VP of Strategic Partnerships for Fire Rover, Ryan Fogelman, JD/MBA, is a serial entrepreneur that has spent his life building new businesses and working with innovators to bring their products and solutions to market. In addition to his groundbreaking work with Fire Rover, Ryan is Founder and CSO of COhatch, and VP of StickGrip. Two of his solutions have won the distinguished Edison Innovation Award for Industrial Safety and Consumer Products. He has been compiling and publishing the “Reported Waste & Recycling Facility Fires In The US/CAN” since February 2016 and the “Waste & Recycling Facility Fires Annual Report.” Fogelman regularly speaks on the topic of the scope of fire problems facing the waste and recycling industries, early detection solutions, proper fire planning and early-stage fire risk mitigation. Additionally, Fogelman is on the National Fire Protection Association’s Technical Committee for Hazardous Materials.
John Shegerian: Have you been enjoying our impact podcasts and our great guests? Then please give us a thumbs up and leave a five star review on iTunes, Google Play, or wherever you consume your favorite podcasts. This edition of the Impact Podcast is brought to you by ERI. ERI has a mission to protect people, the planet and your privacy, and is the largest fully integrated IT and electronics asset disposition provider and cybersecurity focused hardware destruction company in the United States and maybe even the world. For more information on how ERI can help your business properly dispose of outdated electronic hardware devices, please visit ERIdirect.com. This episode of the Impact Podcast is brought to you by Closed Loop Partners. Closed Loop Partners is a leading circular economy investor in the United States with an extensive network of Fortune 500 corporate investors, family offices, institutional investors, industry experts, and impact partners. Closed Loop’s platform spans the arc of capital from venture capital to private equity, bridging gaps, and fostering synergies to scale the circular economy. To find Closed Loop Partners, please go to www.closedlooppartners.com.
John: Welcome to another edition of the Impact Podcast. I’m so excited to have with us today my friend, Ryan Fogelman, he’s a serial entrepreneur. Many brands that he started and he runs right now. We’re going to be talking about them all. Welcome to the Impact Podcast, Ryan.
Ryan Fogelman: Hey, John, how are you doing today?
John: I’m great. It’s great to have you on. Finally, I’ve been dying to get you on the show and talk about all the cool things you’re working on, but we’re going to get to that. But before we get to that, Ryan, your journey is really wonderful and fascinating. I think will be really inspirational for a lot of our young listeners out there. Can you share a little bit about the Ryan Fogelman background story and how you even get on this journey of becoming a very successful serial entrepreneur?
Ryan: Yeah, it’s a long road. I’m 48 years old. Not right, though. It’s been fun. I started off and really, I caught my teeth as a shoe salesman. I worked in Detroit. I’m from Detroit originally. I sold shoes and clothes at a place called Mr. Allen’s. The commercial was always like, we have Adidas, Pila, Nike, 2798, 2450. I worked 100% commission every day, inner city of Detroit, outskirts of Detroit. That’s where I cut my teeth, learning how to sell and to talk to people kind of get out of my comfort zone. That was fun. I went to Michigan State, got an undergrad in business, and then I went to Case West, where I got a law degree in MBA. But really, honestly, what I do and really, my passion has always been really helping the inventors and the guys who are building these, because I always thought I was going to be an inventor and it was a tough day when I woke up one morning and I’m like, I’m never coming up with a good idea. It’s just not ever happening, but I’m really good at taking other people’s ideas and building them into a business. Again, I think that’s really what a true entrepreneur does. Inventors are different, and I can get into that a little bit, but there’s been some amazing people that I’ve met and helped really build a lot of these brands. It’s been amazing.
John: We’re going to get into that in a second. Your backstory on how a kid from Detroit made it over to Columbus, Ohio, is a great one as well. Why don’t you share that with our listeners as well?
Ryan: Yeah, I mean, it’s funny because I lived in Cleveland when I went to Case Western, and I moved, and my wife and I, we lived in Atlanta, and her entire family moved from Youngstown to Columbus. Actually, the truth is, I got offered a job paying like 300 grand at a really amazing company in another city, and my wife was like, “If you’re going to travel, I’m not moving.” Basically, I was forced in this life of hustling, and these are the early career things that happen, and you’re like, okay, I can’t believe I gave up that opportunity, but honestly, I’ve been so much happier. I definitely had a harder road because of it, but at the same time, it’s been pretty fulfilling. Again, I can tell you that Columbus, Ohio is literally beyond my dreams. Much change, and Columbus, I think we have like $100 billion in Intel plants and Google plant like Amazon. I mean, there’s so much going on in Columbus, Ohio. It’s insane. Yeah, I’ve been pretty fortunate.
