80s. It’s going for 1.5 million. So I’m obsessed with home and garden. That’s my hobby. And then there’s a great Instagram site called Circa Home Circa. And I look at these beautiful farmhouses and these mid century houses and every place from Colorado to Ohio to Southern States, Alabama, Arkansas, all the way to Florida, and I go, what am I doing here?

I know.

Then I have to stand back and realize, okay, I have a purpose. I have a reason to still be here and not to be hybrid. But I applaud those who can’t be because I still feel that not quite like an Urban Rockwell stuck in a painting. But I still feel that the work that I’m doing is international because my clients are all over the world. But there’s still something kind of majestic and sometimes medicinal about the Valley. There’s a lot of things about it that I would edit out, but I try to select the things that are most compelling. And interestingly enough, I’m within miles from really fertile farmland and I work with an electric tractor company. And so to me, it’s kind of like back to my roots of growing up as a four H kid when the Valley was apricots and cherries and Walnut orchards. In fact, I live on a Walnut Orchard, which used to be a Walnut Orchard. So I think the fruits of the labor of what we choose to advocate as entrepreneurs, whether you’re a hair salon owner or bookstore, children’s bookstore, or you’re starting a tech company, or there’s a couple of kids that live in my town that have created the two brothers. They’re actually two twins and they have a cookie business. And they started during the pandemic because they were home with their extra time what to do. And so now they’re serving their gourmet cookies into restaurants. I think that’s brilliant.

That’s amazing. Yeah. No matter how much you will see the shifting in the makeup of the community and the population, it will still be at its core, what Silicon Valley? A lot of the history of Silicon Valley will continue even as you see more folks sort of decentralize real estate wise. We’ll see other up and coming areas. Austin, of course, is the next one, which is hilarious because then all the people in Austin are like, yeah, keep Austin weird. And they’re like, keep out of Austin like, we’re done. We want to stay weird and you’re not weird enough for a while.

There used to be shuttles daily from Silicon Valley to Austin back in the.com bubble. And so what I heard and speaking to someone, it was in Austin last week reporter is that people are living already 25, 30 miles outside the Tesla area because the housing is shooting up. So they once thought they could go there and get a home in the five to 800 range. And those houses are all been pushed up. So they’re moving out further, which is no different. It’s the ripple effect. But one of the things about change and the pandemic and economies, I mean, I started my business in 2001, which was not the best time to start. It was a great time to start for recruiting because there were a lot of people that were a lot of people on the market.

Yeah.

There were a lot of people that were at home not working but in terms of the economy. But to me it was a great time because either it was going to work or it wasn’t going to work. Being able to kind of stand back and look at the opportunity. We have to be agile and we have to make sure that we’re continuously going through that discovery process. And it’s not a one size fits all entrepreneurial T shirt that we go around wearing. We have a bad economy or we have some form of crisis or maybe there’s a personal crisis, whatever sea of change is happening. We need to be able to paddle out of that really quickly. I think 2020 was like, okay, we got through it. 2021 is like, okay, we got through a little better. We were paddling at 2022. I’d be like, okay, we’re canoeing. We’re going upstream. And I think that’s the part of the continuous kind of entrepreneurial spirit. If one has never owned and operated their own business, and whether it’s part time or full time, it could be at the farmer’s market or it could become an LLC Corporation doesn’t make any difference. You don’t really have a day off. That’s the one thing that people is the Mythbuster, I think, is that people think, oh, you have your own business. I have a friend who calls me constantly. She’s retired now. She’s been retired for quite a while at a nice pot of gold company. And she’s constantly said, let’s do this. And I’m like, it’s Wednesday at three. I’m working. It might be Saturday at three, and I might be working. I think that’s one of the other components. There’s a great book called The Entrepreneurs Faces by John Litman. And John Litman used to be a Wired reporter. He wrote for Mac Week and PC Week and then Mac Week. So he went from the one side to the other side. And then he wrote a bunch of books for IDEO, which is a design firm that was known very well in consumer electronic space, working with Apple and Dill and everybody else. But his book, The Entrepreneurs Faces, is really interesting because he looks at the different types of prototypes of entrepreneurs, and they’re not the obvious. So you’ll find a collaborator or you’ll find the visionary and the leader and all the different parallels. But what I like about it is I found that I’m a little bit of each one of the potential profiles and oftentimes as entrepreneurs. And this is why we need to keep a tribe. And the podcast that you created is really creating a community and a tribe for us to come together and share and collaborate and learn. By the way, listen, his listing is really good for us.

