“Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.”
I met Espree Devora fifteen years ago during a very challenging time in my life. I had a three-year-old daughter, an unfunded startup, and had just discovered that my marriage was ending under the worst of circumstances. My business partner and I were working out of my garage, and due to my very sudden change of residence, that was no longer an option. We moved into a tiny, brick-walled room with concrete floors in the industrial section of Santa Monica, CA. Long before the rise of WeWork and all its predecessors, this was the best option for two guys to share a single desk surrounded by cases of our product and marketing collateral. As you might expect, tenant turnover in these windowless brick bunkers was rampant, and there was a constant flow of tours with other prospective early-stage dreamers.
One such prospect was Espree. The leasing manager popped her head in and said, “Hey guys, Espree is thinking about leasing some space here.” She immediately yelled, “Oh my god! You guys have skateboards in here!” My business partner and I often rode our skateboards to lunch since we weren’t exactly around the corner from any eateries. As it turned out, Espree’s startup was in the action sports media space. To say she was passionate about it would be the understatement of the century. My energy at that time was probably a three out of ten. Espree’s was about a seventeen out of ten. And it was great. She seemed to be several steps ahead of us in experience, knowledge, and relationships. She had read all the same books I had and so many more I hadn’t heard of. She introduced us to people, gave us advice, and was instrumental in guiding us on the path to funding-if my memory serves me correctly.
In the years that came after our initial meeting, Espree told me to get on Linkedin, encouraged me to use other social platforms, sent me the first calendar invite I’d seen using a scheduling tool, and told me all about the merits of virtual assistants. She is a walking wiki for entrepreneurs trying to find the best-in-class tools to help run their businesses.
Of course, we stayed friends long after exiting that startup and through several other ventures, some better than others. Espree also moved on to other business interests, but her tenacity to go after what she wanted remained throughout them all. Espree has a talent for connecting with others on a very authentic level and then somehow doing the immediate mental calculus of how they might benefit from meeting one another. It shouldn’t have been a big surprise that starting business podcasts would be a natural fit for her, but back then, many people were still asking, “What in the hell is a podcast?” Interestingly enough, her experiential venture called “We Are LA Tech” eventually found its way to this voice medium. Like the experiences Espree curated, guests are given the opportunity to connect with others in the LA tech community, often resulting in a new friend, roommate, cofounder, or funding.
Throughout all the twists and turns in our lives and businesses, it was common for us to lose touch for long periods. When we’d get the chance to reconnect, Espree would hit me with half a dozen questions. Not the standard “So what are you working on?” variety of tech geek small talk, but a series of heartfelt questions with plenty of follow-up questions. By the time we were done with our coffee, lunch, or walk, I had spent over an hour updating her on my life but had no idea what she was up to because she used all that time to ask about me. And that is just how she consistently operates. In her relationships and her businesses, she is consistently curious and always offering help.
Espree was recently featured in INC Magazine as one of the top 30 women in tech to follow. Known in the community, simply as “The Girl Who Gets it Done,” uses technology and digital content to thoughtfully connect people in the tech industry and move them from online connections to meaningful real-world relationships. Today, her company creates high-quality digital content, including podcasts, technology, and curated experiences focused on Los Angeles tech and global women in tech ecosystems. These resources help the community accelerate in business via authentically connecting. You can listen to her podcasts “WeAreLATech” and “Women in Tech” by going to WeAreLATech.fm and womenintech.fm. The purpose of the Women in Tech podcast is to empower listeners to expand their minds, showing them what’s possible and leaving each episode with the thought: “If she can do it, so can I.” The purpose of the WeAreLATech podcast is to immerse any listener into the Los Angeles tech ecosystem quickly.
People like Espree, who are just inherently wired to give, can also be at a much higher risk for burnout. Human energy’s problem is that visibility to the reserve stores can be murky, and sometimes the fuel gauge might be overlooked altogether. In other words, you’ve been working, working, working — giving, giving, giving — and without any warning, you’re running on fumes and are quickly stopped in your tracks. This wall can be reached in various ways, but when you truly hit empty, it is very different from enduring a subpar, low-energy day. Burnout can be a crushing experience that often results in both emotional and physical pain and will sometimes require a significant reset. Throughout this chat, Espree and I discuss how to set up guardrails around burnout, the balance of give and take, and geekier things such as web design.