This is a transcript for Your First Million Episode 5 with Roberta Lucca.
It is also available in PDF format.
The transcript was created by Rev.com and may contain mistakes.
Arlan Hamilton: I’m Arlan Hamilton, I’m a venture capitalist, and this is Your First Million. I started my fund, Backstage Capital from the ground up while I was on food stamps. I have now invested in more than 100 companies led by women, people of color, and LGBT founders. After having raised more than $10 million dollars people often ask me how I did it. I created this podcast, so I could tell you my story, and so that together we could go on a journey and speak with some of the most successful people in the world from all backgrounds, and walks of life to learn how they got their first million, and who knows, maybe I’ll reach my first million in personal capital while I’m recording this series. There’s only one way to find out. This episode is brought to you by Digital Ocean, let’s go.
Arlan Hamilton: In this episode of Your First Million I sit down with Roberta Lucca in London to talk about her journey, and Roberta is fascinating. She was born in Brazil, she studied computer science while she was there, and then she moved to England and started a few companies, a few startups, and as you’ll see some of them worked out, and some didn’t, and maybe were a little ahead of their time if they didn’t work out. You’ll see that in the interview, and she ended up co-founding Bossa Studios, which is a really popular gaming studio. BAFTA award-winning, and just has massive hits after hit. I love this interview because she just drops keys left and right, so pull out the notebook on this one for sure.
Arlan Hamilton: She has raised, with her co-founders, more than $11 million in venture funding, really [inaudible 00:02:13] though before that, which is the more interesting story in my view, and today she has videos on YouTube where she’s trying to pay it forward. She’s trying to impart wisdom and give keys from her experience that are really practical and actionable, and that’s what I love about these videos, and I love about this interview. You are going to get something out of this one. It’s a little bit shorter than our other ones have been, but it’s just jam-packed, it’s concentrated. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did, as much as I loved talking to Roberta, and if you have any questions for her you can reach her, she’ll tell you how to reach her. I think you’re going to want to keep up with her journey. Thanks for listening as always, and I can’t wait to get into it, let’s go.
Arlan Hamilton: I love your videos, and I just became familiar with … I like what you’re doing. I like what you’re trying to … You’ve figured something out, and you’re trying to pay it forward. Why, once you’ve made your first million, why do you make videos and content for other people?
Roberta Lucca: I decided in my life to be an entrepreneur, and to focus everything that I do in my work, and create something new to the world, but I decided not to have children, and I think I got to a point where I’ve accumulated all this knowledge, all of these achievements, and I need to have this need to put it out and be this potentially role model to the new generation of girls who are lost or thinking, “what am I going to do in my life?” And, I thought that the best place to do it was YouTube because that’s the place where all the gen Z are, but also they’re exposed to makeup and shoes, and beauty, and they’re not exposed to women talking about business, and women talking about how fun, and how difficult, and how exciting it could be for you to build something on your own. So, I closed the cycle and it is a massive way to pay forward and to say, “hey, come into this journey because you might love it.”
Arlan Hamilton: Yeah, that’s actually the coolest answer to that question because I definitely relate to the deciding not to have children part. I definitely would consider adopting an older child or couple in the next few years, but I no longer have no longer a desire to have my own biologically, and so I do feel like I call myself people’s gay auntie.
Roberta Lucca: Yeah, exactly.
Arlan Hamilton: So, I feel like I want to be like a big sister to people. I am a big sister, and I want to be a big sister, and that’s just a wonderful way of putting it. It’s how I think about Oprah too.
Roberta Lucca: Yeah.
Arlan Hamilton: Oprah, people focus on the fact that she hasn’t had children, but she has the worlds children.
Roberta Lucca: Right?
Arlan Hamilton: We’re all learning from her, and I think it’s just really important that each person, each woman, each person, each couple, each group, whatever, makes their own decision for themselves. So, I just honed in that part of it, but that’s really awesome. So, because you have these wonderful videos, which I encourage everyone to check out on YouTube, you cover a lot. So, first what we’ll do is level set, and start at the beginning. First of all, where are you from? Where were you born? We’re in London right now. How long have you lived in London, that sort of thing.
