Adeo Ressi, CEO of Founder Institute

By LAURA LOREK, Publisher of Silicon Hills News

Wearing a red cowboy hat, jeans, a button-down white shirt, a jade necklace and a necklace of crystals, Adeo Ressi doesn’t look like the typical startup founder.

And he’s not.

Ressi, who has founded and sold two $1 billion companies, now serves as CEO of Founder Institute, which runs an early-stage startup program in 200 cities worldwide, including Austin. He visited Austin during South by Southwest and gave a speech at SXSW on finding your purpose and turning that into a business.

“A startup fails when the founder gives up,” Ressi said. “So, people always ask is it money, is it the market, or the model, or management. It’s none of the above. It’s always the drive and passion of the founder. When the founder is pursuing their purpose wholeheartedly by running the company, that company can achieve really miraculous things.”

Purpose is driven from the heart, not from the mind, Ressi said.

“Your purpose is something you feel,” he said. “Your heart is driven by love.”

It’s important for entrepreneurs to get in touch with their feelings and emotions through guided mediation to feel what their heart is telling them, Ressi said. Founders can also do it through journaling, he said.

Ressi also spent time at Galvanize with graduates of the Founder Institute Austin program. And he took some time to talk about entrepreneurship on this Ideas to Invoices podcast.

During the podcast, Ressi talks about a whole range of issues. Ressi has done a lot of work with psychometrics and the only thing that alters a person’s personality to create more openness is psychedelic mushrooms, he said. It can help you find your purpose, but journaling is a lot safer and less dramatic method, Ressi said.

Mediation and yoga are also good alternatives, he said.

Working with a coach or adviser can also help a person find their purpose, Ressi said.

“I think everyone should go on that journey,” he said.

At SXSW this year, a lot of talks focused on authenticity and truth. The rise of vanity metrics has had a counter effect on authenticity in the digital age, Ressi said.

“Obviously you don’t want to post ugly photos on Instagram,” Ressi said. “But then what happens you get to the point where you start manufacturing photos that are not real in any way to get followers essentially and build these vanity metrics.”

There’s almost an instinctual negative reaction that’s happening to that, he said.

“Where there is a flight to authenticity and vulnerability,” Ressi said.

People just aren’t vulnerable and honest about their feelings, situations, and struggles, Ressi said.

“We have, as humanity, a great deal of trauma that has been passed down for generations,” he said.

Now, there are tools today to heal trauma and it’s important to use them to break inter-generational trauma cycles and build great companies that are good for humanity, Ressi said. He calls that the “neo-enlightenment.”

Fake it till you make it has been a mantra of Silicon Valley for decades. It comes from entrepreneurs with big ideas showing rigged demos of their products and creating fantastic revenue charts for where they want their startups to go. But with the Theranos collapse, that way of doing business has been called into question. Elizabeth Holmes, founder of Theranos raised $400 million to create a machine that could easily process a small finger-prick sample of blood and test it for 200 diseases. The only problem was the machine didn’t work and the company went bust but not before defrauding customers, investors and employees.

Theranos is an outlier, Ressi said. Everything worked fine up until when Holmes began lying to investors, customers and everyone else, he said. Another recent social media-driven fraud case is Fyre Festival, which raised millions of dollars and promised customers an exotic musical festival in luxury tents on a private island in the Bahamas. Models and social media influencers promoted the festival through paid posts on Instagram, Twitter, and other social media platforms. The music festival turned out to be a huge fraud and didn’t deliver on its promises. Billy McFarland, its founder, is in jail. And Theranos’ Holmes is awaiting a criminal trial.

“As a founder, you run a delicate balance between having that unbridled optimism and then also having to be genuine and honest,” Ressi said.

The examples of abuse are far less than the examples of success, Ressi said.

For more on Ressi and his thoughts on traits for a successful entrepreneur and the rise of China and other emerging technology markets, please listen to the whole podcast.

Also, please rate and review our Ideas to Invoices podcast on iTunes and support Silicon Hills News by becoming a patron on our Patreon site. You will get to vote on what we cover in future podcasts and stories.