Maverick – Valynt Digital

Valynt Digital Graphic
Summary: This episode offers an inside look at Dan’s personal journey through entrepreneurship that started after he left the corporate world of telecom in the Caribbean. The story takes us from his early days working with Verizon to his move to St. Thomas, where he discovered his passion for video production and data. From there, he worked on his business in his spare time until he would eventually make the leap to start the agency full-time.

Company: Valynt Digital
Owners: Dan Spottsville
Year Started: 2018
Employees: 8

On this week’s episode of An Agency Story podcast, we have Dan Spotsville – CEO and founder of Valynt Digital, a full service marketing agency that specializes in helping their clients level up their companies with unique and memorable marketing strategies on all digital platforms. 

This episode offers an inside look at Dan’s personal journey through entrepreneurship that started after he left the corporate world of telecom in the Caribbean. The story takes us from his early days working with Verizon to his move to St. Thomas, where he discovered his passion for video production and data. From there, he worked on his business in his spare time until he would eventually make the leap to start the agency full-time.

Dan and his agency approach problem solving for their clients like a math equation, providing a carefully calculated answer and solution. The agency has gone through various niches, including working with non-profits and healthcare, before finding success in capital raises, NFTs, blockchain, and crypto. 

Dan takes us through a whirlwind of emotions as he walks us through his low times with failed partnership and dealing with difficult clients to the literal highs of working with the mile high club, private aircraft, and more. 

Dan’s story is filled with thrills, highs, lows and determination that will motivate others to tackle their own challenges with courage and strength. This episode truly has it all.

Enjoy the story.

 

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Show Transcript

0:01

Welcome to An Agency Story podcast where we share real stories of marketing agency owners from around the world. From the excitement of starting up the first big sale, passion, doubt, fear, freedom, and the emotional rollercoaster of growth, hear it all on An Agency Story podcast. An Agency Story podcast is hosted by Russel Dubree, successful agency owner with an eight figure exit turned business coach. Enjoy the next agency story.

Russel: 0:37

Welcome to another episode of An Agency Story podcast. I’m your host Russel. Today’s guest on the show is Dan Spotsville, CEO and founder of Valynt Digital, a full service digital marketing agency specializing in capital raises based out of Dallas, Texas. Dan is a tenacious, diligent individual whose determination seems to radiate from his very being. Dan has chosen a unique industry to specialize in which has become a critical component of his success. He refers to his agency as a complex funnel made from scratch, as he shares his intriguing journey from entrepreneurship, failed partnerships, and much more. Enjoy the story. Welcome to the show today, everyone, I have Dan Spotsville with Valynt Digital. Thank you so much for being on the show today, Dan.

Dan: 1:24

Thanks for having me. Glad to be here this morning.

Russel: 1:26

Glad to have you as well. Get us started and tell us, what does Valynt Digital do and who do you do it for?

Dan: 1:32

Valynt Digital is a digital marketing agency based here in Dallas, Texas. We’ve been in business a little over five years now, starting in October of 2017. There’s two niches that we focus on as an agency. One is capital raises, so all things Reg CF, crowdfunding, Reg A, and Reg B. The other part is anything related to Blockchain, crypto, and NFT.

Russel: 1:53

That is a very unique niche and I definitely want to find out a lot more about that, but let’s go back in time before we get there. Was entrepreneurship always on the horizon as far as your career concerned? What was life like for young Dan, and what did you think you were gonna do with your life?

Dan: 2:05

When I was growing up I played a lot of sports. I definitely didn’t think I would be owning and operating a marketing agency, that’s for sure, but then, I kind of joke about it, I’m half Japanese, I’m really good at numbers and data. I found that out in my late twenties. I didn’t see myself running an agency. I didn’t think I really knew what I wanted to do. Always knew I wanted to do my own thing. I worked in corporate for quite some time and even the first business I started was at the age of 23. None of that stuff worked out, but this ended up working out, when I started it when I was like 30 years old. I’ve always had the entrepreneur itch to do my own thing. A lot of failed businesses. That’s for sure.

Russel: 2:36

As in many entrepreneurs’ path. You mentioned academics weren’t necessarily your focus, but you did have this passion for data. What were you doing in the early part of your career specifically to live out that passion?

