Oct. 11, 2022

The Future of Work is Here: How To Automate Your Business Processes with Dan Abbate Ep. 90


Dan Abbate is an entrepreneur, thought leader, and investor with a career-long focus in business process optimization and automation using advanced technology, organizational development, and continuous improvement. Dan has a heavy transaction background including startup financing, mergers and acquisitions, and turnarounds. 

In the late '90s, while he was still in college, Dan started an internet company which serviced and eventually sold to Wall Street-funded .coms. Between the years of 2003 and 2013, he started/developed or acquired/improved and sold eight companies serving various markets and industries with a total market value of over $100,000,000 and were funded using private and public capital markets. He has experience in both B2B and B2C companies and enjoys advising and leading high-level operational initiatives, including infrastructure design, process re/engineering, and reorganization to deliver extraordinary results in growth, revenue, operational performance, and profitability. From 2013 onward Dan has focused on growing his personal knowledge base to scale his unique value-driving skills and experience as a silent and lead investor and advisor to a number of technology (including blockchain and cybersecurity) and mainstreet companies. This dedication and focus has placed Dan in a unique leadership position in the cross-section of technology, finance, and business.

Dan holds a Masters degree in Finance from Harvard University, a Bachelors degree from DePaul University in Philosophy and Business, has studied Operations and Financial performance at The Wharton School and Math and Physics at the University of New Mexico, presented his prophetic talk “How Not To Be Replaced By A Robot” at TedXBoca, and his book "Automation Manifesto" was published and is available via Amazon and other retail book outlets.

Where to find Dan Abbate

Learn How To Make Million Dollar Deals: A Masterclass By Dan Abbate

 

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Transcript

Dan Abbate:

Speed and like really have like a slam dunk of entrepreneurship or innovation or something like that. You have to be just 15 minutes ahead of the curve. You don't wanna be an hour ahead. You don't wanna be 15 minutes behind, but just 15 minutes. So I kind of always think that I'm always trying to stay just about that. 15 minutes ahead of the curve.

Natasha Miller:

Welcome to FASCINATING ENTREPRENEURS. How do people end up becoming an entrepreneur? How do they scale and grow their businesses? How do they plan for profit? Are they in it for life? Are they building to exit these and a myriad of other topics will be discussed to pull back the veil on the wizardry of successful and FASCINATING ENTREPRENEURS. My book RELENTLESS is now available. Everywhere books can be bought online, including Amazon and BarnesAndNoble.com. Try your local indie bookstore too. And if they don't have it, they can order it. To them, the reviews are streaming in and I'm so thankful for the positive feedback, as well as hearing from people that my memoir has impacted them positively. It is not enough to be resilient. You have to be RELENTLESS. You can go to TheRelentlessBook.com for more information. Thank you so much. Dan Abbate is an entrepreneur and investor with a focus in business process optimization and automation. He did a TEDx talk, How Not To Be Replaced By A Robot and has a transaction background, including startup financing, mergers and acquisitions and turnarounds. We talk about what he's looking for in his investments, what he considers a thought leader to be and why he wrote his Manifesto. Now let's get right into it.

Dan Abbate:

My focus is primarily just investing. My main team is essentially my chief of staff, myself. I have two like business development, opportunity seekers and an assistant, and that's my main team. And then once I make an investment, everything kind of gets handed over to my chief of staff and she oversees the interactions with the CEOs or C-suites of those companies. And then that's pretty much my job is, is to kinda like decide what we wanna invest in and then do it.

Natasha Miller:

And what are you looking for in an investment?

Dan Abbate:

I have a very specific opportunity filter that I use if, I mean, if you wanted to, I could pull it up and I could show you exactly, but in kind of round numbers, one of the main things that's important to me is to have a deal that has clear asymmetric risk. If I'm gonna invest some dollar amount. I don't really like investing for like, "Oh, well we're gonna get a 10% return rate." Like "Sure. That's good." As long as everything goes, well, if you lose your principle in the process, then 10%. Isn't very good. Right. But if, so, if there's a risk of losing significant chunks of your principal, then obviously we need asymmetric risk to kind of help balance that out. I like to try to build a deal so that I have that same asymmetric structure in pretty much all scenarios. So a lot of times the type of investments that I'm doing, I do look for opportunity to invest like debt finance, plus some sort of equity kicker. So the debt kind of creates the current cash flow and kind of like the path to exit. And of course the equity kicker is just kind of the cherry on top situation. And that kind of makes the numbers work in many scenarios.

