Today I’m interviewing Bradley Jacobs, the Founder and CEO of Mylance, a start-up providing top talent with the resources and tools they need to build their own independent consulting business. Founded in late 2019, Mylance helps the growing population of freelancers and consultants, predicted to reach 90 million and bring $1.4T in gross revenue by 2028, spend less time on admin like bookkeeping or finding new projects, and more time bringing value to their clients.
Tell us a little bit about your background and how you got here.
I graduated from Duke in 2012 with a degree in Mechanical Engineering, and took my first job in Management Consulting working for a boutique firm called Kaiser Associates based in the D.C. area. I joined Uber in 2014, where I started on the Rides business managing 9 markets in the North Carolinas for two years. I then moved to UberEATS where I launched Miami and Milan. I then moved out to San Francisco to launch the Uber Freight business and ended up managing their Carrier Operations team for two years. I left Uber in 2018 and started consulting for myself, working part-time with Seed through Series A companies. I learned I could deliver a ton of value to these companies, be fulfilled in my work, and make great money. I was averaging about $20,000 per month, and I could work on my own terms. It showed me what was possible on the freelance/consulting side with a skilled background, and opened my eyes up to an entirely new way of “working.” It also showed me how many friends and colleagues were interested in doing this for themselves, and that’s why I started Mylance — to help talented professionals with good experience and a great skill set consult for themselves. We started about a year ago and we just crossed $50k in revenue.
Was there a particular experience that made you think “I need to do this now”?
I had worked in three different business lines at Uber that I helped get to well over $1B in value. They asked me to go launch another business line called Uber Works at that time. I seriously considered it — I interviewed for the role, got the offer and I was really thinking about doing it until it dawned on me: I could be potentially launching another billion-dollar business line for Uber. And I thought… I have to do this for myself at some point. I had always wanted to start a company and I had learned what I was capable of — at least launching these business lines within Uber — and I had to just see if I could do this for myself. So I quit. I didn’t know exactly what the business would be or what I wanted to do, so I started consulting myself. I worked part-time, made good money, and it allowed me the time to test different business ideas along the way until I settled on Mylance.
So would you say that during your time as a freelancer/consultant, you had a bit more time to overcome the fears of becoming an entrepreneur?
Absolutely — because you’re essentially an entrepreneur in a very different way. As an independent consultant I had to set my price, manage my books, deal with business taxes — everything related to my LLC... When I quit, I had no idea what I was going to do so that was a big leap into an unknown. I had imposter syndrome like any entrepreneur faces. But I proved to myself I could work for myself, and do well. I figured it out along the way and took one step at a time. My mindset was, what’s the worst that can happen? I might fail and it could be embarrassing or look bad, but I’ll learn a ton in the process. In the worst-case scenario, I’ll go find a job. If that’s the worst-case scenario… it’s a pretty good one.
What was your biggest learning curve?
All of the things you don’t think about when you start a business. HR, equity, stock options, setting company holidays, the culture, the handbook, PTO policy, etc. I mean it’s hard enough to find product-market fit and add value to your customers, but no one talks about the HR burden and how time-intensive it is. I had to quickly learn, and become an expert in what felt like 12,000 random things that have nothing to do with delivering value to our customers.
What is something you wish someone would’ve told you when you started this journey?
I wish there was the Business in a Box for startups. I just had to figure it out on my own. Do I use HubSpot or MailChimp? Do I get a law firm or do I just use Stripe Atlas or Clerky? There’s definitely an opportunity to give start-up founders the best practices, a landing page, and a marketing toolkit. There are so many tools out there, and it’s great to have options, but it’s overwhelming and you don’t know the best tool for you. For example, I started a website in WordPress and I would never recommend that to someone today. I would recommend that they go and get a landing page up in Carrd that takes 5 minutes to create, looks beautiful, and allows you to capture sign-ups.
In ~15 words or less, tell me what being a founder feels like.
It’s navigating a massive ocean with so many possibilities and so many unknowns and yet, if the ocean is thousands of miles, you need to pick a two-mile lane and just nail it. Picking that lane early on feels impossible because you don’t know where the demand is. So you have to test different lanes until you finally find what’s working, and then dive hard into that lane with everything you’ve got.
What are three tips you would give to other founders getting started this winter?
I’d say collect revenue — find a way we collect revenue with whatever you have at your disposal, even if that’s only Google Docs and a Slack channel. We were selling a $1,200 dollar product with Google Docs and Slack, so it can definitely be done. Get sign-ups and a landing page before you invest in technology or raise a funding round. Just get a landing page and test “does this work?” Also, lean into marketing and distribution. The tech and the product are not the hardest parts, because there’s so much out there to help you, but marketing and distribution is not something you just turn on and build…you need to invest in it. You need to learn and get feedback. You can’t just say “oh yeah, I’m just gonna build this great product and it’ll work.” You can’t take marketing for granted… It’s hard and it takes work, learnings, and traction.
Who’s an early-stage founder you admire and why?
Tope Awotona, the founder of Calendly. They raised one small round of funding and built a billion-dollar business. Their product is so simple and sleek…it saves me so much time. I love their product and I love how they didn’t go raise a bunch of venture money. And then the other person… this one’s a cliche but Sara Blakely’s story is amazing. If people haven’t read her story or watched her MasterClass they are missing out. She got told “no” a million times and she invented a new product — which is so hard to do in it of itself — as a female entrepreneur, which is also challenging. Especially when you’re creating something brand new and everyone’s telling you that you’re crazy. So you’re getting told you’re crazy, and you’re getting told no, but you still persevere and build a billion-dollar company by yourself, taking on no funding. That’s amazing.
On a Mission is a weekly publication of interviews with mission-driven founders trying to solve big problems.