Spotlight on Daniel Gavula
Meet Daniel Gavula: Creator of SOL Connect, serial entrepreneur, and a believer in the power of conversation and connection.
Rachel Leigh Gross: How did you find yourself working towards building SOL Connect?
I did career consulting for about 12 years, but I've used that consulting experience to fuel my journey through entrepreneurship. As a serial entrepreneur who has been launching companies since my early twenties, I began moving more into the technology space. This gradual shift illuminated the experience of an entrepreneur and the attempt to deconstruct his or her journey, which showed me what I needed to grow a business and build a community that an entrepreneur can rely on.
From my experience, I've always worked with large groups of people trying to solve problems. When you do that, you ultimately go down to the most simplistic view of everything, which is the power of a conversation and the power of connection. At SOL, we have such a deeply rooted entrepreneurial spirit; being able to connect to a community is so important to us.
SOL Connect is the amalgamation of the above values. As a mentorship platform, we believe mentorship is the most critical thing to help people on their journey. Not just entrepreneurs, but anyone. SOL works to understand two things: one, what truly makes the world turn; two, what problems are we facing as a community? We're a social impact and a socially conscious company that believes in the power of networks and conversation. And those things are the secret sauce to make all of this turn. As we started to build the company, we saw a gap in local communities being able to connect to other business leaders, community leaders, and entrepreneurs. However, SOL will be the connector to connect individuals in the mentorship network. The beginning of someone’s journey is where the most impact can be made, and SOL wants to be there from day one.
RLG: When were you instilled with this deep passion for conversation and connection?
I was never a very proactive networker. I'm an old soul and had an interesting networking journey because of that. In one of my previous jobs, I was consulting for a family business in New Jersey. In the cafeteria, you used to have 20-somethings that were the new talent and older individuals from a different generation that have been with the company for 40 or 50 years. There I met a woman named Doris who I will never forget. Her husband passed away at 60 and didn't leave her much by way of support. She ended up going to work for an industrial supply company to maintain financial security. When I met her, she was 85 and had been working there for 25 years. We were this odd couple, having lunch together every day. You don't appreciate the value in an 85-year-old giving advice to a 25-year-old until experiencing it. Through building that relationship, I intimately realized that having different perspectives is so powerful.
I feel I've stumbled upon mentorship and these relationships in my life over the past 10 years. I certainly didn’t network just to seek it out, but instead, to build my networks organically. With SOL, we want to create exactly that experience where people naturally find connection and foster relationships.
RLG: What’s one piece of advice that has remained with you in your journey?
It's so easy to identify with a company, a relationship, or one specific thing in your life. Think about Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook: those two things are tied together in your understanding of both. You can find that in your own life where you identify with a specific thing. But I feel you learn that everything is much more gray than that. You realize you are more than one thing, and those gray spaces are really where you come to life. Nothing is ever going to work out the way you think it is, but relishing in those unplanned paths is essential to your growth.
For me, this road is all about frustrating roadblocks and trying to barrel through them. The only way you can overcome these roadblocks is with a support network of people that care and a willingness to accept the fact that your plans will not happen perfectly. Learning to enjoy the gray areas of life and relying on the relationships that you've built to get you through those blocks have remained the pieces of advice I live by.
RLG: How do you network and always maintain the right intentions? Is there one way to network that is more correct than others?
I think it's intimidating to walk into an organization that is foreign to you, trying to generate conversation and meaningful connections. It may feel inauthentic. However, I’ve always believed that the best networking comes through shared experiences in unique environments. I feel you're seeing a lot of that in companies today - WeWork, Daybreaker, Summit. You put people in a unique environment with inspiring things and connections happen so naturally.
The best way to network is by finding what you're passionate about. Imagine being in a space with like-minded people who truly want to share their journey with others because they love what they do. That’s the most natural connection you can build.
RLG: How do you go about networking with an individual you want to connect with and focusing on building the relationship as opposed to being focused on the value you will gain?
There's an intangible that's larger than an individual. You have to believe in a community, a little bit of Karma, and a little bit of paying it forward to focus on building the relationship. If anyone is willing to help on your journey, you can show gratitude by accepting their mentorship and doing something with it. Understand that the giving is coming from someone who has received the same from someone else. You have a duty to continue to share that, build upon it, and improve yourself with it. From an individual’s perspective, if you're just focused on yourself, it doesn't make that much sense. That's why community and a community like Next Gen is so important because it’s about multifaceted value exchange.
RLG: What kind of experience are you working to cultivate at SOL Connect? What values are you instilling in the creation?
There are two pieces to it. The first is our Guide community, and the second is our user community. As we built our platform, we focused on our Guide community, instilling our mission to improve the world one conversation at a time. We believe in the power of a conversation, and we wanted to bring our community together as often as possible to create spaces for conversation. Our avenue for creating change is through mentorship and conversation. We believe if we give our Guides those threads of communities that radiate conversation and change, we can carry that mission forward.
We've initially focused a lot on our Guides, creating authenticity and a community around them. What I want us to do next is to understand the experience from the Guide to the user. As a startup, the best way to do that is to have our Guides activate their communities. But I think we can do a lot more work once those community members come in. A big part of what I'm excited about for Next Gen Summit is to sit with a lot of these young entrepreneurs and listen to their stories, listen to their journey, and try and connect those dots from the perspective of experience.
RLG: How are you supporting your own personal development? Do you feel it hard to maintain building a startup?
My only honest answer is that it's my family: my wife and two young kids. My wife and I were college sweethearts, and we've been together for 15-years now. She sees the real journey, the days and nights and the low moments. But she's the rock through all of it. There are great people in the business community that can support and help, but there's no one that supports you like your partner or loved ones. I've been blessed with an amazing family and wife, and truthfully, that's what keeps me going.