Roberta Lucca: So, I was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and I moved to London 13 years ago, and I worked there in a very large corporation called Global TV. It’s the second largest commercial TV broadcaster in the world, and I spent seven years there. I’m a computer scientist, so I was in the technology department, but also working in, we call it interactivity department, which basically allowed us to apply technology to make TV more interactive, so you could vote for your Big Brother contestant. You could vote for whatever that was happening on TV, and to me it was like I was in this very massive organization of thousands of people, and a pretty big one. I was like, “what else am I going to do in Brazil? I need to go out and explore the world.”
Roberta Lucca: I had this sense of adventure, and my husband and I were like, “okay, that’s the time now. We’re young enough.” Got married and then like, “okay, let’s go and find a job in the UK.” And, we ended up finding a job in … Well, he found a job in Cambridge, I followed, and then there was the realization when I got here that I could not speak proper English, and I was like, “wow,” naivety [inaudible 00:07:40].” I was like, “yeah, I can do this.”
Arlan Hamilton: Yeah, they say ignorance is bliss.
Roberta Lucca: Exactly yeah, but that was fine. I was like, “okay, now I need to take five steps back and invest in learning how to communicate in a different language to continue my career.” And, I did that, and then six months later I was working again, and then went to work for Nokia. Eight years ago … Nine years ago? Yeah, almost nine years ago I found myself in this moment of like, “okay, I can not bare anymore working in large organizations. I’m always a rebel. I’m always trying to do the new things, the new projects, changing everything. I think I’m ready now to go and jump into entrepreneurship.” That’s when I started Bossa Studios.
Arlan Hamilton: So, I know that you had a couple of companies before, so startups that you decided to do. Were these before Bossa, because Bossa was your baby that went off to college, that did well. But, you had a couple of attempts that didn’t do so well, is that correct?
Roberta Lucca: Yes, that’s correct.
Arlan Hamilton: Okay, so first of all, just briefly, what were they, and then what did you learn from those false starts?
Roberta Lucca: So, I had a very interesting joining to entrepreneurship because I started Bossa first, and then half way through I was like, “oh my god, I really enjoy this. Starting something new, creating something new.” And, I started multiple companies while I was building Bossa, and they didn’t work out as you can expect, because your mind, you split your focus in two. But, I really had to do that for myself for some reason, internal reason, and I started a company that was a 3D printing company, and you guys listening won’t be able to see, but I’m wearing one of my products, which is a ring that is made of titanium. My idea was that 3D printing is going to change to world. We’re going to building houses-
Arlan Hamilton: That’s right.
Roberta Lucca: 3D printable houses eventually.
Arlan Hamilton: And what year was this when you started this?
Roberta Lucca: That was 2014, yes.
Arlan Hamilton: Okay, five years ago.
Roberta Lucca: Yeah.
Arlan Hamilton: That’s pretty good, pretty good.
Roberta Lucca: Yeah, I was like, “the whole fashion industry, there’s so much waste going on in fashion accessories, et cetera. There must be a way that I can use 3D printing to create things on demand, so I product would only exist if someone orders that physical product.” I started with jewelry, and et cetera, and I was like, “the materials are going to evolve.” It was fascinating, it was an amazing journey. I had partnerships with Disney, with Topshop, with a lot of big companies, but it was too early. It was not the right timing. It didn’t take off, my margins were very squeezed because people who buy fashion, they either buy the designer or they buy something very cheap, and same for accessories.
Arlan Hamilton: Yeah, how long did it take you to figure out? Were you disciplined in understanding that it wasn’t working, or do you feel that you went too long with it?
Roberta Lucca: No, I was disciplined, and I was half way through. I think, yeah I ran the company for two years.
Arlan Hamilton: Two years?
Roberta Lucca: [inaudible 00:11:15], because it was his first company he really wanted to stay longer. He was like, “no, we can do this. We can do this.” I don’t feel it. I think we just not in the right timing, we’re not going to make it.
