CO-FOUNDER, DATA TRIBE & SILENT CIRCLE
Technology start-up studio.
Mike Janke is a 6X company founder, former member of SEAL Team 6 and a seriel entrepreneur. In addition to co-founding Data Tribe, Mike is Executive Chairman and co-founder of Silent Circle, one of the world’s leading Global Secure Communications service. Mike is also as an author of two best-selling books on self-discipline, leadership, and performance (Take Control & Power Living). Mike is the co-founder of DataTribe –a MD and Palo Alto based technology startup studio and Blue Pacific Studios -a Los Angeles based Film & Media Production Company he co-founded with Daniel Weinand, co-founder of Shopify. Mike sits on the board of 4 other technology firms. Prior to starting Silent Circle, Mike was the founder and former CEO of SOC-USA, one of the countries largest defense logistics and security firms headquartered in Washington DC, with over 8,000 employees in 14 countries. Mike speaks around the world on Privacy, Cyber Security, and Encryption and is the 2016 recipient of the “Visionary of the Year” awarded by the Center for Technology & Democracy.
By starting and building 6 companies of my own. Learning the hard way. I have been a founder, investor and board member of technology startups in the past, so it was a natural transition to start DataTribe. I also spent years learning the Venture side of the business from my mentor, Bob Ackerman –the founder and chairman of Allegis Capital. Bob, along with my co-founder Steven Witt, felt there was a better way to de-risk the entire startup process and eliminate the all bad things about traditional Venture as well as the bad things that come with today’s incubators. That is how DataTribe came to life.
In the technology arena, I work with our nations top engineers and minds in the U.S intelligence community so I get a glimpse of what the future holds. Quantum computing, AI autonomous drones, super-soldier exo-skeletons and cutting edge cyber tools. Data is eating the world, not software. Our current slate of tools for data ingestion, data lakes, analytics and cyber security are going to be obsolete in 5-7 year due to the immense amount of data companies will be handling. New tools are being created to handle this 1000x growth in data.
We are seeing a dramatic increase of technological advancements in “over-the-horizon” technologies coming out of Intelligence Agencies and Research Labs around Quantum Computing, AI, IOT Security and Homomorphic Encryption that was considered “science projects” 5 years ago. These advancements have the capability to change the entire architecture of how businesses operate with data.
The barriers we see are related to the massive amount of funding available today. Sometimes you can end up with 20 well-funded early stage companies attacking the same problems.
At DataTribe, the vision was to draw “over the horizon” technology found in U.S Intelligence Agencies and Research Labs – out to turn them into commercial cyber security, Data and Analytics companies. These are the 3 areas where billions of research dollars flow and where the best and brightest tackle Nation State problems. The inspiration for this came out of frustration (my fellow co-founders Bob Ackerman & Steven Witt) seeing great technology startups fail because they had little to no support system to help them through the minefield of early startup life. Our vision is to actually co-build the company with a team of 10 all star, highly-experienced operators who have successfully built dominate startups –in a sense to make it an unfair fight.
Getting better at what we do. There is always lots of room to get better at co-building startups. We fund and co-build 4 startups a year and we refine, learn and tweak the process along the way.
One of the single biggest keys to our early success has been the fact set DataTribe up as an Operating Company, instead of a traditional Venture firm or Incubator. We don’t take a management fee and instead, have an operating budget that gets applied to actually building the startup. In traditional venture, you place 40, 50 or 60 bets a year and hope 1 or 2 hit it big. Traditional Venture does not have the resources, people or time to really help their startups – its impossible when you have a $1 Billion dollar fund and you fund 60 companies a year. We took a “snipers approach” instead.
Where to begin? Every company I ever started seems like it had to get to the point of almost closing its doors before it took off. In hindsight, this experience is also why we build DataTribe like we did –to overcome those massive “oh shit this is it” moments. I have made more bad decisions than right decisions in business over the past 17 years, but everyone of those bad decisions helped me learn and become a better CEO each time.
My experience has taught me that brutul honesty is far better than sleezy marketing speak with customers. Tell them what you can and cannot do right up front. Too often today people oversell and underperform. Eventually that is a flaw that kills the company. The same applies at DataTribe with everyone of our new startup founders – be honest with them about what to expect and that we are flawed human beings too. We have no magic formula but we will work our butts off to help build the company. Egos kill more startups than running out of money.
We used to have a saying in the SEAL Teams, “if you have to point to the rank on your collar to let people know your in charge –your not in charge.” If you help others with humility instead of bravado and ego, people naturally begin to listen. The technology and Venture world is so full of egos and “look at me –I am successful” type of attitudes that it turns people off. Motivate people by serving them and doing things you ask of others.
Never, ever give up. I am a former SEAL without a college degree. Persistence and “fight” is more important in the long run than intelligence. Observe what all the so called startup “Gurus” are telling people to do –and do the exact opposite. Don’t follow the sheep herd mentality.
I bring unique strategic and personal performance tools from the world of Special Operations (I am a former SEAL Team 6 member) to technology startups. I help startup founders understand the minefield of building a commercial technology startup. There is no magic formula or secret. I have built 7 companies since my time in Special Operations and apply experience as well as unique strategies from Special Operations to the field of startups.
I believe that a combination of characteristics have helped me along my path. For me, the ability to surround myself with people way more talented, smart and experienced in various skills than myself – has helped me create elite teams to start companies. The second is personal performance –both physical and mental. I geek-out over bio hacking and believe that working out and doing things that others will not, or are unwilling to do – provides an edge in life. I also feel that I have a bit of ADHD when it comes to business. I have built a large Defense firm, 4 technology firms, a media production company and recently a bio technology longevity firm. I like to learn other markets, products and industries and apply lessons learned to each –failures and success.
My personal aspirations are to try and mitigate my flaws (we are all flawed creatures) and become a better husband, Dad and co-worker. In the SEAL teams we called these “Flat Sides”. Every human has them, but the key is to set aside your ego and focus on improving the things I suck at or personality flaws that keep me from helping others. My business ambitions are to be known as someone to helps others succeed instead of focusing on my personal success. I have learned that if you focus on giving and helping others without trying to get the limelight focused on me – it’s the fastest path to business success. Its incredibly important that I harshly evaluate myself in this light.
From a personal perspective – definitely my daughter. Being a dad has taught me more about living that the value of every day we have than any other experience in my life. On the professional side, I would say the fact I have tackled building companies in 4 completely different industries – Technology, Defense, Media Production and Venture Capital. I crave challenges and learning new industries combined the fact I have a different risk-profile than most from my time at SEAL Team 6. I don’t view risk the same way.
I have had a lot of these. Too many. I will focus more on my business and professional time rather than my military experiences as often times they are hard for people to relate to. The most challenging Moment is a combination of horrible moments. As the founder and CEO of SOC-USA, we provided logistics, security and construction services to the U.S and Coalition Governments in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Africa. Everytime one of our employees was killed, I flew to the families home and had to break the news. If anyone tells you that business is not personal –don’t believe them. That experience changed the way I view hiring and firing people.
If not me –who? If not now –when. I will out-grind, out-work and outlast everyone else.
Cool Hand Luke, my wife Mary Beth, Sir Henry Shackleton, Carlos Hathcock
Turks & Caicos, Santa Fe, NM and Chile
Emerson pocket knife, Stand-up desk, Apple’s large desktop monitor, Saxom wine
I really “geek out” over bio-hacking, improving physical & Mental performance and longevity. I have been helping a friend of mine, Dr. Brett Osborn, start a new company called Advanced Longevity Project. He is one of the top neurosurgeons in the world and probably one of the worlds top 5 most advanced experts on longevity and physical performance.