You might think that effective leaders always know the answer and the exact right steps to get there.  But, that’s just not true.

In today’s episode, we find out that being a good leader doesn’t mean you have to know everything— but it does mean that you empower and inspire your team to figure out the answer.

Steve Johns shares actionable strategies that you can use in your everyday life, especially in times of uncertainty. 

Steve Johns is the CEO at OneCause, a company based in Indianapolis that is helping non-profits build a better tomorrow by leveraging technology to fuel their missions and raise more money. 

Steve has over 30 years of experience in tech, corporate development, venture capital, event production, and entrepreneurship. He started his career at PwC in Chicago, then transitioned to become the Vice President of Global Business Development at Gateway. 

Steve also built a venture accelerator and $100 million dollar investment company and then built a 10+ year career in the music industry before taking the helm at OneCause. 

His most recent accomplishment is the launch of his book “Fearless: Leadership Lessons at the Crossroads.” It’s an incredible collection of timeless learnings, real life experiences and stories from Steve’s prolific career. 

Be sure to check out these great clips from the show:

  • [9:25] Breaking down the most complex businesses
  • [14:20] Intrapreneurship at large enterprises
  • [18:05] How to asses startups
  • [32:00] Characteristics of a good board member
  • [37:00] There is no substitute for connection
  • [43:00] Leading when your business goes to 0
  • [50:05] The benefits of starting a writing practice

Get IN. is the show focused on the unfolding stories and most extraordinary innovations happening in the heartland today. Get IN. is brought to you by Powderkeg and Elevate Ventures.

In our conversation with Steve, you will learn about:

  • Tips for telling a good story
  • Pursuing your passions at any stage in your career
  • How Steve became the accidental author

Want to listen to this episode on your chosen app? Click here.

You can stream by clicking here.

Join the Indiana Tech Community on Powderkeg for Email Updates about Get IN.

If you like this episode, please subscribe and leave us a review on Apple Podcasts. You can also follow us on Spotify. We have an incredible lineup of interviews we’ll be releasing every Wednesday here on Get IN.

Links and resources mentioned in this episode:

Companies and organizations: 



Subscribe to Get IN.

To subscribe to the Get IN. podcast, please use the links below:

Join the Indiana Tech Community on Powderkeg for Email Updates about Get IN.

Click Here to Subscribe via Apple Podcasts 

Click Here to Subscribe via Spotify

Click Here to Subscribe via Google Podcasts

Click Here to Subscribe via YouTube

Click Here to Subscribe via Stitcher

Click Here to Subscribe via RSS

If you have a chance, please leave an honest rating and review on Apple Podcasts by clicking here. It will help the show and its ranking on Apple Podcasts incredibly! Thank you so much!

Want to get connected with other leaders in the Powderkeg community? 

Are you interested in joining the only private membership network focused on supporting tech companies and executives in communities beyond Silicon Valley? Apply for Powderkeg Premium Membership today.  

Interested in starting your own Podcast?

Casted is THE first and only podcast and video marketing platform made SPECIFICALLY for B2B brands. The platform makes it possible to publish, syndicate, amplify, and measure the value of your podcast and video content And if you’re a startup, Casted offers their for Startups program that might be for you — offering exclusive deep discounts of up to 82% off retail price for qualifying startups. Connect with Casted at


Episode Transcript

Matt: [00:00:00] From America’s Heartland and Indiana. This is Get IN. The podcast focused on the unfolding stories and extraordinary innovations happening right now in the Heartland. Today’s guest is Steve Johns CEO at One Cause 

Steve: If you’re a founder or if you’re just getting your company started, I think you really do need to do self.

Evaluation and, and figure out what am I good at Yeah. And what am I not good at? Yeah. And, and really be able, and maybe you need some help from somebody to say what you’re not good at.

Matt: Steve Johns is the CEO at One Cause. Which is a company based in Indianapolis, helping nonprofits build a better tomorrow by leveraging technology to fuel their missions and raise more money. Steve has over 30 years of experience in tech, corporate development, venture capital, event production, and entrepreneurship.

He started his career up in Chicago. And eventually [00:01:00] became Vice President of Global Business Development at Gateway. Steve has also built a venture accelerator, which eventually became a hundred million dollar investment company, and then built a 10 plus year career in the music industry before taking the helm at one.

Cause. His most recent accomplishment is the launch of his book, fearless Leadership Lessons at the Crossroads, an incredible collection of timeless learnings, real life experiences, and stories from Steve’s prolific career. Steve, welcome to get. 

Steve: Let’s get started. So, uh, I was raised in the Midwest. I was, um, I grew up in a small town outside of Chicago called Lockport, Illinois B.

Back then, we would never have called ourselves a suburb, but now all of a sudden with suburban sprawl, it’s now part of the suburban Chicago area, small town, uh, you know, kind of. Roots of, uh, blue collar and, and kind of hard work and, uh, hardworking folks. What do your parents do? Uh, my dad is a Lutheran minister, actually, and not a lot of people know that.

Wow. But, but if you read, I, I actually do mention it a couple of times in the book, [00:02:00] and he’s a Lutheran minister, but he’s also an amazing preacher. And I think that I learned a lot from him about how delivering a message, you know, kind of organizing and structuring, um, presentations. And so he’s an amazing, he’s still, he’s still with us.

He’s 88 years old. He has dementia, unfortunately. Uh, but he is in a, a beautiful retirement, uh, and care facility out in Oakland, and I actually mentioned him a couple of times in the book. Sounds like a great story. Absolutely. Yeah, he, he was fantastic. Yeah, he was great. 

Matt: Yeah. It’s, it’s no surprise that you’re as good a storyteller as you are, Steve.

Steve: Well, I do say that. I, I tried to learn, like he always had these things. He had three sections that he kind of tried to organize. He loved alliteration. I love alliteration. Yeah, I know. And so that’s, uh, I, I’m definitely trying to pay some, uh, some honor to him and some tribute to him in, in my story. I love that.

Yeah. Do 

Matt: you have any other tips for telling a good 

Steve: story? Yes. Speak from the heart. You know, again, it’s, it’s kind of like what you do in business. [00:03:00] Is if you find something that you love and if you speak from the heart and you speak truth and authenticity, the words just flow. And so that’s what I, that’s what I tried to do with Fearless and, and, and well actually, the weekly updates that became fearless.

We’re essentially just sitting down and, and just writing letters to the company about how I was feeling, how I thought they might be feeling, and how we could get through that situation together. So right from the heart, what 

Toph: are some stories that you remember growing up from childhood and, and into your teenage years that you heard your father talk about?

Like, what did you witness with the church as a leader of the church and, you know, he’s trying to rally the congregation and, and you, you’ve gotta raise money and you’ve gotta keep the lights on and, and, and keep the. All those types of things. What are some things that pop out? 

Steve: I think one of the things that was very powerful that he could do, and I think that really captured everyone’s attention, is he did a great job of taking current events or current media and then translating them to the lesson of the day.

And I think maybe that’s [00:04:00] what I, and you’re making me think tof, because that’s what I’m doing too, is I’m taking these inspirations, these learnings that I’m getting. Netflix or from my Daily Calm app, or from the headlines, and I’m trying to provide some inspiration to the team. And so what he was able to do, he, I I, I remember these days, he would hold up, you know, we, back, back then, there were magazines, you know, that were like, pieces of paper.