Natasha Miller:

Any industry or any, is it industry specific?

Dan Abbate:

No, I'm very opportunistic. I look for opportunity and like, it really has to do it. Does it fit the filter? That's what makes me decide if I wanna do it or not? Like I actually have a real estate deal that I'm work again, right now. That's been fantastic. I was brought to me by it's funny, as I became more open to kind of like investing in other people as opposed to my own things so much, and like really opening my field of view more and more opportunities and good opportunities have come my way. Like, so for example, I invested in a company in North Carolina and one of the other investors in that company also works for a giant real estate development company and he's the head of their acquisitions department. So we just got to talking and he's like, "Hey, I've got this deal that our company turned down and formally turned it down. But I think it's a good deal. Would you wanna look at, and to your point?" "Sure." It's an industry it's real estate. "Fine. I'll look at it." And anyway, that deal has been fantastic. It took us a little while to kind of get it signed off on, but once we got the seller to sign, we acquired for essentially $10,000 a lot. When two days later, one of the other big boys was acquiring for $23,000 a lot, and we're talking a thousand lots. So that's the kind of return that I like. And we haven't even put any money into it yet. So obviously that's a pretty extreme, good outcome.

Natasha Miller:

Do you have the minimum revenue that you are looking at?

Dan Abbate:

So not minimum revenue, but minimum potential return. And the minimum potential return has to be calculatable on paper with some amount of certainty to be at least a million dollars a year, annualized. So it, again, it to all sorts of ideas, but if I can't make the numbers work to about a million dollars a year minimum, Then we'll pass.

Natasha Miller:

So switching gears a bit, you talk about automating workflows. Do you think you were born with the systems and process mindset or did that develop over your life?

Dan Abbate:

Yeah. Good question. So in college I was a philosophy major. So like philosophy is kind of inherently about trying to figure out how things work. And I think from my kind of philosophy mindset, went down the path of systems and process, because it's kinda like, well, that's how things work. Those systems and processes are in your business, in a business, whether you're aware of them or not like they've either form organically or you actually put some thought into it and so I think that's kind of where the mindset comes from. So to answer your question, I think I'm naturally inclined to look at the world that way and then kind of applied it more structurally in business.

Natasha Miller:

I asked because I'm very systems and process oriented as well. Even though I am like a recording artist, a violinist, a jazz vocalist that they don't typically go together and people say "Were you born an entrepreneur or did you know, was it learned?" but that's a really broad question.

Dan Abbate:

That's right.

Natasha Miller:

So what inspired you to do the TEDx talk "How Not To Be Replaced By A Robot"?

Dan Abbate:

Kinda like people could be more aware of kind of how systems work and that these systems are at play all the time. And I think that was the intention of the TED Talks was to be able to just share that, that these things are going on. And then also, even if you don't care about the technical aspects of it, you should be thinking of it in terms of like the social impact and kind of what your impact on you personally could be depending on what your job is or how you approach things, because one way or the other, and it kind of makes sense. And I said this in the TED talk, if technology can be used to replace what you do, it probably should be used to do that because otherwise, if we didn't think like that as human beings. Then we'd all still be like pulling plows with cattle all like. Do right, like if it can be done, it probably will be done. I hesitated there to use the word should cuz there might be some scenarios in which it shouldn't we could philosophical goal like talk about that all day long. But anyway, that was kind of the point to get people thinking about those things that who maybe as part of their regular day to. Don't necessarily think of those things.

Natasha Miller:

So for the TEDx talk, yeah. There's a lot of work that goes into that and preparing and writing and practicing, and then applying for various options to speak. What was the outcome that you hoped for? And did you meet that goal with the talk?

Dan Abbate:

Yeah, I mean, I think my outcome was frankly to just do it and I- right? To like, it just is something to do. That was probably the soft outcome. And I guess one of the things that came out of it that wasn't really, maybe my intention, but has been, was kind of like a happy outcome or a happy extra thing is the fact that like today, like we're talking about this, right. And this was a number of years ago that I did this.

Natasha Miller:

That was like 2015, right?

