Clarke Miyasaki

You’re Not As Cool As You Think You Are

I’m a big fan of Clarke Miyasaki. Seriously, the dude has the Midas touch. He is Legit with a capital “L”. Why you say? His first real startup, LogoWorks, was acquired by Hewlett-Packard in April 2007. Before Logoworks, Clarke worked at vSpring Capital during a very active investment period for the fund and opened up vSpring’s first satellite office in New Mexico. But that was then and this is now though. What’s Clarke up to lately? He’s only the Global Vice President of Business Development at Skullcandy, which went public in July 2011 (NASDAQ: SKUL). Clarke joined Skullcandy in early 2008 when there were 18 employees and keyed several initiatives that helped grow the company to over $230 million in revenue in 2011. Some of the partnerships Clarke developed include the NBA, Jay-Z’s Roc Nation, IMG Models (Kate Upton), Dolce & Gabbana, Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose, Dell Computer, Major League Baseball, Paul Frank, Snoop Dogg, Kid Robot and Skullcandy’s acquisition of Astro Gaming. Yeah, LEGIT. One last thing. He is as nice as they get. Super friendly, humble and fun to be around. Anyhow, as you can tell, we are glad to have Clarke post here.

So, with that…

I was living large in the Spring of 1999 going to school full-time at BYU while managing a call center making $28,500/year. While that salary may seem insignificant, it was a fortune to a kid from Sugar City, Idaho who had established his career track as a manager at the local Mcdonald’s. When news came down from corporate that our little call center was moving to HQ in Minnesota, I was confident that I could quickly find another gig for the summer.

I had three interviews in the next two weeks: an account manager position at a bank, another call center manager position and a business development internship at a new Internet start-up. I was immediately attracted to Freeport.com, the hottest start-up in Provo offering all of the typical perks of 1999 Internet start-ups. I interviewed with Danny Warner and Jeff Kearl to join the Business Development team. Danny called me a couple of days later and offered me the position that paid $10/hour.

What I did next is truly embarrassing as I look back on that experience with present-day perspective – I countered w/ $14/hour! I was a junior in college, three weeks away from being jobless and I’m negotiating my summer hourly wage for my ideal internship. I can only imagine what I’d say today to some college punk applying for a summer internship with me who would have the audacity to counter offer. LUCKILY, we settled on $12/hour and I was thrown into my first startup whirlwind.

I fell in love with the start-up environment as we grew from 15 to 120 employees over that summer. I was hired on full-time and stayed with Freeport until we eventually dropped back down to 15 employees a year later and closed the doors. Despite the crazy ride, I left that experience knowing that I always wanted to be involved in early-stage companies.

I also felt fortunate to have developed a tight friendship with the founder, Jeff Kearl. To say that Jeff has influenced my career would be like saying James Naismith influenced basketball. Jeff pulled me into vSpring Capital shortly after he joined the fund and we have since done Logoworks, Skullcandy, Stance and several angel deals together. I owe my career to this one key relationship that I’m so appreciative to have.

This one key relationship should have never happened because I thought I was way cooler than I really was. I often think about how different my life would be if Danny had told me where I could stick my $14/hour as he should have done. I could give more examples of times this mistake has cost me and I see it often with entrepreneurs. It is amazingly easy to get hot as an entrepreneur and suddenly, no pre-money valuation is high enough, no partnership terms are strong enough, no acquisition offer is good enough — until your hotness turns into What If’s and Why Didn’t We’s.

Don’t mistake this as advice to take whatever offer comes along or to avoid a tough negotiation but just as a good reminder that many of us often need to hear:

You’re (I’m) never as cool as you (I) think you (I) are (am).

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About Alex Lawrence

Alex has been a successful entrepreneur for 20+ years. His current venture Lendio ranks #34 on the Inc. 500 list. Alex earned a BS degree at the University of Utah and his MBA at Weber State University, where he is Vice Provost and Director of the Entrepreneurship Program. If you want to talk with Alex about business and entrepreneurship (or other questions), email him (alex AT startupflavor DOT com), or you can find him on Twitter @_AlexLawrence.
  • Clarke,

    Judging by what Alex said in the intro you are actually way cooler than you think you are.

    Do you have any specific points in your experience you feel contributed to your transition from a brash youngster to a more humble servant?

    • Clarke

      I’m still way more of a brash youngster than humble servant but I feel like I have a better perspective now so it doesn’t haunt me as much. Specific points from my experience would be things like turning down an early acquisition offer, seeing several entrepreneurs holding out for better deals until it’s too late and overestimating our ability/cool factor to get certain biz dev deals done that never happened.

  • Clarke – Since I have known you (starting at vSpring) you have always had a humble tone/nature about you. Makes you much cooler than most executives and entrepreneurs I have known. Great article. D.

  • Mr. Singer


    Glad your path turned out better than mine! I, too was at Freeport from the beginning, but was the first one in HR’s door for a layoff after 6 months, followed by 30 others. I designed the website and marketing collateral. I remember Danny and Jeff working upstairs in the loft.

    I have struggled since to chase a 6-figure salary to no avail. I feel that my BFA in Graphic Design (also from BYU) has pigeonholed me into several design jobs but made me only marketable as one who can design logos and make things look pretty. Any advice for a 40-year old who wants to break into more of a marketing/biz dev/creative executive role without having to go get a a Masters?

    Consequently, I hired one of Skullcandy’s amazingly talented graphic designers who was the victim of a layoff last year. I’m also good friends with Jeremy Wycherly. He speaks highly of you!

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