Now Available: Our Origin Story in “The Introspective Entrepreneur”

The Introspective Entrepreneur book cover

Almost four years ago, I was sitting at my desk at work in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle, and I made the decision to go for it: I logged into my GoDaddy account and I purchased this domain, dataliteracy.com. The growing awareness of the massive data knowledge and skill gap in every industry compelled me to take this step.

I knew that this decision would set in motion a series of actions and events that would culminate in me doing something that seemed very scary to me at the time: walking away from a very good job to start a business from the ground-up.

Stepping away from the secure to the unknown, from the bi-weekly paycheck and employer-provided health benefits to…well, to a lack of both of those things.

It worked. Starting on that day, I began pulling together everything I could, I hustled, I worked evenings, I shook off the sweat-drenched, sleepless nights, I fought back the demons of doubt. And then, on December 4, 2018, I opened the doors: no investors, no funding, no customers. This is the story of the portion of my journey that started with the decision to buy a URL, and ended when I sent the manuscript of this journal to my book producer on October 13, 2021, the day that me and my small team hit $1M in cumulative sales.

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Now, I realize that in the grand scheme of things, this revenue number is very small, and so is our team. The impact we have been able to make thus far hasn’t come close to closing the gap that exists out there – one that we simply can’t close alone. But I believe we have created a foundation upon which we can continue to build, and I’m looking forward to seeing where it all goes.

When I say “we,” I mean my co-founder and wife, Becky Jones, who left her career at Amazon exactly one year after I left Tableau to become COO. I also mean Megan Hanno, who stepped away from her responsibilities as community manager at Industrious HQ to run operations for us, which entails wearing too many hats to count. And I mean amazingly talented contractors and vendors like Anna-Maria Steverson & Susan Gracia who lead live training courses, Mike Sayenko of Sayenko Design whose team built and maintains our website, Kelsey O’Donnell who has provided excellent design input all along, Lorie DeWorken of Mind the Margins who has produced all of our books to date, Caleb Mattingly at Secured Cloud Innovations who helped us build infosec policies and procedures so we can grow securely, and so many others.

We are self-funded, but we are not only self-motivated. We are motivated by the tens of thousands of people who have taken our courses and bought our books and joined our webinars and follow our social accounts. We are motivated by others in the data literacy movement like Valerie Logan of The Data Lodge and the dynamic duo of Allen Hillery and Sarah Nell-Rodriguez of Be Data Lit and Courtney Totten who runs Academic Programs at Tableau, and many others who are nudging and pushing us all forward.

Life is interesting, though, isn’t it? When we’re focused on one thing, other things tend to happen, and our perspective can shift very quickly. In this book, I share those personal details that weren’t just part of the origin story of this business, they were the main plot. Wedding bells, cancer, Parkinson’s, a pandemic. When those dramatic life moments and major world events unfold, our careers can seem very small and insignificant. Keeping momentum can be a challenge, and sometimes things can grind to a complete halt.

Thankfully, in spite of some tough challenges, we have been able to keep things moving. In this book, I share some of the lessons I learned along the way, and I share some of the sources of wisdom that guided me step by step. There have been plenty of missteps, and plenty of errors, but that’s life, and that’s how we grow. If you’re looking to take a big leap in your life, I hope you pick up a copy of this book, and I hope that it helps you in some small way.

An Immigrant’s Story

A key part of my story, and of my father’s story before me, is that we are both immigrants. In 1986, my family moved to the Los Angeles area from Toronto when I was 8 years old, and shortly thereafter my dad started his company, Bethany Computer Systems. In the middle of writing this book, I obtained my U.S. citizenship, which was an exciting and pivotal moment for me. Being an immigrant entrepreneur is a wonderful thing, and I know that many others are seeking to go this route also.

Now, my whole family may have faced many challenges going this route, but as a white family that was already fluent in English (eh?), we did not face the challenges that many other immigrants face. My hope is that other immigrants, especially those who have had to overcome systemic biases in my home country, will find hope and support in their own journey. As for Data Literacy, we awarded three individuals the first ever Data Literacy Immigrant Spirit Scholarship recently, and we’ll be on the lookout for more ways to help them get a jump start!

Okay, that’s all for now! Thanks for reading, and all the best to you in 2022 and beyond.

Ben