Dan: 2:48

I worked for a telecom company, Verizon, to be particular. I used to be on the retail side of things. Even when I was in retail, numbers are very important when it comes to running a successful store. I moved my way up pretty quickly and I was able to run a couple different stores. They even threw me out to the Virgin Islands where I had the opportunity to run multiple stores on different islands like St. Thomas, St. Croix, and St. John. But during that time, because it was a smaller division of Verizon, I had the opportunity to dabble into marketing and figure out, how do we promote our retail stores on the island because it was a unique market compared to the United States. Island life is completely different. During the process of trying to figure that out, and on top of that, you throw on the fact that I’m looking to start my side hustles. I just needed to find a way to promote the organization with the limited budget. Obviously, traditional marketing like tv, radio, and billboards are super expensive. I dabbled into digital marketing and started going through this rabbit hole of YouTube courses and all of this. Bought some online courses for a couple thousand dollars and taught myself. One day just came to me, hey, everybody probably needs this. I’ll start my own business of running a digital agency. That’s how I stumbled upon running an agency.

Russel: 3:54

Very cool. I have to imagine running retail stores in the Virgin Islands wasn’t a bad gig. If nothing else, just for the location.

Dan: 4:01

It wasn’t. I don’t really wanna say this, but look, I say after 2:00 PM for the most part, Wednesday through Sunday, I was at the beach.

Russel: 4:07

I’m sure you did a successful job and just had a little bit more incentive to work harder and smarter so you could spend that time on the beach. I think just in hearing your story, you definitely present yourself as a hard worker. No concern there. You started an agency as a side hustle, even before you began Valynt. What was the early days of that agency like?

Dan: 4:24

Early days obviously really no clients or anything like that. I found myself doing things for free just to build up my like case study and portfolio. Early days I worked with a lot of churches here locally just to get case studies up to be able to spend ad spend on social media platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, Google and all of that. The early days I did a lot of free stuff, which led to different opportunities though, and let’s be real. When you start an agency, I was doing for 500 bucks. I was building the landing page, writing the copy, shooting the video, building the campaign you name it. I probably did it for 500 bucks a month, but it’s well worth it, now that I look back.

Russel: 4:58

I love the early days pricing. How did that eventually transition to the origin of Valynt and what you’re doing today?

Dan: 5:06

Initially, I had to make a decision when I was in the Virgin Islands running those retail stores like, hey, am I gonna do this full-time or not? I saved up a lot of money the five years I was there. Took my 401k, cashed that in, came back to Dallas and I was like, hey, I’m good for 12 or 18 months, cash wise, to run this agency. I understand that it’s gonna take quite some time to build yourself as a brand here in Dallas. Get known by the business owners that you wanna work with. I have that in hand. It took me about four to maybe five months before I got my first client. Because I worked for free for the churches, I was introduced to a lot of different business owners. The first agency I had was called Lift Media Social. When I was running Lift Media Social with one of my friends I did a lot of LinkedIn outreach. I know a lot of the LinkedIn outreach right now is automated, but this is a time six years ago where you have to manually type everything in and send one message at a time. I spent hours and hours on LinkedIn just reaching out to COOs, CFOs, VPs here in Dallas. I got a response from one organization called TIG and the CFO there, which happens to be my partner now. That was probably the biggest client that I landed. To keep the story short, by landing that client, I did a great job for them as a physician recruiting company out in Lewisville, Texas. They said, Hey, look, you’re doing a pretty good job. Let’s start something together. We converted Lift Media Social into Valynt Digital. They gave me the funding that I needed, started hiring people. That’s how Valynt Digital transitioned from a solo, one man show to a team.

Russel: 6:32

That’s fascinating, and you weren’t doing the kind of work back then that you’re doing today, how did that niche actually evolve into what you focus on today?

Dan: 6:40

My partner’s name is Chris. I have another partner named Mike, which we’re still good friends. We meet up for lunch once a month, but Mike had an investment opportunity, he had an investment in an oil and gas well. Him and his partner came up to me and said, look, can you target accredited investors using digital marketing? I was like I haven’t tried it, but let’s give it a shot. I went and did all the research on collecting all the data of accredited investors as much as I could on my early days, which was five years ago. We ended up raising 4 million dollars that first year. I didn’t structure myself correctly, by the way, because, I was just charging a monthly and no success fee or anything like that. That was the start of going into the capital raise. Once I did that though, probably for another year, I didn’t have another capital raise client. It’s when the pandemic hit, when I look back at all my clients in the case studies and I said, I need to niche down. I looked at this case study of, what I did for the oil and gas company? Looked at the marketplace, looked for agencies that actually help out capital raise, organizations like VCPC firms, broker dealers, broker dealer firms. I really couldn’t find any so I was like, okay, this is an issue that I need to go into. By the time I was doing that, I had access to a bunch of different data publishers that gave me access to millions of accredited investors and retail investors.