Arlan Hamilton: I mean, that’s so important for people to … It’s hard though, when you’re in it and you’re passionate about it, and some of it is working, and you have these signals, and you don’t know what the future holds. It’s hard to know when to call a time of death on an idea, because all of your … If you are an entrepreneur and you have … And, for me it seems like you’re a visionary as well, you’re seeing things even ahead of their time. That can be difficult, but the thing I think that separates a good entrepreneur from a legendary entrepreneur is that ability to edit, and to have that discipline, and know how to spend their years on this planet, and it seems like you did that. Was the other attempt after that?
Roberta Lucca: Yeah.
Arlan Hamilton: Did you start something else?
Roberta Lucca: [inaudible 00:12:21] after that.
Arlan Hamilton: You were energized, so what was that one?
Roberta Lucca: As you’re saying, it’s like it’s never an easy decision. You have to do that, it was like, yeah I decided that’s not the time. Timing’s wrong, I burned out of course because I was doing Bossa, and WonderLuk at the same time, and then I went to Bossa like, “okay, now I’m going to do full-time.” And then, I had this other idea, because I spent quite a lot of money and time with executive coaches to help me become a better leader, a better entrepreneur, and I was like, “there must be a way that I can use artificial intelligence to make the head space for coaching.” Can I use newer science techniques, coaching techniques, things that are proven that work and combine that with technology, and have a chat bot that would help you with your life on the day-to-day, and that was my third company, which is called Boldr.
Roberta Lucca: So, it helps you to be more bold, bolder in your life and it’s literally seven to ten minutes conversation on Facebook messenger with this imaginary coach, which is called Charlie. So, it could be a woman or a man, and Charlie helps you with your life and asks you questions, the tough questions that coaches ask you. So yeah, so that was another thing that was like, “maybe I could do this.”
Arlan Hamilton: And, that just again didn’t catch on as quickly as you needed it to?
Roberta Lucca: Yeah, the technology’s still not there in terms of making that really personalized. There are companies that are succeeding now.
Arlan Hamilton: Yes, because this would’ve been what, a couple of years ago that you did this?
Roberta Lucca: Exactly yeah, it was a couple of years ago.
Arlan Hamilton: And in AI a year makes all the difference.
Roberta Lucca: Absolutely, yeah, absolutely.
Arlan Hamilton: What do you think one of the lessons, like the main take away for you was when you started? Do you regret starting these other companies, or do you feel like they’ve given you some lesson that you couldn’t have paid for?
Roberta Lucca: Yeah, no I do not regret at all. I’m very glad that I did. I became a much better entrepreneur because of that. I learned much better how to focus, how to intentional. I learned how to balance my big vision and big drive to create new things back into Bossa as well to say, “okay, how can I channel this energy into a different way to make something bigger as apposed to make something new because Bossa is doing well.” And, how can I allow myself some time to have this creative flow into another avenue which is part of also what I’m doing with my YouTube channel.
Arlan Hamilton: How did you make your first million? What was that story?
Roberta Lucca: Yeah, that’s the question.
Arlan Hamilton: Yeah, so you had Bossa. Is it Bossa or Bossa?
Roberta Lucca: Bossa.
Arlan Hamilton: Bossa.
Roberta Lucca: Like from bossa nova.
Arlan Hamilton: Bossa nova, got it.
Roberta Lucca: Yeah, that was inspired by bossa nova. We were three years into building the company, and we created a game in a game jam called Surgeon Simulator, and Surgeon Simulator is a game about a surgeon who wants to do a heart transplant but he’s very clumsy. As a player, you are just a clumsy hand that needs to do this heart transplant in a moving ambulance.
Arlan Hamilton: Oh my goodness.
Roberta Lucca: In the middle of town.
Arlan Hamilton: That’s great.
Roberta Lucca: And, my team put it out there, they uploaded to Kongregate at the time, a big gaming portal, and a couple of YouTubers, really big ones, picked it up. They started playing on their YouTube channels, one of them was PewDiePie, which later became quite big and controversial, and suddenly in a week of a very bare bones game from a game jam of two days. Game jams are hackathons. This game was everywhere, everyone was talking about this. We had millions of views on YouTube combined, tons of people playing that, and we’re like, “wow, we have something that’s a gem here.” And, we spent another four months into making a proper game. We launched, and then we reached our million dollar revenue in a matter of months.
