Rafting roaring rapids in Africa. Scuba diving along the Great Barrier Reef. Nightclubbing in Ibiza. Hiking the Himalayas. Walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain — twice.
Dave Williams lives for life experiences. They make him a better entrepreneur.
From the Dot Com days to navigating a recession, Williams has endured the cycles of entrepreneurship for nearly twenty years. He created, lead, and exited two successful startups, 360i and BLiNQ Media. Now, he serves as an angel investor, advisor, and mentor through Global Ad Ventures. He avows that his success is attributed to periods of deep reflection and taking time off.
Williams shares his humble advice to founders, entrepreneurs, and busy business folks alike — take a break, go off the beaten path, and return ready for everything that life has to offer.
Why should entrepreneurs travel now, instead of waiting to do it later when retired, as is preached by the typical American model?
Work is more intense than it’s ever been before, especially for the younger generations. There is little separation of work and personal life as it is all blurred as one now. The pace of technology and communication is relentless, where it is difficult to ever be truly off. Being an entrepreneur is like sprinting a marathon, but once you are finished being told you have to go back and run another one.
On the flip side, people are living longer, waiting to get married and to have kids which creates this unique opportunity in their 20s and 30s to take more time off [through] breaks between jobs and sabbaticals from work or extended periods off after an exit. Also, technology makes travel – especially adventure travel – more accessible than ever before. My advice is to take advantage of these opportunities, be a pioneer, do it and don’t think twice about it. Don’t listen to the naysayers as they are mostly ignorant on the topic. Tell your bosses you are taking them up on their unlimited vacation policy, extend your Labor Day break by a few weeks, and take advantage of your employer’s sabbatical policy. If you are an entrepreneur, leave your business for a couple weeks to test the business model. Can it survive without you? And, if not this should be your goal when you return. I guarantee you that this will be the best decision of your life.
Why is it important for entrepreneurs, especially founders, to create opportunities to reflect through significant time off?
Founding and running a startup is a roller coaster that can be very overwhelming, all consuming and it’s easy to lose perspective on yourself in the process. Getting a chance to take time off for an extended period whether for a few weeks, months, or years, allows you to disconnect, digest experiences, detox your mind and allows for you to come back refreshed from the day-to-day grind of life with a new perspective, ideas, and energy for work. It’s energizing, rejuvenating and inspiring to the soul in a way that I think everyone needs to experience in this complicated, uncertain and long life that we all live.
How has a sabbatical post-startup helped you develop as a person and as an entrepreneur?
It has been quite a journey of self-discovery [through] global and cultural experiences that just can’t be had from behind a bright screen, sitting in the office or from the constraints of city life. It has helped me transition my obsession as an entrepreneur to a more broad perspective on the world, who I am and what it is that I really want to do in this next phase of my life. It has helped me mature and transition my thinking around business and offered me a much greater worldly perspective on people, their cultural heritage and what really makes me tick. It’s been quite a journey, but still feel that I am really just starting the learning experience and transition.
Where have you traveled to since leaving the grind two-something years ago?
My wife and I have traveled to many places throughout the world, a pilgrimage of sorts to where we typically will spend some time in a major city but head out for adventure travel from there. Since leaving BLiNQ we have been to multiple cities around the U.S., Spain, France, Portugal, Morocco, England, Ireland, Zambia, Botswana, South Africa, Peru, Colombia, Australia, Singapore, Nepal, Italy, Monaco, Japan, Switzerland, Netherlands, Belize, Panama, Costa Rica, and Honduras.
You serve as an investor and mentor. In what ways do you serve entrepreneurs today?
Right now, I am a General in Residence at my alma mater, Washington and Lee University for the spring semester. I am advising, mentoring and helping students with their immediate career opportunities. I am also involved with the school’s entrepreneurship program as a founding investor in the incubator which is set to launch in August 2016. I am also helping undergraduate students get internships at companies at the Atlanta Tech Village and other Atlanta businesses over the summer to experience entrepreneurship first-hand in the Southeast’s hottest incubator and city. It is inspiring for me to meet such young and talented students. In some ways, it feels like I am living vicariously through their experiences as they have so many opportunities ahead.
I also recently just completed an AngelList Syndicate for CloudTags and am an investor and advisor to their business, as well as have invested in SalesFusion, Penrose Senior Check-Ins, and am an advisor to Atomized and TestGrid.io. When I am in town, I spend time meeting with entrepreneurs, organizing meetups for tech entrepreneurs and investors through my eBallers VIP networking group. Also, I love touring the incubators and going to industry events, as there is so much going on right now in Atlanta.