Please enjoy this transcript of my conversation with Milind Mehere, Founder and CEO of Yieldstreet. We cover the ABCDE of building a company, the importance of gratitude, and the impact of blockchain on private markets. Transcripts for other episodes can be found here.
“Be bright, be brief, be gone.” – Milind Mehere
Milind Mehere is co-founder and CEO of Yieldstreet. Milind's background is fascinating. Before founding Yieldstreet in 2014, Milind founded and scaled several other companies, including Yodle, which he scaled to $220 million in annual revenue before being acquired by web.com. Over the last eight years, Yieldstreet has built one of the largest private investment platforms in the world. To date, they brought on over 377,000 members that have invested more than $1.5 billion, and Yieldstreet has paid out over $196 million in interest alone.
In this episode, Milind shares why he's been fascinated with blockchain and the problems it can solve, including KYC for platforms like Yieldstreet as well as why his superpower is adaptability, and how that's helped him as a serial entrepreneur. He shares some of his favorite books, including, Leadership and Self Deception and The Richest Man in Babylon, as well as why he loves the phrase, "Be bright, be brief, be gone," and why, if he could go back in time, he'd tell his younger self to take even more risks.
Transcript – #115 Milind Mehere of Yieldstreet: My Favorite Books, Tools, Habits and More | 20 Minute Playbook
Daniel Scrivner (00:06):
Hello, and welcome to another episode of our 20 minute playbook series, where each week, I sit down with an elite performer, from iconic founders to world renowned investors and bestselling authors, to dive into the ideas, frameworks, and strategies that got them to the top of their field, all in less than 20 minutes. I'm Daniel Scrivner, and on the show today, I'm joined by Milind Mehere, co-founder and CEO of Yieldstreet. As you'll hear, Milind's background is fascinating. Before founding Yieldstreet in 2014, Milind founded and scaled several other companies, including Yodel, which he scaled to $220 million in annual revenue before being acquired by web.com. Over the last eight years, Yieldstreet has built one of the largest private investment platforms in the world. To date, they brought on over 377,000 members that have invested more than $1.5 billion, and Yieldstreet has paid out over $196 million in interest alone.
Daniel Scrivner (00:58):
In this episode, Milind shares why he's been fascinated with blockchain and the problems it can solve, including KYC for platforms like yieldstreet; why his superpower is adaptability, and how that's helped him as a serial entrepreneur. He shares some of his favorite books, including, "Leadership and Self Deception," and, "The Richest Man in Babylon," as well as why he loves the phrase, "Be bright, be brief, be gone," and why, if he could go back in time, he'd tell his younger self to take even more risks.
Daniel Scrivner (01:27):
You can find the show notes and transcript for this episode at outlieracademy.com/115, that's 115. You can follow Milind Mehere on Twitter @MilindMehere, that's M I L I N D, M E H E R E. With that, let's dive in and learn from Milind's peak performance playbook.
Daniel Scrivner (01:48):
Milind, welcome back to outlier academy. I'm thrilled to have you on, for the 20 minute playbook section of your interview. Thank you so much for the time. Thank you so much for coming on.
Milind Mehere (01:58):
Thank you for having me.
Daniel Scrivner (02:00):
I want to start, we always ask people if they can share a recent fascination. What has been fascinating you, what can you not stop thinking about?
Milind Mehere (02:09):
I think my recent fascination has been blockchain, and... it's a little geeky, but blockchain and the impact of blockchain on private markets, and what can it do for private markets. I can't stop talking about that. I'll give you simple examples. We speak a lot about needing accreditation to ensure that you're the right investor. Think about a concept of passport. Imagine if I accredited you Yieldstreet, why can't you use that to invest in Fundraise, or any anybody else? Even though they may be competitors, there's no reason to have to do those things again and again.
Milind Mehere (02:47):
Title insurance in real estate, I think that's one of the biggest... I don't know why we should have that type of title insurance, where you could have every government record, and validated that online, so that when I'm selling my apartment to you, you don't have to pay for it. Right. It's already there on the blockchain. It's immutable. There are so many use cases that could make our lives more efficient, and I'm thinking about that a lot, in terms of what can blockchain do, and what role it can play in private markets.
