4 Entrepreneurial Lessons from BloomNation CEO's Poker History

David Daneshgar won the money for his startup in a poker game. Here's what made him successful in the game and in business.

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By Shoaib Aslam

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David Daneshgar is famous for obtaining funding for his startup with the winnings from a poker game. Daneshgar is one of the world's best poker players, and he and his co-founders decided to fund BloomNation through their own efforts, rather than call in outside investors.

So, they went to Los Angeles to play in a poker tournament and used the winnings to start BloomNation.

Listening to Daneshgar tell the story of his life, one discovers several other entrepreneurial traits that can help any entrepreneur tackle his or her ventures more successfully.

1. Positioning is crucial to success

When Daneshgar was at Berkeley, he wanted to teach a class about poker. Students are allowed to do this at Berkeley, so long as the class is approved by the administration.

His class was not.

In true entrepreneurial style, Daneshgar did not give up. He went to a math professor with a "big bag of bagels and cream cheese" and convinced that professor to approve his class.

They called it "The Statistics and Probability of Gaming."

It was a class about poker. But it was positioned as a class about statistical and probability theory.

When entrepreneurs struggle to push something through in their ventures, they should look at how they're positioning their products and services.

Related Article: Why Positioning Is More Important Than Ever

2. Don't be too proud to schmooze

And then there was the bag of bagels. In business, it's the free lunch or season tickets to all the Yankees games.

If the end goal is strategically important enough to you, don't be above a bit of schmoozing to grease the wheels before the serious negotiations begin. As Guy Kawasaki points out, schmoozing is all about discovering what you can do for the person, not what they can do for you.

And bagels are just the start. Top-level schmoozing can be anything from $3,500 cruise trips to ski trips.

Just make sure your investment merits the potential ROI.

Related Article: Get in Good

3. Strive to be the best at everything you do, and then reap the benefits

Daneshgar only started taking poker seriously — like, World Series-quality seriously — after he took on that role of teacher.

To teach some of the "smartest students in the country," he knew he had to learn the game of poker at the highest level. He had to gain credibility.

So he hunted for every VHS and DVD video he could find on the subject (this was before the days of YouTube) and worked his butt off to gain that credibility.

His payoff for his hard work was no less than several million dollars in earnings as a pro poker player in the years to come. And all that stemmed from wanting to be the best possible teacher he could be.

Related Article: 10 Things the Best of the Best Do Differently

4. Take risks

Daneshgar came from a very conservative Persian-Jewish family. He still lived with his parents on the night he won his first poker tournament. He got home, twenty large bulging in his pocket, and was confronted by his mom.

Daneshgar expected the worst when he faced her. But what she asked was, "David, do you think you could do that again?"

His mom, like her son, was a risk-taker.

That question of hers encouraged him to take more risks, and his professional poker career was born.

Fast-forward a few years, and the soon-to-be BloomNation's co-founders sat in the crowd of a poker game in Los Angeles, developing BloomNation's website on their laptops while their poker-guru friend played up a storm to try and earn the money they needed to get the business off the ground.

Daneshgar's opponent thought Daneshgar had lost. His co-founders had packed up their laptops.

But Daneshgar looked up at them and said, "It's flower time." And they knew they were in business.

Related Article: There Is No Success Without Risk

Shoaib Aslam

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

Founder & CEO of Start My Business, Serial Entrepreneur

Serial entrepreneur Shoaib Aslam is passionate about helping startups. His one-stop business-services company, Start My Business, helps businesses with idea validation, mentorship, business-software tools, design, marketing, accounting, funding, legal assistance, SEO, branding and much more.

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