William Quigley – The Art of the Hustle
“Judgement – it’s more important than age, experience or any other talent.”
William learnt at a young age what it meant to be an entrepreneur. His mother migrated to the States from Ireland while still a teenager. In those days she did not have any legal papers and nor did she get an education. Instead she married, moved to California and raised eight children. Her husband left the family to fend for themselves, but instead of just surviving, Tessie Quigley turned her life around.
A simple gesture of bringing a neighbour to a medical appointment opened a commercial door. The neighbour insisted on paying Tessie twenty dollars despite her protestations. She was told the government was paying this amount for the lift and so her new business was born. Soon she had a suite of vehicles operating a non-medical transport service, in fact she grew the business to be the largest non-medical transportation service in California. The children were also included in the business, often cleaning the vehicles after hours.
Tessie Quigley knew how to hustle.
“She had excellent skills of judgement and could always see opportunity. This skill cannot be taught, it’s innate. As a VC I look to find good CEOs. As a CEO you can’t always anticipate what is going to happen so you need some who can hustle and who has excellent judgement skills.
“I’ve met 23 year olds with better judgement skills than 50 year old vice presidents.
“My mother taught me the art of the hustle. There are only so many hours in the day and if you are trading your time for money you are on a losing wicket. Now, if you can leverage things – like people, machinery, automation – that’s where you can make money. That’s why I went into tech of course, and VC tech in particular, where I can leverage both tech and people.”
William also has a theory about business and opportunity. He reckons that businesses often have a short period in which to make a mark and make money. And it takes generalists to spot those opportunities.
“People rely on experts too much these days. They say ‘oh I can’t do social media, I need an expert for that.’ However, the really successful people just see an opportunity. You might work in operations, but you can still spot a good PR opportunity. This is also a form of hustle – seeing opportunities even outside your sphere of influence and going for it.”
He has a point. His mother did not have an MBA but she understood there was a gap in the market and she filled it, doing all of the needful jobs from driving to cleaning as she grew the business.
Man proposes and God disposes - Homo proponit, sed Deus disponit or as William tells it – Man plans and God laughs.
“No one can know what the future holds. Could anyone have imagined the impact of COVID19? That’s where the hustle comes in.”
The impact of Libertarianism on William
“I reckon Libertarianism is largely misunderstood. Let me explain. I am a venture capitalist and that is all about the free market. It is about helping people innovate and improve their business and giving them the capital to do it.
“Whereas traditional banking is very bureaucratic. There are set rules and if people don’t meet those requirements then they can’t get a loan. It’s a very closed environment.”
William believes that libertarians tend to be much more open minded and flexible. He would love if all customer service agents were libertarians as he reckons their views would be much better than the top down approach. He also thinks that the libertarian message is often judged quite harshly – it doesn’t sound as appealing as the progressive message which says it will take care of everyone.
“In reality, the libertarian viewpoint is to create a level playing field for everyone. It does away with crony capitalism, the idea of having a master. In addition, when you look at today’s capitalism it is most certainly not free market capitalism. In 2008 the banks ran amok and were bailed out by the public purse. That is not a level playing field at all.”
Curious Customers or Convenient Customers
When it comes to the customer, William’s years at Disney taught him it is not curiosity that keeps the customers but convenience.
“For sure customer services must be curious to understand the customers but when it comes to customers the main thrust is convenience.”
William uses the phrase that consumers ‘pray to the God of convenience’ in which customers will always defer towards the most convenient path. Passwords are often bypassed if let and customers will even purchase a lower quality product, even more expensive, if it is easier to use.
“I often wonder who someone like me – with a keen focus on making things easy and convenient for customers – ended up in Blockchain.”
HODLing during a Bubble
William has seen his fair share of bubbles; financial, housing, dot.com and crypto. And while he appreciates it can be hard to see beyond the edge of the bubble, even if you suspect you may be in a bubble, to the other side. It’s human nature as he sees it to jump ship. However, his advice, if you can hold onto whatever it is you are into, hodl, and only look to get out when you reckon it is 25% up on the bottom.
“Not 10% because that can often be a dead cat bounce, but 25% is a good rule of thumb.”
While William emphasizes he is not a financial advisor and this is not financial advice, he does enjoy watching assets. It is his job to evaluate assets and this is where the value of assets can be confusing.
“In tough times, like a recession or with bad financial news, the stock exchange can still go up which drives people nutty. It doesn’t make sense but of course the markets don’t work on current value, they track future values.
“Like right now there are 40 million Americans out of work but the markets are not reflecting it. The markets are expecting a V shaped recovery after COVID. This is a man-made crisis if you will, and once the lockdown is lifted, the economy is expected to recover very quickly.”
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William on why Non Fungible Tokens (NFTs) are finally a thing.
William is not a card collector. He was ten years too old for the Garbage Pail Kids GPK cards although his younger brother recently reminded him that he had indeed been a collector and still has his cards.
Collectibles now really interest William. For an NFT to work it needs a community interested in trading, buying or selling the items and the items need to be collectables.
