Nick Hughes

Empowering Entrepreneurs Worldwide With Nick Hughes

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Nick Hughes is the Founder and CEO of Founders Live, a social platform for entrepreneurs worldwide. Nick is a successful entrepreneur with achievements in social media, digital payments, and e-commerce. He started Founders Live in Seattle in 2016 to create a community that inspires, educates, and entertains entrepreneurs. Since then, it has grown to host virtual and in-person events in approximately 100 cities worldwide.

Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn: 

  • Nick Hughes talks about his inspiration to start Founders Live 
  • How Founders Live’s core values developed from members’ experiences 
  • The key to expanding your brand to different countries 
  • Nick’s advice to entrepreneurs afraid of getting their ideas stolen 
  • Where to learn more about Founders Live and get in touch with Nick 

In this episode…

Every great business starts with an idea. However, success depends on how well you execute that idea. Entrepreneurs have to take that idea and put it through a trial period to find out if it is viable. You have to identify the unique elements of your idea and learn how you can use it to create memorable experiences for users. 

This is the journey Nick Hughes went through with his idea for Founders Live. After seeing its success among fellow entrepreneurs in one city, he started expanding to other locations to bring the experience to the international level. 

In this episode of the Innovations and Breakthroughs Podcast, Rich Goldstein interviews Nick Hughes, the Founder and CEO of Founders Live, about his work empowering entrepreneurs worldwide. Nick also talks about his brand’s core values, growing in different locations, and his advice on IP protection.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

Sponsor for this episode…

This episode is brought to you by Goldstein Patent Law, a firm that helps protect inventors’ ideas and products. They have advised and obtained patents for thousands of companies over the past 25 years. So if you’re a company that has a software, product, or design you want protected, you can go to They have amazing free resources for learning more about the patent process. 

You can email their team at to explore if it’s a match to work together. Rich Goldstein has also written a book for the American Bar Association that explains in plain English how patents work, which is called ‘The ABA Consumer Guide to Obtaining a Patent.’

Intro (00:09):
Welcome to innovations and breakthroughs with your host, Rich Goldstein, talking about the evolutionary, the revolutionary, the inspiration and the perspiration and those aha moments that change everything. And now here’s your host, Rich Goldstein.

Rich (00:33):
Rich Goldstein here, host of the innovations and breakthroughs podcast, where I featured top leaders in the path they took to create change past guests include Joe Polish, Roland Frazier, and Kevin King. This episode is brought to you by my company, Goldstein patent law, where we help you to protect your ideas and products. We’ve advised and obtained patents for thousands of companies over the past 28 years. So if you’re a company that has software or product or a design, you want protected go to Goldstein patent, where there are amazing free resources for learning about the patent process. You could also email my to explore if it’s a match to work together. You could also check out the book I wrote for the American bar association that explains in plain English, how patents work it’s called the ABA consumer guide to obtaining a patent. I have with me here today, Nick Hughes, Nick is the creator of the Founders Live community. It’s a social platform for entrepreneurs all around the world. Nick started Founders Live in Seattle back in 2016 in order to create community that inspires educates and entertains entrepreneurs since then Founders Live has grown to host virtual and in-person events and approximately a hundred cities worldwide. And it’s my pleasure to welcome here today, Nick Hughes. Welcome Nick.

Nick (01:48):
Ah, it’s a pleasure. Thank you so much. I’m excited to chat and you know, just en enjoy the time here.

Rich (01:54):
Absolutely. So of course, let’s talk about Founders Live and, and kind of where the inspiration came from to inspire educated and entertain entrepreneurs.

Nick (02:05):
Yeah. So you’d mentioned there 2016, actually the story starts in 2014, you know, I’m from Seattle Washington here in the United States. And, um, you know, basically at the time I just wanted to get people together and have a good time. And, and so we, we, we just put on an event I organized this event, uh, said, Hey, we’re gonna have a pitch competition. Let’s pre-select five early stage, uh, startup founders, they’re each going to only pitch for 99 seconds. So that was like the rule that had figured out back then, um, you know, short pitches then right after that, there’s gonna be four minutes that the audience can ask questions with that individual. We then cycle through the five in that fashion at the end, the crowd, not judges, the crowd votes on which one they thought was the best of the evening. Uh, and that’s the winner. And, um, basically that very first event, which was in March of 2014, it was not called Founders Live at the time. Uh, it, uh, was just a great event. And, um, you know, I would say I saw very interesting seeds of a really cool experience start at that moment in time. I can continue that, uh, story in a second, but I’ll just say that, you know, um, every amazingly global thing starts as just an idea and a trial and that’s what we did.