Wait, what’s, what’s that? He would hold up these magazine articles and say, and he would read from them and he would try to, you know, correlate that to, to the scripture lesson or the lesson for the day. And so, again, I thought, I think that that really held people’s attention. It wasn’t. Uh, preaching. It was communicating in a way that people could really truly understand.

And again, you’ve helped me just realize in this moment that that’s what I did with fearless as well. That’s really 

Matt: cool. Yeah. How did you go from kind of being a pastor’s son Yeah. To then deciding, I, you know what? I think I wanna be a businessman. 

Steve: And, and, and that’s, it’s a great question, Matt, because when I gra, so I grew up in a different era than you guys did.

I [00:05:00] graduated in 1985. This was, this was like the world of Wall Street, you know, uh, greed is good. Gordon Gecko. So when I graduated and, and not a lot of people wanted to be entrepreneurs. Mm-hmm. It wasn’t something that we aspired to do. What we wanted to do was go into business. What we wanted to do was make.

What we wanted to do was wear blue suits and white shirts and red and yellow ties and Right. And have shiny shoes. Wing tips, remember wing tips. Exactly. Wingtip. And so, you know, I, I, I, I really foundationally, I really look back at the beginning of my career with, with a lot of joy and, and, um, there was some hard times too, but I got some really foundational and fundamental lessons mm-hmm.

That I learned during that time. I started with, Pri, well, they were called Coopers and Librarian at the time, but now part of Pricewaterhouse Coopers and I did that for almost 10 years. And what I learned was foundationally about cash. Mm-hmm. And once you break a business down to cash, you can really do anything.

And I was, I [00:06:00] went from, I did financial analysis for leverage, buyout transactions, mergers and acquisitions, trouble debt, restructuring stuff. And so I had to learn really quickly. Uh, a hat manufacturer, a women’s shoe manufacturer, uh, corn, wet milling process for creating, you know, high fructose corn syrup.

Wow. Wow. Industrial sewing machines, you know, and quick, and my, my, my, my learning curve had to be very, very short. Mm-hmm. And so what you do is break things down into a foundation and. When I think about that, what that provided for me was this ability to be fearless, literally in terms of what I did next, which allowed me to go into technology, hardware, software, SaaS, the music industry.

You know, think about, there’s a lot of industries that create a lot of jargon around their business. Yeah. And a lot of it is to confuse people and to make it look like it’s harder than it is, but it’s not. Yeah. It’s just about that 

Toph: investor. Investor created [00:07:00] buzzwords. 

Steve: Exactly. Let’s create some buzzwords and, and talk in jargon so people think we’re really smart and people can’t understand what we did.

Right. But if you sit down and you say, okay, let’s just do this. How does cash come in? Okay. Got that. How does cash go out? Okay, got that. All right, let’s go. Yeah. Yep. 

Matt: Yeah, that’s I, I like that you’re kind of taking something that can seem really complex and ultimately you’re just, Breaking it down to the 

Steve: simplest parts a a absolutely.

And again, that’s a lesson that I learned early on. Mm-hmm. It’s a lesson that, um, I’ve taken forward in my career and it’s also a lesson that I wanna retell for young entrepreneurs as well, is just, yeah, don’t be intimidated. Don’t, don’t be afraid or don’t be. Scared of jargon and, and, and something is too complicated.

It is not. Yeah. Simplify it to cash. I love that. 

Toph: So, um, oh my gosh, I love that. So literally just was talking with a group of aspiring entrepreneurs a couple days ago and, and there’s some mystique about well, entrepreneurialism and starting a business and it’s so complex, et cetera. So [00:08:00] you mentioned earlier in your career you went out and hit multiple verticals, right.

Doing this analysis. On in multiple, multiple verticals, different types of business, totally different business models on how they get cash and how they spend cash and so, so any other common denominators between those businesses? And then maybe touch on as well, like, at the end of the day, a business is no different than your household balance sheet, right?

You, you have, you have, let’s say you have a job and so you have a salary, so you have revenue coming in, and then you have. You know, cash in, right? And cash out being your mortgage or your apartment rent, or your car payment, or your lifestyle, having drinks or dinner, et cetera. So like business is the exact same thing.

As, as that when you really break it down to the basics, wh what other common denominators. Did you notice in those, those verticals? And, and then how would you parlay the household balance sheet to the business 

Steve: balance sheet? I, I think it’s a great example, toin. In fact, I used that example at our last quarterly, uh, company update [00:09:00] because I was trying to explain the need for debt and the need for investment or equity.

And to the extent that a company is not, uh, is spending in excess of the cash coming in, it’s like a credit card balance, right? Right. It’s like what whatever’s reflected on my credit card balance is how much I spent in excess of how much I brought in or made that’s on my credit card. And so I, I was using that exact, is that exact, uh, uh, example.

I, I, I think that’s a great one, but again, I think. Breaking things down to their simplest elements, I, I think is key. And I’d say again, if you, if you look about across all of those different verticals, it is about people. And so I think that, that it is about simplification through looking at cash and then looking at the people that are making that happen and the team that’s making that happen.

And I think, again, I think I took that and parlay that into some of the work that I was doing at Gateway when I was head of corporate development and looking. Making acquisitions, making investments, building businesses, hiring people within that [00:10:00] company, and, and it’s all about making sure that the people that are running those business or the people that you’re surrounding yourself with, share your passion, share your knowledge, share your enthusiasm, and share your set of values and, and how you, you know, value culture.

And I learned a lot of that at Gateway. So after 

Nate: spending, what, 10 years? Uh, at a, at a consulting agency, whatever you wanna call that. Right. Um, then going to Gateway, during that time, did you feel like you were still an entrepreneur, even though these are big, massive 

Steve: companies? So, the, my time at PricewaterhouseCoopers, I’d say no.

There’s probably the nothing that’s further from being, um, an entrepreneur than working for a big eight professional service. Organization in the mid to late eighties. It was not 

Toph: entrepreneurial. I have one question. Did you have one of those, uh, leather bound hard brief cases with the leather handle that you used?

So with the, with the little locking mechanisms 

Matt: that were gold, what 

Steve: you’re talking about, so I know exactly what you’re referring to. Uh, I did not have one of [00:11:00] those, but. But to, I, I carry these giant cases full of work papers down, you know, like six blocks from the train station down at 2 0 3 North LaSalle in downtown Chicago.

I would wear. Marks across my pants because I would be carrying two of them down six blocks and they would just be scuffing up my pants like crazy because I had like 50 pounds of work papers on, on, on each arm. It was like a packed meal. Ridiculous. They treated us like that and they paid us like that.

That’s great. So, Nate, back to your question. So when I got to Gateway, I was able to take, and a lot of the learnings that I brought forward from, from my time at Coopers and iBrand and apply them then in a very, very entrepreneurial setting. So Gateway was already a multi-billion dollar organization. It bought, they were young.

Mm-hmm. And, and Ted. Ted, wait, who was the founder and chairman of the company? He was only 31 years old when I joined the company. Wow. In 1990. [00:12:00] And he had already created a multi-billion dollar company and he had already created that kind of wealth for himself. But it was still entrepreneurial. It was fast moving, it was, it was fast paced.