John: It’s really funny, Ryan. I’m a little older than you. I’m 60, and I’ve been coming to Columbus since 13 or 14 because of my hardest racing background. It’s the headquarters for the USTA, the United States Trotting Association, and it was a little slippy down back then, but now when I come out there, because I have a whole group of executives that live and work out of Columbus that work for us, and it has become such a wonderful city, and it’s just booming. Every time I come, I just see new things and new development, and it’s fantastic, actually. It’s fantastic.
Ryan: Yeah, I mean, literally, all we need is the Cavaliers to become the Columbus Cavaliers, and we’ll be in great shape. I have a call in a day in Guildworth[?] to see if I can get that done.
John: I love it. If anyone’s going to do it, you’re going to do it, Ryan.
Ryan: I mean, listen, you know what? It’s funny. We have soccer, and we have [inaudible] I don’t think I can get the red wings here, but I’m definitely going to be pushing for something.
John: The life of a serial entrepreneur is fascinating and it’s almost like boys with girls, and if that’s even politically correct anymore, to say. But it’s like you never forget the first one. When you talk about your life as a serial entrepreneur, what was your first big hit that you realized, wait a second, I could do this, and I could wash, rinse, repeat what I’m doing, and go into different industries, and keep winning again and again and again. Explain how you got involved and how you actually see opportunities. How do you see white space and voids in the marketplace, and then want to get involved?
Ryan: Yeah. I mean, it’s interesting because, yeah, in the beginning of my career, I actually did it for everybody else. I think yaha moment is when you think, okay, like I’ve made enough people money, and I’ve done enough building. When I came to Columbus, I was actually brought here, I had worked at Accenture for a couple of years, and I was brought here by an executive who actually left Accenture and came, and it was a company that was manufacturing CDs and DVDs. Literally the day I started, they went bankrupt. Imagine I’m calling my dad, and I’m like, “Hey dad, you know the new job that I told you that I was moving to Columbus for, well, they just went bankrupt.” He’s like, “Well, what’s going to happen?” Literally, I got a phone call from the HR rep who basically said, “All that stuff that’s in storage, please put it in your name because it’s in the bankruptcy now.” Basically, this was like my entire life. I just got out of school, I had debt anyways, but long story short we were in and out of bankruptcy, bought by a private equity group, we built the business from 20 to 50 million, then we bought another company. I had built my business unit from 3 million to 27 million over six years, and it was amazing to do it but the reality was, is that, from a corporation perspective, I mean, you do it for other people and there’s certain rewards. That was really successful, but the company ended up being bankrupt. Like they bankrupted themselves again six years later. It was something that I believe it was done on purpose. I started to realize I’m not the mastermind of destiny.[?} When I left there, I started conversion development group. That’s where I’ve done outpours VP of business development for a long time. From my perspective, the only good marketing is marketing that focuses on some sort of a sales conversion. I mean, I think we spent so much time in marketing departments going back and forth. Again, there’s something to be said for branding, but like in true marketing, it’s really all, how do you drive eyeballs and how do you turn those eyeballs into some sort of revenue producing relationship. I ended up having about 16 clients and then again, I realized that now when you have an agency, you’re literally constantly trying to fill the void. Constantly trying to fill the pipeline. In 2015, couple of things happened. One, I was working with these inventors who own the patent for the regroup so I got that product basically sold to one of my best friends who runs a company called the coma[?]. That happened basically in 15. We were starting that business unit from scratch. Then Brad Gladstone, who started Fire Rover called me up. I mean, I went to high school with him, and I was a per knee brother with him. He calls me, he’s like, “[inaudible], get up here. I hear you like cool stuff.” I go, “Okay.” I drove to Detroit. I drive to the back of the scrap metal yard and there’s a big red box. Literally, it’s like a huge squirrequin. You know what I mean? I was amazed at the technology and honestly, in the beginning, like, I mean, I hate to say this to everyone, but we had no idea if it was going to work. I mean, we had no clue. Then we also started co-hatch at the same time. Co-hatch then has allowed me to work on my other businesses and really do it in a place where I’ve gotten so many resources and so much help and so much mentoring around it. Eight years later, I look back and all three of the businesses are doing relatively well. Two of them were businesses, co-hatch is more of the environment that has enabled me to be able to work, be close to my family and do the different things that I need to do to really help drive those businesses.
John: Let’s talk about Fire Rover and for our listeners and viewers who aren’t familiar with Fire Rover, you can find Fire Rover at firerover.com. Explain what Fire Rover is and why it’s so important in today’s world that’s filled with lithium ion batteries.