Rich (03:30):
Mm-hmm, <affirmative> awesome. Yeah. I love that. And, and so true. I mean, it really is like how everything that has been created starts. And so let’s talk about those seeds, right? Like the, the, the seeds of what you experienced at that moment, um, with that trial event.

Nick (03:46):
Yeah. The seeds were, you know, I mean, this, obviously it was a, you know, event, it was a gathering, networking, uh, you know, in the start community, but, uh, you know, not only did I see like, wow, okay, there’s communities forming. So to kind of carry along the story is I just kept doing that event for literally two years every month in Seattle just said, all right, Hey, let’s get new startups, uh, coming in to pitch highlighted more, you know, early stage startups and the community started forming. So number one, people were coming back, right? And so if you think about like, look, whatever, you’re, whatever you’re creating, whether it’s a physical in person gathering or it’s a product, or it’s a service, people kept using it, you know, kept coming back. Right. So there’s a repeat customers here that was really interesting community was forming.

Nick (04:38):
And then I would say that, um, as it continued forward, you know, the, the, the initial aspects of what our core values are today, um, so core values just kind of started to form. And, uh, I can go in depth on those, but the point is that we became the brand, started to form its unique experience and feeling that really started to identify what founder’s live was. And this was even before the founder’s live name was created. Um, I just say like the uniqueness was starting to form where we weren’t like other pitch competitions or pitch things, not just in Seattle, but other, other cities. So we started to create our unique core values, the feeling and experience that was in that room. Um, the brand started to form before we even named it, uh, the significant name that it is now. And so I think that that’s, that’s, you start seeing those things and you just pay attention. If you’re the founder, you need to pay attention to how people are responding to what you’ve created, keep what’s working, remove what’s not. And then we just kept going from there for like two years in Seattle just kept holding that event until I started to sense things from other parts of the country and the world. Yeah.

Rich (05:54):
Yeah. Awesome. A and so just a, as far as that, like, it sounds like you’re really tuned into the experience and how it, and how people are related to it, or people are relating to it. Like the, the things that they’re en enjoying about the experience, the things that are maybe not landing and maybe kind of changed those up. Um, and, but it seems like you created a culture, um, you, you created kind of a culture around this type of experience or this type of feeling, and it’s like, you know, core values that a lot of organizations have are often around, um, kind of, um, you know, things like respect, right? Like respect or we, um, you know, one of our core values is quality work. Right. But your core values is about around, um, kind of no name tags, right? Yeah. Um, gathering around the campfire, that type of feeling of like, when you’re telling stories around the campfire, um, you know, about people just being authentic and, and, um, uh, you know, out on the stage sharing how they really feel about things, how they really are like what, and, uh, you know, and like those types of core values, it’s very interesting.

Rich (07:06):
I’ve never seen a set of core values. Like that is what I’m saying is it’s, it’s around kinda like, this is what we want the feeling to be at our events.

Nick (07:15):
Well, yeah. And, you know, I, I think what I learned with identifying these core values, you know, my, my, my quick thoughts on that are, you know, you wanna pick things that are in, in some ways, um, I guess very distinct and isolating simply because you want to drastically attract your core customers like a magnet, and you want to repel some people and customers like a magnet, and that’s fine. Right? The, the stronger that magnet is, at least the, the, the stronger the brand affinity is going to be. So, you know, we, we created those, um, the core values and, you know, we’re kind of going in, in, in back order here, but, uh, around that same time, you know, I would say here’s the inflection point that really has brought things into the present day. Um, you know, I, I was holding this event for like a couple years in Seattle and people are reaching out actually via LinkedIn and other things like, Hey, that’s really cool.

