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January 11th, 2018

Courtney Reum is the co-founder of M13, a brand development and investment company committed to accelerating businesses at the nexus of consumer products, technology, and media. Reum was formerly an investment banker at Goldman Sachs and has been on the Forbes “30 Under 30” list. His company has been on Inc’s “500 fastest-growing private companies in America” and he was featured in Richard Branson’s best-selling book “Screw Business as Usual.”


Who is Courtney Reum?

In addition to the aforementioned accolades, he was labeled one of the Goldman Sachs Builders + Innovators 100 Most Intriguing Entrepreneurs and founded Veeve, an organic alcohol company, which sold to Luxco in 2016.

Courtney Reum of M13
Courtney Reum of M13

Courtney Reum is no stranger to the ultra-successful startup community, during his time working at Goldman Sachs he launched Under Armour and Vitamin Water to name a few. He noticed key market patterns and saw how business was changing, deciding to help other startups scale quickly.  M13 is the manifestation of that vision.

Alongside his brother, Carter Reum, he founded M13. The name is significant because Messier 13 (or M13) is one of the brightest star clusters in the Northern sky. The cluster is made up of many stunning individual stars, but when those stars come together, they create something greater than the sum of its parts.

M13 has worked with Pinterest, Lyft, Ring, Bonobos, SpaceX, and SnapChat to name a few. Reum hopes his book Shortcut Your Startup provides experience from himself and Carter, who he says are old enough to have some experience, yet young enough to have new insights into the way brands are made today.


Courtney Reum’s Startup Switchups

Courtney Reum and his brother Carter Reum’s vast experience working with high-growth companies, he breaks down several better-practices growth-focused entrepreneurs need to adopt from here on out. Historically, slow and steady growth targets were expected, but today growth seems to be flat for a long time, seeing a sudden spike when founders realize their particular advantages and exploit them.


1. Do what you do best, and outsource the rest.

10 years ago there was a mindset that you could do one thing great, but to increase business it was necessary to focus on complementary services you could cross-sell. It makes sense on paper, but from a leadership perspective, it makes growth challenging. Reum explains that today there is so much great competition that can come out of nowhere, it’s best to focus on your bread and butter, becoming the best at it.

Jack Welch at GE (of all places) pioneered this idea. Reum explains staying focused on your core business is vital. This can even be applied to specific tasks or roles in your organization. There are a lot of CFO for hire businesses, for example, that enable organizations to effectively outsource the CFO office.


2. Get Into The Trenches

The idea of getting into the trenches comes up often on the Cultcast and it’s for good reason. The idea of getting your hands dirty and knowing when the “data” isn’t enough is an advantage successful entrepreneurs share. Reum says the duct-tape, prototype, raw approach is often ignored, but makes the difference between success, or protecting against massive failure.

Reum told the story of a Goldman acquaintance who saw value in a company that would be the Italian Chiptole of fast-casual. Reum says he would be more likely to read reports and data, but this guy didn’t do that. After quitting his job Goldman Sachs he lied on his resume and got a job at Chipotle. After 3 months of working at Chiptole, he decided his earlier idea wasn’t timed right, leaving Chipotle, saving millions of dollars and lots of headaches by getting in the trenches.

It’s hard to pull off and requires a lot of dedication. No one actually wants to do this. Many simply want to live in the data, and read the research without getting their hands dirty. But hands-on data is often ignored. The data he was collecting in real-time working at Chiptole was far more valuable than looking at data that keeps the problem and solutions at arm’s length. He was able to understand on a deep level, operational costs, customer demands, leadership breakdowns, habits, logistical challenges, and profit per store.


3. Obsessively Take Advantage of Your Unfair Advantages

We all have advantages, the challenge is that what we consider common, may be uncommon amongst others. It’s truly hard to look outside yourself, and therefore many of us are unaware of our own “unfair advantages.” Because we are unaware of them, we don’t take full advantage of them.

It could be an asset, a connection, or a natural ability, but Reum explains we need to get outside ourselves. “It’s so personal” Reum explains. Do you have any advantages in manufacturing? Do you know an influencer? Do you have access to a particular asset like family land? Do you have certain natural abilities that others don’t have? Contrary to what many know-it-all leaders think, you do have unique natural skill, and identifying that could be your million dollar idea.

Ask those around you, or take the Strengths Finder Assesment, which is why Paul Allen of started To unlock human potential. Obviously, you can also buy Courtney Reums’ new book Shortcut Your Startup.


More Startup Podcast Interviews

If you enjoyed this Cultcast interview with Courtney Reum, you should listen to my interview with Owlet founder Kurt Workman, Formé Founder Maureen Stockton, or HomeDitty founder Katie Byers.


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