How to fund your Brave Idea.

In this episode of the Brave Ideas podcast we speak to David Gray, CEO and Founder of Core Team Partners, exploring how digital innovation is empowering entrepreneurs to bring brave ideas to market.

We discuss how to get your project funded, the importance of resilience and the critical role of surrounding yourself with the right people.

“Surrounding yourself by experts and like-minded people, will move the needle much further and faster, than trying to figure out everything yourself.”

— David Gray, EO and Founder of Core Team Partners

Podcast Transcript 

Welcome to the brave ideas podcast brought to you by Athlon, a global brand and product development studio. In this series, we grab time with innovators and changemakers spanning startups to market leaders. Together, we explore how digital innovation is empowering them to bring brave ideas to market.


Hello, everyone. I’m Christopher Sherrick, Managing Partner in the Americas from Athlon. And I’m delighted to host this episode of Brave Ideas. Thanks for listening in joining us today. We have a good friend of Athlon, the Founder and CEO of Core Team Partners, David Gray. David, great to have you on the show today. Thank you for joining us. 



Happy to be here with you.



It’s great to have you. So David, we generally start out by asking our guests to give us a bit of a background on what you do in your current role. And if you want to go there, your career journey, and what’s gotten you to where you are today.



Thank you for the opportunity to be here with you. So, you know, I’m David Gray, I’m the CEO and Founder of Core Team Partners. I’m a founder with 25 years of experience – have gone through the ups and downs of being an entrepreneur. And now it’s all about being devoted to adding value to others, taking that experience and supporting others in their journeys. So that’s where we’re at now. 



That’s great. David, can you expand a bit more on how you do that at Core Team Partners?



Absolutely, happy to. So, Core Team Partners is a strategic funding group. And that process includes everything from the capital raise preparation phase, which is generally more than you think it would be until you get into it. And really getting every part of that business ready for an investor to want to say “yes”, and that’s a collection of six people who have all been through the founder process from startups and dealt with angels and VCs and got all the way to exit and know what’s coming before it comes down the pike.



That’s awesome. Well, you speak with founders every day. You and I have had a number of conversations around innovation in our industries, collectively, what we can do together to work together to partner to help more people be successful. I’d love to hear more, from your perspective on how brave ideas show up in your day to day, at Core Team Partners, and with the clients that you work with. And what does it mean for you to be a part of that and to help create success around enabling other people’s brave ideas?



Yeah, that’s a phenomenal question. So you know, the way we see that in our every day is that I mean, first of all, for an entrepreneur, to be comfortable enough to take an idea, they really believe in and bring it to the front and have the resiliency to see through what it takes to make something successful. I personally feel like that is a brave idea, just to start, you know, we see everyday people making solutions to significantly impact the world, not just their own personal finance. And I think it’s the combination of both those things that is truly the daily brave journey that I’m lucky enough to be part of every day.



I couldn’t agree more. And you and I, we speak to a number of people every day. And absolutely, there is the first step that makes the idea brave. What do you think separates a brave idea that can be taken forward from a conventional one? Is it the founder? Is it the intent? And how do you support the thinking behind those who come to you witht Core Team Partners to nurture and grow that brave idea?



Yeah, absolutely. I mean, first before we’re, you know, interacting with anyone, we understand that we’ve been on the opposite side of that journey. And we’re going to know some things that they’re about to get into a little bit more than they do, which is really helpful.

And we intentionally, you know, try to channel remembering our part of the journey before we’re, you know, deeply interacting, because you really want to be mindful of, there’s a strategic but still empathetic tone you need to have when preparing somebody for a long journey ahead that’s not always so well defined. Right? Absolutely. And yeah, and when we talk about, you know, brave ideas from a conventional one, I mean, you’re gonna have to face some challenges.