Nick (08:12):
Can we do that in our city? Or how do we, you know, take this and, and, and really run with it. And so I started to talk with other entrepreneurs and founders around the world. And, and here’s what I discovered that I feel like was absolutely the, the like mission changer for me and Founders Live was I really, you know, with these conversations globally, I discovered that there’s a tremendous amount of talent all around the world. Like there’s talented people everywhere building or attempting to build amazing things, wanting to move forward. The problem is most, all of them are underserved, overlooked, and really just don’t have the opportunity for success. And why is that? And really, it’s just simply the way the world is right now, which is, you know, typically the investment community is serving the top half a percent, whatever that percent is determined to be.

Nick (09:03):
Um, most people are really kind of still boxed out of the global entrepreneurship game. And I said, wow, you know, there’s really four things we identified that we think could really open the doors for global entrepreneurship. Number one is really, uh, inclusion into the global community and network. We saw the community start forming in Seattle, started at sea, kind of, you know, in the us was kind of bubbling, but, you know, obviously globally, there’s people everywhere and, you know, just inclusion into the builders and creators community. Number two is access to the right education and information. How do you build a great company in growth in today’s world? Well, it’s different. You can’t read it in a textbook. How do they learn it? Obviously we need to get people the right information to be successful. Thirdly was really access to the right resources, whether that’s technologies, products, people, and then also growth capital.

Nick (09:56):
So access to, you know, the capital that’s needed to operate and grow their company. And then lastly was global exposure. So how do we help early stage companies really kind of bottle up that pitch message and get it out to the right partners, customers, investors, literally across like borders and continents. That’s really what Founders Live became informed into is now a global ecosystem that we have grown and spread to, you know, about a hundred cities around the world in 31 countries. It really is a, uh, it’s comprised of the event that, you know, we’re now back in the, in person, these are showcases of early stage entrepreneurship talent. Um, they’re, they are pitch competitions and they’re fun. We’re now back in, in person. Um, and really it’s, and then our digital global ecosystem that really does aggregate a lot of our partners in global community, so they can engage and, you know, find each other and, and, and, you know, do great things. And, um, so it was really in that transition. And that, that major transition was in 2016, was when I incorporated created the founder’s live brand. And then over the last, you know, what, six years now, we’ve just absolutely grown. And, you know, the pandemic was a bit of a, you know, just kind of a pause and, and we are just trying to, you know, everyone was trying to figure things out, but we’re now back to our, our growth and our expansion. And there’s so much that we’re gonna do going forward. We’re excited about it.

Rich (11:24):
Yeah, absolutely. As a matter of fact, I think we spoke a few months back and you were in Indonesia, um, and you were, I think it was, um, uh, maybe it was, um, 12 noon for me. And it was 12 midnight for you and yeah. You were in the process of, of launching, uh, a, um, a location launching a city there yeah. For founders live. So what was that like, how was it, you know, kind of being back on the road, traveling and, uh, uh, and, and kind of what are, are some of the things you’ve seen?

Nick (11:54):
Oh, it it’s, you know, I, can’t, it’s really hard to put into words, the feeling of creating something that was simply a Google doc at one point in time, um, you know, created in your city and then it started to expand. And then now it’s literally across the world. And, you know, I travel to, uh, various founders, live cities now and meet our city leaders, our team, meet the founders, um, and really see entrepreneurship on the ground like that. There’s only one way to do that and, and you gotta be there. And so it was really amazing. Um, you know, again, like, you know, my thesis is, look, we’re all humans, we’re all trying to move forward. We’re all doing, like, we wanna solve problems. We want to be innovative, creative, and impact our cities communities, and maybe even the world. And they’re, they’re amazing.

Nick (12:44):
And, and they just need a bit more infrastructure. They need a, a bit more, um, you know, built out, you know, community and resources. And, uh, obviously we’re working on not we’re one of the players there, and, but we’ve expanded to geez, 20 plus I think it, the number is 25, but we’ve launched, we’ve, we’ve actually had 21 cities have Founders Live events in Indonesia, 21 different cities. Um, we’re talking about the fourth largest country in the world, 276 million people. Um, massive. I mean, they’re still developing and, uh, it’s, it’s an incredible thing, but you know, it was hard because of the language barrier. So, uh, Bahasa Indonesia is their main language. Um, there’s actually, uh, hundred plus dialects and languages that are spoken there. So English is definitely not as prevalent. That was hard. Um, the culture shock was a bit different. It was tough being there. It’s just a different, different city, different culture. And obviously trying to navigate it was, was not easy. But, um, I can tell you, um, I mean, just the being that being over there inspires me, meeting those people that have a vision and a dream, and we’re, we’re a part of helping them make that happen. It just, that’s what keeps me going every day.

