The Adventure of Starting Your Own Business

Mark Effinger, Chief Product Officer, Nootopia

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Mark, aka Mr. Noots, is a business powerhouse with an unmatched background in technology product development and marketing. Having raised over $50 million in Angel and Venture Capital funding for startups, Mark's expertise is second to none. His personal journey, from tragedy to triumph, led him to create groundbreaking nootropic supplements that have achieved a mind-boggling 11,700% growth in just five years.

Mark Effinger, the Chief Product Officer at Nootopia, shares his entrepreneurial journey, starting from his early ventures in laser light shows to building successful companies. He discusses his bootstrap funding approach and the importance of recognizing opportunities. Mark also shares stories of overcoming challenges, negotiating venture capital, and building partnerships. He emphasizes the need for balance and finding a successful rhythm as an entrepreneur.

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📌TALKING POINTS

03:05 Bootstrap Funding Approach

08:33 Transition to New Ventures

13:38 Overcoming Obstacles and Innovating

19:05 Finding Balance and Success Rhythm

23:35 Dealing with Setbacks and Rebuilding

36:26 Overcoming Adversity and Taking Risks

41:31 Building Relationships and Seizing Opportunities

46:30 Controlling Stress as an Entrepreneur

Tom Finn (00:00.76)

Welcome, welcome my friends. Welcome to the town empowerment podcast today we have on the show, Mark Effinger, Mark. Welcome to the show, my man.

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Mark "Mr Noots" Effinger (00:10.734)

Thank you so much, so good to see you Tom.

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Tom Finn (00:13.244)

Well, it is good to see you as well. And if you are listening and not watching, he's got a beautiful Iowa background behind him. Uh, Mark, AKA Mr. Noots is the chief product officer of Nootopia and a business powerhouse with a background in technology, product development and marketing. He's raised over 50 million in angel and VC funding for startups. Yes, I said 50 million and his journey has led him to create groundbreaking, new tropic supplements that have achieved an astounding 11 ,700 % growth in just five years. Those are big numbs, as I like to say. So what is your approach, my man, to startups and business in general?

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Mark "Mr Noots" Effinger (01:00.302)

Man, boy, that's a loaded question, isn't it? First, Tom, thanks so much for having me on. I really appreciate it, man. And by the way, my little brother, who is one of my heroes, is also Tom. So, you fall into that thing. That is, it's great name, man. We used to kind of, yes, you know, he's actually one of the best recognized in the, what do you call it? The casino game. He's one of the best recognized.

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Tom Finn (01:13.116)

That's a fantastic name. He's probably a great guy.

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Mark "Mr Noots" Effinger (01:29.51)

Elton John impersonators And he's heterosexual so it's all right

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Tom Finn (01:36.22)

Wow. That's a lot to take in right at the top of a podcast. Yeah.

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Mark "Mr Noots" Effinger (01:41.742)

Right a business podcast So, um, yeah business business 101 so I'm a I'm a Bootstrap entrepreneur. I prefer to to build rather than buy my business It was never comfortable with doing businesses that that said investors keep funding this will eventually get to break even It was never comfortable for me my road to entrepreneurship came when I was in eighth grade and I came home from my paper route and my stepdad said, you know, Mark, you'll never make it working for the other guy. And I said, well, Jack, who's the other guy? And he said, he drives a Porsche, a Cadillac or Mercedes. And my paper route went by a tennis club, the local tennis club. And I saw a parking lot full of Mercedes, Porsches, and Cadillacs. And so I went in and I begged for a job and got a job. And so I got an opportunity then to interview all of the illustrious folks driving these exclusive automobiles. And it was great. It was great. And that led me to. So years later, when I was 25, I started a laser company doing a laser light show in your living room. So I built a product that would build a laser light showing you. I did it in the back of a health club. I lived in the back of a health club and worked in the back of a health club and slept in the back of a health club in a little tiny garage slot. And I built the company from there. Here's how I funded it. Are you ready? Are you ready for the ultimate bootstrap funding approach? I mean, this is not Airbnb because I think they made cereal boxes. I think that's what they did. They did cereals with presidents.

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Tom Finn (03:23.964)

I'm sitting down. Go on.

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Mark "Mr Noots" Effinger (03:35.31)

You know, the current elected officials on them, I think, is what they did. But I did test tube babies. So here's a clue. By the way, anybody can do this. This is kind of cool. So what I saw was I was in the Air Force. I was making... I made under a thousand bucks. I've got my last paycheck over here. $998 was my last paycheck after six years.

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Tom Finn (03:43.932)

Wow.

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Mark "Mr Noots" Effinger (04:01.166)

But I'd saved a bunch of money. I saved and I invested and saved and invested and lived like, you know, pretty lean. And the front cover of, I think it was Life Magazine. It was an old large format magazine they had back in the 80s and 70s and 60s. And on the front cover was the 10 year or 15 year anniversary of the first in vitro fertilization. And I knew, I had enough pattern recognition habits ingrained in me that I knew that it was gonna go from that magazine, to People Magazine, to Business Week Magazine, to that same topic was gonna make it to those magazines. So I called my stepdad, same guy that said, hey, you can't make it if you're not an entrepreneur, right? You're not gonna make it big. And I said, Jack, I need some venture capital. And I don't have a high school diploma, so he kind of laughed at me. And he said, maybe you should get your GED before you start. So I actually did have my GED, but I didn't have my high school diploma.

