Former professional soccer player Anthony Maher made over 150 goals on the pitch. As the CEO of Philadelphia coworking network Benjamin’s Desk, he began helping startup companies hit their own goals.
[00:00:00] Announcer: From 2820 radio in Philadelphia, it’s The Build; conversations with entrepreneurs and innovators about their dreams, their triumphs, and their challenges.
[00:00:13] Joe Taylor, Jr.: Goals. We talk about them in meetings. We use sports metaphors in the boardroom. And yet only a handful of entrepreneurs have ever actually experienced the excitement and the passion of scoring a point in a professional sporting arena.
On this episode of The Build, I’m talking with Anthony Maher. This former professional soccer player made over 150 goals on the pitch, and now he’s helping startup companies achieve their own goals as the CEO of Philadelphia co-working network Benjamin’s Desk. He’s up next on The Build.
[00:00:51] Announcer: The Build is made possible with support from 2820 Press, providing business consulting and content strategy services to customer obsessed companies nationwide. More information at 2820press.com.
[00:01:10] Joe Taylor, Jr.: I’m Joe Taylor Jr. This is The build with Anthony Maher today. Welcome.
[00:01:14] Anthony Maher: Hey, thanks for having me, Joe.
[00:01:15] Joe Taylor, Jr.: So give us a little quick 30 second bio.
[00:01:19] Anthony Maher: Sure. Grew up in Cape county, New Jersey. Played college ball on Erie, Pennsylvania, turned professional soccer player for 10 years. Was in the Midwest where I met my beautiful wife, have three kids. Finally got back to Philadelphia where we can grow and launch Benjamin’s Desk.
[00:01:33] Joe Taylor, Jr.: Excellent. 50 goals on the pitch, outside over a hundred goals.
[00:01:38] Anthony Maher: Man, you must have been on page two of Google or something, Joe. I know that sound the first page job. Yeah. You know, I grew up, my dad had us playing sports early on. My brother, Mike played soccer. My brother, Matt played soccer. We did all the sports, and it was just fun. It was just something we put a lot of dedication and time into.
[00:01:54] Joe Taylor, Jr.: And so tell me a little bit about the transition from professional athlete to entrepreneur.
[00:02:02] Anthony Maher: Yeah. Good question, Joe. So as I was finishing up my career ninth and tenth year, I wound up having a pretty bad injury with my knee and ankles. And I start to think through, well, how awesome am I gonna provide for my family? And so I would create little lifestyle companies around tournaments leagues academy, and I was really good at it.
And as I was transitioning out, I also wound up getting my coaches’ license and happened to be one of the highest licensed coaches in the country. And I thought an easy transition would also to be coach professional players. And as I was living with Mike at Third and Market, we started talking a little bit more about Benjamin’s Desk and what it could be and what it could become and we got really excited.
We always had an entrepreneur background and also had a real estate background. So at the age of 23, I bought four duplexes and it was a landlord and I enjoyed the landlord business and getting tenants a good experience as their renting out their properties. And it was lucrative. We also bought some land in Virginia and in Nicaragua. So we were definitely on par with having a good real estate portfolio. Hence Benjamin’s Desk.
[00:03:07] Joe Taylor, Jr.: So let’s back up for a second and tell folks who Mike is. You come from a really entrepreneurial family.
[00:03:12] Anthony Maher: Yeah. At an early age, we always felt like we could give people a cool experience with some of the tournaments, some of the camps, some of the products we would develop just based in the sports industry, more than anything else.
Mike, being my brother and co-founder of Benjamin’s Desk, he was always groomed as the leader and early on my father would invest in his leadership skills. Sent him away to leadership training at a young age wound up going to the Naval academy was a Lieutenant in the Navy. And as he tr transitioned outta the Navy, we’ve always talked about running a business together. Not your typical like family business, but we were really intrigued with startups and really intrigued with really putting the work in. We felt like we had a high level of work ethic. We knew we had the drive and we just want to around the office with the right people and go launch a business.
[00:04:01] Joe Taylor, Jr.: So the business we’re talking about right now is Benjamin’s Desk, which is a co-working network based in Philadelphia. This is the space that we’re in right now. Full disclosure, Benjamin’s Desk is a client of 2820 Press. But, this was not on our agenda. Our, my talent coordinator said to me, you gotta have these guys on because that’s a great story. So you’re a professional athlete. Mike is in the Navy. Jen, Mike’s wife, is an attorney. And you guys start to have the conversation about let’s open a facility where people can launch their own businesses.
