In today’s episode, I speak with Zach Smith, who is the founder of the FinTech company, Align Tech, and also on a professional mission to improve financial literacy for young people. Zach's journey is underscored by his persistent commitment to create value respect and lead people from all backgrounds and walks of life.
Here’s a closer look at the episode:
Zach LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/zacharey-smith-itilv4-0aa014123/
Most people come on, here is making money making money. And I said no. If they don't understand it, then what would it mean for them to make it? Illiteracy is our problem, not opportunities to make money, it's their literacy to have it and to do something right with it.
This is Found in the Rockies, a podcast about the startup ecosystem in the Rocky Mountain region, featuring the founders, funders, and contributors, and most importantly, the stories of what they're building. I'm Les Craig from Next Frontier Capital. And on today's show, we are honored to feature Zach Smith, who is the founder of the FinTech company, Align Tech, and also on a professional mission to improve financial literacy for young people. Zach's journey is underscored by his persistent commitment to create value respect and lead people from all backgrounds and walks of life. Hey, Zach, how are you doing today?
Oh, man, how you doing Les? How you doing? Um, I really appreciate you inviting me and having me.
Well, I am so excited to have you on the show today, Zach we met, it seems like it was yesterday. But it was actually months ago, at a conference for tech founders in Denver. And I'll never forget, I walked into the room and there was just like this energy. You were, you were just it was just emulating from you. And you just drew me in and we had an amazing conversation. So that's where it all began with you and I, and today we get we get to tell the world your story. So I'm really excited to have you.
Oh man Les, it meant the world, then, you know, going to that event. I didn't come expecting, but I definitely did come up optimistic and something about the connection with you know, I saw people trying to kind of get your attention or find your attention. But it seems like we just kind of had a kindred just connection, serendipity to an extent and for us to just talk and just have good conversation, to have the topics, you know, generalized to us, but also specific to our families and things of that nature. It was just beautiful dude. So it’s just a pleasure. It's just a pleasure to speak to you again.
Well, I couldn't agree more, Zach. And you know, for our listeners, that's what we love about the show. That's what they love about the show. So I'm excited to you know, to go back to that conversation and to kick by the way to kick it off, why don't why don't you just kind of tell us a little bit about your story. And you know, take it back as far as you want to go. And kind of what led you up to today?
Oh, man, that's a loaded question. Let's get into it. So I was actually born in Omaha, Nebraska, and stayed there until about two years old and moved with my father and my mother and my sister, older sister to Atlanta, Georgia. And dad was working for IBM at the time. So he told IBM, if you'll see me, if you’ll take me into management, I'll go anywhere. So I ended up born in Omaha. And we migrated back to Atlanta pretty quickly. Grew up there for a little bit up until say about fourth grade and ended up going to Florida with my mother and my younger sister at the time. Because my grandmother had a terminal brain, breast cancer kind of deemed on, her and a certain duration to live. So we went down south my dad stayed in Atlanta. I thought I would always go back to Atlanta and kind of got upset, you know, from middle school to high school to college. I thought I get back but I didn't. I made great relationships in Florida though, I really grew myself in culture, grew myself and family, resilience from the likes of youth, fraternity organizations, of Men of Tomorrow, which is a youth organization for Alpha Phi Alpha, the first black male fraternity in the country, founded in 1906. So having that likes a mentorship in those regards, you know, seeing college and collegiate understandings from a middle school to high school age, it's always kept me cultured, regardless of my environment. You know, so I was raised in Fort Pierce, Florida is a little bit smaller than Miami. A little bit worse crime, unfortunately.
Is it's in the neighborhood, though right? Isn't it in that in that part of Florida? Near Miami?
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, it's southeast southeast. Between, you want to say between Palm Beach and Daytona? Miami and Daytona. So they call it the Treasure Coast. You know, that's where the pirates were. So started to look into college pretty early, my mom was a director of Upward Bound the bridging program at the State College and dad continued at IBM. I ended up getting a great grade point average 3.8, 3.9 in high school and received an academic scholarship to the University of Florida. Went to the University of Florida was pursuing data science, chemistry really got on my nerves.
