A Slice on Dan Beck, Serial Entrepreneur and Co-Founder and CEO of 401GO
The risk of building a business from scratch may deter the vast majority, but not “lifelong serial entrepreneur” Dan Beck. He’s drawn to the process of entrepreneurship and has built many companies, ranging from a food truck to a consulting firm with international offices. Beck builds each business with the goal to create a caring culture, with a team acting more like a family than just co-workers. His newest venture and family (figuratively and literally as his brother is a Co-Founder) is 401GO, an easy-to-use 401(k) platform for small businesses. This came from a need he saw with small businesses not providing 401(k) benefits due to the hassle, citing 75% of those with 150 or less employees don’t.
While most of his businesses have been global, Beck is located in the rapidly-growing Salt Lake City startup scene. He describes Salt Lake City as a “little big city” with many opportunities and great talent from nearby universities, nestled in the “hidden secret” that is the Rocky Mountain region of the U.S. He’s noticed more and more people moving inward from the coasts, maybe having felt “disenfranchised” in those established startup regions. “It’s that same excitement and energy that you find in a startup ecosystem, without this feverish panic that you feel on the coasts.”
Not being located on the coast can pose challenges for startups looking to raise money, but Beck had a different experience with 401GO. They were able to bootstrap for the first two years, establishing their product and gaining traction to the point where investors started coming to them. Beck notes this was advantageous in the 401(k) space, due to heavy regulations and a high risk of failure.
Aside from the financial risk of bootstrapping, Beck dealt with some tensions while building 401GO’s founding team. A close friend of theirs was initially on the team, but the dynamics didn’t work well and they experienced an unfortunate falling out with that friend/teammate. Though facing multiple risks to get 401GO to where it is today, Beck stayed committed to the company and is motivated by being able to help small businesses provide retirement benefits to their employees. He notes that his successful exits with prior companies could have easily let him retire early, but “that’s not why entrepreneurs do what they do.”
Through his experience as an entrepreneur, Beck has learned the value of networking. He hesitated to take lunch meetings to meet with new people instead of working through it since the outcome of each meeting was entirely unclear. Now, as a seasoned entrepreneur, Beck jumps on the opportunity to expand his network, regardless of the outcome. He suggests fellow entrepreneurs do the same and have a “what can I do for somebody else” mindset going in, rather than “what can you give me.”
Another piece of advice Beck has for aspiring entrepreneurs is that, “There’s nothing wrong with a side hustle… If you know you have those ambitions, try to find a way to put as much time in your side hustle and grow it as much as you can.” In other words, entrepreneurs, he doesn’t want you to be ashamed of needing a day job! Beck believes keeping a “frugal mindset” is advantageous, particularly when fundraising, but he also wants people to go for their ambitions. “You would feel regret, if you didn’t try whatever that ambition or that dream was going to be far greater than the risk and fear that you might feel along the way, so just do it.”
Over the course of his journey, Beck noticed his priorities and definition of success shift drastically. At first, his dream was to be an acclaimed CEO of a large company being name-dropped every which way. Now, his main priority is to maintain a balanced lifestyle. As a father, Beck wants to make sure he spends plenty of time with his kids. Being an entrepreneur lets him decide his schedule, and allows him the freedom to create the balanced lifestyle he wants. He works because it’s “fulfilling”, not because he has to (as I mentioned before, he’s had successful exits and could retire at any point).
Down the road, Beck sees 401GO growing into a billion dollar company and potentially being acquired by a financial service provider for a broader adoption. As for Beck himself, he doesn’t think he’ll ever truly retire, but wants a “taste” of retirement through sailing around the world with his family. An entrepreneur at heart, Beck will continue finding opportunities to chat with anyone about entrepreneurship.