Arlan Hamilton: Wow. Wow, and so how many games had you built, as a team built before that one broke?
Roberta Lucca: We had built five.
Arlan Hamilton: Five games?
Roberta Lucca: Before that, yeah.
Arlan Hamilton: Was there any indication on this sixth game that it would be any different than the first that had modest success?
Roberta Lucca: Yes, the first was interesting because the first game we made, we won a BAFTA award, and a BAFTA award is like the Oscars of games here in the UK and in Europe. It was amazing because it put us on the map. We’re like, “wow, okay we can create something very unique and very nice that people appreciate.” But, it was not financially successful. And then, we had those trials of making that super creative things into financial success in the odd attempt, and this one, I think what was different was that with a very, very … We’d call it MVP, right? A very small MVP, it had such an appeal to so many millions of people and I get even goosebumps because it was like, “wow. We just had a audience.” So, the difference was that there were a lot of people who already tried a game and they wanted it.
Arlan Hamilton: And, MVP means minimal viable product right?
Roberta Lucca: Yes.
Arlan Hamilton: So, explain for people who wouldn’t know why that would be interesting. You weren’t trying to make it a huge product, you were trying to get it out to people who might enjoy it.
Roberta Lucca: Exactly.
Arlan Hamilton: As quickly and as nicely as possible, but not spending weeks and months and hundreds of thousands of dollars on it, it was just from the heart.
Roberta Lucca: It was from the heart.
Arlan Hamilton: A gift.
Roberta Lucca: It was from the heart.
Arlan Hamilton: Yeah.
Roberta Lucca: Definitely that.
Arlan Hamilton: That’s interesting.
Roberta Lucca: And we even call it … We adapt to the games world. We say that it’s the MEP, is the minimum enjoyable product, and if you have a lot of people loving it, as much as you love doing, there you go. You have something, you have a jam.
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Arlan Hamilton: And, so you have a lot of gems yourself I think on YouTube. I want to talk about a couple of them because I think that the advice you give will be very helpful to some people listening. Why do you say you should learn to say no more often?
Roberta Lucca: Because, every time you say yes you’re committing to something more that you might not be able to fulfill. Every time I went into … I have phases in my life because I don’t think that we all [inaudible 00:21:41] … Of course, we progress in life, and I want to be better every day, but we relapse every now and then. The best moments that I’ve had were the moments that I was really focused on my goals, and very focused on my intention into something that I really wanted to have succeeding, and that requires saying a lot of no’s, and it’s so painful. It’s so painful to say no, especially when you have a creative mind. It’s just like you want to embrace the world [crosstalk 00:22:15]
Arlan Hamilton: Yeah, but it’s quality.
Roberta Lucca: [crosstalk 00:22:18] it’s the quality versus quantity, yeah.
Arlan Hamilton: Yeah, so why is it important that we try to get better and better at that? The focus, yes, and do you feel like you have a higher quality of life when you’re completely taking control of it? Because, one of the things you mentioned in another video is that you decide your destiny.
Roberta Lucca: Yeah.
Arlan Hamilton: So how do those two things tie in?
Roberta Lucca: To me it’s about energy. We all have finite energy in our days, and I’m always trying to have more energy than I usually have by doing yoga every day, by taking vitamin B6, B12, and keep myself in a high energy mode on a day-to-day basis. But, when you are splitting yourself into ten things you’re naturally going to spend 10% of your energy in each of them. So, when you say no, and when you become intentional you decide these are the two things that I’m going to focus on, you have 50% energy to each, which is way better. I believe that’s how you achieve great things, is by putting your mind and your heart, and your energy into those things that you want to see becoming amazing.
Arlan Hamilton: And, talk a little bit about that success then once you all as a team, you have several co-founders, and you work as a team, you’re still there, right?
Roberta Lucca: Yeah. Yeah.
Arlan Hamilton: This is your main gig. With that success, did you all continue to have success? I know you were able to raise capital, which you raised years and years after you started, which is kind of cool, because you had more leverage and control, which is a big thing. But, that success, was it like you imagined it would be? Was having the BAFTA nominations, and having millions of people know and play the game, was that a dream come true? I’m trying to get a sense of once you have it, does it feel the same as what you imagined and dreamed of?