Rich (14:02):
Awesome. Um, I’ve got an interesting question for you. It just, just occurred to me. Um, it it’s kind of has to do with, um, how entrepreneurs and places like that, um, consider their idea in terms of fear of it being stolen, because it’s very interesting, you know, um, I’ll just tell you a super quick story. It was like I met the, um, um, the chairman of the, um, Chinese patent office some years back. And he said that big challenge is to get companies, get more companies to wanna protect their IP, because they don’t typically think of an idea as something that you would protect or even that you would steal. Yeah. Like we often think of Chinese as stealing ideas. They don’t think of like that, that way at all. They think of it like, well, you know, you make your money by hustling by making the product better or cheaper, or getting the relationship to, to make the product at your factory.

Rich (14:59):
They don’t think of it as like, well, I’ve got an idea. And like, it seems to what I’ve realized is it’s a very American concept, right? Is that I’ve got like, you know, it’s, it’s the American dream having the idea that itself becomes the basis of wealth. Um, so I imagine that that, that varies around the world of how cautious entrepreneurs are about pitching their idea. Uh, and, and so it just occurred to me that you might be a guy with, with a front row seat to that. And I’m just wondering if you’ve noticed anything.

Nick (15:29):
That’s a good question. Um, what I would say is on, in terms of what I saw there, um, I would say that there wasn’t a lot of hesitation, uh, from, you know, wanting to pitch or not, or sharing the idea or not. I wouldn’t say that there was a lot of hesitation there. Secondly, I would, I would say that, um, you know, protecting IP is, uh, is something that obviously is important, uh, and in an important consideration. And it really does depend on obviously the, the, what is the entire IP, uh, construction of, of the business, the technology, if you’re building, you know, whatever you’re doing, right. So obviously it’s unique to every single startup. So I think my encouragement is obviously talk to someone <laugh>, you know, like, like Rich or others, that that would help you with whatever that specifics are on that. Um, but thirdly, and, you know, I don’t wanna, okay, this is my flat out honest answer is that I’ve been thinking about this a lot. And I’m like, look, ideas can’t even, they actually can’t get stolen. Ideas cannot be stolen, intellectual property specific to, you know, you know, specific, specific functions,

Rich (16:44):
How, how you manifest that idea into something, right.

Nick (16:47):
Yeah. That can be copied. Sure. And, and you obviously wanna protect yourself and your company in that let’s put that aside for a second success really is dependent pretty much solely on execution. And then also, I would say distinct uniqueness that now wraps back into the core values and the brand experience. Right? So I, my thought here, and I’ve, I said this when I was over there, actually, so they, there was a few questions around this, but my answer was around how you create your uniqueness in the market is really around what is the brand experience? What is the core values? And so people can literally, like, you can’t copy core values because it becomes so fraudulent and obvious. It’s like, oh, that’s just ridiculous.

Rich (17:39):
Was it someone else’s core values?

Nick (17:40):
Right. Right. So, you know, how do you as a company and a founding team manifest the experience of your brand and your product and your company that my friends, I think is the way that you protect or build that initial moat around your business. And of course, looking at protection of IP and all that is important, but I, I would just say, look, don’t worry about your idea, getting stolen. What you wanna really consider is how do we, I really implant into our market and our industry, an incredibly unique brand that people identify with. They, they just know if there’s anyone trying to play over here and copy, it’s like, get outta here and you then have a moat that you can continue to build around. And it’s really the brand voice and, and the in, and the, you know, those core values that are a part of it. And then what people experience when they use your product, it’s all those things.

Rich (18:36):

Nick (18:37):
<affirmative>. Yeah,

Rich (18:38):
Absolutely. And, um, you know, and, and I agree with you, I mean, like there is an over-emphasis on, someone’s gonna steal my idea. I think it pays to take the right steps, but like, there are so many more things that, that contribute to your success that, um, over emphasizing IP, over emphasizing protection of ideas is, uh, is, is a distraction from focusing on the things that are really gonna help differentiate you that are going to help.

Nick (19:07):
Well, and remember, you know, I, I, now I know, um, <laugh>, I do remember our conversation. It was a little later in the night for me, but I, it comes back now, which was,

Rich (19:17):
I thought it was a dream.