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And he said, what do you want? I said, well, I said, have you seen the front cover? And he goes, of course. Of course, I've got it on my desk here. He owned a clinical laboratory at the time in Portland, Oregon. And I said, well, that's going to migrate for four to six months as a front page article on major publications that have millions of readers. I'm going to create test tube babies, and I'm going to put them on newsstands at small markets, 7 -Eleven type markets on the West Coast. I was in central California at the time.

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Merced Atwater is where I was stationed. And he laughed at me and he said, that's a funny little idea, good luck. And we quit the phone call. And then a week later, he said, what do you need? I said, I need test tubes for the test tube babies. I got the babies. I got the babies, I just don't have the test tubes. And again, I'm a total bootstrapper. So I would ride my bike to and from the base in the morning and back at lunch and then back at dinner. And when I came home for lunch, there was a UPS guy dropping off a bunch of boxes of, and a card from my stepdad that said, dear Mark, here's your venture capital. Good luck, Jack. And what it was, was vacutainers. These are for blood drawing, vacutainers. So the kind you, you know, put the needle in your arm and then they put these up and it sucks the blood out and they do a whole series of them, right?

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Tom Finn (06:25.884)

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah.

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Mark "Mr Noots" Effinger (06:28.014)

So, but the expire, the coagulant in the bottom expires after, at this time it was six months, and now it's a year or two. And so he had a bunch of expired ones sitting in the corner of the warehouse of his clinical laboratory. And so he just sent them all to me. They were all expired, he couldn't use them anyhow. So I got 2 ,000 of them. And they were in stainless steel test tube racks. So my girlfriend at the time, Elise, Vic Ferrari, my roommate, Tony Ferrara, and I took a big pot of water.

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We poured 100 babies at a time into the water, the boiling water. We would occasionally take a bong hit, and then we would grab a baby and stuff it into a test tube, and it would stick in the middle, and then we'd put a little drop of rit dye, clothing dye, so it would either be pink or blue, and put them in test tube racks, and took them out to the mini -marts in our neck of town and sold them. And the first 800 sold that way, and then I was leading a… church fellowship actually at a radical Jesus Freaky Church in central California and the pastor's wife said, hey, what are you doing with that thing? What is that? I said, oh, it's test two babies. I thought it was pretty funny, right? I had a cute little card on it that said, you know, these are test two babies. And it actually in the back of it, it said, I'm selling these to make money to start a real company.

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Tom Finn (07:48.22)

And for those, for those that are listening, he's got a little test tube that looks like, like he said, the blood draw and there's a little, it looks like a water in it with a little, maybe a plastic little, uh, infant in there, right? Is kind of what that looks like to me on camera.

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Mark "Mr Noots" Effinger (08:04.91)

Exactly, it was on they would use them on on you know cakes for baby cakes, you know for hey, you're having a baby Yes, it was great and That's it exit. So she bought all the rest of my had about 1200 1100 1200 left and she bought all the rest of them to hand out a Planned Parenthood so Totally wrong direction for me did not make but it worked for her. So it was great and then I used that money to

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Tom Finn (08:11.932)

Yep, yep, of course. Congratulations, baby on the way.

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Mark "Mr Noots" Effinger (08:33.486)

I was traveling to and from San Francisco every other weekend as a white rat on a drug called Accutane and which is a really nasty acne drug and I was working on aircrafts all day so I was just soaked in hydraulic fluid and oil which was exacerbating any acne I might have had and really made it bad and so I'm a white rat they're giving me mega doses of this and it was great and so I'm traveling to San Francisco while I'm going to shit they pay for me to stay all weekend so what I would do is I would go ride my my crappy little car up and down the 408, which is like the main drag there, kind of like I -5, Interstate 5, or what's the one in 405 in LA and that area? And there was, you know, it's San Jose, man, and so there's these two surplus companies, Halted Specialties and Haltech, two brothers started them, and they broke apart, they had a big meeting that didn't go well, and so they created their own.

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Tom Finn (09:13.468)

Yep.

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Mark "Mr Noots" Effinger (09:32.174)

And these are the same places that Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak got parts to start the Apple One. And so I went there, I got used lasers from copiers and I started building this laser light show. Built the laser light show 11 months after starting, after incorporating the company, my big brother Doug and I did it. A guy came to me who was fired from his job. This guy who had been fired from the company that he wanted to introduce me to, he was a DJ that would rent my lasers every weekend. So I had this laser, give it right, and.

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Tom Finn (10:05.788)

Nice. That's a good target market, a DJ, right? That would need the lasers to create atmosphere for the show. It makes sense.

