Note: Upon her indictment on federal money laundering charges and her arrest February 8, 2022, Inc. dismissed Heather Morgan as a contributing columnist. As is our practice, we do not unpublish editorial content, and rather have added this note for full transparency.
Mick Batyske is anything but your average DJ.
Batyske never expected being a DJ would become his full-time career, let alone that he would spin for the likes of Will Smith, LeBron James, Jay-Z, Prince, and in the White House for Michelle Obama.
While he always had a passionate appreciation for music, deejaying was just something that Batyske was doing to "hopefully pay for graduate school in Ohio."
Fast forward and the self-managed Batyske has played everything from the Grammy's and Cannes Lions to the Time 100 Gala and All Star Weekend. His client roster is star-studded with celebrities and major brands like Rihanna, Adidas, and Coach.
And while Batyske is a fashion and style enthusiast, he especially enjoys working with innovative tech companies like Instagram, Twitter, and Spotify, along with culturally-relevant investors like the folks at Andreessen Horowitz.
Batyske's relentless hustle, creative endeavors, and sharp business sense make him a unique combination of Gary Vaynerchuk and Questlove. It's no surprise that many refer to him as "the most entrepreneurial DJ."
But most people don't know that Batyske is also an avid startup investor and in-demand business speaker.
Here are three astute insights that Batyske shared with me about startup investing and entrepreneurship in general:
1. Business is all about the people: always try to delight the customer
Batyske is definitely a people person. As a DJ, he loves creating unforgettable experiences for people, and has an uncanny ability to "give them what they need, even if they don't know they need it yet." He explains that a DJ's job isn't about "playing their favorite songs," but to "listen to something and know if the masses will like it or not."
Batyske attended John Carroll University for his MBA in marketing and continues to hone his business and marketing skills with executive education classes at Harvard University. He uses this knowledge and his "sixth sense of knowing what people will want" to assess whether or not he thinks companies have a viable marketable product that will delight consumers.
He believes that one of the most critical mistakes companies make is underestimating their audience, and thinking that customers are less sophisticated than they are. That's why he's a stickler for branding and design.
"We live in a design-fueled society. I want to know how well founders understand their audience, and how much they've thought of their brand strategy. Your brand is your first line of attack in gaining customer approval. And your brand needs to be strong enough that if you pivot, it can adapt with you. Lots of founders have good ideas, but good ideas coupled with great branding will go much further," says Batyske.
The CEO of dotdotdash, one of Batyske's portfolio investments, had this to say about his experience working with Batyske:
"Mick has been instrumental to our growth -- from his original investment, to introductions that have led to large scale projects, to consulting and collaborating on our long-term marketing strategy -- he's made a tangible impact on our business leveraging his experience, influence, and vision across the cultural and brand landscape."
2. Learn to trust your gut, but stay agile
Deejaying for LeBron James and Jay-Z's exclusive influencer dinner parties did more than open up doors for Batyske--it helped him realize that he "belonged at the table." Receiving compliments on his music selection from both top entertainers and CEO's, along with realizing that he could fluidly speak the language of both, taught Batyske that he had good intuition.
While Batyske has a strong sense of what sounds will captivate his audience, he says he is always ready to pivot if necessary.
Batyske explains, "It's a lot like how tech entrepreneurs work. First, they just put it out there and see what happens, and then iterate on the fly as needed. If my gut tells me to put on a song, I'm going to put on that song. I'll know within the first 30 seconds if it will work or not, and if it doesn't, then I'm pivoting to another genre or mood. Failure is fine if you do it fast."
When it comes to investing, Batyske won't invest in people he doesn't like. He says he doesn't need to be "best friends" with them, but he definitely has to be able to "connect with them on a personal level." This is partly because he tends to go above and beyond for all his portfolio companies, providing everything from branding advice to connections, but it also goes back to trusting his intuition.
While assessing product-market fit is important to Batyske, he puts great weight on the founders' attitude and abilities. He wants to invest in founders who really know their customers and market, but also ones who are smart enough to recognize when they need to pivot, and also agile enough to pull it off.
"There's no magic recipe for business success, but great founders can always figure things out, even in worst-case scenarios," says Batyske.
3. Keep a diverse portfolio
"Diversity is a great thing. If I am putting together a record, I don't want all the tracks to sound the same. I think the same way about my investment portfolio; I try to keep things varied across different industries, like travel, food and beverage, wellness, experiential, direct to consumer, etc," says Batyske.
Some of Batyske's current investments include Anchor, Localeur, and wellness start-up Barber Surgeon's Guild (where, ironically, LeBron just filmed his new TV series, "The Shop.")
While Batyske's investments are quite varied, he's currently bullish on the direct-to-consumer space.
"It's all about consumer discovery. Successful DTC companies are like finding your next favorite indie artist. I see so many great brands, such as Away, bring creative in this space. I invested in Winc, because of how they are innovating in the wine category. And my most recent deal is investing and advising for Backdrop, which I think will become the Glossier of paint," shares Batyske.
Batyske is currently writing a book about the evolution of his one of a kind career that is scheduled to be published in 2020. He also has a podcast called "The Business of Culture," which is coming out on Anchor late 2018. Batyske also speaks about branding and culture at various conferences, universities, and businesses globally.