[00:04:37] Anthony Maher: Yeah. We always knew we, the way we worked together, me, Mike and Jen, we always knew that we had complimenting skill sets. And the idea to create a company that would allow us to have autonomy to do something pretty special. And Jen being full-time at Pepper Hamilton, Mike being full-time in the Navy, and myself being a full-time professional athlete transitioning, we started to have these conversations. And everybody’s timeline was a little bit different and we’re always big believers at the right door opens at the right time.
And, you know, Mike was fortunate enough to find Katie Cohen, who is now Katie Cohen Zanister, who is a 2820 press rockstar. And she was able to launch the business with Mike and Jen while I was finishing up my career. And as I was transitioning my career, we knew it was gonna be a natural step to be wore forward facing as the owner and operator at Benjamin’s Desk.
[00:05:25] Joe Taylor, Jr.: I wanna touch on that a little bit of that transition as well, because at that time you’re also running a company called Philly Foots.
[00:05:34] Anthony Maher: Yeah. So as I transitioned out, as I talked about before, I was my last year of playing professional outdoor soccer was in North Carolina. My final year I got pulled up to LA to play with Chivas USA and MLS team. And, you know, the coach was very transparent and say, Hey, Anthony, I really like you. We think we can help us this year. But there’s really no upside. You’re 31 years old. We know you’ve had some injuries, but we think you can make impact. That really was a reality check for me. And I was okay with it cause it allowed me to get everything else in order.
And that began the process of how can I transition outta this sport the right way. So, as I mentioned earlier, I did get my coaching license. And I also created a sport in Philadelphia that was nonexistent. And I was a big believer that Futsal. And Joe picture Futsal as being a soccer on a basketball court where it’s smaller side soccer, a lot more touches.
Kids are forced to be more creative, forced to have more touches on the ball and to have a lot more fun while they’re playing. And I felt like if kids can have more fun, they can have more touches and they can learn to be more creative. Not only are they gonna fall in love with the sport, but they’re gonna develop as players. And early on a lot of the more traditional coaches and organizations didn’t really want to hear about it.
And then, timing was on our side two years ago, three years ago, there was announcement by us soccer Federation and even FIFA, which is the world governing body of soccer, who said every player needs to be experiencing Futsal during the winter as another tool to develop as a soccer player. So that’s when our numbers went from about 200 players to about a thousand at capacity.
And we got to, kind of, really help kids fall in love with the game. And it’s grown to being one of the largest Futsal academies in the country. And right now we’re looking at strategic partners to help us grow that as I focus here at Benjamin’s Desk .And I’ve had some great managing partners and directors, who’ve embraced the fact that they can give back to kids, make them fall in love with the sport.
And you’re seeing now the kids that we’ve been doing this four or five years that are making real impact and people are pointing back to their development stage. And one of the point backs is Philly Futsal so that’s exciting to see.
[00:07:38] Joe Taylor, Jr.: So one of the things that I just heard you talk about was the idea that you’re at age 31 and having to reconsider what the long term career looks like for you. Is this something that’s affecting a lot of athletes? Do you see that happening more than maybe it used to?
[00:07:57] Anthony Maher: Yeah. You know, it seems like the athletes that are coming in line are younger, faster, stronger than ever before. And there’s a real awareness that there’s talent ready to take over your position. I’ve always had a good perspective early on where that would not stress me out as much as it would my other teammates. Cause I had a higher belief that certain things are gonna happen for the right reason and the right door will open at the right time. So that stress never really played a factor in me thinking that way.
I always felt like I had an entrepreneur spirit in me at a young age. I was that young kid in elementary school that was selling gumball machines and selling Airheads. And I enjoyed having, like, a little landscaping business in the summer and working for all the neighbors. I had a real passion for providing really detailed service and making money. And I enjoyed doing it. And as I was transitioning out at 31, it was just a reality that, man, there’s so much more out there. I achieved my dream, which felt really good. Cause every day I would wake up early, I would stay up late thinking about it. And then I was able to close it out the right way and transition into this entrepreneur background at Benjamin’s Desk. And I feel like, and I say this a lot, the type of CEO I want to be is very similar to the type of player I want it to be. I want it to be that hardworking player that led from the front. I want it to be a team player that would always surround myself with better people, so we can have better success. And I wanted to, kind of, share the passion with others and really make a ripple. And, you know, those are the things that allow me to have success as a player. And I think those are the things that are gonna allow me to have success as a CEO here at Benjamin’s Desk.