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Mark "Mr Noots" Effinger (10:10.094)

Right. It was cool, man, because he was able to add anywhere from $500 to $1 ,500 a show by adding a laser to it. And he would rent it from me for a couple hundred bucks. And so I got a little cash on it. These last forever. They're like 10 ,000, 20 ,000 hour lifespan of a laser. And so it was really great. And plus, I got to test the market. Now, I didn't know I was testing the market at the time. I just knew that I needed cash flow. And if I couldn't sell a finished product for a couple thousand bucks, I could rent it for a couple hundred and use that cash to keep me going. So here's a really fun part. Are you ready?

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Tom Finn (10:52.06)

I'm sitting down still.

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Mark "Mr Noots" Effinger (10:53.87)

I'm so glad Tom, you're gonna need this. So as I'm traveling in San Francisco, this one afternoon I go to Spectrophysics, largest laser company in the United States at the time. So they made the lasers for all of the copiers and all the laser printers that were just about to come out. This was about 1984. Yeah, 84, 85. And… I went to the front desk and I said, and I look like a kid that didn't have any money. I look like a homeless kid walking into this high tech company in Silicon Valley. And so I've got shorts and flip flops and you know, and a shirt and I had sheepskin seat covers on my little car. And they, so I smelled like sheep because my air conditioning didn't work. So it was perfect, it was perfect.

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Tom Finn (11:40.316)

Nice. You're a hot mess at this point. Let's be honest. You're an absolute mess. Just a disaster walking into this shot.

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Mark "Mr Noots" Effinger (11:49.55)

I had to thank you. There's nobody's going to give me anything. I should have, yeah, I was a societal reject. And the lady at the front counter, very nice lady, but she said, I can't get, you know, I said, I'd love to go see your R &D. And they go, I can't introduce you to our R &D. And so as I'm walking out, I see they had a map of the campus, the Spectre Physics campus, and I saw where R &D was. So I kind of in my head said, oh, it's right around there then.

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I rode my car around to the back of the facility. I walked right in the door because they had it open. And I met the guys in R &D. And we had a great time. We talked and stuff. And they had a wall of racks with lasers pointed at the wall. I said, what's that? They go, well, we have to test for the stability of the laser and the kind of dot that the laser makes. They had these various, there's a physics term, TEM0, TEM01, TEM02.

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Zero zero and it was basically the shape of the dot and the dimensions of the dot and the way that the particles hit the way that the photons hit and You and I wouldn't notice a difference It just looked like a red dot but a copier or a laser printer or a precision optics system would notice a difference So a couple weeks later when I come back because I'm harassing these guys and showing a prototypes They we went into their facility and said hey you got all these things. Well, there was a guy out in a dumpster with a hood over it in this enclosed kind of space, and he's breaking lasers and putting them in the dumpster, breaking lasers, putting them in, and they're checking them off on a sheet, right? Serum number this, broken, serum number this, broken. And they're basically trashing. About somewhere between 25 % and 30 % of the laser tubes fell out of tolerance, so they wouldn't work for what they needed. So I said, what does it cost you to do that? And they said $45. It cost the FDA,

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Tom Finn (13:38.204)

Yep, sure.

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Mark "Mr Noots" Effinger (13:46.318)

The the EPA charges us 45 bucks apiece to for them to come and monitor that and do it I said could I pay you forty three dollars apiece to buy those because they were worth around two thousand dollars seventeen fifty to twenty two hundred and And they said what and so we've over the next month or so we figured out that we could do that And I said I will buy all of your surplus all the tubes you can't sell I'll buy them from you So I had started I so I started tapping into the money that I had saved in the military and I started buying these test tubes. So I, these lasers. So I now had a product that would be very expensive. It would be probably an 8 ,000 to $10 ,000 laser. And I could now build it for $213 with all the accessory technology I needed to move a laser beam around to music in your living room. And so that was my hack to the system. And for years I ran on that hack. So I was getting these surplus tubes at a fraction of the cost of what a regular laser tube cost.

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So nobody could compete with me directly because I was the guy that had that, you know, other people were going in and buying them at retail and...

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Tom Finn (14:53.02)

So yeah, it makes sense. Mark, so did you have a contract or were you just wheeling and dealing with the R &D guys? How did that actually work?

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Mark "Mr Noots" Effinger (14:59.694)

I was really dealing with R &D guys to start and then eventually a big competitor came in in San Diego called Mellis Griot. They were a French company that did laser technology and so I started using up as much as spectrophysics could get me. My company started growing and so I went to Mellis Griot. My company was acquired 11 months later and I immediately flew to Mellis Griot and I said I need to have laser tubes made for $45 a piece and they looked at, you know, they rolled their eyes and I did look better and I didn't smell like sheep at the time. So that was kind of an upgrade for me. And they took me to a nice lunch, probably Chili's, who knows. But it was great. And so, and that was my negotiate. And so I didn't tell them that I was getting the laser tubes from the, you know, from like the rejection list. I just told them that Spectra Physics is willing to sell them to me for $43.