Wait, wait, wait, wait, you had to take chemistry as an elective for data science?
Yeah, you know what I'm saying? And bigger than that, you know, I was having my son that year. So I'm, you know, I'm a very young, very young father at the time. My son’s now 16, you know, so it's been a very, very long road, very, very dedicated journey. You know, so I ended up going to University of Florida, came back home, kind of figured out life in that sense. And, you know, Florida just seemed dense. To me, I don't use the word racist, and things of that nature. I just seemed very dense to me, Les. And the opportunities were that sent. So try to nonprofit Derek didn't work out. I was trying to base it around housing, and HUD which shipping container homes back in about 2008, 2009.
Oh, way ahead of that that trend, for sure. I mean, now it's all the rage, right?
Yeah, yeah, it was, you know, and nobody could see vision like that, Les and it happens like that to me a lot. But that's been the fight, you know. So I said, you know, what is this 5% 10% 2% that they speak about? And I had a friend of mine that was in the service industry, take up fine dining service from a seasonal standpoint. And she had the likes of Nantucket. And I looked at the research of it. And I said, wow, you know, this is the Billionaire Island, you know, but it's definitely closed off private and exclusive. You know, there's, there's not just a doorway, you have to really knock the right way. So
You know, you perceive that as as an opportunity, then, right?
Oh, man, oh, man, definitely Les. I mean, it's, you know, you got to be a pioneer. Right? If I can't get the answer from around me, and in a book, then it must need to be pioneered, right. So went over there to Nantucket. Just learn under the likes of Jack Welch, you know, being able to hear him talk to him and actually speak to him and see him and, you know, the CEO of Bank of America and work at his home and, and really catered to his family and his friends. And, you know, to meet John Kerry as a guest, you know, have me laughing Les, you know.
I'm thinking like, most of these folks that you're mentioning, it's like, even if any of us were lucky enough to encounter or have an interaction with them in our entire lifetime. To me, that's like an amazing event. That's an anomaly. You, it seems like, seems like it was a kind of a regular affair.
Yeah, yeah Les. I mean, you know, it was it was it was it was a blessing, because it's what I prayed for, and is what nobody would really understand that I wanted or give me, you know, or be able to endure. So it was, it's been a blessing to, you know, come to the likes of that, you know, I didn't know Charles Schwab was a real guy until I met him at the golf club. Do you understand what I mean?
Yeah. You thought it was the name of? Yeah, it was it was like on the banner of the company. But yeah, to meet the real person. It's like,
Come on, dud! It’s like, you know, is Ronald McDonald real? You know what I'm saying? I’m like, I don't know. So I had to add my moment of ignorance, but it was a moment of beautiful embarrassment. You know, what I mean, and vulnerability, you know, like, we talked about Les. So yeah. It was beautiful to learn. Great, great time, because I actually came during an international event that they were a summit that they were having. So they had a lot of the international levels of that likes, you know, come to Nantucket for a great Summit. So it was a beautiful time.
Approximately what timeframe. Zach, like what give us a sense of the year…
This was 2010, 2011. This was 2010, 2011 Going into 12 because I had to make a decision on either going back there going to Mackinac Island, or finding out what Vail was, because that's how that network works.
I see you had a roadmap here of expansion of opportunity. And yeah, we've all heard of those places.
Come on Les, it becomes like, you know, you start to learn, you start to understand and either you apply it or you go to sleep.
What our path, so I'm starting to see, I think, or at least for our listeners, I mean, I know the story, obviously, but we're starting to see the evolution because I think you know, this is obviously Found in the Rockies, right? That's right. So it's like How did Zach end up in the Rockies? But I think you just alluded to it right? Am I right? Yeah.