One of the names that comes up very often was the Entrepreneurs Organization. And it is exactly that. There’s like a very specific range. Generally, I think they need to be like 1 million in revenue or there’s a certain floor and a ceiling. So basically, it’s a great place for people that are in sort of this stage of business with that entire purpose. There are community of practice surrounded by people who are in exactly where you’re at, who are living the pain you’re living, and can teach you lessons that you need to learn, and they can share stories and share understanding and learn from each other. And when I talk to people that are members of EO, quite often, it’s their second run because they’ll have a successful exit at their company. And then they’ll start a new start up. In the moment that they hit this range, they go right back because they want to give back to this community. And that’s such a beautiful thing that people rarely see that side of entrepreneurship is that it is not. They think of it as like a lone Wolf, this sort of idea monger strategy creator, somebody that’s going out on their own and they’re a little bit odd.

And they’re going to put together a team like the Bad News Bears, and they’re going to create something that’s going to change the world. But in fact, the moment that you give them an opportunity to sit with another founder builder, anybody, there the excitement level for them to give something to that other person. It’s amazing to watch.

Yeah, that’s one of the things so exciting about accelerator programs that are designed to be a platform to help visionaries and entrepreneurs really think out of the box and push them to discover, is this the product to come to market? And recently I had Johnny Crowder of Cope Notes on my podcast. And one of the things I really liked about him is, yeah, he’s so impressive. He’s under 30, 29 still. And when I was 29, I wasn’t creating a company. I was working in editorial, and I had a great newsroom job. But he created a company out of going back what I was describing, a problem and a need. So he dealt and he continues to deal with his whole life, schizophrenia, ADHD, all types of personal challenges. But he turned that challenge into profit because by creating a platform that would allow him to send a hey, how are you doing today, Eric? I’m feeling really good, but I want some disco music would make me feel so much better. Anyway, he created this whole platform that would allow him to connect with his small group of his own personal community. But he realized going through an accelerated process that potentially could be his business, which he’s now created. And it’s called Cope Notes, and I love it. I subscribe to it. I’ve actually gave it to my daughter as part of her holiday gift. I’ve given it to some of my employees and a couple of my friends because throughout the day you get these little nice life coach kind of Cope Notes. And I was just checking to see if I had one now because I get them throughout the day and they’re inspirational. It’s kind of like that high five in the hallway or the water cooler conversation that we don’t have anymore.

Right. Especially now.

Right. But I just love the fact that you go from a place in his place of like, I don’t know how to deal with this, to like, oh, I bet there’s other people in the market that don’t know how to deal with this. So therefore, going through mentoring and accelerating, and I think that’s what’s great about. And I’ve gone to accelerator discussions throughout the US in different regions. And it’s the same spirit. Doesn’t make any difference in Chicago or if it’s in Austin or it’s in Atlanta, North Carolina, that same hunger and thirst. And I think if we all help each other in that coaching process, because I always tell people, you’re going to have some good days and you’re going to have some bad days, and you’re going to have some in between days and owning your own business.

Yes.