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If I can get brand new ones, if I can get tubes from you, I didn't say brand new, if I could get tubes from you for 45 that would have the same characteristics, the same amount of output and the power characteristics, I would be willing to co -buy and then eventually switch if you guys could keep up. And so we did that. And tens of thousands of lasers later, I ended up doing a deal with Sharper Image and so we became a Sharper Image partner and they were a big retailer, catalog retailer and they had stores in San Francisco.

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Tom Finn (16:24.38)

Yep. Oh, I remember. Yeah. And things called malls, you would go into the Sharper Image store. These things called malls. There was multiple... Yeah, we are. There were these things called malls. They had all different types of stores. It was crazy. And one of them was called Sharper Image, which by the way, when you were a teenager, that was the spot you always want to go because they always had cool gadgets. They always had that massage chair.

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Mark "Mr Noots" Effinger (16:26.614)

I feel like we're doing a freaking history lesson here to you younger readers.

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Tom Finn (16:53.884)

Right, that you'd go and sit in for a minute and get your massage on and then you'd cruise around and look for cool gadgets.

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Mark "Mr Noots" Effinger (16:54.478)

Yes. Yes. It was, it was the best man, it was the best. Yeah, it's so funny, because I remember, I mean, they had waterbed stores, they had head shops, remember head shops where you could go and get a bong or whatever.

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Tom Finn (17:11.964)

Yeah. Well, for me, I worked in a Doc Martens store in the mall. That was one of my first jobs. I considered myself a modern Al Bundy, and I was slinging Doc Martens. But in those days, all the kind of trendy, cute girls all wore Doc Martens, right?

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Mark "Mr Noots" Effinger (17:20.558)

Oh dude. So are you a punker? Are you? How old are you Tom?

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Tom Finn (17:39.708)

I am 43.

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Mark "Mr Noots" Effinger (17:42.496)

Perfect, perfect, yeah. So I'm 20 years your senior, and when Doc Martens hit, it was evidence that the punk movement had a second resurgence.

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Tom Finn (17:52.22)

You got it. Yeah, you got it. No, I was not in that movement. I was an athlete. I was like a very buttoned up, you know, work out every morning, eat chicken with no skin on it kind of guy. But there was a whole movement of attractive young women that had Doc Martens. And I also worked right next door in the mall at Pacific Eyes and Tees. And that's...

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Mark "Mr Noots" Effinger (18:06.094)

One of those guys.

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Tom Finn (18:20.444)

For those of you that don't live on the West Coast of the United States, Pacific Eyes and Tees was a surfer branded t -shirt, shorts, sunglasses, bathing suits, young women, young men, kind of target market 14 to 30, right? Maybe 14 to 25 was kind of their target market. And I was a sales guy just slinging t -shirts until until the Doc Martens manager came over and recruited me for like, you know, $3 more an hour or something.

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Mark "Mr Noots" Effinger (18:55.63)

Some crazy, some crazy lift in your lifestyle.

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Tom Finn (18:58.672)

Yeah, exactly right. And I moved over from slinging t -shirts to slinging shoes. But that was, yeah, that was fun. That was in a mall.

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Mark "Mr Noots" Effinger (19:05.166)

You know, Pacific Eyes and Tees, you mentioned it, it's so funny, is I was in a similar store, it was a, shoot, it was a jeans store, like right next to Pacific Eyes and Tees, and the song, Ricky Don't Lose That Number came on, and I grabbed the girl by the shoulders and said, Listen to this solo! This is amazing! Right? Like, it's Steely Dan! You have no idea how great this is! And it was, I think I freaked her out, but I did buy the jeans. It was good.

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Tom Finn (19:37.5)

least you bought the jeans. All right, so back. All right, so back to laser. So we're, we're building, we're building lasers, we've sold the company, we've got the supply chain down, we've got the contracts down, we're buying low selling high.

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Mark "Mr Noots" Effinger (19:53.742)

So, the company that acquired me was, I ended up running six different product lines and I ran R &D for their company. And I was burning myself to the ground. I was also in charge of political arbitrage between the CEO and the management team. Because I was this highly energetic, enthusiastic, entrepreneurial type and they were management people. And it was a small company. I don't think, we had maybe 30, 30 employees total. And we had fiber optic lights. We were the largest supplier of lighting to the pool and spa industry. So Kohler, Cal Spas, anybody had a light in their spa, we were the light supplier. And it was great. But I was burning myself out. And my wife and I both got sick one week. And we looked at each other after the week. And we said, you know what? That was the nicest time we spent together.

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You know, we're both sick puking our guts out and yet it was the most romantic time we'd spent together since I'd sold the company and and so I went in I went in one day and I realized that I needed to I I had a Mazda a hot -rodded Mazda rx7 at the time I used to I had a hot -rodded rx series Mazdas when I was younger and I I had a needle -bearing engine so it would rev really high and I drove them the the mile long straight away from one of the main streets I had to get off to get in, it was a back road to my office. And I opened that thing up and I got it to 120 miles an hour. And the cool thing about a rotary is, is you didn't have to worry about the RPM. My engine would go to an excess of 10 ,000 RPM. And so you could go from fifth gear to third and not worry about blowing the engine. It would just rev it and you'd get some engine braking. And Mazdas are really balanced. You can throw them sideways in a corner and they'll just drift real easy. And I did that and I stopped at my parking spot. I drifted sideways, I hit it, went over the bump and got into my parking spot and had this three, my heart's going like this, I'm like, ah, that was awesome. And I realized that was the most positive and energizing thing that was gonna happen all day. The rest of the day was gonna be putting out fires, telling vendors we weren't gonna pay them, telling employees that, we needed to switch gears because the CEO had a wild hair and it was just this crazy thing and I was going nuts. And thank God that the Japanese, I drew a design on a, you know the barf bags on airplanes?

