Things Every Tech Startup Needs to Know about Self-Capitalization

By Bruce Firestone | Uncategorized

Feb 21

By Bruce M Firestone, B Eng (Civil), M Eng-Sci, PhD


In the five year period leading up to 2010, approximately 91.6% of
all tech startups in the US were self-funded or bootstrapped, 8.1% were
Angel-backed and just 0.3% were VC-funded. How to self-fund
(self-capitalize or bootstrap) new tech enterprises is the subject of
this paper.

Self-funding objectives are primarily fourfold—improve speed to
market, retain a higher percentage of ownership of new enterprises in
the hands of their founders, increase returns on equity and improve
survivorship rates. Furthermore, self-capitalization results in more
efficient use of a scarce resource—startup funding—crucial to national
economic development.

Self-capitalization is a different form of financial capital. Unlike
either debt or equity, self-capital is either ultra low cost or free
(ignoring opportunity costs). Sources are many and varied. It is an
underexploited form of capitalization. It is faster to raise than either
equity or debt sourced from conventional sources such as Angels, VCs,
commercial banks or Government programs.

Main sources of self-capitalization are trade credit (or supplier
credit), deposits/retainers/advances/progress payments from customers or
clients, rights fees from and/or investment by strategic
investors/sponsors/partners, founder sweat equity, script, soft capital,
home equity loans, micro capital loans, crowd funded capital sourced
via sites like or, IP licensing, financial
leasing, credit cards, receivable factoring, accretive buying,
accretive selling, seller take back financing, trading and asset
flipping, partner loans/contributions, consulting/moonlighting,
competitions, barter, borrowing physical assets like office
space/tools/furniture/personnel, co-branding and co-marketing. In
addition to speeding up the go-to-market process, self-capitalization
improves ROE, Return on Equity, as well as project IRR, Internal Rate of
Return, causes the cash conversion cycle to become negative and allows
entrepreneurs to control more of the equity of their own enterprises
over a longer period.


Texts on financing new ventures tend to focus either on micro-finance
for tiny businesses mainly in Third World nations or VC-track
enterprises. Leach and Melicher (Entrepreneurial Finance, J Chris Leach
and Ronald W Melicher, South-Western College Publication, 2009) refer to
early stage financing as ‘seed funding’ whose ‘primary source of funds at the development stage is the entrepreneur’s own assets.’

Schumpeter said in 1934, ‘Entrepreneurs are innovators who use a
process of shattering the status quo of existing products and services,
to set up new products, new services.’ Entrepreneurs are persons
who efficiently use scarce resources, most of which are not their own,
to disrupt the status quo. Hence, discussions of business valuation,
first round financing, second round, mezzanine financing, bridge
financing and IPO are almost wholly irrelevant to a vast majority of
startups around the world today.

‘Empty pockets never held anyone back. Only empty heads and empty hearts can do that,’ Norman Vincent Peale.

The role of investment banking firms, venture law firms, commercial
banks, public financial markets and securities firms is limited in the
startup process.  In Fool’s Gold, The Truth Behind Angel Investing in America
(Oxford University Press, 2008), Scott Shane estimates that
approximately 600 (pre-revenue) tech startups were funded in the US by
VCs in 2004 while about 35.5% of all Angel-backed startups were
pre-revenue. This works out to approximately 16,000 startups funded by
Angels each year during this period (J Basil Peters,

The US Census Bureau’s BDS data base suggests that an average of
198,000 tech startups (defined as those with 100 employees or less) were
created per year in the five year period leading up to 2010 in the
United States. Taken together, these figures imply that 91.6% of all
startups during this time were self-funded or bootstrapped, 8.1% were
Angel-backed and just 0.3% were VC-funded.


If an entrepreneur is someone who efficiently use scarce resources,
most of which are not their own, to disrupt the status quo, where does
s/he get those resources from? Often they receive funding from future
customers/clients and suppliers. Sources such as commercial banks and
government support programs play a lesser role than they once did.
Commercial banks in Canada and most of the world tend to lend money to
people who already have significant collateral while governments may
take too long to make decisions and provide support.

