Date Published

Written / Edited By

Nikhil Shah

Photography

Jimmy Pham

BOULDER, CO

Over the past 6 years Nic De Castro has carved out his niche in digital advertising by transitioning brands into the social video space. After a stint in the corporate world Nic started his own consulting agency, PLZADVIZE, just shy of his 23rd birthday, and helped launch a multi-million dollar startup the following year.

At the enterprising 28 years of age he'll tell you that it's been no cakewalk, with as many failures as successes. Through it all Nic keeps to his core values while maintaining a drive familiar to novices and seasoned veterans alike. These days Nic leads sales for Brite Content, an online startup based in Boulder, Colorado.

We caught up with Nic during his last visit to NYC to discuss his entrepreneurial approach to consulting and development.

Tell us a little bit about yourself

I was born in Laguna Beach, Orange County and then grew up in San Juan Capistrano. Over the last six years I’ve split my time between New York, San Francisco and LA mainly, and Chicago and Detroit from time to time, and this past March I signed on as the head of sales with a startup in Boulder.

What is it that you do?

Over the years I've done a bunch of things. If there were a common thread to it all I'd say I'm strong in uniting people around a product vision or idea. In the past I've helped companies take a product to market and pitch. That’s my core strength. The rest I'm not so good at - I try to surround myself with people that are much better. That’s what I've been doing for the past six years.

IS THERE ANYTHING SPECIFIC YOU ENJOY ABOUT IT?

It’s sounds cliché, but everything in life is sales, and great sellers by nature are inquisitive. Finding out what people need and figuring out what you have that can fit is in itself interesting. There’s a stigma around being a salesperson. If you love it then it doesn’t matter what you’re selling.

I've only had one W-2 job, and I got recruited into it through a consulting agency called BlueWolf. They placed me with the developer for Salesforce.com, and my department handled implementations. I worked inside sales for two months and thirteen days, literally making 150 calls a day. Cold-calling VPs of IT companies at 7:00 AM and getting cussed out. Looking back, it was a really a good skill to have. Most people my age don’t want to do that kind of stuff.

One of my favorite quotes by Carl Sandburg is, “Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.”

YEAH, COLD-CALLING IS UNCOMFORTABLE.

It's funny, just two weeks ago I did some cold-calling. It’s been six years and still to this day I find myself a bit nervous doing it. There's just something about picking up my phone and making a call to someone I don’t know, who’s not expecting my call, and just listening to them breathe on the other end. Then you get into it and it’s fun.

Anyway, I played my cards right and in two months and thirteen days I joined another place and doubled my salary. As a guy out fresh out of school the first thing I learned was that digital advertising moves fast. In six months, none of us know where we’re going to be. That’s why I love the business. It’s never stagnant.

One of my favorite quotes by Carl Sandburg is, “Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.”

DO YOU FEEL TECHNOLOGY HAS INFLUENCED SHAPING YOUR CAREER?

To be specific, a certain vertical of tech between marketing and advertising. Tech has afforded me the opportunity to do things that I wouldn’t have been able to do in other industries. I've built a $6 million business in a year and a half with a team of six people at the age of 24. It's such a fast moving and iterative thing. People come to expect things now.

HOW DOES THAT PLAY OUT IN YOUR WARDROBE?

I’m a revenue side person so most days I'm meeting with people and convincing them to do business with us through one-on-one meetings. Most days I’m going to throw on a blazer and shirt. My suits tend to be three-piece, and I wear a lot of John Varvatos. In Boulder you'll never see me wear a collared shirt.

DOES FUNCTIONALITY PLAY A PART IN WHAT YOU WEAR?

In New York City, "function" means, "can I go drink in it?" In Boulder, I dress for the outdoors, and I often wear shorts. I want multipurpose stuff because I don’t want to have to buy a activity- specific looks, I want to buy something that I can also wear in the office and outside.

To me, Boulder is actually a much more interesting use-case. If I’m going to a meeting and it’s warm outside, I'll go for shorts, loafers and a buttoned down collared shirt. The blazer is optional. In New York you start with a blazer. You can't show up in t-shirt and jeans - there is a certain level of respect that you’ve got to show.

LOOKING BACK, WHAT'S SOMETHING IMPORTANT YOU'VE LEARNED ALONG THE WAY?

Back then I was ignorant, blissfully ignorant, and I had a bit of luck with mostly blind ambition. If I got the meeting I'd take my chance and pitch the CMO. Now, I wouldn't send a 22 year old to do that kind of work. I think you become more cautious as you get older. Ideally you still are risky, but hopefully you're a little more prudent.

DO YOU HAVE ANY 20-20 HINDSIGHT ADVICE?

To other people who want to be founders: the narrative that you get from Silicon Valley is all propaganda. It's a very profitable narrative for venture capitalists about a very disruptive and degenerative process. It goes like this, "Quit your job, live in a van, raise venture, grow as fast as possible and someone will buy you out." That’s how it works. I've seen myself, and my closest friends, go through some really hard times because I followed this narrative. So how should you go about it? Do it on the side. Keep your job. That’s the hard way to go.

WHAT IS THE MOST DIFFICULT THING ABOUT THE WORK YOU DO?

I've gone through most stages of being a founder so far without one success. I've made the mistake of saying to my team, "as soon as you get this product out, I’ll go make this much money." I did it because I truly believed that. It’s a lot harder than it appears, and I've learned to be much more tempered.

HOW DO YOU CHOOSE WHAT YOU'RE CUT FOR?

There're strong signals, right? The real question is, "what's the project and who will do it?" I'm hoping my team does it, and does it soon. If we don't, someone else will. It might seem harsh, but being a founder is all about how you translate what you know to be true. Being able to convey an idea to other people and have them understand the way you understand it is the hardest thing.

DO YOU BELIEVE IN LUCK?

That’s a good question. I believe you’re either lucky, fortunate or blessed.

CAN YOU ELABORATE ON THAT?

It might seem like semantics but I think it’s an insight into how that person views the world. From my perspective, “lucky” means something just happened. Like a butterfly flapped their wings in a different way and I just got here. “Fortunate” means you recognize that other people have done things for you, and you definitely didn’t do this show on your own. “Blessed” shows a window into faith. I would say out of those three that I'm blessed.

Thank you NIC for your time and generosity. We look forward to seeing success in your future for you and the people you work with. FYI Raoul's was great. Appreciate the tip.

#DOEVERYTHING