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Tom Finn (22:36.028)

I remember them.

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Mark "Mr Noots" Effinger (22:37.858)

So I grabbed it. Kind of the one on... I always loved the one on Fight Club, you know, the one with people like burning and stuff, you know. I grabbed a barf bag on the way to Consumer Electronics Show and I designed a scanner that would be a fraction of the cost of the scanner that I used to move the laser beam around and it would be much smaller and much more programmable, much more digital capable. This is, you know, this is back in 1988 or 89 and… and I came back and I presented it to my boss and I said, dude, this could be our future. And he goes, no, no, no, no. He goes, I just got a patent on the other one. We're not going any other direction. I want your heads down on, you know, this stuff. And he was probably right in part of it, but it just broke my spirit. As an entrepreneur, it felt like all of the wind was out of my sails and I no longer had control of my destiny. I was making decent money. I had about a quarter million dollars in stock that was left that I could… you know, that was hopefully it could cash in at the end and I had three months left on my contract and fortuitously the Japanese who were buying my lasers for for the karaoke industry in Japan, which was huge in Japan They came and said hey your boss doesn't want to move forward in technology and we do would you be willing if we if we put together some funds, would you be willing to step off and do something new and it was like

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Tom Finn (23:48.604)

Yep. Yep.

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Mark "Mr Noots" Effinger (24:05.262)

My god, I went back to my sweetheart and I said, honey, what do you think? And she goes, yeah, I can't see you this depressed for much longer. And so we did it and they matched my money. I put in 44 ,000, they put in 44 ,000. We built a startup. And again, you think you know what the hell you're doing. You think you know what business is because you've had these two sequential successes. No, dude, no. There's always a variable. There's always a variable you have not anticipated. I built a product for the Japanese. The Japanese have 100 volt power. They don't have 120 volt like we do in the US. They have 100 volt. And it's very serious 100 volt.

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Tom Finn (24:45.052)

Nice, here comes the variable. The power source has changed. Mark, I can feel it. I can feel this story shifting right now.

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Mark "Mr Noots" Effinger (24:48.686)

So. Exactly. So I designed this product and I have, and I've got a handful of employees and we launched January. So I started in October and we launched our product in January with them. I get sued by my former employer who says that that's his intellectual property. And at the same time, because I designed it while I was on his tab. And so that was depressing. We worked it out out of court. We actually worked it out. We had the lawyers negotiate for about three months.

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And I think we were 25 or 27 ,000 into attorney fees, both of us. And then my business partner at the time, I had hired this guy as a consultant. And I said, Wyatt, what should I do? And he goes, you know what? I think, I don't think Rick wants to sue you. I think he misses his friend. Because the vibe I get is that he misses his friend. So why don't you just call him up, tell him you'll meet him at the Inn at the Key, which is this place on Interstate 5 in Vancouver, Washington, right on the Columbia River, and tell him you want to have a whiskey with him.

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And so I did, no lawyers involved. We sat down, we drank whiskey, we talked about old times. And he said, you know, Mark, I've really missed your marketing and some of the other stuff. He goes, would you be willing to exchange marketing to kind of like pay off what I would consider the debt of taking this IP from me? And we go out to lunch once a month to talk about business so that I can get a clearer head.

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And that was my first consulting gig, you know, in that capacity. And it was great. And we're still friends today. And that changed everything. And so I built another company on that, sold it, built another company on that, sold it. And then I got really sick. I got hypothyroidism. And the Accutane had just, it started eating away at my body in various areas. And so I met a dog, I was, circuitously I met a doctor Accidentally when I went to a Airbnb or not an Airbnb a B &B they didn't have Airbnb this is in early 90s and he said hey I think you might be hypothyroid and Got me on thyroid and we did I think called exercise with oxygen therapy you what were you breathe pure oxygen while you're exercising and It it immediately started releasing this clear fluid it made a sore under my lat and I was previously I'd done bodybuilding when I was younger. And so I kind of was pretty familiar with my body and also was hardcore into endurance sports. So, you know, bicycling, century rides and tennis. I was a competitive junior tennis player and then I was a runner as well. So I'm, you know, bodybuilding, all those, even after that, after 10 years of not being on Accutane, the Accutane was coming out of my body. So that's how it embeds itself in your, it embeds itself, I think in the muscle tissue.

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Tom Finn (27:51.836)

Wow.