Supplier Credit

In 2009, trade credit (or supplier credit) surpassed bank lending as a
source of finance for business in the US. TC amounted to $2.15 trillion
that year versus $1.5 trillion in bank lending (which was down more
than 6.5%, year over year) according to data from the US Federal

For startups, trade credit or supplier credit is a key source of
funding. For tech startups, supplier inputs may include—software and
hardware (both off the shelf and custom), consulting services, office
space, fabricators, designers and developers (GUI, packaging, website,
mobile app), product managers, HR, law firms (corporate/commercial and
IP advisors) and accountants as well as IT and telecommunications

Some of these inputs may be contributed by suppliers on credit. Why would they do that?

• First of all, they do it because they trust the business they are providing credit to, to eventually pay them.
• Secondly, they want to expand the market and their market share—one of
their key weapons for doing this is to provide credit to firms that buy
from them.
• Thirdly, this tends to lock clients into their business ecosystem—once
a client has been approved for trade credit, they tend to buy from the
same source over and over again using their approved credit facility on a
revolving basis. They also tend to be less price sensitive than retail
buyers since they are using credit instead of their own cash and they
often have the ability to pass on higher costs to their clients.
• Fourthly, once they establish good credit, they may apply for a higher credit limit to expand their business further.
• Fifthly, suppliers expect to be paid not by their clients but by their
clients’ clients. So a supplier is actually funding (indirectly) credit
worthiness of their client’s clients.
• Sixthly, suppliers want their clients to survive for a long period.
They will often go out of their way to help out a loyal client who gets
into financial difficulties by giving them improved terms for their
financing, forgiving portions of their debt or trading debt for equity.
Commercial banks may call their loans if they learn a new business is
experiencing cashflow issues. Suppliers tend to remain supportive (to a

Customer Financing—Case Study

Tech companies can also source startup capital from their clients.

Game Tech, GT*, is an advergaming startup about five years old. They
are a top notch Ontario-based advergaming firm. They have—i. significant
growth in their order book, ii. a client list that includes Fortune 50
and Fortune 500 companies and iii. excellent technology and creative
resources within their business ecosystem. With each new order, they
need to build a bigger ‘pipeline’ to deliver their products—i.e., hire
more highly paid tech developers on contract.

(* Company name and some of the data have been changed for this article.)

GT asks for and receives ten percent of order price upon execution of
each new sales contract. They do not ask for nor receive any progress
payments even when they hit important project milestones. They wait
until their complex projects, many of which are multi-year, are
completed plus 30 days to receive the balance of the order price.

As a result, they require substantial amounts of capital from their
Bank to fund their growth. At one point, they exceed their approved
$700,000 line of credit by $11,000 and, as a result, their Bank calls
their loan. Within ten days, they will not be able to meet payroll.

However, in crisis, there is opportunity. Businesses experiencing
financial difficulties can turn to four other sources for
assistance—their Board, their shareholders, their suppliers and their
clients. In GT’s case, their Board and shareholders are one and the
same—they are all entrepreneurs with some personal resources but at this
stage of their careers and development, they are fully committed.
Consequently, GT is forced to adopt a different, bi-directional
strategy—they ask their clients for advances on signed contracts and
they change their business model.

Their clients (all but one of them) come to their assistance and save
the firm. They do this because superb advergaming technology companies
are difficult to replace especially mid-contract.

Next, GT changes their model which now calls for 1/3 deposit/retainer
upfront with each new contract signed and then progress payments that
always put the firm ahead in terms of their cashflow. Only 10% is due
upon final delivery plus 30 days. Their Cash Conversion Cycle (CCC)
changes from +274 days to -61 days and the firm goes on to open offices
in New York, Toronto and LA. Total employment now exceeds 170.

CCC is an important tool for entrepreneurs to use—if it is 0 or
negative, then entrepreneurs can grow their businesses without need of
outside funding. Let’s examine GT’s current cashflow position using a
simplified model.

Assume they do only one transaction in their financial year in the
amount of $3,000,000, their cost of goods sold is $2,000,000, they pay
1/3 up front to their contract developers (i.e., $666,700) and they
receive a deposit of 50% from their client or $1,500,000.

Their Cash Conversion Cycle is calculated as follows:



ART is Accounts Receivable at Year End,
INVT is Inventory at Year End,
APT is Accounts Payable at Year End.

