Passion vs. Work: Joshua Dziabiak’s Entrepreneurial Journey
Joshua Dziabiak is the current co-founder, chief operating officer, and chief marketing officer of The Zebra, an Austin based insurance aggregator. He is a four-time entrepreneur, started his first business when he was 14, was a millionaire by age 17, and was recently named in the Forbes 30 Under 30 list.
Below are the highlights from TEX Talk’s Q&A with Dziabiak. Listen to the full interview here.
TEX Talks: Can you walk us through your first business, MediaCatch?Dziabiak: I became enthralled with this idea that you can connect with anybody around the world through the Internet. From a young age I’ve been hooked on this thing called the Internet, and that led me into my first design project, which ultimately led me to my first business. And it’s been an internet journey since then.
TEX Talks: Where did you gain the business knowledge to build MediaCatch and scale it?
Dziabiak: My grandfather was an entrepreneur, and pretty much everyone in my family worked for my grandfather. All I knew was entrepreneurship… It was almost organic and natural. So that was what inspired me to start my own thing.
TEX Talks: How as a 14-year-old did you manage employees?
Dziabiak: It was really about showing them promise through hard work… I don’t do anything that I’m not very passionate about, and people pick up on passion…. You know, it was awkward. I had an office and fourteen employees before I had my driver’s license. I fought a lot of those battles through persistence, passion, and trying to show people that I was serious about what I was doing. Ultimately, they bought the product because the product worked.
TEX Talks: What was the first thing you bought as a 17-year-old millionaire?
Dziabiak: I bought a Mercedes C Class on eBay and had it delivered to my apartment at 17… Funny story, I went to an actual Mercedes dealership, and they didn’t give me the time of day.
TEX Talks: So you haven’t graduated from high school… What is your perspective on education?
Dziabiak: Some of the most successful people I know didn’t leverage education through textbooks. They had that piece but they leveraged education through experience. It was really about involving themselves.
TEX Talks: What caused you to leave ShowClix in January 2013, and how did you know if this decision was the right thing to do at the time?
Dziabiak: It became less about innovation and exercising creativity and more about financial engineering, corporate governance, and board matters — things that frankly don’t get me excited in the morning… Even though we were having some of our biggest months or quarters ever in the company’s history, I was feeling like work was work. That was when it started to feel like I wasn’t supposed to be there anymore. I never want to work on something that makes me feel like it’s work in the negative connotation of the word.
TEX Talks: Could you talk about the emotional aspect of being an entrepreneur?
Dziabiak: All I know is being an entrepreneur, and all a lot of people see are the accolades… What they don’t see is the emotional toll that entrepreneurship can take on you. It’s not just entrepreneurship, I think it’s leadership in general. You have this idea, and you’re so passionate about it that it starts to eat at you. Every morning it’s the first thing on your mind, and it’s the last thing on your mind before you go to bed at night. What ends up happening is that when things go right, you’re on this super high emotional euphoria. And when things go wrong, you’re on the complete opposite end of that. I think over time, if you don’t pay attention to that happening, you start to feel like you’re in a really lonely place because you’re the only person who’s as passionate about whatever it is you’re doing. I think the emotional piece is something people don’t talk about because it’s taboo, (but it) needs to be talked about.
TEX Talks: How do you cope with the stress of being an entrepreneur?
Dziabiak: It’s about recognizing that, ‘I can’t stop thinking about this idea to the point it’s eating me, it’s eating me alive. I don’t really have a social life and when I do I can’t connect with people because all I can think about or all I can talk about it this business or idea or whatever it is. It’s recognizing that that exits, that there is a real issue there.
Interested in hearing the stories of more successful entrepreneurs? Listen to old podcasts here, and RSVP for our next event with Max Hoberman, Founder and President of Certain Affinity, on February 28, 2018.