Daniel Scrivner (03:16):
Yeah, those are great examples. I know a company, I know quite a few companies that are working on the KYC portion, and basically minting an NFT that you can then use and take around, which is really powerful. I think it's powerful. When you think about business and leadership, what do you think of as your superpowers? We talked about, in the previous interview, you're a serial entrepreneur. I imagine that there's things that have shown up in all of those ventures that you've taken on. What are your superpowers, and how do you use those daily?
Milind Mehere (03:46):
One of my superpowers is adaptability. If you look at my career, I'm not an expert in one domain, and I've changed domains based on my passion. In order for you to do that, it's very important that you're adaptable, so you can learn things quickly, you can learn from your mistakes and your wins, and as an entrepreneur, you're making decisions very quickly, on an everyday basis. If you are adaptable, and you can change by processing information by circumstances, by learning new things, you can be successful, and you don't get caught in your own ways, and you're always evolving as a person. I think that is super interesting for me.
Milind Mehere (04:24):
The other thing that is a superpower is for me to have this around the curve kind of vision, if you will. It sounds a little corny, and can't be quantified, but I have a pretty good gut, as they say. I can connect the dots easily. So, with maybe the market movement, or investor feedback, whether it's business or personal, I think I can see around the corner. I think that's an interesting way, again, as an entrepreneur, as an executive, as a leader, to be able to connect the dots is very important.
Daniel Scrivner (04:59):
Yeah, love those. What mentors or figure shaped your approach to business and leadership? As we've talked about, you're a serial entrepreneur. Has anyone made a mark on you, left an impression on you, that you've worked closely with over the years?
Milind Mehere (05:13):
Yes. I'll go closely first. I used to have a boss, since then, he is an advisor/mentor, name is Raji Bright, very efficient person. Being an engineer, I'm both a combo of left brain/right brain. Super efficient, he does so much, and I'm always fascinated by the amount of things that he can get done. For a person like me, who's very busy but wants to get more out of life, have eclectic taste, it's very important to understand how you can be efficient, how you can be productive. The way he does things, I always learn lessons from him. One of the things he told me is that you have to really focus on what not to do versus what to do, and be very deliberate about the choices that you make, based on what is important, and how can you prioritize those.
Milind Mehere (06:03):
That's a real life example. I have, like all of us, many examples that you could learn from. Steve Jobs, amazing storyteller, amazing visionary, and I can correlate that to Yieldstreet values. Be passionate. He was super passionate about the change he was able to bring.
Milind Mehere (06:23):
Thomas Edison: vision without execution is hallucination. I think it's very important for startup founders, because many of them have vision, but how do you translate that to education? We have, "Own and execute" as one of our core values. Elon Musk. Who can name his son as a math equation? Very bold thinker. Who can challenge the mayor of Miami to say, "Hey, I'm going to build an underground tunnel from [inaudible 00:06:51] to Miami in $30 million bucks." Whether he can do that or not, but at least to put that stake out there. As an entrepreneur, be bold. The email that he sent yesterday, just always challenging the status quo, but then, rallying the team to get there. There are all these examples that, I think, are really fascinating for me.
Daniel Scrivner (07:09):
Yeah, I love those examples. Those are some fascinating ones. Is there a favorite quote or anecdote you have about being a founder? This can be serious or hilarious, but, I think one of the things there is just, is there a quote you often find yourself repeating to yourself, or sharing with others, about what it means to be a founder, and what it means to build a business?
Milind Mehere (07:30):
Be bright, be brief, be gone.
Daniel Scrivner (07:34):
You probably got that from your mentor.
Milind Mehere (07:37):
I know, right? That's a funny one. I said the vision without execution quote is also one of my favorites. Adapt or die, that is also something that startup founders have to constantly do, high growth companies have to constantly do. Those are a few of my quotes that are my favorites.
Daniel Scrivner (08:00):
Those are great. If you could go back to the start of your career and whisper some advice, a reminder, words of wisdom in your ear, what would you tell yourself if you could go back in time?
Milind Mehere (08:10):
I would say take more risks. I think what happens is, earlier on in our careers, we are trying to establish our footing in the industry, in the job that we are taking, and lot of us become conservative. But, we don't realize that, as life passes by, you're going to get more and more conservative, when you have your first mortgage, get married, have kids. Earlier on in your career, for somebody that has taken quite a bit of risk, it's actually very important to do that.
