Unforeseen circumstances helped lead to the launch of JukeStrat, a Fort Worth venture studio and consulting firm. And they continue to play a role in the launch of its first company.
Late last year, JukeStrat Co-founder David Taffet—who goes by the titles “venture builder” and “executive whisperer”—wrote a piece for Fast Company titled “Why being emotionally intelligent doesn’t mean putting up with BS.” In the piece, Taffet talked about the need for business leaders to balance empathy with decisiveness. Not long after, Seth Weiss read it and found it resonated with the workplace he was seeing around him at the time.
“I read through it once in the early evening, and I was really just churning on it,” Weiss told Dallas Innovates. “I highlighted certain paragraphs, then I nudged my wife, saying, ‘You’ve got to read these paragraphs, doesn’t this sound like the exact situation? And here’s the pathway to get out of that.’”
Unable to shake some of the insights he’d read about, Weiss reached out to Taffet to talk. That led to conversations about mutual experiences and beliefs, eventually leading to Weiss joining the JukeStrat team in May with the title of opportunity creator and sensemaker. Now, alongside Christie Zwahlen, the other half of JukeStrat’s husband-wife co-founding team, Weiss is launching the studio’s first venture—The Fossicker Group.
“There was something about being in that environment, talking to someone about the challenges who had also been there, but someone who was a solution provider,” Weiss said. “We’re a group that’s built on that first spark, recognizing that we have like-minded capabilities and interests.”
Building thought leaders
Taking its name from an Australian word meaning to search for gold, especially in overlooked places, The Fossicker Group is a research firm focused on building business leaders into thought leaders in their fields. More than just providing research and producing analysis that would typically end up in what Zwahlen describes as a “milquetoast” whitepaper, The Fossicker Group works to help leaders build stories around insights that will help “move the needle” on a company’s business objectives and shape the direction of an industry. The firm then helps package that information to be disseminated “in a compelling way” through things like speaking engagements, webinars, and thought pieces.
“There are lots of people who are good at analyzing data, but when it comes to taking that data, extracting insights from it, and building a story around it, that’s what we do best,” Zwahlen told Dallas Innovates.
Weiss said the firm is industry agnostic, but focuses on companies and organizations aimed at social impact. He added that the company’s work helps businesses differentiate themselves in a landscape of social media marketing and sales initiatives. Without disclosing names, Weiss said The Fossicker Group already has clients in areas like human resources technology and cloud security.
“We want to do things that are going to shape the world in meaningful ways,” Zwahlen said. “We need our clients to be their own subject matter experts in their relative field. What we bring to them is expertise on how to position them as thought leaders.”
With Zwahlen in Fort Worth and Weiss in Denver, The Fossicker Group is looking to grow across the country, especially as JukeStrat’s consulting client network spans from Silicon Valley to Washington, D.C., and Toronto.
“We’re not just throwing together some white paper that’s got a bunch of facts and figures,” Zwahlen said. “We’re telling a compelling story that people are going to want to read and look at because, on top of being interesting, it’s also visually very appealing.”
From pandemic pivot to The Fossicker Group’s launch
The launch of The Fossicker Group marks a milestone in JukeStrat’s journey. While co-founders Taffet and Zwahlen started the company as a boutique consulting firm prior to the pandemic, work on the business didn’t really begin until the end of 2020—just short of a year after the couple relocated from Ohio to North Texas, lured by the region’s position as a transportation and logistics hub.
The reason for the move? To launch their previous venture Petal, a germ-freezing wastebin device technology. As the startup was beginning to take pre-sale orders in the fall of 2020, cold storage demands skyrocketed in anticipation of the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines. The couple was eventually forced to shutter the project, quickly pivoting to JukeStrat and bringing on Danby Appliances CEO Jim Estill as its first client. They had previously met him when Petal signed Danby as its sole manufacturer and servicer.
“We’re looking to establish ourselves as one of the leaders in this space, and also help our clients establish themselves as leaders,” Zwahlen said. “We will continue to work on behalf of clients, but also use that as an avenue to explore new ventures and find opportunities that seem aligned with who we are, how we like to work together as a team, and how we’d like to do business.”
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