Yeah. I mean, that's exactly what happened. You know, it was, it was going back, it was going back and seeing, I was doing a lot of research. I'm a researcher by heart by nature of, you know, learning code, and in the third grade Les, it’s just research for me, that's all. So I saw the, I learned about whale money, and the whaling and blubber times, and in that transition into all money, and that I mean, oil rush, and I mean, the oil boom, and then it turned into the gold rush. And then the only thing that was coming up similar to those type of impacts was the green rush. And that was just by way of research at that time. So it was pre, like right before 2012. Right before recreational hit. And I saw from an economic standpoint, that there was going to be a lot of change, a lot of dynamic change and a lot of influx here. So you know, seeing Vale and you know, comparing it to Mackinac Island, it was just, you know, I can go to Vail and definitely see what's going on in Denver at the same time. So it was, let's go to Denver, and no family here. No friends here, it was just head to the mountains. You know, I’m from the beach, so.
Yeah, I was gonna say so somebody that spent, you know, kind of an amazing early part of your life, kind of on the, you know, on the east coast, or from from south to north. What was it like? What was it like, like, first time, like seeing the mountains and getting out to Denver?
It's been humbling Les. I mean, the way I put it is like, when you see the beach is endless, but when you see the mountains they’re, humbling, you know, it just, it really is humbling do is it is breathtaking, literally going up those mountains, like it's hard for me to get up and drive them myself. But when I finally got to Vail, you know,
Yeah, I love I love the way you just said that. It's so to me, there's something like so symbolic about those two things, the endless beach and the humbling mountains, when it comes to when it comes to entrepreneurship, right? Because it's like, the opportunity is endless as an entrepreneur, right? It's like you're never you're always there's always a goal. There's always the growth, you know, to reach for, but at the same time, like the journey of entrepreneurship, it is constantly humbling. Never Ending Humble. Humble Pie. Yeah. So So you got to Denver was this, so around 2012? Is that right is that when you you got to Colorado?
Rich, came around 2012 and got into school at Lincoln, I drove by it. And I wasn't just going to be out here consulting. So I went to school, finished my AA there, and transitioned it to Colorado State University for Project Management. And during that time, while taking that degree, I was offered the opportunity to work with an independent contractor and opportunity under Uber and built a very, very kindred relationship there with the top the first 50 of Uber first 20 of Uber. And, you know, they pretty much suggested me to create my own business and to seize bigger opportunities. And you know, I took that as a grain of salt. They told me to kind of take it as an Epson can. And you know, took that to the max and I looked at my classmates and I hired my classmates to then be my partners, hired some of my teachers to then be my advisors, and pursued the Uber contract and seized it as a mobile business. So we own boarded half a million drivers here in Colorado, through my transportation and logistics company. That's Mobile Auto and Diesel.
That's incredible, by the way, I mean, you completely as I would expect, you know, total humility in that story. We're gonna go back to that in a second because it's pretty incredible. When you when you know, as when you and I met when I peeled back this that story. I mean, it's pretty incredible that opportunity and what you did and what your company did, but first, you know, I You mentioned Lincoln Tech, and I mean, I think this is a great opportunity to call it out. Because it seems like you know that there's this is a Denver campus, right? You did a you did some pretty cool stuff there with this, this internship program, right that you established there? Can you talk a little bit about that. Just to get some visibility on what I mean is a really cool program.
Yeah, Les it’s been a very, very kindred relationships there. I'm one of the I'm the National Award winner for or that National Award Graduate there. are. So we do constant collaborations, I'm on the Denver, Lincoln alumni. And I also have known personally that personally, the last two CEOs of Lincoln Tech my way of New Jersey, so they've come to meet me in person, we've, you know, been able to consult with them, from alumni standpoint about what potentially should be what could be the likes of the COVID, was when we were definitely involved with each other really attacking those fires that most people couldn't, you know, really understand or put out, you know, that's what I really have a specialty in an niche, that's really why Uber picked me up is the specialty and niche to really get things launched, going. It doesn't matter, the scale doesn't matter, the person that type of issue. So I've given a lot of including my award, physically to Lincoln, trusting that, regardless of the reputation that's been shaded, in some senses, with trade schools and with at school in particular, that we can turn it around. They haven't seen the likes of government contracting the way that I would like to bring, they still believe it's an enigma. But by way of my certifications Les and by way of connections, like you, and I, I think we can finally make these these possibilities real.