We can determine Game Tech’s CCC thusly—

Accounts Receivable at Year End (AR) $1,500,000
Days Per Year 365.25 Days
AR x Days Per year $540,787,500 Dollar-Days/Annum
Annual Sales $3,000,000 Dollars/Annum
AR x Days Per year/Annual Sales 182.625 Days ART

Inventory at Year End (INV) $0
Days Per Year 365.25 Days
INV x Days Per Year $0.00 Dollar-Days/Annum
Cost of Goods Sold (COGS) $2,000,000 Dollars/Annum
INV x Days Per Year/Annual Sales 0 Days INVT

Accounts Payable at Year End (AP) $ 1,333,300
Days Per Year 365.25 Days
AP x Days Per year $480,700,000 Dollar-Days/Annum
Cost of Goods Sold (COGS) $2,000,000 Dollars/Annum
AP x Days Per year/Annual Sales 243.5 Days APT

CCC -60.875 Days

Notes: Payables Down 0.333333333 0.666667 In 30 days One Sales Transaction

Game Tech’s Cash Conversion Cycle is now a healthy -61 days which
means that the faster GT grows, the more cash they have on hand.

This is a non-trivial advantage for them. If they had tried to
continue to rely on their Bank to fund their AR and inventory then they
are vulnerable to changes in Bank policy because of, say, appointment of
a new Account Manager or an overall downturn in the economy. GT is
relying instead on its customers and suppliers to provide them with
financing, a more stable form of capitalization.

What if GT, instead of asking for half down from clients with each
order, only receive payment when each order is delivered? What happens
to their CCC? It becomes a significantly worse +122 days. So even though
they are still only providing suppliers with 1/3 down, waiting this
long to be paid by customers means that they will have to find outside
financing for each new order they take.

Of course, if they don’t pay anything to suppliers until they get
paid, their CCC will be exactly 0 which is an improvement on +122.
However, clients are not then a source of capital for their growing
firm. Small changes in company policies produce big changes in CCC.

One of the keys to self-capitalization is to reduce the need for
startup capital in the first place. This can be done by looking for
financing in the deal flow itself. If capital is available from clients
and from suppliers, new enterprises should try to source as much as they
can (within reason) from both. It is often low cost or no-cost capital.

Strategic Investors

One of the most overlooked sources of self-capitalization for new
enterprises is the strategic investor. What is a strategic investor?
Someone who has a strategic interest in your success.

How do you find them? Look through your value chain.

Why go to strategic partners? They will generally make investment
decisions faster than Angels, VCs, banks or governments and they will
have more capital and better connections throughout your industry than
raising money from friends and family.

What will they ask for in return? Often much less than anyone
else—perhaps they will be satisfied with, say, an exclusive period
during which they can feature/market/use your products or services
thereby keeping your products or services away from their competition
and further differentiating themselves in the marketplace. The funding
they provide may also come with fewer strings attached.

When Apple launches a new product like the iPhone, iPad or iPad mini,
what is it worth to a third party app developer, say, to be included on
their home screens? Organizations pay significant rights fees simply to
be featured in product launches like these. What’s good for Apple is
good for your next startup as well.

Equity Investors

Why do equity investors fund startups? It’s to improve their returns.

How do you convince anyone to invest in your startup without giving
up too much equity? One thing entrepreneurs often underestimate is the
value of their sweat equity. They focus all their time and brainpower on
making a new enterprise successful. Investors are passive; alternative
investments such as GICs provide minuscule returns—typically 1.7% p.a.
or less. Entrepreneurs are expected to generate returns greatly in
excess of this and, consequently, they have leverage which they can use
to strengthen their negotiating position with either financial investors
or silent partners.

Value can be attributed to sweat equity in a number of ways—it can be
calculated as a product of number of hours worked times an hourly wage
or the difference between the cost of starting a new enterprise and its
fair market value. Entrepreneurs can use a financial model that provides
an acceptable return to outside investors and assume that the balance
of value created is (or should be) theirs.

An equity price is determined as most prices are—by what a willing,
knowledgeable buyer and seller agree to in a marketplace where no undue
pressure exists either to buy or to sell. The only rule that
entrepreneurs need know in this regard is that there are no rules.