[00:09:27] Joe Taylor, Jr.: We hear a lot of folks in the business world, especially if you follow anyone on the speaking circuit, you hear a lot of motivational speakers. And sports gets used a lot as a metaphor for business success. You’ve actually been a player, a coach, a professional athlete, someone that’s developed talent on the field. How do you translate what you’ve done on the field into success in the boardroom, success on your org chart with talent that may not necessarily have come up with those same experiences.
[00:10:02] Anthony Maher: Great question, Joe. Before we get to the boardroom, I think how it helps me in the community. It’s almost like being back in the locker room. Right? So making sure people feel comfortable as new people come through looking at people’s skills and seeing how you can connect them to the right people and just making sure that culture is the right culture to have success. At the end of the day, we always knew that every locker room had culture, the great locker rooms had great culture, and that took a lot of work. And I was always looking at the guys that were steadily building that culture and investing in that culture. It was typically the leader that was either selfless, that was so bought in on making sure that this place was gonna succeed, that he put himself second and was always very decisive.
The second thing I always took was a takeaway as a young athlete and as a rookie and second year pro I would look at these leaders in very special teams and say, man, they’re the type of leaders that show it on the field. They have a will to win in those game situations. When you were talking about. And you hear it in the sports center all the time about this player just will the team to win well also special leaders that can, will team the win.
And I take that kind of attitude here where I’m willing to do whatever it takes to push the ball forward. I love leading from the front. I’ll never ask anybody to do something I would not do. And I’ve always liked surrounded myself with smart people. And I think when people are put in their lane the right way, you can have great success.
Now in the boardroom, I’m very competitive. I like to position the team to have a win. And I also am in a, always been a great team player to say, how’s this a win for everybody. So looking it a way where I can show that it’s gonna be a win-win and really believe in it and set expectations, knowing we’re gonna meet it no matter what it takes. Usually it’s a good formula for success.
[00:11:43] Joe Taylor, Jr.: Let’s come back to something you said a moment ago, the idea of culture in an organization. We hear from startup founders a lot that say culture, culture fit ,really important. But what does, what does actually mean to have a good culture in a company?
[00:11:58] Anthony Maher: Yeah, culture is just being thoughtful around people, caring about people. I think it’s as simple as that. I think being aware and being really tuned in to where people are, not only on the business side but personally. Where they are comfort level wise. You know, we talk about programming here and I’m always launching new programs here at Benjamin’s Desk. And some of the things I’m conscious of how do people participate. And I engage with them on a personal level and say, Hey, what were your thoughts around, why didn’t you show up to the junta or the first Friday lunch? And they’re like, it was nothing. I liked the fact, some of the feedback I would get would be from the members that they like the fact that they have the options for that programming. So it kind of changed my thinking around, you know, forced culture and growing culture the right way.
And I think the fun part is when you’re that engaged in people and thoughtful around people, you start taking how they want to see the culture participate. And you try to implement that as well. So, you know, culture isn’t built by one person, and Joe you know that better than anybody cuz you help build a culture here at Benjamin’s Desk as a member. But it’s built through different lens of perspective. And, and being really thoughtful around how you can continue to evolve that culture. Cause things change, people change, where they’re at currently personally on the business level change and being conscious. And then on the opposite side, I think there’s a real tangible side to it. I think there’s an experience side, meaning when people first come through the doors, where are they feeling? Where are they smelling? What do they sing? And that stuff plays a part in it. I can’t tell you how many times. In the professional soccer world, I was with the professional team where the locker room itself, the physical locker room, looked professional. It demanded a different type of professionalism from the players and also the people in the space. When I walk through the space and I see an empty space, that’s not good for culture. But when I see people working together, collaborating or see rock stars, like, you know, a Ron Bromfield or Patrick Baynes in the space, that gives you an aspiration that says almost anything is possible. And I like being in that environment.
So there’s so many different dynamics to culture and building culture that I think it allows us to have a bit of a secret sauce. Cause I think we’re good at it. And I think it’s not just one person or two people. I think it’s the leadership here at Benjamin’s desk. That’s really good at building culture. And it’s also our openness to allow other members in Benjamin’s Desk to help us build that culture.
[00:14:15] Joe Taylor, Jr.: So along those lines, if we were having a. Postgame conversation in a locker room and you’re a coach and you’re talking about draft picks and who you’re gonna get in the next season. In many ways, I hear you using similar language when thinking about the kinds of companies that you want to attract to Benjamin’s Desk, as both a co-working as a collection of co-working spaces, as a network of co-working facilities. It sounds like it’s still important for you to have your hands on curating who actually comes to the space.
[00:14:49] Anthony Maher: Oh, spot on Joe. It’s one of these things where as we built out this network of spaces. We wanna make sure there’s continuity throughout all the spaces of not only the values that we want to instill, but the culture. Right. And every space will have its different spin on, on culture, but there’ll be some strong fundamentals.