Milind Mehere (08:40):
The other thing that I would say is that we also have to measure the risk that we are taking. I started my previous company when my wife was in business school. We just recently had a baby. You have to contextualize some of that. At that time, it might feel very difficult, but those things always pass. There's always light at the end of the tunnel. If I had that orientation, and I had constantly had that orientation, I would've made maybe some different choices. I think that could be very interesting.
Daniel Scrivner (09:14):
Yeah, I love a serial entrepreneur telling himself that he should be taking more risks, if he could go back in time. I think that's amazing. If you had to distill down your philosophy of building a company into just a few words, what would that be?
Milind Mehere (09:28):
How about I start with letters. A, B, C, D.
Daniel Scrivner (09:30):
There we go.
Milind Mehere (09:32):
Four letters. We spoke about this earlier. For me, A B C D, what does that mean? A: always be well capitalized. B: build and hire talent. Without the team, there is nothing. You have to have the right people, and believe in it. C: communicate the vision. What's your true north? Why should people care about it? What is the impact you are going to have? Because, that's what is going to rally the team. D is delegation and decision making. I think those are two such important skills, but all of us sometimes flounder with them. Can we make quick decisions? Can we delegate appropriately? And then,
Milind Mehere (10:11):
I'm going to throw in a bonus, which is E: can you do it with empathy? I think that's important, and for me, I'm very much direct, cut to the chase. I think sometimes that empathy is lost, because we are moving so fast. We want to get stuff done faster, but how do you bake that in, and be more conscious about how people are pursuing you? While you may have the thoughts in the right place, it's very important that the team gets that. I think, for me, that's the A B C D of building a good company.
Daniel Scrivner (10:43):
Those are great. A, B, C, D, E. I love E. My experience with that is, most founders that I know are very direct, and cut to the chase. I think the ones that get empathy right are able to retain talent, and compound for much longer. I think that's an underrated fact of the power of empathy. It keeps your team members there, engaged, feeling like they're cared about while they're working on building this business.
Milind Mehere (11:07):
Daniel, if I may actually expand on that a little bit, I think one of the things that happens is, a lot of times, if you're a Microsoft or a Facebook or a Google, things are just happening for you, because you hit that product market fit and in stride, and you're becoming a leader. You have a lot of cash to actually overcome a lot of flaws, whether it's in your founders, leadership team, in the company inefficiency, and all that, because the cash is always coming in. For a lot of us, our businesses have always challenges, because we are not the Google or the Microsoft, though we are great businesses. That's where empathy can be very valuable, because we model ourselves into... even the Elon Musk example I gave earlier, "Okay, great, because he's building a very successful company in a completely different trajectory."
Milind Mehere (11:58):
If I send that email, I don't know whether my company would really embrace that, just because it's a different company, different ecosystem. I think the founders have to be mindful of that, to understand, what are the strengths that you have as a founder, and a company that you're leading, and to not fit always other circumstances.
Daniel Scrivner (12:19):
I think that's so well said. I want to ask now, if there's a book, article, or paper that you love, that you find yourself recommending? I know a lot of founders have books that they use as a Bible, or that form an important part of how they think about the world. This can be about business, it can be fiction, it can be anything. What's a book, article, paper that you think more people should read?
Milind Mehere (12:41):
This book I haven't read in a few years, but, "Leadership and Self Deception" is a great book, Arbinger Institute. "Five Dysfunctions of a Team," I'm reading it again, actually, just this week. I've read it a of couple times, it's a very easy read over the weekend, two, three hours, Patrick Lencioni, great book. When it comes to money, "Richest Man in Babylon," fascinating book. It's so simplistic. Again, a weekend read, but my favorite. In terms of article, "American Aristocracy" is a fascinating article in The Atlantic. It came out two, three years ago, The Atlantic style, very long. It talks about impact of money in a consumer's life in the U.S., and what how it creates chances for people, and how people with means have so much greater power to succeed versus people without the means, and stuff like that, and how that has evolved in the last 50 years or so. Really fascinating.
