Getting to Know Rob Dyrdek & His Entrepreneurial Machine

Skaters know Rob Dydrek as among the most influential skaters of all time. Millennials know Rob Dyrdek as half of the down-to-earth duo Rob & Big. Entrepreneurs know Rob Dyrdek for his incubator Dyrdek Machine. Following the launch of his latest product venture, Mindright, I caught up with Rob over Zoom to learn about his journey from skater to reality TV star to entrepreneur.

Rob Dyrdek has been in the spotlight for most of his life. At age 16, he became a professional skater, riding for iconic ‘90s brands including Alien Workshop and DC Shoes. 20 years later, Rob would go on to acquire Alien Workshop from Burton Snowboards.

Between skating for Alien Workshop and buying it, Rob’s work off the board changed the world of skating forever. In 2010 he founded Street League Skateboarding (SLS), an international tournament that helped elevate the sport from niche interest to global phenomenon. Skating’s imminent inclusion in the Olympics can likely be traced back to SLS.

His decade as a reality TV star beginning in 2006, meanwhile, spawned a cult following with viewers tuning in to shows like Rob & Big and Fantasy Factory for a glimpse into Rob’s larger-than-life life. His third TV series, Ridiculousness, just wrapped up its 19th season.

From skating to reality TV, Rob’s career has served as a warm up for what’s become his true calling in life: that of an entrepreneur. In 2016, Rob launched Dyrdek Machine, a venture creation studio focused on building companies from the idea stage. It works simply: Rob and his partners act as co-founders, funding the development of the idea before bringing it to capital partners.

The company is set up like this because Rob’s true passion lies in going through the insanity of creating the idea and turning it into a successful thriving business. To date, Dyrdek Machine has launched 15 different companies. None have gone out of business and five have been seen through to exit including SLS, which merged with Nitro Circus in 2019 to form Thrill One Sports and Entertainment, the world’s largest independent action sports operator and media company.

Following the launch of Dyrdek Machine’s latest business, Mindright, I caught up with Rob over Zoom to learn more about the “good mood superfood” and his many lives. Read our conversation below.

Hey Rob, this is your 15th business under the Dyrdek Machine umbrella. What do you look for when starting a new business?

What I’m trying to do is master the type of entrepreneurs that I build with, the type of ideas I build and how we shape them into successful, sustainable businesses, and then just do that over and over again. It always comes down to connecting a great entrepreneur to a great idea. That’s what I’m searching for.

You’ve been a celebrity entrepreneur in one way or another for practically your entire adult life. In what ways are you similar to or different from other celebrity entrepreneurs?

Traditionally, celebrity entrepreneurs build something off their own brand whereas I’m essentially a branded house of brands. With Dyrdek Machine, I’m more involved on the frontside of some brands than others, but at the end of the day it comes down to believing in the product and the founders.

Some Dyrdek Machine brands feel like extensions of you as a person, like SLS, while others seem to align with your business philosophy. From the outside, it feels like Mindright overlaps more with the former. Is that an accurate reading?

I’m a highly optimized human being. I live a high-performance life and I run my system clean. I know what this happy brain blend does to me physically when I have a bar in the afternoon so it’s now another tool that’s part of my lifestyle. But it was also a lot of fun to just hone in and shape Mindright into a meaningful brand that connected with people instantly when we launched it.

“What I’m trying to do is master the type of entrepreneurs that I build with, the type of ideas I build and how we shape them into successful, sustainable businesses.”

What about other Dyrdek Machine brands. Does something unite them beyond your business sense?

It varies but they’re all do-or-die entrepreneurs. It’s something that you’re cut from. By any means necessary, relentless work ethics, unwavering self-belief. I try to connect with other like-minded mindsets and from there it’s really about their skill sets. Do they understand business multidimensionally? Do they understand brand, product, media, marketing, sales, operations, finance? Those are the core areas that make a business work.

From there the question is, does the idea have great feature benefits, a value proposition, is it clear to the consumer? I have everything from $80,000 luxury bags to $135 slippers with Jon Buscemi to pigless pork rinds to good mood superfood, so I’m really agnostic as it relates to the type of brand and whether or not it connects with me on a personal level. It always comes down to the individuals and the opportunity.

Is that how Mindright got started?

So I first met Chris Bernard, our co-founder, when he was CEO of another CPG company. I told him to let me know if he ever has an idea that can play in its own lane inside the CPG world.

My experience has taught me that you really want to build with founder-market fit, meaning you really want to create companies with people that have lots of experience in the industry they’re building. And he said, « If I come up with something, I’ll let you know. »

He did a ton of research, looking at the evolution of better-for-you snack foods and how it went from low sugar to functional to probiotics and collagen. He also looked into what was happening in the nootropics and adaptogens space and how it was primarily supplements.

From there he had the idea to create these super healthy products that increase mood, reduce stress and do everything that nootropics do. He presented the idea to me and I felt it immediately: this is the type of opportunity and founder that we like to create and build with. That’s where we started.

You guys built the company and got the product to market over the last year. Tell me what it was like doing all that during the pandemic.

As it relates to COVID, we built an entire business from idea stage all the way to market with almost never meeting in person. Luckily, food was one of those core things that stayed on almost the entire time throughout the pandemic, so it didn’t really affect the development in that sense. A few years ago, I would have said that’s impossible or insane but that’s how it happened.

Outside of the impact of the pandemic, it really proved to me that I could build a company soup to nuts with somebody I’ve never met in person. I could meet someone online, love their idea, talk through it and get samples of the products sent to me. I can do the entire thing remotely now. I really believe that.