Some of the strong fundamentals are that we are here to work. We’re here for companies to build and work hard and meet the right type of people. And we’re okay with that environment. So it’s one of these things where the type of people we want in our spaces are the ones that are gonna really build and want to be here and have a work ethic that will.
Go through the journey that they’re gonna go through in a very successful way. And if we can facilitate by being, I always say that some of the best managing directors of our spaces and community managers of our spaces will be really good at four things. That’s being a cheerleader, being a coach, being a mentor and being an advisor, four very different things, but we want our community managers here.
We want our leadership here to have that type of skill, where they can wear each one of those hats really well to provide value to some of the members in our space. That helps to build culture. And also we have what we call an experience manager. That’s gonna make sure that places look in the right way, smelling the right way, working the right way to make sure people are getting a first class professional experience in their membership.
[00:16:03] Joe Taylor, Jr.: So how do you determine who’s the right person to join your team? What makes a really good talent acquisition for you?
[00:16:12] Anthony Maher: Good question. So, we’re always looking for talent. We feel like we’re in a great space for it. We get to see how other great leaders in our space run their businesses and how they grab and try to attract talent.
We feel like our space is a great space that will allow talent to not only flourish, but want to be here and work in this type of environment. I say I got one of the best teams around. I also say. I had the best job in the world. And, you know, as that’s coming from living my dream as a professional soccer player to now being a part of an organization that.
Other entrepreneurs are trying to knock down and achieve great things. And there’s no better environment to be in than being around someone that comes through today and say, Hey, you know what? I’m really looking to disrupt the airline industry or, you know, I really wanna make a change in how people learn and that’s a fun environment to be in because you can see change.
You can see the impact it’s gonna have in the future. And that’s a cool place for talent, want wanting to work. So our whole team is always looking for the right talent. You know, we, we rely on the entire team to, to find and curate talent. I’m a big believer in, and in going out and always being aware of who’s around you. And if there’s talent that can be approached, then we just let ’em know what we’re.
[00:17:26] Joe Taylor, Jr.: So describe for me a time when you’ve learned something unexpected after talking to a member of your team or a customer here at Benjamin’s Desk.
[00:17:37] Anthony Maher: Sure. Ah, almost every day where we can talk to a member and get real feedback of how they’re engaging in the community, where they’re at in their company, what are some of their needs? That type of feedback allows us to, kind of, fine tune our engagement and fine tune, the access that we want them to have. So they can have more success here from a team standpoint, we’ve always had a best idea win. So when we get together and, Joe you know, this as part of being on our team, We love that we can have a best idea of win’s attitude here and the different perspectives and the dynamic leaders that we have on our team allow us to get to a strong solution. Anytime we’re trying to figure out a problem or trying to figure out an intersection that needs to have a win associated with it. But in regards to conversations with members, it’s always around the experience, the engagement and the access. And the more we have takeaways that can plus up each one of those verticals the better we’ll be positioned.
[00:18:33] Joe Taylor, Jr.: It’s like any good coach. It hasn’t been nonstop wins. Tell me about a challenge of failure that you’ve overcome personally, or as a team.
[00:18:43] Anthony Maher: Yeah so, you know, it’s always speaking back from what I know, being a professional player for 10 years, there was a lot of things that you couldn’t control. A lot of things from decisions, from ownership, amount of money you made in your contract compared to other people making money in their contract to outcomes of games. I felt like at a young age, it was built in both myself and my brother, Michael, the one thing that we could control no matter what was our attitude and our approach toward what was coming at us. You know, early on I would always try to battle, you know, the situations, whether it be a coach calling me a dime, a dozen or a division one scholarship. Being taken away or saying I was just a very average player. I used to try to battle that at the end of the day, when I came to fruition to say, you know what? The attitude I wanna have is to persevere through that and use that stumbling block as a stepping stone. And that allowed me to have success early on. And I think that allowed me to have true success as a professional, because I wasn’t bogged down by the so many moving parts and obstacles that can come your way as an athlete from. Injuries to new talent coming into locker rooms, to new coaches, being transitioned to franchises, folding, and having to pick up and find another location to, to hang your hat and hang your jersey.
So early on having the right type of attitude to approach any problem really allowed me to have success. And I, I take that same approach here at Benjamin’s desk as the CEO, that knowing that there’s so many different moving pieces, new demands, when we hit capacity here. Benjamin’s Desk at 1701 Walnut.