Russel: 7:47

What a great story. I’m a big believer in all things positioning and nicheing down. Any challenges that you’ve run into just being in that very specific, unique niche?

Dan: 7:54

The funny thing is, I’ve niched down, but we’re industry agnostic, meaning that if you’re doing a capital raise, whether in aviation, oil and gas, healthcare staff, CBD, we just did a tequila launch. It really doesn’t matter what you’re trying to raise capital for. We’re picky nowadays. We make sure that the product or service has an impact on the industry that they’re trying to go into and raising capital for. We don’t have any challenges like doing client acquisition because we generate our own leads. We’re closing deals like every single week it seems like almost, which is keeping us super busy. The challenge that I’ve found is that, we generate these leads of accredited investors for our clients, but they themselves sometimes don’t have the process and the right people on the backend to be able to close these accreditor investors. We’ve remedied a lot of that stuff, through providing every single client with a CRM that also has automation of voice drop texts and emails. We literally hand them the leads on a silver platter. All they have to do is pick up the phone, call them. Sometimes half the leads already scheduling calls with them anyway, but the challenge still, even this morning is, one of my clients reached out to me saying hey, we’re not able to close the leads that you guys are generating. Any suggestions, any help? I got a call with them this afternoon, but we’ve solved, if you’re looking to do a capital raise for a Reg CF, Reg D, or Reg A, we’re the one stop shop. We even have relationships with different platforms now, like DealMaker, StartEngine. DealMaker alone has given us probably 20 plus referrals in the last eight weeks for capital raises. We’re starting to really understand what the client’s challenges are and we’ve solved it based on their feedback the last, I’d say 18 months.

Russel: 9:25

The pains of being really good at what you do. You briefly mentioned earlier, one of the things that was really inspiring is in terms of how you met your current business partner and it sounded like it came at a kind of a last ditch hope and that you spent all night writing all those messages and that’s one of the responses you got back. It’s almost serendipitous. Coming back to that whole create your own luck or do you make it, where was the business at in the time that kind of got you to that point of that Hail Mary move?

Dan: 9:46

Every business owner, when you start a business, you think you start at the starting line, but in reality you started negative 100. I didn’t realize that when I came and did my own thing. The 12 months that I was working and all that money that I saved, tens of thousands of dollars, I didn’t spend it well, now that I look back at it. By the time 12 months hit, I was outta my savings, I was outta my 401k that I cashed in. I had maybe $1,200 coming in every single month, which wasn’t enough to barely pay my car note. I was super stressed. I probably had tears running down my eyes and I was like, what do I wanna do? For me it was like a crossroad. Do I really wanna do this or do I wanna go back and do the nine to five thing? I sat there, felt sorry for myself for a few minutes, but then I got on the computer, it was probably 10 at night. I got on LinkedIn and started messaging thousands of people till four in the morning that day. That’s when I got the response from my current partner, which also led to my biggest client at the time, which was $4,000 a month, which started paying all of my bills. That moment, had I not done that, one, I wouldn’t have met my partner and then created Valynt Digital, but also I wouldn’t have been able to pay my bills and stuff like that. Cause that 4k a month plus the 1200 that I was making was more than enough to pay my bills, pay my rent, pay all the things that I needed to make me chill out and be like, okay, it’s working. Let’s figure this thing out. It was a very pivotal moment for Valynt.

Russel: 10:56

The power of a have to. If only the Dan of then could see the Dan of today. I imagine that’d be quite a comforting feeling. Another thing you mentioned is having a number of partnerships, not all of them, that still exists today, and that’s a perfectly natural course of business. Not all partnerships weather the storm. Can you tell us about some of those relationships and the fact that maybe they didn’t turn out how you hoped, but then some of the lessons you learned that have made some of your partnerships today all the more stronger?