Ryan: Yeah, no, 100%. I mean, t’s funny, when I got in in 15, I mean, you know this as well as anybody, nobody really understood that lithium ion batteries were becoming a problem or we’re going to become an issue in our waste and recycling streams. When I got into the industry, I started looking at the publicly reported fires and I’m like, is there a problem because there’s no one who is admitting there was a problem. Back then the reality was, I mean, again, you were different because you’re the electronic recycler, but a lot of the waste and recycling guys thought it was an operational issue. They’re all pointing fingers at their operations saying, “Why’d you have fires? You must have done something wrong.” I’m out there saying, “Hey guys, there’s an inherent risk of fire or what we’re doing and like, I think I’m right.” As you can imagine there, a lot of people were like this guy’s just trying to sell a product and that type of thing. Fast forward to now, we have over 500 locations. I mean, we’re doing a ton of high hazard materials. The technology that we have, I mean, it’s patented and we’re in five countries now, we have demo units across the world. That’s been a really fun kind of, what’s the word, brand building, I guess, as you look at it. Unfortunately, Brad passed away a few years back. We basically as the company have really taken the reins and the CEO that we brought in has been amazing, really helping us drive the business and scale the business. It’s one of those things that like, I still go back to that day that I was on the scrap metal facility with Brad and Pete, who’s one of the inventors and Jeremy Dusting was one of the inventors. Pete was working his job at the scrap metal facility, as we’re in the middle of feuds trying to get this thing moving, you know what I mean? It is a startup from every single level. But to today we’re almost FM certified, we’re about eight months away from getting full FM certification for our entire system.
John: Explain what it actually does, though. Explain to our listeners and viewers who are not familiar or been in the recycling or waste industry, why Fire Rover has really revolutionized how lithium ion batteries are detected before they become absolute crisis or tragedy.
Ryan: 100%. It’s funny, because I always try to tell people, I’m like, we’re actually in the fire protection industry. We’re not in the waste and recycling industry. We’ve just been so blessed by the waste and recycling industry just for the adoption. But really what we do is we use thermal cameras, optical flame detection and smoke in steam analytics. Really, we’re looking in, verify whether there’s an issue and when we verify it, one of our agents will take our unit that’s sitting on some site and actually shoot and put the fire out. I mean, we have, I think last year, the numbers, we reacted or responded to 3,000 events. We had about 350 facilities at that time. A little over 10%, we charged our unit, we’re ready to shoot. About 147, 148, we shot and dispatched and or dispatched to fire department, depending if it was a thermal only or a full system. But like the difference between our system and every system out there is that the fire industry for years has always gone, water, water, water. How do we get as much water onto something to just to try to stop it from proliferating? But for us, what we’re doing is we’re literally looking at it. We’re focused on those initial 10 minutes between breakdown and fire professionals or fire brigade on scene. Our level is like, if we see it, we look at it, we verify it, we have to catch it so early. If you think looking at the needles of a haystack, we literally look at every single needle to find… There are every single piece to hay to find the needle and that’s really what we’re doing that nobody else can do. That’s where having the human being involved makes it like FM just classified us as the first smart monitor. But I mean, it really is transformational from water, water, water to early detection, putting it out. Because honestly, we’ve less than 30 times we’ve needed more than 1000 gallons of our water environmentally, [inaudible] to deal with the fire? Less than 30 times we’ve needed the fire department to come and actually do anything else. I mean, we’re talking thousands and thousands and thousands of events. It’s definitely transforming the way fires are fought.
John: Truth and advertising, ERI, which is a brand that I’m involved with and co-founder of, of course, has bought multiple units. I can’t even keep up with how many units we’ve bought over the years. But it’s worked tremendously in all of our facilities. We’re very grateful for your technology and thankful that you guys, you and your partners invented it and continue to scale it because it’s a game changer in the industry. But the evidence is irrefutable. What is the feedback that you get from firefighters and that very legacy-minded industry to fire over now, now that you’ve begun changing minds and changing hearts?
Ryan: I think the reality is right. You’re never selling to the end user. I’s really the insurance companies that are huge before a risk mitigation perspective. Then really financial perspective, like a lot of the owners, when they understand like the risk mitigation and they understand how much they put in from an investment perspective, they give you credit. Because the reality is when we first were selling it, it’s like, hey, a safety guy is trying to sell something that costs money. Well, nobody wants to spend money on safety. It’s not that they don’t want to spend money on safety, but nobody wants, there’s no ROI that really ties to safety. I think our business is a little different because, I mean, if you look at it, last year, there were 400 reported fires in the US and Canada, and like there was literally 30 to 40 catastrophic losses. And a catastrophic loss is anywhere from 10 million to 100 million. I mean, around typically 30 to 40. Then opportunity costs and all the other things that are happening that you’re not seeing as the indirect costs. The reality is, is that like, I’ve only had one time… Last year of those 400, only one of those was one that we knew of and it was catastrophic, but we put the fire out. We called the fire department, there was a little fire in the ceiling, which again, our system doesn’t handle roof fires. There was a little fire in the ceiling and what ended up happening was the fire department didn’t arrive for 40 minutes. Then when they went to go to the fire extinguisher, the fire hydrant, it was completely tap dry. The utility, they don’t know if it was the train utility or if it was the water utility that had turned it off, but they literally lost their entire building because of it. Again, if you look at that, of 400 losses, only one of them had our name on it or had our name with it. Again, we did our job. I mean, we’re actually putting in a state of the art system for them. That’s a full continuous flow that have 104 cameras and 56 nozzles. I mean, this will be a 350,000 square foot. I mean, they will have the top fire protection. The reality is, is that we’re dealing with such a hard issue that from a risk mitigation perspective, it’s like almost 95% effective. Compared to not having it. I appreciate you saying it’s irrefutable. It’s eight years in, it seems like a slam dunk, but at the same time, I promise you the first five years, it was not a slam dunk. We have amazing customers now. Back then, we definitely had some early adapters that we really appreciate their support.
