Founder and CEO Anthony Zhang is Someone you Need to Know

Founder and CEO Anthony Zhang is Someone you Need to Know

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“Can you tell me what was going through your head when once you finished your pitch, [Mark] Cuban looked at you blank in the face and said, ‘You didn’t tell me shit…’?” After all the research I had done for this interview with Anthony Zhang, this was the question I most wanted to ask. Without skipping a beat Anthony replied, “I was shitting my pants… Excuse the curse word.” 

 


 

Anthony Zhang has co-founded 3 companies, two of which have already been acquired and the third is his current project that I detailed at length in this post

 

(BTW – I can’t wait to invest in his current project Vinovest – click here to check out the company yourself). He’s held the titles of CEO, Board Member, Director of Growth, Head of Marketing and Business Development, and now Angel Investor… And he’s only 25 years old. In spite of this incredibly professional resume, his personal experiences and resiliency far surpass those of his positions “steering the ship” as he put it. 

 

I had the incredible pleasure to sit with Anthony Zhang for an hour a couple of weeks ago to discuss building companies, past challenges, and fine wine

 

But before we get there, I want to confess that this interview was both the best and worst of my MikedUp career. I’ll cover exactly what went wrong at the very end, but let’s pick up right where our interview kicked off – as I teased above – Anthony’s experience pitching his first company to Mark Cuban and Mark Burnett on stage in front of a live audience at USC… at 19 years old. 

 


 

Before we dive in, here’s a link over to Vinovest if you’d like to check it out yourself

 

Just for being a MikedUp Blog reader, the awesome Vinovest team is offering 1 month of investing with ZERO FEES. If you’d like to take advantage, simply set up your account through one of the links on this page. Thanks all!

 


 

“I remember that night vividly because it was the most impactful of my career.” Anthony went on. He wasn’t lying. He would go on to reference this night, the pitch he delivered, and Mark Cuban’s response to it multiple times throughout our conversation. “I was just a second-year student at USC (Univesity of Southern California) attending a speech that [Mark] Cuban gave.”

 

(Anthony gives the 2nd pitch in this video)

 

I interrupted him out of curiosity, “So the pitch you delivered wasn’t prepped or rehearsed prior to that night? This was an impromptu opportunity?”

 

“Yeah. My business school dean called on a few of us who had started companies to pitch Cuban after his speech. He had his Shark Tank producer with him, so they decided to take a few pitches.” 

 

When I started doing research for this interview, Anthony’s pitch to Mark Cuban was the first thing that I landed on

 

And I remember being struck by 2 things. First was the confidence with which Anthony delivered his pitch and second was Mark’s response: “You didn’t tell me shit.”  As well as what must’ve been going through Anthony’s head when he heard it. 

 

Just to repeat what Anthony said above, “I was shitting my pants. And thinking back to that pitch now, I cringe at how bad it was… My approach going in was to be concise and direct because I was a huge fan of Marks and I knew that his personality could dominate a conversation if you’d let him.” 

 

Maybe this is a window into Anthony’s own personal high bar that he sets for himself, but no matter what he thought of his own pitch, it did land him an investment from the duo on stage. But more importantly, it ignited his first business, EnvoyNow, and gave it huge momentum. 

 

EnvoyNow brought food delivery to a huge segment of the market that companies like DoorDash and GrubHub can’t serve – college students on college campuses

 

By hiring college students and using the access they have within campus buildings, EnvoyNow makes sure you don’t have to lose your perfect table in the library or leave the comforts of your study group to grab some food. They’ll bring it right to where you are!

 

Mark Cuban’s producer, Mark Burnett, saw the value in Anthony’s company and offered the team $100,000 for 5% equity in EnvoyNow. Anthony gladly accepted. In fact, he cut Mark Cuban off to do so… 

 


 

And so my research continued… And the more I uncovered, the more I couldn’t wait to sit down, talk with the man, and uncover the questions I thought we all could learn from. And then one day, Valentine’s Day 2020 to be exact, I had that chance. 

 

That $100,000 was one hell of a prize to take away from a speech Anthony Zhang attended, but as it turned out, it wasn’t the only thing his pitch landed him

 

Later in our conversation, and one of the times Anthony would refer back to that night on stage, he recounted, “I got a call from Peter Thiel a short time after that pitch as well, and both Mark [Cuban] and Peter were encouraging me to drop out of USC to grow and run the company full time.” 