After 20 years. In fact, when I hit the 20 year anniversary mark, I just thought we were the right smack in the middle of the pandemic. And I don’t think anybody cares. Nobody knew. I do. I remember getting excited and telling some of my friends, they go, that’s nice. You got to have a party. I’m like, well, of course I’m not going to have a party. I said, I’m going to create a video and I’m going to create a podcast. That’s exactly what was really kind of a hallmark for me was, okay, I have 20 years of working and building and bringing companies and products to market. I had some stories that were not part of necessarily my business, but I’ve been carrying around in my back pocket great people that I met that weren’t my clients, that were in my network that had amazing stories, and then other people outside my network, as over time, it blossoms to that way. And to me, that’s really exciting, because that just means that there’s so much creativity and talent that’s out there that you and I bringing these types of discussions to market will hopefully excite somebody to go out and do something different.

Yeah, I applaud your format as well, because I really adore. I like well-produced podcasts. Like, I like tattoos. They’re amazing to look at, and I just don’t have the stomach to do it myself. So the moment I turned the first one on, I was like, it’s just like an NBC, ABC. It’s just beautifully done. It immediately draws you in. You did such a great job of putting a perfect hook, letting you in, and then the story plays out. And when you hear that, it’s so easy to listen to and just immerse yourself in. And it’s admirable because very few people have the ability to ask questions and lead a conversation that will fit back into that format. So you know that you have to think about how it’s going to work so that it’s the most compelling way to consume it. And it’s such a weird thing. And I’m nerding out a little bit harder than most people would just because I listen to so many different styles. I’ve listened to short form and I’m long form conversational because I hate editing.

Yeah, editing is an art of itself. When I first sat down and made a list, I said, well, if I do a podcast, which ultimately is going to write a book. And then I realized if I write a book, I’m going to be spending a lot of time by myself with a deadline, I’ll get to that. I’ve edited like 80 books in my career, but my book, yeah, it could wait. I’m going to do a podcast. But then I started looking at all the platforms, the turnkey platforms in the market, and then do it yourself, this and that. And I tried a few. I already record something to hear my voice. That’s great. But now how do I edit it? And what if I actually don’t want to do more of a narrative? Because being a former journalist, I like the narrative documentary style. And so even as a child, I could watch uncountless of film strips or video reels. And my father would get things from universities within Stanford and Berkeley and Santa Clara University. The libraries would get rid of things and he would bring them home because I would just kind of geek out on all these science and nature type of content.

So I love science and technology, and I love the deconstructing of things. I would say I’m kind of a weird girl. I like the sound of a piston engine. I love the smell of printer’s ink. I also like lavender and cinnamon. But I tell behind my father going to the local Metro airport to going to car shows and going to rock exhibits and all these things that science fairs and competing in science fairs. And those are the things that as a kid, four H working, doing four H projects as well. And I wanted the episodes to be a little bit like a science fair. Not everybody is a scientist or an innovator. I have book authors that cover those markets. And I also have a few episodes out. I have a formerly homeless teenager turned Baker extraordinaire and inspiration for generations of teens that we want off the street. That’s just an extraordinary story. So sometimes we just want to profile these amazing people. But that innovation of change in society, the ability to actually change, not just the light switch, but breathing light into other people’s life by facilitating change. And to me, that is that before it happened.

Like, what happened? Why did you become homeless? How did that happen? And how is that now changing the way your career, how your career is now able to change the lives of others. So ultimate before it happened Moment has multiple places that can reside, not just in the technologies. And that’s what I said. I could do a really geeky nerdy show and just have all the chic, geek hair. But I had other people that I had met, and I kind of look at it as being the hybrid world we work in. But it’s like a universal community is that when you start appealing the layers and you find these people and you find out really why they exist, and not only that they exist, but they’re eliminating their lives and changing people’s lives. And so I have said no a lot to people that solicit me for the show. And I’m sure you have to. And I’m like, well, I’m not really here to sell product as much as it is to ignite people, to maybe get out and do something different, like volunteer at the local senior center or this is a funny one.