John: Let’s talk about education though. Just like in our industry, educating folks to the need for responsible recycling has been so much of what I do. How much of what you do is educating people, the industry, like you said, legacy fire specialists that were all about water, water, water, how much does education play a role in your daily marketing of fire over?
Ryan: I mean, that’s the answer. I’m not selling on a daily basis, I’m educating and I tell this to all my clients, I’m like, I literally like, I need you to understand our system better than I do, because once I know that, and unfortunately, a lot of times it’s hard to get to the executive suite and the executive suite is who really wants to talk through it because for them, usually it’s a no brainer. They’re like, “Well, why are you even arguing about this?” Yeah, so I can pay like.. One of our biggest customers, I mean, we’re literally protecting three billion dollars worth of assets. Yes, I mean, they are paying money every month, but the reality is, if you looked at how much an insurance policy would be for three billion dollars worth of assets, we are literally a drop in the bucket. Again, you really have to be that high. Like to basically look at it and truly understand. Then you also have to understand like, the public doesn’t like fires. Even though the public is causing a lot of these fires. I spent a ton of time trying to educate the public. My biggest thing, and again, some people like it, some people don’t but the reality is, is that I think the manufacturers should be helping pay for our systems in these locations, because the reality is, is that when you’re in waste and recycling, it’s a critical infrastructure, we need to have it. Can you imagine if someone didn’t pick up our garbage on a Monday. I mean, that would be a huge problem. There’s so much money right now being spent on educating the public. But unfortunately, like 70% of the business doesn’t even touch the public. Like all of your stuff, all the C and D stuff, all the scrap metal stuff, really you can’t educate your way out of it, but someone needs to pay for the fact that we’re all dealing with these hazards. Again, at every level, I’m not a huge fan, I’m a pure capitalist. I’m a huge fan of market forces, basically driving efficiencies but the reality is, is that this is one of those cases where government needs to come in. Again, from a purely supply chain, a purely economical, where the manufacturers need to have some sort of payment or the public for all the vapes that they’re taking that are supposedly disposable, dropping them in. I mean, I did an article in Waikiki 360 on it. But like, literally, they’re dropping 150 vapes in water and soap, dropping them in your curbside bin and then all that gets dropped into one of the large OEMs. Basically, it’s being heated up, and then it’s being dropped into a loader that’s going to crush this thing. I don’t know if anyone should be surprised, but I do believe that the senators that I’ve seen out there and the guys in power, when they talk about recycling, like literally the only thing they’re comprehending is taking a can and putting it in their recycling bin in their house. It’s really hard for them to understand that true recycling is one pound, not going into a landfill and being reused. How do we take that? It’s real simple and small. How do we take that and scale that and really make sure that just everybody’s responsible for the costs that they are driving? Which, again, I mean, I know you do this too, but it’s trying to educate the public on not doing the things that they shouldn’t do. But honestly, there’s so many fricking fires, like there’s so many like batteries that I don’t know if that ever makes a dent. Public education, I’d be curious of your thoughts.
John: I agree with you. It only gets us so far and just doing more preventative work with systems like yours is really the way we’ve gone and had a lot of success with it. But you’ve also created a publication called the Fire Safety Report, which people can find and subscribe to on LinkedIn. What was your vision and mission when you started the Fire Safety Report?