We knew that we were needing more capacity. We needed more office space. We wanted to build out space that was complimenting to the space we had here. And so that was a challenge. And space doesn’t come quick here in Philadelphia, as far as knocking down new locations. So really knocking down and saying, no matter what, I’m gonna have the right attitude to approach this, but also I wanna have a game plan.
I think some of the greatest successes I had early on is when we were most prepared. And I can probably say that with most of the teams I was with. When you prepare, usually have a good result. And I think there’s a Bobby Knight saying, we say it here on Tuesday nights. We’re really trying to encourage more of our workers to stay here late night and encourage their team members to work late.
And we call it late night – K N I G H T – and honor of Bobby Knight, the old Indiana Hoosiers coach who talked about everybody has a will to win. That’s given, especially at this level. But it’s the will to prepare to win that matters. The will to prepare to win. That always stuck with me. And I think it says a lot in an environment like this where companies are trying to knock down and trying to achieve and trying to fundraise that if they continue to have that will, that they’re probably gonna have somewhat success. And if we could facilitate that and encourage them to have some type of internal drive, or an internal will to go forward, we can have some strong wins here.
[00:21:34] Joe Taylor, Jr.: Sometimething I just heard you say, I’ve never heard. You and your brother are probably the two people I know who use the term average as almost an insult. Like average is – how is average – if average is better than at least half. Right? Why is average not good enough?
[00:21:53] Anthony Maher: Sure. Yeah. We can never get our head around baseball stats. A lot of our buddies wearing baseball on they’re batting 300. Like, isn’t that below average? You guys were having great success, but now we always, you know, my father and I think a lot of credit goes back to my father. He would always talk to us about doing things with all your heart. So if you’re gonna go clean a park and give back to a community, you better make sure it’s the cleanest park that exists. And he said, if you’re gonna play this sport or that sport, or participate in this group or that club, make sure you stand out and be extraordinary.
You know, it’s the funniest things where my father would sometimes quote something out of a book. And I forget which book it was, maybe Charles Swindell, and would talk about you don’t beg average people to be phenomenal. You don’t beg good people to phenomenal. Phenomenal people are just are phenomenal.
And that stayed with me as a young kid and always wanting to say, let me put my best foot forward. And not that we had every skill. I was, Joe believe it or not, I was never the best player on any team I ever played on. That’s from high school college, where I was a first team all-American, and even pro when I was MVPs of many teams. There’s always more talented players around me.
I think the intangibles of having the right attitude, having the perseverance, having the will to win is what kind of set me apart from some of my other peers that were uber more talented than myself. Faster, stronger, better technique, had a better understanding of the tactics. But I think those intangibles of having a will to win, pushing yourself, to beat more than average, always wanting to expand your comfort zone, not really step outta your comfort zone.
I’m not good when I step outta my comfort zone. There’s a guy that I worked with an ed-tech company named Josh Yarden, who always talked about expanding your comfort zone. And I just learned that about three or four years ago. Cause I told Josh, when I step outta my comfort zone, I’m usually really tight, intense. But he would always challenge me to say, well, expand it. And if expanding, it means being more prepared, being more educated, working on your craft. Like I worked on my craft as a young kid, then do that. And Joe, one of the things I’ve always liked telling young entrepreneurs and even young athletes is create this mindset that you want to be great. Do things work out really early. And as you’re working out, think about there’s probably less people working out at five in the morning then there are eight in the morning. There’s probably less people working out at eleven at night than six at night. So that mentality, kind of, built in me so many times. My roommates, my teammates that I was living with would say, Anthony why are you going for a 10:30 PM workout? And I would just say it, you know, it’s easier to run. But in my head I was thinking, because I think less people are working out and that would gimme the competitive advantage.
You know, one of the greatest soccer players ever to play in America is David Beckham. When he came over to MLS, David was known as not only being one of the highest paid athletes in the world, but being one of the best soccer players in the world. He came to MLS to actually plus the league up and he brought it to a whole different level. A lot of my buddies who play with David say it was unbelievable to see a multi multi-millionaire, someone with an unbelievable brand, be the first to practice and the last to leave. That spoke so much to that organization, to the league and to young players like myself, that would demand more out of everybody. And I think when great leaders do that, it varies everybody’s ability to be above average. Does that answer it?
[00:25:09] Joe Taylor, Jr.: I think that’s a great answer. The thing I wanna call back to is the fact that you disclosed that you’re not necessarily the best player on a team that you are on, but in some ways your brand of leadership is about elevating the talent of other people that are on the team. So what advice would you give to someone who’s maybe making the transition from being a solo entrepreneur to a team leader. Someone that may be used to having to be the best at everything in their organization and now they have to wrestle with, you know, competition among their team members or egos or concerns. You know, someone’s getting paid more than somebody else.