New fire station coming into my town. I know I shouldn’t be so excited, but literally, it’s a beautiful fire station. It’s less than a quarter mile from me. And they painted this wonderful mural on the outside. And I told my daughter, I think I’m going to make cookies for the firemen. And she just says, mom, that’s kind of weird. I said, they’re in our community. I take pride in that. And I think that’s one of the things that we’ve all, in retrospect of the last couple of years of reconnecting with the simple things. Firemen have a really exhausting and important job in our community. It’s not a job I could do, but the fact that they’re doing that job allows me to be home safe and hopefully safer in my home, doing what I like to do. I think they deserve the cookies. And the funny thing is, I’m not even a Baker, so I might have to have somebody else make this cookie.

There’s a film called January Man as a film, a movie, whatever. I also date myself by the fact that I call them film still. And one of the lines from it, it was just this class thing is trying to explain to his fellow trying to explain to his girlfriend, like, you don’t understand. You will never understand me. He says, I run into effing burning buildings when other people are running out. That is what I do. I’m a fireman. And just like that, trying to explain and realizing the weight and the severity that they carry as a job. And it’s like, this is not just a volunteer gig to get some hours and some pay, like you’re signing up for something. I’m with you. I applaud all the folks that do that job because it’s not an easy one. It’s a high risk.

It is. And I fly. I used to go flying with my father when I was a kid and sit on crate boxes or books or whatever he can put on the plane. And then during the pandemic, I actually start spending more time at the airport. And one of the things I loved about it is there was some very small professional career and a very small hobbyist of women pilots so surrounded by men. And I see a woman at the airport, oh, it must be a good day. There’s a woman at the airport. Seldom do you see women at the airport. Usually they’re passengers. But I learned so much from their stories. Former commercial pilots, former military, former rescue Rangers, every type of you can imagine and listening to them and learning their stories and just amazing. And now the little travel that I do, I was just up in British Columbia and I went to CES in Las Vegas. I always had to peek into the cockpit because the little planes that I fly, the little Cessna 152, 172 Beechcraft, there’s still a lot going on. You cannot have ADHD and fly a plane.

Exactly. There’s a lot of gears and pulleys.

I have some amazing friends. And most of them, I would say the entrepreneur, I might get in trouble, but some of the deepest, sharpest kind of futurists that I work with, they all bet they have ADHD. The celebrity ones, Steve Jobs and Richard Branson, first thing they would admit. But they’re also so wicked brilliant. Like, you can jump out of the plane, but you can’t fly the plane. Right. And so I learned a lot of discovery and the flying, because when you look at the cockpit and you see all the steam dials and all the buttons and you’re not quite sure where to start, it’s very indicative to the entrepreneurial spirit. It’s like, where do I get started? And there is a process. When you fly a plane, you do need to know where to start. But when you’re an entrepreneur, I don’t think there really is a right or wrong answer of where you start. You can start just with the plan. I know people that start with a really detailed business plan. I know the people that my plan was on a napkin. I literally was on a napkin. And I just thought, but I have a friend who had told me three years before, you need to do this.

And I laughed and I said, no, maybe someday. And then when I actually saw the crack open in the window to bolt and leave the corporate world and create my own business, I never looked back. Do you think there’s a right where to start when you want to bolt out?

No. In fact, the small plane is probably the greatest analogy to it. Even more, it’s more like getting into the small plane, whereas somebody goes, have a good flight, Dr. Jones, you know, there’s a rough start ahead, but there’s no option. Actually, one of the most amazing podcast and interview moments I recently saw, it was Elon Musk was on the Lex Friedman podcast. And this is an interview skill that I show this moment to people and people think I’m an idiot because I keep saying you have to check this moment out. And it’s 30 seconds of silence. I said, do you understand? This is the moment he asks him. He says, Elon, what do you think about when you think about what can go wrong and why you shouldn’t, why you won’t be able to make it to Mars, and why we won’t be able to do something? And just the beauty of the silence. And he says, I can’t, I don’t there is no it’s just effort. We’ll get it done. But to give him the moment to just like air that out and sit in silence, it was beautiful. And that’s when you think about, should I do this?