Raising Capital by ‘Issuing’ Script

There’s nothing new about raising money by issuing script. The
Reynolds Brothers ran a sawmill (established in 1870 by Orson L
Reynolds) in the Adirondacks. In addition to logging and operating a
local mill, they also ran a company store and developed other sources of
income including catering to boarders as well as selling merchandise to
loggers in logging camps (Reynoldston, New York History of a Mill

When they needed to raise money, they issued script such as a $5
promissory note to pay their bills and to fund new ventures or additions
to existing ones. The script says it is, ‘Due to the Bearer… In Trade At…’
What this means is that the bearer of the script cannot redeem it for
cash, i.e., a sovereign banknote of the nation (the United States of
America). The fact that it is redeemable only ‘In Trade’ is key.

Reynolds had a margin on each trade so a $5 note with a GPM (Gross
Profit Margin of say 40%) only costs them $5/(1 + .4) or $3.57. It’s a
good deal for Reynolds but is it a good deal for a supplier, equipment
maker or labourer who accepts script instead of banknotes?

The answer is, it depends. If you can’t get any other work, $5 in
credit at a Reynolds Company Store, $5 in cigarettes or candy from a
Reynolds vendor (which could then be traded for other resources) or $5
in Reynolds products (milled lumber) might be better than watching your
family starve circa 1876 even if you know that it’s only really worth

Tech startups can learn from this. They can issue script to
employees, contractors, suppliers and clients redeemable in the form of
company products or services.  

Accretive Buying

If you think that bootstrap capital is something only startups use,
think again. Large firms including the Disney Company use Bootstrap

They did this when then CEO Mike Eisner acquired the Mighty Ducks of
Anaheim expansion franchise from the National Hockey League in 1993/94.
The franchise fee of $50 million was paid as follows—$25 million to the
League and $25 million to the LA Kings (then owned by Bruce McNall). But
the Kings were paid $5 million per year for five years, a form of
Seller Take Back (STB) financing (or Vendor financing), a prime source
of capital for startups.

In addition, Disney got a $20 million leasing inducement from Ogden
Corp. (then owner of the Pond, now called the Honda Center where the
Ducks play) to sign a longterm building lease. Next, Disney put in place
a $30 million line of credit secured by their newest asset (i.e., the
franchise itself). Hence, Disney acquired the team for a negative $20 million in cash.

This demonstrates that Bootstrap Capital is often ‘free’ capital. The
$20 million dollar leasing inducement that Disney received from Ogden
did not require any interest payments and, in fact, there were no
principal repayments either. Vendor financing Disney got from the Kings
was also, in effect, an interest-free loan for five years.

Free or ultra low cost capital can radically change your IRR
(Internal Rate of Return) on a project and your ROE (Return on Equity)
too. The two most important influencers on a project’s rate of return
are—upfront costs and the passage of time. If you can reduce or even
turn your upfront costs negative, impacts are substantial.

This can really help an intrapreneur inside an established
organization stand out from her/his peers. Say you work at Cisco and you
are an intrapreneur who knows how to use these types of self-funding
techniques. Suppose you go to your supervisor and say, ‘I have a project
that will take two years of R&D at a cost of $10 million but I have
three launch clients each willing to pickup $2.5 million of that cost
and take the first six months of production.’ It is likely that your
idea will get an enthusiastic hearing. More enthusiastic than a
colleague who has a competing project that takes the same amount of time
to develop and costs as much to bring to market but they haven’t lined
up any launch clients or received any hard commitments not only to buy
the product once it’s ready for market but to contribute some (bootstrap
and free) capital to help develop it as well.

Accretive Selling

Whatever you are selling, you will almost always sell more of it if
you provide financing for your clients and customers. If you are selling
$10 per month software seat licenses, you are probably going to sell
more than if you sell one-time $1,000 software installs instead. Most
tech entrepreneurs are familiar with those ‘Don’t-Pay-A-Cent-Events’
(OAC) that furniture and appliance stores promote but may not be aware
that, before clients have even left the building, their sales contracts
have. As a result, those retailers have more cash on hand after selling
you a new home theater system than before because they sell these
contracts to third party financiers for cash.

Tech firms can also turn each monthly service contract or seat license into cash if they pledge them in much the same way.

Alternatively, they can provide financing to clients who buy
expensive installations—whether the contract price is $1,000 or
$100,000, they can often find third party funders so that their clients
pay a monthly fee instead of a one time upfront amount.

