CNLP 419: Brett Hagler on Becoming Truly Innovative, Launching Out of Y Combinator, and How to Be More Entrepreneurial

Brett Hagler, co-founder of New Story, was the first non-profit to launch out of Y Combinator, a startup school for founders that has incubated companies like Airbnb, Dropbox, Coinbase, Reddit and DoorDash.

He shares the lessons he learned on being a startup, and how your business or church can foster a culture and network of leaders conducive to true innovation.

Welcome to Episode 419 of the podcastListen and access the show notes below or search for the Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts and listen for free.

Plus, in this episode’s What I’m Thinking About segment, Carey talks about how you end up sabotaging your innovation.

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Episode Links

World Vision

I know this has been an incredibly difficult season for those pastoring church congregations. Many of you—church leaders—are caring for the souls of struggling congregants only to find yourselves burnt out and in need of your own soul care.

Our partner, World Vision, is called to serve the most vulnerable around the world, but also feels called to serve the Bride of Christ. And that includes caring for YOU—shepherds of the flock.

So, World Vision has partnered with Danielle Strickland to provide a practical resource called Soul Care Prayer Postures.

In this FREE web series, Danielle will share rhythms and practices to help create space for God to tend to YOUR soul, and get tools you can use as you lead others.

The Church is a force for good in the world, and World Vision’s heart is for the Bride of Christ to be healthy and mobilized to be the church outside the four walls!

Sign up for the FREE web series today by going to


Most churches have experienced stability in giving over the last year—that is some of the best news the team at Generis has heard during the pandemic.

But, a new concern is growing—will the other shoe drop in 2021? Will the economy shift? Will giving begin to trend down?

The truth is, whether it is next month, next year, or in five years, a shoe will drop, the economy will shift, and there will always be a new mission, need, or challenge that will require resources. It’s just a part of the natural ebb and flow of church finance. So, wouldn’t it be great if you could be prepared by understanding how healthy your church is no matter what financial reality you might face?

The team at Generis is offering a FREE opportunity for church leaders of this podcast to do exactly that with their Generosity Pulse Report.

Think of the Generosity Pulse Report as a quick snapshot of the health of your culture of stewardship and giving. Wouldn’t it be super helpful to know where you stand today, identify what needs improvement, and what you can do to move the needle on greater generosity?

Schedule your FREE Generosity Pulse Report today, an exclusive offer for listeners of this podcast, by going to

Conversation Links

Career Page – New Story is Hiring!

New Story Charity

Y Combinator

Praxis Labs

CNLP 402: Michael Arrieta on the Keys to Rapid and Sustained Growth, Lessons from Silicon Valley, and the Pitfalls of Success

CNLP 344: Scott Harrison on how to Lead Through a Long Economic Slump, How to Approach High and Low Net Worth Donors, and Finding Opportunities in the Chaos

CNLP 219: Scott Harrison on How to Relate to High Capacity Leaders (and Donors), the Growth of Charity Water and What Being a Night Club Promoter Taught Him About Leadership

4 Ways to Quickly (And Unintentionally) Stop Your Innovation Curve and Miss the Future by Carey Nieuwhof

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Insights From Brett

1. When you take big risks, you need to cast a big, bold vision

One of the things that set Brett and his team apart is that they are willing to be bold, dream big, and aim high, even when it seems crazy. Because of the boldness of their mission, they’ve attracted some very bold leaders onto their team that are making those things happen.

2. To start something that scales, do things that aren’t scalable

One of the mantras that Brett and his team learned at Y Combinator was that, “It’s better to have a thousand people love you than a million people kind of like you.” This motivates them to do unscalable things that has created raving fans for as long as possible.

One way they’ve done this is by making personalized, short thank you videos for every single donation they received. While that idea isn’t scalable long-term, it helped them get their first 1,000 raving fans and accelerated the growth of their organization.

3. You have everything you need to become more innovative

When asked how churches and non-profits can become more innovative, Brett recommended finding the most innovative people who attend your church, or are bought into the mission of your organization, and ask them for help.

Get those highly innovative people together, and have them brainstorm what you could be doing differently or better, and listen to them.

Quotes from Episode 419

Innovation is a choice. @BrettHagler Click To Tweet Bold ideas attract bold people. @BrettHagler Click To Tweet Preparation begets confidence. @BrettHagler Click To Tweet People that need innovation most will be the ones to get it last. @BrettHagler Click To Tweet Without the risk, you're not going to get the out-sized returns. @BrettHagler Click To Tweet Incremental change gets you incremental results. Click To Tweet What are you doing that would be crazy until it's not? @BrettHagler Click To Tweet You have to have the guts to try something knowing that it might not work. @BrettHagler Click To Tweet Really good, young talent want to be around people that are going to sharpen them and make them better. @BrettHagler Click To Tweet Try things that make you vulnerable and that are risky but have a chance to get someone's attention in a different way. @BrettHagler Click To Tweet When you feel like you've really gotten knocked down, or something really didn't go the way that you planned, if you persevere and have faith, you never know how the dots can connect. @BrettHagler Click To Tweet If the current crisis is a disruption, leaders who see it as an interruption should be prepared to be further disrupted. Click To Tweet Just because you found something that works, doesn't mean you've found what works best. Click To Tweet Just because you've made progress, doesn't mean you've realized your potential. Click To Tweet Don't let your fatigue make decisions for you. Click To Tweet The best leaders do not wait for circumstances to disrupt them. They decide to disrupt themselves. Click To Tweet

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Next Episode: Mark Clark

Mark Clark and Carey Nieuwhof talk about how church leaders can buck the current cultural trends and actually reach more people.

Mark talks about what principles transcend time and what strategies need to change to reach more people, and Carey weighs in on where things are heading in the future. Plus, Carey and Mark give you insight into their new resource, The Art of Better Reaching.

Subscribe for free now so you won’t miss Episode 420.

CNLP 419: Brett Hagler on Becoming Truly Innovative, Launching Out of Y Combinator, and How to Be More Entrepreneurial

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