You run it through your head and then you go, there’s no reason why I wouldn’t.

The thing I think is most interesting about Elon, and I’ve never met him. I’ve heard him speak. I’ve been in with maybe 50ft of him. He’s a lot taller than I thought he would be. That was one observation.

Yeah, it is funny. You normally see them just in pictures and realize he’s a gigantic fellow.

Yeah. Well, I don’t think Elon actually, he’s genuine to who he is and he doesn’t care. And so he’s going to go to Mars if he chooses to go to Mars and thinks that he’s done with Solver X and he’s done for Tesla. And I just kind of stand back. I worked years ago on one of his first projects, which was a digital media kind of platform, and it failed, but a lot of entrepreneurial things fail. And so you just keep on going. But I think he generally works on things that he’s passionate and believes in because you can’t have that much success and not believe in it. You just can’t go back to that core. And it’s like, well, what is that Core we all hear the stories about as a kid, he stood out and he was different. And I bet he was. He was probably that kid you didn’t want to sit behind because he’d probably pull your pigtails or something. But I think it’s interesting that I had a conversation a few weeks ago with the President of SETI, which is the center for Extraterrestrial. And it’s really interesting the stuff that they do and they have very high caliber scientists that are working to better our future by looking at the unobvious.

And I think that’s one of the things that scientists do. They don’t look at the obvious. They look at the unobvious. So where do we actually have things like in the ocean or in space or on Mars? These are the people that found the two new moons. They found the new species of crab a few years ago. And I think it’s really interesting that we have so much untapped in the universe is that there’s a race to go to other places, but there’s so much that we still have to discover here.

Right.

And I love to go to space because I would just like to experience that. But when I recently watched the movie “Don’t Look Up”, I thought I was curious about that type of stuff when I was a kid. When looking back at all the different moon launches and now we go to the moon, it’s like, oh, yeah, we went to the moon. I went and got a gallon of milk. But there was a time. And so I love the movie “Hidden Figures”, because that movie brought out a story of the going to the moon that we had heard before the back end story. And that’s the type of stuff that personally, again, excites me because everybody has a story. And when I was in College, we were told not to write our obituary as a journalism project, which is quite common. We were told to write our manifesto. And I thought that was great because that meant that we had to have a conviction to something, not what nice things people are going to say about us. And I would like people to say nice things about me someday. But I think ultimately it’s like, what do you stand for?

And what’s that conviction and that driving force that made you make a decision at some point that you’re chosen to do this? And that’s what I feel about my podcast is like, it started out as an idea and it’s kind of grown. And I have this amazing team that I work with. I have a writer that collaborates and crafts the narrative. And I have a producer. My daughter would say, mom, you’re a little high maintenance. And I’m like, yeah, you know, this was going to be done in the home office, and now I actually have a team. And then my social team, it’s evolved. But I feel that I have a personal, personal consciousness. And like, I’m going to say I want to give back to each one of my guests something that they’re going to feel good, that is going to be a historical document, almost like the old Encyclopedia Britannicas. Have anybody remember those? And my father would never invest in those. He says, that’s a waste of money. They’re going to be outdated in a few years. You’re going to be able to get everything online. My father would say that. And I’m like, but what’s online?

I had a typewriter. And so I forget my neighbor’s old editions, which is funny.

Yeah. You get the previous editions. You’re reading old things that don’t exist or that have been undiscovered.

Do you remember when things like Lexus Nexus was like new technology?

Right.

And I went to College, undergraduate and graduate school without Google. Most of the millennials went without Google. Gen X’s, no google. Baby boomers, definitely no. So how did we survive? I think we survived and our creativity and our unstoppable curiosity and whether people are conscious that we have it, it’s there. You just have to untap it.