Daniel Scrivner (13:49):
Yeah, those are great. For anyone listening, we will get links to those. Those will all be included in the show notes. You can find those at outlieracademy.com. That's a good reminder, I haven't read "The Richest Man in Babylon" in a long time. I want to dig that up and read that this weekend. What tiny habit or practice has had the biggest positive impact in your life? Health related, work related, can be anything. What comes to mind?
Milind Mehere (14:13):
I think, from a habit perspective, for me, it's really a simple thing, a daily to-do list. I'm a person who thrives on ticking the box. Sometimes, you get so busy, but if you know, "Hey, here are two or three things you need to do," you feel happy about yourself. I think that is something which is very important for me. The other thing is gratitude. I think we get so busy, and you don't give enough gratitude. I use this app called Delightful to write three things that I'm thankful to. I don't do it every single day, but I try to do it. I think it is really important.
Milind Mehere (14:53):
We also have a Propsy channel. Again, I don't go there every day, but if I'm there, and that's on Slack, and you say thanks to people that might have worked with you, or done something on a real-time basis. I think that really creates a lot of positivity, because we're bombarded with so much media negativity, and very polarizing situations, and I think that's valuable to me.
Daniel Scrivner (15:18):
Yeah, and you have a very high performing team, that, I imagine, is very competitive. I feel like you need to counterbalance that, and sometimes, just leaving space, or creating room for gratitude, is a great way to do that. Last question. What is your favorite way to waste an hour? What guilty pleasure do you wish you had more time for?
Milind Mehere (15:37):
So many, man. So many. Watch more sports, just TV shows. I always feel that I'm catching up, and I'm multiple years behind on some of the shows. So, finding time for that. One of the challenges I have is now, with shows with multiple seasons, once you get hooked, you're committed for so many hours. For me, I'm always grappling between, should I even start it? Because, once you start it, you're going to get sucked in. I wish I could have more time for that.
Daniel Scrivner (16:13):
Yeah, amen. I'm with you, and I have the same struggle. It just feels like there's perpetually 20 hours of things I want to watch, and I have about 30 minutes a night to try to get that in. Thank you so much for the time Milind. Everyone listening, you can learn more about Yieldstreet, which is the company Milind and his co-founder Michael have been building for the last seven years, at yieldstreet.com. You can also download the Yieldstreet app on the app store. Thank you so much for the time of Milind, it's been so much fun to have you on.
Milind Mehere (16:43):
Thank you so much for having me Daniel.
Daniel Scrivner (16:44):
Thank you so much for listening. You can find the show notes and transcript for this episode at outlieracademy.com/115. That's 115. You can also follow Milind Mehere on Twitter @MilindMehere. That's M I L I N D, M E H E R E. For more from Milind Mehere, listen to episode 112, where he joins me on our outlier founder series to go deep on Yieldstreet. Yieldstreet was founded in 2014, and over the last eight years has built one of the largest private investment platforms in the world. They have over 377,000 members that have invested more than $1.5 billion, and Yieldstreet has paid out over $196 million in interest alone.
Daniel Scrivner (17:24):
In that episode, we cover why alpha has evaporated from public markets over the last 20 years with the rise of indexing, ETFs, and automated investment strategies; why private equity venture capital real estate and private credit have exploded over that same timeframe; why the classic 60/40 portfolio is dead, and how investors should rethink their approach to investing in public and private markets; how Yieldstreet built one of the world's largest investment platforms, bringing on investment managers and investors; and why Yieldstreet's focus has always been on building what they call distribution infrastructure for investing, and why they built a horizontal business, straddling a bunch of smaller verticals, instead of focusing on just one aspect of private market investing.
Daniel Scrivner (18:07):
You can find videos of this interview on YouTube, at youtube.com/outlieracademy. On our channel, you'll find all of our full length interviews, as well as our favorite short clips from every episode, including this one. Make sure to subscribe, we post new videos and clips every single week. If you haven't already, follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn, under the handle Outlier Academy. Thank you so much for listening, we'll see you right here with a brand new episode next Friday.
On Outlier Academy, Daniel Scrivner explores the tactics, routines, and habits of world-class performers working at the edge—in business, investing, entertainment, and more. In each episode, he decodes what they've mastered and what they've learned along the way. Start learning from the world’s best today.
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