Roberta Lucca: Yeah, I think it’s different. It’s like, the ideas … You know, that’s a funny thing. We do game jams on a monthly basis at Bossa.
Arlan Hamilton: Which again is a [crosstalk 00:24:43]
Roberta Lucca: It’s a hackathon.
Arlan Hamilton: Hackathon [crosstalk 00:24:45]
Roberta Lucca: Yeah, hackathon for two days, every month, and we’ve been perfecting. That’s our secret source, we have been perfecting our funnel of making five to ten games every single month, so we have nearly 300 games made, and it goes through validation process, and all those things. We put it out there, we do play tests until the point of, okay now it’s time to invest in that game and make it successful.
Roberta Lucca: And, I think the evolution … When we started to do game jams we figured out that a lot of great ideas for games become pretty bad games, and a lot of not so good ideas for games can become amazing entertainment games. So, there’s a lot of power in the execution, and when you are starting a company, when you have your big vision, when you’re like, “this is what I want to change in the world. This is what I want to concur.” Everything’s in your mind, and that’s in the ideas place, which is marvelous for creative people, and visionary people like me, but when you put things in practice things are very different. The results are very different even though most of the outcomes you can control, a lot of them you can’t because you are in a very movable market all the time. There are loads of variables when you put your product out there.
Roberta Lucca: So, I would say that it’s different to what I expected. Is it better? I think it is better because when I started I would never imagine I would raise so many millions. I would never imagine we would make so many millions. I was not like, “oh my god, we’re going to have a thousand people company, a hundred people company.” I just wanted to create something amazing to the world.
Arlan Hamilton: What does capital afford you other than just the ability to buy things? What does it afford you?
Roberta Lucca: I think it affords you to fail because there’s no way you can succeed without the failures on the way, and that’s crucial because nothing’s going to be perfect, as perfect as in your imagination, when you execute that. Maybe you don’t have the right technology, maybe you don’t have the right game design, maybe you don’t have the right people, and things fail, and you have to start again.
Arlan Hamilton: That’s really interesting. My go to is, it affords options, and we’ve talked about that on this series, and the series before, but it affords failure which can breed the biggest successes after having those lessons.
Roberta Lucca: Exactly.
Arlan Hamilton: That’s really interesting. So, a recurring theme I’m hearing with you is, is to allow yourself, allow your imagination to soar, but when executing, start small. This is something that you’ve said in the past too. Why is that really key for people?
Roberta Lucca: Because, think about when you want to make big changes in your life. You want to … I don’t know, so many people want to change jobs, lose weight, get to the gym every day. If you go and say, “I’m going to go from being a very unfit person into becoming an athlete.” You can not go from 0 to 100 in no time. It requires you to start with the very, very small steps, which is, “I’m going to do 15 minutes of yoga every day, now I’m going to do another 15 minutes of running every day, now I might take a marathon, now I might,” So, it’s building blocks, and when you try to do too many things you’re just going to tire yourself. Let’s say you go from zero to going to the gym for four hours in a day, you’re literally going to break your muscles.
Arlan Hamilton: Yeah, you burn out.
Roberta Lucca: You burn out so quickly, and you need to define those small steps that will allow you to get to the big goal that you have.
Arlan Hamilton: What are your thoughts on … You’re a co-founder of a gaming company where you get to watch your customers have fun every day. What are your thoughts on having fun as an entrepreneur, because this is a rollercoaster no matter how successful one is. I’ve talked to people who have had hundreds of millions of dollars raised in revenue and they’re miserable because it’s one more thing to worry about. I’ve talked to people who have fallen face in the mud, and are just having the time of their life. Why do you think it’s important, or do you think it’s important to have fun, and if so, why?
Roberta Lucca: I think it’s massively important to have fun. I think there’s a lot of pressure on founders to be in mode of nearly burn out to achieve things quicker, and bigger much faster. I was like that when I started, that’s why I started multiple companies and, “yeah, I can do that, I’m Wonder Woman. That’s fine, I will survive, it’s fine.” It’s not sustainable. You need to allow yourself.