Yeah. And I’ll say to bring together the value of what you do, we can talk all day about what Elon does and SpaceX does. And there’s fantastic things that get done. But in fact, what brings it to the most ears and eyes and makes them care about it to the point where they would make it successful. There was a Netflix documentary about the group of four who were like normies. Right. Just traditional citizens who were citizen space Flyers now. And so citizen astronaut suddenly has this story behind it. And it brought excitement to what was being done in the same way that hidden figures. If it had been done when it happened, imagine how much further the space race would be if we had that.

Yeah. Well, and I think that’s the importance of Stem education. I’m a huge advocate of Stem education. And I don’t know, I think growing up, we always had it, and then we took a bunch of stuff out of it, and particularly public schools started reducing programs, and maybe private schools had more programs than others, but we took so much out. It’s kind of like the food industry. Right. We’re going to take all the organic good stuff out and we’re going to put in all this homogenized substitute things, and then the taste goes away. And then we found out they’re bad or worse for our health, and then the original purity of a product. And I think that’s been the same thing with education and Stem education is that when I grew up, literally, I was told that there was boys math and there was girls. They had gender. Math. Math has a gender? And so I was thirsty and hungry to go in the harder math. But I was always told, I don’t need that. And I’ve talked to so many people that experience that as well. But because I was an honors student, I always bullied my way over to the boys math forgiven.

And then that’s changed, obviously. And I was really happy to see my daughter in school. Never had to deal with that. But we have a shortage of Stem professionals and particularly women. And so we can get kids excited about science and technology and engineering and the arts, because I think when you have a deep technical background, but you also have appreciation for arts and understanding of how the two intersect. Industrial designers working together with engineers have to work very similar to storytelling. They have to look and listen and then go apply. And I think it’s interesting how mechanical engineers and industrial engineers work together to create these ideas and bring them to market and particularly consumer electronics. We have to inspire kids to have that curiosity.

It’s a creative process. It’s an amazing thing. It’s funny. Looking back to my own. So when I was in high school, I took business English, which was like and typing. It was basically the idea that you would learn how to write a memorandum, and it was like learning traditional office lingo. And it was funny. I was born in 72, so this was at a point when I was in typing class, we were on IBM Selectric Typewriters, and it was me and 29 female students. And I was the weird one because at the time, it was seen as, like, working towards administrative work, and it was generally seen as focused on traditionally female roles. I was the odd one out, but then five years later, it was 50 50.

We placed a week girls.

I know it was like heaven, one of the 29 at a target rich environment, but five years later, it evened out. And in other areas we still struggle and we have to. But I love this idea of, like, teach creativity as part of technology and empower them through that story, and they realize it’s a beautiful pairing of things. And so I have to applaud that you do it so well. Definitely a book in you, and I would love to read it. I’m cheating by listening to your podcast and getting the little snippets along the way.

Yeah, well, I’m kind of stuck in the middle of my book. Like, I was describing the bookings. I think I know what it’s going to be. I just need to find a discipline to sit down and do it and think once I do it, then I won’t look back. But I want to comment on your typing. So my mother said, Typing will be one of the best skills you ever have. And I’m like, Mom, I don’t want to type. I don’t want to learn to type. I’m not going to have a typing job. She said, you want to work in the newsroom, you better know how to type. She was right. And so I took typing in summer school because I didn’t want it to interfere with my regular academics. So I learned to type 125 up to 150 words a minute without error, because that ultimately got me the job interview that I could go in for because it used to be a typing test. There’s no keyboarding test anymore. And I know in editorial they don’t ask you to take a test, but it gave me that entry point to working in the newsroom.