Nick (19:19):
It’s crazy,

Nick (19:21):
But we talked about this and, you know, it’s like the, obviously there’s a right time for early stage startups to invest in the proper protection, uh, practices for their concept and their IP. And, you know, you said it it’s like, well, sometimes it’s not the right cost or outlay the initially in the life cycle of this startup, but there is a moment in time where this investment is important. And, and, and I would just say the construction of both, you know, really creating that brand and what it’s about and the intangibles, and then the tangibles of IP come in. And when you’re ready to invest in that and get some protection and bring in someone like, you know, Rich or others, that IP protection, boom, you know, those two together really are, I feel the right path forward. And, you know, the, the startup needs to determine when they’re ready to do that with the budget and everything that they have in, in place there.

Rich (20:19):
Yep. No, absolutely. I think that’s, that’s great. And that’s great advice. Awesome. And, and yeah, like I said, it’s just kind of curious how that culture is around the world, cuz you have, you know, a lot of people pitching their startup and obviously they wanna put the idea out there and get people to resonate with it and to give them feedback and to invest with them. But you know, they don’t want someone else to, they don’t wanna feel stupid when, if someone else were to beat them to it.

Nick (20:47):
Do wanna, I wanna come back to though, and I think this is a point that, um, given, given this, the show, I mean the topic of this podcast and, and people that are listening, um, look, you know, I’ve been doing this for eight plus years now, right? This is like, you know, the life of this whole thing is eight plus years. I incorporated in, you know, uh, six plus years ago. And, um, it is, it is a, it is absolutely amazing to see something grow literally across the world. And people pick up and run with a concept and an idea, a vision that, uh, again was just started on a Google doc and then just tested out in one city. Um, and, and seeing that and, and, you know, to see it manifest in the world and to see people be impacted, uh, by it is, is something that I, I just hope, I hope as many people as possible can experience the feeling that I felt by creating something like this and seeing it across the world and well,

Rich (21:55):
That’s exactly what you’re doing. You’re leading by example, like you’ve taken something from a kernel of like, is this something that people will want and you tested it and people liked it and then there was repeat customers and then you grew it out into the world. Right. So like, and what you’re growing out in the world is the ability for other people to have that same experience.

Nick (22:17):

Rich (22:18):
So, you know, it’s like you are leading by example and giving people the opportunity to have that experience.

Nick (22:25):
Yeah. It’s fun. It’s ands, um, the best thing in the world, but it’s, it’s difficult, not easy at all. And you know, I, I, I just, um, you know, we deal with, we deal with those ups and downs, but it’s very rewarding.

Rich (22:38):
Yep. The entrepreneurial journey with its ups and downs. <laugh> um, awesome. Well, people want to learn more about you and, or get in touch with you, how do they go about doing so?

Nick (22:49):
Yeah. So you can go to You can see what we all offer there. And, you know, we have our global community, we have, uh, like there’s events, you’ll, you know, we have calendars, so, oh, what in my is Founders Live in my city? Maybe the first question you ask, you can go find that there’s frequent events that are taking place now back into in-person events. Um, and then, uh, you can find me on LinkedIn, uh, as well. I’m pretty active on LinkedIn, less active on, you know, maybe the more traditional, uh, social networks. Now those are kind of fad in way, in my opinion. But, um, and then flipping back to the founders, If you don’t see founders live, uh, available in your city or country, absolutely reach out. We do have an expansion page. You just go to founders,, but you can find that there, fill that thing out. Hey, we would love to talk with you. And if, if, if it might be a, a good, good fit to join our leadership team globally, to help run our events and be a leader, would love to talk with you all and maybe know someone as well. So, uh, feel free to reach out to us. Yeah.

Rich (23:56):
Awesome. Well, um, thank you so much, Nick. I really appreciate you taking the time to join us today.

Nick (24:02):
It was a pleasure and yeah. Again, if you, um, if you are a founder, uh, I either know of, I got your answer. We can find your answer. Uh, we can help you get connected in the community, so please reach out.

Rich (24:17):

Speaker 4 (24:21):

Outro (24:21):
For listening to innovations and breakthroughs with your host, Rich Goldstein. Be sure to click, subscribe, check us out on the web at and we’ll see you next time.


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