 

Another one of my interruptions. “Wait, one day you just get a call from Peter Thiel out of the blue?!?” 

 

“Well, not Peter directly. It was his program director [of the Thiel Fellowship].” 

 

For those who are not familiar, Peter Thiel was the first investor of Facebook

 

He is also a co-founder of PayPal, Confinity, and Clarium Capital Management. He’s invested in numerous companies, many of which would go on to achieve unprecedented success. The guy is literally a legend in this world. And his direct report gave Anthony a call one day… Out of the blue. 

 

‘The Pitch’ would set the wheels in motion for Anthony to earn a Theil Fellowship. This is a grant awarded through the Thiel Foundation that provides $100,000 per year to budding entrepreneurs under 23 to drop out of school and grow their companies. As their site says, “Two years. $100,000. Some ideas can’t wait.”

 

Anthony continued, “The program is really a ‘you get out what you put in’ type of experience.” Anthony would go on to describe regular meetings and dinners that were ultimately optional to Theil Fellows, but simply being a member seemed to carry tremendous access as well as validity to the founders and the companies they were building. 

 

Anthony’s successes continued as his business expanded to 2 additional campuses, Indiana and Wisconsin, and at the ripe age of 21, his future seemed limitless. 

 

But a hero will face a struggle at one time or another. And for this hero, that struggle became epic in just an instant

 

He was at an annual party for his fraternity, when he dove into the pool. “I ended up breaking my neck and suffering a spinal cord injury. From that accident, I became a quadriplegic and I honestly didn’t know if I’d move my limbs again… In total it was 13 months in the hospital and countless rehab sessions, workouts, and physical therapy. I’ve had to relearn how to eat, breathe, swallow,…” 

 

I asked him, “How long ago was this and can you update us all on how your recovery is going now?”

 

“It has been 3 years since my injury and in that time I’ve worked hard to regain some mobility in my upper body… I started with a mechanical wheelchair but I’m now able to use a manual one. I’ve regained many functions with my hands and arms as well.” 

 

I couldn’t imagine the struggle and perseverance he must’ve experienced to go through that injury and to achieve (and still progress toward achieving) such a strong recovery, and I told Anthony as much. And then I asked him what impact his company, EnvoyNow had on his recovery. 

 

“The company wasn’t doing well only 4 months into my 13 months in the hospital and I remember getting a few calls from my team telling me they were considering shutting it down. I told myself there’s absolutely no way we’re doing that. I couldn’t even consider it…” And with that push, Anthony dove back into running the company he helped build. “I think it really sparked the team. They must’ve been thinking that if our CEO believes in this enough to come out of the hospital and return to run the company…” 

 

Anthony’s return to EnvoyNow did turn the company around

 

They would continue expanding to over 20 campuses nationwide and eventually, EnvoyNow was sold to JoyRun not long after Anthony’s return. 

 

We shared a few stories about what it’s like having employees and their families depend on you as the CEO, the one who steers the ship. Then he summed up so well what both of us were trying to say, “Once you’ve had that position behind the helm, you keep searching to find it again.” 

 

And that’s exactly what he did co-founding another startup. This time it was Know Your VC (Venture Capitalist)

 

“An investor I really looked up to and respected, and even pitched once was alleged to sexually harass multiple founders who had pitched [this individual]. Know Your VC was born to provide transparency in an otherwise opaque environment.” 

 

To me, this company reminds me of a better version of what we had in college for professors – Rate My Professor. The key difference here is that a large portion of our personal and professional existences wasn’t tied to these professors. But if you had too much exposure to the wrong investor as a business founder, that dynamic could drastically change your life. 

 

Anthony continued, “This was right around the time of the ‘Me Too Movement’ and really helped shine a light to inform founders of the investors they were pitching.” 

 

Another trip to the plate and another home run. Know Your VC was eventually acquired by Rate My Investor and became another feather in the cap of this young entrepreneur

 

I had to ask, “It seems that every time you take a trip to the plate, you hit a home run. Have you ever missed on an idea or a company that you’ve started?”

 

Anthony responded, “I always have a ton of ideas in my head. But I make sure that the ones I decide to act on, I see through.” And that’s exactly what he’s done. Not only as a co-founder of wildly successful companies but also as an investor himself. See a more complete list of companies that Anthony’s invested with on his Medium page, but a few highlights are Legalinc, Bloom, and the mednet

 

Towards the end of our interview, I asked him, “Did you always want to be an entrepreneur or is it something you’ve worked into?”

