Partner Podcast Series: Jack Waddey of Waller Law Firm

Jack Waddey was born and raised in Franklin, Tennessee and now makes his home in Nashville as a partner at Waller Law Firm. For more than four decades, he has focused his career on intellectual property law. Jack enjoys working with startups and is a founding member of the Nashville Entrepreneur Center Board. In this interview, Jack talks about his entrepreneurial career, his involvement with startups and gives great insight along the way. You can listen to the full clip below or check out some of the highlights on this blog post. Interview conducted by our Director of Partnerships, Blake Hogan.

Blake Hogan: One of the things I pulled out of your bio is that you really enjoy working with startups. Tell me where that passion comes from and some stories from startups that you were involved with or mentored.

Jack Waddy: One that’s kind of interesting is my daughter Kendall who is in medical school now. When she was 12 years old, she was a track athlete and she would go to these AAU track meets across the country. She was in Des Moines, Iowa with her mother- I was home working- and they were at the airport waiting for their luggage and all the luggage that came around the carousel was black and hard to find. She said, “When I grow up I’m going to start a luggage line that’s bright and fun for teenage kids”. Her mother said, “Why do you want to wait until you grow up? Why don’t you do it now?” So she comes home and starts working and designs a set of luggage which she named Like Luggage. […] It was a great experience for her, and it was a great experience for me to learn about how an entrepreneurial business runs from the get-go - how a startup gets going. I learned through all the wrong ways. I put the wrong things first. I learned about what should come first, what should come last, how to plan better. I made a lot of expensive mistakes, but I made them on my own and not on the ticket of somebody else. So I was able to translate that into working now with startups that come to me.

Blake: What are some important first steps for a startup?

Jack: The first thing you need to do is go talk to the customers and prospective customers. If the customers aren’t going to buy the product, you’re never going to succeed. So, define your customers. See what their reaction is to the product or the process or the service, see what they think is proper pricing. Then, you back your way into your business. Can I provide the product or the service for the price that customers are willing to pay for it? Do they want it bad enough to buy it? At what level will they buy it? And then you back up. If you start off and you’ve put a lot of money into something and think, “I gotta get this much money out of it”, all of a sudden you’ve got a product that’s much more expensive than the consumer is willing to have. Then you’re in trouble.

Blake: Do you have a piece of wisdom to leave with entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs that are listening today?

Jack: I read something the other day that said don’t tell other people your problems. 80% of the people don’t care and 20% of the people are glad you have them. As you are an entrepreneur and you start off to chase a dream, you’re going to run into difficulties, you’re going to run into problems. But you’re going to have to keep a positive attitude because if you’re subject to a negative attitude, you’re going to fall by the wayside. The entrepreneurial world is one of people with ambition and goals and insight and even though they may fail, they’re still going to have a good positive attitude which is going be good for them in the long run.