There’s going to be doubt on yourself and even people around you, you’re gonna get pushback, even when you know, you could truly believe in something and it’s so important to be able to have the adversity to see through that. That’s, that isn’t an every day every person challenge that they want to embrace. So I really think that be the bravery It really comes from within the people who, you know, are willing to go out there and venture out.



Well, I couldn’t agree with you more. And it would be great to hear from your perspective, whether it’s been through your own business, or whether it’s been someone you’ve worked with recently, someone that comes to mind. Tell us about a time where you or someone that you’ve worked with, has made that bold decision to move forward. What that’s looked like, what it’s taken, and what stood out to you, in that process that other people can learn from?



Yeah, and there’s a lot like, it’s, it’s almost challenging to have to pick, it’s not even everyone, right. So, you know, I’d say two things from my own personal experience in the late 90s, when I was just focusing on development, project management, really, behind the scenes. Tou know, bringing to life business online, at an early stage.

You know, I took the leap to feel like even though this was my first true position, I was being compensated really well, I was young, I was still in college, and I was still making great full-time money at the same time. But there was just a part of me that I couldn’t not trust.

And, you know, I left a great situation in Fort Lauderdale, and moved to Las Vegas to start my first internet development company.  So I went from paradise to the desert, with a lot of unknowns. And certainly there was a lot of bravery needed to have the courage to do that at a young age.

You know, what I’ve seen, though, that really interests me lately is, you know, I work with a gentleman named Gary, who for 30 years, has been working on this concept to bring sustainability and biodiversity back to urban environments, and to be in a 30 year preparation phase. And to really believe in yourself when there was a lot of doubt, internally, and then from people within the circle. To watch someone now embrace that journey and fully develop their product or preparing to go into full production crowdfunding really take a journey from, you know, everyday life to a true venture. This is an experience to be part of.



That’s awesome. 30 years, and that’s driven by passion. You know, I’m sure there would be many, many people who would say “Why haven’t you gone to market quicker? Why haven’t you gone out and tested your idea?” What do you think is the difference in that journey? And what’s going to lead to in terms of their success? What’s the breakthrough for that founder? Why they’ve put in all of that time? Why have they taken their personal approach to this and trusted themselves over others?



If we use the the examples, the two examples, myself and Gary in, it was both the same thing it was when we found enough people around us to support that journey. And I had done it through a long process, not really well read on how that would go, in terms of networking and surrounding yourself by a support system that can move you further and faster. But you know, Gary, read “who” not “how”, and he identified me as his first who. And that’s when he took the leap that he waited 30 years to realise this was the time. And it was really interesting to be mindful of that and watch that.



Amazing. So it’s not just about trusting yourself, but it’s about surrounding yourself with people that you trust. And that can help you get to the next step. So as you know, with your own personal journey, and with the types of brave ideas, and their founders or teams behind them every day that there’s a level of risk involved when it comes to dealing with innovation or any new breakthrough, when you’re challenging the status quo. How have you balanced either for yourself or for your clients? The risk taking that comes in decision making? How do you de-risk it? And is there anything that comes to mind where sometimes you do have to just take a leap of faith and go for things knowing not knowing that everything is not perfect?.



The short answer? Yes. So it’s funny because I was thinking about this and you know, earlier in life, you know, and this certainly I feel like this is for most of us, we we have some basic economics knowledge given to us at school, and we really don’t appreciate we take advantage what that is, but truly it comes down to supply and demand.

And once you realise that your brave idea is probably a niche of solution that you identified in your personal experiences.

And you’ve realised Wait a minute, I’m not the only person who needs this problem. So you’ve now identified the supply and the demand. And often you’re coming up with the idea you have because the supply is not there. Then to feel the confidence to follow Through on executing that there’s some resiliency involved. And there is risk, there is no 100%, this is going to work. So you have to have a little trust in yourself that although you don’t have all the answers, you’ll figure them out along.