Right. And to me, it's it's such an opportunity, right? When you think about some of the workforce shortages, you think about, you know, some of the challenges with like people earning like a decent living wage. I mean, this is a program that addresses so many of those challenges in a very specific way. Right, this is preparing, you know, it's it's automotive and diesel, diesel, sort of careers, right, for students that are that are trying to launch into that, those sorts of professions.
Well, the beautiful thing about it list is that's just for Lincoln, I mean, we're a mobile based service across the board, you know, so that could be mobile welding, you know, otherwise, you know, all the way to the likes of construction and things of that nature. So, it, we're bringing that out, you know, we're allowing Lincoln to leverage us as students and to have that story, you know, that really brings that retention back for them to actually be a proof of concept that it can happen, it doesn't have to necessarily happened at a job site, you may have to create your job site, you know, and that's a great leverage for Lincoln to, you know, have from a standpoint of the job industry that they can't really predict at this point.
Right. And that's in specifically, that's Best Mobile's angle on this, right. It's to sort of, kind of help virtualize some of those connections across all sorts of industries. Is that Is that right?
Right. Right, right. I mean, what us being federal contractors is with our certifications, MBE Minority Business Enterprise, disadvantaged business enterprise. And I've also, you know, seize the AC DBE, which allows us to be at every federal airport, we have to be versatile, and, you know, very particular and selective, you know, specialized in who we allow to be subcontractors of us, and who to represent, you know, how we subcontract?
For sure. Good, well, why don't I want I said, I wanted to revisit it. And so let's do that. Let's go back to the let's go back to the founding founding of Best Mobile. What time frame was it around 2013 2014? So you started this company, and what was what was sort of the inspiration at the time for you like, what was? What were you thinking? What was the idea, it was the kind of vision of Best Mobile?
The intro to school was, you know, they were asking who wanted to work and who wanted to work for themselves. And, you know, 80% of the class chose to work for someone and I didn't want to, you know, I saw an opportunity for mobile, I saw, I saw the opportunity to link and to team up with, you know, the top level of students, you know, that college environment and find those that were entrepreneurial. And, you know, ironically Les, this was one of those opportunities where I could go out in the field and actually start to pay for school with this service. So it proved itself, you know, so it just proved itself Les, it was great community to learn my co-workers in this new environment. It was a great way to, you know, speak to my teachers and advisors in a totally different way of initiative and drive, you know, and I can still have it while I'm still looking for a job. You know, I've never been opposed to the two I don't believe an entrepreneur is just a business owner. I believe you're entrepreneur by way your fingerprint, you know, so that’s how it’s worked out Les.
It makes sense. And and, you know, in terms of the Uber development, I mean, initially, it was Best Mobile was focused, correct me if I'm wrong, but it was really, you know, there's this opportunity potentially in, you know, inspecting vehicles, repairing them keeping keeping fleet vehicles or just vehicles in general up and running. And you got approached by Uber, because like, they had a big problem. Is that right?
Yeah, I mean, what I was doing is working as an independent contractor. And it was some disappointments, and it was some disappointments and mismanagement done by the company that I was working for. Uber was very, very, very disappointed. And, you know, they just seen some things, I can't speak too much about it Les. But they were very disappointed in the treatment that we were receiving at the time, we weren't really being supported. And I never met the managers of the company, I never met anybody that was overseeing me and things of that nature. So Uber was planning on ending, that opportunity, and they were definitely without any resources at that time. And anyone that could really understand that type of niche that they were in, they were in a very multicultural environment, different sexes, different ages, handicap otherwise. So, you know, me having the backgrounds that I do the vastness from, you know, speaking you know, ASL all the way to learning Arabic, you know, whatever I needed to do to make sure that they were, you know, really catering to that client the right way. That was, they were making it impractical to fire me, you know, so I think it was a beautiful relationship. More More started off as a friendship and anything, you know, to be a part of them prior to public, and to really be a part of the team that really is the ground stages, the ones that were, you know, on that show time show that you were, you know, seeing Uber and, you know, those type experiences, and seeing those is been fun, as
And I think, you know, even even to the normal user, Uber experience, it's like, we don't think about the fact that if this vehicle is this person's livelihood, as an Uber driver, this is what they do. And that vehicle breaks down or that vehicle isn't routinely checked, like this can not only have a, you know, traumatic effect on that individual's livelihood, but across, you multiply that times all of the vehicles, you know, all the drivers across the company, or specifically for you and your servicing and regen, it's a pretty important piece of their ability to deliver the service that we all depend and rely on.