Ryan: I do like the six annual waste of recycling. I’ve done it for six years. honestly, this was all, I don’t know if you know Brent shows, he was with advanced disposal, but I was at PPRC, which is like a paper plastic recycling in Chicago. It was my first show and I’m sitting there and I meet this guy Brent and we get along, like we just like kind of hit it off a little bit. We started talking and I knew at the time because again, if you advanced disposal was public company, they’d had four major fires, two major, two minor that really had affected. I think it was like three or four percent of their overall revenue for the year. They went out on Wall Street and they reset their guidance based on losing four facilities to fire. Brent comes in and I see advanced disposal. I’m like, “Oh, yeah, this is going to be great.” This guy’s, he needs our system. I show him the system, I go, “What do you think of it?” He goes, “I like it.” I’m like, “Okay, how many do you want?” He goes, “Why do I need it?” I was like, “What do you mean you have fires?” He’s like, “Do I?” I’m like, “Yeah, it’s public knowledge, dude.” He goes, “Well, do my…”, he literally said it. This was the smartest thing that like it again. I mean, he’s one of my best friends. I love the guy, but he literally said to me, he’s like, “Do my competitors.” What he was asking was, “Is it me and my operators that are causing these fires? Or is it the fact that this is inherent risk of fire in the industry?” Honestly, at that point in time, I didn’t know. I did Google alerts and I was looking at all these Google alerts. I basically report only fires that were in the media. Because to me, if it’s reported fire in the media, that means it was a two alarm, three alarm, usually the larger fires. There’s about 2,400 fires and I actually think it’s extremely conservative. EPAs gone after my data, they came out with the exact same analysis and said that mine were conservative. There’s been a number of companies that have been questioning it, but the reality was I’d done research, I’d done data, I was a lawyer and I couldn’t find, I called every single like NWRA and Tijuana and Israel and I tried to get in touch with everyone. Nobody knew or had any record of reported fire incidences. The reality was the only way for me to understand how to sell this and what the value was, was to understand what the real issue was. I would literally say that my report, I’m like, it is what it is. I’m not saying it’s great, but show me something better and I’ll replace it. Again, seven years later, I mean, what we’re seeing now, and I just put an article the day out and way through 60, but I mean, basically with everything that we’re seeing and even with fire over protecting 500 of the estimated eight to 10,000, we’re still having more fires. It’s a question of either too many lithium ion batteries are getting in the way stream and it’s compounding. Which I think that’s a big piece of it. Then hot and dry environments are a big thing. Again, it’s crazy because we always see a spike during Christmas. During the holiday season, and we see a spike during summertime. Well, the summertime spike is not caused by more lithium ion batteries. The spike that we see in May, June, July and August, that’s from heat and dryness and the batteries. Mix it all together because that’s really what MSW is. The more I do it, I keep learning, so that’s why I keep doing it. I feel like people like to see it, they like to hear it. I have 8,500 people who are on the LinkedIn newsletter, 4,000 or 40,000 people that get my email every month. Everybody kind of says the same thing. They’re like, “Oh, this is the guy who spams me all the time.” I’m like, “You know you can opt out.” They’re like, “Yeah, I’m just kidding. It’s good.” You know what I mean? I read it every time. I share it with my team. You know what I mean? Like so.
John: What’s the matter with people saying it spams me? It’s like some of the most important information in the industry to protect you now. Let’s talk topics from Fire Rover. Again, Fire Rover, I use it. Our company uses it. We’re thrilled with it. It’s such an important preventative measure now if you’re in the waste and recycling industry. If you have anything to do with lithium-ion batteries, I highly recommend you looking it up. FireRover.com or Firesafe.com to report on LinkedIn. Ryan, let’s switch topics over to Co hatch. What is Co hatch and what was your vision behind starting Co hatch?
Ryan: It’s funny, because there’s six partners and we actually developed the first, we call it Mesh Fitness. It’s a 13,000 square foot gym and then in Dublin, Ohio, they basically ripped out a golf course in the original Wendy’s and they put a billion and a half dollars and they built a walking bridge, a $30 million walking bridge. We were the first business that opened up. My partners brought me in to help drive awareness for that. Then it was kind of funny, more opportunistic. The managing partner, his name is Matt Davis, and he worked for Parker Hannafin and Honda and all these big guys. He had been in that corporate world where he was just ready to move to do something else. I had come from literally, I work for my house, I’m on the road. I have a VW Passat that I have a hotspot in that I can never get good hotspot. This is 2008 to 2015. I’m working at Barnes & Noble. I’m going to Panera and getting thrown off after 30 minutes and you can’t get back on so I had to bring like two computers. I’d have two separate computers. Again, I was living that fricking like sales guy trying to figure out, try to work. It was funny because Matt and I, there’s a couple of things that really have driven like in my life. Somebody once told me they’re like, “People will pay you for what you think is common sense.” That’s like an amazing day. Usually it gets sometime in your 30s where you’re like, oh, this is why I’m here. What was funny, it was that I was helping all these inventors and not get taken advantage of. Because a lot of times what would happen is these inventors would go and they would basically take their entire life savings, they would put it into their product and then that’s when they would get taken advantage of because someone