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Mark "Mr Noots" Effinger (27:57.374)

Deep in the muscle tissue and it just, you know, even with all that, even running the Hood to Coast relay in Oregon and doing, again, Century Bike Rides and biathlons, it still didn't release. So, but EWOT, oxygen with, you know, taking pure oxygen in while exercising, purged a lot of it from my system. And it got me interested. I started taking thyroid, desiccated thyroid, bovine thyroid, and the change in me was so profound that in six months, I was all of the fog, all the depression, all of the lethargy, all of the negative thinking, all of that just dissipated and I felt like a fricking rock star. And you know what that feels like, Tom, I'm sure you've been through those periods, especially as an athlete. When you go from being a performance athlete to being an entrepreneur and then trying to balance that, I can't lose my athleticism, I can't lose the thing that is a signature part of who I am but this thing is gonna take 15, 16, 18 hours a day from me. And I might have a family or I might have a sweetheart or something that is also gonna distract me. And learning balance was very difficult. And typical type A entrepreneurs are not balanced. It's not part of our, and I don't believe in balance. I don't believe that you can inherently be hyper-successful and have great balance all at once. I think you have to swing into obsession and then swing back into, and back and forth, and you kind of learn some kind of a rhythm. I call it a success rhythm. And once you get your success rhythm, which is, it might be waking up at 5 .30 or four o 'clock, those four o 'clock guys still drive me nuts, I can't do it. But waking up at a certain time, building a schedule, building a routine, and building a rhythm that you can follow that… Is going to allow you to be kind of the hyper capable person that you need to be to be a super successful entrepreneur And so finding that was really difficult for me because I was really good at obsession I wasn't good at you know, I was good at playing tennis for 20 hours a day. I was good at running a hundred mile, you know, but I Couldn't do the other stuff, man

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Tom Finn (30:16.06)

You wouldn't swing the pendulum back the other way. Your pendulum was stuck in on.

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Mark "Mr Noots" Effinger (30:21.454)

stuck. So you've worked as a coach, you work with hyper activated alpha, you know, individuals who they want to go make an impact on the world, they want to change the world, or they've got a really cool idea, or they want to make a boatload of money, or they want the, you know, they want the, what do we call it, hookers and blow, whatever it is that's driving them. And they… And they think that they're, especially when you're in your 20s, man, you think you're indomitable and you can sustain that forever. Because I could do, I could pull all -nighters, I could do all of that, and I felt, you know, right? And I would maybe be off 10 or 15%. But tell me, is that true? That's true, right? I mean, you see that.

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Tom Finn (31:09.372)

Yeah, look, I felt that way myself when I was in my twenties. I think I felt like I could do whatever it took to compete. And sometimes that was happy hours, late dinners. You know, I was in sales in my twenties, so corporate sales, business to business. So that required, you know, holiday events and events throughout the year and golf and, you know, you name it. It was entertaining because it was building relationships that ultimately… closed deals. So yeah, no, I think I, I think I resonate with the superpowers of being in your twenties and probably drinking too much, but still having full capacity next day or pretty close to full capacity for sure.

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Mark "Mr Noots" Effinger (31:54.35)

Well, so let's take, I'm gonna go off on this thread for a bit. A couple things I think are really important. If we're talking to an entrepreneurial crowd or are interested in being an entrepreneurial crowd, one of the things that will be your superpower as an entrepreneur will be the fact that you're doing something. Like most people aren't doing something. Most people are just doing the bare minimum necessary to survive. And then they've got, you know, hobbies or something, who knows, or TV. And the difference is being a motivated, energized, enthused, passionate entrepreneur is a magnet for both con artists and incredible people. Learning to filter those is super important. It took me a while. But as a result of being… of going through the, you know, the gauntlet of these things. You know, back in the early 90s, I ended up in a, at the back of an Amway presentation in somebody's living room. And a dapper gentleman next to me with a really nice hat on and three -piece suit, he looks over and he goes, dude.

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Are you getting this?" And I said, yeah, you want to get out of here? And he goes, yeah, let's get out of here. So we sneak out the back. I say, who are you? And he goes, I said, you're a little overdressed for Portland, Oregon. You know, it's jeans and t -shirts. And he goes, my name's Jack. I said, what do you do? And he goes, well, he goes, there was a little company called Nike. You heard of him? He said, yeah, yeah, pretty familiar with Nike. He I was the guy that did the initial rounds for Nike when they were private. When they were blue ribbon sports, I helped them fund and become Nike.

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I said, oh, that's kind of neat. So what else? He goes, well, you ever heard of InFocus? I said, yeah, I've invested in focus. I did Fabricland, I did Avia, I did Flir Systems, guys that do the infrared cameras for the war efforts. And he'd done over 100 ventures he had invested in, raised a large fund and did that back when venture capital was very early.

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Mark "Mr Noots" Effinger (34:19.854)

And so I built this great relationship. And he became the guy that taught me how to raise money and how to do it right and how to build the right contracts and those things. And the guy that ended up buying my third company, Wyatt Starnes, who ended up investing in my third company, the guy that hires the consultant and saw my numbers and said, I think you need a partner. Right? He goes, holy shit, this is a cashflow machine. And by the way, I got broke on the Japanese deal.

