Rocket Science: Brandon Maier
Brandon is a serial entrepreneur and investor and the founder of LvlUp Ventures with extensive experience in working with early-stage startups helping them with strategy and raising capital.
What’s your favorite wall decoration at home?
A piece of art my mother painted of the Redondo Pier, which was across the street from me. She did it two years ago, actually, even before she visited here. A full canvas painting that’s just beautiful.
Best Takeout in Redondo Beach.
I’m going to go with Bluewater Grill. It’s all seafood. They have a cocktail on the menu I created called a lavender sangria, which is basically a white sangria with lavender syrup, topped off with pineapple and orange. It has a cool, purple, cloudy look to it. They are right around the corner. I take my golf cart half a mile and I’m there.
Wait, you have a golf cart?
I have a street-legal golf cart. I drive it more than my car. It’s electric, goes 25 miles per hour. In California it’s legal on any roads with 35 miles or below speed limits to take an “auxiliary vehicle.”
It’s really big out here in South Bay. You can park them for free in Hermosa in the metered parking spaces. They should have it in New York City, though New York will always find a way to charge for parking.
What’s something founders should absolutely NOT have in their pitch decks?
Valuation. Listing a valuation or any part of the business that could use additional explanation is a major no-no that may keep an investor from taking an initial meeting.
If you list a valuation of, say, $15 million, and that’s outside of an investor’s typical valuation cap, he or she may choose to not take an initial conversation because the company might be too expensive for them. They’re be automatically closing the door on other conversations they might have.
If they haven’t raised any capital yet, they might not even get to that valuation, so approaching with an open mind is important.
What’s something founders should ABSOLUTELY have in their pitch decks?
The business model should come a lot sooner than the 15th page of your deck. How are you actually making money? A founder should articulate it properly instead of just giving the channels where it can maybe produce revenue. What’s the average value of your individual customers? Are you realistic about the parts of your business most likely to evolve?
From an investor’s perspective, they want to know how you’re gonna make money back. They don’t want to see 15 pages of someone just describing how awesome their business is.
One thing I hate seeing, just because no one ever has enough granular information, is something along the lines of, “We’re raising this much money or doing it at this valuation because we saw on TechCrunch that someone else in a similar space has done it.” They’re basing their pitch too much on what other companies are doing versus asking, “What can I do to advance my own business?”
What’s a dumb trend in startup culture?
We’re just getting back to in-person events, thankfully, and it reminds me of something I see that makes me cringe. Any time founders go to an event, if they see an angel or an investor sitting on the panel, please try to approach them like they’re still a person.
A lot of times they walk up and it’s just an immediate pitch, they get right into it barely after saying hello. Or they’re way too close to you, crowding personal space. They kind of forget that human element, and subsequently the first and often only impression just goes out the window.
Greatest Tom Brady moment.
Greatest Tom Brady moment, I would say, was the Bucs championship. Coming to a brand-new team, a brand-new lineup of guys … to get all 53 players on a roster to sync up in one year, then go up against probably one of the greatest quarterbacks right now in Patrick Mahomes, in devastating style, was awesome to see.
Give us a TV recommendation.
I’ve always been a Law & Order: SVU person. I’ve been following since I was a kid. About 23 years strong, unbelievable. I think SVU has evolved nicely while maintaining the two mainstays, Ice-T and Mariska Hargitay. They’ve done a solid job finding new cast members who bring new energy while still keeping the tone of the show consistent.
You’re a singer-songwriter. What are some of your major influences?
Growing up as kind of more of a nerdy kid, I got into a lot of pop music. I started watching a lot of different boy bands and learning dance moves and teaching myself how to sing. I very much was someone that wanted to either be a singer or an actor.
I have a lot of respect for pop craftsmanship. So, I’m a huge Backstreet Boys fan. I’ve seen, I think, six or seven concerts. Growing up, Michael Jackson certainly, and my mom got me into Phil Collins. I am completely floored by Olivia Rodrigo putting out an initial album in which every single song charted.
Your Yorkie’s favorite dog treat.
Venison. My fiancée makes these top-of-the-line snacks for dogs. My dog, Monster, literally gets air-fried salmon and venison for lunch.
It’s a great life for Monster, just driving around with me, buckled into the golf cart and eating fine foods on the beach. The Bluewater Grill, home of the Lavender Sangria? They’ve used him for all of their happy hour promotions, so he’s a model too.
Who’s a creative person you feel is really underrated?
This is so random: Donnie Wahlberg. Since he’s Mark’s brother he can fly a little under the radar, but there are certain people in the entertainment space who quietly make a lot more money than we think, and he’s one of them.
There’s a Top 30 Billboard annual concert gross, and he’s been a driving force behind New Kids on the Block being in there for 15 years or so. He does a lot of TV, producing documentaries and series. He was in The Sixth Sense! Lost a ton of weight, unrecognizable. He’s had a steady career acting, even outside of Blue Bloods. He’s married to Jenny McCarthy. There are close to 45 Wahlburger locations worldwide. I mean, he’s into everything.
What would you like to see more of in the startup community?
This is going to sound like something that’s already happening, because in a lot of cases it is, but I’d like to see more environments where founders are trying to help one another.
We can do better in helping underserved founders, and being more open to lending a hand to people who clearly have a deep drive for doing this, but haven’t necessarily lived and breathed as an entrepreneur their whole lives.
Even if you’re an accelerator, if you’re one of the startup teams near the bottom, the chances of getting help afterward are slim to none. I don’t know what the perfect solution to it is, but we’re in the startup community. It’s about innovation. So I think just innovation around creating a fair playing field that doesn’t reward the same people and ideas would be great.
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