 Absolutely. And figuring things out along the way isn’t always pretty is it? As someone myself, who has worked in innovation for a while, you know that you have to try to figure out what you need to do next.  Trying often comes with failure. And failure often helps you get to the next step, because it’s a piece of feedback that you otherwise wouldn’t have gotten. It’s impossible to be right and perfect out of the gate with innovation, isn’t it? And to you, what role does failure play in this brave idea journey?



Yeah, you mean, you know, failure is absolutely inevitable. It’s certainly a different quantity at different times. So I would say that, you know, failure even comes in those small quantities, when we talk about, you know, sort of your customer feedback and experience.

And letting your, even though you might not phrase it like this, your failure is through your process with them, let allow that feedback to come in, in fact, allow all the feedback of what could even be perceived as a failure be an objective data point, it doesn’t mean it has to have an emotional value to it yet, right?

And you should take time to process at all. But definitely be open minded to the fact that there’s going to be a lot of bumps along the way. But those are opportunities. So it’s not, you know, “why is this happening?” To me? It’s, you know, “why is this happening?”



As a 25-year, entrepreneur, you’re only human, David, you know… with all of the success that you’ve had, you’re only human, I’m sure there have been times where your emotions have gotten the better of you. And it would be interesting, and I’m sure valuable to those listening to hear about how you’ve course corrected, and even how you’ve taken learning opportunities from those moments, to be able to shape a failure or your reaction to or constructively towards your progress.



I gotta tell you, there’s something I learned, I feel like everything I learned, I learned in my later 30s. And I had been hearing from my father and my grandfather, who were both entrepreneurs and successful in their own ways, they always said, you know, you’re not going to really figure this thing out until you’re in your 40s.

Meanwhile, your 50s, that’s when you really are successful. And I didn’t, I didn’t understand what that meant. And what it meant, at least in terms of me, and all of our maturity levels are different. I mean, you got me by at least five to 10 years.

But by the time I realised and understood the value of everything that’s happening, failures are going to come, there’s going to be a lot of lack of knowledge that you’re going to learn and earn along the way.

I think it’s true to say that, you know, 10% is your action, and 90% is the reaction. And so how you deal with things is even more important than what you’re planning to happen. And so, you know, having the ability to digest what’s happening to you in real time, being able to not respond right away to truly give processing time to come up with the answer. If there’s any emotion tied to your response, probably don’t give it. And that includes a business decision, not just, you know, communication,



It’s great advice, especially in a world where everything feels so fast paced that it is important to remember to take the time to pause and reflect before you make an email, big decision, right? The scale doesn’t matter, always you’ll have different amounts of time to respond to different opportunities, but taking the moment to reflect and to grow, and to process and to learn how you might want to do something different than next time is really important, both during the process and after.



Yeah, and it’s important to remember like the same way in sales, that energy brings energy, in leadership or any kind of management, calmness brings calmness and certainly, you know, erratic behaviour and any kind of negative emotion and things that are not well thought out, produce more of that within your environment. So you got to be very thoughtful, and in a good mindset when you’re really going to execute.



That’s great, David, let’s take a step back. And let’s talk about the market as a whole. So, what you’re doing at core team partners, I would say is extremely innovative in its own right. And in terms of how you’re approaching financial opportunities, and their enablement for the clients that you work with. I’d love to hear about why where you have ideas are so important to your specific industry and how breaking the status quo is helping people get to their next step of success faster and better?



 Yeah, I’d say that, in terms of on a service level, technology and funding are solely driven by brave ideas, the marketplace itself. And but within our relationship with our clients, we understand how important it is to be so well prepared across the board, that sort of the leap that we take as an investment in our own clients, is we’ll see people with a potential that will identify and we don’t know for sure that that potential will 100% fulfil itself. But we’ll take a leap of faith on our own for how we work with people.

I think if given the opportunity, the knowledge and the information, there’s going to be some great response from this, there’s going to be some great things that happen. So you know, that’s how we kind of incorporate the brave ideas and an understanding that brave ideas are actually the catalyst to all this working. 