would come in, steal the product from them basically for almost nothing. Because these guys basically had to pay their house payments and all this other stuff. As I had continued to work with them, what I really was passionate about doing was working with all these startups and Matt had the same feeling. One of the things my dad was, he spent a ton of time, he actually won Man of the Year in Palm Springs for raising like 300 million for AIDS hospice. But he had spent his entire life like every weekend, it was giving. It was like feeding the homeless, feeding shelter, doing all these different things. I felt completely guilty because, I definitely spent a lot more time with my kids than my dad did with us. It was a different world back then. He always had meetings, he always had things, he was giving to the community, but giving to his family. I wanted to spend time with my kids. I spent time with my kids, but I felt like I wasn’t giving back the way that I used to say like, I’m not making sandwiches anymore. What was interesting was that when Matt found this space and our idea was like, this is where we can have nonprofits, for-profits, we all work together. We were going to basically all six partners, there was Joel and Elizabeth who are designers. Terry had worked, he was the one who did the construction, Eric’s a accounting guy, finance guy, and then Matt’s the managing partner and then myself. What we did was we had this old space in downtown Worthington that the other piece had been made into a gym that Matt owned, but we were like, okay, we’re going to take these 8,000, 9,000 square feet and we’re going to turn it into a space for ourselves. Well, then we go look at it and I mean, this was really cool space. It was like, there was a stage that was from 1820. I mean, it literally like historic space. It was funny, we sit down and we’re like, okay, let’s look at it. It was like a million and a half dollars to make this thing into like an office. Because again, you have to gut it and then do everything. Then we’re like, oh shoot, we probably should turn this into a business. But we did it as a business. Mesh fitness was, hey, it’s a gym, here’s what it’s going to look like. Let’s work on it. Co-hatch was more about, hey, we have this opportunity and it was on the back of a napkin. A lot of just really interesting PowerPoint, that map put together. But basically long story short, we opened this location and there’s 15 offices, Regrip, which is Stick Grip, actually took one of the offices, wanted to support it. Joel and Elizabeth designed it. They got a free office. Then we started, like we created a boost scholarship to try to help the local nonprofit. They had a maker’s market and so basically they do this thing, but like the organization wasn’t doing well so we gave a boost scholarship to them and then we had a give-all. We created all these things that we wanted for ourselves. 32 spaces later, it’s worked out. But at the same time, like it really was, how do I activate a space in a local neighborhood so that I am close to my family and I’m not commuting to co-work, but really is an extension of your home. Again, ton of iterations later, it is what it is. I’m in a podcast room in Dublin, Ohio. We have 32 locations, we’re in five states now. Really I’ve been blessed. It’s been fun.
John: for our listeners and viewers, if we’re going to try to create an analogy here, it’s sort of like what Starbucks was always aiming for, the third place, homework and this is like a safe place where people could really work, but also collaborate with a lot of other community members that are localized in their area. It’s like a we work, but a much better version of we work.
Ryan: Well, yeah, that’s funny. The industry actually has a really bad reputation because the reality is everyone thinks that we work and they think of Adam Newman. One of the things that I try to do that’s different is that like, there’s VC money. I’m all about VC money. That makes sense. But like, I think all the education really goes to trying to create the next big startup, but not a lot of education goes to really what I call the seeds. From my perspective, like if you’re not making money in 90 days, then it’s not a real business. Again, I’m not saying that there aren’t bigger bets that need to be made, but of our 200, we actually have 400 nonprofits so part of our gift scholarship. We did over $2 million in the last year just with them. Then we have 200 for profit. There’s some really amazing small businesses. Then we also have deals with like Ohio State, CCAD, like Miami University. When you say it’s an extension of your home, but we really do try to tie in all the different levels of the community. Again, nonprofit, when you’re doing a nonprofit startup, it’s just as hard to start up as a for-profit startup. It’s actually harder because typically your board doesn’t want you to take any risk. We call it community hall 2.0, memberships are 99 bucks. I mean, they’re really expensive. We also, at every city, we kind of have like a sports simulators. We have theaters. We have rock climbing walls. We have maker spaces. We have 15 restaurants throughout all the different places. Some we own, some we don’t. I’s been an amazing experience, but I always tell people, I built my share of what I’ve done for Fire Rover and what we’ve done for Sticker through my relationships in Co hatch. It’s funny because on the 21st of September in Co hatch Springfield, they gave us this old marketplace and we turned it into like seven restaurants and it’s like a market and it’s got like all these different things. They’re doing a Wiffleball tournament that has the four guys from the Sandlot that are coming to sign, but they’re coming to Co hatch to sign and then I’ll bring my Stick grips down and we’ll do that. You know what I mean? It is really a lot of community[?]. It’s pretty fun.
John: For our listeners and viewers who want to find it, how can they best find and sign up for Co hatch?
Ryan: C-O-H-A-T-C-H. Go to Cohatch.com or LinkedIn. It’s on my LinkedIn as well.
John: I love it. Then switching topics now, what’s Stick grip? Stick grip’s another one of your startups and businesses. What’s Stick grip right now?