Let’s talk about the form of the product. Why a bar and not a supplement like many brands are doing in the braincare space?

That’s really where the opportunity lied—because it was almost only supplements. From there it became, why not make an amazingly tasty bar, put protein, fiber, make it low in sugar, gluten-free, vegan and all these things that are becoming the standard of what a super healthy snack is?

Beyond that, we’re trying to create a platform where we make these amazing products and put nootropics and adaptogens into them. We feel, despite how competitive bars are, through taste, quality and the added benefits that we’ll be able to get some market share. Ultimately, though, we want to go after drink mixes—that’ll be a huge opportunity—and even hunting down salty snacks.

What role has the conversation around mental health played in creating space for a product like Mindright?

It’s evolved so much, even in just the last few years. It wasn’t even a topic of conversation 10 years ago. Today it’s much less stigmatized.

And that relates to wellness because before it was always, “It’s your body and what you eat.” It was never about the way your mind was operating and taking care of your brain. That’s been for the better of all mankind, this evolution that’s taken place, and it allows us to talk about Mindright in a way people understand.

Tell me a bit about the language around Mindright. What kind of feelings do you hope to inspire with it?

It goes back to naming the product, what it stands for and its value prop. That’s why we love the name Mindright so much; it’s like, « Man, let’s turn this into a verb. » When you eat it, it puts you in a space.

When you think about Mindright, your energy is in the right place, you’re clear, you’re focused, you’re in the right state of being that allows you to optimize whatever you’re doing.

Thinking back on your career as a professional skater, what techniques did you do to get your mind in the right place?

It’s been many years since I was a pro skateboarder and boy, do I wish I understood what I understand now at 46 years old. When you look back, you just can’t underestimate how having a really clear system allows your brain to essentially control your muscle firing so much more clearly and build that muscle memory that it takes to learn a new trick.

At this point in my life, I would be more inclined to decide what that trick is. Let’s say I want to backside smith grind a 10-stair handrail. I’m going to start with a backside 50-50 on a ledge over and over, before moving on to a smith grind. After that I take it to a flat bar, then take it to a six-stair rail.

Now you’ve got everything prepared and built up. You’ve created these milestones for yourself so when you try to backside smith the 10-stair handrail, you’re going to do it in a much quicker time because you’ve built up the necessary levels to get there.

When I was young, I would be like, « I’m just going to go for it. » And then you’re taking slams and just hoping that you get it without going through that sort of process.

On the Mindright website, the FAQ section makes it clear that nutrition, sleep and exercise are the three pillars of a happy, healthy mind. Beyond Mindright, what is your formula for a happy, healthy mind?

If you want to get the most out of life and you want to be happy, it comes down to a few things. I eat a super clean diet. I also sleep really well. Putting those two together gives you a strong foundation to build on.

From there, I meditate every single day. I brain train every single day. I’m in the gym every single day. That’s really why I have energy all day, every day. I only need seven hours of sleep. I went to bed a little after nine and got up at four in the morning, immediately starting to work, excited about the day.

People underestimate how a core wellness routine, while difficult at first, is exponentially beneficial to finding true happiness and ultimately fulfillment in life.

“People underestimate how a core wellness routine…is exponentially beneficial to finding true happiness and ultimately fulfillment in life.”

Tell me a bit about your brain training routine.

Every day I use Lumosity. They send you a handful of different games, covering areas like memory testing, verbal testing and cognitive fluidity. It takes about 10 or 15 minutes, it’s easy, fun, and you develop this habit of using your brain in ways it usually doesn’t get used.

Currently Mindright is available directly on the website and Amazon. Where else can we expect to see Mindright in the future? 7/11, skate shops, Costco?

The beauty of today’s age is that with direct-to-consumer you can begin to understand your consumer, getting a ton of information on them. So for now, it’s about refining and understanding over time who is the core consumer and then expanding into retail based on those insights.

What does success with Mindright look like to you a year from now? Two years from now?

Two years from now when everybody’s saying, « Hold on, I’m feeling tired. I got to get Mindright. » And they go grab the snack, the bar, the drink, when it finally has that sort of cultural impact, of the verb of getting “mindright,” that will be what true success looks like.

Do you see an opportunity to bring some of your businesses together and help them build off each other? I’m thinking about opportunities like handing out Mindright to skaters at the next SLS.

I let those sorts of relationships happen naturally. I try to only use what I consider are integrated resources that are primarily for core business operations and development. If there’s a natural collaboration between brands, I love to see it. But again, it’s not something that I try to force into the relationship.

Since the pandemic changed everything about the working world, entrepreneurship has been on the rise. What advice do you have for first-time entrepreneurs?

Most entrepreneurs get really excited about the product or the brand but you’ve got to be excited about the business. You’ve got to learn all aspects. You’ve got to look at a business three-dimensionally. You have to understand, yes, love your product, love the way you created the brand, but learn how that translates to your own media, your social media, your paid media.

That’s an art in itself you’ve got to ultimately learn. And that’s different from actually marketing that product and understanding how you target consumers and convert consumers consistently.

And then there’s the sales behind a business, understanding how you create that relationship and make it sustainable and scale distribution. And then ultimately operational excellence, how that whole thing works as a machine.

But most importantly, all of that has to tie back to the financial well-being of the opportunity.

More often than not ambitious young entrepreneurs don’t take the time to understand the financial side of a business. They try to hire somebody or have somebody else handle it. But if you want to run a company, you must fully understand all aspects and implications of every decision you make as it pumps into the financial side of that business. You can’t truly make strategic decisions unless you understand how they tie back into that long-term financial goal you set at the start.