Les, I'm gonna say, this is beautiful, that we don't have this live, and we're able to actually edit it. Because, you know, you will be surprised, like the, the treatment that I've seen, of business. I've learned from the likes of the top opportunities in history in the world, you know, and to see the mismanagement of opportunities that I would only wish for, and I've been grateful to the opportunities I've received, how I've received them hasn't always necessarily been something to be grateful for, you know, once you see the back end of management, and find out that people's integrity really doesn’t, sit in the in the lines of support and people is really supporting pockets, even with plenty bandwidth it saddens me, you know, so I was glad to actually relinquish myself from that opportunity. They I released liquid first of all Les, when they gave me the contract, I redlined, you know, I'm not a I'm not a, you know, I'm not one of these guys, you know, I'm not thirsty. I know how strong I am. And I know what faith system I work with, and I don't lose, you know, so when Uber gave me that contract, I redlined in and said, you can go deal with it or figure it out. And what they did is come back and say okay, Zach, you aren't seeing some You're right. Okay, well, let’s go to the table. And let's do this, you know, and I'm knowing the name on that contract, regardless of my partners, because I was the lead everything on this contract Les, you know, so for the, for it to manifest and for me to see Travis make that type of mistake for it to affect his direct service partners immediately, you know, in ways that he couldn't control neither did he tried to neither did he give any type of condolences for that to immediately change to new management to where, you know, the suggestions that I'm making are because I am the gatekeeper of transportation in Denver for drivers. And all of them are under my insurance. So when I say that there's a suggestion for a certain, you know, measurement of brake pads, and I'm being negotiated by by, you know, geeks, then this you get what I’m saying?
Yeah, what business, I mean, that's yeah, that's what business do they have to negotiate?
I don't get in your way you're trying to do code. So I wouldn't want you to get in my way of trying to fix brakes that’s going into snow to drive for you
So true, when I take my bike to the bike shop, I let the professionals like tune it. And I don't expect the folks at the bike shop to tell me how to do venture deals, you know, it's just, we have our own. We have our own expertise. And that's yeah, we have to be humble enough to recognize that I totally, agree.
You know, I stay in my lane with it, you know, think that's why I was having a great talk with you. Because it's like, I do have the passion I do we have to drive. We do have to drive because it's teamwork behind all of this, you know, but it hurts when you when you do meet opportunity, and it's really not of integrity. You know, that's, that's when you got to make a real choice Les. I mean, all money isn't good money. And all moves aren't good moves. And I have learned that the hard way.
Totally. Well, I appreciate you. You obviously sharing that story, Zach, that means a lot. And I think it's just you know, it just helps us get a real perspective on on sometimes the way that the Tech Tech works, you know, it's just it's, it's not wrong or right. It's just real.
I mean, these these growth pains are things that people most, you know, normally don't relate with, you know, the fact that, you know, it's kind of like you get on you know, you make apple pies you get on Oprah, you have to get a factory. You know, that's how it happened with Uber.
Yeah, no more, no more grandma making them in the kitchen anymore at that scale. Yeah, no,
Dude, it went from like, two of my friends to 30 employees, literally two weeks, you know, so, you know, you have to be ready for what you asked for, you know, because, you know, when it does come in, you are in a different tax bracket. Are you an S-Corp this year? You know, did you think about that? You know, did you even think about that? No, you didn't, you know, because you weren't taught that you weren't guided to it. And that's, that's where I'm hoping to get back to the grounds Les. I mean, I'm working on software and things of this nature to where I'm trying to figure out what my retirement my pre-retirement life I look like, you know, because I want to stay active. I plan to die my boots, not my sandals.
I like that. Well, let's go there. I mean, let's talk. So Align Tech was sort of the next. The next kind of big, big idea or big, big effort of yours founding. And that was like around what 2017, 2018? You founded Align Tech?