We were doing things really fast and we were, we were making some mistakes, but we were getting a lot. Right. And so my job there was to look for opportunities to buy companies to kind of tuck in to what we were doing, software companies, um, distribution. Look for, um, a, a product companies. We, we built a, we bought a, a large server company, uh, from Southern California as well as starting then businesses inside of Gateway, kind of in this kind of entrepreneurship type of model.

So it wasn’t entrepreneurship or outside. So I didn’t have the fear of not making payroll. Mm-hmm. I didn’t have the fear of not having an income, which came, you know, later in, in my career. But, but what we did is we took risks. Kind of like house money with Gateway Capital. And we, [00:13:00] for instance, we started

The, the, the, the first i s P service that was created by a hardware company at the time. Yeah. We were bundling AOL with every, uh, system that shipped. And AOL’s getting was essentially getting free customers from, from us and, and the best customers. I was one of those customers, by the way. Yeah. There we go.

The best customers in the business were coming. And then, so he said, why don’t we start And so when you came to Gateway and bought a pc, We would turn you in. We, we would finance you with a monthly payment and we would sign you up for internet access, all for one kind of bundled monthly payment.

Yep. On internet services. So that was something that was, that was very forward thinking, uh, at the time. And so we, we, we did a lot of listings. In fact, if you’ve ever been to a gateway, Um, back in the day I happened to write the original plan for the Gateway Country Stores concept. Oh, that’s amazing.

Which grew into, you know, a, a very large, um, uh, sub-segment of the gateway business. But I went and did research [00:14:00] down in Michigan on Michigan Avenue. There was the Sony Gallery store right next to the Nike store. And really kind of took some of the best of, let’s say, inspiration. We don’t copy. Took some inspiration from each of those and said, you know, this is what we, we think should be the, um, the gateway store concept.

That I 

Matt: remember getting our first computer that was a pc. My, my mom was always a, in a school system, so we always had an apple growing up. Um, but our first, like, I would say, real computer where it was like connected to the internet and had all the things. I remember opening that box, that cow print, cow box.

I loved it. And I remember hooking up the speakers and turning it on for the first time. First time I had a subwoofer, you know, connected to the speaker. Like that moment was just magic. Magic. You felt 

Toph: so 

Matt: sophisticated, right? Absolutely. You’re like, oh. And I, I was fortunate enough to live next door to the guy who managed the computer labs at Purdue.

So like, he got me hooked up to the internet. And so thank you for making sure that I got connected to the internet when I was a 

Steve: [00:15:00] kid. Steve, you’re, you’re so welcome. And, and again, I love that story because that, take that story, multiply it by thousands, if not millions. And, and when I talk about my gateway days today, unfortunately I have.

Gateway, you know, the computer company. What 

Toph: happened to Gateway? I, I, I don’t remember how that all ended. What, what, what ended up happening? 

Steve: So Gateway was ultimately sound so sold to Acer. Mm-hmm. And you, you can actually, I think you can actually go into Best Buy today, or maybe Costco, I don’t know who sells it, and buy a gateway branded laptop.

But it has nothing to do with the original company. It just, it was just, it’s a ace or sub-brand at this point in time. Yeah. Got it. It 

Matt: was the brand, you know, 

Steve: for personal computing. Yeah. And again, it, it just, I, I love the fact that we were able to create those types of memories for, for you. Same for my kids.

We, it. The Gateway was the first computer that they had. We have these home movies of them playing that silly dinosaur game, you know, that they were really excited about, but it was very, very not sophisticated technology. I love it. [00:16:00] Your your Cubs Byted box story told, reminds me, Nate, do you remember these 

Toph: days?

You remember that that first one, what you bought a gateway computer? Yes. 

Steve: Yeah. Yep. That exactly happened. The, the other funny thing is you, you’re driving through your neighborhood after, you know, Christmas morning and you. People who threw away the gateway box. Yeah. You know? Right. Most people kept them for, cuz they were really sturdy boxes.

Oh yeah. But you see the gateway boxes kind of lining your neighborhood. Mm-hmm. Like, ooh, the John’s family got a new PC 

Toph: and, and Steve’s like, that’s what I call cash. 

Steve: Yeah, exactly. I hear the cash registers ringing on that one. 

Matt: When you were at Gateway and looking at those companies to acquire, how did you kind of break down those companies taking what you learned?

Price Waterhouse Coopers and then saying, and maybe even now as you’re assessing startups, cause I know you do a lot of mentoring other entrepreneurs as they’re getting started, what are some of those questions that you ask, uh, any entrepreneur when you’re either considering in investing or acquiring or doing business with?

Steve: Yeah, so first of all, from the gateway perspective, we created this grid of, you know, kind of like what do we do? Mm-hmm. And what are our, [00:17:00] the, the sum total of our needs? And then where are the gaps to. And so we would look at, you know, we would look at, well here’s, here’s an opportunity to grow in distribution.

Here’s a re, here’s a, here’s an opportunity for us to add intellectual property. Here’s an opportunity for us to get geographical expansion. Here’s product expansion. So we would kind of grid this out. Cool. And then we would look at opportunities for a so inorganic. So we were already grow, growing organically in certain areas, but how, how are we going to fill that in within inorganic growth opportu.

And, and again, looking at these companies is a little bit different than from a, from a investment standpoint because we had the gateway machine already. Yeah. And so it was like, okay, we have a massive sales and marketing engine. Like how do we, it it’s kind of, it’s, it’s kinda like that, that machine that tosses footballs, uh, I can’t remember.

It has a weird name. A great metaphor. Yeah. Jugs machine. The Jugs machine. Yeah. Nice. So it’s like, take that. Can you, can you just throw it into that machine and just let it. Yeah. And so that’s what we, we had that [00:18:00] benefit behind us that we had massive distribution. We had massive brand we could, so we could go in.

You mentioned, um, you mentioned your subwoofer. I still have some Boston acoustic speakers that are sitting on my desk. Well, we got Boston acoustics into the PC speaker space because we had million unit purchase orders that we could. Wow. And we could just take those and kind of create value. And these are the 

Toph: early days of cross-sector innovation.

Matt: Absolutely. Yes. Yeah, that’s love. It’s very 

Steve: cool. Very cool. Very cool. So again, it was, it was fun. And, and, and as I think about it too, I think of, um, the word mentorship really comes to mind as well, because at Gateway I had two amazing mentors who gave me something completely different. Mm-hmm. So the first, the first mentor that I had was Rick s.

Rick and I worked together at Coopers and Library, and he was the president and chief operating officer. So what I learned from Rick was discipline, excel spreadsheets, analysis, you [00:19:00] know, really, you know, thoughtful due diligence. Yeah. What I learned from TED was gut, instinct, gun slinging, you know, I mean, it’s awesome.

Yes. That’s so cool to have that. He was the gun slinger. Yeah. Yeah. And, and, It was really fun for me as a young professional growing up and, and just learning from Rick, learning from Ted. Different lessons. Yeah. But bringing those together in, in match it to the answer to your question too. How do we make decisions about what to do next?

It it, it was financial based as well as gut based and instinct based. 