Crowd Funding

Bootstrapping is becoming more common for projects that are wholly
original or appear to be. Craft businesses are being funded in
increasing amounts on sites such as or
Without giving up any equity, entrepreneurs and artpreneurs acquire
significant amounts of ‘free’ capital by pledging unusual experiences
including first-in-line-to-buy, customized/personalized products or
services, signed copies, dinner with the Founders, personal thank yous,
lower prices for products, event tickets, special memberships,
invitations to a house party, off-beat t-shirts and so forth.

It seems only a matter of time before crowd funding merges
with/begins to compete with the equity finance industry but only after
regulatory hurdles make this legal. Crowd funding sites are only
permitted to operate on a reward or donation basis but President Obama’s
JOBS Act of April 2012 may make it possible to trade equity for
investment on these sites (Inside The JOBS Act: Equity Crowdfunding,
Forbes, June 2012) after the SEC provides a set of rules for this
expected to occur sometime in 2013.

The Last Word

We keep adding to our list of sources of Bootstrap Capital. We hope
that it will continue to be helpful to entrepreneurs (and intrapreneurs)
as they build new services, products and enterprises of all types. Self
capitalization techniques are useful not only to for-profits businesses
but also non-profits, charities and NGOs. No list can be complete and
ours certainly is not. To view the entire list of self capitalization
techniques, please visit, Here are
some of the primary sources of bootstrap capital for tech startups—

1. Soft capital—money from family and friends
2. Home equity loans—ultra low cost debt secured by the value of your primary residence
3. Future customers—acquiring cash from launch clients in advance,
securing deposits/retainers/progress payments from customers earlier in
the deal flow
4. Future suppliers—getting credit from trade contractors, paying later in the deal flow
5. Strategic partners—organizations providing various forms of support
(cash, credit, office space, tools, personnel) because they stand to
benefit from your offering
6. Micro capital lending—programs that quickly provide small amounts of capital with few strings
7. Government support programs—such as the SBL (Small Business Loan)
program in Canada that only requires founders to personally guarantee a
small percentage of the loan or SR&ED Tax Credits and NRC-IRAP
8. Rights fees—upfront payments to be included in a product launch
9. Product placement—fees paid to be featured in a product launch
10. Licensing fees—royalty payments on patents and other IP
11. Consulting services—moonlighting to support a startup
12. Partners—providing cash and valuable skills
13. Investors—seeking higher returns
14. Financial leasing—pledging fixed assets
15. Factoring—trading receivables for cash
16. ESOPs—Employee Stock Ownership Plans
17. Advertising—securing sponsors who want to be associated with your new product or service
18. Trading—buying low and selling high/asset flipping
19. Credit cards—multiple providers
20. Accretive buying—having more cash on hand after buying a company than before
21. Accretive selling—providing customers with 3rd party financing
22. Script—coupons redeemable in trade by suppliers, customers, employees
23. Crowd funding—non monetary compensation for supporters who supply cash
24. Seller Take Back financing—low cost financing provided by Vendors
25. Sweat equity—supplied by founders.


Financings have been done for a long time using two basic types of
capital—equity and debt. However, if we ask the question, ‘What is
cheaper—debt or equity?’ with a follow up question, ‘What is cheaper
than debt and equity?’ we may conclude that self capital is a new form
of funding. Debt is usually cheaper than equity and bootstrap capital is
usually cheaper than both because, essentially, it’s free.

Supplier credit is often extended to startups without cost (that is,
without interest or other fees usually associated with financings)
because, if the startup is successful, a supplier has helped to create a
new client for itself, often a very loyal new client.

Clients can also be induced to extend credit to a new enterprise (in
the form of deposits/retainers/progress payments) without cost because,
again, if the startup is successful, the client has helped to create a
new supplier for itself, often a very loyal new supplier.

Self-capitalization methods are tremendously varied. It subsumes
sweat equity which is, of course, a form of human capital—capital
contributed by startup founders in the form of free or low cost labour.

Financial capital can be broken down in business models and plans
into three categories—debt, equity and self capital. Other forms of
capital include social capital, intellectual capital, cultural capital
and environmental capital, all of which are beyond the scope of this

The Internal Rate of Return on a project as a whole is made up of a
type of weighted average of the returns on equity, debt and self
capital. If the cost of bootstrap capital is small or zero (ignoring
opportunity costs), it improves overall returns on equity which explains
why many entrepreneurs see IRRs on their own investments much higher
than passive investors. It also explains why issuing equity to
employees, partners or other stakeholders as a form of payment can be
expensive. If a new enterprise is successful, this is likely the most
expensive way to source funding. Entrepreneurs must exercise caution in
this area if they are to retain longterm control over their new
enterprises—additional debt or bootstrap capital is an antidote to
losing control to partners, employees, VCs or Angels with one
proviso—the enterprise must be successful.