Ryan: I mean, Stick grip was, I mean, the original. A guy named [inaudible] Brokoff and John Bernou, I was working with them. They had spent a half million dollars building their business and they did everything right. But the problem was that they got in Napa[?]. It was a safety grip at the time and it’s really cool. You basically pull it out and it’ll literally suck right on. It’s cold shrink versus hot shrink. We have the patent on it for applying a grip with this. These guys had spent a lot of money and they kind of hit like their limit. They got in with Napa and Napa was like, “Hey, where’s your EDI?” They’re like, “Oh, EDI, how much is that? 30 grand.” They spent it, they did everything right. We’ve had it in ACE for years, the re-grip safety grip. Sammy and I have been working for about five years on perfecting the baseball back grip and so what was interesting, we were working with Dix, it ended up not working out with Dix. During the pandemic, everything obviously got turned upside down. I did a Kickstarter campaign where we raised $19,000, $9,000 was to give grips to kids. It was more of a hey, help support us. One of every dollar went to giveaway. Then the other one was to say, “Hey, do you want this product in the market?” We did it, we hit our number. Then a year later, we lost it for baseball. Literally it took off at hockey. You couldn’t have imagined. The funniest thing, if you go on TikTok, again, I’m a digital marketing guy, like I have been forever, but I mean, TikTok was like an accident. We’ve literally had billions of views on TikTok under stick grip. Again, when I say billions, I’m not exaggerating. This is true. I know what a billion impressions is, and it is literally exploded. Every eight year old to 13 year old knows about it. Then we do these shows and like they run up and they’re like, “Hey mom, look”, and so it works for the cross, cricket, baseball. We’ve made them for bikes, for pickleball. I mean, it’s a pretty fun thing that’s going on. Again, I mean, is it a huge business? No, but I mean just like anything else, I’ll take a win over a failure because I’ve had enough failures. I’ve always had failures.
John: We all have failures, but serial entrepreneurs live for the wins, whether it’s a single, double, triple, or home run. Winning is just fun. Let’s go around a horn here. For those listeners and viewers who’ve just joined us we’ve got Ryan Fogelman with us. He’s a serial entrepreneur. We’ve been talking about three of his brands, not all of them, Fire Over, Co-Hatch, and StickGrip. We’re going to talk about some other things too as well. Ryan, go around the horn here. Fire Hatch, I mean, Co-Hatch, Fire Over, and Stick Grip. I put them all together. Three of your brands. What’s your vision for the next three? I mean, it’s hard to vision out now. There’s so many crosswinds politically, and other weird things going on. Not only our economy now, but since all the economies are attached, Europe and Asia, and the price of energy, but all things considered, when you go to bed at night, where can you take those three brands that we’ve been talking about today? How do you think about it in terms of scaling, future scaling, of Fire Over, Co-Hatch, and Stick Grip?
Ryan: Again, I look at things different than most people, and I mean that in the nicest way. I truly believe in little steps. Every day you get up and you do one thing. It’s hard for me to envision all the brands. If you look at Stick Grip, I can envision it being in every retail shop, and every kid using this. Especially for hockey and for lacrosse. Now if it takes off at pickleball, and all this is amazing. Fire Over, from an FM certification, once that goes through, knock on wood, everything goes well. I truly believe that we are transforming the way that you fight fires. Again, I want to be very clear that I’ve had a lot of failures. I had a product called the iplPtter that literally was an optic on a platter, and we put this thing out, and it actually was in SkyMol, and it killed it in SkyMol, and SkyMol went bankrupted, and bankrupted our company. I mean, I definitely had a lot of failures, but with Fire Over, I truly believe that there is a way to transform the way that the world is fighting fires, from water, water, water to early detection. Honestly, anything with any inherent risk, I really truly believe that it’s a solution for it. With Cohatch, it’s different. Because somebody asked me yesterday, they’re like, “What’s your exit strategy?” I think that’s part of every entrepreneur, what’s your exit strategy? Well, I’m sure at some point, there’ll be some sort of exit strategy for Stick grip or for Fire Over, because I mean, it’s just the way it goes. But with Co hatch, I don’t see an exit strategy, because the reality is, is that we have 32 locations, but we have less than 50 investors. We’re really like all of our investors, everyone who invests with us, we’re all really close. The idea is, is that as we grow this, and again, there’s a number of different ways to do it, one of the things we call our gray spaces, which is, every city has spent the money to take a building and try to rehab it or reactivate it. They’re not able to do it. There’s so many reasons why. We think that we can help them do that, and we think we can help them in a way that doesn’t cost them anything, or even if it does, it goes to a nonprofit or to a charity. The goal is to have 2,000 of these, 1,000 of them will be in all the gray spaces across the country. Again, gray space is simple. If you look at the United States map, and you see where the population is, it’s anywhere there’s not population. Or density. Again, the goal is to have 10,000 nonprofits that we’re helping, and 5,000 for-profit businesses, and really trying to give people the culture and the assets to do it without us having to be a part of every single one, which again, getting through from a scaling perspective, that was really the biggest risk to the business. Was, oh yeah, this works in Columbus. Does it work in Indy and Pittsburgh and SINSEE and Charlotte and Tampa and Atlanta, and all the locations we’re in. Honestly, knock on wood, it seems to be like the cultures are different everywhere, but most people are good. I always feel like you say all the back and forth, I don’t care what side you’re on, but like, the reality is, is that there’s less murders today than has ever been in the history of the world. We are in a safer time today than we’ve ever been in our entire lives. I mean, they’re talking about creating like, for through nuclear fusion, that we’ll be able to literally get rid of all this power problem over the next 30 years, which hopefully solves everything. I truly, Homer Simpson, believe that we are the cause of and solution to all our freaking problems. The reality is, is that most people are good. We just have to give the outlets to allow people to do what they’re best at as opposed to leaving them in their house where nobody gets better just sitting in your home.