Matt: you have a favorite lesson from either of those guys that maybe that kind of came through a story or a business 

Steve: deal that you were working on? Well, there’s one story, but I can’t say that we’ll save 

Matt: that for the after party, but 

Steve: Yeah.

But, but I guess I, what I will say is here are to, and so I will say, Here are two guys who are completely different. Yeah. But honored and respected each other’s differences and the company needed both. And so, uh, [00:20:00] I would say is this, if you’re a founder or if you’re just getting your company started, I think you really do need to like, do self-evaluation and, and figure out what am I good at?

Yeah. And what am I not good at? Yeah. And, and really be able, and it maybe you need some help from somebody to say what you’re not good at, because sometimes there’s some blindness about what you’re not good at. What? No, I know. Nate. It’s everything. Come on. Get somebody to help you understand what you’re not good at.

And then go find partners. Go find co-founders. Find someone. To, to, to do this with. I find that even today. Yeah. My executive team, first of all are, are the best executive team in Indiana in. In our industry for sure. And, and what they do is they fill in the blanks for me. Mm-hmm. You know, I, they are each one of them experts in their respective fields, and I honor and respect that, and they fill in those blanks.

I do. You know, I, and then it allows me to do what I do. Yeah. 

Matt: Te tell me a little bit about what you do now with your leadership team [00:21:00] to help lead and set that vision. Uh, for 

Steve: one, cause it, it is, it is about setting the vision is, it is about leading, but it is also about trying to get out of the way.

Mm-hmm. And realizing that they’re, they’re really, they’re really good at what they do. Yeah. And, and, and making sure that I give them, uh, I need to make sure that there’s fuel in the tank. So my job is making sure that there’s an, there’s enough ca back to cash. Yeah. Making sure that there’s enough, uh, capital and, and available to, to grow and, and make investments and, and, and keep doing that.

Making sure that there’s. A North Star, making sure that there’s a vision that everyone is working towards the same goal in the same direction, and, and we’re, you know, we’re also starting to implement things like eos that, that help us, uh, really track accountability. Uh, really get into weekly reporting on leading indicators, not lagging indicators, so that we can stay in front of.

Some of these issues and start to identify them early on in the process. And so I would say that’s a little bit more tactical. Yeah. But it is really important to, to the growth of the business. And we have [00:22:00] now a very regular cadence of quarterly offsite strategic planning. Mm-hmm. So every week is pretty tactical.

Yep. But we make a commitment a couple of weeks before every quarterly board meeting to get off. For a day and a half, two days, do something fun and do some really good strategic planning where we can say, those time limitations I put on every meeting are off. Yeah. You know, and let’s just, let’s just get deep on these issues.

And, and 

Toph: what, what, what have you found worked for those offsite leadership team meetings? What, what is, uh, what did you try that you’re like, uh, that kind didn’t work, that was a whiff. And then, and then what were you like, oh, my, We didn’t know that was gonna be so powerful. 

Steve: Any examples? Yeah, I think, I think the, the time together is so important.

And so we were, we were playing, so I’ve got a couple of senior leaders in Chicago and, and some of the senior leaders are here with me in Indianapolis and early on f when we brought everybody together in Indianapolis, and maybe we went to, you know, um, well maybe we were getting offsite but not offsite.

Mm-hmm. And I was [00:23:00] going home in the evening. My, my indie execs were going home in the evening. We missed. Yeah, we missed out on that time after dinner. Hanging out. Yep. After dinner. Going and playing pool or after dinner? Going bowling or just sitting around and, and talking. Because again, that was think, think about back in the gateway days, I lived in North Sioux City, South Dakota.

There is nothing in North Sioux City, South Dakota, but we lived in Dakota Dunes, which is this really beautiful golf course. And we went to each other’s homes and, and so, and I, you know, people talk about work-life balance. There was no work-life balance. It was just life. Mm-hmm. Yeah. And, and we, we worked at Gateway during the day and we, we drank Gateway at night.

We ate Gateway, we talked Gateway, we smoked gateway cigars. I mean, this is what we did. We just hung out and, and chatted about the future and about the business, and I. That’s what we were missing when everybody was going off to their homes. And so now, you know, we went to French Lick. Now we’re, we’re all going up to Chicago and we’re going off to a hotel.

And [00:24:00] even, even the people who are, who live in Chicago are gonna stay at the, at the hotel in Chicago. And I’m dragging them to a White Sox game. I love it. I love that. Everyone’s like, can’t we go to a Cubs game? No. That’s your team. Huh? That’s awesome. Oh yeah. I love that. I love that. But again, it gets back to my roots.

It’s a chip on your shoulder team. Sure. You know, I absolutely, I grew up in a small town, little chip on my shoulder, you know. And so the White Sox makes sense for me. The Cubs are Chicago’s town, right? They’re the, they’re the darlings. It’s um, it’s the White Sox for me. Yeah. I love that. 

Matt: Uh, quick break from our normal programming.

I have Erica Schwer, COO from Elevate Ventures here in the studio today. Erica, thanks for being here. Yeah, thanks for having me. And you’re gonna tell us a little bit about this Rally innovation conference that’s coming up? 

Steve: Yep. So it’s the largest cross-sector innovation conference in the world. Um, we’re gonna feature six innovation studios, so think Hard Tech.

Sports tech, agon, food, healthcare, and entrepreneurship’s gonna 

Matt: kinda be our catchall. I love that. Tell me what is, who’s it for? [00:25:00] 

Steve: Yeah, it’s for innovators, entrepreneurs, investors, honestly, anybody probably listening to this 

Matt: podcast. And it’s gonna be a multi-day thing that’s happening multi-day in downtown Indianapolis.

Yep. People coming in from all over the country and maybe even all over the world to be here. That’s our 

Steve: hope. Yep. And the dates are actually August 

Matt: 29th to the 31st. Perfect. And if people want to find out more information about speakers, tickets, things like that, where can they go? 

Steve: Yeah, so they just go to rally and sign up for communications, and they can also get their tickets.

Matt: I. You heard it here, rally We’ll see you there. Well, I, um, I’m, I’m curious, uh, just thinking about kind of that transition to one cause, You could have probably done any number of things after PricewaterhouseCoopers, after Gateway. And I, I know you, uh, launched an accelerator and, and, and kind of plugged it in into the music industry.

Uh, maybe you could kinda help close that gap for us of how you ended up taking a CEO job at one Cause a couple years into the business, uh, from kind of going, going through [00:26:00] that whole music industry. 

Steve: Yeah. Ha hap happy to do that. I started this industry accelerator together with Rick Snyder and a couple of other partners, and we grew that pretty well, but we had to survive two years, 2001 in 2008.

Mm-hmm. We started the business in 2000 and got hammered the next year in 2001. Yeah. Then, then the recession of 2008 came just when we were looking at maybe doing, you know, raising another fund and, and, and, and doing something. So we all kind of went our separate ways and it was, it was pretty much of a break even.

Mm-hmm. But I think it was a win from a net net basis having survived 2001, having survived 2008. Yeah. You know, be before, before the pandemic there, there was. We had a really great run. We had a really great run. There were 10 years maybe, where people just thought the, the only thing, the only direction was up to the right.

Hey. Doesn’t always happen that way. Yeah. Unfortunately not. Wait, what? You serious? I know. This is all like lessons for Nate. Yeah. [00:27:00] So, so what did you learn during 

Matt: those? 

