YEC Member Spotlight: Brian David Crane, Founder at CallerSmart

4 min read · 7 years ago


Brian David Crane is the founder of CallerSmart, the best app for helping you with unknown or unwanted phone calls and texts on your iPhone. Like Waze for caller ID, CallerSmart has made it fun for our users to help keep our 600 million U.S. phone book listings accurate and up to date for everyone. Follow him at @briandavidcrane.

Who is your hero?

I have many heroes. There are a lot of different people I look up to for different reasons. To name a few: Jim Rohn, who helped mentor the inimitable Tony Robbins, is one of the best guys to look to in terms of personal growth. He gave a speech called “How To Have Your Best Year Ever” that changed my life. Rick Warren is another. A very well-read, bright individual, he’s able to separate what he personally believes from what will move the ball forward, which translates into thoughtful progress. He’s a big advocate of progress through dialogue.

Alain de Botton opened my eyes to the value and relevance of philosophy. His book “The Consolations of Philosophy” is a fantastic read for anyone looking to learn from some of history’s sharpest minds. Finally, I look up to Thomas Jefferson. He was multifaceted, incredibly bright and a never-ending student of human nature. We even named a Smart Badge after him in our app.

What’s the single best piece of business advice that helped shape who you are as an entrepreneur today, and why?

You should hunt down mentors. Specifically, look for people who have done what you’re trying to do. Be genuine in your requests for help, and seek out those who can offer advice in areas where they’re experts. There’s ancient advice from King Solomon in Proverbs 24:6 that I love: “Make war with a council of elders.”

What’s the biggest mistake you ever made in your business, and what did you learn from it that others can learn from too?

When people are willing to offer you equity in a business — and you believe in the team behind the business enough to go work for it or to invest your time and energy in it — then you should take as much of that equity as you can, even if that means a lower salary early on. Once, a startup offered me equity for contributing capital and helping them get off the ground. I’d known the guys behind the business for years. They were very savvy, but the model wasn’t proven. So I mistakenly opted not to take their equity offer and instead focused on a short-term payout, which ended up with me leaving a lot of money on the table long-term as the business took off.

What do you do during the first hour of your business day and why?

I drink Bulletproof coffee every morning. I also do some squats and push-ups as well as meditate before working. I want to be able to start my day with a refreshed and alert mind and body.

What’s your best financial/cash-flow related tip for entrepreneurs just getting started?

Let’s say you’ve got a “moonshot” business, one that you think will really change your life — or even change the world. Before you quit your current job and start working on it, get a side business going that reliably pays you $1,000 a month. You need a reliable cash flow to sustain yourself, especially when you’re starting out. Businesses always seem to take longer to develop than initially projected. By having a side business that generates cash for you, you’ll give yourself a longer runway mentally to get the business you really want to build off the ground.

Quick: What’s ONE thing you recommend ALL aspiring or current entrepreneurs do right now to take their biz to the next level?

Seek out and ask for help from those who are qualified to offer it. People are naturally willing to help one another; it’s in our nature. But you’ve got to be vulnerable first and genuinely ask. As my friend Jordan Gray always says, “Nobody likes a superman.” Allowing others you trust to help you with your struggles ultimately makes both people better.

What’s your definition of success? How will you know when you’ve finally “succeeded” in your business?

The ancient Greeks had a word for a well-lived life — eudaimonia — that struck a chord with me. This Harvard Business Review article captures the spirit of eudaimonia well:

“Though it harks back to antiquity, eudaimonia’s a smarter, sharper, wiser, wholer, well, richer conception of prosperity. And deep down, while it might be hard to admit, I’d bet we all know that our current habits are leaving us — have left us — not merely financially and fiscally broken, but, if not intellectually, physically, emotionally, relationally, and spiritually empty, then, well, probably at least just a little bit unhealthy. Eudaimonic prosperity, in contrast, is about mastering a new set of habits: igniting the art of living meaningfully well. An active conception of prosperity, it’s concerned not with what one has, but what one is capable of.”

Some core concepts from the article that I think about include really living — working and playing, not just having; being better, not just having more; becoming, not just being; creating and building, not just trading and raiding; and finding depth, not just immediacy.

All of these concepts are important for living the best life possible. I’m always looking to know what I need to live well. But you don’t need a lot; you need a lot less than you think. Tyler Durden from “Fight Club” said it best: “The things you own end up owning you.”

Some people need a certain amount of cash flow to live a satisfying life, where they’re able to pursue the activities that lead to contentment and virtue. However, I value having a cash flow that’s location-independent. There are lots of people who live where they live simply because their job is there. With cash flow that’s not tied to a particular place, I’m free to travel, discover, volunteer and even chase the sunshine — all while still improving my business. For me it’s about determining what’s enough to have a well-lived life, not growth simply for growth’s sake.

BusinessCollective, launched in partnership with Citi, is a virtual mentorship program powered by North America’s most ambitious young thought leaders, entrepreneurs, executives and small business owners.