Absolutely.Now, in your process with clients, how do you see design technology, branding, product, innovation, all of these things coming together, to enable brave ideas to enable your clients to challenge the status quo of their respective industries/



You know, design, technology, and product innovation, have become the new three headed monster that needs to be included in your business concept from the beginning. It needs to be nurtured in a process as you prepare it to especially to share with investors, let alone your clients. And it needs to be really well thought out in all three of those areas. I’ll give a bad reference here. For anybody that plays golf. You know, it’s great if you can hit the long ball. But if you can’t pitch and you can’t put a really good



It’s a good point, if you look at my scorecard that will that will prove to be true. So I couldn’t agree more, I think it’s more important than ever to come out of the gate with a sense of credibility, professionalism, differentiation, all of those things that are tied, yes, within the product, functionality level and capability level, but also what you’re bringing to the table in terms of your presentation as a brand. And as a team.

And I know what I’ve seen in my days to date working with clients is that the landscape out there, especially for digital solutions is only getting more saturated. Technology and AI are creating more noise than ever for customers and investors to have to pick through. And it’s going to be the brands that leave long lasting experiences and impactful experiences and connect with those customers who are going to survive in the long run, because their customers or their audiences more generally, can connect to the product value, what they’re receiving from it, but also have a certain level of trust in that brand and their journey, especially if they’re investing at the early stages of it. Does that resonate with what you were seeing in your landscape and the industries that your clients are touching? 



Yeah, absolutely. And, and while everyone’s still being very competitive in tech, and tech is still always going to be driven by people behind it. So no different than investment.

You know, you invest in people, not in ideas or things and the people behind it matter in the mission behind the people matter. Now, one thing I could say and I could say this about Gary with Simpson, I could say it with Erica from Blue Planet Optics is if your mission includes the future, and the future can be, you know, not just the business model, but things like sustainability and how that will play a role in your business, what kind of value add you’re going to bring to others as human beings, whether it’s in a service or charitable method. Once you can combine all those things into the current business model structure, you are set up for the new level of income that’s going to be happening with Gen Z and Gen alpha. And you’re really forward thinking at that point.



Couldn’t agree more, looking towards the future? What are some of the factors whether it’s at the financing level, whether it’s at the startup level, or even within the wider ecosystem of how companies work together? What do you see are some of the most important factors on having the greatest capacity to create positive change and to allow brave ideas to work together to better impact society as a whole? 



Yeah, not to be repetitive, but really, I think the combination of innovation, sustainability and profitability as your mindset is going to be the global changer and I’m already seeing that investors are getting excited about sustainability for example, as a component within the business, it’s almost turn the tide from just a mission people talk about for doing the good of good to wait a minute, if that’s not included, do people want to be involved in our brand, creating a new foothold. So it’s going to be really interesting.



It is. it is showing that you can differentiate the brand level without considering brand just through the lens of visual identity, which I think is what a lot of people think about when it comes to brand.

It can also be even in the tech world, especially in the tech world, now more than ever important to differentiate your company values, and what you invest in and how you present yourself to be more than just technology and more than just the solution, and to allow your audiences to become a part of your wider mission. And that can be really powerful and memorable in a number of people’s minds,

Looking to any final advice or any other opportunities for discussion that you think would be useful to share to those who may be listening today, just in terms of how they can go about in their own businesses today, their own teams, maybe they have an idea for the future, how can they go about creating and fostering this culture of innovation, to create brave ideas, and to move progress forward for them in whatever lens their success looks like



You know, if if you believe in something, you should pursue it.

At the core of all of this is you even you have to give it 110%. And even the disappointment of that not working out the way that you planned with the upside that it might go better than you ever planned, would be better than living with the regret of not seeing through something that you believe in.

So I think that’s the number one thing that initiates all of this,I would also tell you that there’s some information that you need as a basis to give yourself the best chance of success.