Yeah, Les, to 2017.
Okay. What was that? What was sort of the inspiration story there? What was what was your, your idea?
So I've always kept, you know, I built the app for Best Mobile while I was at Uber, just in case, just in case. And I kept those developers and actually created relationships, I've been doing importing and exporting, I didn’t tell you, since like 15-16, I was a power seller back then, you know, selling cars before they put it on the dealerships. And you know, I've always kept those developer relationships, and they've grown up. So during that time, I was actually looking into creating a cryptocurrency exchange. And I was looking online for like, freelancers so I could see if they had the capabilities. But it just was coming across vague. It really, you know, wasn't, it didn't feel right, Les. So that was around like, 2014. And then about three years later, me and a partner, that was one of one of my global partners, one of my closest reached out and just said, you know, Zach, some of those ideas, you know, I really think about them, you know, at night, I really think about them when I'm at work, and, you know, maybe we should pursue that one day. And I was like, okay, okay, I said, you know, just in case let me just go ahead and start this business, put the LLC there. I'm not going to do any services out of it. If I need to run it as a freelance and put my freelance services through Consultancy Services, it'll be a placeholder, right, Les. And then so, the pandemic happened to it, let's get that far. Right. So, you know, like, because over those three years, I'm still working Best Mobile, you know, but I'm, you know, I'm doing side services for technology if somebody needed, you know, services that weren't in my way I could subcontract them to my friends. So, you know, it was just pretty much project management, you know, yep. Help them companies and things of that nature in the area with, you know, some software tweaks or if they need it development, things of that nature. So I will pass, pass them through my project management. But I wanted to do some for myself live. So I reconnected in 2020. And it seemed like all of the companies when that happened, they fired their blockchain developers. And then instantly, Blockchain went through the roof and their demand went through the roof, and then they wanted them back. Right. And then most of these people were like,
Convenient path for them.
Les, you know it, you can hear it Les. They were like, No, I'm not coming back. I'm starting my own. All of us have come together. We're starting our own, you know, so they reached out to me and was like, hey, Zach, we've started our own. That idea that you had about, you know, trading bots and cryptocurrency exchanges, we now want to get back into it. We just finished building I can't say it over, you know, Les you and me have talked about it. But one cryptocurrency exchanges here that's been passed to the SEC, they built it from ground, you know, so it was just the best development you could get in the world. And nobody hasit. This is one of the niche markets right now. So, you know, I was definitely, you know, as I had, you know, I had a lion sitting there, we made a global partnership, and started working on our execution robot two years ago. And at first, they were really big on a crypto arbitrage based robot. And, you know, I'm a crypto trader myself. And I started early Les, I started, you know, started cloud mining got, you know, lost a lot, went ahead and got into physical mining and found miners here, ironically, and, you know, so on and so forth. And this was, you know, this has just been involved in since 2014 2015. Sure. So, just to get it back in perspective, you know, we got to the crypto arbitrage part, and I'm like, No, that's not what we're doing. You know, I trade crypto myself, and it's too volatile, I need something that has more of a basis. Because my goals are really big with this, I need to get into deep learning, machine learning cognitive thinking, I know where I'm going with this, okay, my, I've seen this all my life, my dad has been on IBM and a computer in front of me, just leave me alone. So, you know, the developers and to kind of humble themselves, because it's like, they've never met a guy like me, you know.
Like, Who is this guy? On one hand, he's so driven, and he's so like visionary. But on the other hand, he has such great self control, what gives here?
Do and do when I get on and start giving scripts and start looking at code. And they're like, Yeah, you do code too.
He’s a code slinger too man, what an anomaly.
I do enough to get us through dude, let's work as a team, because, you know, I stay in my lane Les. But I also don't oppose myself to help in anybody that was broke on the side of the road, it wouldn't matter what you were driving. And that's just natural in me, you know. So, anyway, we got back to understanding that I have a leadership that's important, and brought it back to foreign currencies, and based it there and was able to get some very profitable trends and analysis, which is making me very happy. We actually just went live today. And it's the first time in two years Les, which is so ironic to talk to you. So it's just been a very special day for me today.
