In this interview for OF10podcast, a podcast focusing on prominent minorities in the tech industry, host Will Lucas and entrepreneur Dave Salvant discuss never giving up on your dream.
Dave Salvant is co-founder of Squire, an app that enhances the barbershop experience for both customers and barbers – allowing people to book and pay for cuts at the push of a button. I originally met Dave when we were shooting an episode for Puff Daddy’s REVOLT TV channel in New York. I found him to be incredibly inspiring. He’s a Y Combinator alum, and dropped out of his MBA program at Wisconsin-Madison to found Squire.
I caught up with him to talk about Squire, his path to creating the company, and why its so important to stay the course.
Note: This portion of the interview is derived from the audio interview heard on the OF10podcast with Will Lucas. To hear the podcast, subscribe in iTunes, Google Play, or wherever you get your podcasts.
This interview has been edited for length.
Will Lucas: Talk about what it takes to build a technology like this, because I don’t think you nor your co-founder are engineers, but somehow you put the pieces together to make this thing real.
Dave Salvant: Yeah, we really just started learning about tech four or five years ago and there were just massive opportunities. So, we ended up finding a third co-founder who is really talented; he actually built apps for the NFL and has over 18 years of development expertise. Honestly, some people just really want to be inspired to build something great or do something great outside of what they would normally do. I guess my advice to people who are non-technical, like myself and my co-founder is, find someone – a kid at Stanford, NYU, Carnegie Mellon or any of these great schools with great engineering programs, they’re filled with students who are just waiting to be inspired. Because if you’re not technical yourself, it’s your responsibility to inspire the people – just try and inspire people to be great.
Lucas: You were on a different track for a while – you were in business school. You’re very well-educated and for you to take this hard-right and pursue this startup idea… that really took something. And, not only internally did it take a lot for you to say, “I’m going to do this,” but externally dealing with friends and family who might say that you have real opportunities in pursuing your education. Talk about what that looked like for you.
Salvant: Listen, luckily I have a strong mom; she’s a strong support system. My mother would have been totally happy if I was a construction worker or a teacher as long as I was doing what I love. She’s supported me in so many ways and I am really grateful for that – she always supported my ideas and my dreams. But, there were some opposing external factors because people don’t understand entrepreneurship. They don’t understand why I do this when the path could be easier for me. I guess I’m on the road less traveled. But, it’s very fulfilling knowing that, and getting up every morning, doing what you truly love. Adam Newman, who is the CEO of WeWork is like a mentor to me and he really, really preaches doing what you love. You have to find yourself; you have to be fulfilled. Some people, being fulfilled is being a teacher or being an artist. No matter what it is, I always encourage people to do what they love to do because you’ll find happiness. And if you’re not happy, then what is life? People should do what they love and try to build something great that works for them.
Lucas: When you and I were hanging out in New York, what I really appreciated is how real you were. I didn’t get a sense that you were a “different Dave” or a more “corporate face” Dave in front of other people. You were a real guy who spoke real things. So, what is life like for you in San Francisco versus New York – where in SF you’re an extreme minority? I mean, walking down the street in San Francisco, seeing black people doing well is not the most common thing.
Salvant: I think this is all an opportunity, because so much focus is on you. If you’re creating a wave, someone is going to see that wave. It’s just an interesting time in America right now, where African American males aren’t being shown in a positive light. So it’s an opportunity. My job, my sole job right now, is to be successful. It’s to be successful, so that when people see an African American man, they won’t form an opinion. Because as a pioneer, you have to be so excellent and so good. You just have to succeed; you have to. Not only am I seen as succeeding for myself, I’m seen as succeeding for the people coming behind me and that’s equally as important, if not more.
Lucas: Steve Jobs once said, in essence, that technology for technology’s sake is worthless, but if you can use technology to empower human creativity, then that’s the real value of tech. What you do specifically for people who normally don’t have high levels of technology empowering their business, barbershops, I think is important. What can other startups like Squire do to empower people in non-technical industries to make their businesses more efficient?
Salvant: Well, there aren’t that many industries left that technology hasn’t touched, revamped, or revolutionized. I think barbershops and the hair industry as a whole is one of those last industries where technology hasn’t completely taken over. Look at what Uber did to taxis, what Airbnb did to hotels – it’s about allowing people and businesses to make money and control their life so they can build something more by gaining additional revenue. If we can help them do that, and help a marketplace like this, we can maybe one day have all the barbers in the world on this platform. Then we could become the world’s largest grooming company because the market is there. Our goal is to create the biggest, best grooming company on the planet.