John: Well, Co-Hatch can be a national brand, and that’s what you’re really excited about. Rolling it out nationally.
Ryan: 100%. I truly believe that here’s a lot of zealots out there that don’t know that they need this. But I mean, I’ve gotten a lot of fulfillment out of it. That’s why, from my perspective, I want to work with an entrepreneur. The reason I cap fire over and everything else and the reason I don’t work full time for a Co-Hatch, I mean, even though I’m a managing partner, one of the six partners. But like the reality is that I don’t want to give advice to someone and then not have done it. A lot of these guys out there, motivational speakers, that type of stuff, you have to do it. Before you’re able to share what you’re good at, I mean, there’s a lot of 20 year old influencers all over the world and honestly, I’m on home, but I wouldn’t have taken my advice at 20.
John: They haven’t left their bedroom yet, that’s for sure. People approach you all the time, Ryan, with ideas and business opportunities and all sorts of things. What’s next for Ryan Fogelman? How do you assess what people bring to you, what you read about, what you’re thinking about generally in your travels, white space that’s out there voids? The excitement now of AI is upon us and AI could help us fill a lot of gaps. What are you thinking about now outside of those three wonderful brands, co-hatch, fire over and stick grip? What are you thinking about in terms of next investments and next opportunities that really interest you and to make you want to be involved?
Ryan: Honestly, it’s a great question. When I broke up my life, like when I was younger, I always did everything in a four year period. Because you go to school for four years, you go to law school, business school, everything kind of broke up in four year periods. Since 2015, I’m on basically an eight year. Almost a graduate degree. I think about that all the time but the reality is, is that I am so blessed to be part of success. I mean, it’s funny, like one of my best friends, he started a company and his company did amazing. He’s literally started four other companies and not one of them has done well. He will always say to me, he’s like, “Lightning strikes once. It’s hard to strike twice.” Again, I’m not necessarily looking for the next thing. I’m always here to help people as much as I can. I mean, I do focus most of my time on Fire Rover. I do focus a good amount of my social time. That is the co-hatch side of it so I’ve been able to kind of compartmentalize it. I love literally working behind a booth, selling stick rip. I mean, it’s just fun for me. It goes back to the days of selling shoes, you know what I mean? You’re no hold barred, you and the customer are calling a day, it’s fun. A lot of people come to me with ideas. I personally think I’ll be in the fire space for a long period of time. I’ll keep growing Fire Rover as long as we’re blessed to do so. Then after that, I do have a number of other kind of contacts and I think that’s really where my focus is. Honest truth is that if you look at innovation in any industry, for some reason in fire, it’s actually been the least amount of innovation. I don’t mean that negatively, but what ends up happening is that when you have so much regulation and so much worry about safety, you have the NFPAs of the world. It’s good that you have the barriers to entry because you definitely don’t want unsafe product put out there that you don’t know if is going to cause a bigger issue. But once you have something that you know is good, how do you really get it out there and kind of blow it up? I really think it’s an interesting thing that I think the public needs more innovation. It’s just like anything else. Whatever way we can do that and bring it to you. Again, you always have the guys who are still reading the newspaper. God love them. I mean, I have a newspaper right here, we created a good newspaper. Again, the whole thing is, is like everyone has to be open to change. We can’t stop innovation because people are uncomfortable with change, hat’s one of my biggest pet peeves.
John: Oh, I’m grateful that you started Fire Rover. I love the co-hatch story and the stick grip story and the Ryan Fogelman story is going to go on and Ryan, you’re always welcome back on the Impact Podcast to continue to share your fascinating, wonderful and important journey as a serial entrepreneur. For our listeners and viewers who want to find Fire Rover find the FireSafe to report on LinkedIn. It’s really a great publication. Subscribe to it. Ryan does a great job with that. Also, firerobert.com, co-hatch .com, and stickgrip.com. Ryan Fogelman, thanks for not only being my friend, but thanks for all the great things you’re doing that make an important impact on this world. Thank you for making the world a better place and thank you for joining us today on the Impact Podcast.
Ryan: No, I appreciate it. Thank you so much. I look forward to seeing you next week.
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