Steve: Yeah. Do we have another hour? Yeah. But, but I think the, the primary learning from that was always have a plan B. Mm-hmm. You know, like you can get really excited about like plan.

But always plan for, yeah, plan B, maybe plan C. And I think, again, we’ve carried that lesson forward. And, and again, the pandemic really helped us understand that as well. So let me kind of jump forward to, to one cause because it, it, it is a story that I want to tell. Yeah. And it was called Bid Pal at the time.

Mm-hmm. And, and it, but it starts about a year prior and it was about 2013. And I, to your point, I was, I had a great career. I was doing all kinds of really cool things. Really fun. The kids were now gone. We were empty nesting. I was just hitting 50. It was maybe weighing on me a little bit. So I was in this funk.

Mm. And I didn’t know what was bothering me. I didn’t know what it was. And I was reading an A Wired magazine article with Bill Gates and Bill Clinton on the cover. And the story was how they [00:28:00] were using their power and influence and wealth in their first careers to do good in their second careers. And I literally, I was on the beach with my wife and I literally put it down and I said that, That’s what I’m missing.

It’s impact, it’s mission, it’s purpose. That is what’s missing from my professional life. Mm-hmm. Eh, because the, my why before that was my kids. And I’m sure that you Yep. You understand that. Yeah. And, and it was, it was what drove me. It was what drove me to create wealth to, to, to create income, to, to create a better.

For these kids. And then they were set, they were gone. They were on their own. They were doing great. It’s like now what? I think maybe it was like, now what? Yeah. And, and it took a year later and Don Equiano, who you guys all know, um, came to Chicago and we had lunch and he started telling me this story about a company that he was on the board of that was seeking a, a new ceo.

And he was talk. And it was funny though, they had a portfolio company in Chicago, Uhhuh, [00:29:00] which I thought he was coming to talk to me about. And I’m like, this is cool. Yeah, I’m gonna walk to work. You know? Cause we were living in River North, we were living in the city at that point in time and he was ascribing the company.

And I was, that doesn’t sound like that company that I read about last night. And uh, but it was about serving nonprofits. Yeah. Thousands of nonprofits were now several thousands of nonprofits doing good. Helping them raise money with software and with technology, which was, you know, part of my DNA at that point in time.

Yeah. And you know, of course I had to keep it cool through lunch, but you know, I came away like, okay, this is it. Like I have to do that. Yeah. And so that was, that came a year. That came a year later, and I think that. When you decide or define what you want to do next, then you’re able to see it when it cro comes across your radar.

If you don’t, you may miss it. Yeah. Mm-hmm. And so it was really important for me to have already established what I was missing and what I was looking for. Because when that opportunity came, I knew to grab it. I, I knew that that’s what I needed. How, how did Don find [00:30:00] you? Uh, actually Don found me through one of my former partners with the Venture Accelerator, so, got it.

His name is Chris Rizk. He is, he run, runs Renaissance up in Detroit. Yep. And Renaissance is an LP of both Don’s Fund Allos and MK Capital, which is the other venture investor in, in, uh, one. And so I had reached out to Chris just letting him know I was, I was kind of looking for a new opportunity and he had reached out to Don and he made the contact.


Matt: those that don’t know, Don Aqua, partner at Allos Ventures, founding partner at Allos Ventures, uh, one of the more active VC funds throughout the Midwest. Um, really just amazing guy, key player in the entire ecosystem. Um, so it’s amazing that you got linked up with him and, and that spark led to you joining one.

Steve: It, it, it really is amazing and, and again, he continued to be that person for me on the board and, and, and, and Marula George as well. I, I have, I have never had a more supportive. [00:31:00] Board to, to look to, and I was on, in my venture accelerator, I was probably on a dozen boards. Mm-hmm. And so I know what it, I know what it’s like to be a good board member.

Yeah. Good board to bad board. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I, I’ve seen, I’ve seen bad board members and I’ve tried to be a good, I’ve tried to be a good board member. Could, 

Matt: could maybe share some of the, the things that you do and that you’ve appreciated from other great board members. 

Steve: Yes. So again, I, I would say that number one, um, there is nobody who knows the business better than me, the ceo.

And I think you need to respect that. Mm-hmm. But also you as a board member, bring all of this other outside experience, having seen it 10 times or 20 times in your portfolio. Wh which I might not have seen yet. So I know my business, but you may have seen the specific issue that I’m facing 20 times.

Mm-hmm. And so as a C E O, you have to be open to hearing. That there are other ways of, of looking at it. And so when I serve on a board, I always try and say, well, based on our experience, or based on my experience, I don’t wanna say [00:32:00] this is the way it is for you, but I want to say this is, this is the way it was for me in my experience.

Toph: I think what you just said is so powerful. Uh, so eo, I, if you heard EO or YPO o wpo, that whole organization of entrepreneurs, um, they use this con the concept called guest alt and it’s experience. Not advice giving because it’s, it’s so easy for advice to come off as, as, uh, preachy in antagonistic, preachy.

Right, right. Adversarial. And when you, when you, when you put forth ideas from based on experience, then the, the correlation of whatever’s happening in the company is like, oh, okay. We could do x It’s it’s magic. Right. Takes it to one 

Steve: other level. Right. And the CEO can do, he can make that connection and just say, oh, yeah, I, I get it now.

I’m making that connection. Yep. Yeah. I love that. I, I 

Matt: had a, a founder friend, uh, max Yoder, you guys both know it. Max, uh, he, he always kind of described to me this idea of like, Share sharing through experience is [00:33:00] this idea of like, I’m just gonna put this here on the table, and if you want to pick it up, that’s great.

If not, you weren’t gonna get it anyway. If even if I said do this, you weren’t gonna pick it up and run with it anyway. So that, that sort of, for me, that visual of like, I’m just gonna set this here. It it’s your gift if you would like to 

Steve: pick it up. And, and that is such a great example. And, and, and again, then you have to be aware.

To say, oh, you know, that’s a, that’s a good nugget. Yeah. And sometimes you don’t get it right away. Right. You know, and you gotta suffer a little bit more. You gotta suffer a little bit. And then, and then your board member remind you, remember that thing I put on the table? You might wanna pick that up now a year ago.

I think 

Nate: that leads, leads back to like your original point on storytelling, right? Like how you can frame. E even if you’re delivering the same message, you know, like it’s, at the end of the day, the advice is still there, but like telling someone and, and like directing them to do it versus like this experience and story and my three bullet points and [00:34:00] it’s yours.

If you want to take an action, like people can really, really resonate 


Steve: that. You’re so right Nate. I, I was actually thinking about that when TOF was describing it. It was, I’m gonna tell you a story and I’m gonna relay an experience that I have had and hopefully you can see some value in that or some relevancy in that, but, It’s telling that story.

Do you have 

Nate: advice for, let’s say, ceo, that maybe their board members don’t tell stories? They, they give them the more you know, Hey, this is, this is what I think, this is what you need to do. 