[00:25:53] Anthony Maher: Sure. Now a great question, Joe. So I think building with the team is so important. It’s so different building with yourself and working on your individual craft and talent is one thing. But when you get into a team setting, it’s so important as a leader to be aware of the team players and how do you get real buy-in from the team.
And it’s not really, I’m not a big, I think there was a big article in Technically Philly that talked about values over perks. And I love that article cuz you can throw bonuses more money, you know, special hours into anybody’s contract. But I think if you find the values that really drives them, put people in a lane where they’re best suited.
Give people the feedback that they need and the autonomy they deserve to help build tour division. That type of buy-in is unmatched. And I think the ripples that come off that from a team perspective is where every leader should be striving to be. We’re fortunate to hear what we have team members that are.
You know, our team is so dynamic, man, you know, from what you guys do, Joe, to help us at 2820 on the marketing side, to Shelton Mercer, on the strategy side, to Alana on the experience side. And then of course, Jen, Mike and all of us getting together to and Ed on the real estate side to get together and collaborate and build. And I think what I do well is I can play second assistant coach. Or I can, kind of, show that I can take the lead and help out and have a point of view, but encouraging our team members to have autonomy and to respect their expertise. I think that’s where we get buy in. And I think that’s where the ball gets pushed forward the best.
And sometimes it’s hard. Because you have instincts and maybe not all the experience, but your instincts are saying, I think that’s right. But having the trust in the team members that you’ve positioned to be in this company is important.
[00:27:39] Joe Taylor, Jr.: So you brought up the example of David Beckham a few moments ago. Multimillionaire out on the field, making it happen. And often we get comparisons with talent inside organizations for you personally, as a serial entrepreneur, you could easily make the decision to, kind of, check out of this life and go be somebody’s, you know, vice president at a large organization. But what do you get out of launching and running companies that you wouldn’t get from just working for somebody else?
[00:28:15] Anthony Maher: Great question, Joe. So one of these things where a couple of members who have good relationships with, like Anthony you’re always smiling, man. You’re always in a good mood. Well, I’ve always had that positive, the glass is definitely full, not even half full perspective. And probably because early on, when you saw me as an athlete or a competitor, I had a different look on my face. It was that look of, I wanna win. I’m gonna do whatever it takes to win more fierce. Look, in fact, it’s opposite. When I think back on some of my teammates saying, Anthony, you never smile. You’re always serious. You’re always like in this competitive attitude mode. And it’s so cool to see the second phase of my life, where people are saying, man, I love seeing, you’re always smiling, always in a good mood. What’s that all about? And what it’s about is I love being around other people that are going after their dream.
Like I went after my dream, I was fortunate enough to beat a few who pursue a dream overcome many barriers and obstacles to achieve it. To have a level of resilience to knock down a dream from when you’re 14 thinking about being a pro player, I get great joy in that. I get great joy in sharing that and giving people the ability to say, man, that’s possible.
And on the flip side of being the leader here, I love being a servant leader. I love saying how can we help? How can we connect dots in a really thoughtful way? And there’s no, there’s, I guess there’s no. Take attitude, Joe, it’s more of a, this is a great platform to give. This is a great platform where I really enjoy, again, being back in the locker room. Being kind of the coach, the cheerleader to mentor advisor, whatever role I have to be in to see members succeed. I get great joy in that. I can’t tell you how many times my wife has heard stories about different members in our membership that are doing amazing things. And this attitude doesn’t just stem from me. You can see it on our social media, how every one of our team members is always cheerleading.
When one of our members do something great. And we’re always the first to say, how can we plus up the experience and engagement and the access here for our members. And that stuff means something. I think members can see that I think they can see authenticity a mile away. And I think that’s one of our, one of our pillars here of why we’re gonna have such great success at Benjamin’s Desk.
[00:30:24] Joe Taylor, Jr.: So as the CEO of a company that works primarily with early stage startups and small to medium sized businesses, like any good coach, your players aren’t always going to win. Your players aren’t go always gonna have unlimited success. What do you feel is the biggest mistake that you see founders making in say the first six 10 twelve months of their business lives?
[00:30:49] Anthony Maher: Yeah. I think sometimes. And you see it in the sports world too. You see people throwing money at problems or not really looking at a stronger plan or strategy before going really fast. I was with a startup that was raised money very quickly. And, you know, I felt like we didn’t nail down the core value of what we want to knock down. And, you know, throwing money at a problem is not usually the answer or the solution. I think really being prepared and slowing down that accounting of innovation. It’s almost like we all know startup’s gotta move fast and, you know, throw things at the wall and see what sticks.