Dan Abbate:

Yeah. I didn't even remember. It was a ago and that, and throughout my time over the last, I guess it is seven years. That TED talk has kind of come up in conversation a lot or like it was always kind of a little kind of an intro. Well, I also wrote a book around the same time about the same subject. It's kinda like that, like, you use these kind of like intellectual or like you're in your case, you said artistic or whatever, creative endeavors that we all get involved in. And sometimes there isn't a direct correlation to how it applies today. And then you get to be pleasantly surprised at how it applies tomorrow kind of thing, just by doing it. So I always tell my son "That you have to be a creator. You can't just be a consumer. So create something. It doesn't matter what it is. Put it out in the world. And with no expectation of it, doesn't have to be in an art museum. It doesn't have to be any of these things. You just have to create and put things out in the world. And then just see what happens. And I think that's what that was for me.

Natasha Miller:

Have you ever thought that you should write a book. That you should write the story of your life to help other people learn from your experience? Please go to MemoirSherpa.com and learn how I can help you write, figure out your publishing path and market your story, your memoir, to a best seller status. Yeah. Speaking about the book you published a Manifesto versus a typical following book. What was your intent for that? That is the Manifesto is actually currently gaining a little more steam. And so what were your ideas around that?

Dan Abbate:

Yeah. Great. Well, so for one thing is I wanted to get right to the point. Like, I didn't wanna feel the pressure of writing a three or 400 page book, and then having my readers feel the pressure of reading a 300 to 400 page book. I think the book ended up being like 80 pages or something like that. And it was very action focus, like very specific, like here's the things that a person should be doing to prepare to participate in this kind of automated future. And I didn't even really, at the time this was 2015. I didn't even get into any of the AI stuff. Really. Like, it was really more just like, systems, process, and automation let alone where we are kind of today, where you've kind of got AI and big data and machine learning, which are actually able to kind of make decisions in what's going to happen next. Right? Like, so in 2015, when I was talking about it, it was very much like you're making this decision on what's gonna happen. And now we've even gotten to the point where the machines themselves are kind of deciding direction for us. So-

Natasha Miller:

Lots of movies made about that and lots of movies to be made about that.

Dan Abbate:

Exactly. Right. Yeah. Some of them documentaries about the good and the bad of it. I'm sure. Right. Yeah. So, yeah, that was the point of the Manifesto, the kind of shorter, more specific outcome focused book.

Natasha Miller:

And what were you doing with the book? Were you using it as a business card or a calling card? Were you just putting out great information for the world to consume with Goodwill? What were you looking to achieve with the book?

Dan Abbate:

It goes again, back to my philosophy background, I think you've gotta get your ideas on paper and you just gotta put 'em out there. And now it, that book lives on Amazon and occasionally people buy it like once in a while. Right. And so that was really all the intention was, was to get it out there into the world and let people see it.

Natasha Miller:

So I see in your bio and on LinkedIn, on your bio, it's everywhere you refer to yourself and you consider yourself a thought leader. What does that mean to you?

Dan Abbate:

I think it means somebody who knows a lot about a lot of stuff. Right. But then is also looking at that area that they know, and then trying to move forward, like really analyzing what's going on in this space. And what's coming in this space. I think there is a difference between an expert in a thought leader. An expert is somebody who really knows what's going on now. Applies it really well kind of processes within that area. And a thought leader is someone who may also be considered an expert, but also is moving kind of forward at the same time.

Natasha Miller:

So why not call yourself a futurist? Do you ever refer to yourself as that? Is that something-

Dan Abbate:

I, I never have referred to myself as a futurist and I don't know why, I guess whenever I hear the word futurist, I always feel like it's further out in time. Maybe, and maybe this isn't true. Maybe this is just my own definition, but I always think of a futurist as like 30 years in the future, or like really what the world really could be and a thought leader, or like kind of where I tend to think is more like three to five years kind of situation. Like here's where we're like where we're at right now. And just on the edge, a buddy of mine. Uses the analogy that in order to succeed and like really have like a slam dunk of entrepreneurship or innovation or something like that, you have to be just 15 minutes ahead of the curve. You don't wanna be an hour ahead. You don't wanna be 15 minutes behind, but just 15 minutes. So I kind of always think that I'm always trying to stay just about that 15 minutes ahead of the curve.

Natasha Miller:

Yeah, it's similar to, if you know, 10% more than someone you're teaching or leading, then that's plenty. Which-

Dan Abbate:

Right. Right, exactly.

Natasha Miller:

Right. But I understand how that could work out.