Toph: Or, or just take pot shots with no solutions. Yeah. Or, or 

Nate: that either Never. Do you have advice for. Yeah. Do you have advice for CEOs that might be in, in the seat that they don’t have the great board members that are 


Steve: I, I, I do. So maybe, maybe it’s twofold cause I just thought of another one. But I, I would say definitely create your own kind of informal network of advisors and so make sure that you have a support network, if it’s others. So I was involved in a group of CEOs who were in the software industry, supporting nonprofits, and we got together every once in a while, shared best practices.

[00:35:00] Shared ideas, because. Sometimes being a CEO is a little bit lonely. You A little bit. Okay. You’re right. It’s very lonely. And I, I, I have the, I, I’m the good fortune of having a wife who is, um, smart, uh, listens to me, uh, is a confidant who is probably should be running a company because based on her knowledge, you know, I, I, I think that, that she could, but I have a confidence.

So I’d say create, create a network. Of of people that, that you, you can go to for advice and, and, and create a CEO network of your own. The other thing I would say, and, and this is, um, I, which is what I tell my executives as well. You know, if, if my executives are saying, Hey, you know, I’m really not getting through to that other person, or we’re really not seeing eye to eye on the certain, uh, issue said, have you had a beer together?

Mm-hmm. You know, and again, you can take it metaphorically or you can take it literally. Right. Like I will say like, you can go have a beer or just, just go have a coffee. Yeah. [00:36:00] But so I would say go ask that board member to lunch. Ask that board member to breakfast. Ask that board member to coffee, get out of the board.

room And have a conversation about as people and, and again, um, I’m, I’m, I see this beautiful cover of the, of the book here, and I have to, to think about, yeah, there’s, there’s a chapter, little shameless plug. There’s a, there’s not shameless at all. There’s a chapter in there, chapter 15. It’s my favorite. It’s called Connect And, and what I’m, what I’m reminding everyone in the kind of leadership lessons.

The pandemic took away a lot of things, but what it took away was human connection. In human connection. I talk about family, I talk about your, your immediate family. I talk the extend extended family of one cause nation and how we missed each other through this period of time. I talk about friends and friendship and, and just being able to hang out with people.

And I also talk a little bit about, um, I, I think it’s called like Celebrate Life. Yeah. Death came to us in the pandemic [00:37:00] and we couldn’t celebrate it. We couldn’t be with people and it, it, it, it, it accelerated the, the, the down, the downward. I know that it accelerated the downward spiral of my dad’s, um, dementia because of that separation, because of that lack of human connection.

I am always about get together as human beings. We’re meant to connect as human beings. Physiologically. We’re meant to connect as human beings. Let’s, and, and I think we’re gonna have issues for years and, you know, it’s not a, a big, big idea that I have. We’re gonna have issues for years. Yeah. Mental health issues that we’re.

Gonna, that are coming out of that lack of connection. We were taught, we were taught during the pandemic to avoid people. Yeah. I mean, imagine that like here comes some people, you’re walking out in your neighborhood. Here comes some people walking down the sidewalk. Let’s cross the streets so we don’t cross each other because they’re not wearing masks.

Right. Or you’re not wearing a mask. We were taught, and we were teaching our kids to avoid people. 

Toph: Yep. That’s got, that’s grip of [00:38:00] effects. And, and and they’re closest. Yeah. They’re they’re, they’re closest. They’re grandparents are, right? They’re, they’re, they’re 

Nate: so, so talking about connections, right? Like OneCause is a company and you guys serve nonprofits and a big part of that are galas and events where tons of connections are made.

Global pandemic happens. A lot of connections being made in person. Right? Tell me about that. Where, where you’re running a business that’s helping with these events and all of a sudden there’s no events. What do you guys do? 

Steve: I know, man, I, I, I can’t tell, you know, again, that, that’s like, it, it leaves me speechless today just thinking about it.

Mm-hmm. On that week, that was Friday, March 13th, and, uh, going into Saturday, March 14th, 2020, in-person events went away. We had 2100 scheduled in-person events for that spring. They went to zero overnight, 180, overnight, 120, 100. Wow. Overnight they went to zero. So we had to, and, and thank goodness we had a really strong kind of end of February, [00:39:00] early March.

So there had been a lot of fundraising before that. So we had a little bit of capital built up. So the first thing that we had to do, obviously, is to make sure we put our masks on first. Yeah. And make sure that we stabilize the company and made sure that there was viability in the company. And then we had to go to go to.

work We had to go to work reaching out to those nonprofits and saying, Hey, we know what happened. Um, and so let’s go virtual, let’s go online. Let’s reschedule it. Let’s figure this out. Because there was, there was never an answer that was like, we’re just not gonna do fundraising this year, because they need that fundraising to, to fund their mission for the year.

Yeah. And so there, it wasn’t an option to not fundraise. And so what we found and what our customers. Is that our technology solution? Thank goodness. I won’t knock on the table because the mic sound. Yeah, but knock on wood, thank goodness we were mobile first to begin with. We were native. We were, we were a progressive mobile app.

We weren’t a native mobile app, but we were a na, uh, pro progressive mobile app that you used your phone to bid and to give. And [00:40:00] so nonprofits were bringing us into the ballrooms with 500 people, a thousand. people They were just walking around the ballroom using their phone Yep. To bid. Well, they can use their phone to bid at home.

Yeah. In their kitchen, in their living room, in their basement. And they did, and, and nonprofits got into rooms like this and broadcast on, uh, YouTube or on on Twitch. And early on we had two screen experiences where you could bid on our application and watch the live or watch the livestream video on Twitch or.

And then ultimately we built a one screen experience, uh, that we released in September of 2020. And that has become now the foundation for our, the fundraising platform that we just released. And so it was about shifting, changing. I’m trying to avoid using the word pivot cuz I’m okay with pivot, but I know that some people don’t like the word, but I just said you word, I just said it.

Toph: Pivot pivot’s not necessarily like a negative word. Like some people think it’s a negative thing. I’m like, why? Why [00:41:00] is that a negative thing? I don’t know. Because you’re learning and changing and adopting and adapting and 

Steve: I’m, I’m with you Toph. We did pivot. Yeah, we pivoted like hard. Yeah, like that moment.

Did you actually gain a lot 

Toph: more customers because your ability to 

Steve: have virtual events? We, our customer base grew by 35%. There you go. In 2020, right? Yeah. I mean, the soft, the software just took off because in, in our world, you know, in the non-profit world, there’s a lot of paper. Mm-hmm. Paper checks and, and in the asylum auction world, it’s paper bid sheets.

And so you’ve, you’ve probably been to those galas where they have the Yep. Multiple layer forms and they tear off the top, and that’s a paper bid sheet. That’s what we replaced. There were still a large number of organizations who had not made the move to do, and then you had to track them down to collect the money.

Yeah, exactly. Exactly. Yeah, because it’s just a piece, it’s just a piece of paper with, with writing on it. And so, What we were able to do is capture those nonprofits who thought I didn’t, I’m never gonna need technology. All of a sudden they needed technology. So we were part of this digital transformation that occurred in so many industries.

And so [00:42:00] what what’s happening now is because we grew our customer base so strongly in 20 21, 22, we’re beginning to see the benefits of that. It’s just, you know, we’re just increasing that base of customers and then monetizing. Through more events, larger events, more uh, donations and generosity coming through that.