Roberta Lucca: It’s funny because recently i was struggling with anxiety, and I made a video about that, it was the most courage that I had in my life to make a video about something that is not the usual bubbly me, and one thing that I learnt is that a lot of entrepreneurs and high achievers like me … There are three emotional systems in our brains. The drive system, the threat system, and the soothing system, and we exercise the drive and the threat on an ongoing basis, and the drive is what makes you achieve more, and more, and more. It’s the reward system that we have. The threat is connected to the stress hormones. It’s like, “okay, if I don’t make it I’m going to die. The company’s going to die, something very horrible is going to happen.”
Roberta Lucca: I created that for myself for so long, and I did not allow the soothing system to be there, and soothing system is about the hug, the oxytocin is like the moment that you are with yourself that you idol, that you’re looking at the window and doing nothing, that you’re talking to your sister, that you’re talking to your family, that you’re having a laugh with your friends, and that’s about fun. So, it’s allowing yourselves not to take life so seriously, but also allow other people to be near you so you don’t feel so lonely.
Roberta Lucca: It’s fascinating how much a lot of entrepreneurs do not look after the soothing system, and it’s very important. It’s about fun, it’s about having good times, that you’re not under pressure to achieve something, you’re just doing it for that sake of doing it.
Arlan Hamilton: Well, I think that is an amazing way to end this conversation, because I feel like, as with many conversations I have on this series, we’re going to have to have a part two. Would you come back if we have questions from listeners?
Roberta Lucca: Absolutely.
Arlan Hamilton: Would you come back and do more? I mean, this is just the tip of the iceberg. I would highly encourage everyone to check out. How do we find you on YouTube and online?
Roberta Lucca: On YouTube is YouTube.com/betalucca. B-E-T-A-L-U-C-C-A. Betalucca.com as well. On Twitter, betalucca1. B-E-T-A-L-U-C-C-A-1. On LinkedIn is that very long one, right?
Arlan Hamilton: [crosstalk 00:32:41] look up your name, Roberta Lucca.
Roberta Lucca: [crosstalk 00:32:43] look up my name, Roberta Lucca, you can find it.
Arlan Hamilton: And they can tweet at you, they can talk to you on YouTube.
Roberta Lucca: Oh, Instagram.
Arlan Hamilton: Instagram.
Roberta Lucca: Instagram is beta.lucca.
Arlan Hamilton: Beta.lucca, that’s awesome, if you have more questions definitely reach out. I think it sounds like you’re wanting to share as much as you can about your journey with others if it’s helpful to them, right?
Roberta Lucca: Absolutely, that’s my biggest passion. Create to live, live to create and share with everyone.
Arlan Hamilton: Hey, so I’d love to talk to you and keep the conversation going. Find me on Twitter and Instagram at Arlanwashere. That’s A-R-L-A-N was here. Stick around too because I will let you know when my new book is going to be in pre-order. Now, that’s coming out in 2020, it’ll be out as the real book, oh my goodness. You’ll be able to pre-order it, most likely this year, so stay tuned. I’ll let you know about that on Twitter, on Instagram, and on this podcast.
Arlan Hamilton: Thank you again to Digital Ocean for sponsoring this episode. If you are interested in sponsoring an episode of Your First Million get in touch with me, right now it’s sups easy to do so. You just email me at arlanhamilton@gmail. That’s A-R-L-A-N-H-A-M-I-L-T-O-N @gmail.com, and put in the subject that you’re thinking about sponsoring and I’ll give you some more information.
Arlan Hamilton: This is a really highly engaged audience, really, really educated, either through traditional means or through grit and tenacity, or a little bit of both, and these are the people you want to be talking to. You got aspiring founders, you’ve got in the trenches founders, you’ve got aspiring angel investors and active angel investors, you’ve also got venture capitalist, you’ve also got limited partners, and then you have people who are listening in to learn all about what all of that means, and so it’s a really interesting group of people. Check it out, thank you again Digital Ocean for sponsoring.
Arlan Hamilton: Your First Million is produced and edited by Anna Eichenauer, and senior producer [Brian Landers 00:34:59]. Additional audio mixing and mastering by Alfred Rook Hamilton. Additional production by Chacho Valadez. Executive producer, Arlan Hamilton.