And to be able the faster you type, the more stories you had given to you to set up in the word processor to then go to production. And then eventually I go, this is where I get a little naughty. I said, the she devil can be a little bit naughty. I would actually edit things where I would type and make them sound better, only without approval. So when you finally get that call to go into the managing Editor’s office because you’ve been known to be changing copy. But the much appreciated, thinking out of the box desire to do that was appreciated and got me promoted out of what I call the editorial pool, which is ultimately the secretarial pool, which was male and female, but predominantly female people just typing away. And yes, I feel very proud about that. That was a little bit of my naughtiness that got me to the next level. But I think one of the things that is fascinating about technology is now on my phone. I could literally write up a Press release, a pitch, do a presentation, pretty much my mobile office. And in the hybrid world, we have access to content 24 by seven, constantly.

I wake up and I try not to look straight at the world news because it’s a little bit disturbing, particularly today things I’ve seen, and I go, this is not how I want to wake up. I wake up to my lemon tree, literally. And I look at that, and sometimes there’s no lemons. But right now it’s prolifically, full of lemons. And I say, oh, life gives you lemons, right? You go to make lemonade. So it’s very symbolic. There’s no happy accident. I have a lemon tree there. But no two days are alike. And I think that’s the great thing about what I’ve chosen. My career is as a news reporter. No two days were like in public relations. No two days are alike. No two clients are alike. And that’s the kind of a common thread that I’ve seen is having that constant curiosity means I’m going to have a lot of diversity.

What’s given you success so far. And as a consumer of your stories, I gotta say, Donna, you do it well. That’s a magical thing, isn’t it? One quote I get, and although he’s somewhat obviously a controversial figure these days, but I enjoy some of the quotes as Dr. Jordan Peterson. And he says that creative people often create an incredible amount of value, rarely for themselves. And when you think of that pool, of how much creativity was in that pool and how few of them will exit that pool, it is amazing. So you deservedly made it outside of the pool. And I could say anybody that gets to work with you is doing well and will no doubt be pleased with the outcome. It’s been a real pleasure to share time with you, and I will definitely make sure that we’re going to have links to your podcast and to everything about you. What’s the best way if people do want to get a hold of you, Donna, how do they do that?

There’s a couple of ways. Probably my easiest business way is LinkedIn. It’s just Donna Loughlin and that’s L-O-U-G-H-L-I-N. “beforeithappenedshow” on Instagram and beforeithappened.com for the podcast. And my email is Donna@lmgpr.com, and you can use any of those avenues to get a hold of me and I’d be delighted to chat, mentor or share stories or if you think that you are a candidate for the show absolutely email me as well.

Well, I definitely think we got some folks that we can send your way and like I said maybe one day I’ll be lucky and I’ll be a founder myself and I’ll have a story to share and I’ll be there and it would be a pleasure to be on your show. So beautifully done. So congratulations on continued work that’s going on there.

Oh, thank you. Now do we get your disco music?

I know sadly there’s very little disco in my life. The hilarious thing is my name came from so I’m old enough that email is new, right? You and I remember those days. Potentially you remember when email started and I would move from place to place when I lived in Toronto. And every time I would move you would get to a location that didn’t have the same service provider. So we have to go from Bell to Rogers same as AT&T Verizon and every time I would move they would give you a new email address and it was like @rogers.com I was like, oh@bell.com and I moved back to a place that had Rogers I was like, perfect I’ll be Ericwright@rogers.com again. They’d be like, oh no, that one’s taken. No, I know it was my email address. They’re like, oh well you can’t reuse the email. No, it’s mine. And that was like AOL was beginning and so what I finally did was I bit the bullet and I was in a bunch of different bands and one of the bands I was in called the discoposse. We did extremely heavy versions of disco songs and it was kind of fun and so I thought I’m going to use that as my email domain because no one will take that.

It’s an awesome name. Well, my favorite disco song was the BeeGees’ “Staying Alive” the last couple of years. So I think that was a good one for all of us to dance to. Dancing into it. Well, thank you so much for having me, Eric, as a guest. Hopefully I’ve ignited some curiosities and people to do something great.

Most definitely. Most definitely. Thank you very much.

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