And so that’s what we see in 2023, and that’s what we, you know, really hope. That’s what we see early on and that’s what we see hope. That’s what we hope, uh, we see. Continue. 

Matt: Thinking back to March of 2020, Steve, um, you know, world shuts down, you have 2100 live events, go to zero. Um, what were some of those key things that you did as a leader that helped kind of rally the.

Steve: So immediately it’s all hands. So it’s communication. Yeah. And transparent communication and communicate often because you can’t have people, uh, sitting at home ringing their hands wondering what’s next. Yeah. So what we, what we did, we had, well, we probably had about maybe 150 people in the [00:43:00] company, maybe half of which, uh, or maybe a little bit more were of that were in Indy Indie.

And so of course we all went home on March 16th, March 17th, when, when everyone went. Now what do you do? You, you, we had just established this beautiful set of values that we were building and culture and you know, just kind of creating that office culture. And that just evaporated. That just went away.

Yeah. And so it was, let’s get together, let’s communicate early and often and, and through that first communication is really the genesis of fearless. Mm-hmm. So in that communication, I said Basical. Our, our journey back is not gonna be measured on a calendar. I’m not gonna say in September we’re gonna be good.

So, you know, everything goes back to normal. I don’t know. So the only way that we’re gonna be able to measure our, our journey back is it is it will be measured by how our customers get back to fundraising. And so the only way that you’re gonna know that is if I communicate that. And I’m gonna commit to you to communicate, you know, kind of dot, dot dot [00:44:00] weekly, and that was the beginning of sitting down April 2nd or the first week of April or something and saying, Hey, how’s it going?

Like, here’s the first of my weekly updates. Yeah. And that’s how, that’s, you know, so I didn’t sit down to write a book. I call myself the accidental author. I love that. Good alliteration. Yes. My dad would be happy. Yes. So I call myself the accidental author because what I did was I sat down to write a weekly update, my first weekly, weekly update, and then I wrote another one, and then I wrote another one, and then it just became a success.

Of weekly updates and they did start to take shape and form the, the, the beautiful lotus flower. On the front of the book is an, an illustration that I used maybe on my second or third, maybe my third update. And, and I was being, I was being pretty factual, the first couple of updates. Cause I really hadn’t found my, kind of, my, my, my voice yet, my groove yet.

And I was doing my morning mindfulness and, and, and calm map. [00:45:00] And I heard the. And that story is about the, from, from ancient Buddhism, uh, the, the lotus bud in the mud, in the muck and mire of the pond, and making its journey through the mud and through the pond, and finally emerging at the top of the pond as this beautiful white flower.

Mm-hmm. And the bud symbolizing potential and the flower symbolizing the resilience and the beauty and the transformation. Of that bud and I, and I said, wow, this is a story that I need to retell to my team because right now we are in the mud. Mm. We are in the mud. And, and we can’t, like if we looked up, we couldn’t even see through the pond.

Right. We were in the pond. Yeah, absolutely. And so, but, but I wanna say that I wanted to create this vision that we could become this beautiful lotus flower sitting on, on the, the surface of the pond. And so that really was the. Update that. I used this illustration and to kind of tell a story of how we have this way [00:46:00] back and, but I also was pretty honest, uh, very honest and, and and authentic in saying, I don’t know how we’re going to get there.

I don’t have the solution. There is not a playbook that I’m, that I’m taking. I love that, creating that. I love that. And so let’s do it together. 

Nate: Everyone preaches. You hear authenticity, so important. Be authentic. What’s your advice to people out there, to leaders that want to lead authentically? 

Steve: Right? So, you know, it’s just be true, be true to yourself.

Be be true to who you are. Uh, tell the truth. Um, and, and, and, and so again, I think that as I, as I look at that we were in a situation where there, where, where there were no answers to to be had. Mm-hmm. And if I would’ve gotten up and. said I’ve got all the answers. Don’t worry. I’m your leader. Just follow me.

I’ve got it. Okay. Everyone would’ve known that I wasn’t being truthful and I wasn’t being authentic. And so the, the, the thing that you do there is you kind of take inventory and you say, Yes. This is what I know. This is [00:47:00] what I don’t know, but I will commit to you. I will commit to you that if we work together, we will do this.

We will get through it. We will find a way, we’ll find a way through the mud, through the pond, up to the surface. I love 

Matt: that. Uh, you mentioned the lotus flower. It’s like some companies have a north star. You have a north flower. Yes. And, and that, that visual is so powerful. Um, what was, what were some of the responses to that note in some of the other notes that you.

Steve: They really became my fuel, Matt. Mm-hmm. I really appreciate the, the, the opportunity to talk about that. And we, we, we, we, that’s why we included some testimonials from some one Causers in the book as well. So I would be essentially writing this letter to everyone and asking for a response sometimes, like, tell me how you’re feeling.

Mm-hmm. Or are you with me? And sometimes not just like, there it is, you. You know, kind of stay fearless. Steve and I would get these messages back. Thank you so much [00:48:00] for that update. I was waiting for it. You knew what I was thinking. How did you know what I was thinking? It’s what I needed to get through to the next week, and that was my fuel that kept me going because, you know, honestly week after week after week, it, it took a lot.

It was pretty draining and, and not everything. Not everything that I. Made it to the book because we took out a lot of confidential information. Sure. Every week I put together, uh, details on the number of events that we did, the type of those events and the, the total proceeds that were coming from those events.

Wow. To see how that was tracking, and that was a big undertaking. I did that every week. That’s not in the book. Yeah. And so that it, it, there was a lot of energy that was expended on that. And, and every once in a while I’d think, you know, maybe, maybe it’s time, maybe I, it’s time that I would stop and then I would get one of these amazing emails back from somebody on the team.

I said, I can’t stop. I have to keep going. Yeah. I did finally stop, uh, about maybe second [00:49:00] quarter of 2020. It was just like, okay, yeah. You guys 

Matt: got it. Yeah. That’s great. Take take the training 

Steve: wheels off, take the training wheels off. You 

Matt: got it. What, what were some of the unexpected benefits that you noticed from just developing a writing practice like this where you didn’t know you were writing a book, but you knew you were writing something each week?

Um, did you have anything that was unexpected that you benefited from? Just from having a writing practice 

Steve: as a ceo. So maybe what I did is I developed. Better point of view. Mm. And a different perspective of myself as a leader. And I began to define again, what I, what it was that I believed in and, um, and was able to communicate to others.

And so I think, again, we’ve been talking a little bit about lessons for CEOs or lessons for leaders. Define who you are and what you believe in. Yeah. I, I have in my career, taken a blank sheet of paper, wrote the word I believe. And just, and just write one through 30, whatever it is. What do you believe?

What do you [00:50:00] stand for? And, and, uh, and, and, and so I think, you know, developing a point of view was, was really important. The other thing that, that, that I was able to do was keep culture intact. Mm-hmm. And so it was very, very hard. And so it became this tether of culture, this, this one kind of touchpoint that everyone could get every week and see.

The, the, the message that was coming from me and where we were going, how, how I was feeling, and again, providing a, a, a foundation for everyone to, no one understand. I, I think probably, you know, that there was probably more CEO co uh, communication during that period of time than in pre covid or post covid.