So good to hear Zach, I love when great things happen to great people that is, that's what it's all about. That’s awesome.
Les you know that and we did this bootstrap Les, no investment, we have done this completely out of my pocket. That team has invested in me, I'm 100% owner, there is no partnerships yet, but of course, I want you to guide me on what to do with that. You know, but I did create a safe coat and an insurance and a bulletproof and I'll share that with you as you know, I went towards education and e-learning and we provide financial literacy for children. So this is actually going to be earn as you learn opportunity. So kids can actually earn and learn and create trust funds for them partnerships that only again, my my big brother Les can really tell me how to do.
Yeah, but I mean, I think Zach this is something too that I look back to you know, even even you know, growing up in a blue collar town in Northwestern Pennsylvania for me like it's a lot of it is just exposure, right? It's it's early exposure to light that fire to get young people excited about not only, you know, learning which is you know, partly education and being able to, you know step into a career of earning but it's not just earning as it is learning how to invest, right? But that's, that's the that's the recipe, you know for actually being successful, right?
Listen, see, that's why I see it you know, these guys come out and do it I can only speak in concert with you. Because dude, it's like they most people come on he's making money making money and I said no, if they don't understand it, then what would it mean for them to make it? Illiteracy is our problem, not opportunities to make money, it's their literacy to have it and to do something right with it, you know Les so to have this type of drive, you know, my dad was not on the computer side, he was on the learning side of IBM for the last 20 years, we're not coming with our hands out, we're coming with our hands full, and a story that you can't touch. You know, and that's what people need to look for in themselves is the story, the passion. The reason you know, I didn't really understand that the first time somebody asked me about business and those early cohorts are accelerators that people go to like, you know, what drives you in business. And most people say money, period, money, money, money, money, money, you know, and people really don't take the time to dig to really find out what would I love to do in retirement? And that's how I would look at it. If I was in retirement and I needed to cover my bills, but I had the choice to do whatever I wanted. What would that be?
That's right. I you know, it reminds me I had I had a mentor in Baltimore when I was living there that you used to say, you know, and it was really a light bulb for me. But he said, you know, “at some point in your career, you need to discover that there's a difference between your job and your life's work.” Right. And it's in some cases, our life's work can be the same as our job. But in most cases, it's our job. It's the ability to earn that enables us to someday pursue that that thing that bigger thing. Well, I didn't say my mentor said it in Baltimore. So, Bill, Bill Krause, if you're listening.
It came out of your mouth Les. Hey, Bill, you did it.
Yeah, yeah. But anyway, yeah. Yeah, Bill, you know, Bill's actually the founder of Mission Barbecue. I don't know if you've ever been to a Mission Barbecue, but he's also you know, an entrepreneur, and he was one of the first marketing execs at Under Armour. So he's, uh, oh, man, amazing, amazing entrepreneur, we should have him on the show sometime, although he's not technically in the Rockies. Anyway.
This is beautiful as I am. This is beautiful. I love what you're doing here with this platform. I mean, this is what we need.
Zach, it's all about people like you on an amazing journey. So and we're just about out of time, but I'd love I'd love for you to share with us. I mean, you know, I think a lot of times people think about entrepreneurship. And starting companies as like, a quest, a solo quest of like, I can either choose to have a family or I can choose to be, you know, working 100 hours a week. But I think it's rare when people you know, recognize that it's possible to do both. And, you know, I think from our conversation when we met, I realized, you know, you are a committed father, family man. And I'd love for you to just share a little bit about how you think about that dynamic.
Oh, thanks. It's been such a wake up call. Since this pandemic most immediate because that's what we can share if you made it to now. The work life balance is essential. It's not optional at this point, it’s essential. It's not about family, necessarily, unless you align it with your life. You know, you are your family in some senses. You know, some people are alone out there and I had to be relatable. And not just a family, you know, the ones that without you are your own family. And it's about loving yourself at this point, and loving the things that love you the things that genuinely reflect the passions that you truly live for, you know, the things and the tangibles are starting to get very unimportant. And we need to definitely see that because don't let the metaverse remind you that it's intangible. You know, let love remind you that it's intangible. Let care, remind you that it's intangible, let support remind you that it's intangible, and be reminded that you're not by yourself. Sometimes you need to be you know, I didn't always have Les to talk to. I didn't always have, you know, I didn't always have Next Frontier to be able to look forward to and to have You know, encouragement from, but you know, some of those times of entrepreneurship or exactly what you need in growth. And you have to just be grateful for what the journey is, you know, not just what the path may bring.