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Here's how it goes back. So remember, you're gonna meet incredible people on this journey and you need to be ready to engage. You need to be ready to be able to lend value to these people in a way that you don't absolutely know. It's not about a taking, it's about you give until you can't give anymore and they go, it's almost the proving ground, it's the gauntlet. Last night I was on the phone with a, I can't mention his name because he's very well known, but he owns four sports teams. He's a billionaire and is a movie mogul. And, you know, we're talking and I said, I said, what's your biggest, I said, what's one of your biggest issues right now? Because he was asking me about our products, because he has our products in hand and our nootropics, which are, you know, cognitive enhancement stuff. And he said, you know, I have a problem with short -term memory and name recall, I said, well, you own a sports team and I go, you have name recall problems with all those guys. He goes, no, no, no. Mark, he goes, I don't mean to correct you, but I own sports teams.

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Tom Finn (35:54.14)

HAHAHAHA!

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Mark "Mr Noots" Effinger (35:57.742)

It was great. It was great. Shame on me. So the Japanese thing, in January of the year, so in October to January, we developed the product, I mean 24 -7, and then January we launch it. And what we don't know is that the Japanese take five levels of training. They have five levels of distribution. They've got a super distributor, a distributor, a dealer, a d*** individuals that go out and they help the dealer market the product and then they've got the end user the store or whatever or the retail and and We didn't understand that that was going to be a month plus of training for each one of those levels And we were going to have to put the training program together Then then we find out that our products are made for 120 volt circuits and a hundred volt means that the lasers don't lays they flicker and They didn't buy a flickering laser. They bought a laser with a beam so we had to go redesign and lose a bunch of profit margin on redesigning circuit boards and putting them into, you know, installing them and all that stuff. And they were in Japan, so we had to send somebody over and get them to install them in Japan. You know, and it was just like, it was like, excuse my language, but it was a clusterfuck of just, you know, one error after another. And on April 1st, April Fool's Day of that year, it was 1990 or 1991, I woke up and we were $15 ,000 below broke and I had to make payroll and So I go down to the basement where my employees were I had seven employees and I said I don't know how to tell you this bit but six of you guys have got a go home for at least a bit if not for a while and I'm really you know, that's the hardest thing in the world because these are friends, you know, these are people that are willing to come into a basement your home and build exotic products for the Japanese that you know, there's no guarantees and that kind of a scene and They did and then my business partner My business partner Eric Kinney an incredible guy my geek geek buddy that got me turned on to the Macintosh years ago in 1986 He he and I just started strategizing and I had some 3d software where I could develop I could do 3d

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Mark "Mr Noots" Effinger (38:18.094)

modeling of product. And I took all of that. I just took a walk with my wife and I said, honey, she goes, you know, Mark, you're really good at starting these things and you're good at selling them. It's that thing in the middle that you're not that great at. Right? The messy middle.

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Tom Finn (38:34.492)

Nice. You're good at starting and good at selling, but not good at the middle stuff. Yeah. Not your jam. Bring some other people in to help you, Mark.

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Mark "Mr Noots" Effinger (38:42.222)

Exactly, exactly. So I sat down at this, I'd become a graphic designer as a byproduct of wanting to do, of having Macintoshes and loving advertising. And so I did a 3D rendering of the ultimate laser product with a beautiful, aluminum extrusion and everything. And I made a one sheet is what they call them, right? Where it's an average, you know, eight and a half by 11 sheet that had the features, the benefits, the product name and all that stuff. And I… That night you at back at the time you could fax people or you could the telephone the cost per minute of telephone time if you're gonna believe it cost per minute of telephone time at night was a lot less expensive than the day so primetime and then it was right and so I had a fax modem 2400 bought 24 9600 fax modem and I put this Spec sheet in and I faxed it out to 300 and something lighting dealers in the United States, like a guitar center and American DJ and all these different places. And in the morning, when I woke up, I had faxed back checks, people faxed checks, and I had 25 or $27 ,000 worth of checks. And so I went from below broke to enough money to keep me alive for a bit, and then I could expand on that. And then I had to go design the product.

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Tom Finn (39:55.164)

Nice.

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Mark "Mr Noots" Effinger (40:03.83)

And this, I called this consultant buddy who was a Silicon Valley wonder kind who had been building a company. I asked him to come in and he looked at my books and he looked at the company and he said, dude, he goes, this is, you got something killer here. He goes, would you mind if I invested and bought a third of the company? And I'll do 400 ,000 now and I'll do 400 ,000 in the future. We'll take this to a liquidity event of some sort. I said, that sounds, that sounds way better than going broke or, you know, and he goes, I can be your co -CEO, so we can run this together and do it. And we did that. And we turned this broke event and then this last ditch effort of a 3D, you know, 3D rendered, not even a real product into a company that did six and a half million a year and we ran it for six years. And Wyatt Starnes is the guy's name. And he was the founder of Tripwire. He became the founder of Tripwire after that. So, which is a… 90 million or a hundred million dollar company today. That came across because we were standing in line. I met that guy because I was standing in line at a plastics company trying to get plastic to build a prototype and he was having a prototype made and he goes, dude, what are you doing here in Portland, Oregon? I said, I'm building a slager company, it's gonna be great. He goes, you need to be in Silicon Valley. You are Silicon Valley. Right? But, yeah, anyhow. So.