This is a huge turning point for the NFTs. William gives the example of CryptoKitties. They were huge, they shut down the Ethereum blockchain and they were cited as the dawn of digital NFTs. However, despite there being hundreds of thousands of CryptoKitties there was no secondary market which killed them dead.
“We had about 120,000 CryptoKitties NFTs on OPSkins at one stage with a daily turnover of around one dollar. They just weren’t moving. Guys set up platforms to resell the Kitties and they were dead in the water.”
NFTs and blockchain are made for each other with the ability to provide verification of authenticity but if the NFTs lack desirability there is no future. In addition, using the Ethereum blockchain meant transfer of the Kitties was painful and expensive. This goes back to convenience for customers.
William is very proud of the WAX Cloud Wallet. Most of the GPK collectors did not own any crypto. However, they could sign up for the wallet just using their socials. It was totally intuitive.
So not only was the signup for a crypto wallet seamless, the community already existed and the new digital artwork made the original cards even more attractive.
As William spent years working as Head of Finance in licencing with Disney, he also understood the concept of earning a percentage from the secondary market. “It is not fair that the creators of the digital artwork only benefit from a primary market, it’s much more appetising if they can also earn points from a secondary marketplace. So using smart contracts we have built in a percentage earning from secondary sales.”
William also remembers the estate of AA Milne ended up suing Disney as they felt they were not being paid enough royalties. “I mean the estate has to rely on Disney reports and had no way of tracking all the purchases. Of course now, with blockchain these secondary sales are all recorded.
“So if you are a big player, like the Winnie the Pooh estate, you can afford to hire lawyers but what if you were a small time photographer, how on earth, pre blockchain, could you have tracked the use of your images? Another game changer literally.”
“No matter what the news, good or bad, I don’t believe you are in a position, when that news hits, to judge if it’s good or bad for you.” The Quigley Rules
Q What was your best move?
“My best move was being just captivated by the internet. And I can even tell you when I was captivated. It was when somebody sent me an image. And of course, it's hard for people substantially younger than me to appreciate this, but we thought of computers as isolated devices. You could put a CD ROM in it and play something but the notion of it being connected was awesome.
“And, and then it became, well, how can I get in? How can I dedicate myself to this and fortunately, I teamed up with some guys who were building an incubator. The first incubator, really one of the first internet incubators, called IdeaLab.
“I was doing my thing at Disney and was pretty happy, but I knew this is where business models are going to get disrupted. This is where new ways of consumers doing things is going to happen. And that was a remarkable run for us. This is where the hustle was.”
Q Dodgiest move?
“Oh, man. So, so, so many. Uh, you could call it in the early 90s, selling a bunch of property that I had acquired in the late 80s at rock bottom prices because I looked at it and I said, Well, I paid this. It's three times higher, without really thinking, yeah, but the intrinsic value is 10 times higher than that. So that became a bit of a rule. For me, winning trades, stay, you know, stay invested in. And yeah, I've done a few of those where I've, I've gotten off the escalator prematurely when I thought, Oh, it's all over now, and it hadn't even begun. And by the way, that's a lesson to entrepreneurs everywhere.
“You know, you'll often hear people in crypto well in everything, am I too late? And I, I always say, you know, you're never too late because it's like the guy who just published the 1000 Churchill biography. It's like, well, doesn't he wish he was the first guy? No, because you know, as time passes, you see things differently. So you know, the best travel site of the 90s was Priceline right?. You would have thought well, then that travel opportunity is done. Well then Airbnb comes 15 years later. And so, yeah. If you hear yourself saying, I'm too late, you know, you may very well be too early.”
Q Move you regretted doing?
“Well, in the crypto side of things, I'm annoyed at one thing that my partners and I did not do. And that is we had acquired Mt Gox after it collapsed but we did not think we could relaunch Mt Gox in the name Mt Gox because we thought it was tainted.
“How could we have known that it turned out from that point on exchanges routinely get hacked, and if anything their business grows. And so we didn't immediately try to reach a return on Mt Gox. And instead, we tried to build an exchange. And guess what happened? I did not authorize it to be released. And the reason was, I could not get comfortable with the regulatory climate that this would be okay. And this annoys me. Because it turned out it was a gray area. No one knew, right. If you know, you just couldn't figure it out. But most other guys said the heck with it. You know what, it's not explicitly not allowed So let's just do it. And, we've been running marketplaces for 20 years, we know how to do this stuff. So now I'm going to go and do the thing I told you not to do. But I've said to my team, I think it's too late, you know? And maybe, and maybe it's not. The exchanges have become much better. Like when we were doing it, the exchanges were still nascent, there were very few, but in 2017 2018, even part of 2019 it was so frustrating. They were so poorly managed, they didn't understand customer convenience and customer service. I would say they're getting much better. So yeah, but at this point, that's probably one of one of my biggest regrets.”
Q Your next move?
“I’m going to be in crypto until I retire. Right now I am most interested in the nexus of blockchain, ecommerce and trading and by trading I mean collectables.
“People have been building on blockchain but they are only making it convenient to use now. That’s what will make the difference – convenience.”