Cameron Chell has one of the most inspiring stories of the successful entrepreneurs I’ve interviewed on the DealMakers Podcast. He’s enjoyed the heights of raising hundreds of millions of dollars, launching startups into space, and breaking into new frontiers in crypto and blockchain.
He’s also experienced what it’s like to allow your own success to derail you, and what happens when you take your eye off the most valuable things you can do in the present.
Here are just a few of the highlights from his insightful interview on the podcast that just might inspire you as an entrepreneur, founder, or startup investor
Cameron Chell has never known anything else besides entrepreneurship. Both his parents were entrepreneurs, back before there were ‘entrepreneurs’. Cameron states “They went to church on Sundays but still worked seven days a week.”
He built an irrigation startup in his teens and a one hour photo chain he sold by his early 20s. He has now launched and exited at least eight companies, maybe well over a dozen. He’s sold businesses to Microsoft and has taken them public.
Cameron’s first tech company was FutureLink. Arguably the first version of what would have been called a cloud computing company, at the dawn of the internet as we know it.
FutureLink went on to work with a number of companies from Oracle and Sun, to Microsoft, IBM, and Compaq. It achieved around a $3.2 billion dollar market cap, back when a billion dollars really meant something.
Dark Days, Hidden Blessings
If there is one thing you can guarantee as an entrepreneur it is that you are going to have some dark days. Cameron has certainly had his fair share. Maybe more than most.
At the behest of an investor, he brought in an outside chairman. Cameron says “When he took on the chairman role, he actually started acting like a proper chairman. I was quite insulted by that. He obviously didn’t understand who I was or how important I was as a 20-some-year-old founder and CEO of this company.”
What ensued was Cameron being fired from his own startup. Today, he admits he was probably too arrogant and too stubborn at the time. He lashed back and sold the shares he could. Yet, while many would remain bitter about it, this founder now says “it was absolutely one of the best things that could have happened to me.” A great lesson and opportunity in disguise.
Then in 2001, Cameron was at the base of the World Trade Center on 9/11. Looking back he says his life was already heading for major catastrophe, out of control and totally self-centered.
By the end of the day on 9/1, like many others, he was in complete disarray wondering why he was alive, and other people weren’t. He now sees it as the first step in a correction in his ego and mindset.
Yet, that didn’t stop the spiral. Within about two years of picking up some new bad habits he went bankrupt, became desolate, and then ended up living on the streets of Vancouver as an addict for several years.
Only after years of struggling, running from gangs and trying to break the cycle of homelessness he says “by the grace of God and a lot of great people,” he’s been on the right track for the last 10 years.”
From Cameron‘s perspective “Entrepreneurs can be especially susceptible to this. Founders can be incredibly impulsive, compulsive, and generally always determined people. So, when there’s something that has worked before to solve a problem, like using drugs, it’s tough to get away from that. They have a great intensity that they approach things with and are naturally willing to embrace great risk. Those strengths can sometimes also be their greatest weaknesses.”
Even when you are doing everything right, you often find that you can’t control the world the way you’d like to. Cameron found that out again when he was diagnosed with cancer.
He says “the one that I hang onto the most every day now is that I stay very, very present. I only do the next thing in front of me. It’s almost counter intuitive because we’re taught to be visionaries, we’re taught we have to see around corners and anticipate the next move. If you’re not a great Chess player, you’re not a great CEO. But, you know, the reality is if you just don’t get the next most important thing done, none of it matters.”
Ninety percent of founder failures today are not about flaws in their ideas. But in the execution and taking that action. Investors see that, and 99% of the time they kick a pitch to the curb because they don’t believe the founder can execute.
Solving Impossible Problems: What If?
The first portfolio company of Cameron Chell’s Business Instincts Group was UrtheCast. A startup that has put video cameras into orbit on the International Space Station and offers the only live video feed of our planet from space.
Business Instincts Group is really a venture creation lab. The core value proposition is two-fold. Firstly, The RIPKIT, which is a system by which companies can build startups from idea right through commercialization. That also encompasses a highly transparent software which gives everyone involved in a startup, including investors direct insight into what’s happening all the time.
The second part is the Big Thinking Process. It’s taking on the impossible, and asking “what if?”
It’s specifically useful for taking on what we might think is impossible. Cameron says “After you go through like 7 to 15 what-ifs on a project, you end up getting it boiled down to natural potential or possibility to build a project that was thought impossible, literally five or six hours previous to that.”
Like competing with Google Earth and creating live feed video from space. Or creating ‘no-click buying’. Or a visual search engine that would be used to instantly shop on your phone and would be adopted by the biggest retailers, like Home Depot and Macy’s. Yes, he made that possible too.
Recently, Cameron has introduced cryptocurrency to big brands such as the KODAKCoin the cryptocurrency for the KODAKOne marketplace, which under a brand license agreement with KODAK is creating a revolutionary blockchain based image rights management and protection platform that seamlessly registers, manages and enables the monetization of digital assets.
Additionally, Cameron‘s company ICOx innovations, announced FreedomCoin. This is a stable, legally compliant utility token available for simple, trusted transactions on the BitRail infrastructure. FreedomCoin facilitates the mainstream adoption of cryptocurrencies by consumers and demands the highest standards of legal compliance. The company adheres to local money transmitter regulations and ensures FreedomCoin is both KYC and AML compliant. FreedomCoin is a stable coin pegged to the U.S. dollar and is the preferred payment method and partner of GunBroker.com.
Advice for Startup Founders
Cameron says his advice to his son is wake up early, meditate, think big but do small act – just what is in front of you, and keep your ego in check by doing something of service every day. He says “You do those and everything, I believe, will work out right.”