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After “Retiring” at the Age of 40, My Wife, My ADHD & an Itch to Have an Impact on the World Sent Me Back to Work

October 12th, 2021   |   by Frank Addante

“You need to go back to work, you need to get back to doing what you love – building businesses!”   That’s what my wife said to me back in June after I had been “retired” since 2017.  The very next day, I signed a lease agreement for an office space at a co-working space in Park City called the Kiln.  They asked me what my company did and I said “Good question!  I’m super excited about it — but I don’t know —  I’ll let you know when I figure that out.”

Well, after months of soul searching and talking to 100 people (one of my key rules before starting any business or product) — I figured it out!  We call it TinkerBarn Ventures.  We build and invest in startups with impact.  Our focus is on helping entrepreneurs build businesses that focus on social and environmental challenges.  Doing good is good business! 

We have a Startup Studio and Early Stage Investment Fund.  After 20+ years of building my own businesses from scratch, I finally figured out that I love helping entrepreneurs build their businesses!  After founding 5 companies in a row, resulting in $5 billion in market value, $1 billion in sales, 2 IPOs (one on NYSE and one on Nasdaq) and raising $300M inc capital — I realized that my calling in life is to take all of those amazing experience and channel it into the next generation of impact-focused entrepreneurs.  I’m super excited about it!

A number of years ago, I did a case study for Harvard Business School.  I met an inspiring professor who ran the case development named Professional Noam Wasserman.  He interviewed me for a book called the Founder’s Dillema.  One of the things that he said that resonated with me is that one of the key things they found is that Founders can be separated into one of two groups:  a) those who run TO something and b) those who run FROM something.  Over the course of my “retirement” (yes, it is in quotes because I’m not sure it really was one! More on that later..) I had the chance to do a lot of self reflection.  One of my discoveries is that I have been recently diagnosed with ADHD.  I raise this point because one thing I have learned about ADHD is that an ADHD brain has to work, it has to be challenged.  It’s like a motor and it needs to keep going, if it’s not going, it impacts your mental, emotional and physical being…  So thinking about Noam’s statement about running to or from something – every company I have started to date has been running “to” something.  This one, is both I think!  I am running to an exciting opportunity to have a positive impact on the world, but I think I am also running from a version of myself that I didn’t like.  That version was a version that didn’t have endless energy like I usually have and wasn’t filled with positive optimism.  My brain wasn’t being challenged and my body and energy lost it’s “fire.”  That fire came roaring back that very first day that I walked into my new office space and began creating and building again!

A good friend, and college athletics coach, very wisely said to me “you can’t fill a big hole with a bunch of little things.” Without a bigger purpose and mission, I was spending my time challenging my ADHD brain with a lot of little things – organizing closets, the garage, home remodel projects – I was driving my family nuts……  but then I started mentoring entrepreneurs.  Bam!  Those zoom meetings and calls got me fired up!  In a big way!  It made me realize how much I missed building businesses.  It filled my bucket of energy.  And the ones that I gravitated towards were the ones that made some kind of positive impact on the world.  Then I needed to figure out how to fill that big hole with big things…

So, I’ve got years of pent up energy and creativity that is now unleashed.  So instead of building one company like I have in the past, what did I decide to do this time around?  Help build many companies!  The TinkerBarn model is to work very closely with founders to help them build -their- businesses and then provide them with the capital they need to grow and scale their ideas.  We focus on getting companies from zero to 1 – that’s from idea to Series A.  We provide a startup studio which incubates and accelerates businesses and a pre-seed / seed investment fund.

I’m excited to reunite with my partner in TinkerBarn, Brynn Moynihan!  I’m also excited to relaunch FounderBlog with it’s originally intended purpose – to help share entrepreneurial lessons with the world.  In typical FounderBlog fashion, my first few posts will be on the genesis of this new adventure and the lessons I learned in getting to this new starting line.  I’m so pumped to be back in action!  (and so is my brain… and my wife!).  

Our mission is to change the world in a big way through the little things that matter most, by building and investing in startups with impact.  If you have a great impact idea or are interested in getting involved with our investment fund or studio, please reach out – I’d love to hear from you.  It’s going to take a village!