And I would say pick up a copy of Dan Sullivan’s “Who, Not How” that was very instrumental for me, along with a book called 10x is easier than to x and understand that the concept of surrounding yourself by experts and like minded people will move the needle much further and much faster than trying to figure out how to do everything yourself.

And in that process, there’s going to be a lot of people who want to be part of it that aren’t the greatest fit. It’s going to be hard because sometimes those are going to be people that are close to you. And you’re going to have to really put the mission and people where that fits best for everyone. So I would say surround yourself by, you know,

I like to break it down. There’s engines, buoys and anchors. Yeah. So you know, engines will empower you to get further and faster than you could on your own. Buoys neither help you or hurt you. They’re just there. And that’s okay. But you really have to identify, and it could change at any point who your anchors are, who’s bringing the whole thing down, even in the smallest way that affects the entire chance of success. And I think if you put those three things in perspective, then you have an absolute chance of being very successful. Success is different for all of us, but it’s gonna go as well or probably better than you planned.

The last piece of advice, have daughters, that’ll really, that’ll really make you be able to handle adversity, no problem.



David has his two daughters in the room listening today, and they’re very proud of him and appreciate the advice they’re sharing for all of our listeners out there.

David, I’m gonna ask you to just answer one more question for me, which I think would be valuable, which is on your last point, drawing the analogy of those who you should surround yourself with and those who you should separate yourself from you and I have had a number of different conversations on introspection, personal reflection, and understanding yourself so that you can understand position, your venture or your surroundings to drive your own personal success.

I’d love to get your perspective on what are some tools or tips that people might be able to use to help them get a sense of that framework. They should evaluate those around them with to determine who is helping them and who is hurting them. And like you said, it may be people close to you for specific opportunities, and that can get very emotional, something we talked about earlier. How can people navigate that very tumultuous journey and  sensitive journey in the pursuit of their dream, their brave idea? 



Well the simple answer would be to put everybody through a psychological evaluation now so you can determine that behind the scenes!

You know, you have to have some blessing of Learning, that’s where the failure piece comes in, you’re going to, and you also have to remember that people change over time. So you know, everybody comes together on day one, you might not be the same people in the same mission two and a half years later, five years later, let alone 10. So you/ve got to be very calm, patient and aware of your surroundings.

And really challenge yourself to be objective about your own behaviour and thoughts, as well as others so that you can be a good mindset, and also have good thoughts about others, objectively. And you have to surround yourself by a few key players, who you’ll listen to their advice, even if it’s something you don’t want to hear, I have at least you know, two people in my world who does not matter what the subject is, I know if I bring it to them. I’m going to get some sound advice, whether I want to hear it or not. And I know if I’m doing the right thing by bringing it to them. And if I don’t, that tells me something.



Definitely. I’m a big fan of yours for the new fans that you’ve made today. Do you have any any final parting words for them,



Give yourself an opportunity to find a mission that you can fully and wholeheartedly embrace yourself into, I believe it will raise not only the quality of your own life, but those all around you. Because when people are doing what they’re meant to be doing good things come from it.



That’s great. And I couldn’t agree more. Thank you, David, so much, David, thank you for giving us your time today. Again, David grey, Founder, CEO of Core Team Partners, great friend of offline great friend of mine, and to everyone listening to this episode of brave ideas. Thank you for joining us, and we appreciate your time.


Thanks for listening to this episode of the brave ideas podcast by Athlon on how to get your project funded. For more insights that help us fight stay head, visit our website at Athlon dot global and remember to follow our podcast for more brave ideas coming soon.

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Kate Cargill

Consultant, Brand Experience

With 15 years of B2C brand and product experience and a MSc in Psychology, Kate helps companies predict, influence and navigate consumer behaviour.

Chris Sherrick

Managing Partner

Chris consults with market leaders helping them leverage design and innovation to deliver business impact.

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