Honest, hungry, and hardworking are the words you would use to describe Cameron Johnson. A dynamic entrepreneur, with a 15-year career in real estate, Cameron has an impressive list of accomplishments and a proven track record of outstanding success.
Having earned a B.S. (with Distinction) in Finance and Real Estate from Cornell University and an MBA from Harvard Business School, prior to founding Nickson, Cameron held a position within the Investment Banking Division at Goldman Sachs as part of the Real Estate Financing Group. From 2012 to 2014, he held a Director role at Greystar Real Estate Partners where he targeted multifamily investments and helped establish Greystar’s Mexico office. Before enrolling at Harvard Business School, he structured and executed real estate acquisitions for Walton Street Capital, a $12 billion real estate private equity firm.
In 2017, he launched NICKSON, a venture-backed start-up which offers a solution to the real estate sector. In his new role as Founder & CEO, Cameron and his team are transforming apartments into move-in ready, custom-designed living spaces, in as little as 3 hours and all with the click of a button. A knack for hypothesizing, testing, and iterating has enabled his success as an entrepreneur and with Nickson. To date, he has raised over $12 million in funding and current investors include Pendulum Holdings, LLC, Steve Case’s (Co-founder of AOL) Rise of the Rest Fund, Motley Fool Ventures, and Backstage Capital.
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Before we begin, our readers are interested to know about how you got started in the first place. Did you always want to be where you are today or was it something you were led to? Share with us your journey.
Cameron Johnson: I was always interested in founding a business as that was seen as the penultimate goal at the firms I worked at during my career.
Tell us a bit about your current focus. What is the most important thing that you’re working on and how do you plan on doing it?
Cameron Johnson: I am currently working on leading and growing Nickson, Inc., a venture-backed company I founded in 2017. Nickson enables its users to make their real estate spaces move-in ready on demand by providing all furniture, décor, housewares, and tech a space needs on a subscription basis. Effectively, Nickson allows its users to instantly move in and out of spaces with a few swipes on their smartphones. Most importantly, I am working to grow the company’s user base. We are accomplishing this by investing in digital marketing and pursuing strategic partnerships.
Some argue that punctuality is a strength. Others say punctuality is a weakness. How do you feel about it, please explain.
Cameron Johnson: Generally speaking, punctuality is a strength. Not many people get anywhere alone. I believe that respecting the time of others is fundamental to building fruitful relationships with customers, business partners, investors, and all others.
How important is having good timing in your line of work and in the industry that your organization operates in?
Cameron Johnson: My organization is venture-backed, and receiving investment from venture capitalists typically means that a company is doing its best to take advantage of a new opportunity in the marketplace. In our case, this opportunity manifests itself as the ability to completely eliminate the need for people to ‘move’ in the traditional sense by digitally providing furnishing-as-a-service.
A key part of our success has been generally having the right idea at the right time. We allow people to click a button on their phone and then show up to a fully outfitted place containing over 250 items, giving them the ability to have everything and do nothing. While we didn’t anticipate a global pandemic, it turns out we had built our service just in time as we unknowingly pioneered what would come to be called ‘contactless moving.’
Founder of Virgin Group, Richard Branson, states “Timing is everything in life, and it’s particularly crucial in entrepreneurship. People often equate success with luck, but it usually comes down to impeccable (and carefully mapped out) timing”. Do you agree with this statement? Please answer in as much detail as necessary.
Cameron Johnson: Yes. Timing is everything. In life, work, sports, and love, success typically comes down to what actions you take and when you take them.
As a leader/entrepreneur/CEO, how do you decide when to put the pedal to the metal and when to take a break? How do you time the key moments in your career?
Cameron Johnson: There is an old adage by Warren Buffet that I have found to hold sound, especially when seeking to exponentially create value: ‘Be fearful when others are greedy and be greedy when others are fearful.’ Practically speaking as a CEO, this means that risk is inextricably tied to reward, so when you think about hesitating, ask yourself ‘what if we pushed harder instead?’ I tend to take a break when things feel too comfortable; odds are if there is nothing to be afraid of or to mitigate, then we may be missing something and should likely pause to reassess—nothing worth chasing is risk-free.
The key moments in my career are timed opportunistically. I personally view a career as a journey; you set the desired destination and start out on the best path you can see. However, as the journey continues there will be many different paths to the destination. For me, the best path forward is usually the one with the steepest slope, the decision to go up or down simply depends on how much energy and inertia I have at the time.
Branson also states “If you’re starting to feel like you’re just going through the motions and losing sight of why you started, it might be time to take a break”. But how do you decide when to take a break?
Cameron Johnson: Answered in previous question.
“Timing can be everything when starting up. It can be the difference between building a thriving business and not” How has good timing helped you achieve success in your career or business? Are there any particular examples from your career that you would like to share?
Cameron Johnson: Timing has been key to achieving success in my career in business. I graduated college in 2008 during The Great Recession. This was both a terrible and great time to start a career. While opportunities were few and far between, in order to achieve success one had to be creative, resilient, and unafraid to fail—traits that would ultimately enable me to start a business a decade later.
“When you’re thinking of starting up, ask yourself: ‘Is the community I want to serve ready for this idea?’ It could make all the difference!” Would you like to add anything to this piece of advice for all the aspiring entrepreneurs?
Cameron Johnson: I would advise not only gauging whether or not the community you want to serve is ready for your idea, but, also, are willing to pay for it. Profit is not everything when starting out, but if you have a profitable idea, your chances of success are far better than just having a good idea.
COVID forced many businesses to adapt fast, some did so successfully, others failed, it was a lot due to good or poor timing. What are some of the big lessons you’ve learned during the pandemic?
Cameron Johnson: One of the biggest lessons I learned during the pandemic is that the status quo should regularly be questioned. Remote working was a perfect example of something that was perfectly viable pre-pandemic and could have, in many cases, increased productivity and employee satisfaction.
Your insight has been incredibly valuable and our readers thank you for your generosity. We do have a couple of other bold questions to ask. What fictional world would you want to start a business in and what would you sell?
Cameron Johnson: Westeros from Game of Thrones. I’d sell life insurance.
Before we finish things off, we would love to know, when you have some time away from business, what is one hobby that you wish you could spend more time on?
Cameron Johnson: Cooking. I try to find time on Sundays to spend a few hours in the kitchen, but I would spend a lot more if given the chance.
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Cameron Johnson for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Cameron Johnson or his company, you can do it through his – Linkedin Page
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