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That's the, I know this is, I've totally overextended my stay, but.

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Tom Finn (41:36.892)

Well, no, I think I asked you one question and you've gone on for 42 minutes. So I feel like my work here is done. This might've been the easiest podcast I've ever listened to. I'd like to say I contributed, but I absolutely did not. Other than my rant on Pacific eyes and teas and, you know, Doc Martens, I, you know, I've contributed zero. 

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Mark "Mr Noots" Effinger (41:55.438)

Which was great. Much necessary, by the way.

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Tom Finn (42:06.332)

But look, look, here's the reality. You have built through, decades, multiple businesses over and over and over and over again, and exited some and lost on some others. And every time you've grown and built and grown and built and figured it out along the way. And I think the way in which you tell stories is so easy to follow and understand. And I think the lessons are inherent in the speech, right? In the conversation and how you

you look at the world. So I think people can take a lot away from this, even though there wasn't a ton of back and forth, right? In this particular case, you are the essence of the entrepreneur, which is this ebb and flow of life as you're moving through these decades. So I am grateful for having you on brother. This is really, really fun to listen to you. I feel like, I feel like this has got to be part one of a, you know, three part series that we'll, we'll have to sell to Netflix at some point.

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Mark "Mr Noots" Effinger (43:05.806)

Let's do it man, let's do it man. You know, and I know I here's where I feel I feel bad that I didn't get I want to get more of your story. I think that there's a there's a couple things I think that the narrative behind the our individual journeys is so important and when people realize that in fact there's they just somebody just came up with a term for it. We're like like I just need more knowledge and then I can go launch my company. No, you need to go launch your company and then figure it out. Go do the thing and there's enough smart people out there and you'll learn, you won't learn until you actually get in the weeds, figure out who the customer is, you know, start serving them and then you kind of figure it out. So I would love to do that. I'd love to have an opportunity to turn the mic around on you, Tom, and get the real story, bro.

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Tom Finn (43:52.518)

Oh man, well hey look, anytime, anytime my friend, we can do that. But look, we're gonna have to have you back on the show or I'm gonna have to come on your show. We're gonna have to do something because we've completely blasted through time here, but I've enjoyed listening to it. You've got a product that you sell, Nootopia. Give us the 30 second on that and that'll take us out.

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Mark "Mr Noots" Effinger (44:14.414)

All right, so we make all organic, all natural smart drugs because when you have cognitive issues, especially as you're growing companies, you want to fix that, even if you're a billionaire with four sports teams. So what we make, this is one of my favorites right now, and this was actually pretty principally developed by my sweetheart, the girl that does all of our flavorings for bioptimizers and Nootopia. Bioptimizers is our parent company, Nootopia is… the division that I run. And this is a really, really cool, deliciously flavorful, all organic, highly dense mushroom drink that specializes in a thing called neurogenesis, where it creates, where it helps your brain create new brain cells so that you can, one, get rid of old habits and build new ones, and the other is just restore the cognitive horsepower that you had as a youth. Boom, that's my pitch. I'm still good.

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Tom Finn (45:10.172)

Beautiful. We'll put it in the show notes. You can click on it. You can find Mark's information. We can track him down. Or maybe he's one of those, I'll call you, don't call me kind of guys, which I'm getting that vibe right now. All right, Mark, where do people track you down? Do you want them to go to the Nootopia website? What are you thinking?

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Mark "Mr Noots" Effinger (45:30.51)

Yeah, Tom, take them to the Nootopia website and I think we've got a coupon code for folks like yourself who would like to, let me see here, here she goes. Vida who manages all of my craziness. Yeah, yeah, so bioptimizers .com slash Tom. That rolls off the tongue, bioptimizers, B -I -O -P -T -I -M -I -Z -E -R -S dot com slash Tom.

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Boptimizers, Tom. And go to BioColla Genius page, promo code Tom. And that'll give you, I think, 10 % off on CollaGenius. I think you'll like it. It's an incredible product. It is the alternative to coffee. You can drink it all day long. I drink it cold. I have it in my coffee if I do coffee in the morning. And it's fantastic for neurogenesis, giving you brain cells, also as an adaptogen to help reduce your stress response so you don't go into those rages that all of your employees love. So yeah, yeah, pretty good.

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Tom Finn (46:30.14)

Oh yes, the old stress response. That's a good one to keep under control as an entrepreneur for sure. Mark, thanks for joining the podcast. We'll put all of this in the show notes so that folks can, their listening can get ahold of you, find the coupon codes, buy the product and check things out. But thank you for the work you've done as an entrepreneur, my man. And thank you for sharing your story with everybody today. Appreciate it.

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Mark "Mr Noots" Effinger (46:51.694)

Thank you, Tom. Talk soon.

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