Dan: 11:19

Even when I closed that deal with my current partner Chris, and there were three other partners that were involved initially. My mentality was I needed the funding to get to the next level. Go from a one or two man show to have a team and have an agency in a business. When I shook hands with my old business partner, I didn’t really understand or get to know the person of what their values are as a human being. Cuz that makes a difference when you’re running a company. Your values translate into your culture. Your culture translates into who you are and the type of people that you do business with. I didn’t do that because I was desperate. I shook hands but then, that starts to play out once you start doing business together. One person wants to go left, the other person wants to go right. Then you have somebody else that wants to go diagonal. Good thing for me was that I kept majority share when I made that deal. I still had 40% at the time and then Chris was still on my side when we had to make decisions so we had 50%. I had another guy named Mike, who I do still lunch with, so us combined has 60%. At that point, the other two people that I ended up buying out, I still ended up buying Mike out too. It came to a spot where we negotiated to buy out. Ended up paying quite a bit of money well over six figures to buy them out over the course of 18 months. It was last September that I was able to buy everybody out and finish the payment. That was a huge relief. Yeah, I mean you’ll end up in situations like that. Cause like you said, it’s not that all partnerships work out, but the ones that you have the same values with and look at the world the same way, you’ll probably end up working better with those type of people.

Russel: 12:43

I couldn’t agree more. I hope everyone listening takes very strong heed to those words of advice in terms of who you’re signing contracts with. One of the things that stood out too is you’ve worked with some pretty cool, interesting clients of the startup, capital raising world. Anything particular stick out in your mind worth sharing?

Dan: 12:59

I got a few. I got one that I launched. This Friday will be four weeks of running the campaign. I did a show called Jeff Crilley here in Dallas, but I talked about Tequila Clase Azul. Tequila Clase Azul is out of Vegas. Tequila’s this top thing, right? I don’t know if you saw the Breaking B ad people were here in Dallas this past weekend promoting their Tequila. You got The Rock with the Tequila. You have Kevin Hart with his own Tequila, but they also have their Tequila. No famous person behind. Capital raise campaign, they’re looking to raise a couple million bucks, launched it four weeks ago. As of this morning, they have a thousand and 80 plus accredited investor leads at $5 a lead, which I’ve never seen a number like this for a capital raise camp. Most of our leads are really typically running from 25 to 75 bucks, and then their first month they usually get about a hundred leads from accredited investors, but they’ve 10x-ed that. It shows you the market is hot for Tequila investments. There’s so many people opting in. I think there’s 50 plus family offices that opted into this campaign. It’s one of those things, for me as our agency, it’s like we struck gold because we didn’t really change anything that we’re doing, but I realized the deal does matter because we’re still putting it in front of the same database that we have, but the response rate is so different compared to something else. That’s one thing I wanted to share. We also do your typical oil and gas type of capital raises, but we also have done aviation like flying cars where we help them raise 2 million bucks in a couple months. What’s another one? Blockchain related software type investments. An NFT marketplace, many different things. There’s a company called RobWare. It’s already up and running. I’ve booked a flight through them already. We’re onboarding them this morning after this call, but they’re the expedia.com. It’s like another expedia.com but the difference is they do. 5% cashbacks on every flight, 10% on hotels, 20% on car rentals and then also you’ll be able to use your tokens here in the next couple months to book flights and hotels through their site, which is gonna probably bring a lot of different people to their site to book. I’m a token holder and crypto holder myself. I would wanna go to their platform and use it their book twice. Cause it’s just sitting there for me. I can’t use it for anything else. Pretty diverse, like many clients we work with.

Russel: 15:04

Folks, when we have flying cars someday we can all thank Dan and his team for raising the capital to make sure we’re flying around in our cars, which I’m not entirely sure if that’s something I want or not. They’re gonna have to really prove they can get that technology right. It’ll be cool to see. We’ll really be in the future at that point. When you’re taking a look down the road, what does the future of Valynt Digital look like from here?

Dan: 15:25

I think every agency owner has this conversation. I think you yourself, if I remember correctly, went through the process of selling your agency. For me it’s deciding down the road, if I wanna go that route of selling the agency. As I sit today, obviously I have 1, 3, 5 years goals, but right now I really enjoy the day to day. Meeting different people, working with new team members. It’s in the phase of fun cause we got out of that struggle phase. Right now it’s not on cruise control, but it’s more the company is moving the way us as a team wanted to move. We don’t have issues with sales, we don’t have issues with generating results. We’re at a place where picking and choosing the clients that we wanna work with and cool projects. We’re doing video production here, we’re writing, we’re creating cool graphics. We as a team have a passion for what we do. Right now they need a goal to continue to grow this thing. When I say scale, it’s not about the number of team members you have, but scale from like a revenue standpoint and a client based standpoint. My agency, I figured out a way to outsource most of the content creation and we’re account based type of people here and biz dev type of people are in my agency now. Which, is very cost effective when you build an agency.