Yet if you can pause very briefly. And Mike’s big on this. Mike, being the co-founder here at Benjamin’s Desk and our Chairman, is very conscious about the little details. And Mike’s always saying, Hey Anthony, I love how fast you’re moving, but be a little bit more thoughtful around the small details. Be really careful about making fast decisions. See if you can be urgent in making detailed, thoughtful solutions, which I think is well put by Mike. And that’s something I’m always pushing myself to do. And I think a lot of that early founders needed to do the same thing. And I think it’s smart for some of these young startups right now, Joe, and you know, from 10 years ago, it’s so much easier to build a business today.
It’s so much available the resources, the people, the great angels and VCs that are out there. You know, we’re fortunate enough to run something here called The Venture Council at Benjamin’s Desk, where we just had Ellen Webber in. We had Holly Flanigan in from Gabriel Investments. We have tight relationship with Ben Franklin. These guys make themselves available to give our fundraising early stage startups. A platform to learn more and to engage and to have a touchpoint that stuff matters. I think there’s a lot of resources out there for early stage founders to tap into and then plug into and, Hey look, there’s guys in our membership now that have gone through fundraising and have had wins and losses. Those are the type of people that we think they need to have access to. So the sexy, let me give you access to the VCs and the angels and the customers. That’s really great. But when we can provide access member to member. That’s when real wins happen. And I think that that’s why a lot of startups are growing out of co-working spaces nationally, cuz they can meet other successful startups and gain valuable pearls and lessons learned.
[00:33:08] Joe Taylor, Jr.: So some of the technology funds that you just mentioned, Ben Franklin Technology Partners, Robin Hood Ventures. The east coast angel funding and venture capital culture is very different from what we see on the west coast. So when you talk to folks like Ellen and Roseanne, what are they looking for? What do they want companies to present them with to validate funding?
[00:33:36] Anthony Maher: Sure. You know, every VC I think is looking for a home run idea. But when they look, the leader and the team, I think that speaks volumes. And the feedback we get from Ellen at Robin Hood or Holly, over at Gabriel Rose over at Ben Franklin, is that they’re looking for teams that can execute to have some experience of executing.
So it goes back to that question you asked earlier of being a founder and picking your team and your talent, the right way talent, that will run through a wall from you for you, but also talent that has been there and done that, that adds a layer of value, especially in the VC or angel world that they’re looking for.
So having a very complimenting team matters a lot, but also having real concrete numbers and having maybe an MVP that matters. And that’s been thoughtfully thought through and fine tuned. That matters. And I think when we took a group of startups from Ben Franklin and from our own membership here, it was Tower View Health, Bio Bots Sport, StarchUp. We took them down to DC as far as the 1776, Donna Harris’ incubator out there to pitch in front of their DC investors and the feedback I got from their investors. Cause I was they really enjoyed the Philadelphia startup mentality of being willing to do more with less and having real customers and saying, you know what, if I have to prove out more customers, I will.
Now it’s unfortunate because I have a lot of my buddies that are building startup companies out west, where they don’t really need to prove out as much detail or as many customers as I think we do on the, here on the east coast. But that’s changing. We’re seeing more innovation coming out. How these micro VCs and angels and VCs are thinking through allocating funds.
And I’m a big believer that things will change here. I’m a big believer of what’s happening in DC right now with Donna Harrison, 1776, will create a big ripple here in Philadelphia. And we’ll go all the way up through Boston and we’ll have a pretty unique corridor, Boston, New York, Philly, and DC, and I think we’ll make real impact. So I think we’re year one of what a five year unbelievable paradigm shift can happen out here on the east coast.
[00:35:45] Joe Taylor, Jr.: So does the work that entrepreneurs are doing here on the east coast insulate them from the threat of another tech bubble.
[00:35:55] Anthony Maher: Interesting. I think so. I think so because you know, right now, again, I think our startup entrepreneurs are doing more with less. I think they’re conscious of getting users and customers are all on. I think you’ll see that more collaborative spaces that are coming to the market in our region will help facilitate more of our young startups and high growth startups. And even venture back startups have greater success. And I think all the pieces are coming together at the right time where it will de-risk more of these startups to have success.
And success sometime has so many different layers to it. Right, Joe? I think we all know being the next hundred million-dollar, billion-dollar company, the numbers are against you. But again I never looked up to the players that were the LeBron James or the Kobe Bryants of the world. I looked at the players that were, you know, steady and consistent and always growing and learning every day and improving on their craft. And I think some of our startups that build amazing companies that may not be the next hundred million dollar company might be a million or two, $2 million company that creates the same amount of ripple for Philadelphia.