 

“I honestly didn’t know. I thought I’d go to school for a few years, work in investment banking, and build up a resume, but it all changed with that one night on stage at USC.” 

 

It’s crazy how incredibly complex and detailed lives can all be distilled down to a set of a few critical moments, isn’t it? 

 


 

I covered Anthony’s current project, and the third company he’s co-founded, Vinovest at length in a separate post on MikedUp Blog, but here’s a short snippet to give you a taste: 

 

“Vinovest opens up a new asset class (fine wines) to the average investor… Access to markets, actually building a wine cellar, and a general lack of knowledge all previously kept this market at arm’s length for most of us. In the past, you either had to know someone in the industry or be on an exclusive mailing list. But Anthony and his company are bridging the gap. “We are advised by master sommeliers, but our company and its investments are algorithmically driven…” This allows for the best and most profitable decisions to be made on his investor’s behalf. “We are also working with 3rd party storage facilities to make sure that your bottles of wine are kept safe and in the right conditions.” 

 

With these systems in place, Vinovest eliminates all of the barriers that previously kept this lucrative asset class out of our investment portfolios. Additionally, this system puts the company’s investors in the best possible position to earn a profitable return.”

 

To read the rest of my story on the company and how it can work for you, click here

 

To head over to Vinovest’s website and see for yourself, click here 

 


 

To close out, I asked Anthony what his exit strategy for Vinovest is. Does he plan to sell like he did his previous two companies?

 

“Not at all. I’m in this one for the long haul. I have a passion for wine. In fact, I’ve always wanted to own a winery someday and to make wines for my family and friends. What better way to get to that goal than through this company?” 

 

That sounds like quite the sunset moment to me. 

 

At the end of my podcast interviews, I like to ask each guest a few rapid-fire questions. Here were Anthony’s responses (my questions are in bold):

 

What’s the best way to consume information (book, blog, news, podcast, TV, etc.)? 

 

“I love podcasts and long-form content.”

 

Where is your favorite place to be in the world? 

 

“Maui, Hawaii” 

 

For those of you who know me and my family, or if you’ve read about my past experiences working or vacationing in Maui, you know that Anthony and I had an ‘ahhh!!’ moment at this answer. 

 

What do you do to de-stress?

 

“I love to workout as a destresser.” 

 

Life would be so much simpler if ___________.

 

I’ll be honest, I was triple checking that I had asked all the questions I needed to for the interview while he was answering this question but the end of what he said stopped me cold and I thought it a fitting way to end the show. “… Life would be much simpler if people wouldn’t judge a book by its cover.” 

 

If you’d like to connect with Anthony:

 

Find Anthony on Twitter here

 


 

Now for the worst moment of my MikedUp career

 

The interview went so well. We uncovered a wealth of useful information about Anthony, his past, and his company. We learned lessons and tools to apply to our own lives, and we also learned that Maui, Hawaii is the exact favorite place in the world for both of us. 

 

But as I sit here sipping a nice red blend (I’m on brand with wine), I can’t help but feel bummed. Bummed that you didn’t hear the passion in Anthony’s voice as he described the company he’s co-founding and building or the pain with which he shared his personal hardships. Also bummed that you didn’t hear my pre-planned Sideways joke (that honestly didn’t really land that well). Because in an honest moment, I think that Anthony would agree we both enjoyed the conversation and our time together. It was a great hour. 

 

But I made a terrible mistake and didn’t capture the audio or video…

 

Such a rookie mistake and such a mistake indeed. As Jocko would say, “If you have 2 you have 1 and if you have 1 you have none.” And when it came to my recording device for my new podcast, MikedUp Pod, I had 1…

 

After apologizing for an uncomfortable amount of times, I want to take this opportunity to thank Anthony again for sitting down with me and for sharing so much. And I hope that you’ll be able to take some of his experiences and wisdom to apply in your own life… and push forward. 

 

All my best!

-Mike

 

P.S. Always have a backup…

 

Here’s a link to get started with Vinovest and to take advantage of 1 month with NO FEES

 

Just for being a MikedUp Blog reader, the awesome Vinovest team is offering 1 month of investing with ZERO FEES. If you’d like to take advantage, simply set up your account through one of the links on this page. Thanks all!

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