Dan Abbate:

Yeah, or, and combine that with a bunch of other things. Right. So if you know, 10% more in this subject, but then you also know a couple other things that maybe you own 10% more now it's like multiple it's exponential. When you start combining different perspectives and expertise in those areas.

Natasha Miller:

What else do you do with your life? Acquiring or you're investing in businesses. You're not acquiring outright, correct?

Dan Abbate:

Not anymore. That's a change. That's happened over the last essentially five years. I realized that it made more sense for me to take minority interests, and in most cases or debt deals or these different things like we're talking about. And the reason is for that is that my opportunity filter now says that other people in the equation have to have more to lose. Because that's kind of part of my risk management strategy, right? Like if I'm not the only one or not, like if there's a lot of other folks that have more to lose than I do, then that puts me in a more comfortable position that their focus is in the right place and they're focusing on the right things. So, yeah, I mean, other than that, from a business perspective, I mean, that's pretty much the story personally. I do have a lot of academic interests that I do follow up on. I have a kind of a 20. Excel spreadsheet that basically outlines on a semester by semester basis. My various masters and PhDs that I wanna do over the next 20 years, I just finished my master's in finance from Harvard. So that was kind of a cool thing. I got to go to the graduation, which was fun, a little boring, but fun.

Natasha Miller:

I don't know if I have talked to anyone or they've said it out loud that they had a master plan for higher education. That's very interesting to me, for me. I love going to the higher education opportunities within EO, like a short bit at Harvard business school, short the EMP at MIT to consider doing a full on degree. Doesn't interest me. Cause I wanna learn the top line. I wanna get the meat. And then get out, but I appreciate that.

Dan Abbate:

Yeah. It's like bowling basically. Yeah. If I wanna go bowl, like I don't bowl, but I go to academic stuff, it's a, for lack of a better word, a hobby, but then that hobby somehow always incorporates into my regular life and I apply it in some way and it's very helpful to me. So that's not why I do it, but I do definitely see the value. How I can relate these things back into my real life. And I do really, I mean, I guess I need to say it out loud once in a while that I do kind of look at myself as a philosopher. And I, like I said, my first bachelor's degree was in philosophy and business and I just haven't given up on that yet. Like it's like, I think that that's what I am my entire life and it will always be, I that's what I am first, probably even before an entrepreneur investor, business person, all these things. I think of myself as a philosopher. So kind of sticking with kind of the traditional higher academic stuff kind of fits that the show a little bit. Yeah.

Natasha Miller:

For more information, go to the show notes where you're listening to this podcast. Wanna know more about me go to my website, OfficialNatashaMiller.com. Thank you so much for listening. I hope you loved the show. If you did, please subscribe also, if you haven't done so yet, please leave a review where you're listening to this podcast. Now I'm Natasha Miller. And you've been listening to FASCINATING ENTREPRENEURS.

Dan Abbate Profile Photo

Dan Abbate

Entrepreneur

Dan Abbate is an entrepreneur, thought leader, and investor with a career-long focus in business process optimization and automation using advanced technology, organizational development, and continuous improvement. Dan has a heavy transaction background including startup financing, mergers and acquisitions, and turnarounds.

In the late '90s, while he was still in college, Dan started an internet company which serviced and eventually sold to Wall Street-funded .coms. Between the years of 2003 and 2013, he started/developed or acquired/improved and sold eight companies serving various markets and industries with a total market value of over $100,000,000 and were funded using private and public capital markets. He has experience in both B2B and B2C companies and enjoys advising and leading high-level operational initiatives, including infrastructure design, process re/engineering, and reorganization to deliver extraordinary results in growth, revenue, operational performance, and profitability. From 2013 onward Dan has focused on growing his personal knowledge base to scale his unique value-driving skills and experience as a silent and lead investor and advisor to a number of technology (including blockchain and cybersecurity) and mainstreet companies. This dedication and focus has placed Dan in a unique leadership position in the cross-section of technology, finance, and business.

Dan holds a Masters degree in Finance from Harvard University, a Bachelors degree from DePaul University in Philosophy and Business, has studied Operations and Financial performance at The Wharton School and Math and Physics at the University of New Mexico, presented his prophetic talk “How Not To Be Replaced By A Robot” at TedXBoca, and his book "Automation Manifesto" was published and is available via Amazon and other retail book outlets.