Russel: 16:30

Very excited to see your continued journey and all the other cool things you’re gonna make happen by getting funded. As someone that maybe didn’t quite know where their career or what their future was gonna hold when they’re young. Very interested in your answer to this question. Are entrepreneurs born or are they made?

Dan: 16:45

Oh, that’s a good question. Are they born, are they made? I think you’re born with certain qualities. Naturally as an individual, for myself, I have this not to boast about myself, but I have this will to win and not lose. When somebody pisses me off, I’ll have a chip on the shoulder and I’m able to take that energy and use it for something productive. I think it can be made because I think you can be taught a lot of the skills and entrepreneur needs. You know what? Nope. I’m gonna go with, you gotta be born with it. I think you either have it or you don’t. When I say what you have, the qualities that you need to be an entrepreneur. For example, me and my sister always talk about this. She’s starting to do her own thing. We had a conversation this past weekend that maybe she’s not cut out for this thing, right? Once you start saying stuff like that, you’re just not born to do it. She’s okay for me to say that cause we have these pretty intimate conversations. I think you’re just born with it and if you’re born with it, you have these certain qualities that you have to develop in order to become a successful entrepreneur.

Russel: 17:33

Love that answer. I love all the answers I get to this question and you’re in one of the few camps of the born aspect. Most people it’s both or they lean towards the made, but I agree with a lot of different points in that. If people wanna know more about Valynt Digital, where can they go?

Dan: 17:47

You can go to valyntdigital.com, and that’s spelled V A L Y N T digital.com. It’s spelled a little different. Our site is refreshing on the first week of February, so it’s gonna look completely different. You’ll see a lot of our content, you’ll see what we do. Reach out to us if you need to raise capital, we’re happy to help.

Russel: 18:03

There you have it folks. You know where to go for capital raises. Gosh, thank you so much for being on this show today, Dan. Absolute inspiring to hear your story and I really appreciate your time.

Dan: 18:13

Yeah, I appreciate you having me on and look forward to building a relationship with you down the road here.

18:18

We hope you’ve enjoyed this episode of An Agency Story podcast where we share real stories of marketing agency owners from around the world. Are you interested in being a guest on the show? Send an email to podcast@performancefaction.com. An Agency Story is brought to you by Performance Faction. Performance Faction offers services to help agency owners grow their business to 5 million dollars and more in revenue. To learn more, visit performancefaction.com.

Dan: 18:53

I feel like I’m a pretty serious person a lot of times. I got funny people around me, like Mac, we call her Mac daddy. She’s my director of digital marketing, but she’s the comic, she’s a total opposite of me.

Russel: 19:03

You need phone a friend here?

Dan: 19:05

Do I have a second to just text her?

Russel: 19:06

Yeah. You can call her and we can put her on.

Dan: 19:08

Lemme try to put her online real quick.

Mac: 19:12

Hey guys.

Russel: 19:13

Hey Mac. How are you?

Mac: 19:16

I’m good. How are you?

Russel: 19:17

I am well. Nice to meet you. I’m sure he gave you the lay of the land. You’re gonna be the first tag in, entertaining story that has to do with something with the agency. Do you have something in mind for that?

Mac: 19:27

Whenever we are onboarding a client we have this big brand map meeting mostly hosted virtually, and everyone on our team, everyone on their team joins. We always have our cameras on, and I remember this one time, there was something that the client had said that was so off brand, so random and silly that me and some of the other girls on the team had sent a message back and forth and we start giggling. But we’re trying so hard over Zoom not to show that we’re giggling and all of a sudden you look over at the top corner and Dan looks so confused. I get a text from him like, oh my gosh. What are you laughing at? I remember that moment right then and there. I wanted to bust out into laughter cause I was like, oh no, I just got caught, but really it was just Dan wanted in on the joke. And so moving forward, whenever there’s something funny that’s happening on Zoom, I can always look over and if Dan has this little smirk on his face, he’s about to start cracking up. If he has to turn the camera off just for a quick second, it’s oh shit. Something so funny just happened.

Russel: 20:25

We gotta make this fun or what else are we doing it for? So yeah finally. Got a good one there.