Yeah. They, they heard from me every week. Yeah. I think that these, 

Toph: talking about writing it down r r right. I. It’s so critical. There, there are a lot of, I, there’s a lot of people out there who watch someone like you as a successful ceo and they’re like, well, Steve just has it. He just, he just has it together and I’m not Steve and so I suck.

I’m a failure. Right? They don’t see [00:51:00] Steve writing down what he believes behind the scenes at night, at two in the morning or whenever and rewriting it and rewriting it and rewriting it. 

Steve: In one of the updates of my book, I share that exact. It starts with, this isn’t the first draft of this update. I want to tell you what just happened.

Yeah. I spent several hours putting together a first draft. And I looked at it and I read it and I was horrified. Yeah. And I threw it away. Yeah. That sucks. And, and, and it was, and it was not constructive. And it, it was, it was more venting. I was angry at something that was happening in the country and the world, and I was writing about it.

And it was not for the company, it was for my own personal edification and gratification. It was, it made me feel better, but it didn’t tell a story. It didn’t make anyone else feel better. And I. I’m sorry that I did that. I tore it up and I started. And so I know exactly what you’re saying because, and everyone else [00:52:00] does too, because they know that it wasn’t perfect from the very beginning, that it was, it was not worth publishing, and it didn’t get published, it, it got deleted.

Well, I, I 

Matt: really appreciate, uh, just your transparency, Steve, uh, how authentically you lead, you share these stories. You, you write in. Fearless, which I highly recommend people pick up. Um, I’ve got my copy. Um, thank you Steve. You’re welcome. And, um, I’m, I’m just so, I so admire what you’ve built with one cause.

You know, every year we’ve had the Powderkeg tech companies awards for best company culture. You have won several awards in several categories. Uh, and when I say you as a collective, you Yes. Cause I know it’s, it’s all the one causers who are coming together and, and following your. Um, but I just wanna say thank you for coming and sharing a little bit about this.

I really hope people pick up the book Fearless. Um, and I just wanna say thanks. 

Steve: Well, first of all, you’re welcome, but thank you for having me. It’s, it’s been an honor and, and a privilege to [00:53:00] be able to just kind of share. I love talking about the background. I love talking about gateway days. That was really fun too.

Yeah. Uh, about one cause in, again, particularly about fearless it, it is just, I’ve heard, already heard many, many, uh, stories from my. And how we feel so blessed and so fortunate to have this record of the two years that we spent during the pandemic. And there’s one, there’s one portion in there that I do, I do wanna bring attention to.

I think it was maybe April of 2020. And it was a list. And I said, I promise you that we will do the following things. And it was shake hands, go to a movie, get a haircut, go on a date, go to church like these. And you look at that list and you say, we weren’t doing those things. Yeah. It’s when you, when you look back at that, it’s a crazy time capsule.

It is super emotional to see what we were going through. And I’ve, I’ve already gotten that type of feedback from my team. It’s just like, I kind of forgot Steve. Like Yeah. And that’s, I [00:54:00] think what we do as human beings. So, We leave some of the bad stuff behind. Yeah. And so it, it’s a, it’s a good reminder.

Well, not so, not so fast, 

Nate: Steve. You’re not getting outta here without the lightning round. Oh, yes. At the end of every episode, we, uh, we go through a, a couple quick questions. Lightning. So I got the feedback that our lightning round should actually be lightning. So, okay. Now to our usual three questions we have outside of the amazing entrepreneurs.

What is Indiana known 

Steve: for? Well, I’ll tell you based on my experience last Saturday. In Indiana is known for robotics. Oh. Oh, I love it. Oh, what’s the story there? They, the Indiana State Robotics Championship was held at Lucas Oil on Saturday, uh, for kids. I saw kids, uh, from elementary through high school.

It was mind blowing. It was so amazing. There are future leaders coming from that. I love that. That’s, 

Nate: that’s great. Robotics. Okay. What is one hidden gem in Indiana? 

Steve: I’m an outsider. I [00:55:00] came down here from Chicago, so I don’t know. Probably as well as you guys know, so, so I’m probably not qualified to give you a hidden gem, but let me tell you, can I switch it up on you and tell you here are some things that, that we found that we think are just gems and they’re not hidden.

Yep. I think a gem in this town is Newfields It is gorgeous. I can’t believe that it’s right there. I mean, my daughter lives maybe, uh, less than a mile away from from it. It is a gem. The indoor display, the outdoor grounds I is, is a gem Newfields Here’s another gem victory field in downtown Indianapolis where the Indianapolis Indians play.

I don’t know if people in, in, in Indianapolis or Indiana understand how lucky they are to have a, a, a baseball field, a professional baseball field in the middle of their city. It is superb Yeah, absolutely. 

Nate: Opening day is Friday. It’s looking like it might get rained out. Yeah, obviously. But whenever we post this opening, 

Steve: but again, I mean, think, think about summer, evening, hot summer, evening.

Uh, it is spectacular. 

Nate: Thursday night [00:56:00] beer specials there for anyone that wants to enjoy. Yeah. There it’s got the insides. 

Steve: There’s some good stuff there. Okay. Last, am I being lightning enough? You are lightning. Uh, last 

Nate: question. Who is someone that we need to keep on our radar? Someone doing something 

Steve: big.

Wow. Okay. So. I’m trying to stay lightning. So I, I don’t have a specific name for you, but I’m gonna harken back to my comment on Indiana Robotics. Somebody in that room is gonna do something big. And so what it made me feel like is, you know, you, you, when you’re watching a professional baseball game and they show a picture of that kid when they were in little league.

Yeah. You know, before they ever were even de determined to be like a superstar. There are superstars in that. So, I’m sorry I don’t have a name for you, but look for future leaders coming from that robotics program. They’re learning communication, they’re learning competition, but collaborative and cooperate cooperation competition.

They use the word alliance when they [00:57:00] compete. There’s something special going on there. 

Matt: I think that’s a, a great answer and perfect, perfect. Mic drop moment. Please don’t drop your mic. Uh, perfect. Mic drop moment to, uh, end the episode. Absolutely. Steve, thanks so much for You’re welcome. Thank you. Sharing your story.

Congrats on all the momentum with one cause. Congrats on all the momentum with the Fearless book. Um, it’s wonderful and thanks for sharing your 

Steve: story. Appreciate it. Thanks for having me. Thank you Steve. Thank you. Nice to see you. 

Matt: This has been get in a Powderkeg production in partnership with Elevate Ventures and we wanna hear from.

If you have suggestions for a guest or segment, reach out to Matt or Nate on LinkedIn or on email to discover top tier tech companies outside of Silicon Valley in hubs like Indiana. Check out our slash newsletter and to apply for membership to the powderkeg executive community, check out

We’ll catch you next time and next week as we continue to help the world get in. Since you just listened to this podcast, [00:58:00] you might be thinking about starting one for your company. Lucky for you. Our partners over at Casted have you covered. Casted is the first and only podcast and video marketing platform.

Made specifically for B2B brands. I love this about them. The platform makes it possible to publish, syndicate, amplify, and measure the value of your podcast and video content. In fact, we use it for our podcast here at Powderkeg, and if you’re a startup, you should listen up because caci for Startups is definitely for you.

They are offering exclusive deep. Of up to 82% off retail price for qualifying startups. Connect with casted at