Brilliant, I mean, brilliantly said, Zach, and, you know, I think yeah, it's there's, there's, there's there's a lot in this world that is intangible, but when we, you know, when we, when we recognize that and grab a hold of the things that are important that makes it that makes it real. So thank you for, for sharing that. Anything else that you'd kind of like to you know, either highlight about your journey, what's next in store, the future for you, or, or your, you know, your pursuits here in the Rockies?
Les, we're gonna, we're gonna go all the way out, you know, we're gonna follow our mentors. We're going to bring him we're going to bring our mentors to a senior level of mentorship now going into venture capital in and, you know, the capital ventures that we need to look at with the likes of the project that we have. It's time to identify and start to decipher I mean, I have a fractional CFO now that I'm very proud of. And, you know, we're speaking to potential partners in banking. You know, I've talked to Suncoast bank, they like to speak about development, as well as our financial tool. I actually spoke to Waka Flocka. Last week, Les, that was very fun. He actually owns a business here in Denver, everybody. And yes, Les, and we'll see him I mean, me, you gotta go. We'll talk anyway. Long story short, I talked to him last week, he gave me a very, very special conversation personal, about how he's turning around and how he's making his business decisions. Financial literacy, he's loving it, they were just talking about it, tools, this and the third is the works, you know, and we have that type of branding around us, like the owner of open sponsorship.com. And that's something that you want to pay attention to. Its, you know, where athletes you can have them do your IG posts and things of that nature where we know the owner, there Les, and we're trying to just bring it all together. I've gone out here, I was 2001, Black Entrepreneur of the Year by way of Snapchat and clover. I don't want to ever you notice how humble I am is starting to be an issue now. Now I gotta put it in the right hands. Now I gotta put it in the right hands. I've never, this is my first podcast Les, forgive me.
Yeah, yeah, well, I mean, in the words of Waka, Flocka, your heart into pain at this point,
You gotta leave me alone, you're gonna leave me alone.
I’m teasing you. That's so good.
And he sounds so great. I mean, he, he sounds it’s beautiful in business, what he's doing, and the ones that he can, you know, introduce us to those likes of what we're trying to bring the Denver. Denver is my home. You know, Florida is a great place that I can take a bunch of my family from Denver, and I can enjoy my family in Florida. But Denver really took me in. And I plan on Denver to really take us to the next level. So it's, you know, we have our ask out there right now, our pre our pre-seed is around like 700,000, I believe. But it's definitely is growing as the technologies are becoming a part Les. I mean, we've, we've taken it from from execution, but two will be going into machine learning soon, dude, man, I can't wait to just talk to you, you know. So thank you so much Les. And it just means the world. If you have any other questions, please don't hesitate to ask me.
Well, Zach, I want to thank you for being on the show. I mean, you're you're clearly a, you know, a special super special founder in our region. Just so thankful for the opportunity to highlight you today on the show. And to conclude, why don't you just share with, with our listeners a little bit more about where they can find you if they want to reach out where they can find you online.
Thank you so much Les. LinkedIn, is where I'm really centralized at right now, Zachary Smith ITILv4, you'll see that and as far as fun fact, you have aligntech.io. And our global partners are specto.com. Say Zach, you know, made a special request for you. I would definitely go above and beyond when making you a priority.
That's fantastic. Zach, thanks again. So great to have you.
Oh man, great to have just to be had dude. Les, you are the best. This is beautiful. This is amazing.
Thank you for listening to this week's episode of Found in the Rockies. You can find links in the show notes or go to nextfrontiercapital.com to get transcripts, links, and contact information for today's guests. If you like what you heard and want more, please don't forget to rate review and subscribe to get notified as our new episodes drop every two weeks. We'll see you next time.