Maybe not nationally, but if they can make a ripple for Philadelphia, that’s another feather in the calf for the city. That’s another inch further that the city needs to go to have success for maybe the next great company.
[00:37:15] Joe Taylor, Jr.: So modeling success for entrepreneurs who are members of Benjamin’s Desk, other entrepreneurs in the community. You have a great wife and young kids at home. How do you manage the, make the work life fit actually work?
[00:37:32] Anthony Maher: Yeah. You know, a lot of people talk about work life balance. I’ve always said I’m worried about life balance. Work balance, work, life play, live, work, play. You know, I’ve always just believed in living your life the right way. And I enjoy life. I love, I’ve always loved what I do. I was fortunate enough to be a professional soccer player. I’m fortunate enough to do my second dream job here at Benjamin’s Desk. So that’s not really work to me when you love to do what you do. My wife is a rock star. She’s a stay at home mom. You know, she put aside being kinesiology degree holder and to really work with more people around body movements. And, you know, she was a former college soccer player. So she’s a natural mom at home, but she wants to invest in our kids, which is a great thing. And my three boys have so much energy where they’re part of everything I do. So today at 12 o’clock, I’ll be down the Rittenhouse Park. We’re fortunate enough to be in a great location here in Philadelphia, where we’ll have lunch together at Rittenhouse Park, and then I’ll walk home, which I’m right in graduate hospital area.
So, you know, the balance of where I’m at makes a lot of sense. And Joe, at the end of the day, you know, I’m working alongside my brother, I’m alongside my sister-in-law with Jen and there’s nothing better. You know, we were forewarned. By so many different, small business owners that have family businesses. We will have success here as a so-called family business, because we’re really not a family business. We’re having to be brother and sister that are building a company with other rockstar family members that are related by blood that are going after and have buying to go make impact here in Philadelphia.
So I guess it’s, my life is really good and I’m fortunate enough and really blessed to have. A great wife at home to handle my three very important boys. And Hey, Mike has two sons, two kids that get together with our family. My other youngest brother’s in New Jersey. My family’s in Cape May county, New Jersey. So we have a nice tight knit family that allows us to have more support. And we’re fortunate enough to have a really good infrastructure to allow us to put a lot of time in.
[00:39:38] Joe Taylor, Jr.: So last question, the family over time grows, thrives along with the business. What’s your dream for this business? Where does it go in five, ten years?
[00:39:47] Anthony Maher: Yeah. You know, I see Benjamin’s Desk being a network of spaces throughout this region. We wanna be in the tri-state area. We want to have defined communities that look a little bit different than. Look what this looked like at Benjamin’s Desk. We always look at 1701 as being like that beta environment, where we have tech non-tech, early stage new entrepreneurs.
And it’s a true industry agnostic mix. The best professional companies are outta this space. So as I look at the network of spaces of Benjamin’s Desk, I see different communities with the same type of values and cultures that we want to build throughout. That are complimenting. So we go from 200 members to 2000 members, and now we create this engagement where again, member to member will always be on our forefront of how we think through membership and engagement and access.
And so we’ll be able to facilitate that with technology and say, you know, how can a member in Philadelphia have reached out to a member in Wilmington or in Camden or in Northeast Philly? And how does that play a part. All with an understanding of having a social impact play here at Benjamin’s desk, where we wanna have these micro innovation centers throughout the cities.
They might not be 10,000 square feet that we want in our revenue producing models, but there’ll be a thousand square feet in every tough area, Philadelphia. And in greater Philadelphia, that’s given back to these young entrepreneurs, giving back to the small business owners in their neighborhoods and given a new aspiration to these young kids that might be in tough areas of tough inner cities that might need a different aspiration than the JayZ or to LeBron James. And they might be able to look at the Joe Taylors of 2820 Press, or the Ron Bromfield of Pig Up and say, man, I can achieve that. That’s real. And that’s what the aspiration and the ripple that we wanna provide and that’s our network. And that’s a strong network that is a network that gives not takes.
[00:41:35] Joe Taylor, Jr.: Anthony Maher, CEO co-founder of Benjamin’s Desk. Thanks for joining us on The Build.
[00:41:39] Anthony Maher: Hey Joe, this was fun, man. Thanks for having me.
[00:41:48] Joe Taylor, Jr.: Thanks for listening to this episode of The Build. This has been a 2820 radio production.