Internet tools are abundant and many are available for free or
practically no cost. These let you bootstrap a website, online store,
blog, social media presence, do basic accounting, make and receive
payments, process credit cards, backup your data, share data and
transfer data for no money or very little money. It is much easier to
start a business in the 21st Century than at any other time in recorded


Accounts Receivable Factoring Guide, Curt Matsen, CPA, 2012.
Entrepreneurial Finance, J. Chris Leach, Ronald W. Melicher, South-Western College Pub, 2011.
Entrepreneurial Finance: A Casebook, Paul A. Gompers, William Sahlman, John Wiley & Sons, 2010.
Entrepreneurial Finance: Finance and Business Strategies for the Serious
Entrepreneur, Edition 2, Steven Rogers, Roza Makonnen, McGraw-Hill
Companies, 2009.
Equity Valuation for Analysts and Investors, James Kelleher, McGraw-Hill, 2010.
How to Get the Financing For Your New Small Business: Innovative
Solutions From the Experts Who Do It Every Day, Sharon Fullen, Atlantic
Publishing Group Inc, 2006.
Optimizing Company Cash: A Guide for Financial Professionals, Michele
Allman-Ward, American Institute of Certified Public Accounting,2007.
Strategic Trade Credit, Salima Yassia Paul, 2010.
The Kickstarter Handbook: Real-Life Success Stories of Artists,
Inventors, and Entrepreneurs, Don Steinberg, Quirk Books, Original
edition, 2012.
The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to
Create Radically Successful Businesses, Eric Ries, Crown Business,

Author Biography

Bruce M Firestone, B Eng (Civil), M Eng-Sci, PhD

Bruce M Firestone is best known as a professor, entrepreneur and
founder of NHL hockey team, the Ottawa Senators and their home
Scotiabank Place as well as Author of Quantum Entity Trilogy,
Entrepreneurs Handbook II and Urban Nirvana (2014/15).

Firestone is Executive Director of, a Canadian
registered Not-For-Profit corporation focused on educating and mentoring
entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs and artpreneurs in Canada and around the
world. He is also coaching, mentoring and teaching via Learn By Doing
School, an organization dedicated to providing student entrepreneurs
with access to research, education and a network of high achievers not
available elsewhere.

Firestone has launched or helped launch more than 172 startups in
fields including tech, real estate, design, art and services. He advises
clients on business modeling, self-financing, smart marketing, social
media, differentiated value, strategic selling and business development,
market channel development, harnessing the Internet, urban design, real
estate development, design economics, product management, sponsorship
and development economics as well as issues related to entrepreneurial
organizations including not-for-profits and charities.

In May of 2006, Dr Firestone joined the University of Ottawa’s Telfer
School of Management at as its first Entrepreneur-in-Residence. He has
previously taught or studied at McGill University (Bachelor of Civil
Engineering), Laval University, Harvard University, University of
Western Ontario, University of New South Wales (Master of
Engineering-Science, Traffic and Transportation), Australian National
University (PhD in Urban Economics) and Carleton University. Firestone
is now Entrepreneurship Ambassador for the Telfer School.

Dr Firestone has been an operations research engineer, real estate
developer, hockey executive, professor of architecture, engineering,
business and entrepreneurship, real estate broker (with Century 21
Explorer Realty Inc), writer, researcher, columnist and novelist. He is a
peerless husband and father of five great kids and one fine grandson.
You can follow him on Twitter @ProfBruce and @Quantum_Entity and read his blogs at and You can find his works at and You can engage with him on Facebook via and as well as via LinkedIn at His real estate interests are at and YouTube channels include and You can also send the first four chapters of Quantum Entity Trilogy to your friends for free from:

His current motto is, ‘Making Each Day Count‘.

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About the Author

Bruce is an entrepreneur/real estate broker/developer/coach/urban guru/keynote speaker/Sens founder/novelist/columnist/peerless husband/dad.